Duviara Village, Ambae Island - October 2006
In October, Aaron went to Ambae to strengthen the Christians, especially the men. Aaron was in Ambae 10 days, from the 14th through the 23rd. The goal of this trip was to spend time with the men of the two congregations which are on Ambae so that the men might truly be leaders in the congregations, grounded in the Word of God.
There are two congregations on Ambae: Duviara and Neihala. Duviara is the farthest away, so Aaron planned to visit this congregation first and then visit the Neihala congregation as he worked his way back to the airport.
Aaron took with him Timothy, a Christian from Etas. Our goal was not only to teach and encourage other Christians, but that Timothy might also be built up and “trained” as we were out visiting Christians “on the field.”
Here is the day by day entries from Aaron’s journal:
Saturday, Oct. 14th
Eric dropped off Timothy and I at the airport around 7am. We checked our bags in and boarded just after 8am. The flight was “direct” to Ambae though we touched down at two other grass airstrips before finally reaching Longana airport in Ambae.
We arrived in Ambae two hours after we left, collected our gear and jumped in the back of a truck headed for town. Once in Lolowai, a town consisting of a Coop, bank and post office, we waited for one of the local Christians to meet us. Mark was supposed to meet us in Lolowai, but he was nowhere to be found. I asked around and found out that there was a death in his family. I knew then that he was not coming to meet us at Lolowai.
Timothy and I went to the general store and bought our supplies: flour, rice, canned meat, canned fish, soap and a few other miscellaneous items (about $50 total). I always try to take enough food that our stay is not a burden on the locals. We found a truck that would take us to Neihala (1 hr away) and we loaded up our supplies and were off.
Once we arrived at Neihala, we were warmly welcomed by Makenzie and his wife as well as Pedro and his wife. We unloaded the truck, paid the transport fee ($30) and got settled in. Timothy and I stayed in a small thatched hut that had two beds in it.
After we greeted one another, we ate dinner together (taro laplap) and we studied for about an hour. The topic was: The importance of reading and studying the Bible. After the lesson, a few questions were answered and then we headed for the bunkhouse and went to sleep.
Sunday, Oct. 15th
Rain greeted me when I awoke at 6am. I washed my face, then read my Bible for about 30 minutes. At 6:30 Makenzie’s wife, Elanson, brought us hot water for tea and some bread to eat. They brought us crackers to eat, which I recognized as the ones I had brought to be used for the Lord’s Supper.
I “showered” by pouring water over my head behind a woven bamboo wall which they designated as the “shower.” I bathed with cold water and thought about how nice a convenience a hot water heater is.
We all came together for worship about 8:30. After worship, Timothy and I were to take our gear and go meet Mark at Ambanga, a 1 hr walk uphill entirely in the rain. We had been invited by Mark and the Ambanga Associated Church of Christ (headquarters in Australia). I had already talked with Makenzie and Pedro about how I would go to respect their request, but I could not worship with them. The worship was basically a circus and I felt bad, almost nauseous, to see people worshipping how the thought was right, yet offering worship to God that was totally outside the bounds of the New Testament.
After the circus, Timothy and I took our things to Duviara village where we were to sleep. Again, the rained poured down as we walked uphill another 20 minutes tromping through the mud. We stayed in Paul Vuhu’s guest house. Paul was not there as he was teaching in Santo, but his sister, Emina, was there to look out for us. We gave Emina the food we had brought and she was glad to accept the food that she would cook for all of us.
That night as we had dinner, Emina talked about how someone had cut her clothes that were drying in the sun. I had brought some women’s clothes that Cindy and Shawnda sent for me to give away. First, I wanted to distribute the clothes around, but after I found out Emina’s situation, I just gave her all the women’s clothes I brought.
Monday, Oct. 16th
Last night was cold and rainy. I fear getting out of bed as I don’t want to go outside and walk around in the mud. Today looks like more rain again.
Mark came at 8 and we all had tea, ate bread and them came together to study. I taught Mark and Timothy on the “Work of the church” and “What is a Denomination?” We studied together and I answered many questions from 9-12, then we broke for lunch.
For lunch we had taro laplap with tea. Emina gave me 5 pieces, which was way more than I could eat. I forced myself to eat and finished 4 pieces and gave the last one to Timothy to eat.
After lunch, Mark, Timothy and I studied together from 1-3. We studied the collection, giving and various topics. I basically wanted to help Mark in any way that I could that he would be encouraged to teach and preach effectively.
At night we ate in the Nakamal (or meeting place) and talked till about 8pm. Rain came and went all day, but seemed to settle in for the night. Mark didn’t want to go home, so we made a bed for him in the room where Timothy and I were staying. Boy, Mark sure can snore!
Tuesday, Oct. 17th
I got up at 6 and noticed Mark had already left to go feed his chickens and pigs. Mark said he was going to come back and we could study in the afternoon, but he never came back to study. I was somewhat disappointed, but at the same time I knew that he had commitments because his father-in-law had passed away.
Timothy and I cut fire wood for Emina while she managed the fire and cooked fried bread for us. When the bread was finished we drank tea and enjoyed the bread. Emina was glad to have company as her house is far away from neighbors. She lives with her daughter and mother and basically does all the work around the house and garden.
Timothy and I studied together from 8-9am on the topics of “What is the church” and “Who is a Christian?” At 9am we knew Mark was not coming back for the day and so we decided to go with Emina and help her plant taro in her garden. We grabbed long, sharpened sticks that we used for planting the taro and headed to the garden.
The mud was so deep and slick on the hillside that I just took off my flip-flops and walked barefoot. Timothy and I used the sharpened sticks to jab the ground and pry it up, making a hole for the taro. We planted about 20+ taro that morning.
After working in the garden, we went back to the house and I took a shower. Again, this consisted of soaping up and dumping cold water over my head. Boy that water was cold!
Timothy went to work cutting wood for the fire and Emina showed me how to make Simboros. Basically, it is island cabbage with manioc rolled up inside of it. It was fairly easy to learn and she was blown away that a white man wanted to learn how to make Simboros and help with the food. I think her limited experience with white people are when tourists come for a visit and expect everything to be done for them.
Wednesday, Oct. 18th
Mark did not show up again today. The custom in Vanuatu is that the family comes together every 5 days after a family member passes away to grieve the loss. I am sure that Mark is tied up with food preparations and with spending time with his family. Still, I have a few outlines I want to study with him and a few things we need to talk about.
Timothy and I told Emina that if she wanted us to work in the garden again, then we were more than happy to work. She was surprised at our willingness to help, and we were glad to do so as she looks after herself, her mother (about 80+) and her daughter.
We walked to the garden and set to work planting taro. We only had one planting stick, so Timothy dug the holes and I set to work cleaning the weeds from the garden. We worked for two hours or so and Emina was shocked that we were so willing to help and work. She went on and on about how much this helped her out. I told her, “That’s just what Christians do.” In all, we planted about 50 taro and cleaned about a half acre of weeds from the garden.
That night for dinner, Emina went all out. She killed a chicken and made laplap. She loaded up my plate with 5 pieces of laplap and 1/3 of a chicken. It was a good day and I was glad I could be useful. It sure beats sitting around the house waiting for something to happen.
Thursday, Oct. 19th
Mark came today and after breakfast we studied from 8 – noon. We covered many different topics, mainly centered around the characteristics of the church: its organization and worship. In all, they were very good studies. Mark had been leading a “benediction” as the closing prayer and I mentioned that it was not found in the Bible, nor does the Bible agree with repetitive prayers. Mark agreed and has decided to cease the “benediction” prayer.
Timothy and I packed our bags and took them to Mark’s house, a 35 minute walk through ravines and more mud. We ate lunch at Mark’s house and dined on rice and a small bird they had just killed. The locals eat guts and all, but I couldn’t do it. That was too much for me. I just let them have mine.
After eating at Mark’s house, Timothy and I walked down to Neihala where we would spend our remaining time in Ambae. After walking 45 minutes down the mountain, we arrived in Neihala and greeted the families of Makenzie and Pedro and then we settled into the small bunkhouse where we stayed previously.
That night we studied for about two hours and there were 8 present. It was a good study with several insightful questions. In all, I felt like the people really had a heart for finding out the truth of God’s Word and I truly felt like they were hungry for it.
Friday, Oct. 20th
Up at 5:30…more rain. Breakfast was bread and tea.
We began studying at 7:30 and ended about 11:30. We covered: Denominations and the Characteristics of the church. As we were ending our studies, a man named Morris who is the Pastor for the Associated Church of Christ came. I talked with him until about 2pm. He basically thinks we are all the same, so it will be a long road to bring him to the truth, but he really does want to learn.
That afternoon I studied on my own, prayed and did some planning for 2007. Is it almost 2007 already? Wow! Anyway, I wrote down several thoughts regarding work I wanted to accomplish in 2007 and when I get back to Vila, our team will meet to discuss these goals.
Saturday, Oct. 21st
Up at 5am…more tea and bread for breakfast…more rain off and on.
Studied from 7:30 to 11:30; topics included: Basics of Bible study and the church. Several questions came out as a result of these topics, mainly centered around worship and baptism. I deferred the baptism question until Sunday afternoon when I knew more people would be there.
After lunch (laplap and pork) we walked down to the ocean, about 30 minutes away. We cracked open some kind of a nut they call “Nangae” and we ate a bunch of them. They are cracked open like a type of walnut or pecan, but the outside of the skin turns your hands purple.
After eating some of the nuts, we all went swimming in the ocean. The kids really enjoyed themselves and they had fun “laughing at the white man.” The ocean was a beautiful blue and we swam and played for over an hour. It rained off and on and it was warmer in the water than out.
We walked back uphill 40 minutes to Neihala and had Simboro, pig, taro and rice for dinner.
Sunday, Oct. 22nd
Up at 6am…more tea, no bread…no rain yet.
I went over my lesson for the sermon, prayed and went and talked with the families in the Nakamal. I watched the women make laplap with taro and manioc. Makenzie killed a pig and a chicken and put one in the frying pan and one over the fire to roast.
For worship I spoke on the need to obey and trust God. I had hoped that the lesson would encourage people to grow in their trust in God because people on Ambae are afraid of black magic. I emphasized that God is bigger and more powerful than all that and we owe Him our trust. The lesson was well received and a few people thanked me for the lesson.
That afternoon we had a closing ceremony. Makenzie and Pedro gave me a pig as a thanks for coming and teaching/training them. Makenzie was so glad that a Ni-Vanuatu had come to help in the work that he adopted Timothy into his family. Makenzie gave Timothy a mat and a laplap to symbolically “seal the deal.” Timothy was very touched by their kindness and generosity. It made a huge impact on him.
Monday, Oct. 23rd
Up at 5…drank tea, no bread.
Time for me to go back home and see the family. I miss that Cindy and Kaela and I think Timothy is ready to see his family, too.
We walked downhill 30 minutes to Lolopuepue where we had arranged for a truck to meet us at 8am. It arrived on time and we loaded up our things, said our last goodbyes to Makenzie and Pedro and headed for the airport.
We drove through an hour and reached Longana airport at 9am, but check-in wasn’t until 10. We unloaded our things, paid the driver ($30) and waited for check-in and the plane.
The plane that landed was far smaller than that which brought us. The plane we returned to Vila on was an eight-seater “Islander”. There was one pilot and no-copilot. I was nervous the whole way. Not having a co-pilot was a little nerve racking, but we managed to arrive in Vila 1 hour, 20 minutes later.
This was Timothy’s second time to go in a plane – the first being the flight to Ambae. Needless to say he was “white knuckled” the whole way back.
In all it was a great trip. Despite Mark not showing up for two days, I was still able to study the topics that I thought we needed to cover. I was very proud of the Neihala congregation and think there will be growth there soon. In the meantime, I’ll just pray for God to give the increase.
On another note, I was glad to take Timothy with me. He was a good companion to have around and it broke up the monotony of the trip. Above all, it was a great opportunity to work with him that he could grow in knowledge and love of the Gospel.