Epau Village - Good News Meeting
Upon the near-completion of the new church building in Epau, it was decided that the congregation would hold a Gospel Meeting in an effort to utilize this new tool to evangelize the community.
The following is a synopsis of the congregational planning meeting held in Epau on March 26 from 3:30-4:15 regarding the Gospel Meeting. After much consideration and discussion, the following items were decided (in order presented) by the congregation:
Days: 8, Sunday to Sunday
Monday, April 17 [35 in attendance, approximately 9 visitors, 34 tracts taken] We again had a good number of folks from Vila, Etas and Eton, with a total of 12 riding in our truck (the truck from Eton is not available on weekdays). Eddie, from Eton, preached about the spread of the church, from Acts 2 to 2006. I asked him to preach on this topic because so many ni-Vanuatu view the church of Christ as a “new church” and as a “church from the United States.” Afterwards, I opened the floor for questions, and answered them for about one and a half hours. A question box had been placed, but there was only one question submitted to it, which I also addressed during this time. We shared cookies and juice together, and headed back to Vila (we finally got home a little after midnight).
Tuesday, April 18 [46 in attendance, approximately 15 visitors, 76 tracts taken] There were a total of 13 in our truck from Vila, Etas and Eton, including Flexon and Fiona. Our trip to Epau was quite enjoyable, as Morris, Flexon, Fiona, Shawnda and I sang songs almost the entire way. Flexon preached on whom the Bible says is a Christian (as we knew there would be many in attendance who believed they were Christians, though they really weren’t in light of the Bible’s teaching). His message was well delivered and well received. Apparently people had “discovered” the question box, as there were about 12 questions. I answered them for about two hours, and afterwards we had cookies and juice.
Wednesday, April 19 [48 in attendance, approximately 18 visitors, 21 tracts taken] A total of 10 came from Vila and Eton in our truck (the group in Etas had a study of their own that night). Arthur was originally scheduled to preach, but had decided that his eyes were not good enough to see at night, so he asked Timothy from Eton to take his place. However, Timothy was still out working when we went by his house, so Morris (whom I had deemed the backup should anyone be unable to speak during the week), preached an excellent lesson on the prophecy of the church, and its subsequent fulfillment. There were again about 10 questions deposited in the box, and we went through them for about an hour and a half. Upon the completion of that, I gave ten minutes of persuasive remarks, encouraging people to act on the knowledge they had gained over the past few nights’ studies. A few minutes after the closing song and prayer, Eddie came over and excitedly exclaimed, “Wallace i wantem baptaes” (Wallace wants to be baptized). I went over and talked to Wallace, who had attended the studies on Sunday and Monday night as well, to make sure that he understood all that this decision meant. I was comfortable that he did understand, and asked Eddie to make the announcement to the whole congregation. Eddie led us all in “What Will Your Answer Be?” and went down to the river and Arthur baptized Wallace into Christ. Wallace is seventy years old and has been a member of some denominational groups in the past, but is grateful that God allowed him time in his life to repent and turn to him (2 Peter 3:9). Interestingly, Wallace was the builder hired by the congregation to building the building in Epau. We are also glad that Wallace’s wife and three of their daughters have been attending the studies, and seem to be on the road to obedience. What an exciting night!
Thursday, April 20 [50 in attendance, approximately 20 visitors, 17 tracts taken] We took 13 in the truck from Vila, Etas and Eton. Shem and his Rose attended from Vila, and Shem preached a lesson from 1 Thessalonians 4, emphasizing the importance of spiritual preparation before physical death takes place. Afterwards, I answered questions for about an hour and a half, all of which had been submitted through the question box.
Friday, April 21 [40 in attendance, approximately 20 visitors, 80 tracts taken] Aaron, Cindy, Kaela and Mike had scheduled to attend the meeting this night, which worked out well as there were only a few from Vila and Etas able to come (a total of 11 in the truck). Max from Epau was scheduled to speak, but unknown to me got up and announced that he wasn’t going to preach his lesson on baptism because he felt I had adequately covered that topic already during our question and answer sessions the previous nights. I didn’t necessarily agree with his conclusion, but nonetheless took the stage to answer questions. The question box was full that night, and I answered questions for over two hours. Afterwards we again shared cookies and juice.
Saturday, April 22 [38 in attendance, approximately 18 visitors, 33 tracts taken] Ten of us loaded into the truck from Vila and drove to Epau. Steven from Vila was scheduled to preach, so he drove his family to Epau in their vehicle. Steven’s lesson covered the importance of having authority. He preached for over an hour, and I must say that I think it was the best sermon I have ever heard a ni-Van present. He used the Bible and illustrations wonderfully, and really made his point well. I am so excited about the potential (and realized) ability of Steven, and believe he will continue to be a wonderful asset to the Lord’s work here in Vanuatu. Interestingly, there was only one question in the box, and there were no additional questions asked. The question was, “what is the meaning of Presbyterian?” I took about 45 minutes to answer it, since I knew I had plenty of time. I covered the three Greek words presbuteros, episkopos, and poimen, and then discussed the origin of the Presbyterian Denomination in 1535 (proving that it was therefore not the church Jesus started in 33AD) in light of the Reformation. Little did I know that this simple explanation would prove to be so powerful [see “overview” below].
Sunday, April 23 [65 in attendance, approximately 25 visitors, 35 tracts taken] The Eton congregation again hired a large truck to take them to Epau. They went in the morning so as to worship together. During that service, as a result of his attendance at several of the week’s studies, Kalmeier (pronaounced “call-mayor”) voiced his desire to be restored to the body of Christ. He had been baptized in 1991 by Eddie Karris (Eton), but had since fallen back into the grips of Satan and the world. It was an honor to meet and talk with this restored brother. Shawnda and I both had teaching responsibilities in Vila that morning, so we didn’t leave until 1:00 that afternoon. We again had a full load in the truck of 14 (the record high) of folks from Vila and Etas. We started singing at about 3:30, and Morris began preaching at 4:15. Unfortunately it was raining pretty heavily throughout the majority of his sermon (for auditory purposes, heavy rain and a steel roof don’t mix well). Nonetheless, he preached a wonderful sermon answering the question, “is eternal life conditional?” I had asked him to talk about eternity this night, as I knew it would be the climax of our gospel meeting. There were two hours worth of questions, and afterwards I made my final appeal. I brought “decision cards” to pass out to all the visitors, as often times ni-Vans are reluctant to talk, especially to white people. I thought this would give them an opportunity to express their thoughts, needs, concerns, and additional questions. Immediately after the closing prayer, Morten approached me saying he wanted to be baptized. We talked about the meaning of that decision for a few minutes, and then we headed to the river, where Max baptized him into Christ. Upon our return to the church building, Morten’s wife Rita ran up to me and shook my hand vigorously, saying “thank you, thank you” with tears in her eyes. Rita has been a Christian for about two years, and has been anxiously awaiting the day that her husband would make that decision. It was wonderful to see that family united in Christ.
In a word, I would describe the Epau Gospel Meeting as a “success.” As I consider its affect on the local Christians, visiting Christians, new Christians and non-Christians, I am again reminded of the awesome power of God’s word in the lives of men and women. There are truly many seekers in Epau, and I am grateful that God used me to help many of them find the truth. The question and answer format of teaching continues to prove to be the most effective means here in Vanuatu (and the question box made it even more effective, as it gave the questioner time to effectively write down his thoughts, and also provided a certain amount of anonymity).
I returned to Epau on Tuesday morning to retrieve the generator, sound system, tables and other items we used during the meeting. I had hoped to study with some of the contacts made through the meeting that day, but none were available. As is custom, the Christians who were available came to greet me as soon as they heard my truck come through the village. It was wonderful to, for the first time, greet Morten as my brother in Christ. The smile on his face, which had appeared on his face on Sunday evening, was still going strong. I was able to converse with a number of the Christians in Epau, and their continued excitement was evident; their faces were still glowing. I heard from a number of them that the gospel meeting was the “talk of the town” on Monday, with many of the visitors saying that one week wasn’t enough time (they wanted at least two). I guess it’s good to leave them wanting more! I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the overall perception of the village regarding the meeting was that Christ’s church (in contrast to the denominations represented) indeed teaches the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Members of the Presbyterian Church (the largest and most influential denomination in Vanuatu) were especially influenced by the teaching of the truth. Great things are in store for the church in Epau Village!