As we enter a new year, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your encouragement and support throughout the last year. We could not have made this incredible journey without each and every one of you. We so deeply appreciate all of the love, kind words, help, gifts, and financial support that you have so willingly and generously given to send us off to Vanuatu, and to begin our ministry here. We are confident that this next year will be filled with God-given opportunities for sharing His love and His Word in this country.
A Year In Review
Looking back, it is amazing to think that last year at this time; Dave was just preparing to go to Vanuatu for the very first time. After 3 weeks in the country, much prayer, and many conversations, we knew that this was God’s plan for us. International Christian Church invited Dave to bring me over to see Vanuatu before we made the big move. Then Cyclone Pam hit, and much of the country was devastated. It was 2 weeks after this Category 5 cyclone hit, that I got my first look at my new country. As damaged as it was, I fell in love! We got home ready to make all the final preparations that would bring us back in August.
In our time here, we have seen the church grow, and take on an expansion project. It is awesome to see God moving within the assembly to reach out to the community. We pray for God’s continued outpouring of His Spirit and power to spread the Word.
We had a wonderful Christmas season with Advent services designed for outreach to the expat community. The church body stepped up to participate in special music, writing and reading poetry, bible reading, and sharing. It was wonderful! Our Candlelight Christmas Eve service was full; many new people attended.
We also had an evening where a group of us went out caroling in the community at some of the grocery stores. We gave out candy and small toys to the kids, and shared a short message of Christ, and told which church we were from, and that all were welcome. We trust that God will continue to bring new people into relationship with Him our church.
Joy Bible Institute
Dave has been helping out periodically with Joy Bible Institute (the AOG Bible School here in Port Vila) over the last few months, but shortly he will be stepping up the pace and teaching a full course there! He has been asked to teach “Expository Preaching” for the next two semesters, beginning in March. We are very excited about this new opportunity.
We have expanded the youth program to a weekly format during the school year, with several activities planned through the summer holidays. We pray that God will help us to reach out further into the community to tell young people that God has a plan and a future for them.
University of South Pacific
Dave has been a huge support to the Christian Fellowship group at the University of the South Pacific. As we go into a new school year, we pray that God will empower these Christian students to be bold in their testimony, and will bring many souls to salvation. Students here come from all over the South Pacific to study Law. They will be future lawyers, politicians, and hold places of esteem in their communities. What an impact could be made if we sent them all back to their countries with the message of Christ burning in their hearts!
ERDO Teouma School Project:
We have made the preliminary visit out to the Teouma Greenhill School to check out the site for the Kindergarten that we will be constructing, and have begun the process of planning for the build. We now have the go ahead to start purchasing materials and shipping them out to the site. We hope to begin the actual build within the next two weeks. At this point, enough money has been raised to pour the slab, and construct the frame and roof for an open-air building. We would like to be able to complete walls, doors, and windows in the near future, but that will require more funds. If you would like to contribute to this project, please designate your gift to Vanuatu on the ERDO website (under “other” in the drop-down menu).
Life on the Field
As much as you may love a new country, we have discovered that culture shock is very real, and hits you in ways that you do not expect. Some things are terrifying: for example, getting onto a bus alone with strangers and a bus driver who do not speak English, and asking to go to a place that you really have no idea where it is or how to get there … scary stuff! I have found that if I just jump in and do it, I will never have to do that particular thing for the “first time” again. Second and third times tend to be somewhat easier. Some things here are just different, like relearning how to fill out the bank deposit form, that is actually in English, but you have no idea what you are to write. Other things are still confusing, like how to figure out the culturally appropriate way to respond to a situation, and why the various cultural groups here respond to, and do, many things differently than we do. Going beyond the “what” to get to the “why” is going to take many years to figure out. Ministry in a multicultural setting that is not based in your own culture is an exciting, and somewhat daunting, experience. Lastly, there are many times that loneliness for friends and family back in your own country hits hard, like a punch in the heart. Sometimes you just long for the familiar, because as good as things are, change brings stress, and there are so many changes.
Things We Love
THE PEOPLE! They are great! Our church family is so friendly, have welcomed us in so warmly, and have made us feel so loved. Also, most people you meet in town or on the road will wave and smile, and are happy to engage in a conversation to find out where you are from and what you do. They are always helpful; from giving directions, to helping you correct your sadly inadequate Bislama (still working on language learning!). It is no wonder that this country has been on the top 10 list for the Happiest Country in the World for many years running!
THE OUTDOORS! There are many stunningly beautiful natural places here to enjoy. Beaches, waterfalls, coral reefs; the earth does cry out the praises of our Lord.
The heat. I know, many of you in Canada will read this and roll your eyes as you bundle up in your snow gear, but living and working day to day (and all night, too!) feeling overheated, sweaty, dirty, and sticky is a challenge. I find myself making trips to the one specific grocery store just to stand in the air conditioning for a while! They tell me that the REAL heat is not yet here… Can’t wait until those cyclones come, either!
The bugs. The centipedes are downright scary, but there are lots of other bugs that just kinda’ bug you here - huge cockroaches skittering away when you turn on the lights at night (found one in my bed!), big flying beetles and wasps that buzz around your face, and tiny ants that are EVERYWHERE (in all the kitchen cupboards and drawers, on the counters, in your food… oh, and they bite just hard enough to be annoying! I am so thankful for the heads up to bring a 5 year supply of Ziploc bags!
- Continued release of the Spirit of God in Port Vila, and all of Vanuatu, so that His love may be shared and His will be accomplished
- Resources and smooth building process for the Kindergarten project in Teouma
- Continued health and safety as we enter cyclone season