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 Ibeheld 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!
P.S. I’d love it if you’d share a personal experience of when you waited on God 🙂
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 🙂
‘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.
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!
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 🙂
Today we went on a nature walk to find the aloe vera plant. I’ve been drinking the juice and it’s been helping me feel better so I thought I’d try making my own. Sure enough we found massive aloe plants and the guy who owned the property was happy to let us pick them. Here’s a little tutorial on how we made our aloe juice! Enjoy my video 🙂