Thursday, July 15, 2010

Outreach to Tanna Part 1: Getting there

Team departs from Port Vila

On board the MV Malekula
After 25 hours on-board the MV Malekula, our team of eleven finally arrived to the western seaport of Lenakel on the island of Tanna.  It had been a harrowing trip with rough seas and high winds.  Our little cargo ship had pitched and reeled all night and much of the day as well.  Even after we were safely on land, it seemed like the concrete wharf was rocking and rolling!

Sam Iakabas

We were met at the wharf by Pastor Gideon’s father, Sam, who had become a member of the Nazarene Church when he lived in the Black Sand area of Port Vila.  Pastor Gideon’s wife, Eileen, and Baby John arrived by plane soon after our ship docked.  By dusk we had located a pick-up truck that was willing to deliver our team with all our belongings (food, 25 kg. rice bags, Jesus Film equipment, bedding and backpacks) to the village of Lawangi.  I (Sylvia) rode up front with the driver and Eileen and John while the rest of the team clung to truck and gear in the back. 

David was riding in the back and noticed that the clear night sky and brilliant stars were often obscured by dark, murky clouds.  He enquired of Pastor Gideon who laughed and informed him that those clouds were ash from the nearby volcano, Mt. Yasur.  We began to notice the soon to be familiar feeling of “dust” in our eyes.

We left the main road after about 30 minutes and slowly began to descend a precarious stretch of road.  It was dark and one side of the edge of the road fell away, being a steep precipice!  A young man ran in front of the truck indicating to the driver the deep ruts and dangerous holes that he should avoid.  This went on for what seemed like hours (although it was really only 3 miles) before we finally came to stop in a village. 
Our meeting house at Lawangi

We all tumbled out of the truck and discovered in the dark that a welcoming party of children and young people were eager and ready to help carry our belongings to our destination.  Sam began to lead us, exhausted as we were by the sleepless night on-board the ship, up a dirt path that became increasingly steep.  At one point my heart was pounding so hard, I thought I might have a heart attack.  I discovered after just a few more yards, that we had arrived at the village of Lawangi, where Pastor Gideon’s family lived.  Sam led us to a meeting house where we were encouraged to sit down and catch our breath!  A meal had been prepared for us after which we headed toward our assigned homes to get some much-needed rest.

The next morning we woke to what sounded like Swiss alphorns.  We could tell that the beautiful, haunting melodies were coming from a distance and from various directions.  I thoroughly enjoyed this music that I learned was made by blowing into the end of very large Triton shells (called a bubu) as a part of their custom of circumcision.  May to August is the time when young boys are taken by their mother’s brothers (called uncles) to a separate place where the circumcision is performed and then the boys are cared for by their uncles for about a month.  The mothers and other women are not allowed to enter this place.  Every morning as the sun comes up, the shells are blown, as well as throughout the day.  The only time that we did not hear the shells being blown was the 24 hours when we drove to the south of the island.
Sunrise from Lawangi village
In the daylight we realized that the village of Lawangi had a lovely view of the ocean with the northern part of Tanna stretching to the northwest.  We weren’t near the ocean as the YIM team soon found out.  They asked if Morrison, Pastor Gideon’s oldest brother, could take them to the ocean.  It didn’t look that far away, but took most of the morning for them to hike down to it and then hike back up.  Every place we went required either a hike down or up.  We soon learned that to bathe, we would need to hike down to the river and waterfall.  I think everyone enjoyed the cool water of the two rivers that flowed on either side of our village.  Getting back to Lawangi without getting dirty and sweaty was another challenge.  All of our water had to be carried from a distance, so we learned to really appreciate the water that we drank or used for washing hands and brushing teeth.

Pastor Jenny, Andrea and Lisa's home in Lawangi


 Lawangi became our “homebase”.  The people of the village had vacated 4 of their homes so that we could use them while we were there.  All their homes were built off the ground on stilts and some were actually built in the trees.  We were often aware that a pig or some chickens were resting beneath the floor of our house.  Throughout the night, we were awakened by the roosters and once the sun came up, the chickens had a clucking convention right outside our house.
Lawangi's chickens

Mt. Yasur, the volcano, in the distance
Another sound we never became accustomed to was the ominous sound of the volcano erupting.  It resembled the noise that thunder makes when a storm is still a long distance away.  One day, David was able to hike up to a point above Lawangi where he could see Mt. Yasur across the valley with the smoke ascending from the cinder cone.  The ash coming from the volcano is having a devastating effect on the gardens of the people of Lawangi and other nearby villages.  We were grateful that Nazarene Compassionate Ministries made it possible for us to contribute several 50 pound rice bags to the villages that we visited.

Stones being heated to cook laplap

All our meals were prepared by the women of the village.  Although we brought rice, tinned meat and other food for our own meals, they also generously contributed to our meals from their own gardens.  Food preparation in the village is an all day affair and requires lots of energy.  They gathered firewood to cook with and the water was carried from a pipe located a distance away.  One of their traditional foods called laplap required that stones be heated over a fire, cassava or cooking bananas had to be grated, and coconuts were “scraped” so the coconut milk could be squeezed over the laplap.  Lots of work!  We owe these ladies a huge debt for their incredible effort on our behalf!
Siyabwa carrying firewood

I had not anticipated how many people would be in need of medical care.  Lenakel is the provincial capital and has a hospital located there.  There are smaller clinics located around the island in many of the small villages, but they are not always staffed and don’t always have medicines available.  Our first morning in Lawangi, I met a young mother who was holding her infant girl all bundled in a thick blanket.  She was hesitant to speak to me since she usually only spoke her vernacular language and was not as familiar with Bislama, the national pidgin language, that I knew.  With some effort, she was able to communicate to me that her baby had been sick for the past 2 months with fever and cough.  She had recently gotten some medicine from the local clinic that she was giving to her baby, but she was not seeing any improvement.  The baby was listless and wasn’t breastfeeding.  I had brought a bag with some basic medicines, but had failed to bring any antibiotics for babies and children.  I joined several people together and we prayed for the baby’s health and the mother’s peace.

The next day, this young mother came to our house early in the morning.  She was carrying her baby who was now sucking on a “lolly” (candy).  Her and her husband were planning to take the baby to the hospital.  I was amazed at the difference in the baby’s countenance.  She was now very alert and mother reported that she had slept well during the night.  It seemed obvious to me that God was healing this baby.  I encouraged the parents to do what they felt was best, but commented that it seemed the baby was doing much better.  We prayed again, this time thanking God for the improvement.  One of our last nights in Lawangi village, during a worship service this mother stood and shared how God had healed her baby! 

The children loved the puppets!

Our team’s first ministry effort was a Kid’s Club on Friday afternoon in Lawangi.  The three members of the Youth in Mission team plus the six ni-Vanuatu young people did a great job of leading this part of our outreach.  Puppets, songs, stories, and learning the simple story of the Gospel through the colors on the Evange-Ball and colored bracelets were effective in communicating the love of God.  It seemed that the Lord used the joyful, happy interaction with children to break down the walls that previously closed doors to the message of Jesus especially in two of the villages. 
The adults had as much fun as the kids

As soon as the Kid’s Club was finished, the guys started setting up equipment to show the JESUS film as soon as it got dark.  We were really thankful for Jacob’s help with this.  Unfortunately, the video projector kept automatically shutting itself off.  Would all the Jesus Film equipment that we brought be of no use during the entire trip to Tanna?

The answer to this question and Part 2 of this incredible adventure will be posted to our blog in the next day or two!  In the meantime, here are a few more pictures that you can view on our Facebook Click here!

1 comment:

  1. Yea Potters! Enjoy the great news your post told of. We have great memories of shared times with you and your parents. We look forward to the other parts of the story.

    Nancy and Bill Zumwalt