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Vanuatu

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New Years Eve Wasn’t What I Had Expected!

Sparkling stars shimmered in the light, and tinsel garland hung from everything. It would be weeks before we’d be able to clean up all the glitter that was like a magical blanket spread all over the house. Glitter is the kind of magic that Eric hates.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

We had spent all week getting ready for our New Years party. Something inside of me just wanted to spoil everyone that was coming with the most amazing party they had ever seen. We were so excited to celebrate with our friends, that all the time, all the money and all the hard work didn’t even bother us because we just kept telling each other how excited and grateful everyone would be.

Whisking, and mixing, the girls and I had created a feast to be proud of! The Passionfruit cheesecake was glazed to perfection as it sat covered in the fridge.

We had cut fresh limes which we used to decorate the lime cheesecake and then drizzled it with a light fresh lime glaze. The cherries and whip cream were overflowing from their black forest cake holders which surrounded them and the lemon mouse bars were sinfully delicious.

On top of all that was meatballs, spanakopitas, pinwheels, crackers, cheese olives and too many other things to even name. Probably my favourite treat was the ombre coloured jello made up of 4 kinds of tropical flavours and layered perfectly in the plastic champagne glasses I found hiding in the back corner of a Chinese shop earlier in the week.

We had a wishing tree, gifts for everyone, and hundreds of balloons, a picture wall and so many fun games we probably wouldn’t even be able to play them all. I was so excited. I had high expectations for the evening.

When the time for the party finally arrived Teenagers, Young adults and adults all filled our home to bursting. I had invited 30 people and more than 40 showed up. The tables were piled so high with food I was certain that we would never be able to eat it all.

The party began and even though we all barely fit inside the house it was the perfect group for some of the big games I had planned. After about an hour of games, Eric and I did a short devotional together and gave everyone their gifs. The gifts were books of scriptures that I invited them to write in to use as a sort of journal for the upcoming year. We had searched all over town for the books and had finally found someone willing to sell us all that they had just for the activity.

I invited everyone to eat and then was just getting ready to initiate the 2nd round of games when suddenly, and completely unexpectedly 22 of my 30 guests stood up and told me that they had to leave. I thought maybe it was a joke but I was wrong.

Everyone had other parties that they wanted to attend.

I looked at my basket of unopened prizes and my long list of games that I was so excited to play. I couldn’t help but notice the house which was a total disaster and the piles and piles of empty plates and tables of food. I was shocked that the food had been eaten so quickly.

The 22 people who were going were the best friends I had in Vanuatu. Each one was very special to me, and this party was my gift to them, were they really all just going to leave me like this?

Suddenly a story came to my head, and brought more clarity meaning than ever before:

Matthew 22:1-14

And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said,

2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,

3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.

4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.

5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:

6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.

7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.

9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.

10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.

11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:

12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.

13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

I wanted to run into my room and cry.  Cry in anger and frustration and disappointment. I wanted to shake everyone and tell them that it wasn’t okay to just leave like this. I wanted to tell the 8 guests that were staying to leave and go home because I was just going to go to bed and hide under my covers. The truth was, I barely knew most of the 8 guests that were staying. They were all people who had been invited at the last minute or by someone else and I really wasn’t close with any of them. I’m sure they would have understood if I told them that the party was ending.

I felt a voice whisper softly to my heart but I didn’t want to listen to it. I didn’t want to listen because I was so sad. But the voice came again and softly reminded me: “Rebecca, look around you- you have your family and 8 beautiful, good people who could use your love and your friendship. Don’t give up because of choices other people are making, make your own choices and enjoy your night just as you planned.” I knew it was the voice of God trying to reason with me.

I was bitter, and I didn’t want to be reasoned with, but He was right (as always). And so I decided to keep going. I played every game and sang every song, and gave out every prize and enjoyed every minute of our celebrations. In fact we ended up having so much fun that we didn’t even realise it when midnight came and went. and before you knew it it was 3:00am and I was sending everyone to bed.

Eric was exhausted, but he kissed me as he said that it was the best party we’ve ever had and thank you so much for throwing it.

That’s my lesson for tonight. Just be willing to let it go. Let go of all the things you can’t control, all the things that didn’t turn out the way you anticipated and just enjoy life as it is.  I am going to slay 2018!

Christmas In Paradise

Christmas in Paradise brought feelings I wasn’t expecting. 

I stared outside the kitchen window as I washed the dishes for the millionth time. It was so hard being away from home for Christmas. I could picture one of the hundred crackling fires that we would enjoy in our living room back home, with christmas music in the background and with the smell of hot apple cider in the air. I dressed up the little boys with tinsel and Christmas lights and that helped a little. 

I imagined looking outside and seeing my neighbours chasing each other with snowballs and working together as they tried to push someones car out of the huge drifts that built up during Canadian winters. I could almost hear the excited chatter of a billion kids as they built another igloo or piled onto sleds and with a cup of hot chocolate gripped tightly in their hands got ready for another run down the hill.

Everything you imagine Christmas to be, and we were experiencing the opposite.

There was no hot water in the kitchen, but that really didn’t matter when every day was sweltering hot and the cool water from the tap was a welcome relief from the heat. I picked up another dish and after washing it, placed it carefully in the dish drainer.

My thoughts turned from Christmas to the hard work of being a mom. I was just getting ready to calculate how many sinkfuls of dishes I had done in our 18 years of marriage when a stiff breeze blew in outside and as if by some Christmas magic snow began falling down gently like angels feathers from the sky. My heart nearly stopped as I squealed out in excitement. “Girls it’s snowing!”

Silence instantly fell over the normally noisy house as kids ran to the windows, and house girls stopped mid work to follow my gaze.  The chances of snow in the middle of December (the hottest month of the year here) on a tropical island are quite slim (impossible), but somehow here we were and it was snowing! I held my breath in as much disbelief and excitement as fills every childs heart at Christmas time. I didn’t have to hold it for very long, before the sounds of everyone laughing at me filled the kitchen walls to nearly bursting. In the place of sparkling icy snowflakes, was hundreds of little tropical leaves falling from the sky in the wind, twirly as they fluttered down to their resting place on the ground.

Sigh… I must really be getting homesick.

I thought back to the funniest conversation that I had overheard between the children just yesterday. They were sitting in the back of a hot truck with sweat pouring down their faces. Eliza looked at the younger kids and said, “Just imagine that we are at home, and that dad went out in the freezing cold blizzard just to warm up the vehicle for us. Now we are getting inside, doesn’t it feel so great to be warm.?” I smiled at their imaginary game, but inside it was hard. It’s hard being away from home at Christmas time. For the first time in 17 years I was without my oldest daughter, had no sisters or brothers (they had long since gone home after their initial visit several months ago) and we were alone. Even our closest neighbours had left to Australia to be home for Christmas.

And now the snow. Not only is there no snow here, there isn’t really seasons here either. The locals told us that there were seasons, the wet season and the dry season. They were right! With the wet season came mosquitoes and tropical diseases such as malaria, & dengue. Plus the wet season also brought on the cyclones. The dry season brought cooler weather and more fun outside for everyone. We were in the wet season.

I knew I would get lonely at Christmas time, I just didn’t imagine it would be this lonely. I put my whole heart into trying to make it the same as it was at home. I invited people over to decorate gingerbread houses- that was a first for everyone who came, and we had so much fun together doing it. But the icing wouldn’t hold and the moisture in the air made everything collapse by morning. 

I served hot chocolate -nobody here had even tasted hot chocolate before and it really isn’t the same drinking hot chocolate when you are cold as it is to drink it when you are hot! I invited kids over and and read Christmas stories during our devotionals every night in December. I did every thing I could think of to make it the same, but nothing was the same. The decorations all fell down because none of the glue would hold, and the tree was sparse and bare.

I think it’s finally starting to settle in that I’m alone and I really am missing home more than I have since we came here.

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree

Hundreds of trees of every shade of green surrounded our little home on the beach. The giant nabunga tree was visited daily by children climbing it or hunting the cobra constrictor snakes that lay hiding inside. The palms were overloaded with coconuts that we used for our meals. Mangos dropped by the dozens each day from the mango tree and were gathered up by kids, neighbours and friends who filled their bags to overflowing with the tasty treats.  The avocado tree provided more avocados than you could imagine eating and the papaya trees, banana trees and lemon trees all contributed their small part to the family dinner table as well.

The trees were so beautiful, each one different and each one doing their part for the community. I sat outside on the deck swing looking over towards the edge of the yard. This wasn’t the first time I had noticed the towering tree whose canopy of dead branch spread out into the sky and overtop of the road and swimming pool. In fact several times throughout the year I had wondered about it.

Several months ago we had hired a master tree cutter to remove all the dead and dying trees to protect us from dangerous flying branches during the upcoming cyclone season. I had laughed thinking about just what a fool the so called expert was that he could be hired to do a job and miss something so obvious as that large tree I was now staring at. 

In November I discovered that it was I who was the fool. I woke up to the birds singing loudly outside one morning and when I peeked through the bedroom window I  beheld to my amazement that the whole world was covered in a sea of bright red blossoms. That big tree that I had resented for taking up so much space in our yard wasn’t dead at all! In fact it was more alive and vibrant than any tree around. I couldn’t believe that all this time, I had been wrong.

When I asked the local villagers the name of this glorious tree that had just come alive in my garden, they said it was called the “Christmas Tree”. All year it just simply waited. Waited for it’s time to bloom. And while I secretly criticised it for it’s empty bare branches, it knew all along that it was something much more.  Then, just when we were getting ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior the tree amazed us with it’s magnificent display of colour. Each day the thousands of vibrant red petals falling from the top of the high, high, tree and cover the world with a fresh coat of colour.

I bent down and picked up the delicate, rich blossom studying the black and yellow and red so intricately woven into the shape and colors of a flower.

“Remember the worth of a soul is great in the sight of God” the scriptures were trying to teach me again.

I thought back to all the times I had felt discouraged, downtrodden, and useless. My physical limitations preventing me from doing so many things I wanted to do, or my financial situation making me unable to give as much as I wanted to give, or endless nights awake with crying babies creating a hazy dissatisfaction with my role as mother during the day.

When all the earth trusts, and obeys God so completely, why am I so impatient and filled with doubt?

I looked down at the flower in my hand again, but this time noticed the dirt on my hands. I didn’t even remember how it had gotten it there, but now the camera was put away and there it was. Sigh…it always comes back to Jesus doesn’t it?

For without Jesus there would be no atonement, and with the atonement each of us would be so burdened with unresolved Sin that we could never return to live with God again.


I am learning that like the Christmas tree, sometimes we must trust God and wait.  It takes faith, and patience but I am guessing that if it’s anything like what is happening outside my front door, dirt and all, the results can be breathtaking, glorious and better than anything we could have imagined!

Beckyboo
P.S. I’d love it if you’d share a personal experience of when you waited on God 🙂

Join us In Vanuatu :)

The darling beach cottage stands empty and lonely, perched on a sloping grass hill to the beach where the ocean rolls in and out on a black sand beach. It’s only 328 square feet, but you’d be surprised how many people can actually fit in there and how many wonderful memories it’s already created within its walls. It’s connected to the main house via the large outdoor deck and 4 swimming pools.

Imagine for a minute what a few weeks in Vanuatua with my family would look like. For starters you know it would include endless conversations under the palms trees and around fires as we discussed life, cried, teased, prayed and reminisced together.

If you decided to come for a visit, we would take you on hidden jungle hikes to gather food, to the tops of mountains and down again, up rivers to breathtaking blue holes where you can swim and see fish in a clear pool of sapphire blue water in the middle of the jungle. We would strap on our snorkels and dive down to the discover the world reefs filled with fish so colourful you don’t believe it’s real.

On Friday nights we’ll go down the road to the Beach Bar Restaurant and buy homemade pizza grilled on the outdoor fire while we watch a world class fireshow on the beach, and on Tuesday nights we will go to that same place, but this time we’ll be snuggled up on chairs and couches watching an outdoor family movie on the beach.

We will visit beaches covered in so much sea glass you can’t pick it all up, and in the mornings we’ll shop at the local outdoor markets for fresh fruit, veggies and fish. We won’t mind giving every last dollar we have to the old ladies from far away villages who sleep on cement floors throughout the week just to sell fruit at the market. We will come home with our arms so full of mangos and pineapples that we wonder how we will ever eat it all and then, two days later when the entire load has disappeared, we will do the whole thing over again and keep smiling because there is no where else we’d rather spend our money.

We will ride recklessly in the back of a pick up truck filled so full with people you wonder how it’s possible to transport that many- but don’t worry we will drive slow. We will drive slow because we’d hate to wreck a tire on the astounding amount of potholes that mark the roads and because we don’t want to hit any of the many people who are just strolling down the road but most of all we will drive slow because there is no reason to drive fast. We aren’t in a hurry to get anywhere and we would hate to miss out on the beautiful scenery.

Thursday nights the pool will come alive with half a dozen young men whose screams and splashes will wake up the neighbourhood.

After they have dried off they’ll come inside our house to eat ice cream and popcorn and watch an inspirational movie about being godly men. I’m not sure why we never seem to attract girls around here, but with these young men we’ll chat late into the night and then just when we are so tired we think we can’t stay up any longer, the good looking group will grab their things and in the dark of night with the stars and the moon as their light make their way to their various homes.

On Sundays we will walk to church together. Once we have walked for nearly an hour and are so hot and stinky we will arrive and join all the others who have walked to church as well. We’ll get lots of time to ponder our relationship with God because all the talks and prayers will be in another language. If the little boys get restless you or I might bring them out to sit in the shade of the mango tree and pick a few to feed them. If that still doesn’t satisfy them we can let them run around with the chickens and dogs that meander into the church yard, but usually that makes more noise than is acceptable at our little church meetings.

At night you can take a cold shower under the stars- not because we don’t have hot water, just because it’s usually not working. But thats okay because once you’re clean you’ll just get sweaty and hot within half an hour of coming out of the shower and you won’t even be able to remember that you took a shower at all.

In our spare time, we will sit in the hammock listening to the ocean come in and out and birds sing back and forth, all while we read the same good book that we brought on the plane over again. Or maybe we’ll lie on the beach, or snap pictures for instagram. If you’re young you might catch bugs, climb trees or beg somebody to crack you another fresh coconut off a nearby tree.

If you’re a mom, you’ll probably help me cook, clean, teach school and do laundry, but it’s okay because we have the best helper ever (a full time house girl) which makes the chores easy and quick.

The whole family will give when there is something to give and help when there is someone to help. Because here giving 1 sheet of metal, or a rat trap, or a bar of soap, or a bag of rice is received with such gratitude and thanks that you just want to keep on giving, and nothing you give is too little and nothing you give is too big.

There are dozens of tiny islands to explore, some covered in turtles, some with white sand beaches. For a few dollars we can do down to the dock together and pay a fisherman to drive us wherever we want to go. Then we can spend the day exploring a new place. We might hike to a waterfall where we’ll go swinging off a rope swing and splash into crystal clear water, or perhaps we’ll drive to that giant Nabunga tree that is so big 30 people can all climb it at the same time and get lost in it together!

At first when you come you might think you are bored and hungry. Your kids will probably say something desperate like “there is nothing to do here, I’m bored” or “you can’t just eat fruit for lunch mom” But when your body gets used to the slow pace of island life and a diet full of vegetables and fruit, you will realise it’s just what you’ve been missing your whole life. Within a week you will start to appreciate the island time, quiet space, the clean air, the chemical free food, the interesting company (the Proffitt’s are not very normal), and all the sunshine and water that you desire. Chances are you’ll lose weight, because all that healthy food and exercise agrees with mostly everybody.

If you get sick don’t worry, there are strange doctors who can feed you any manner of teas and herbs picked from the jungle for a nominal fee. And if those don’t work you have your choice of Chinese medicine men, $2 hospital doctors or in a pinch you can pay $100 and visit an Australian doctor (boring but safe). If you prefer to diagnose yourself that works too. Pharmacies don’t require a prescription for any drug and normally when we come across something we haven’t seen before we just march into the pharmacy and ask what they would suggest. Slathering ourselves with strange creams and eating pills that have labels written in either french, chinese or bislama.

If that isn’t enough excitement, there is always the possibility of earthquakes, cyclones, volcanos, dangerous bugs, and tsunamis that are ever present. And on top of all that you would get to see a different culture of people who are so happy.

So happy just to be the way God made them. Their teeth are falling out, their clothes are worn until they are covered in holes and they don’t wear shoes. But they know how to laugh, and love like nobody else. It’s medicine to the soul for every age.

Photo Credit: Government of Vanuatu Website

So my friends, that is honestly and truly a depiction of the experience you could have if you joined me for a few weeks in paradise. I have tried to paint the picture in a manner that was neither good nor bad. It’s all a mixture of both, and if you pray about this and feel like it’s an adventure your family would like to join us in, ask me and I’ll give you some details on the price you that you can expect to pay to fly here, as well how much you’ll need to have saved up for food, fun and service, once you get here. You can trust me when I say it’s an experience we’ll never forget and hopefully one you won’t regret 

An Island Thanksgiving Dinner

In Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving on the 2nd Monday of October. While living in Vanuatu we have been subject to all manner of degradations in our food standards (beatles in the pasta, bugs in the rice, maggots in the cheese, larvae in the beans, worms in the fruit etc.) Lindy is almost ready to go home and we wanted to do something fun to celebrate. So we invited every neighbor around as well as some favorite family friends to our home for a traditional Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner.
 
Making anything traditional in a developing country is exciting, so try not to laugh at Lindy and I’s lack of knowledge without the regular staples like ‘stove top’ and turkey while we attempt to create a Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner in Vanuatu.
 
Despite a few setbacks and difficulty finding all the ingredients that we usually have access to, we had a wonderful and fun filled Thanksgiving with all our neighbors and some brand new friends. Missed the turkey but loved the company:)

Camping in Paradise

‘It’s okay, just breath deeply and go to sleep.’ I felt a giant spider scamper across my arm and a cockroach tickle my forehead as it made it’s way over my face. This was going to be a loooong week. There were a lot, and I mean A LOT of bugs here.

Seriously why are there even spiders this size?

We had decided to take the family camping because well we didn’t have anywhere to live so that made it an easy decision. When we originally were planning to come to Vanuatu we thought we would just stay for 4 months. But the time came and went so quickly and everyone was enjoying our trip so thoroughly that nobody wanted to go home. We spent a few thousand dollars, changed our plane tickets, bought more travel insurance and extended our visa. It seemed expensive, but truthfully the price was so small in comparison to the gigantic return on investment.  For once in a long time our family was really content and everybody felt it and nobody wanted to let it go.

When we changed our tickets from 4 months to 12 months we needed to find a new place to stay and went camping between rentals.  It’s not like I had any camping equipment so we chose a place that had tents and beds already in them.  It was magical. Beach tents on the ocean, the breeze and the ocean and the birds.

We spent endless hours walking, swimming, playing with birds, roasting hotdogs, laughing and chatting around the fire. Everything was really fantastic. But there was more in store for our family.

The kids and Eric were walking down the beach when they found a path that led to a village through the bush. They ended up buying some island potatoes from them but when it was time to go home the entire village full of children followed them. For the next few hours they played soccer in the field.

At dinner time I called my kids for dinner and my kids as well as at least another 10 kids showed up. For the next four days and nights these beautiful village kids showed up at our tents at 6am, stayed around the fire laughing and singing with us and sharing our meals. Pretty soon I wasn’t cooking for 10 I was cooking for 20. I was running out of food, and you’ll see in the video the creative ways that we found to keep eating as there wasn’t a store in a million miles from us. We gathered coconuts, ate island potatoes and even collected sea urchins when the tide was low and roasted them over the fire! #gross

This group of sparkly eyed, brown skinned, big smiled children joined us for movie night cramming everyone into one small tent to gather around the little computer screen and watch Moana and home videos with us.

They followed us to the waterfalls when we went hiking and were waiting for us till well past dark every night if we ever ventured out anywhere.  At the end of every night Eric would load up the truck with everyone and drive them home. It was sometimes 10 or 11 o’clock at night when kids were sprawled out all over each other exhausted from hours of playing. Some nights they just walked themselves home dissappearing into the blackness without a sound.

The BEST most beautiful part of the entire camping trip was the morning that we were to leave. At 6am we heard noises outside. The mommas, the dads and the children from the village were all there.

They came up and showered us with shell leis, necklaces, fruit, potatoes and a woven mat. The momma’s said to me “you fed our pikininis everyday and now that makes you their momma too, so we bring you presents” Everyone cried as we left this magical bit of paradise and said goodbye to our new friends. It was truly an amazing, fantastic, unforgettable experience and I now have ALOT of new children!

Watch the videos to join in the magic and it truly was magical!

Rebecca

 

An Island Relief Society and Primary Dance

We all wore our best island dresses as we headed out to our activity. By the time we arrived there was just enough light to make out the bunches of fresh flowers hanging from strings that were criss crossed across the outdoor cement pad. Several long extension cords ran across the yard and out onto the street bringing enough electricity for one small light and the portable stereo that was blasting the island music.  We had all been invited to an island dance in the village of Mele for our Friday night church activity.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

It took us a while to find the house in the first place and of course we were the only ones besides Sister Davidson that arrived in a vehicle. When we did arrive the table was covered in plates piled high with unidentifiable food,  and woman and children were chatting and laughing on blankets on the ground. There was three kinds of watered down juice- red, yellow and blue. There was only two cups which everyone shared for about an hour until a stack of disposable ones were retrieved and brought out.

Photo Credit: Lights for All occasions

Naomi and I chuckled as we danced in the dark with the women and children as a very inappropriate song came on for the 5th time- I’m pretty sure they didn’t know what it meant 🙂

The dance was lots of fun, and the kids were delighted at being invited to a special event just for them. I made a little video and thought I’d share it with you- please excuse the terrible lighting, the whole event was too authentic to not post about.

 

Thanks for reading my blog, xoxo

Beckyboo