Now that we are back home from the summer and had a few weeks off, we have had time to reflect on all the exciting things the Lord did in the past few months! Team members and leaders arrived during the first week of June for Early Boot Camp. Everything went well and our team arrived on June 20. We had 19 team members, four leaders and Darin on the team. Boot Camp was hectic as usual, but we were able to get to know each other and draw together as a team.
During Boot Camp we had one young man whom we were praying for his travel paperwork to come through so he could go with us. We prayed for Venson, and knew that the Lord had something special for him. Commissioning Day arrived and we had to leave Venson back in Florida. It was sad for us as he was a great addition to the team and we all grew close to him. Long story short, Venson was not able to receive the correct paperwork and ended up going on the Indiana evangelism team to which he was a great asset. We were able to spend some time with him at Debrief. Venson had a great attitude and was a great example to all of us to trust the Lord, in whatever direction He is leading.
Back to our trip to Vanuatu…we left Commissioning night (after meeting some of the parents and receiving some goodies for the team—thank you parents!) We spent the first night in the Orlando airport, to be ready to fly to LAX at 7 AM the next morning. We flew from Orlando to Los Angeles and were met there by the Walsh family, whose two sons were on our team. They were such a blessing! We all went to In ’n Out Burger for lunch, then we went back to the airport and relaxed, worked on verses, napped, etc, before having sandwiches and other goodies that they brought to the airport. As a lady leader, that is invaluable, especially while you are sitting in an airport with 23 hungry people, waiting 16 hours for the next flight! They also brought foot spray, huge baggies (to put our boots in on the airplane!), and other special goodies only a TMI team would need and understand! THANK YOU SO MUCH WALSH FAMILY!
We left LAX and flew to Fiji, then on to Port Vila in Vanuatu. We were met by a young man and taken to a church where we would spend the next two nights. We were inside a recreation building where we slept on the floor and had a couple of showers and bathrooms available. It was fun to cook over wood again! We were able to do a little sightseeing in Port Vila and pick up a few souvenirs. Though the local people did not have much, they were very gracious and welcomed us.
A short one-hour flight (we were on two planes because the team couldn’t fit on one!) took us to the island of Pentecost where we were met by our missionary, Silas. We called the airport the “little white box”. That is pretty much what it was! What a difference in the two islands. In Port Vila it is a busy city with lots of fruits and vegetables available, but in Pentecost, there is one road around the island and many little villages in the bush. Silas had four trucks there to meet us and we drove about 40 minutes to the Noda Guest House at Waterfall Village. It is named Waterfall Village because it is just a short walk from a beautiful waterfall we were able to visit a few times.
We had a small kitchen with a sink, stove, oven, and the team was in dorms with showers and bathrooms available. This was an “oasis” for the team as they had to take a 45-minute walk up a mountain to the little village of Rowok for their project site. It rained quite a few days and the road was not passable by trucks so they couldn’t get materials to the project site. That is when the team would carry supplies in their backpacks up the mountain, just to be sure they had materials to work with. We were so proud of their dedication and commitment to getting as much of the project done as possible.
Our project was to build a kindergarten building for the village. It was about 30’x20′ with two classrooms and a front porch. The footers were already done so we laid block, filled in the foundation with dirt we dug behind the school, put stones and wire mesh on the dirt, then poured mortar over all of it to complete the floor. We then laid three courses of block for each classroom and poured a couple of pillars for the rafters. That’s what our team was able to complete. We are thankful that the villagers will be able to complete it. The parents of the children were so grateful they gave us a farewell lunch which included a national meal, tribal dancing and “baskets” (purses) that they handmade for each of us. Kindergarten is very important in Vanuatu, but the parents are responsible to provide the funds for the buildings, as well as the teachers in each village. Some parents could hardly provide for their families, so they were so thankful that the team came to do the building.
There is no government on the island, but the village chiefs are in charge. In March 2015, Category 5 Cyclone Pam engulfed the islands of Vanuatu leaving much destruction. The beaches are now covered with rocks and shells. We had heard of the wonderful bananas, papayas and other fruits that were plentiful there, but on Pentecost Island, most of the crops were destroyed and had not grown back yet. The only thing we could get were some cucumbers and “leaf cabbage”.
Another interesting aspect was because our planes were so small (8 passenger and 14 passengers), we could only take 22 pounds total each on that flight (most teams take 2 bags of 50 pounds each!). This was a challenge for taking in food like we usually do on teams. So we decided to pack some extra bags up to the 50 pounds, and have them shipped from Port Vila to Pentecost. This worked great, only we had to wait about five days to get it. We were so excited when we heard the ship coming to the beach to deliver the nine duffel bags. We received eight that day, but the other one arrived a few days later. This gave us more variety to cook with.
Silas, our missionary, had a small garden in the back of his house so he would bring a few papayas for us some mornings, as they became ripe. The last few days we were there, he found us a bunch of bananas to try. They were SO sweet! Silas and his wife, Vinette, were a great blessing to us. He went out of his way to help us with whatever we needed, above and beyond.
Each day, lunch was made by the KP and taken to the project site at noon. It gets a little old having sandwiches for lunch every day, but everyone was good about it. We were sure to have a hot meal when they came back down the mountain. Of course there were two shops along the way during the walk back to the guest house where there were cookies and candies available!
Vanuatu has had its independence for 35 years and they definitely celebrate it well! It usually lasts for a week with celebrations each night and a “football” (soccer) tournament going on the whole week. We were able to walk into town (about 20 minutes) a few of the nights and do presentations after the evening festivities (around 8:30 PM). Everyone loved the puppets and dramas especially. We enjoyed watching some of the soccer and trying some of the local foods like sweet potato chips or rice and beef and of course, we HAD to try the ice cream!
We enjoyed great fellowship with the local believers, having communion each Sunday. The services were an average of three hours long which really didn’t seem that long.
VANUATU TEAM: Thank you for a great summer and for all we learned and were able to accomplish together for the Lord. We enjoyed leading such a great group of teens overseas…you made it easier for us to be leaders! Stay close to the Lord and seek Him for every step in your lives. We miss you and pray for you.
Brandon and Jessie enjoyed a few weeks with Grandpa and Grandma on the farm in PA this summer. By the time you get this, we will have already taken Jessie to Texas to her YWAM training. She will have nine days off at Christmas and then leave for her assignment. Brandon is finishing his last semester to complete his AA and is still praying about what is next. Darin is in 7th grade and just became a teenager! He is enjoying being back in Pop Warner football and will play flag football after that. We are thankful for the Lord working in their lives and for the example they are to their friends.
We plan to be in Pennsylvania again for Christmas. If you would like us to share what the Lord is doing, we will be leaving here on December 18 and traveling up to PA. We plan to be in that area until January 3.
Thank you for your prayers for all of us while we were away. Anthony stayed very healthy, so we know you were praying! Pray for him now as he gets migraines at times. He will also be having surgery on his other shoulder sometime this fall. As a prayer and financial supporter, you are a valuable part of our ministry here. We pray for you daily. Our door is always open for visits!
Anthony, Shawna, Brandon, Jessica and Darin Myers