It’s Friday night and we can here the beating of drums from across the water. If you look carefully you can also see the lights spinning around in the distance. We’ve already been 5 times but it never gets old. We decide to load up the older kids and we pile in the truck with their cousins and aunties and drive down the road. It takes less than 10 minutes to drive to the Beach Bar where there is a free fire show every Friday night. It’s the same place we go for $10 pizzas and an outdoor movie on Tuesday nights but nobody ever gets tired of watching.
I promise myself this time that I’ll just enjoy the show without filming any of it. After all the sure sign of a tourist is taking out their fancy phones and videotaped EVERYTHING…sigh. It was too tempting. The sparks fly and the entire sky feels likes its lit up with music, people and fire. It’s actually very exciting and the crowd goes wild. I have officially resisted for as long as I possibly can before I pull out my phone and take a few minutes of fire dancing filming. Now that I’ve made a little movie the whole thing is off my chest and I won’t have to film it next time 🙂 The Fire Dancing Show in Port Vila Vanuatu is AWESOME!
37 years ago today, the combined governments of both England and France agreed to give Vanuatu its independence. (How generous, right?) Vanuatu does not take it’s independence lightly. It’s been non-stop parties for the last 7 days. (Trust me, I know, I’ve been at all of them) Music, Dancing, Kakai (food), Wrestling, pig wrestling, Karate, Soccer, Basketball, Boxing, Singing. There is an never ending list of talents that are on display for the 8 days celebration. It goes from early into the morning each day to early into the morning the next day. Live music ends somewhere between 3:00-4:00am and then starts again between 6:00-8:00am. The entire thing is broadcast via 6 massive speakers. You don’t even have to be anywhere NEAR the celebrations to HEAR the celebrations!!
Entire villages show up to enjoy the festivities and little children and old grandmas share woven grass mats that are strewn across the field for days on end. It’s quite a site!
Because of all the celebrations, our local church leaders asked each group of saints to meet as early as possible, so that families would be able to participate in the community celebrations for the day. Our branch chose 7:30. Yes that’s 7:30 AM! Did you even know that you were allowed to meet for church at that time?! There weren’t as many people as usual this morning at church. LOL. But for those of us that were there it was a treat. Sister King gave talk that was really special.
She talked about a story that she heard last week from president Basille (he’s the leader of the local church branch we attend). President Basille said that 44 years ago there was no Mormon church on any of the islands of Vanuatu.
Missionary work began in Vanuatu in 1974 after several Latter-day Saint Tongan families moved there. Elder Harman Rector Jr., of the Seventy (one of the highest governing bodies of the Church) and President Davis visited Port Vila in April 1974 to determine the possibility of assigning full-time missionaries to the island. Elder Rector felt it was essential that the area receive missionaries”
After prayerfully considering the possibility of sending full time missionaries to Vanuatu, the church leaders determined that that is exactly what God wanted. They gave the assignment to an LDS French ambassador to come to Vanuatu and meet with both governments to ask permission for the Mormon Church to send missionaries. When the LDS ambassador arrived in Vanuatu his meeting with the English government went well and they agreed to allow missionaries. However, the meeting with the French government did not go so well. The government official representing the French government was rude and disrespectful to the LDS man telling him that there was absolutely no way that missionaries would be allowed to preach in Vanuatu. Discouraged, the LDS ambassador went home and reported to the church that they would not be able to send missionaries to Vanuatu.
Several months later the French LDS ambassador was back in Vanuatu on business of his own. As he was finishing up his business he felt like he must go and visit the French government official again. He wondered at this feeling due to the very rude way he had been treated last time, however, determined to follow this prompting he made an appointment to meet with him.
To the LDS ambassadors great surprise the French official was overjoyed to see him. He was very kind and welcoming and invited him to sit down with him for lunch where they could talk. After just a few minutes of visiting the French official gave his official invitation for the Mormon church to invite missionaries to come to Vanuatu.
The LDS ambassador was stunned by this sudden change in attitude. He finally had the courage to ask the French official “Why are you allowing us to have missionaries in Vanuatu?” The official replied “When I last left Vanuatu I had to walk to work everyday. Each day I passed a beautiful church building that said ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’. The people were always smiling and saying hello to me. They planted gardens and made the area clean. They had many activities and were always respectful, getting involved and helping out in the community, making it a better place to live. Every time I saw people go in or out of that building they were filled with a special light and happiness that I’ve never seen anywhere else. If we have missionaries in Vanuatu will they do that here as well?” The LDS ambassador assured the French official that they would do that here and ever since then missionaries have been allowed in Vanuatu. Isn’t that such a beautiful story?
There hasn’t been a Sunday that goes by that at least one or two or three people are getting baptised. Our little branch on the island of Efate is growing faster than we can fit inside the building. On the other islands the church is welcomed with open arms as well. One man I met on the beach last week explained one reason why this is the case.
Jacob’s family was from Tanna- they knew Nathaniel’s mother (that’s my nephew). He said that after Cyclone Pam (an absolutely devastating cyclone that flattened the island) there was many aid organizations that came in to help our their island, but there was one that came first and left last. They wore yellow t-shirts and they delivered shipments of food, water, money and supplies. They not only rebuilt the houses of their own members but they rebuilt the houses of entire villages. Now, whenever someone finds out that someone is from the Mormon the church, they kiss them and hug them and thank them. And many, many people have joined the church because of that.
Of course our goal is not for people to join our church, our goal is to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ and allow it to change hearts and lives in others as it has in us.
Watching the way Vanuatu celebrates their independence humbles me. These island people are truly, emphatically, and deeply grateful for their independence. They know that the only way to be truly free is to be with God, and they are. And so today, because church was over so soon, do you know what the entire island is doing? They are raising their flag together, and singing their anthem together, eating together and then they are going to listen to 10 hours of preaching together. Yes, that’s the activities for the entire island. Every store is closed and every family is on their mat in the big field. And it doesn’t matter which church you belong to because today everyone is together worshiping God through those same 6 big speakers that have been blasting out music for the last week.
True independence comes from knowing who you are. True independence comes from recognizing that every man is and every woman is your brother and sister and that Pappa God really is our Father, all of us. God doesn’t see as Mormons or Catholics or Muslims, or as black men or white men, he sees us as His children. The message from the preacher in park today was that as brothers and sisters we need each other. And we need to be our best selves, so instead of focusing on the mistakes from yesterday or last year we need to take care of being the best that we can be today and unite in our respect and honor of God.
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 🙂
“I’m soooo bored, we did nothing fun today at all…” That’s what my kids told me in the kitchen tonight. I nearly choked on my food. Approximately three months ago we left Canada to live in Vanuatu and everyday since then has been like a chapter out of an adventure novel. Clearly my kids are getting slightly spoiled in the most tropical of ways. Would you like to know what nothing fun looks like in my homeschooling, God loving, crazy family of 9?
First we spent a couple hours on the beach. We chased waves, buried each other in the sand, laid in the sun and played with the little boys until I knew I had to bring them in or they would get too much sun.
Next we walked up and down and collected handfuls of sea glass and almost caught the most adorable bright purple coconut crab I’ve ever seen. We did a bit of watercolor painting and made a little whale out of sea glass on the art paper we brought with us.
The little girls came home and picked and sold papaya to all their neighbours while Dad took Eliza for a trip into town on the quad to the private hospital and out for lunch (she dislocated her arm doing somersaults on the beach).
After that we picked up Mireyah who had spent the entire day with a family in the bush at the top of Snake Hill (hill isdefinitely subjective…more like mountain) eating, swimming and playing volleyball.
Next three of kids got dropped off at the village basketball park where they met their local friends and played a game of ball for two hours.
We had a good looking Ni-Van boy over for dinner (homemade pizzas), after Bislama lessons with a local lady from church.
And once all that was done the younger kids went with Aunty Shi into town to watch the community outdoor movie and Dad took a couple of the girls night swimming. All wrapped up in one booooooooorrrrrrriiiiiiing day. #poorkids#feelsobadforthem#whatasuckylife