Paunangisu Village - March 2006

Every month possible, I have been going to the village of Paunangisu (pronounced Pow-nan-gee-sue) to not only encourage the two Christians that are there, but also to spread the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to those who are not a member of His church. Here are the events from March:

Saturday, March 25th:
Last month I began a different format of classes. I had previously been teaching classes that were evangelistic in nature, but were low attended. My thinking was that if I broadened the class to attract a larger group of people, then more would people could possibly be exposed to the truth of God’s Word. So far this has been working. Though numbers are not what I would like, attendance is still improving with good quality people coming to the studies.

My first set of lessons in February was the beginning of a survey of the New Testament. Each night I cover a book with its topics, themes, date of writing and facts about the author. Personally I have really enjoyed the study and presenting these lessons. In February I began with Matthew and Mark and this month I covered Luke and John. Both of my lessons were well received and interest seemed high as I got good participation in the studies.

I have been running group studies in the village of Etas since late October. Each week I go to Etas and teach various topics from the Bible. There were 4 baptized back in January and our studies have continued to go well. A man that has been coming, named Selwin, has shown a great deal of interest. When I mentioned that I was going to Paunagisu for the weekend to teach the Bible, he asked if he could go. Usually I would not take someone with me that I had just met, not long ago, but he was showing great interest and I viewed this as a chance to really study with him one-on-one. When we headed out to round the island on Saturday, we picked him up close to Etas village and we headed on out to Paunagisu.

Once we arrived in Paunagisu after dropping off Mike in Eton and Eric in Epau, we went with Harry to his garden. We took the truck and basically pioneered our own road through the bush. I tried to steer clear of any small trees and large rocks that I saw, but a few were well hidden in the underbrush. When we got to the garden we loaded up the back of the truck with firewood, stalks of bananas, two bags of oranges and one of grapefruit. We then cut wood to put up as the structure over which we would stretch a tarp and under which we would meet. We cut 10-3 meter poles and one 5 meter pole as the topmost pole. We loaded everything into the truck and took off back through the bush.

On the way the long pieces of wood began to move quite a lot as the bumps jostled us around. We didn’t have any rope, but Harry had a solution for us. He marched off into the bush and returned 5 minutes later with two thin tree stalks. He then trimmed off all the small branches with leaves and then bit off the end! He did this to pull the skin off the bark. He pulled the bark to the end of the tree, gave it a tug, and presto-chango, we had bush rope. The bark of the tree was surprisingly tight and we tied all the posts tight to the truck and headed back to the house. I was amazed, but by the look on Harry’s face it was something he did all the time. The things you learn as a missionary are truly amazing!

Back at Harry’s house we unloaded all the wood and all the garden produce. We then set to work on the shelter. We dug holes in the ground and put up two posts to anchor the far side of the tarp and then tied the other end of the tarp to his Nakamal. It sure will be nice when we have a more permanent place where we can meet. By the time we finished this, it was getting dark and I went and turned on the generator. I was getting hungry, too, but it was time to start teaching. No rest for the weary, I guess.

Tonight I taught my lesson which was a survey on the book of Luke. It went well and as I pointed out one of the key themes in Luke was repentance which bears fruit, I could tell this topic hit home with one man in particular.

Johnson lives about an hour walk towards the jungle interior of the island. He was converted to Christ by a previous missionary named Ed Crookshank, who currently is working in Africa as a missionary. As a member of the church, but one who has been backsliding for a while, Johnson knew he needed to repent and come back to God. He asked good questions about what a Christian needs to do to get forgiveness. After a good discussion of 1 John 1:9 he knew he needed to repent and confess his sins to God. He was ready to do so and we talked for a while and prayed after the lessons. He was excited to again be an active part of the church which he had once abandoned.

We ended the study at about 9:30 that night and I was tired and hungry. We drank tea and ate some bread and then I took Johnson and another man home. By the time I did all this it was already 11 pm. I was tired and ready for bed.

Sunday, March 26th:
I slept well last night and there were few mosquitos. I think It helped that I burned a mosquito coil overnight and that somewhat drove them away. Same as last month, the kitten came for a visit. He again wanted to sleep ON me, but it was way to hot for that. I shooed him away and other than a few mosquito bites and an inquisitive cat, not much happened.

I woke up about 6:30 and was tired, yet refreshed. Selwin also slept in the Nakamal and he was awake before I was and walking around outside. I got up and opened the windows and doors. Harry then came over and we proceeded to drink tea and eat bread (an island ritual, I think). After breakfast it was off to take a shower, which they call a “swim.” I was first and so I filled the water bucket and went into the outhouse. The bucket sits just over the komode and I poured the water over my head. The water was fairly cool – enough to take your breath away for just a moment, but it felt good as the tea I just had made me sweat.

After a shower I went to read my Bible and Selwin went to “swim.” I went over my sermon for the morning and read Ephesians (I am always encouraged and amazed at Paul’s attitude as a missionary throughout his life). After breakfast we went to pick up a visitor, named Morrison. He lives 5 minutes down the road so we drove to get him. Though he is not far, he is old and cannot get around very well. Morrison was not there and so I headed back to Harry’s.

One problem with people in Vanuatu is that they will tell you what you want to hear. It’s not that they want to be dishonest, it’s just that they would rather not disappoint you. So last night I asked Morrison if he wanted me to come pick him up and he said he did. However, when we arrived, he was not there. I guess he had other plans and priorities other than coming to worship with us. I really don’t think he wanted to come worship with us, but that he just didn’t want to tell me that.

Anyway, we began worship at about 9:30. Johnson, Selwin, Harry, Leine (Harry’s daughter) and I were all present and we started with fewer numbers than I had hoped for. Harry led the songs and did the Lord’s Supper. My sermon was from John 1:9-13 and was about our right to become children of God. It went over well and I think it was well received. The key for me is just to make a lesson which they understand and can logically follow. Easier said than done in Bislama.

We finished worship about noon and ate rice with a sauce of corned beef and noodles. It was good. After lunch it was very hot and I laid down for a nap. It was too hot inside to sleep so I pulled a mat outside and laid under a mango tree. I wanted to sleep so badly, but the flies were terribly annoying, so I couldn’t sleep. I went and got a book I brought and read for a while.

At 2:45 Harry wanted me to go pick up Morrison. I felt if he didn’t come for morning worship, why would he come for the afternoon lessons? Anyway, I drove down to his house and he wasn’t there. I went back to Harry’s and relayed the message and we started our afternoon classes shortly after 3pm.

The afternoon class was a survey of the book of John. John is such an incredible book, it’s hard to do it justice in such a short class, however, this was my task. I surveyed the book with Harry, Leisong and Selwin present. It was hot and when we finished there were no questions. I could tell everyone was tired, including me. We finished and rested a bit, then took down the tarp, wooden poles and put the wood away we had been using for benches.

As we were doing all this, a truck pulled up. Harry went and talked with the man for a while and then introduced me to him. As it turns out, Kevin is a Christian. He was converted in Fiji while in college and worshipped with the Lautoka church of Christ in Lautoka, Fiji. He lives in Vila and said that he would come worship with us. It is very hard for people here to understand that there is “one body” and that the body of Christ must be unified in meeting together. Kevin has been worshipping at a denomination and notices differences in their worship and the worship of the church. However, he does not seem motivated enough to want to change. I tried to encourage him that we need to be unified and work together to spread the gospel of Christ here in Vanuatu. He agreed, and I tried to stress that the only way we can do this is if we meet and worship together in this cause. So, hopefully he will come on Sunday to worship and we can make him feel welcome and at home in the body of Christ here in Port Vila.

We broke camp and left Harry’s at about 5:30 pm. The road was good and I arrived in Epau shortly after 6pm. We loaded up Eric’s stuff, drank another round of tea, and again hit the road. 35 minutes later we arrived in Eton and loaded up Mike’s stuff. We stopped by the church building in Eton and looked at the sign that Mike repainted. We got all his stuff and again were on the road. An hour later, after dropping off Selwin at his house, we arrived back in Vila.

That’s all I have to say about what happened this month in Paunagisu village. It is always an encouraging, yet challenging time. I always thank God for his grace that he has considered me worthy “to preach…the unfathomable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).

More to come next month. Until then, this is Aaron “hot tea” Baker, signing off.