Paunangisu Village - 2005 in Review

Background:

Every month our team goes into the villages of Vanuatu in order to evangelize and edify areas that are in great need of the truth of God’s Word. The three men have divided up the villages geographically and are working to reach to these different areas.

Eton, Epau and Paunangisu are three villages in which there are Christians established who meet regularly. Our goal was to go to these villages and determine how we can best serve the local brethren through evangelizing their villages. Our team agreed that it works best to have one person “assigned” to a particular village in order to get to know the particular brethren and help them in evangelism. Mike works with the Eton congregation, Eric with the Epau congregation and I (Aaron) with the Paunangisu congregation.

Once a month the three of us load up our goods and go to the villages to not only encourage the brethren with our teaching and preaching, but also to reach out to the lost in these villages. Upon departure from Port Vila, we drop off Mike in Eton (about 40 minutes drive) then Eric in Epau (30 minutes further) and I take the truck further around the island to Paunangisu (another 25 minutes drive).

Current progress:

June-2005: All three of the men began these village excursions of outreach and edification back in June of 2005. I organized a weekend outreach that lasted from the 22nd to the 26th of June. During this time the three of us men stayed with Kris Tatangis (one of only two Christians in the village). Eric and Mike bunked in one small room and I in another room. From Wednesday to Sunday the 26th we taught lessons at night on several different topics. Typically we began lessons at 6pm and the classes lasted until 7:30 with a question and answer session lasting until 9pm. Needless to say, by the end of each night, we were exhausted.

Lessons presented covered topics such as: How we got the Bible, What is the Bible, Old Testament, New Testament, Sin, The Church, Salvation, What the Holy Spirit does NOT do today – Miracles, What the Holy Spirit DOES do today – living inside Christians. Attendance to these classes fluctuated from 10 to 30 visitors each evening.

Each night the question and answer sessions were filled with good, thoughtful questions. One of the problems we faced was with the SDA church (Seventh Day Adventist). One man in particular, named Edward, was staunch SDA and he brought a list of questions with him to our Q&A session on the Old and New Testaments. He would fire question after question about how he believed the Old Law was still in effect today. Unfortunately he had been so well indoctrinated with SDA teachings he was totally unwilling to consider any other viewpoints or scriptures other than ones he knew. For example, he tried to build his case on asking questions from Matthew 5:17-19. He attempted to show that the Law was NOT destroyed. When we agreed with him that the Law was not destroyed, but fulfilled by Jesus, he was totally unprepared. Basically, he had never thought out the questions he was asking or the teachings that the SDA’s had been spoon-feeding him. He simply came with his questions and fired one after another and was unwilling to “come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).

July-2005: Our team did not go into the village of Paunangisu in July because we had a campaign in Port Vila this month with Wayne Burger, Gospel preacher at the Columbine church of Christ (our sponsoring congregation). Aaron did return to Paunangisu in August and the detailed report can be read online.

Trip to Paunangisu (June 22-26, 2005)

1. Purpose of the report:

a. To inform you of the events of the Paunangisu trip

b. To encourage you with news of the meeting in Paunangisu

2. Background:

a. During our trip to Epau, Harry and Chris requested that we come and reach out to the community of Paunangisu.

b. Our team formed a plan and went to teach and preach the Gospel at the request of these two men.

3. Overview:

a. Aaron, Eric and Mike went to Paunangisu from June 22nd (Wednesday) to the 26th (Sunday).

b. The three men stayed with Chris Tatagis

c. Every night at 6PM a lesson was taught for 1 to 2 hours, with a time for questions following each evening.

d. The three men taught:

i. How we got the Bible

ii. What is the Bible

iii. Old Testament

iv. New Testament

v. Sin

vi. The Church

vii. Salvation

viii. What the Holy Spirit does NOT do today-miracles.

ix. What the Holy Spirit DOES do today-live inside of Christians.

e. Classes averaged anywhere from 10 to 30 visitors each evening.

f. There were no conversions, but several people were very close.

g. Follow-up is planned for next month when Aaron will go back to teach.

4. Conclusion: The trip to Paunangisu was very profitable

a. While there were no conversions, our team planted very good seeds in the village of Paunangisu

b. Through the teaching and preaching, many people were taught Biblical lessons.

c. Aaron will be responsible for making plans to follow up with a visit every month to Paunangisu to teach and preach

Trip to Paunangisu (August 2005)

First, over the weekend, I went to the village to teach and preach. Saturday through Monday, the 20th to the 22nd, I went to the village of Pounagisu. This is a village that I had been to before with Mike and Eric. Last time the three of us went, we taught lessons on the characteristics, nature, and beginning of the church. Each night there were 20-30 visitors.

This trip, I went alone to the village and stayed with a Christian man named Harry Archie. The village has about 200 people, and only 2 Christians, Harry and another man named Kris. My goal was to follow up with the interested prospects, and continue teaching on the topic of the church. Here is the “play by play.”

I arrived in Pounagisu at about 11 am and went to Kris’ house first. He was not home and so I went to Harry’s house. Harry had a place for me to stay close to his kitchen house. In Vanuatu, it is not uncommon for a person to have many ‘houses’ since they can just build a ‘house’ out of bamboo (posts), woven palm leaves (walls and roof), and coral (floor). The kitchen house is called the “Nakamal.” In their custom, a visitor CANNOT enter the Nakamal unless asked. In the old days, if a woman entered a Nakamal without permission she could be punished by death. For a man, he would be beaten. Though this is not the practice today, I still waited outside the Nakamal until Harry invited me in.

When I entered the Nakamal, there was a small fire going in the corner. Two cinder blocks on either side of the fire held the huge tea kettle that was warming the water for our afternoon tea. As I looked around the Nakamal, there was an old bread cupboard that at one time had screen on it to keep the rats and bugs out, but by now the screens had been well shredded. In it was bread, peanut butter, tea bags, silverware, plates, and coffee mugs. In the back there were woven mats laid on top of the coral and served as a sleeping area. It was a fairly good size area, about 10’ x 10’. In the cool season (July and August) they sleep in this Nakamal so they can be close to the fire if they get cold at night.

On the left side of the Nakamal was a bamboo table that Harry had made many years ago. He directed me to sit down at the table before I unloaded all my bags in the house in which I was to sleep. As I sat down at the table, the bamboo table creaked and groaned. The table looked like a picnic table I was used to back in the states. The top of the table was not smooth as the bamboo was round and not flat. There was a piece of fabric serving as a table cloth that covered the top.

We sat and talked as the water for our tea warmed. We talked about the road on the way out and how it was in dire need of repair. When the water was hot, we fixed our tea and ate some bread that I had brought. Here, the custom when visiting someone is to bring as much food as you would eat, and then some extra as a gift. So, I brought a box of food and gave it to Harry. I gave 5 kilo of white rice, 3 packages of ramen noodles, a box of tea, two small cans of corned beef, a small jar of peanut butter, two loaves of French bread (or a baguette), and a flashlight as a gift.

When we finished our tea he took me to the small house where I would sleep. The outside was the traditional woven palm leaves which was held together internally by bamboo posts. It was dark inside since there was only one window, but enough light so I could see what I was doing. I was surprised, and glad, to see that my bed was a small cot on one side of the room. Covering the cot was a 1” piece of foam that served as cushion. I was glad to sleep on it rather than the floor, which was what I expected to find as my accommodations. I was later humbled to find out that this was Harry’s cot and he gave it to me and he slept on the floor while I slumbered in comfort.

I unpacked my bags and met Harry outside. We walked over to Kris’s house and set up a small tarp covered awning in his front yard. His house is close to the main road so we figured this was the best place to put the awning. At night when we run the generator, which I brought with me, the fluorescent lights can be seen up and down the road, since only the school and the health clinic have electricity. After the tent was set up, we put up the chalkboard which I also brought with me from Vila. I had bought plywood and blackboard paint and made my own chalkboard which served its purposes well.

When everything was set up we went back to the Nakamal and sat at the table and talked some more. Since the teaching would not start until 6 or 7 that evening, we had some time to relax. I met some of Harry’s family, most of which are NTM (Neil Thomas Ministries from Australia), but are interested in the Bible. NTM is basically a charismatic, tongue speaking, hallelujah shouting group. I invited all his family to come to the teaching that evening, but none of them showed up.

After talking a while in the Nakamal, I went to the small house I was staying in and set up my necessities. This meant I put out the mosquito coils, made sure my pepto-bismol was handy, and got my teaching materials out for the evening. I rested, read and relaxed until about 4. Harry came and got me for another round of tea. I was glad to drink tea again because this is where most of the bonding time comes in their culture. We discussed the class I was to teach that evening and he shared how he was sad that he and Kris were the only Christians in Pounagisu. I encouraged him that in time, God would give the increase. We then talked about how we might be able to effectively evangelize the village.

At about 5:30 that evening we went to start the generator. They don’t have electricity or lights in the village, so our team purchased a generator and fluorescent lights for occasions just like this. The stubborn generator, even though it was new, was hard to start. I was sweating quite a bit from pulling the starter cable so much. Finally it came to life and our lights were up and running.

Once the sun went down it turned cold. It was about 60 degrees, but felt cooler with the humidity. I wore long sleeves and jeans. They wore jeans, long sleeves, a coat, and any blanket they could find to hold around them and cover their heads. I began the study about 6 pm and there were 5 of us present, not counting 6 or 7 children. I handed out my lesson outline which I had printed and written in Bislama. Though many understand English, they can understand my poor Bislama better than their best English.

I taught from 6 to 9 pm on the topics of “church of the New Testament” and “Characteristics of the church”. The lessons went well. At least I thought they did. I couldn’t really see many faces because they had the blankets wrapped tight around their heads. If I strained hard, I might be able to see some eyes deep inside their blankets. For them, 60 degrees is as cold as it gets, and they were freezing. I, however, felt pretty good except my toes were cold being as I was only wearing flip-flops.

When my two lessons were finished, I opened it up for questions. A few people asked questions, but most wanted to just go sit by the fire and thaw out. I thanked them for their patience and for their attendance. I passed out copies of my two lessons and invited them to sign up for a Bible Correspondence Course. I also passed out two tracts I had translated into Bislama. Everyone was glad to get these tracts because they just don’t get good, Biblical information, and even then, what they do get is not usually in Bislama. I think our learning the language will really open up many doors for us in the future.

Upon finishing teaching, I shut down the generator, took down the lights, and coiled the extension cord. I put everything in Kris’s house for the night. While crime is not a problem in Vanuatu, I just wanted to be careful and not leave any temptation available for those seeing lights or a generator left out overnight.

I packed up everything and headed with Harry back to the Nakamal. I was glad to go eat as I only had tea and bread for lunch. I thought we may be ready to eat as it was about 9:45. However, Harry said his wife was still not back from the market in Vila yet and that we should wait for her to eat. So we sat by the fire and talked, and talked, and talked. I was glad to talk, but man, I was hungry! At about 11 pm He said we should just go ahead and eat without her. This turned out to be good since she didn’t come back until 1 am in the morning.

I hoped for maybe some rice and fruit to eat, but it was not to be. Harry went over to some leaves in the corner, which I didn’t even see when we walked in because it was so dark, and he uncovered laplap that had been cooking. My least favorite food in Vanuatu is laplap, especially banana laplap. I just don’t like it. It’s gross, hard to chew, and even harder for me to swallow. Guess what kind of laplap had been cooking under the leaves. That’s right, banana laplap. I graciously accepted the world’s largest piece of laplap he handed me and started eating. It was a large square of laplap, with the consistence of a brownie, but the taste of smoky, unripe bananas. I ate as much of it as I could which was about 3/4ths of the piece, and headed off to bed.

That night, it was cold. I had a sheet that I brought with me, but it just wasn’t enough. The woven palm branch walls just didn’t keep the breeze out. I slept with my jeans and long sleeve shirt on, but was still cold. I tossed and turned and slept decently, but not great. The next morning Harry talked about the cold night as if it had snowed overnight.

In the Nakamal we ate bread and drank tea again. I was glad for hot tea to help warm me up. This was Sunday, so after breakfast we took song books over to Kris’s and got everything ready for worship. Besides the three of us (myself, Harry and Kris) there were 4 visitors. I was proud of Harry kind of ‘taking charge’ and leading singing and doing the Lord’s Supper. Kris is about 75 years old and has really poor eyesight so just for him to come is quite and effort. Harry sang and led the Lord’s Supper. This is fairly bold as often times they feel they should “turn it over to the missionary”. This means that they feel they haven’t been to school and are uneducated and that the “missionary” would do a better job. This is often just the island mindset, but I was proud of Harry taking charge in leading worship.

I spoke on the topic of Christ as our Passover Lamb. Looking at the Old Testament and when God instituted the Passover to remind the Jews of how God’s punishment ‘passed over’ the houses that had the blood of the lamb on them, I compared this to the New Testament (1 Corinthians 5:7). I used several scriptures to show Christ is our “Lamb” and that His blood causes God’s punishment for sin (Romans 6:23) to ‘pass over’ those who have contacted the blood of Christ through baptism. It was a good study and I think everyone enjoyed learning about this topic and thinking about Christ as their Passover Lamb.

After we dismissed worship Kris went back to his house and Harry and I went to the Nakamal for lunch. We had a good lunch with rice, ramen noodles and corned beef mixed together, some papaya and more hot tea. This was a good meal and I was glad to have something other than tea and bread. After lunch I talked with Harry about us making a trip in October to the island of Nguna (pronounced Noon-ah). Nguna is an island that is visable from the shores of Pounagisu village. Nguna has not had the chance to hear the Gospel before and as a result there are no Christians there. I am excited to go preach there, but at the same time, we have to go through the proper channels to get there. This means that Harry will have to contact some people he knows on Nguna and have them ask the chief for permission for us to come teach and preach. Harry feels confident that we will be able to go preach there and teach the truth of God’s Word. This trip would require at least a one week stay teaching and preaching in various villages, and possibly longer if people obey the Gospel. Obviously I am eager to go, but also need to take some time to plan my work, follow-up, and corresponding trips if and when people obey the Gospel.

After an encouraging lunch with Harry, I went back to the small house to rest. I slept about an hour, having gone to bed after 11 pm the night before and getting up at 5:30 that morning, I was glad to rest. When I awoke, I studied my two lessons for the evening. I also worked on reading a book by J.N. Armstrong called “Undenominational Christianity”.

At 4pm Harry came and got me for another round of tea. We drank our tea in the Nakamal. I spent some time talking his grandchildren about the kids in the U.S. They especially liked hearing about making snowmen in winter and about what kinds of animals are in the zoo.

At about 6 pm Harry went somewhere and I couldn’t find him. So, I went to pray for a while before I was to start teaching. When I was finished, he was still nowhere to be found. I think he went to his garden to get some food for the evening meal. Wherever he went, I sure had no clue where he was and neither did anyone in his family. I went to set up the lights as the sun was going down and got everything ready for the evening lesson. As I was trying to start the generator after about three pulls of the starter cord, it broke. GREAT!

[Story pause]

About the generator, we bought it about a month ago. We used it last month the first time we came to Pounagisu to run the lights. It worked fine last time, but had a pretty good fuel leak at one of the gaskets. So, we took it back to the place we bought it and they said they would fix it. The first night I ran the generator, it leaked in the same spot. Now not only was the generator leaking some expensive two stroke fuel, but the starter cord was broken and we had no lights for the class.

[Back to the story]

After the cord broke, I tried to find someone in the village with tools. I found a man named Tom who just happened to have extra cord for his chainsaw and tools for his chainsaw. As it turns out the bolts on the generator are the same size as those on the chainsaw. This was great because nobody else had tools that would work. I borrowed the tools and Tom and I worked on the generator.

We unbolted the cover that housed the pull cable and just as I was about to warn Tom not to loosen the bolt covering the spring, SPROING! Out came the retractor spring that winds up the pull cable. So, not only did I have a broken starter cable, but now I had a spring that had to be rewound and put back in.

We began work on the generator at about 6:30 Sunday evening. We finally replaced the cable, spring and got the generator started about 8:15 that evening. I was tired and ready to call the evening off, but Harry was ready to study. So, I put on a happy face and went to teach. As payment for helping me and for letting me use his tools, I offered Tom my flashlight. However, he said he was just glad to help and did not accept it. I am so glad I found Tom and that he had these tools. What a lifesaver!

That night I presented two lessons. We started at about 8:15 and sang some songs. It was cold again and all the locals were bundled up. I think because of the cool night, not many wanted to venture outside to the meeting. Besides myself and Harry, there were 4 visitors and 4 more kids that came. I spoke first on the history of the church, showing the different points through history in which denominations broke off and formed their church. The second lesson was about characteristics of a denomination. I talked about Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17 and how denominations today are the opposite of unity, creating divisions among Christians. I spoke about how the only way to “be a Christian” was to practice what we read in the Bible. Again, after the two lessons I opened it up for questions and had several good questions asked. Even though there were not as many people there as I would have liked, the quality of people that were there was amazing. One man in particular, named John, was the AOG (Assembly of God) Pastor’s son. He was interested in the lessons. At the end, I invited all to sign up for correspondence courses and again encouraged them to practice only that which they read about in the Bible, pointing out that anything else adds or takes away from God’s Word.

Once the lessons for the evening were finished, I again took down the lights and extension cord. I put the leaky generator back in its box and put it in Kris’s house for the night. I walked with Harry back to the Nakamal for yet another meal. Again, laplap was on the menu along with rice, island cabbage and Nem. Nem is a handmade roll somewhat like a Chinese spring roll. Harry’s wife had stuffed them with mince meat and cabbage and fried them in oil. They were fairly good, but very oily.

After eating, Harry and I again sat around the fire keeping warm and talking. Our topics ranged from customs and culture of Vanuatu, to how to evangelize Vanuatu, to how to make laplap. It was good just to sit by Harry and hear him share his faith with me. He told me the story of how he was converted in 1989 by signing up for a Bible Correspondence Course. At the time, he was an elder in the Presbyterian church. Once he realized that he was not a Christian and that his baptism as a child was not valid, he wanted to get his life right before God. He made the break with the Presbyterian church and was baptized into Christ. At the time, he suffered quite a bit of persecution from family and friends. As a result he lost a lot of business (he was driving truck delivering bread and miscellaneous goods to people around the island) because of his decision. I was glad to hear his story, and even more glad that I could share this moment with him. I was glad to be half way around the world from home, talking another language, eating strange food, sitting in a foreign house, in a distant village, yet feeling like I was sitting next to a brother of mine. Indeed, we are brothers in Christ.

At about 11 pm I left the Nakamal and went to sleep. The night was cold again with a good breeze drifting right through the walls. In the middle of the night I got a mosquito bite right in the middle of my upper lip. In the morning it was swollen and looked like I got punched in the middle of the night. I didn’t, but I sure got some strange looks.

I got up about 5:30 Monday morning and started packing up my stuff. I began sifting through my things looking for stuff to give Harry. He is pretty poor and is in some hard times right now. He basically makes a living by working in the garden and sending his wife to Port Vila to sell their food at the market. This only brings in incremental money and so they don’t have much. I decided to give him my large water bottle. I figured it was something he could really use besides the food I had given to him. (On a side note, it is definitely NOT a good idea as a missionary to give money since that only creates dependence. However, giving small things they can use is much more appreciated)

I packed up my backpack, put my books and handouts in a plastic bag, and took my things outside. I went to Kris’s and took down the awning and gathered the generator, lights and cords. I loaded everything up and was ready to leave, but Harry wanted to drink tea one last time, so we did.

I haven’t mentioned yet, but Eric and Shawnda planned a trip at the same time to Epau. Epau is a village about 30 minutes up the road. There are about 15 Christians there. So, we coordinated our schedules so Eric could drop me off at Pounagisu and he and Shawnda could then go to Epau.

After all our stuff was loaded in Eric’s truck, he was invited to drink tea also. We didn’t turn down the kind request and went to the Nakamal to drink tea and eat bread. Eric had already drank tea at Epau that morning, but he graciously had some again to please Harry. We all talked and then said our goodbyes until next time.

We headed back to Vila and will begin making plans for our next trip to Pounagisu and hopefully to Nguna also.

Hope you enjoyed this story on our latest trip “Into the villages of Vanuatu.”

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, Cindy stayed in Vila because she was teaching the children’s Bible class. Boy was Kaela glad to see me when I got back. She gave me the biggest toothless grin you have ever set eyes on. I guess she’s Daddy’s little girl. And, Cindy was fairly glad that I was back too.

Trip to Paunangisu (October 2005)

Hopefully you have read by now my report on the first time I came to Paunangisu by myself. The village life certainly has a different “flavor” than that of town. In October I went from the 29th (Saturday) to the 1st (Monday) of November to teach and preach. This month Harry requested that I teach on the Second Coming of Christ. Saturday I taught from 7 to 9 pm on the Second Coming of Christ. There were 10 visitors present.

My main hope for the church in Paunangisu village is for Harry’s wife and brother to be converted. Not only do they always come to the lessons that are presented, but they always pay attention and ask insightful questions. Currently Harry’s wife, Leisong, and brother, Kalo, both worship with the NTM group (Neil Thomas Ministries). This group is based out of Australia and has really been popular here in Vanuatu with their foot stomping, hand clapping, 1-2-3 Jesus yelling crowd. They can best be described as a charismatic group of Christians who allow women to take a large lead in worship.

Needless to say, there are obvious differences in how the church which is seen in the Bible worships and the style of worship that is practiced by the NTM group. When I teach, I try to point out differences in how they worship as compared to how early Christians worshipped. I think slowly they are seeing the differences.

On Sunday we worshipped at 9 am and I preached on “How to study the Bible-Command, Example and Inference.” As if that topic wasn’t hard enough, try teaching it in another language. There were 5 visitors present. Sunday Evening I taught on “30 Seconds after death” and “Hell.” There werwe 9 visitors present and all really enjoyed the lessons (although that was not the response I was going for).

Side Note: On this trip I talked with Harry about us building some kind of structure in which to meet. I am basically asking him to plan, build and construct it yet at the same time making sure he knows I am willing to help him at any time. There is a fine line between doing everything for the local Christians and simply helping them out. Our team did not come to build buildings, but to help grow the kingdom of Christ.

Unfortunately, the mindset of many people here in Vanuatu is very materialistic. That is, if you don’t have a building in which to meet, you cannot be a valid “church.” While this mindset is not easily changed, it is something we must work with. I discussed with Harry how hard/easy it would be to put up some small structure in which to meet. He was excited to do this and asked a friend of his to provide 10 wooden posts. The friend gladly agreed and so as soon as we get these posts we will begin construction (at an island pace).

In closing, I hope you have enjoyed this report. Obviously, I would like to have had more visitors, but I will take what I can get. I enjoy going to the village as it is a simple, quiet life. Though I am teaching and preaching several lessons at night, I enjoy helping Harry work in the garden during the day. Though it takes much lesson preparation and strength to teach these lessons and answer questions, I still feel refreshed after I return from the village (especially after taking a shower).

Don’t forget to check back for next month’s report.

Trip to Paunangisu (November 2005)

Our first trip into the village was with all three of us men (Aaron, Eric and Mike) making one large push to seek those hungering for God’s Word. Our initial surge of lessons attracted many to our lessons. However, of late the numbers of visitors are down from what we started with.

This month I (Aaron) went to the village from the 26th to the 27th. I dropped off Mike at Eton and Eric at Epau and then drove to Paunangisu. Again I stayed with Harry and slept in his Nakamal. I slept on the floor on a mat and Harry’s grandson, Joshua, slept in the Nakamal with me. Evidently Joshua, who is about 8 years old, has not had much contact with white people. He usually stares at me for 20-30 minutes once I arrive before finally deciding I am not going to abduct his body and take it to my mother ship. That said, Joshua and I have become friends and he doesn’t want to let me out of his sight – yet he doesn’t want to sleep to close to me on the floor, too.

Harry asked me to teach this time on the book of Revelation. That was quite a hefty request that took much time to prepare my lessons. As if there wasn’t enough confusion about the book of Revelation, put it in another language and then see where that gets you. I taught on Saturday night from 7-9pm. I covered an overview of the book and chapters 1-3. On Sunday morning I taught chapters 4-11 for class and then preached on “the Book of Life.” We started the studies again in the afternoon at 3pm and covered the rest of the book. There were fewer visitors that I had hoped: 2 Saturday, 3 Sunday morning and 4 Sunday afternoon.

Side Note:
Just before my departure on Sunday afternoon, Harry’s wife told me that he has been indulging in too much kava. Kava is a local drink that has the equivalent effect of Alcohol. This is obviously a problem and one which I wanted desperately to address. The culture of people in Vanuatu is such that when there is a problem, it needs to be addressed by myself and the other person only. It is considered very disrespectful for me to confront Harry about the problem in public, even in front of his wife who just told me about the problem. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to sit down with Harry and talk with him before I left. Leisong basically told me all this right before I started the truck to head back to Vila. I will have to wait until next time to go talk with Harry about this problem. Please pray for Harry to have the strength to overcome this problem.

Trip to Paunangisu (December 2005)

This month was special for me. My parents came for a visit this month. They stayed in Vanuatu from the 15th of Dec. until the 5th of Jan. Shortly after their arrival I took my father with me into the village for my regularly scheduled round of teaching and preaching. Here’s what happened:

Saturday, December 17th:
Today we left at around noon. We took Eric’s truck and loaded it to the brim. We headed around the island and first dropped Mike off in Eton (40 minute drive), then Eric in Epau (30 minutes from Eton) and then we came to Paunagisu (25 minutes past Epau). The past few months I have been taking a canopy which we purchased back in July. The canopy serves two purposes: to give us a place in which to meet and to attract locals with the sight of a white canopy amidst thatched roof houses. However, on my last trip to the village the winds fatally damaged the canopy and we were unable to bring it.

Since my father was with me and since the canopy was out of commission, I decided to take a different method to this trip. In the past, each trip had been evangelistic in nature. To assure that Harry and Chris were being “spiritually” fed, I decided to just teach class on Sunday geared towards encouraging the Christian in his walk of faith.

Upon arrival in Paunagisu, Harry led us into his Nakamal that has recently been “renovated,” meaning he built a door and wooden windows so the Nakamal could be closed up. Since I had mentioned to Harry previous to our coming that my father would be coming with me, he felt responsible to make sure he felt safe and comfortable. In Harry’s mind, this could be accomplished through his building the doors and windows. What a generous, kind-hearted gesture, typical of the Ni-Vanuatu culture. We put our things into the Nakamal and sat down to drink tea and properly introduce my father to my “family away from home.” After shaking hands with Harry and Leisong and seing their warm smiles, we felt right at home. They served bread and fresh cut pineapple along with papaya to fill our bellies and hot tea to quench our thirst.

That afternoon we took Eric’s truck to Harry’s garden to pick up bananas, coconuts, firewood and other assorted fruit. As we drove to Harry’s garden, he’d say “turn here” and I’d ask, “where?”

“Here.”
“Where?”
“Here, where the road is.” Harry would answer.
“I don’t see a road.” I’d reply.
“Just turn.”

So, I’d turn down what I thought was a path in the tall grass and sure enough, 100 yards later the grass opened up into a small road that was just wide enough for a truck to wind through a coconut plantation. We were on our way to the garden.

Once at the garden, we loaded the firewood, bananas and coconuts into the truck. I stood in the bed as Harry and my dad heaved them up to me. We then walked though the garden and listened as Harry rattled off the custom names of several different trees, bushes and plants. Every few steps he would stop and explain what kind of fruit a particular tree had or how one could use this bush or that bush as medicine if you were sick. He would stop and grab seeds off the ground, crack them open with a rock and give them to us to eat – all of which were very good tasting. It was an educational and informative walk through the garden of a man who has spent most of his life living off the food he planted.

At night, there was a fundraising event to help pay for the school fees for the children. Each family in the village would take turns hosting the event and the proceeds go to the host family to help with their kid’s school fees. It just so happened that tonight Sopie, Harry’s daughter was the host. Harry’s whole family hopped into the back of the truck and we drove down the main road to the other end of the village, to Sophie’s house. Upon arriving, the people greeted us warmly. They were surprised to see not just one white man, but two! My dad and I caught many people staring at us throughout the night, looking us over as if we had just stolen one million dollars and hid all of it in our pockets.

At the fundraiser we were able to choose what kind of food you wanted. After you eat, you then pay for your plate and this is what generates the money. All of the village families donate food and then the “host” family sells it. My dad chose rice and chicken stew and I chose laplap and fish. We thoroughly loved our food. Normally I don’t like laplap, but my dad wanted to try its taste so I ordered it as my own. On my plate was manioc laplap with a fried fish on the top. I was at least glad that it had been gutted prior to their cooking it, but the tale and head were still intact. On my dad’s plate was a huge mound of rice served plain with a bowl of chicken in it’s broth in a separate bowl. My dad took the chicken and put it on the rice and then ladled the broth over the rice. It was some gooooooood eatin’!

After we finished our food the locals then looked to us for their entertainment. They wanted to know as much as possible about America. I talked about how Americans celebrate Christmas by opening presents on Christmas day and coming together for a meal that afternoon or evening. At first, I thought that, as Americans we don’t really have our own culture. However, as I began to explain how we celebrate Christmas and the New Year, we very much have a culture which helps define us as people. The people very much enjoyed my telling of how children in the USA make snowmen and play outside in the snow. In Vanuatu, “snow” is an unknown experience. Sure they know the word and sure they know what ice is. However, experiencing “snow” is something far different. The locals were captivated as they asked my dad and I questions about what they believed to be the Arctic Tundra of the United States.

We left the fundraiser late and night and headed back to the Nakamal. We said our “goodnights,” shut the doors and windows and got ready for bed. My dad slept on a small foam mattress under a mosquito net. I slept on the mats that covered up the coral floor. Surprisingly the mats did a very good job of cushioning me from the coral. Within minutes, good ‘ol pops was snoring away. With a full belly and a hot night, we both fell fast asleep with the help of a cool breeze through the Nakamal.

Sunday, December 18th:
Today we awoke about 5 am but did not get up and open the doors and windows until 6am. We drank tea and ate bread with peanut butter at around 7am. Harry pulled out some of his homemade jam for my dad to try. Harry had made papaya jam and my dad loved it. Little did Harry know that my dad would devour it like a lion on a fresh T-bone steak.

Following breakfast I volunteered to take the first shower, being that the water is colder earlier in the morning. I now know why a bath is called a “shower.” It is because you take your washcloth, dip it in the water and “shower” the water over your head. Here in Vanuatu, they call a shower a “swim.” So, if you want to go bathe, you ask to go “swim.”

I showered and then helped move benches from Harry’s Nakamal to underneath a mango tree where we would worship that morning nearby the Nakamal. I passed out the songbooks and made sure my Bible and lesson handouts were close by and then changed clothes for worship. That morning there were the following present: Myself, my dad, Harry, Leisong (Harry’s wife), Susan (Harry’s daughter), Chris and Taman, not to mention 6 random kids from the village (remember, only Chris and Harry are Christians. Our visit doubled the number of members present to 4).

Harry began worship at about 9am. He led singing and the Lord’s Supper and my dad lead a prayer. I presented a lesson on the Lord ’s Prayer, based on Matthew 6. Again, my intention for this lesson was to encourage Harry and Chris to remain strong and talk with the Lord often, even though they are few in number. It was an encouraging time of worship. Worshipping with Christians half way across the world from home truly puts into perspective how our Lord’s church is truly universal. Though we are from different cultures, have different customs and live in different places, we can all worship our Lord in His church through one pattern of worship that can be recognized worldwide. It was truly an uplifting time of fellowship and sharing of faith – though few words were even exchanged.

After worship Leisong brought out the dinning room table - literally – and proceeded to fill it up with food. She had cooked manioc (a root similar to potato), banana laplap, huge plates overflowing with rice, served with fresh pineapple, papaya and mango. It was a feast fit for a king, but we were the guests of honor. Harry and his family were very grateful that my dad was willing to come and visit them in the village and spend time with them, sharing their ways of living. In addition, they were grateful that my dad was willing to encourage them with his presence. To show their love and respect they pulled out no stops in their quest to stuff us full of food until we burst at the seams. Truly, their giving of food symbolized far more than what was sitting on the table. It symbolized their abundance of love for us to be a part of their culture and lives. It was an experience that my father and I will never forget.

I had made arrangements that afternoon for my father and I to go to a WWII museum near to Harry’s house. In WWII the US used this part of Vanuatu as a landing strip for the airforce. In the ocean was a F4UA Corsair that had ran out of fuel and crashed in the ocean. At the museum we made arrangements to go out to see the airplane that was so well preserved that the wings were still intact. My dad, being the huge history buff that he is, loved the experience. It was a good thing he took his camera because he shot around 100 pictures of this downed aircraft. After looking at the plane in the ankle deep saltwater we jumped back into the small boat and paddled back to the museum. We made our way through a grove of trees and bushes that hung over the water. We paddled through a hole cut in the branches into the lagoon, through another hole in the branches, back to the museum. The trip was well worth the time and gave us both memories that would last long after this trip.

Our departure:
Around 4 pm on Sunday afternoon we packed up our belongings into the truck. Harry and Leisong said their goodbye’s and my dad shook hands with them. Personally I will never forget the hospitality that was shown my dad. Leisong and Harry opened their home and their hearts to us and for that we will always be grateful. I think one would be hard-pressed to find a family as loving, caring and hospitable as Harry and Leisong.

Upon our departure we waved as we drove away. We headed to Epau to get Eric and we were informed that they were waiting for us to have a meal to not only celebrate the holidays, but also in honor of my dad. We drank tea with the congregation in Epau and ate some bread and fruit then continued on to Eton to pick up Mike.

At Eton, the congregation had found out that the following day, Monday the 19th was Mike Olson’s birthday. So the congregation decorated the building with streamers and balloons (which read “Happy Wedding). The Christians were gathered together and we all threw Mike a birthday party. Again we drank tea, ate bread and fruit. Finally about 8 pm we were on our way back to Vila. It was an enjoyable trip all the way around – one I’m glad I was able to share with my dad.