Paunangisu Village - June 2005

During our mission trip to Epau June 3-5, we met Harry and Chris when they came to the worship service. They are the only two Christians in the nearby village of Paunangisu and asked us to come and teach there. Of course, we gladly accepted their invitation and planned a trip.

On Wednesday morning, we woke up and made all our last minute preparations. Since there are only two Christians in Paunangisu, they do not yet have a building. We purchased two large canopies to serve as a shelter during our meetings, which will prove valuable throughout the rest of our work here. We also took a gas-powered generator and lights so we could teach at night. We have said it before, but turning on lights outside in the village really attracts a crowd...which is exactly what we want to do. Mike, Aaron and I made 1:30 trip to Paunangisu.

Upon our arrival, we set up the canopies and unloaded all of our belongings (we carried in all the food and water we would need for the week, so as not to be a burden to the family who was accommodating us). The three of us all stayed in Chris’ house. It was a nice house, cinder block with corrugated steel roof. Mike and I stayed in one room, and Aaron in another. Once we got things set up, we filled in the blanks of our flyers (time and place of our meetings), ate lunch (local foods…rice, island cabbage and papaya), rested for a bit and studied.

Before we knew it, the sun was beginning to set which meant it was time for us to start setting up the benches, lights and generator. By 6:00 the sun was gone, and we turned on the lights. As soon as we did, about 15 kids came and took their seats. We had hoped for a crowd, and we had one…though it wasn’t exactly what we expected. The three of us, the two Christians, and all the kids sang until about 6:30, when Aaron got up to speak. Within a few minutes, 10 adults had gathered to listen. Aaron taught two lessons: How We Got the Bible and An Overview of the Bible. After one and a half hours of teaching, we offered a time for questions. The ni-Vanuatu are normally very shy, and this proved to be the case that night…there were no questions asked. Added to their shyness was the fact that most religious people agree with everything Aaron taught. We knew later nights would bring more “controversial” lessons. After the meeting that night, we had dinner and went to bed. Though we hadn’t done all that much, we were all ready to hit the sack. We all slept fairly well as the weather was nice and cool, probably around 70 degrees.

We woke up with the roosters on Thursday morning, about 6:00. Our breakfast of hot tea and bread was ready. We hadn’t realized it before, but one of the two bakeries in Vila has a van that goes around the entire island every morning with fresh bread. It just so happens that Chris is his area’s representative, which means he purchases a large amount of bread every morning and the locals in turn pay him for what they want. This worked out great for us, as we had fresh bread every morning. One of the ladies put some of the peanut we brought on it, which was an added bonus.

If you don’t have a garden, there really isn’t much to do in the village besides “story” (light conversation) and “spell” (nap). Needless to say, we did plenty of both. We especially enjoyed “storying” as it allowed us to get to know the Christians and many others much better. That morning, Harry needing to make a quick trip to his garden, so we asked if we could tag along. After about 20 minutes of walking, we arrived. He, like most others, grows all the food his family needs, and sells the remainder at the market in Vila. He grows bananas, papayas, manioc, yams, taro, island cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, sugar cane and onions (and I am sure I am forgetting a few things). The village life is so interesting to me, the city boy. I am constantly amazed at how efficient they are with a machete as their only tool. We spent about an hour walking around the entire garden, and Harry brought some island cabbage and bananas back to the house for lunch.

Thursday night was similar to Wednesday…the lights went on at 6:00 and the kids showed up immediately. About 30 minutes later, Mike began teaching. His first lesson was an overview of the Old Testament, which prompted a barrage of questions from a local Seventh Day Adventist man. Interestingly, we could tell that the questions he was asking weren’t really his own, as he was reading them word-for-word from a piece of paper. Apparently, the SDA church had supplied him with this arsenal with the instructions to use them in case someone taught that the Old Law was no longer in effect. This was made especially evident by the fact that he was unable to deal with our answers to his questions…he hadn’t formulated the questions for himself and therefore was unable to accept the associated biblical answers. After 30 minutes or so, we had to go on to lesson number two, which was an overview of the New Testament. After the studies were over, we had dinner and went to bed. Unfortunately, it was much warmer that night, and thus rather difficult to go to sleep.

Friday morning, the roosters again awakened us. After breakfast, Aaron, Mike and I decided to go for a walk down to the beach. From there, we could see three nearby islands in the distance…an absolutely beautiful sight. They told us that innumerable white men had tried to buy that beach from the locals, but the chief had thus far successfully kept it from being sold. Though we are white and I see many benefits from the white man’s money, I wish it weren’t present. Even in the two years I have been associated with the country, I can tell that it is quickly becoming very materialistic.

The rest of the day was full of the three S’s: spell, story and study. As we had grown accustomed to, the children showed up right on cue that night. My first lesson that night was on Salvation, and the second on the meaning of “baptism” in the Bible. Like America with its English, there is a great deal of confusion in Vanuatu with its Bislama. We had our largest crowd that night, close to 30 visitors. A few were sitting underneath the canopies, but most were under some nearby trees, and some even sat in the road. The people seemed very intrigued by the study. Once again, we ate and went to bed.

Friday night was a rough one. The roosters woke up way too early, it rained (which is quite loud when hitting a tin roof), there were some children crying, and it was hotter than the night before. After breakfast on Saturday morning, Aaron and I decided to take a walk down to the wharf with Harry (Mike stayed back to study for his lessons that night). We didn’t realize it when we left, but it was about a two hour round trip, and the sun was hotter than ever. I haven’t mentioned it up to this point, but I got a bad rash the weekend before we traveled to Paunangisu, similar to poison ivy. The heat and absence of a shower really made it go wild. By the time we made it home, I was beginning to get quite nervous as it just kept on spreading (NOTE: by the time I am typing this, the rash is still present but under control, thanks to some special soap, ointment, and oral medicine). Unfortunately, by the time we all arrived back at Chris’ on Saturday just before lunch, Mike wasn’t feeling too good either. He had no energy whatsoever and just wanted to sleep. He decided that he would be able to teach that night though. He taught one lesson on the importance of the church, and one on the characteristics of that church. Afterwards, we fielded questions for 30 minutes or so, as teaching that Jesus only built one church always raises questions with some. This, our final night of teaching, was quite encouraging. Mike didn’t eat any dinner, and I knew he was really feeling bad when he asked if he could barrow my blanket. For those of you who don’t know Mike, he shovels snow in Denver in shorts. For him to be cold when I was sweating buckets concerned me a bit (NOTE: upon our arrival back in town, we found out that Mike had a bad infection in his leg, which was causing his body to do weird things. After five days worth of shots, he back to 100%). Nonetheless, we all slept fairly well that night.

On Sunday morning after breakfast, I traveled to Epau to pick up the Christians there, and Shawnda, Cindy and Kaela (they had gone to Epau on Saturday, and spent the night with Ata). We knew that Harry and Chris would really be encouraged by the combined worship service, since it is normally only the two of them meeting. We all arrived back in Paunangisu about 9:30, sang some songs, and began our worship service at 10:00. Aaron preached a lesson on miracles. After worship, we had a large “island kakae.” It was so nice to get to share that time with so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we had a few visitors as well. After lunch, I took some Christians back to Epau, and we loaded up to head home. Chris and Harry gave us a tear-filled goodbye, expressing their thanks for our efforts. We assured them that we would be back to follow up on some things in a month or so. We had only been gone a few days, but as always it was nice to get home to our familiar beds and a nice, cool shower. Mike and I were also happy to be able to make a trip to the doctor on Monday morning.

While nothing in particular really stands out about this mission trip, we are confident that much good was accomplished because the seed was sown. No doubt, Lord willing, the congregation in Paunangisu will experience growth in the near future.

Together, we are making a difference for the Lord here in Vanuatu!

EB

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Aaron, Mike and Eric all stayed at Chris' house while in the village from Wednesday to Sunday.

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The three of them stayed in two very nice rooms, each equipped with real beds.

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Night meetings have proven to be the most effective, as most locals are in the garden while the sun is up. We brought a gas-powered generator and some lights.

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The church doesn't have a permanent meeting, so we brought two open-air tents to hold our meetings under.

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On Sunday morning, the Christians from Epau came to worship with us, as well as a few visitors.

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Aaron took a walk with Harry to discuss how the team can effectively help the work in Paunangisu.

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