Friday, November 30, 2018

First Ordination in Vanuatu

L to R: District Superintendent Rev. Peter Isaac, Rachel Jereva, Rev. Keithly Jereva,
Rev. Meriam Naunga, David Naunga, Pastor Aline Gideon, and Rev. Gideon Sam.
Glory be to God! Great things he has done! The final day of District Assembly, 30 October 2018, families and church members gathered in the newly constructed District Center to witness this important milestone for the Nazarene Church in Vanuatu and for these three ministers!

What a joy to celebrate with Rev. Keithly and Rachel Jereva, Rev. Meriam and David Naunga, and Rev. Gideon and Pastor Aline Sam as the first ministers to be ordained in the Church of the Nazarene in Vanuatu! General Superintendent Rev. Filimao Chambo presided. Asia Pacific Regional Director Rev. Mark and Linda Louw and daughter Alex, and MSP Field Strategy Coordinator Rev. Harmon and Cindy Schmelzenbach were present for this historic occasion. 

G.S. Chambo shared with the ordinands the meaning of ordination in the Church of the Nazarene, “We…view ordination as a gift from God to the church. It is not something that we earn or deserve. It is through the local church that you came to the Lord…through the general church you had theological training … and the district has been part of your journey… they see the gifts and graces for you to be a preacher of the Word.”

Amos standing at the front door of the District Center building. He created the sign hanging over the door.

G.S. Rev. Filimao Chambo ordaining Gideon Sam.

David was honored to give the new elders their ordination certificates.

The Vanuatu ministry team with the first Nazarene elders in Vanuatu.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

First SPNTC Class Taught on Aniwa Island

Left to right: Natu, Serah, Pastor Morsen, Pastor Sera, Ken, and Pastor Keithly

Eight students from three locations joined together on a southern island of Vanuatu called Aniwa. Pastor Gideon flew south from Port Vila to teach the first SPNTC class at Rena Memorial Nazarene Church located in Ikaokao village. Four of the students were from Aniwa, three were from Tanna Island, and one student (Pastor Keithly Rena) flew from Port Vila. Pastor Keithly had missed the class earlier in the year, and needed the class in order to graduate this coming October. So, he made his way to his home village on his home island to take Evangelism and Church Growth.

Pastor Gideon is gifted as an evangelist and loves teaching this course! One of the activities he had planned was for the students to share the gospel with another person outside of the class. When they were ready to do this activity, the students told him they were afraid. So, he prayed for them and then sent them all out. 

Ken and Pastor Keithly share the gospel with Tony.

Ikaokao village has been the home of a prominent cargo cult for many years - the John Frum cult. Pastor Keithly's father was part of this cult, but before he died, he came to know Rev. Peter Isaac who introduced him to Jesus, the hope of eternal life. Then his father invited the Nazarene Church to come to his village. (For a previous blog telling more of the story, click here.)

When Pastor Gideon sent the students out to find someone to share the Gospel with, he headed to some of his relatives who are followers of John Frum. He shared the message of real hope with this family.

Pastor Gideon's relatives who heard the Good News about Jesus

Besides learning how to share the Gospel, the students learned how to share their personal testimonies of how they came to faith in Christ,  the characteristics of a healthy church, and how to make a difference for Christ in their own communities. Pastor Gideon and his students prepared to hold an outreach event on Saturday and Sunday evenings in Ikaokao village. Students took part by sharing their testimonies, leading the worship and music, and preaching.  The event went well with over 100 in attendance each night and 33 people seeking the Lord at the altar.  

Tony became a believer and follower of Jesus!

God is making a difference in the lives of people in a remote village on a tiny island in the South Pacific, but also in the lives of our pastors and leaders who are eager for the Bible College training that is being offered this year on Tanna and Aniwa islands. Please pray for the hope of the gospel to reach more and more people, bringing transformation to their lives and also to their communities. 

A special fund made this teaching opportunity possible. You can partner with us in making a difference in the lives of our pastors and the communities where they serve by contributing to the travel expenses involved in taking SPNTC classes to the islands by clicking here.

2009 trip to Aniwa with Dr. Becky Morsch, Rev. Peter Isaac, 2 Nazarene Fijian pastors, and Pastor Keithly (far left).

Friday, July 20, 2018

These last few months...

"How do you eat an elephant?...
"One small bite at a time!" answered Linda on that first day of class and then added, "And, that's how we're going to learn English! One bite at a time." 

Jim and Linda Dortch from Texas came to Vanuatu near the end of January to teach English. They have done this in other parts of the world, and also conduct English as a Second Language programs in their home church. They are experts at what they do, and we are so honored that they committed to come help our pastors and church leaders. 

They taught two 3-week sessions of English composition as well as two one-week free sessions for anyone who wanted to improve their English speaking skills all in the space of 8 weeks!  They made class fun for their students!

The pastors and church leaders that attended their class came from a variety of educational backgrounds. Some had attended primary school in English and some in French school. One had completed a university degree, while others had completed only the 6th grade. 

By the end of the second course, the students were able to write an academic essay in English using the grammar skills that they had learned. But more significant than that, beautiful, eternal relationships were established between these two brave, loving, energetic Texans and their new friends in Vanuatu!
Jim and Linda with their class signing "I love you!"

Pastor John Nato

After Jim and Linda left, we continued the training we began last year of helping our SPNTC graduates to teach the Bible college courses.  Two of our graduates from SPNTC* are doing an outstanding job of teaching the pastoral course of study! It’s always more work to help someone else do something than to just do it yourself. But, we are finding it a great joy to spend time with Pastor Gideon and Pastor John preparing for the courses. We learn so much from each other! 

Pastor Gideon Sam
The first week of May, Pastor Gideon traveled to Tanna Island, where there is one organized Nazarene Church and several preaching points, to teach the first extension course for SPNTC. He planned for 10 students but 14 showed up and 2 were from the island to the east, Aniwa! He is preparing to teach another course in August this time on Aniwa. Please pray for good weather and quiet seas so the students from Tanna can travel over to Aniwa.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Vanuatu District Center Project

This news is a little old, but we wanted to fill in the gap between March 2017 and the next blog which will be more current. 

A year ago, this is what the district center property looked like. 

Preparations were underway for the construction of 
the Church of the Nazarene District Center in 
anticipation of the arrival of a Work and Witness team
from Papua New Guinea - the first-ever PNG W&W team!

The team of 10 people arrived in March 2017 and 
poured the foundation for the new building 
and left us with a promise that they would be back...

In November 2017, Tim and Karla Deuel arrived to 
help us get ready for the next PNG W&W team!

What a blessing it is to have missionary partners with skill sets that make up for our lack! Tim and Karla have been serving at Kudjip in PNG for over five years. Tim helped our ni-Vanuatu Nazarenes get the foundation ready for the next phase of District Center development.

Everyday that there were men out working on the construction project, 
there was a beautiful group of women preparing a hot lunch for the workers.

The cement blocks started arriving as well as other supplies.

Many times when a W&W team arrives, you can tell right away which ones just got off the plane. Most of the time, W&W team members look very differently than
 the team that is ready to work with them at the project site. 
But, these two teams looked and sounded very much the same!

The building was beginning to take shape!

Because the PNG W&W team arrived in December during school break, 
some of our junior Nazarenes were able to give a hand too.

December tends to be a rainier month, but nothing kept these guys from moving forward.

Each day a different Nazarene Church was assigned to provide, prepare, and serve
lunch for the workers.
No one went hungry!

The generous funds provided by this PNG W&W team were sufficient to get the walls up, 
and it was time for them to fly back home.
But, they left with another promise...they would return in 2018 to help us finish the job!

Please pray for:

1. God's provision for expenses and project funds for the 3rd PNG W&W team.
2. Pastor Seul and his ni-Vanuatu Nazarene team to continue the project so that it is ready for the next phase of development.
3. Revs. Peter and Jenny Isaac as they travel in PNG to raise mission awareness and encourage involvement.
4. Strong relationships to be established between the people on these teams.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Bible Translation and a Trip to Epi Island

As I boarded the small Islander twin prop airplane last week, I looked up to notice that the ceiling was being held together by duck tape.  And, as I looked out the window of this small 9 passenger craft, I noticed the paint over the right wheel cover was chipped and peeling with the tail of a small gecko visible from just beneath the wing.  I found comfort in knowing that Vanuatu has very few airplane crashes and has to keep it's reputation high since tourism is one of its biggest industries.

I was on my way to Epi Island with Pastor Meriam Naunga and her husband David, who is a man-Epi (from Epi Island).  It had been over 10 years since David had been home, and even more than that since Pastor Meriam had been there.  The purpose of our trip was to join with other people from Epi and some from New Zealand and Australia at the small village of Nikaura to celebrate with the people of the Lewo language as they dedicated their newly published New Testament in the Lewo language.  We were also eager to spend some time with David's family at a different location, White Coral, near Laman Bay.

Here are some pictures to help tell the story:

And we are up in the air with a nice view of Bauerfield International Airport in Port Vila.

 A quick trip to the north and we are landing on the tiny airstrip at Laman Bay on Epi.  Yes, the beach was just as close as it looks!

Laman Bay Airport

David immediately was recognized by relatives and friends and warmly greeted.

We waited for several hours so that a couple more loads of people could be delivered to the island before we began the trek across the island to Nikaura.

It was market day at Laman Bay!  People from other places on the island had come to sell produce to the passengers of the Big Sista inter-island ferry which was due in any moment.  Pastor Meriam was greeted by a nice woman who turned out to be her sister-in-law!

Hard to believe, but there are smart phones on this fairly remote island and the little ones know how to use them.

We all loaded into 4 pickup trucks and began our one hour trip to the eastern side of the island.  The road was not paved in most places, but the steep hills had concrete tracks which made the trip possible. 

Debbie Early, the lady in the blue dress, moved to this island in the early 1980's with her husband as missionaries with Summer Institute of Linguistics to begin the work of translating the New Testament into the languages of the people.  You can see the remnants of the foundation of their house.  

 Ross and his wife Lyndal are the current SIL missionaries living on Epi to help the people learn to read their New Testament and to guide the people in using it.

After passing through several small villages we arrive at this lovely place called Nikaura.  This is where Ross and Lyndal live and one of the locations where they are working.

This big building is called the nakamal.  It is the meeting place of the village and the place where we joined for a welcome from the chief of the village and later for our meals.

The beams of the roof are trees - big ones!  I could not imagine how they got them lifted up and also wondered how they would stay when it seemed like they were held in place only with ropes.  I learned that although many of the homes were flattened in the big cyclone of 2015, the nakamal withstood the category 5 storm!

Some of the chiefs and leaders of the village wore their traditional dress the day of the dedication as part of a drama.

School was canceled for this big day!

There were many people who walked and came by truck to take part in the dedication.

Special salusalus (flower leis) were prepared to hang on the special guests.

Robert Early has worked together with several national translators over the last 35+ years to translate 3 different languages on the island of Epi.  He was warmly welcomed by everyone!

The dedication day began with a drama enacting the arrival of the light of the gospel to the island of Epi by way of missionaries.

The chiefs received the Word of God and are carrying it to their people.

I tried to imagine what it would be like as one of these islanders to have the Bible in English or French or even Bislama (the trade language) but not be able to read God's Word in my heart language.  This is an important step for these people.  We had a real photographer present who is a Christian living in Vanuatu helping to promote the work of translation.

Robert Early shared some words and then read publicly the first words from the Lewo New Testament.  The older man standing beside him was the chief who welcomed him to his village and gave him land to build a house.  He sang "Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee" in the Lewo language.

These people from the western side of Epi are cutting down a banana tree - a small drama representing the challenge they are receiving to be the next ones to dedicate their New Testament in the Baki language.

This is the sales office where people could buy their first Lewo New Testament and MegaVoice audio Bible.  

Our last morning in Nikaura I rose early to see the sunrise and discovered that the island of Lopevi was smoking.  It is a volcano island and has been erupting until just the last few years.  It was easily visible from Nikaura, as well as another island to the north called Ambrym which had two bright red glowing volcanoes which could be seen at night.

Lopevi on the left side of the picture and the sun rising in what seemed to be the south - I'm somewhat directionally challenged.

Soon after sunrise, Pastor Meriam and I boarded a pick-up truck and drove back to Laman Bay to join David who had left yesterday after the dedication.  We were dropped off at the market which we had visited a few days before and began walking along the black sand beach to David's family's home.

I was delighted to meet David's family.  This is the burao tree (a type of hibiscus) that stands in the center of his father's yard.  Wherever a branch touches the ground, it takes root.  Hence, its crazy shape.

David with his adopted father, Joseph, and his wife.  Joseph is a translator.  He has dedicated many years of his life to translating the Bislama hymnal to his language Lamenu.  He is now 73 years old, diagnosed in 1986 with diabetes and also now with some vision problems.  He is hoping that the hymnal will be dedicated along with the Lamenu New Testament next year.

David was sad to see that fiberglass boats are much more plentiful than the hand carved canoes that lined the beaches not too many years ago.  I thought you might like to see Willie, David's nephew, pull the canoe out to the water and climb aboard to deliver a crowbar to David so he could harvest some anemones for our dinner.

That's how you do it!  You can see David's head sticking out of the water on the left side of the picture below.

There were three people on the canoe in the center!

This is what David harvested from the sea for us.  Seeing it didn't make me feel really hungry!  I trusted him that they were edible.  He told me they were the thing that Nemo lives in, so I figured they were anemones.  He also roasted the pretty pink shell to the right.

Lucy is married to David's brother and Martina is their youngest.  She sat with Pastor Meriam and I on the beach along with her other sister-in-law, Naomi.

Martina taking a ride in the canoe.

They called to her and told her to wave at me.  She did!

Preparation for the evening meal was a complicated affair.  Pastor Meriam used a particular shell to literally scrape those giant bananas at the lower left of the picture until she had a bowl of pinkish mush.  Then she spooned a dollop of it onto one of the big leaves (island cabbage) and carefully rolled it and placed it in the pot.  Lucy and Irene got the privilege of washing the sand out of the anemones and then slicing them so they would lay flat.  Naomi at the back put together the lapalp kolan (a very special kind of cooked pudding).  She took banana mush placed on a big flat leaf, then plunked some anemone on top.  After that she carefully rolled it up and then tied it with some bush rope.  Last, it was placed on the fire that had been getting hot nearby.

The sun went down before dinner was ready so I didn't get a picture of my dinner plate which was actually a blessing.  I was given a big serving of laplap kolan.  I think it might have been more difficult to finish it if I was able to look at it.  I was asked multiple times what I thought of it.  I kept saying that it was good and I wasn't really lying!  

The day ended with the family gathered together.  David shared God's word and Pastor Meriam prayed for all.  The next morning everyone came to say good-bye.  Hopefully, it won't be 10 years before this family is able to get together again.

When we got to the airport, David and Meriam took a walk over to the beach where they had a good look at Laman Island where David's family came from originally.

We got back on the same plane that we arrived on.  The ceiling was still held together with duck tape. 

I praise the Lord for the privilege of traveling with these two ministry partners to an event that represented a lifetime labor of love.  Pray for Ross and Lyndal who will remain on Epi helping to get the islanders engaged with their New Testament and hopefully walking with Jesus more and more everyday.  Pray for Bible translators around Vanuatu who are working hard to learn one of the 110 different languages in Vanuatu, get it written down, and then work with the people to translate the New Testament into their language. 

Ross shared a devotional from Psalm 119:18-20 when we were together in Nikaura.  Verse 20 says, "My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times."  Pray that all of us will long for God's word with a consuming desire to know Him.