Once a year the fields surrounding our house bust into vibrant colors of yellow, orange and green. We call it ‘Sunflower Sunday’ This magnificent display lasts for only a few days. The whole neighbourhood gets together and here’s what happens!
My freezing cold body sunk down into the hot water, and I sighed out all the stress of sleepless nights and long days of travel that come with flying and driving with babies. I was now taking the first hot bath I had had in over 1 year! It felt magnificent, and after I soaked, I dried off in a fluffy white towel, as I stood on a lovely bath mat, made of woven organic cotton and dyed various colors of blue. I couldn’t believe how clean, and white and beautiful everything was.
It was 1:52am but the entire family was still wide awake. We were wandering around in a daze looking at and touching things like we had never seen them before. None of us could sleep. I had already tried tucking myself between the crispy white sheets spread tightly across my master bedroom bed, but nothing was working. I felt out of place, in this spacious, lovely decorated, house that looked like it had come straight out of a magazine.
White walls, curtains over the windows, carpets, lamps, sparkling chandeliers, paintings, soap, a dishwasher, a fridge…I couldn’t believe they even made fridges that big! It was all so pretty, and so big, and so surprisingly unfamiliar.
We had left Vanuatu nearly 36 hours ago, and we had just arrived for our first night home in Canada. I tried so many times to fall asleep, but the silence all around me felt like a great big black blanket, that I wished I could throw off me. The familiar sights and sounds of our home in Vanuatu had kept me company for the last 13 months, and now I was missing them desperately.
Where were those noisy crickets and frogs that kept me awake at night? Where was the steady beat of the ocean surf, coming and going? There was no village music drifting through the warm tropical air, no whirring fans blowing off the mosquitos from our feet which stuck out of our damp sheets, or drunk men laughing outside, no dogs barking at every person that walked by all through the night.
I sighed, and cried, and prayed, reminded myself that God is the Master Planner and it’s He who knows all things and eventually my exhausted body succumbed to sleep. In the morning, I told Eric I thought we should hop back on the plane and go home. By home, I meant back to Vanuatu. He agreed immediately. Half of the kids said no, the other half said yes, but the bank account was the real thing that stopped us from turning around.
A couple hours later, real bacon was sizzling in the pan, filling up the house with an aroma we had only dreamed of. My daughter caught me drinking a bottle of maple syrup which had screamed my name when I discovered it in the fridge. Before long, my house was filled to bursting with the squeals of children who my heart had ached for this last year. When coming home, we had decided to keep it a surprise from everyone, just for the fun of appearing out of nowhere. The tears and amazed squeals from cousins was totally worth all the work it had been to keep our secret!
I had long visits, in a language I understood, with my best friends and sister, and I was reminded again of the real reason that I had missed Canada so much. It wasn’t the house, or the cars, the computers. It wasn’t even the strawberries, bacon or maple syrup, it was the people. The same thing that had stolen my heart in Vanuatu had my heart in Canada, and now I felt so unsettled, not knowing who I was or where I belonged.
I found my daughter holding back tears in the corner, and I wrapped my arms around her, and we cried together. Cried because we had left home, and cried because we had found home.
$22,000 USD is what it cost our family to fly to Vanuatu. Then we paid an additional $4500 in Visa fees to stay as long as we did. We both knew that if we were going to go back, it would take another monumental effort, a lot of hard work and a fair bit of faith. Faith was starting to come a bit easier to us nowadays, as living day to day really has a way of making you dependant on God and His goodness and wisdom, but we still struggled with it.
I sat on my best friends couch, giggling like little girls, and it felt as though we had never been separated. When she asked me why I had decided to come home, I tried to explain all the reasons that had made up this life changing decision, but my mind suddenly went blank. I honestly couldn’t remember why we had decided to come home. ‘To go to the dentist’, I lamely explained.
When I came home that day, I asked Eric to refresh my memory on all the reason why we had left paradise. He reminded me about our two daughters that had already left Vanuatu ahead of us, and about working- like that thing people do to earn money, and about my health, and about a dozen other reasons that sounded so convincing when I had booked the tickets a couple months, but that hardly seemed critical now.
I admit, I am afraid. I am afraid that I might be the same person I was when I left. I am afraid that I’ll get busy, and start caring more about things and less about people. I’m afraid that I won’t know how to minister to Gods children, because they are all around me in great big houses, with families that look so content. I am afraid that everything that happened on that tiny island will fade away, and with it all the love and adventure and memories will be gone.
Faith is the great healer of fear. I feel like a little child learning something for the first time. Falling again and again, unsure of how to go forward without all the pain of repeated failures. Faith is such a small word for such a big lesson, and I pray that God will send me an extra dose of it to navigate these next few months with my family.
‘I cry unto my God in faith and know that He will hear my cry’
I can’t believe it’s already been one year. In some ways it feels like a lifetime and in other ways it seems as though we just arrived. The experiences that we’ve had have been irreplaceable. I made a video to celebrate our 1 year anniversary, on the adventure of a lifetime! If you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been blogging as regularly, it’s because I was crazy sick and had to be flown to Australia for medical help, and then because I started writing a book! Stay tuned, I’ll let you know when it’s ready to read 🙂
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.
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
Hang on tight if you want to join us for an island ride!
It’s really hard to get cars on the island because everything has be imported from somewhere else. When you find a car and it’s in your price range you snap it up- pretty much regardless of how it works. That’s how we all ended up with the island bus… 🙂 If you want a few bumps and jolts, join us for as Lindy takes out the island bus for the first time!
8 dogs wandered in and out of church today as we sat down inside and outside for our classes. There weren’t any pigs which was nice because they can be awfully noisy. The lady in front of me picked out lice from a little girls hair and dropped it to the ground just as the sacrament water was being passed around. Sacrament is something we do in our church to remind us of the sacrifice Jesus made for us when He gave His life for us. We have young men who pass around trays filled with little cups of water that has been specially blessed. Each person who has entered into baptism has the opportunity to take a small cup of water and drink it in remembrance of the blood of Jesus.
As the tray passed by I took my cup and handed it on to my daughter. There were only two little cups of water left one with a tiny bit of water and one with a lot of water. My 10 year old daughter took the cup with only a little water in it. She is ultra paranoid about germs and looked to me to ask “has this already been used”, obviously it wouldn’t have been there if it had been used, so I shook my head ‘no’ as she drank it down. But the young man passing the sacrament tried to cover his laugh as he grimly whispered ‘yes’ at the same time. oops. She was sicked out- poor little girl!
Sacrament was now finished and It was my turn to go up. I stood looking at the large congregation (there were nearly 100 of us), behind the worn out pulpit in our little outdoor church building. The microphone was working today which was a big bonus so I wouldn’t have to shout to be heard.
It was my turn to give a talk. I couldn’t do it in Bislama, even though I’ve been here for 3 months, all I can really say is ‘hello, what is your name’ and ‘my name is Rebecca’. Pretty pathetic I know…
I got asked to give the talk last night before I went to bed. At home In Canada I need at least two weeks warning before giving a talk in front of our congregation. This gives me enough time to research, pray, practice and memorize the whole thing. Then I reread it and say it out loud practicing looking up at the audience as I speak a few times. All of this prep time gives me enough courage to face the sea of people who will be listening as I deliver my well thought out speech in my clean, electrified, air conditioned, quiet church building. Okay, well maybe not quiet.
I realized when I was asked to give the talk at the last minute, and didn’t have that usual feeling of anxiety that accompanies such a task, that things here have given me a whole new perspective on my life back home. It suddenly hit me that in North America we have an entire culture surrounding the idea of perfection.
Our homes are getting bigger and bigger, and cleaner and cleaner, our cars nicer and nicer, our phones better and better and more and more expensive, our education is expanding at an astonishing rate. We have access to more information, more types of foods, more job opportunities and more technologies than have ever existed in the entire history of mankind. And all of this has created a culture where the humans that exist inside of it are stressed and depressed and in bondage to more debts and addictions than ever before.
I realised as I prepared my talk that I was living as one of those human beings. Trying to be the perfect mother, neighbour, church goer, friend, visiting teacher, wife, daughter and community member. I was so worried about how I APPEARED that I allowed my happiness to be hijacked by trying to fit in and measure up. I always wanted my house to be clean, my meals to be healthy, my lessons to be clever, my kids talents to be explored…on and on the list goes without ever satisfying the endless list of demands.
The seams on the wooden pulpit I was standing behind were all coming apart and the wood was swelling in the joints, but nobody cared because they were just happy to have a pulpit at all. The church building that we were under was a patchwork of tin and grass and plywood, but it was okay because they were just happy to have somewhere to worship outside of the elements. I could have given a talk in Chinese and nobody would have minded. Now in front of them, they just all looked at me with caring kind faces, smiling and nodding as I went off in English.
I might cry, or talk too fast or too slow, or too loud or not talk at all and it wouldn’t matter. In fact, yesterday a girl got up to speak at a baptism and just stood there staring at us for ages. Nobody minded or was impatient, and eventually when she whispered words into the microphone that none of us could understand we all just smiled.
Because here, WHO you are and WHAT you are is good enough. And God provides the sun and rain and the fruit on the trees and the fish in the oceans and there is no reason to complain or wish for anything more.
It was never more evident that our culture in North America is sick and that all this destructive perfection seeking is an exhausting way to live. I promised myself today that I would PAUSE. Just wait a moment in silence and remember the simple blessings and gifts that God has given me and thank Him and praise Him. Have a happy Sabbath 🙂