Thursday, July 17, 2014

Special Announcement...

You’re gonna think we’re crazy, but …

We’ve welcomed the cutest little bundle of joy into our family today. Grayson Brady was born yesterday, and over the next several months we will be working to finalize his adoption. All are healthy and well, and of course we are all very excited.

We covet your prayers, and appreciate your support and encouragement very much…




Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thinking in Vanuatu: Temporary dwelling

Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila, has residents from all over the archipelago's 80+ islands. Technically speaking, there is no "custom land" ownership in the municipality, rather all the land is leased out by the government. In the areas in and around Port Vila, there are a lot of nationals who are essentially "squatting" on land that is not their own.

Nevertheless, I had always found it odd that even people who have relatively good paying jobs still live in shacks made of pieced-together materials such as cardboard, corrugated roofing iron, masonite and tarpaulins. Why don't these people, who have the financial means to do so, save up some money and build a proper cement block house? Well, it's because they understand their dwelling to be temporary. Since they don't really have a right to live on the land where they are, and could therefore potentially be kicked out at any time, they are understandably hesitant to put down roots. As it now stands, if they are forced to move on, they really won't be out any money, and since they're content, I guess it makes total sense.

Which got me to thinking, perhaps we Christians, whose "citizenship is in heaven," should have a more temporary-dwelling mentality as we live here on earth. After all, we too are just a'passin thru. The situation has convicted me to think more about storing up treasures in heaven, rather than here on earth. How about you? Where is your focus?



Monday, July 14, 2014

Thinking in Vanuatu: Dead to...


Since we were traveling a lot while in the States last year, I bought a couple of old iPod touch units off of eBay so the kids could be real Americans in the car ;). I got good deals on them because their screens were broken, and then I replaced the screens - cheapskate, I know.

The kids use them here when we travel by plane, and during our recent trip to Malekula I told Titus he could listen to some music on it with his friends while in the village. My mistake. When he was finished, he put it in his pocket, and subsequently waded out in the ocean ... rendering his iPod dead.

He was so confused, because though the iPod looked exactly the same as it did before, it wouldn't respond to any of his efforts to get it to function.

During the same trip, and in practically the same water, Billy was baptized into Christ. It got me to thinking, what if our baptism (like the iPod's) truly rendered us "dead" to sin, as Paul speaks of in Romans 6? When temptation "pushes your buttons," how responsive are you? Just something to think about...

Dead-to-sin Billy :)

Dead-to-function iPod :(

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Accomplishment

I've always enjoyed mowing the yard, but since being in Vanuatu, I have realized that I REALLY enjoy mowing. I think it's about the objective sense of accomplishment I feel when I can look at the "before" and "after" of it all.

A few weeks ago I was listening to a class from this year's Freed Hardeman Lectures. It was actually a discussion about handling stress associated with full-time ministry. One of the participants said that he (like me) sometimes just needs to go out and do something that shows objective accomplishment ... I think he even used mowing as his example, too.

Though I try to refrain from worry and anxiety, and often remind myself to be thankful that I have small problems (we are all healthy and well taken care of), ministry is by nature a stressful endeavor. I mean, we are dealing with things eternal, after all. And imperfect humans. Some days I'm "on cloud nine" regarding our work, and others I am down in the dumps. It tends to be a never-ending cycle of wondering if I am serving God effectively. Am I being useful? And so sometimes, I just need a definitive "my efforts made a difference" moment.

Since our rental house yard is really small and maintained by our landlord, I have to busy myself with other "sense of accomplishment" projects. Most recently, I have been refinishing the doors at the church building on Saturday mornings...



Ahhh, sense of accomplishment :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Introducing...

...Claude Kevin Kalsakau


We were all deeply saddened at the news of Claude's (senior) death back in March. But there is now a sense in which he lives on through his newborn son, Claude junior.

As a reminder, a fund has been set up by our elders, for anyone wishing to contribute funds to assist newly-widowed Rosemary and her three children: Tari, Liz and Claude. A full 100% of the funds will go help the family, primarily assisting them with ongoing school fees as the children grow up. Contributions may be sent to:

Perkins Church of Christ
PO Box 128
Perkins, OK 74059

Marking the funds as "Widow Fund" will insure they are properly applied. Please be praying for the family as they adjust to all the changes they are facing.

Others teaching others: Anna

[Note: This is part 3 in the series. You can read part 1 and part 2 as well.]

Shawnda, here. I am so proud! Yesterday was one of those days that you sit back, observe what’s happening, and just smile. 

Here’s a bit of backstory to set the scene: You may remember Jack and Anna. They are young Christians from Tanna who are in Port Vila because their infant son rolled into a cooking fire back in November. Well, Jack has been studying as often as possible with Eric (sometimes daily, sometimes weekly depending on a temporary job schedule). Jack has been taking those studies home and sharing them with Anna every time. In addition to that, Anna and I have been having our own Bible studies once a week. Leimawa (a Christian lady from Etas), Anna and I have had some great discussions during these studies. I really see God working in all of our hearts as we read, discuss, and share about what the text says and how it applies to our lives. I’ve started taking a more “discussion-based” approach to Bible studies these days, and I really feel like it’s effective. It’s so encouraging and empowering to realize that we can read, understand, and apply the text all by ourselves. Both Leimawa and Anna have shared great insights & I am so proud of them. 

A few weeks ago Leimawa asked if we could start going through some of the studies we’d been doing together with the ladies in Etas village. We started those studies this past Tuesday afternoon. Since we would be doing the same studies that we have already done with Anna and Leimawa, I asked if it was okay…did they still want to join in? They both answered with a hearty “Yes - we’ll still learn something.” So, I ventured a little further and asked if they would be willing to help me lead some of the discussions. They both said, “Yes, no problem.” 

Last week, I lead the first study in Etas. Being their first time in a discussion-based study, the ladies did a pretty good job participating. It helped that Anna and Leimawa were used to the format and not afraid to share their thoughts/insights. 

Then on Monday after our regular study at Anna’s I casually said, “Okay, who is going to help me lead the study in Etas tomorrow?” Anna said, “Okay, I will.” So I told her the scripture that I would like her to share as an intro to the study. I reminded her what we had talked about and some questions she could ask to get a discussion going, and then we left. I have to admit, I thought, “Okay, at least it will be a start. I’m not expecting much. Maybe a minute.” 

The next day, on the way to Etas she said, “Last night in the middle of the night, I woke up and was so scared about today. I told Jack that he needed to wake up with me and listen to what I wanted to share to make sure it was okay.” I was so proud of her right then. She was scared, but didn’t allow that fear to keep her from doing what she wanted to do. 

When we arrived in Etas, none of the women were there yet (not completely surprising considering it’s Vanuatu and we were right on time). We sat there for about 30 minutes talking and waiting with no sign of anyone coming. I was starting to get a bit disappointed & I’m sure Anna had mixed emotions about it all. Then an hour after our “starting time” three ladies showed up and we started. We sat down and I purposely sat with my eyes down waiting for Anna to start the study by welcoming everyone and calling on one of the women to pray. Once they finished praying Anna jumped right in and started the study. She was awesome! I could tell she had spent a lot of time preparing. She not only read the text, she went back and phrase for phrase asked questions and shared her thoughts about each part. Then she pulled it all back together to maker her point. I hadn’t told her to do any of that…I was literally expecting a minute of regurgitated learning…but she blew me away! She had learned and processed it to the point that she was able to draw her own conclusions and share them in a clear way. 

We continued on with our study and had a great discussion, but it was that introduction by Anna that had the most impact. I could see in the ladies’ faces their pride in “one of their own” leading a study like she did. I could see their wheels turning as they thought, “I wonder if I could do that too?” 

This is what it’s about y’all! These ladies are not only learning and growing in their faith through the content of these studies…they are learning that they have something valuable to add to the group. That they are capable of learning, processing and sharing what God’s word says. And that it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. So that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 

It may not sound like much, a 5-10 minute Bible discussion led by a fairly new Christian, but as I sat with a group of ladies in Etas village, my heart was full. It was one of those moments where God just confirms that you are exactly where you need to be, doing exactly what you need to be doing. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Others teaching others: Atison

[Note: This is part two of a series started a few days ago. Click here to read part one. The first three paragraphs below are repeated from that entry.]

Timothy, as what we might term a missionary to Ephesus, was discouraged. He had been urged to stay there by Paul (1Tim 1:3), and had already received one instructive and encouraging letter (1 Timothy) from his father in the faith. Nonetheless, it is apparent that Timothy was having a hard time, and thus Paul sent him a second letter (2 Timothy) in an attempt strengthen his resolve.

I think I understand how Timothy felt. I am amazed at how often (and easily) I become discouraged in our work in Vanuatu. I am encouraged, though, as I read about the frustrations that Jesus, Paul, Timothy and others experienced in their labors.

One of the principle goals Paul gave to Timothy in his letter of encouragement, was that he should “entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2Tim 2:2). That’s a good recipe for success, and thus for encouragement even in the midst of discouraging times.

I have been greatly encouraged recently, as I see fruit being born along those lines. Atison came to Vila from Malekula Island a few years ago. His uncle, Flexon, studied with him originally and he was baptized into Christ, but as “life” got in the way their studies eventually subsided. Now that we are based in Vila again, he and I have been meeting together on Friday evenings to study. Unbeknownst to me, almost since the beginning he has been sharing the things he was learning with an interested co-worker during their lunch break. When another coworker overheard them, he asked Atison to begin going through studies with him as well. It has been really neat to his excitement with learning, applying and sharing God’s word. 

Furthermore, Atison is the oldest member of the youth group meetings being held in Etas Village, and so I asked him if he would be willing to begin leading the teaching portion of those meetings. He and I study through a portion of an 11-point outline of the story of the Bible during our Friday times together, and then he is presenting one of those points to the youth group each week. Lord willing, over the next 11 weeks, he will have prepared and presented the material to 12-15 young people, and all of them will have a good foundation for understanding what God has done and is doing in His creation, as communicated in the Bible. We pray that the chain will not be broken with them, but that they will all in turn begin sharing this knowledge with others as well, eventually reaching more people than we foreign-missionaries ever could! Please join us in those prayers.


Atison teaching at Etas youth group meeting