Epau Village - August 2005

Shawnda and I dropped Aaron off in Paunangisu and headed on to Epau. We arrived at about 1:00 on Saturday afternoon. We unloaded our things into the small hut we always stay in. We have realized that teaching in the village goes over best when it is done at night, so I had brought two fluorescent lights. A company out of Australia came to Epau a few years ago selling solar panels and batteries. Ada and Rosie (the Christians we stayed with) have one of these setups. When I came last time, we were able to string an extra light for our meetings, and we needed to be able to do that again this time as well. They had told me that I could just plug a light into a socket, but upon arriving I realized there were no light sockets (another episode of speaking without communicating!). So, my electrician skills were put to the test. I removed one their lights, and attempted to fuse an extension cord onto the existing cord, so that we could plug in a light underneath the front porch where we were supposed to meet that night. Everything went well, until we flipped the switch…and nothing happened. I tried a few more things, but to no avail. They asked the local “light man” to come take a look, and he concluded that the battery was not strong enough to power the lights I had brought. So, he went back to his house and brought over a light that would work. With that taken care of, it seemed that we were ready to go.

After that, we did what the village-locals do on Saturday afternoon…sit around and talk. About 4:00, I heard Shawnda ask Ata, “do you want Eric to go with you?” He said, “yes.” One the way, I learned that we were going to invite two men to come to the study that night. First, we met Bob, the husband of a Christian lady named Leisong. He was preparing a fire just outside their house. Ata asked him if he would come to the study later that evening, and he agreed. Next, we went to the house of Martin, the husband of another Christian lady named Rita. He, too, immediately agreed to come. Interestingly, I later found out that neither of these men had ever even set foot in a church building, even though their wives have been faithful Christians for a few years (and members of denominations before that).

We had the usual dinner of rice, manioc, grapefruit, noodles and hot tea. By that time the sun was beginning to go down, so the ladies began putting mats out on for people to sit on. We turned on the light and began singing. Within 30 minutes, a nice-sized crowd had gathered and I started my lesson entitled “Characteristics of the Judgment Day” (the Christians had specifically asked me to talk about the Judgment Day during this visit). There were about 10 children (who all listened rather intently), and 11 adults (locals, 4 of which were visiting). Sure enough, two of the visitors were Bob and Martin. They both showed up on time with Bible in hand, sang, and paid attention well. Another visitor was a young lady, Lottie, who lives close by and has been attending services for a while. The other “visitor” was the 17-year-old son of a Christian couple, Willy, who attends services quite regularly, but has not yet obeyed the gospel. The study lasted about 45 minutes, after which I asked for questions. It was very cold that night, so the people were all ready to go home. I was able to speak to Bob and Martin briefly, to thank them for coming. Without even begin prompted, they both said that they would be back on Sunday!

Though you don’t a lot of physical labor while staying in the village, you sure do get tired. Shawnda and I retired to our house about 8:45, and were asleep by 9:00. We awoke the next morning to the call of the roosters (20 or so, it seemed). We had local bread and hot tea for breakfast. That morning, Shawnda helped Rosie and Winnie make laplap. For those who don’t know yet, laplap is Vanuatu’s custom dish. It can be made from manioc, banana or yam. Having already built a small fire with stones inside, they ground up the manioc into a powder, and spread it over a large leaf. Next they “scratch” some coconuts, which consists of removing the meat from the shell (quite a labor-intensive task!). They then squeeze the meat/water (aka coconut milk) through the coconut husk (used as a filter), over the powder to make a dough-like mixture. By this time the stones are nice and hot. The mixture is completely wrapped in leaves, and the hot stones are placed on top. The laplap cooks for about an hour, after which they remove the stones and peel off the leaves. All of this is done by hand, without the use of any modern kitchen-aids.

As is custom, we began singing at 9:30 or so, waiting for everyone to arrive. By 10:00, 20 adults (including Bob, Martin, Lottie, Willy and one other visitor) and 11 children had gathered and we were ready to start. At the appropriate time, I preached a sermon on 2 Peter 1:1-11, stressing the importance of preparing ourselves for the judgment day. Afterwards, we ate lunch together and visited for a few hours. About 3:00, Kathleen (one of the older children) asked Shawnda and me if we would like to go for a walk. Shawnda and I, along with 10 kids, took off down the road. After 30 minutes of walking, we turned into the bush, headed for the ocean. We “played” on the beach for a while (the kids found a petrified eel…interesting), and then headed back home through the bush instead of on the road. Kids here are so wonderful…they lead such simple lives are always so happy and full of laughter. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to spend those few hours with them!

By the time we got back, it was time for dinner. Ni-Vanuatu usually only eat one meal a day, so we just had local bread, local banana cake and hot tea…which was fine with me (and really tasty). We started about the same time Sunday night, and had a small time of fellowship immediately following the study with bread and tea. There were a total of 19 adults (locals) in attendance, 6 of which were visitors. One of those visitors was a man named Kaltanak (Lottie’s father). A few months ago we heard that someone was in the hospital from Epau, so Aaron and I went to visit him. Kaltanak was asleep the two times I went in, but I was able to visit shortly with his wife and son each time, and lead a prayer. Shawnda went a couple of times as well to take water, spoons and plates to them (the hospital here provides food, but not dishes). As a result of those visits over a month ago, Kaltanak came to the study that Sunday night, and I was able to talk with him for almost 30 minutes afterwards. He showed great interest, and I believe both he and his wife are great prospects for the gospel.

We “hit the sack” a little later on Sunday night, about 10:00. We headed back to Vila, through Paunangisu, Monday morning at 7:30. The trip went wonderfully, and the brethren have asked Shawnda and me to come back September 24-26. I believe that I will have opportunity to study one-on-one with a number of the good prospects mentioned above at that time. Please be praying for each of them…Bob, Martin, Lottie, Willy, Kaltanak, and Tofao.