The Adventure Begins - Mike's Journal

April 16, 2005

There is one thing about the place we are staying at and all places around here; if you want ants leave some food out. Usually it is not intentional but even a few crumbs not cleaned up will bring a wagon train of tiny black ants in to clean up for you. We bought a loaf of bread today and did not realize that the bag had little holes in it (for some reason). When we got home from the internet café there was about 10,000 ants walking away in a single file line all carrying a crumb of bread each. Dinner for them, not for us.

On Saturdays, all of the necessary places to get things done are closed. Steven Felix came by last night and we talked for a few minutes. He mentioned that the roads to Eton Village will be bad and that bus drivers will not want to go out there. It is more likely that we will worship in Port Vila this Sunday. Yesterdays rains were amazing. Kind of like the snow storm in Denver just before we left, only here it is rain. Even the locals shake their heads at this kind of rain.

We all went across town to the Au Bon Marche supermarket. It is a big beautiful “American style” store. About 90% of the shoppers are ex-pats so the store really caters to foreigners who are used to more options. Again, the prices were better than before but there are still a lot of things I will do without. One of the bonuses is the price of meat. Vanuatu produces plenty of beef so the prices are really quite reasonable. A flank type steak big enough for a meal is only about two dollars. We have been eating meat with rice and a vegetable for some very satisfying dinners. We also found some really good hot peppers at the market for .50 cents a bunch. Now all I need is to find some tomatoes to make salsa!!

The rain just continues to pour! We will not be going to Eton Village Sunday because the roads are terrible. The bus drivers do not want to make the trip to take us and get us afterward. I can’t blame them. The rain is supposed to continues all weekend. The brethren in Port Vila normally meet at Shem Nakon’s house, but they meet outside and that will be impossible tomorrow. We are meeting at Steven Felix’s house here in town instead. I just hope they can all make it.

Morris Felix stopped by this afternoon for a visit. He has been in town all week while working with Randy English. He is trying to get back to the village today but that depends on the weather. Morris is a great guy and we all talked for a few hours about the work that needs to be done in Vanuatu and the many opportunities there are here in the country. He is a very funny man but very passionate about Jesus and his church. We were talking about some other the other religious groups in Vanuatu and Morris commented that we are the only group who will be willing to point out error when we see it. The prevailing attitude here is like that in America. Everyone is fine no matter what you believe, you do your thing and I‘ll do mine. Time and truth are the only two things that will change that attitude.

We are still losing the battle with the ants. To put it simply, we are seriously outnumbered.


April 17, 2005

The alarm (Kaela) sounded bright and early this morning. By the time I looked at my watch it was 3:03 am. She was awake for about two more hours but I went back to sleep pretty quickly. We were all excited to worship with the brethren here in Port Vila. The roads were not passable out to the village so we could not go to Eton this Sunday. Next week we will go to the village to worship and see the brethren. Eric said that one of us needed to be ready to preach so Aaron prepared to preach on the upcoming work and our cooperation with them in the work. The service was in English but on Wednesday night we will sing in Bislama. It helps us to learn the words and how to speak. Shawnda already has a good grasp of how to speak conversationally in Bislama so she is well ahead of the rest of us. Shem also promised to make lap-lap for after the Bible study. Yum yum.

There were 24 total people at worship this morning, 16 adults and 8 children. A good crowd that I hope we can continue to get in the future weeks. Morris Felix and his wife Rebecca were worshipping with us today because they could not get back to the village due the weather and roads.

They do not meet in the evenings right now so we were pretty lazy the rest of the day. The girls are writing voraciously in their journals to document their day to day events. Aaron has been working on the latest Mission Vanuatu Minutes and Eric is working on updating the website. I have been reading and studying in the book of Colossians as of late. It is amazing to see the description of the Christ that Paul gives in this short book. If we just knew and meditated on this simple information no one would ever reject Him. Every day in the world people make decisions and changes because of a lack of fulfillment. We change jobs, spouses, schools, styles, looks and homes in pursuit of something better. Sometimes we find it and sometimes not. Jesus however, leaves no room for improvement. There is nothing better waiting around the corner. He is the ultimate fulfillment in the life of man. I guess the challenge is trying to show people where that satisfaction lies. I guess that is the job of every Christian.

We do seem to go to bed early around here. I don’t know if it is the heat or the new environment or what, but we are all in bed by 8:30 pm here. Early to bed also means early to rise. Even the Brandells get up before 9:00 am here! WOW! One thing true about Cindy and Shawnda, they like light. It doesn’t matter if it was back in Castle Rock or here in Vanuatu, they have the lights on all the time. Even with the power of the sun shining, the lights are on. We have had this silent battle throughout the months of me turning the lights off and them turning the lights on. I think I lose the battle usually, but here in Vanuatu the electric utilities are more expensive than any place in the world. They will have to change!! (Vindication)


April 18, 2005

We all left the house this morning to get some different tasks done. The Baker’s and Brandell’s went house hunting for a good residence. The Bakers found a place this morning next to a Mormon Church building. That could get interesting.

I planned to get a P.O. Box at the Post Office. When I got there they told me that there were not any available. It seems that too many people who have them are not paying the rent on the boxes they have. Therefore they are not giving any boxes out to anyone new. I guess it’s like when you were in grade school and one of the kids did something bad and the whole class gets punished. I’ll check back in a few days.

After the Post office I walked up to an Isuzu dealership about 15 minutes away where one of the brethren said the were selling trucks for 2.6 million vatu ($26,000 US). I was there last summer and they had little in the way of selection and finding someone to help me was impossible. Just for explanation, some of the “dealerships” are little more than garages that also sell cars. This time I did find some help but they did not have what I was looking for. They said to check back at the end of the month for a new shipment. Ya right.

On the way back to town I stopped at the Toyota dealership (really) and talked to a Ni-Vanuatu man named Timothy. I spoke with him for quite a while last summer and I do trust him. He has never patronized me of tried to misrepresent himself or the product. Toyotas are more expensive and he doesn’t apologize for it. He is willing to say that they are a better vehicle and worth the money. I can at least respect that.

One thing I have noticed from last summer and now is that the class of truck that they sell everywhere is going up. The ex-pats living in Vanuatu are buying the cars and they want automatic transmission, air conditioning and other features that drive the prices up. Timothy had no trucks left until the new shipment at the end of the month. The catch is, the new trucks are all dolled up for the ex-pat customers and these trucks will cost 2,000 to 4,000 dollars more than the previous models. I will check with the Mitsubishi dealership I talked with last summer to see what they have or maybe don’t have until the end of the month. They told me last summer that all their trucks now are automatic and air-con, that’s what the customer wants. Unfortunately, finding a base model is pretty much out of the question. We raised enough funds for the extra money and if we get the special exemption for church groups then that will knock about 8 to 9 thousand dollars off the total price. All in all, I would rather pay a little more for a better truck and get good service and trade in value.

We are also looking into getting a motorcycle to conserve on fuel. When one of us needs to go to one of the villages to teach, this will be a better option than driving a truck. The owner of the Coral Motel where we are staying wants us to buy his Isuzu truck for 1.1 million vatu ($11,000 US). This is a possible option for a second vehicle around town. We are not making any decisions on purchasing a vehicle until the matter of the exemption is settled. The exemption is given to church groups but is handled on a case by case basis. You either get it or you don’t. We don’t know the criteria for getting it. Probably how much money you are going to spend.

We all met at the food stalls at the Market for lunch. You can get a huge plate of rice and stir-fry with steak, chicken or fish for $ 2.50. It is enough to fill me up if you are wondering how much you get. Definitely the best deal in town. Most of the places to eat out are not very good but the locals that cook at the market are great and cheap!!

I walked up to the Mitsubishi dealership after lunch (about 25 minute walk) but they were on lunch from noon to 1:00 pm. I forgot this isn’t the US. Instead of waiting for 40 minutes, I walked back to the Market and got some grapefruit, green onions, green beans, limes, oranges and headed back to the motel. It is Aaron’s birthday today so we had a good stir-fry dinner and some ice cream.

In the afternoon the Brandells and I went looking at housing. I am in the market for an apartment or studio (flat). The first place we looked at was a studio on the back of a house. I don’t want to say it was small, but once I stepped inside there wasn’t room for anything else. Off to the next place. We looked at three more units; one was a nice three bedroom apartment but was probably a little big for me. I am looking to be closer to downtown also, but the options are limited. We are going back tomorrow to look at some other places.

It was hot today! I walked in the sun for a good two hours and with all the recent rain the humidity was high. I was sweating profusely! You all know how good a hot shower feels on a cold day in Colorado. That’s how good a cold shower feels here in Vanuatu. The only bad thing is that you heat back up really fast. It is a short lived pleasure. I got sunburned also.

Kaela is doing better as far as a routine. She doesn’t put up near the fits that she was a few days ago. She actually slept through the whole night last night.

One of the priorities is finding a place to worship until the new building gets built. Hopefully the building will be up in two or three months. But right now we are worshipping either at Shem’s house or at Steven’s house if the weather is bad. It is frustrating when we tell people why we are here and the first question everyone asks is where is your church (building). We sound like a fly-by-night outfit to say that we meet at someone’s house. Last Sunday, Shem mentioned the importance of having a place that we can send people to for worship and especially to study the Bible. We would like to be inviting people and telling them where to come for worship and Bible study but right now we don’t know where we meet on a weekly basis. I am really trying to get an apartment in or very near downtown for this reason. People can come and study right there in town after work or during the day. Either way, we need to get a temporary meeting place.

Tomorrow I am going back to the Mitsubishi dealership, to the radio station to see when our program is on, and to look for housing.


April 19, 2005

I woke up and prayed at 5:30m this morning. It’s kind of nice to be up and around before the house gets going. The girls are meeting with the women of the congregation this morning at 11:30. The women in Port Vila meet every Tuesday for prayer, Bible study and probably a lot of chit-chat. They are bringing some “American style” food with them to share.

There is a big group coming from New Zealand in the next month or two to build the new building in Port Vila. The point man for the group named Antony is coming this Saturday to meet with the Christians here and discuss plans. Aaron will meet him at the airport and the guys will probably go to some of the villages with him. He appears to know most of the brethren on the island.

Kaela is having fun this morning playing with her toys. We have been trying to encourage her to crawl but she doesn’t quite get it yet. She seems to get high centered on her stomach. She is trying and will get it soon I hope. She seems to be converted to South Pacific time. Her sleeping is throughout the night and her naps are pretty regular. It will be strange when I live on my own and don’t see or hear her all the time.

I walked up to the Mitsubishi dealership and talked to a Ni-Vanuatu man named Pascal. He did not have any vehicles until the first week in May but I got two quotes on vehicles. They actually have base model trucks for 2.9 million vatu ($29,000 US). I have to figure out the real difference between Toyotas and Mitsubishis. They are 1 million vatu ($10,000) apart in price but the trucks are basically similar. There is something I need to discover.

The middle of the day is very hot. Very hot! I think that is why everybody takes a break in the afternoon.

We have a T.V. where we are staying so we kept up on “Survivor” for another week. This will be my last week of any television but I am not going to miss it, except for the Broncos. J

Eric and Shawnda went house hunting again and found a duplex for rent. They really liked it and we will probably rent out both sides. Either the Bakers or I will take the other side. The Bakers had found a house the other day, but the girls would like to live next door to each other so they are arranging to hopefully rent the whole place. If that happens, I may take the house that the Bakers were going to originally rent. It is next to a Mormon Church building so I will need to brush up on my Mormon doctrine. L Anyway, this means that we could have the housing settled by next week.


April 20, 2005

The P.O. Box adventure continues. They are kicking people out next week who are not paying so we will have one in a few days. Maybe!

It is amazing how often you here “come back tomorrow” from offices around here. Then the next day they tell you, “sorry, come back tomorrow.” I got this from the bank again. I went back in after 4 days to get my account number and confirm my account. The lady was very sweet but the first words out of her mouth were, “I’ve been naughty!” She apologized for not taking care of my paperwork and said it would be done tomorrow. Same song third verse!!!!

Not much going on this afternoon. There is a cruise ship in town today so the town swells up by 2,000 fun loving tourists. It was hard to even get a bus into town. I walked back to the motel because all the busses were full of tourists going the other way. Oh well, its only twice a month.

The church is meeting tonight at Steven’s house. They don’t normally meet on Wednesday night but that hopefully will change. I spent the afternoon brushing up a Bible class for this evening. As it turned out, they sing and have a short, short talk and then sing some more and eat. I talked for a few minutes on looking forward to God’s reward and we ate. They made lap-lap, the banana variety which is not as good as the yam, but it was not too bad. The rest of the food was outstanding. Rice and stir fry along with some beef. The girls made a pasta salad as the American style food contribution but it didn’t appear to go over to big. (I thought it was good). You can’t expect the locals to pass up the lap-lap for pasta salad.

They told us right before eating that we were the guests and we would go first through the line. But Steven said that after this day we were no longer guests, we are just members in Port Vila. This was really encouraging because we really want them to view us as just friends who live in Vanuatu. Now we need the rest of the congregations to do the same.

Another big rain tonight. At least the afternoon it was very “chamber of commerce” like for the tourists.

Aaron got a hold of some food that didn’t agree with him so he didn’t feel well for most of the day.

The big news on the television this morning was the election of a new Pope. It’s amazing how much coverage this gets. He is the “head” of the Catholic Church. Anyway, I made up a study to use on the radio program or in Bible class called, “Who will you follow?” After looking at some common verses about Jesus as head of the church and the foundation and savior, I ask, how do you know Jesus is the one to follow? The people in Corinth gloried in men like Paul, Apollos, and Cephas. Paul aims to put a stop to this. In First Corinthians 1:11-13, Paul asks 3 rhetorical questions that build the criteria for who we should follow. Is Christ divided? Was Paul (Pope) crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul (Pope)?

Whoever meets these 3 criteria is worthy of following. The short answer to all these questions is NO! Only Jesus fits these criteria and therefore is the only one to follow as head of the church.


April 21, 2005

It’s moving day for me today. There will be a lot of details like getting utilities in my name, checking on phone, and gas for the stove and hot water. The gas is just a tank that you buy and exchange when it is empty. The local advice is to get the big tank because the small ones tend to get legs and disappear.

My house shouldn’t be quiet very often. The locals who come in from the village are invited to stay with me and anyone from the States can certainly bunk with me as well. Mi casa es su casa! I need to put a sign on the door or in the yard to show that I am not a Mormon and not associated with them. I am eager to invite people over for Bible studies now that I have a place to invite them to.

I am now moved into the house. The first time I saw the house was when I moved in. The Bakers were supposed to have the house but opted for the duplex with Eric and Shawnda. The girls wanted to live close by so I took this house instead of the duplex. It is a good size 3 bedroom house with a beautiful yard and hedge around the front. It is well hidden from the road and in an area with three other houses close by. All in all, it is a very nice and safe location. I wasn’t thinking of anything like this at all. I almost feel guilty living here. This area is called Nambatu (Number two). There are both ex-pats and Ni-Vanuatu living here so there is a good mix to work with. Wayne, it is behind the Melanesian Hotel.

I went to the store for supplies earlier to get the house started. There are almost no light bulbs in the house so I bought some, but the ones in the house are not the normal light bulbs so I have to see if I can find this configuration. The only light that works is in the bathroom. Light is important here because it gets dark around 6:30 pm and it’s lights out from there.

There is a house lady who works in the four houses in this area for cleaning and laundry. She will come by on Wednesdays and clean and do laundry all day for $12 dollars. Considering that a load of laundry in town at a Laundromat costs $7 a load, it is a bargain.

There is a nice breeze blowing in here this afternoon. One drawback for this place is that there is only one ceiling fan and I think they need a new gerbil for the motor because it doesn’t spin fast enough to produce any air. At least there are a lot of windows to open to get the air flowing. The first night should be interesting. There is an air-con unit in the bedroom but I don’t want to pay to run it so I’ll see if I can get by without it.

There is a small cyclone shelter on the back of the house in case there is a tremendous storm. The house is concrete but the windows are vulnerable in a big storm.

As I mentioned before, gas for the stove and hot water comes in a tank (like you use for gas grills only bigger). I went to the corner to get one and they cost $32.00 for a full one that should last me several months. I did not yet get one for hot water. I never use hot water for showers and I can boil a little water for dishes if need be, so I will go without it until I get some guests. One of the young guys working at the store named Eric helped me out and I had to explain that I was not a Mormon. I asked him if he went to church and he kind of reluctantly said he was Catholic. I asked if he liked to study the Bible and he reluctantly said yes. I invited him to come by any evening and he said he would try to come and bring some friends also. I said by all means. I really hope to use this place for people to come to for studies etc… I am planning to have a night or two during the week dedicated to having studies here and inviting people whenever possible. At least I can give them a place to go.

There are more mosquitoes around here than where I was before at the motel. They sell these mosquito coils that you burn and the smoke repels them from the house. They work well and are supposed to be safe for humans but they can repel people pretty well also.

I did go back to the bank today and they finally had my account ready. She promised me checks today but they were not ready. No surprise there, “come back tomorrow!” At least everyone is real nice about it.

Well I am finally going to e-mail this evening so I hope this finds you all doing well. God bless you and please pray for us.