“Hindsight is 20/20”
It is a cliché that has proven true time and time again…indeed, hindsight is 20/20. Now that we have the luxury of looking back on our decision to send a team representative to Vanuatu, we can wholeheartedly say that it was a very necessary and beneficial decision.
Of utmost significance was the fact that the bank account we had established on our prior visit was not the type of account necessary to hold the immigration bond money required to be deposited by all expatriates prior to their long-term entry. Just finding out we had the wrong type of account could have taken weeks, not to mention the fact that the account application process would have needed to be completed via fax and email. This hiccup alone could have delayed the process months, but because of my presence it took only one day.
There is an abstract concept throughout the Pacific Islands known as “island time.” It is not that the natives are lazy or careless...they just work on a different schedule than we are used to. In fact, the National Tourism Office’s official motto is “Vanuatu: Another Time, Another Pace.” Due to this fact, I made frequent visits to both the Immigration and Labor Departments…so much so that I got to know most of them on a first-name basis. My physical presence proved especially beneficial one day, when I went into the Labor Department to retrieve our application fee receipts. After 10 minutes of phone calls and discussions, the receptionist walked out with our applications in hand and said, “these (applications) have been locked up in our boss’ office and we forgot about them.” Who knows how long it would have taken to discover this, had we still been half way around the world. Furthermore, the Residence Permit application process was to take a minimum of 3 weeks to complete. Instead, we received them in just over a week…the day of my departure! Having completed the process, I am convinced that it could have easily taken six months (or more) to complete had we just sent the applications by mail.
My visit was beneficial for some non-paperwork reasons as well. I wish every Christian at Columbine could see the reaction the ni-Vanuatu brethren have when they see a brother or sister from the States, and their excitement is contagious. I was able to preach one Sunday in Port Vila and in Eton Village the next. It means so much to them to know that there are Christians in the US who care and think about them so much. I also got to meet a number of non-Christians. Abraham (a 25 year old Indian native now living in Australia) was one of my neighbors at the motel, and turned out to be a very good friend. We talked a lot about the Bible and the church, and he attended services with me Eton on Sunday morning. I will be sending him Bible Correspondence Courses once we are in Vanuatu. James (approximately 50 years old, a native of Vanuatu) came up to me one day while I was sitting outside the Immigration office. We talked for a while and he invited me to his home for a neighborhood dinner that night. Clement and Filly (both in their 20s, Vanuatu) introduced themselves to me one night while we were waiting for a live performance to begin. They are both interested in Bible study, and we exchanged email addresses. I pray that all of these men, as well as many others that I met, will be our brothers in Christ someday.
Thank you all so much for your thoughts and prayers regarding the preparation of our team. We count the Columbine congregation and our countless other supporters as a blessing. My faith in God and my sense of urgency for the work in Vanuatu has greatly increased as a result of this two-week trip. Thanks to the foundation of Christ that others have laid in the country, the fields are indeed "white unto harvest."
While sitting down in town, James introduced himself to Eric and invited him to his home to eat.
On the following Sunday morning, Eric traveled to Eton village to preach to the congregation there.
Church building in Eton Village.
While in town, Eric was able to worship with the brethren in Vila, and they invited him to preach.
The locals took Eric to Eton beach after the morning services.
Eric traveled to Vanuatu March 6-22, 2005 to secure the team's paperwork...here's his home.