Tuesday, August 26, 2014

At the farm

Being stationed back in Vila as we begin "Phase 3" of our mission work in Vanuatu is affording us the opportunity to spend time with a lot of different Christians. One such instance is our going to the farm each Thursday evening to be with Patrick, Ruth, and some of their extended family.

Both originally from Tanna Island, Patrick and Ruth moved to Efate back in 2005 for work. Mike met and studied with them, and they were both baptized into Christ that December. Patrick initially assisted his dad on a cattle farm, but late last year was promoted to manage a new addition to the operation, overseeing 1,000 head of cattle. The change meant that Patrick and Ruth moved to a different plantation, and allowed him to hire two new workers to assist him. He chose two of his cousins to come and work with him - Frank and Yao.

Patrick and Ruth have lived "in the middle of nowhere" since being on the main island, as most of the cattle are run in the center of the island. Nevertheless, they've been letting their lights shine amongst those they are around. They've always assembled together on Sundays, along with their two young children, and they are regularly joined by their coworkers. When we returned to Vanuatu earlier this year, Patrick asked if I would conduct some Bible studies at their house, primarily focusing on teaching Frank, Yao and their wives. And so we've been going out to the farm for a few months now. We drive on the "big road" (tar-sealed) for about 20 minutes, turn off on the "white road" (gravel) for about 10 minutes, and finally through the gate and across the pasture for another 10 minutes of bumpiness. What a difference a few minutes drive makes when compared to the relative hustle and bustle of Port Vila!

The three families live in a small corrugated steel house (with detached kitchen - on the right side of the second pic below), and run a generator each evening to pump water up the hill for the cattle. That means we have an electric light for our studies. Following our study and discussion, we eat dinner together and visit, while the kids play. Every week is a new experience, and I always come away with a newfound appreciation for the ways in which God uses His word and His people to further His cause and kingdom. We are praying that fruit will be born from these efforts, and that God will continue to bless Patrick and Ruth as they serve.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Whew! We made it...

The title of our blog is "Afta" and it's intended to be a medium of communication through which we tell you what's happening on a regular basis. During the (northern hemisphere's) summer months, I haven't been posting as often as I like. Sometimes I feel like I don't have much to say (our routine seems rather...well, routine), and we've been really busy with lots of visitors. By my count, we've had 24 people come through since June. We've had tons of fun, been greatly encouraged, and feel like much good has been accomplished. We don't have any more visitors scheduled between now and the end of the year, and we are looking forward to getting back to our normal schedule of Bible studies and outer island trips. Of course, we have a "new normal" now, seeing as how we are a party of five!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Youth for Jesus

One of the highlights of our week is always the youth group meeting in nearby Etas Village. Though the group was formed only a few months ago, much good has come about. I've blogged recently about Atison teaching and leading the group, which continues to go really well. The teens are inviting their friends regularly, and we are enjoying 12-18 youth in attendance each week. We've come to think of the regulars as our own kids!

Now we are very excited to share that, over the past two weeks, three of the youth have made public confessions and have been baptized into Christ. Jimmy, Martino and Meriam are also leaders in the youth group, and show a lot of promise for both the present and the future.

Please join us in praying for these young Christians, that they will be faithful and active for Jesus all their days. We are so proud of them. To God be the glory!!

Martino, Meriam and Jimmy - our newest brothers and sister

Martino and Meriam, with their proud parents, Sam and Leimawa

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


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 :)