Tanna Island - April 2010

Thursday – Arrival day

- Our Tanna campaign group consists of Aaron and me, along with Kaela and Melia, Mike Olson (resident missionaries), Wayne Burger, John Haney, Ron Patton (all of Denver, CO), and Mike Green (of DuPont, WA). In addition, we had three Ni-Vanuatu campaigners joining us for the trip: Andrew and Patrick (both from Tanna Island), and Leimawa (who is not from Tanna, but her husband, Sam, is and therefore she knows the local language and customs)

- Weather – sunny with a few clouds, a good day for traveling. It rained later on in the day after we arrived in Tanna and from then on it was pleasant, with a nice breeze. The temperature/humidity was a delightful change from Efate Island (our home island). Tanna Island is located further south than Efate and therefore closer to the South Pole, making the temps slightly cooler and more bearable than in Port Vila (at least for this trip!).

- We arrived in Tanna without a problem and with all of our luggage. After a good wait the truck that was scheduled to pick us up finally arrived. Actually, Aaron had asked for two trucks to come, but for whatever reason, only one did. So, we piled our luggage in the middle of the bed of the truck (as high as we could manage) and 14 of us wedged ourselves around the outside edges, sitting on the sides of the bed of the truck. It was a tight squeeze, but we made it! The ride from the airport to the main (only) town of Lenakel took 20 minutes and Kaela wanted to sing every verse of “The Ants Go Marching” the whole way.

- After arriving in town we walked around a bit and did some shopping for our food and other supplies for the week. Town was dead because it was Thursday. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are generally “business” days in Lenakel and on those days the place is hopping with people, however, being Thursday, there were few people out and about. For our 5 day stay we bought rice, ramen noodles, sugar, tuna, bread, peanut butter, crackers, oil, soy sauce, canned mackerel, curry powder and toilet paper.

- We finally loaded up the trucks and rode about 45 minutes up a sometimes steep and very, very bumpy hill to the village of Laurokau located deep in the bush, where we would be staying. It was a good ride and nice to see the scenery going up the mountain. Leimawa hasn’t been back to Tanna since moving to Efate about 13 years ago. It was most fun to see her greeting Sam’s family and her old friends who came to the road to see who was coming up in the truck. Many people called happily, “Hey! Leimawa! Leimawa!” and she returned their greeting with a smile that nearly about split her face it was so big and joyous!

- I can see life is easier here in some ways than in Port Vila. In Tanna, people don’t need a lot of money to live. They can live and eat and build their homes off of the land. They need very little money for other things. However, in Port Vila life is harder. They HAVE to have money to get around town, they have to buy much of their food because many people don’t have room for a garden where they live, everything costs money and that makes their lives harder because they must work so hard to earn the money they need and yet when they get home from work there is still wood to be chopped and hauled to make a fire to cook meals . They still have to walk a long way to get the water they need for cooking and baths and drinking. In that way life is harder in the city than “on the island”, as they call it.

- We are sleeping in a cement block house with a metal roof and cement floor. There is a training school in Laurokau and some of the students (there are about 20 in all) housed in Laurokau while others live in nearby villages with their families. We are sleeping in the girl’s dorm. We are blessed to have electricity here, thanks to a solar panel on the school “property”. Our one light bulb provides enough light in the room at night to at least see what you are doing.

- Not long after being here Kaela had to go use the toilet. The toilet is really an outhouse with the infamous “keyhole” that brought about many a joke from our little group of Americans! Before coming I was somewhat concerned about how Kaela would do using an outhouse every day and night. However, my fears were laid to rest after she and Aaron made their first trip to it. Aaron said that when Kaela got done doing her business, she exclaimed, “Dad, this is great! We don’t even have to flush this toilet! It’s better than ours at home!” Ha!

- We had soup and rice for lunch and then Melia napped for about an hour and a half. One aspect of this trip is that John and Ron are scheduled to teach building construction and computer technology in the training school. They taught in English and Aaron translated/cleared things up periodically in Bislama. They did that from 8-11:30am and 1:30-3:30pm each day.

- I helped cook dinner tonight. The women called me “chief cook” and put me in charge of making a kind of chicken soup. The chicken was “hand prepared” by a Christian woman named Margaret who whacked its head against a stone until it was dead. Later it was cut up by Leimawa, but I had to advise her not to bother putting the chicken head or feet (which Ni-Vans love to eat) in the soup because we Americans don’t eat those parts!

- Wayne Burger and Mike Green were scheduled to do the evangelical studies about Christ’s church and the Christian life from 6-8pm. Naturally, we didn’t start until 6:30. Island time! I wrestled the girls who were crabby and tired and ready for bed at 7:00. Finally Kaela laid down on Abu Ruth’s (one of the first converts in Etas village – who now lives in Tanna) legs and went to sleep. Melia refused to get comfortable and kept asking for her bed. Finally, I signaled to Leimawa who helped me carry both girls out and to our house next door where we were sleeping. She helped me get them ready for bed. I lit a candle and turned out the light.

- I expected to have problems with the girls at bedtime since everything was different and we didn’t have a night light. But, I took these glow sticks that you crack so they could each have one by their pillow. They worked GREAT!!! It helped the girls not to be afraid since outside the night was pitch black and not a hint of moonlight.

 

Friday

- I didn’t sleep well last night. I really, really needed to get up and use the toilet, but I was afraid to go by myself. For two very good reasons, in my opinion – 1) it was incredibly dark outside, 2) there is a kava bar not too far in the distance and I wasn’t sure who might be “lurking about”. (Later I found out that there is a security guard that patrols the school grounds at night, so I probably would have been just fine). I really didn’t want to wake Aaron who was exhausted from the long day Thursday and being the one in charge of all the “arrangements” for the group. So, I waited until I saw Wayne get up to use the bathroom and I took my opportunity and hopped up and followed him right out the door! Now, I normally wouldn’t do that with just any man. But, Wayne is like a dad to me so I knew he wouldn’t think I was half-crazy asking him to wait for me while I used the outhouse in the middle of the night!

- Kaela is getting to be quite independent. She woke up about 5am and had to use the toilet. It was just beginning to get light out so Aaron asked her if she wanted him to go with her to the outhouse. She said she didn’t and she could go herself (my big girl!). But, he sent her along with her glow stick just in case. However, when she came back she informed us that she accidently dropped it down the hole. Woops! It sure gave the rest of us a laugh, though, to see it glowing down there!

- Aaron and I finally got up at 5:15 since we were already awake. Breakfast this morning (and every morning) was bread and crackers with peanut butter. One of the reasons Aaron asked Leimawa to join us on this trip was to help with the girls and to also be in charge of cooking, since she knows all about cooking local style. So, every morning she built a fire and boiled water for us so we could have tea with our bread. Her help was indispensable on this trip!

- Aaron and Mike G. were scheduled to preach at the open market in Lenakel town where all the women gather to sell their produce. So, they hit the trail and walked the 2.5hours to town. Andrew went with them to help translate into the local Tanna language. Leimawa took Melia to Loun village (where her husband, Sam, is from) to spend the day.

- Mike O. and Patrick took a truck yesterday to Patrick’s home village further around the island. With Aaron gone to Lenakel, it fell to me to translate for John and Ron in the school. Boy was I in over my head! I only had to translate what I thought to be difficult concepts for the students to grasp in English. However, with subject matter such as electrical conversion, satellites, solar panels, etc. I was feeling rather inadequate for the task. I explained everything in Bislama the best I could and hoped that between John, Ron, and I the students were learning valuable information. Kaela sat in on the classes and “took notes” in her notebook, feeling like quite the big girl to be allowed to sit in on the classes with the big kids!

- Since I hadn’t slept well the night before I thought I’d try to take a nap after lunch since I had about 30 minutes to kill before the afternoon session of class began. However, right as soon as I closed my eyes to rest I heard Kaela hollering from the outhouse, “Mooommm! Moooommmmyyyy!” I dragged myself out of bed to go see what the problem was. Turned out she had shut the door to the outhouse too far (it tended to stick) and was stuck inside. So, I had to go open it for her so she could get out. After that episode, I tried again to go get some rest. But, just as soon as I began to relax, Melia and Leimawa came back. So much for my nap today!

- Aaron got back to Laurokau about five minutes before class started, so I left Melia in his care, and joined John and Ron in class. The afternoon session required less translating since Ron was taking apart the two broken computers to try and get them working again. He managed to get one functioning (don’t ask me how those computer geniuses like him do it!) and showed the students how to work some applications. When class was “officially” over he let them just play around on the computer. Then, Mike Green came in and showed them the Games file and everyone got extremely excited over the joy of “Pinball” and “Solitaire” or something and from then on Microsoft Word was of little interest. Ha!

- While the students were all doing that, I headed off to go take a shower. The girls were in desperate need of one, as well. So, we all headed out to the shower. By “shower” I mean a bucket of cold water, a tin can, a bar of soap and a foot brush. Happy trails to you! The shower area consisted of a cement floor slab and 3 woven bamboo walls. The fourth “wall” wasn’t one…it just opened right out to the bush. Aaron had told me about it before we came to Tanna so I was prepared and I brought board shorts and a tankini top to bathe in. The first afternoon, I changed into my swimwear out in the shower area. However, I got a scare when I was in a, shall we say, state of partial undress and I heard the frightening “crunch, crunch” of someone walking in the leaves. I called a timid, “hello” into the bush while trying to put my tankini top on as fast as I could. However, the thing seemed to suddenly grow about 15 straps and couldn’t get my arms in any of them! Just as I was getting panicky, my Peeping Tom made his appearance – he was more of a Peeping Rover. Stinkin’ dog – nearly gave me a heart attack! From then on I learned my lesson and put on my swim clothes BEFORE heading out to shower!

- Before dinner I had some free time to go down to the house where Abu Ruth was staying. Several of the women were gathered there and began to talk about how glad they were that I came to see them in Tanna. And begged me to stay with them longer. In fact, they asked me to send the girls back with Aaron and stay with them another month. I had to explain that while that was acceptable in their culture, Aaron would not look upon that choice very favorably! I love these women so much! They are so loving, giving, and joyful! It will be hard to leave them come next Tuesday.

- I had thought that with both Aaron and I coming to Tanna that we would be able to spend lots of time together. However, It has not worked out that way. Every time he turns around someone is needing his attention for some matter. And I am spending much of my time with the local women and making sure Kaela and Melia are cared for. We have hardly seen each other!

- I bathed both girls before dinner (neither are big fans of the cold water bath, but they have been troopers about it, anyway!). However, Melia went and pooped on her new, clean dress so I had to get another bucket of water and bathe her again before the study. Two year olds...never a dull moment!

 

Saturday

- Aaron and I got up at 5:45 this morning…sure was nice to sleep in! Ha!

- We ate breakfast and then I had to go get water to wash some of Kaela and Melia’s clothes. Laurokau is blessed to have two very large concrete tanks that collect rain water, so there is nearly always plenty of good, clean water for drinking, bathing, cooking and washing! I got a bucket of water to wash the girl’s clothes in and got them washed, rinsed, wrung out and hung on the line. I offered to wash clothes for anyone else and Mike G. took me up on my offer. However, he had two pairs of heavy weight shorts that are very difficult to ring out by hand, so I washed and rinsed them, but I made him come and wring them out so I could hang them on the line.

- After that task, I carried water again so I could wash my hair. I had thought that I could just sit on our front stoop of our little house and dip my head in the bucket. However, I had to bend over so far to do it, that my rear end ended up high in the air, which gave me the giggles so much that I finally gave up and had to find a different means of getting the job done. I finally got the tin cup and used it to rinse my hair.

- After that, I carried water again, but this time to the dining room to go wash our breakfast dishes that were still waiting to be washed. I’m glad, though, that one of the locals didn’t come along and do the job. I always felt bad when, for whatever reason, I didn’t get back to the dining room to wash up our dishes fast enough.

- By that time I was feeling tired, but the women were ready to begin cooking lunch so I headed to the kitchen to make myself useful. They asked me to cut some susut, which is a vegetable that looks a little like a gourd but, the inside texture is somewhat like a cucumber. Anyway, there were about 15 of them, and they gave me the dullest knife on the planet to get the job done. I think it took me nearly an hour to get all those susut cut up for our soup and when I got done I had a big red mark on my hand from the pressure that I used to push down on the knife!

- Melia had kind of a rough day today. She was tired from not napping yesterday and needing more sleep in the morning. Plus she got a bad diaper rash because she got diarrhea (which we later realized was because she was drinking this 3-in-1 mix instant tea every morning). Anyway, it really flared up her little bottom and she was in some serious pain from it! So, I wolfed down my lunch and then she and I went back to the room so I could put her down for a nap. It didn’t take long for her to get to sleep and she ended up sleeping over two hours, so I knew she was tired. Leimawa gave me some sandalwood oil to put on her bottom and that eased her discomfort and she actually felt like playing outside after her nap. Thank you, Leimawa!

- We were all scheduled to walk down to Loun right after lunch. However, with Melia not feeling well and needing a good nap, I opted out, so Kaela, Melia and I stayed in Laurokau. With everyone gone it was nice and quiet for a change so I took a little nap myself and it sure did feel good!

- When I woke up, I decided it was a good time to shave since all the boys were gone. I hauled a bucket of water to our front stoop and sat with my leg in it to shave. Leimawa wandered over to chat, so we talked while I shaved my legs and armpits (sorry for the detail) and when I finished she wanted to know if I was going to shave my forearms as well. That got a bit of a chuckle from me. So, I educated her on the American culture in regard to women shaving. She found it quite funny! I told her she needed to know all about it so that when she came to the USA, she would know what to shave. She exclaimed, “Ei! No!” and burst into laughter.

- I was chief cook again for dinner. I made what we like to call “Tanna Soup” or “Find what you have and throw it in the pot”. It contained onion, garlic, susut (that thankfully someone else cut), ramen noodles, canned mackerel in tomato sauce and island cabbage. I threw in some curry powder for good measure and it turned out pretty tasty…if you are used to Vanuatu-style soups, that is!

- The guys got back from Loun Village at 4pm, We had dinner at 5pm and class at 6pm.

- Mike Olson and Patrick arrived back from Patrick’s home village in White Sands right before dinner. When we sat down to dinner I unthinkingly asked Mike, “So, who did you sleep with last night?” Naturally, the men all found this question to be funny and once I was done turning five shades of red, I explained myself. My problem was that I was thinking in Bislama and speaking in English! In Vanuatu, you would ask someone “Yu bin slip wetem hu?” but that actually means, “At whose house did you sleep?” Only, when you think that question in Bislama and speak the literal English translation it comes out sounding rather tacky! Oops! I guess everyone got a good laugh at my expense!

 

Sunday

- I had a TERRIBLE night last night! My stomach was really bothering me and I was up and down several times visiting the honorable keyhole. Probably the change in diet…or maybe it was my Tanna Soup. Whatever it was I was in pain, so I made my midnight journey to the outhouse. Thankfully, Aaron went with me. However, while I was in the midst of doing my business this horrid cockroach (I hate those things!) decided to start flying around. Keep in mind that it wasn’t a very big area and I very much felt like saying “Buddy, this outhouse ain’t big enough for the both of us!” However, it kept flying around which only made me paranoid that it would fly in my hair so I was doing this crazy dance, trying to keep my pajama pant legs from dragging on the filthy cement floor or worse, accidently sticking my foot in the hole, all while dodging the cockroach above my head that I was just certain was going to land in my hair! I finally managed to hit in mid-air with the palm of my hand which made it land. And then, we made an agreement that he would stay grounded while I got out of there as quick as possible. That was a workout, let me tell you! And one I prefer not to repeat!

- I got up early and went to help the women with the laplap for our Sunday lunch. I got up a bit before 6:00am and caught them in the middle of grating the manioc root. So, I don’t know what time they had started working on it – maybe 5:00? Anyway, I set to work right away and finished up grating the manioc. By then the water had boiled for our tea so I went off to get breakfast stuff ready for the men. I ate quickly and then went back to help the women. By this time they were getting the fire ready so I helped them get the laplap wrapped in the banana leaves and ready to go on the fire. We made four laplaps for Sunday lunch: manioc with coconut milk, taro with coconut milk, taro with chopped island cabbage leaves, and banana with whole island cabbage leaves. It will be a feast!

- Kaela is making a habit of dropping things down the keyhole in the outhouse. This morning she lost one of her High School Musical flipflops down the hole. Of course, it was all on accident, but it still got us all chuckling! I don’t know what she was doing exactly, but she managed to drop that shoe down the hole! Aaron asked her if she had gone in to use the toilet, but she said, “No, I just went in to look.” Ha!

- Worship was at 10:00am. It was good and we had a good turnout. We actually started on time (shocking, I know!) and several visitors from Loun came. Aaron preached the sermon. And afterwards Andrew, who was in charge of leading singing, got up and talked to the men and women there pleading with them to obey the gospel. He was literally moved to tears, which brought tears to my eyes, as well.

We spend much time here in Vanuatu teaching and preaching about the importance of the church. That Christ’s church is not just “one church of many”, but rather, unique in every aspect of her – from her origin to her teachings to her organization to her worship practices. And to see Andrew up there pleading with his own family to “not let this slip through their fingers”, brought me great pride in how far he has come and how much he has grown in his faith in the last two years. In fact, when the church first began meeting in Etas, Andrew was intent upon coming and trying to break it up. But, Sam (his brother and Leimawa’s husband) told him to just sit back and wait because if it was from God it would stand. So, he did. He went from hating the church to leading his own family to Christ. And we look at him with joy in our hearts and say, “Praise God! He gets it! He understands what the church truly is!”

- When worship was over the women gathered around me as we all were shaking hands. And someone brought up the subject that they ought to give me a Tanna custom name. After much chatting back and forth in Tanna language, someone said “Yalei (Yah-Lay)” And others said, “Yes! Yalei!” So, I am officially called Yalei among the people of Tanna. Yalei is also the name of Miswel’s mother. Miswel is one of the Christians from Etas village. His mother is this peppy older lady that bounces around exclaiming over everything! Only I don’t understand what she is saying because she can’t speak Bislama. I can talk a little to her in Bislama and she understands. But, all she does is chatter on at me in Tanna language and I haven’t a clue what she is saying! But, her joyful heart shows in her smile and everyone is always laughing at her tendency towards craziness! I am honored to be named after her! And now I am praying that one day I will have the opportunity to share the Good News of Christ with her (using a translator, of course!).

- It was nearly time for lunch so we women went to take the laplap off the fire and then carry it up the hill to the kitchen to be cut into pieces. During this time they told me that Margaret is also named “Yalei” so they decided that we would be Yalei 1 (Miswel’s mother), Yalei 2 (Margaret), and Yalei 3 (me). So, we had a good time laughing about that the rest of the day.

 

Monday

- Aaron and I had some things we needed to do in Lenakel town so we decided that Monday morning would be a good time to do it. Since, Mike Olson is in Laurokau now (and able to handle the translating for the school sessions) it gave us an opportunity to get away together. Of course, it wasn’t just us…Pbles and Margaret also joined us for our trek to Lenakel. We left the girls in Leimawa’s care for the day – they were in good hands.

- We headed out on foot as soon as we could chow down some breakfast, round up our things and the two going with us at about 6:45am. We then began walking on a bush road that was passable by truck but was somewhat overgrown part of the way. We walked for about 30 minutes until we came to a main road. Then, we walked for another 10 minutes until we reached Tuhu Secondary School, where we jumped on a truck headed to town. We climbed on and squeezed in with about seven other people for the 30 minute ride to town. Naturally on the way, the locals were curious about us and what we were doing in the bush in Tanna. One of them recognized Pbles who was able to explain a little bit about who we were in Tanna language. Once they found out we were here to teach the Bible, they immediately had questions for Aaron and he spent the rest of the trip to town preaching.

- Once we arrived in town it was walking, walking, walking for us, from one side of town to the other and back again! By the time we sat down for a break at about 11am – I was ready! We rested for about 30 minutes right on the beach and washed our dirty feet in the cool, ocean water, which felt fabulous! Interestingly, right nearby our resting place was this large tree. According to Margaret, a young guy bought the land that the tree was on and built himself what is literally a very large tree house and he actually lives in it. He accesses it by this rudimentary ladder (slabs of wood nailed periodically up the side of a fallen tree, connecting it with the low lying branches of his tree house tree until it reaches the base of his porch. Very interesting place of living with a great view!

- Lunch was a breaded and fried poulet fish (yum!), rice with coconut milk and pumpkin leaves (that taste kind of like artichoke) at a nearby hut that serves food. We got a huge plate of food for 250vatu ($2.50). While we were waiting for our food to be served Aaron, Margaret and I sat down at this table and were chatting. Pbles recognized someone that he knew eating lunch there (there were only two other people in the hut) and ate with them, talking with them the entire time in language. When lunch was finished one of the men came over and introduced himself to Aaron. He asked him a couple of Bible questions and then told Aaron that he is a chief from the middle bush (far away from where we were) in Tanna and asked him to come teach his village the Bible. Aaron took his information and will hopefully have opportunity to pursue that contact in the near future. I later pointed out to Aaron that we don’t often realize it is happening, but here was Pbles, who we thought was just chatting casually with this man, when in fact what he was doing was evangelizing to him!

- Right after lunch we caught the transport back up the hill to Laurokau. We had heard earlier in the day that there were some people who might want to be baptized. So, we planned that they could take the transport back down the hill after we arrived and go be baptized in Lenakel. However, by the time we arrived in Laurokau those plans went bust. So, we keep on praying that these people we have come to love, will soon realize the magnitude of their lost state and the urgency of obeying the gospel.

- By the time we got back to Laurokau I was exhausted and Melia was ready for her nap so I took my opportunity. It was our last night in Laurokau so the locals had prepared a going away meal for us in our honor. We were in a bit of a time crunch because the truck was coming at 5:00 to take us to the volcano (our tourist event for the trip!). However, by the time we all got done giving our gifts and telling our thank yous it was 10 minutes to 5:00 and we still hadn’t eaten. I hurriedly ate my dinner and then raced around trying to get both girls bundled up (long shirts and pants because the evening wind is chilly) and ready to go, as well as myself. Thankfully, the truck was late and arrived at 5:30! So, I had some extra time to pack up to leave the next day and make sure I was all organized (which just makes me feel better!).

- The volcano was amazing. Truly amazing. The ride to it took a little over an hour of bumping and jostling around in the truck (and I had the good seat – I got to sit in the cab with the driver and both girls!) up and down hills and bad roads. By the time we arrived at the ash plane that surrounds the base of the volcano, it was quite dusky. But, looking up, I was able to see a slight glow of red from the top of the hill…that sight sent a bit of a chill up my spine!

Once we crossed the ash plane (Don’t tell me how the driver could follow the road in the dark like he did! It was so hazy it was like driving through a desert – how do you know where you are supposed to drive? It all looks the same!) and arrived at the “parking lot” at the actual base of the volcano it was quite dark. As soon as I stepped out of the truck I was I could feel something hitting me, like rain. But, it turns out it was ash. It was raining ash – lots and lots of ash. So…that is why Aaron said to bring something to cover my hair!!! Kaela was decidedly afraid of the noise from the volcano (like rumbling thunder from where we were standing), so Aaron and I decided that he would stay with the girls at the truck while I went to the top with the rest of the group. He has been to the volcano at least 2 or 3 times now. So, we grabbed our flashlights (an absolute necessity) and made the huffing and puffing trek up the hill to the top of the volcano.

As we got closer, we could begin to see the sparks shooting out of the top. In fact, the volcano was so active that when some of the men tried walking further up, the “guide” made them come back down because it was too dangerous. From the top, the rumble of the volcano sounded like a giant ocean wave hitting some rocks. It was quite loud and very, very powerful. Thankfully, the volcano was shooting directly up instead of the wind carrying it toward us onlookers. From what others have said, if there is a wind then you don’t get rained on by ash but, you have to watch out for the shooting lava! I enjoyed seeing the sight for about 10 minutes. But, then I was ready to go. Standing at the top of that volcano, I could not help but feel the overwhelming power of God. I told Leimawa and the two girls with us, that after seeing that awesome evidence of God’s power how could we, or anyone, not obey Him? It was almost frightening to be standing there…it made me realize how small and fragile I am in comparison to God’s majesty! That was all my thoughts in the first 10 minutes…and then the guide felt the need to share some volcano death stories with us and I was ready to go. The reality was frightening, to say the least. I was standing at the brink of something that had the power to kill me in one instant….TIME TO GO!!!

We girls finally managed to coax our truck driver to walk back down with us (since it was practically impossible for us to find the path). We hit the bunny trail back to the truck and were ready to be on our way!

- On the drive home the driver took a “short cut” through the bush which was going along fine until we got to this big hill and the truck just refused to make it to the top. The road was just too rutted and there were too many people in the truck. He tried once, but no go. He then had to reverse back down the hill using only his mirrors to guide him. He changed gears and then back up we went. Nope. Not going to make it! This time he made most of the people in the back of the truck get out at the top. And then back down the hill we went. He gave it another try…but, we got stuck again at the same place. And down that hill we went again! At that point I was beginning to wonder when all of our backing down the hill luck might run out. Ha! But, that driver knew what he was doing! Every single time he backed the truck right down staying exact same distance from the edge as he did the first time…I ought to know! I was watching VERY carefully! This time at the bottom he changed gears again and up we went! I almost thought we weren’t going to make it. But, we did. And when we reached Laurokau some 20 minutes later, I was most relieved!

 

Tuesday – Departure day

- We were up bright and early – 5:00am this day. I was anxious to get up and make sure I had myself and the girls all packed up and not forgetting anything. Leimawa, knowing we would be rushed this morning, had our hot water for tea ready in record time. We all ate breakfast, except Mike Olson who was still fast asleep at 6:30. The trucks were scheduled to arrive at 7:00 to take us back down the hill to the airport. I spent the morning doing last minute packing and going around telling my goodbyes to the men and women of Laurokau village. In our short time together they made such a great impression on me by their willingness to help and readiness to see to whatever needs our group might have had. The kindness, love and laughter that we were all able to share together in spite of all of our cultural differences was such a great blessing. I will miss them.

- We also found out this morning that there were several people wanting to be baptized. 8 in all – seven of them were students at the school and the other was a man, Harry, that Aaron has been studying with for some time on his past trips to Tanna. We were all encouraged by this news. Aaron and Wayne spent a good amount of time sitting with this group, praying and talking with them. They urged them to make sure they count the cost and are ready for this great commitment in their lives. These eight would join us on our trip down the hill to Lenakel town so they could be baptized in the ocean. Patrick and Andrew baptized all of them. We were all so pleased to end our trip on such a positive and encouraging note! Eight more souls added to Christ’s body!

- Before heading to the airport we dropped Pbles and Ruth off at their house in Lenakel. It was hard to say goodbye to Ruth, especially. Back when she and Pbles used to live in Etas, she kind of adopted me and began calling me “Cindy, girl blong me”. In other words, she said I was like a daughter to her. And in return, I called her, “Abu Ruth, mama blong me”, as she became like a substitute mother to me. She always looked after me when I would come to her house, making sure I was comfortable and well fed and had all I needed, all the things that a mother does for her daughter! So, saying goodbye to Ruth was difficult, I will miss her greatly and my heart ached for the tears that she shed as she hugged me goodbye. She is such a precious, precious lady.

- However, our joy over the baptisms took a hit at the airport. We were all milling around, checking our luggage at the desk and talking when suddenly Mike Olson collapsed on the floor. I happened to turn around just as he fell and thankfully there were two men nearby who tried to help break his fall. At first we thought he had just passed out, but then his body began to seize and he quit breathing. Aaron and Mike Green rushed over and thankfully they were able to use their first aid training. Amidst the confusion, Mike G. was taking Mike’s pulse and soon began hollering for someone to bring a spoon to open Mike’s airway, one was finally produced and Aaron was able to wedge it in his mouth so he could breathe again. But, for a terrifying minute or so (which at the time felt like much longer) we were in a panic because he was not breathing. It was scary, very scary, for lack of a better word. Thank the good Lord, he regained consciousness. Then, Aaron and Mike were there to help him and get some water in him. After a time he was able to get up and walk to the waiting area to get on the plane. But, even then his face was as pale as could be and he was obviously physically drained. Before boarding the plane, I called Shawnda and had her notify the private hospital that Mike would be coming and had her and Eric bring an extra vehicle to the airport so that one could drive him immediately to the hospital.

- The hospital ended up keeping Mike until about 5:30 that evening. They discovered that he accidentally overdosed on Imodium. He had been sick in the village, although we didn’t realize it, and in an effort to combat the diarrhea he kept taking Imodium (not really thinking about the amount he was taking). In the end he took twice the amount of medicine he was supposed to have, in half the time he was supposed to have it. That caused him to have a seizure and the dehydration just compounded the problem. They gave him 2.5 bags of IV fluid to get his body rehydrated. And although he was exhausted, he did join us for dinner that night and was for the most part back to normal. We love our Mike and are so thankful to God that he is okay!

- I can’t even begin to tell you what an incredible job Aaron and Mike Green did in their efforts to help Mike. You don’t say this about people you know every day, but they truly did save Mike’s life.

- And that was our 5 day excursion to Tanna. There were happy times and sad times, funny moments and moments of fear. But, overall, it was an awesome trip that I am so thankful I was able to be a part of!

Kaela and Melia were just phenomenal the entire time we were there. They had great attitudes about just about everything, ate the food without complaint, and even shared a very, narrow single bed at night. They loved the freedom they had to run around all day in the village. It was a change for Aaron and I, as well, because they required so much less supervision because there was no road to worry about their safety. No matter where they were playing there were adults around to make sure they were safe and happy. That is just what village life is like and they loved every minute of it! I was so proud of my girls!

The campaigners did a marvelous job mixing and talking with the people. Village life isn’t the easiest to adjust to, but what parts they didn’t particularly enjoy, they took in stride and we all did a lot of laughing at the situations we found ourselves in from time to time. I can hardly wait to go to Tanna again!

CB

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