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We are currently in the USA raising our budget to return to Vanuatu in August of 2017. Just because we are away from Joy Bible Institute doesn’t mean the ministry is put on hold, but rather replacement teachers are needed so classes and ministries can continue.

We are so pleased to let you know that Ray and Becki Sparre, along with their son Thano, have been approved by MAPS to go to Vanuatu for 3 months and teach at Joy Bible Institute. The Sparre family spent many years as AGWM missionaries in both the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. This is wonderful news not only to us but also to our JBI teachers, Pastor Philip Naias and Pastor Kiel Maimai, who have been carrying a heavy workload in our absence.

The Sparres will leave for Vanuatu in a few short weeks and urgently need financial support for airplane tickets and living expenses. If you would like to support them, I know it would be appreciated. Please read the following to know more about these wonderful people and how to help them.

SparreA LITTLE HISTORY:

When Ray and Becki told me what they had decided to do a few weeks ago, I felt moved to get involved in the process of supporting their venture.  Ray and Becki spent 28 years as missionaries in the Islands of the Pacific. They were just finishing a four year term of service in Vanuatu in 2001 when they received word that their two sons were involved in a serious motorcycle accident stateside. Their youngest son, Thano, suffered permanent brain damage in that accident, which brought an end to the Sparres island missionary work.

Shortly after they returned to Oregon, the Sparres moved to acreage near Molalla where Ray proceeded to set up his own portable saw milling business. He has used his hands and artistic talents to provide for his family through milling, construction and sign painting.

AN EXCITING CALL:

Just a few weeks ago they received a call asking them to consider a three month mission trip to fill a vacancy in the Bible School on Vanuatu for the Spring semester.  Even though this would be a completely voluntary service with no financial compensation, Ray and Becki felt moved in their spirits that it was of God.  They made the decision to go, with only a few weeks to prepare.

HERE’S WHAT THEY’RE FACING:

  • Ray will have to continue to work and fulfill his business commitments right up until their departure at the end of February. This leaves them with virtually no time to itinerate and raise funds for the mission.
  • Income from Ray’s work will stop completely for March, April & May while they are abroad.
  • Their mortgage payment and other monthly obligations will continue stateside.
  • They will have to raise over $5,000 for round trip airfare for Ray, Becki and Thano.
  • Insurance required by the Missions Department amounts to nearly $1200.
  • While serving in Vanuatu they will be provided a house and vehicle, but will be responsible for their own food, gas and other miscellaneous personal expenses.

Ray estimates that the total budget for the 3 month mission will be about $15,000.

Ray and Becki have received official approval through the Assemblies of God Missions Department for this short term mission.  MAPS will issue tax deductible receipts for contributions, but will not be processing or disbursing funds.

HERE’S HOW THE CONTRIBUTION PROCESS WILL WORK:

  • A separate bank account has been set up for this missions trip
  • Checks for this mission should be made payable to: “Ray Sparre / Vanuatu Mission
  • Contributions should be mailed to:

Elvin Huston

20 Brophy Way #18

Shady Cove, OR 97539

  • Hustons will deposit all checks into Sparre’s Vanuatu Mission account
  • A record of each contribution will be forwarded to the A/G Missions Department
  • The A/G Missions Department will issue tax deductible receipts for each donation
  • Ray and Becki will be able to access funds as needed via a bank card while on the field

This letter is not intended to convey an expectation or to produce a feeling of obligation on anyone. Our purpose is to make you aware of what the Sparre’s feel called to do, and let you know how you can participate financially if you feel the Lord’s prompting to do so.

Eunice and I have purposed to make a one time gift to help with the initial cost in getting to the field, followed by a monthly contribution for March, April and May. I am also hoping to create a place on our nc60salumni.com website where you can see pictures and reports from the Sparre’s while they are on their mission.  There may also be some reports and pictures postings on facebook for those who are facebook friends.

Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy email. Please feel free to email us if you have any questions.

Laborers together,

Elvin & Eunice Huston

Just wanted to update the information on our current projects. All financial gifts may be sent to our Assemblies of God World Mission account, and please be sure to designate with the project name and number.

Married Student Housing at Joy Bible Institute – Project #5764 – $15,000 each house

 

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We have completed the first student house on the new property and a student and his family have moved in! We plan to build 7 more small houses on this property.  Our students are often from distant islands and they need to bring their families to Bible school with them. Will you help us?

About $15,000 will build a small one bedroom house for a student family.

CYCLONE PAM REBUILD – Green Hill Elementary School – Project #5778 – $45,000 School Building

 

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One hundred forty-three children were left without classrooms to study in when Cyclone Pam completely blew away their school in March 2015. Green Hill Primary School was started by Joy Bible Institute graduate, Pastor Charley Job, and is the only school in that remote farming community. We have been partnering with them to rebuild their school and need your help to complete the job.

We are currently raising $45,000 to build a simple three room classroom building for grades 4 to 6.

CYCLONE PAM – Small Village Church Rebuilding Assistance – $5000 each

 

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Pastor John Yalsi and his wife stand in front of the ruins of their small Assembly of God church. They pastor in a small farming community in the hills of Teouma. Pastor Yalsi and his wife grow vegetables and sell them in the market in Port Vila to support themselves.

Cyclone Pam completely destroyed their church, village and gardens. The cost of replacing this partial concrete building is beyond their means. Would you join with us to help rebuild this church and several others?

60 AG churches were either totally destroyed or damaged from Cyclone Pam on March 13, 2015.

Joy Bible Institute AGWM Acct # 541772 – Cyclone Repairs

 

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The Joy Bible Institute had many buildings damaged and roofs blown off from Cyclone Pam. Much of the campus has been repaired but not everything. Funds have run out and we still need to repair the school chapel and the pile of rubble in the foreground of the photo above was a storage building and carport. We need funds in order to repair and replace the facilities we have lost.

Any offering to the Joy Bible Account AGWM #541772 would help us to continue repairing the cyclone damaged buildings on the Bible school campus.

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This year JBI has planned to host three overnight Pastor’s Seminars on campus. The first one was held April 8 to 9th. The theme was EVANGELISM.

Many pastors arrived early on Friday afternoon and had supper in the student cafeteria before the first session at 7:00 p. m. The chapel was very full from the beginning. JBI teacher Philip Naias was the Friday night speaker.

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The next morning, J. Gary Ellison and Kiel Maimai took the next sessions. At the end of the morning, so many expressed how they were challenged to be more active in reaching out to the people in their communities.

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JBI students were busy cooking and hosting the visiting pastors.

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Lunch was served outside under the mango tree on Saturday and everyone lingered and talked for a couple of hours before going home.

We were so pleased to hear that our provincial church leaders are actively pursuing plans to have some joint evangelism events across the city as a direct response to the seminar. Two churches have already gotten together and had a evangelism outreach since the seminar.

IMG_7780 I was very excited when we received a call asking if we would go back to Rangorango and celebrate the opening of their church kindergarten.

On a Sunday in late November 2015, we had visited the church in that rural farming community. Gary had preached and I was asked at the close of the morning service to give a pep-talk to the church people about launching their own kindergarten. There is no school of any kind for miles around so all children must leave home and live with relatives elsewhere if they want to start their education. I do not normally give such pep-talks but in light of the lack of education for the children, it was not difficult to underscore the need and their ability to do something for their children. The church itself had 50 children in attendance that morning!

So to be asked just five months later to come and attend the opening of the first kindergarten was awesome!

JBI Dean of students, Pastor Kiel Maimai and a group of JBI students accompanied me and Jasmine. Pastor Kiel and the students were to speak in the Sunday morning service which would follow the official ribbon cutting ceremony of the kindergarten.

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Welcome speeches were given by Pastor Charley Job and the community leaders. The chief announced the name of the school as LoriNafeNaka Kindergarten and it was unexpected to be thus honored. The next day was my birthday so it was a very special gift. The other parts of the name identify the two language groups the school will serve.

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The kindergarten was made of local materials by the community and sits on the church property. I was asked to cut the vine across the door with a machete knife and then we went inside to look at the lovely schoolroom.

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Group photo above: myself, Mrs. Charley Job, Pastor Charley Job from Green Hill, JBI students, Pastor Kiel Maimai, and local Pastor David Willie. Pastor David Willie (photo below) is a 2013 JBI graduate and became the pastor of the church after graduating. Rangorango began as an outreach of Green Hill church and many people have come to Christ.

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Sunday morning services are held under blue plastic tarps as the former building was destroyed by Cyclone Pam last year. This community depends on market gardening for income and was very hard hit by last year’s cyclone and the drought which followed. The JBI students led the morning service, shared testimonies and song, and then Pastor Kiel preached. We had a wonderful service and a potluck dinner followed.

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Please pray for Pastor David Willie and his family as they minister among the people of Rangorango. Please pray for the kindergarten teacher and the little ones being taught each day. If you would like to help provide a more permanent church roof for this congregation or school supplies, please contact us.

On March 11, 2016, just a few days before the one year anniversary of Cyclone Pam which totally destroyed the Green Hill Primary School and much of the community, we gathered to officially open two new school buildings and start the new school year.

It was a rainy day and the road was a bit more treacherous than normal, but the four-wheel drive pickup was packed with church leaders and missionary friends eager to celebrate the event with the Green Hill community.

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Pictured above: Back row – Jasmine Ellison, Rev. Dave Wood, Julie Wood. Front row: Green Hill AG Pastor Charley Job, Shefa Province AG Presbyter Rev. Berry Kalotrip, Shefa Province AG Treasurer Rev. Joshua Malakai and Lori Ellison.

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The Green Hill school children waiting to greet the visitors and accompany us into the school property.

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The school children led the way in song.

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Flag raising and singing the Vanuatu national anthem.

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Clockwise from left: Listening to speeches, singing, praying, and a kid’s sermon.

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The traditional giving and receiving of gifts.

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Rev. Berry Kalotrip cutting the ribbon on the door of the first classroom. The main school building consists of three classrooms. The main donor was ACCI Relief of Australia. They gave AU$41,800 to rebuild this building. Mrs. Lori Ellison was the project manager, receiving the funds, purchasing all the building materials, and overseeing the actual construction. To fully complete the building, US$10,000 was also given by AGWM-USA.

We are so grateful to all who gave to rebuild this school. A special thank you to Katie Blok of ACCI for reading my first email and then her amazing support for the project.

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Above: Accepting gifts of garden produce from the Green Hill community.

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Above on the left: Pastor Charley Job, (JBI grad) is the man who carved this mission work and school literally out of the bush, high on a plateau above the Teouma River Valley. He built a church and a school over the years and Cyclone Pam took it all away in one night, March 15, 2015. At the reopening of the school, 146 children, grades K-6 were enrolled.

Until more funds are available for more classrooms, six grades will be squeezing into three classrooms.

Above on the right: Green Hill school headmaster, Joseph Kalo. He kept the school functioning after the disaster and loss of buildings and books. For months, teachers and students, huddled under tarps and sat on the grass for class.

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We are also very grateful to PAOC partners, Dave and Julie Wood, who before they had even moved to Vanuatu, were raising funds and awareness in Canada to rebuild a kindergarten building for Green Hill Primary School. A special thank you to Rev Murray Cornelius who responded favorably to my email to asking for help from the PAOC. Very grateful that ERDO Canada agreed to sponsor the new kindergarten and many friends and family who donated money to ERDO. Thirty-six little ones are now attending kindergarten under the care of head teacher Ruth and her helper.

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Above: The new kindergarten built by PAOC and ERDO partners in CANADA. DSC_0145 DSC_0276

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The rebuilding of this school was a logistic challenge from day one, so many amazing things happened to bring us to this day of dedicating the new school buildings. I am so thrilled that church friends in Australia, Canada and the United States came together and showed such compassion to the families in a little-known farming community of Green Hill which had been almost blown off the map by Cyclone Pam! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!!

Gr Hill 23 /12/15 

Photo above: to the right of the school sign, the first shelter is the temporary church with a silver plastic tarp for a roof and behind the church is a new green metal roof building. The green roof building is the new 3 room classroom building for the primary school. Cyclone Pam destroyed the church and school in March.

I was very excited on December 23, to go up to Green Hill Teouma and check on the progress of the new building. Since the rains have started, the road to Green Hill is an hour long 4 wheel drive mud adventure. A group of nine men have been working for a several weeks on the new school building and I was anxious to see what they had accomplished since my previous visit.

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The roof is on!

It has been a challenge to build so far off the main road. Most hardware stores and suppliers will not deliver to Green Hill so we have had to use a 4WD pick-up truck to haul materials. We started in November pouring the concrete slab in severe drought conditions, which necessitated the hauling of water from 45 minutes away to mix the concrete. Then when we got ready to put on the roof, the rains started and the road is now flooded! We are happy for the rain as the community had emptied their drinking water tanks!

To this point, the new school building has been financed by ACCIR in Australia. We are so grateful for their partnership. The siding for the building and doors have already been purchased but we are lacking funds for some important items to finish it:

US$3000 – one more month of worker’s salaries

US$700 – masonite sheets for the ceiling

US$700 – timber for knockings

US$1200 – louvre window frames and glass

US$2000 – wood primer and paint

Please label donations for Green Hill School Project #5778 if you are donating through AGWM. Thank you!

 

Rangorango Since Cyclone Pam struck in mid-March, I have found myself going to the end of so many roads. Roads I never really paid attention to. Roads I never thought went anywhere. These roads have taken me to hundreds of people I never knew existed, living in small settlements tucked away in the hills, all within an hour of Port Vila.

On Sunday, we were able to go to the end of yet another road and visit the people of Rangorango.  Pastor Charley Job (JBI grad) has supported this new church plant and wanted us to see it. He sent a 4 wheel drive vehicle to pick us up as the road is not very good.

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The pastor of the Rangorango church, is a 2013 JBI graduate, Pastor David Willie.  The people living in these hills are from his home island of Tanna and the majority of them are truly unreached.

It sounded like a short drive, “just follow the road to the end of the airport runway and go up the hill.” But to get to the Rangorango church, you keep driving up and over many high hills and sliding through some muddy low areas. When you are almost at end of the road, you turn off into the tall grass and keep going until you get to a big tree. We parked there and walked down a path. Sitting high on the side of a hill is a clearing with a large shelter covered in various colors of plastic sheeting and a small house, this is the Assemblies of God church. It was so wonderful to see Pastor David and within minutes, people started appearing from different directions until the church was full.

Preaching at Rangorango AG churchThe church shelter had recently been rebuilt along with a small one-room house for the pastor and his family. Everything had blown away in the cyclone and recovery has been slow.

Gary had already preached on the radio that morning at 8 a.m. but he was happy to preach again. We had a wonderful service and several came forward for prayer.

Rangorango church

After service, I was asked to make an address on the importance of education, a first for me. Pastor Charley Job is very concerned because there is not a school anywhere in these hills. The children either have to be sent to live with relatives elsewhere to attend school or they stay home and miss out. The families connected to this small church alone have at least 50 children amongst them. The community needs at least a kindergarten. Pastor Charley has started schools elsewhere and wanted me to encourage them to start a kindergarten.

Children of Rangorango

After a lovely lunch, we headed back to town.

Later the community had a meeting and it was decided to start a kindergarten at the church in 2016. This will be a wonderful way for the church to reach out to all the children in this area.

They will build a one room schoolhouse and look within their community for a teacher. Pastor Charley and the Green Hill Primary School will help them organize and we want to help them with some basic furniture and school supplies.

Will you help us provide some basic school supplies for the children of Rangorango?

I was so impressed when I visited the primary school at Teouma Green Hill on the 22nd of April 2015. It had only been a few weeks since Cyclone Pam had devastated the southern half of the country. The upper Teouma farming community had been destroyed by the category 5 cyclone. The Green Hill School, started by Pastor Charley Job, had lost every building, most of their furniture, and books to the violent winds. But the headmaster had rallied his teachers and the community and by April 22nd they were back in class. This was truly a remarkable sight as teachers propped their blackboards on the ground and students huddled together on the grass to do their lessons. A hodgepodge of donated plastic tarps provided a roof over each class. It was an amazing effort to move on after an unprecedented disaster and I knew that others would want to assist and encourage such resilience.

Green Hill 22 April Teacher Gr Hill

The first commitment to finance a new class building for these children came from the Australian Christian Churches International Relief (ACCIR) and I am forever grateful to them for their partnership and trust. A building plan for a simple 3 classroom building was drawn up and paperwork signed.

Once the funds were in hand, the process of purchasing the materials and getting them up the 4WD bush road began. The delivery process took much longer than expected. Most local businesses did not want to send their delivery trucks off road. A big thank you to MCI for being the only coral and sand distributor willing to deliver all the way to the school site. Wilco Hardware and Bluescope Roofing also graciously delivered. But for the remaining tons of materials, cement, wood, rebar, and eventually water, local pick-up truck drivers had to be hired to make the deliveries.

A couple of months after Cyclone Pam, Vanuatu was hit by an ElNino drought and all rain ceased. Most people in Vanuatu are not connected to a water supply but rather depend on catching rainwater. The prolonged drought greatly improved the delivery conditions of the road to Teouma which most of the time is a slippery, rutted four wheel drive mud road. On the hand, the drought has prevented the market gardening community of Teouma from regaining its normal cash income and caused great hardship. Crops were replanted promptly post-cyclone but the harvest has been meager.

On November 23, 2015, reconstruction officially started on the Green Hill Primary school. The community had fundraised to purchase tools, buy fuel for the generator to run the cement mixer, and host temporary construction workers.

Cement slab Gr Hill Construction at Gr Hill

Everyone had been stocking water in tanks and containers to use in the pouring of the cement floor. The water on hand ran out half way through pouring the cement slab. Again the community rallied by filling water containers at a nearby lake and bringing it to the worksite. The workmen continued to mix cement as the people brought water. The cement slab was finished this past week. The rest of the building is a wood construction so there will be less need of water.

If you would like to assist the rebuilding of the Green Hill Primary School, we are currently needing funds to buy school desks and chairs. A second classroom building will also be started in early 2016 and about $40,000 US is needed.

IMG_4704On Sunday, November 22rd, the Joy Bible Institute 2015 graduation service was held at Evangel Temple. The church had been severely damaged by Cyclone Pam and was undergoing renovations right up until the night before. The pastor, church members and building contractor worked very hard to complete the inside sanctuary in time for our graduation.

2015 JBI Grads 

Eight wonderful men and women made up the 2015 graduating class. They are from five different islands in Vanuatu. John Nampas from Santo was the class speaker. Rev. Dave Wood, newly arrived PAOC missionary from Canada and new pastor of the English-speaking International Church which meets at JBI was the graduation speaker.

2015 Grads Student Speaker John Nampas

JBI choir  Commissioning of Grads

We had a wonderful service. The church was packed with hundreds of friends and family members. And at the end of the afternoon, while the graduates were still in the receiving line, it began to rain! After months of drought, we have been praying for rain so we all soaked it up!

Missionary Dave Wood Church of Christ Rev. L. Tari

Receiving line Lina, Deborah, Lori

Please pray for our JBI graduates as they return to their home islands that they will be mightily used and please continue to pray for more rain to end our current drought in Vanuatu.

Rhonda, a dear friend in New Zealand, contacted me shortly after Cyclone Pam and wanted to know what she could send to help. I knew that rice and basic food was being distributed already so I asked for used clothes and bedding. So many people had all their belongings blown away in the cyclone that it seemed like used clothing would be helpful. She took up the challenge and mobilized friends and they collected, sorted, washed and packed lovely clothes for Vanuatu and in the end a whole 20ft container was shipped.

On Thursday, May 21, I got a message asking me to come the next morning and empty the container. I hired a truck and took along Jeremy, Pastor Kiel, and a handful of JBI students. It took us about 6 hours to unpack and take all the boxes to JBI to organize our distribution.

Opening #Vanuatustillsmiles

Since then we have delivered clothes to community groups and churches, who in turn have shared them with their members. I have met a lot of new friends and drove down unfamiliar roads while delivering clothes to needy communities. Everywhere people have been so grateful for the unexpected gift of clothes, shoes and bedding.

Vanwoods Seaside Erakor village

Fres Win Seven Star

Rentapao Bridge Teouma

I honestly never knew, how many boxes of clothes could be packed into a 20ft container. We piled a JBI classroom high with boxes and took truckloads of boxes to nine communities the first day. The room looked just as full afterwards! We have continued to deliver clothes and then asked others to come by and pickup boxes.

Beverly Hills Teouma Red Ground pickup

Jasmine and Jeremy have been a great help. Jasmine organized the boxes as they arrived to the JBI classroom. Jeremy helped empty the container and reload trucks. The JBI students generously worked during their school break and made deliveries. Thanks also to Floyd for lending his truck for deliveries in town.

Jeremy & the empty container Clothes depot

And THANK YOU to our New Zealand friends who blessed so many people with lovely clothes, shoes and linens!

A month after Cyclone Pam, food shortages continue to be everyday concerns for many people in Vanuatu.

For urban populations, most food is purchased as few urban dwellers have space for food gardens. The inhabitants of Port Vila and surrounding areas who need cash to purchase food are struggling. Money is being stretched in so many different ways. Houses have been damaged, roofs need to be replaced, clothes and other belongings blown away by the storm. There is not enough money to buy food from the supermarkets and replace everything else. Local neighborhood vegetable stands have not reopened as there isn’t local produce to sell.

The tourist trade stopped abruptly. Hotels and restaurants were closed and employees laid off. Thankfully, some establishments have continued to pay their staff. But taxi drivers and tour operators have felt the loss of income dramatically. A couple of cruise ships have called in to Port Vila in recent days and brought relief supplies as a gesture of goodwill but infrastructure in the southern part of the country is not ready to receive tourists yet.

Food from SantoRural populations in Vanuatu normally depend on their subsistence farming to feed their families and bring in cash. Rural populations do not have grocery stores in their villages. After the cyclone, families quickly cleaned gardens and replanted with any available seed. Some crops like yams were coming to harvest and they are being consumed. Places with yams have been granted a short reprieve. Then there will be a time of waiting before other crops are ready. A hungry time as it is often called.

Kumala packaged for distributionWe have been blessed to receive two shipments of fresh island food from the food gardens of Sanma Bible Training Center on the northern island of Santo. They were just outside of the path of the cyclone and did not get the damage many other islands experienced. Bryan and Renee Webb and the school staff have made such an effort to dig up root crops and send us 26 big bags of produce on the Vanuatu Ferry this past Thursday.

JBI students going to give out fresh food.

JBI students washed all the vegetables and repackaged them into family size bags. Today over a 100 bags were taken to needy families in Port Vila.

We are so grateful to those of you who have given funds for food, much of that through Convoy of Hope. As funds comes in, we will continue to give out food both in the urban and rural areas.

 

For the immediate repair of Joy Bible Institute:

Checks can be sent to: Assemblies of God World Mission, 1445 Boonville Ave. Springfield, MO. 65802.

Please designate any checks mailed to Assemblies of God World Mission for:

J. Gary Ellison, AGWM account #236425 – JBI project #5619

Joy Bible Institute 2014 graduation service was held on Sunday, 23 November, 2014 at Evangel Temple, Tebakor. Four men and one young lady graduated after three years of study. It was a wonderful service and commissioning of these new church workers.

2014 grads

We do not have many photos to share as our good camera broke 6 months ago and cannot be replaced here. We are hoping some friends with photos will share some with us.

From left to right: Louis Duvu Vira from Ambae Island, Simion Iati from Tanna Island, Nasak Joseph from Tanna Island, Donald Kalfred from Malekula Island and Nicole Moli from Maewo Island.

Nicole and LoriLouis Duvu was the student class speaker. The main graduation message was given by our missionary colleague, Bryan Webb, who works up north on the island of Santo.

All of these men are married and have gone back to their islands to pastor churches. Nicole is from the Church of Christ and she will be ordained by her church on December 24th. Pray for them all as they reach out to the lost and needy on their home islands.

On Monday, May 19, the small eight passenger Islander plane took off from Bauerfield airport on Efate, carrying myself and Robyn Harbour. Our destination was Epi Island about 30 minutes away. We headed north at just under 2000 feet altitude over the central islands of Vanuatu. The day was sunny but evidence of prior bad weather was still apparent in the choppy waves below and the windy conditions. We were happy our flight was cleared for takeoff as the airports on the two islands nearest to Epi were closed due to flooded grass airstrips from the recent heavy rainstorms.

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An Islander is a noisy little plane so conversation was not easy but words were not needed as we watched small emerald green islands, mostly steep volcanic cones, rising out of the blue ocean under us. Before long the plane was banking to land on a very short grass runway in the old coconut plantation of Valesdir, Epi. Looking out the small window we saw one pickup truck and a smiling Pastor Graham waiting for us.

Robyn and I had not planned to go to Epi together. But 10 days earlier when I emailed her about my trip, she phoned me immediately asking if I would like her to accompany me. Robyn and her husband taught at JBI for three years but have been living back home in Australia for several years now. Robyn is a teacher and passionate about kids and Vanuatu. I was very excited for her to accompany me and share the three-day Sunday school teachers training workshop. Robyn had just flown in the day before from Melbourne, Australia.

Bongovio children

Within a couple of minutes of landing we were loaded in the pickup and driving through the plantation. The road was a rutted track which frequently went through dense vegetation. Under the tangled vines along the side of the road we could see bananas, cocoa pods, and many other edible crops. The abundance of food was amazing as the villages were small and sporadic. Often our driver would stop and shift the vehicle into 4 wheel drive before we plunged through a river, down a steep ravine or through muddy wetlands. The airstrip and this road can be closed after heavy rains and we were grateful that the rain had stopped and road was passable. Otherwise, we would not have been able to travel on this side of the island.

At every village, the truck would slow down in case someone needed a ride. Most of the passengers were coming to the Sunday School teachers workshop. Fresh produce came with each person as a contribution to the workshop meals. An hour and a half later, we started descending a narrow road which on one side hugged a stone cliff and on the other plunged straight down to the sea. We slowly drove down the slippery mud track and into the coastal village of Bongovio. This large village was where we would stay for the next five days.

Robyn & Lori

Our hosts, Pastor Sam and his wife, eagerly awaited our arrival. Some Sunday school teachers were already there and others would be arriving in the morning before the 8:30 a.m. session. It is winter in Vanuatu right now and temperatures have dropped considerably. The Milky Way is an amazing sight when gazing at it from an island with no electricity. We were very happy that night to be wrapped up in wool blankets in below 70F/20C temperatures!

At breakfast the next morning, many new faces appeared carrying bags and food. Participants had mostly walked in, some taking three hours to trek over slippery trails from seven kilometers away! Others had come by truck from the north side of the island. You know people are eager when they have walked since dawn to be there on time. I only saw three different vehicles the whole time we were on Epi.

I awoke Tuesday morning with a migraine headache and it only got worse over the next two days. I could barely read my notes but taught all my sessions. I was so grateful that Robyn was with me and we had planned to share the teaching load as I was unwell. I do not get migraines often, so I did not even think to bring medication. Many people prayed for me and though I felt rotten, Robyn said she would not have guessed it during my teaching sessions. I even preached at the church on Wednesday night. So thankful for His strength when I am weak.

Morning lecturesTeachers

At the first night service, they asked for anyone who wanted to share something about what they learned to come forward. Three people eagerly shared. The next night they limited it to three people but seven spoke, wept, and shared their past teaching failures, and renewed commitment to reaching the children in their villages. It was an empowering moment.

We had the most delicious meals thanks to a group of young men who came to cook while everyone else participated in the workshop. The first day a little black pig was brought to the kitchen and he was very tasty. Then some men went diving and speared several large turquoise parrot fish, which later appeared on our plates fried to perfection.

Workshop participants

We had just a wonderful time. The twenty-seven teachers who went through the three-day training came from seven of the eight Assemblies of God churches on the island. They represented 173 children. We laughed, cried, sang funny songs and explored ways to find visual aids outside in the garden.

The last day we gave two morning lectures, had a question and answer session, followed by closing speeches, presentations and lunch. Robyn also squeezed in an additional practice session on clever paper-cutting visuals.

Robyn session

After lunch, the participants packed and started the long trek home. One group would walk north and then some of them would take canoes to the nearby island of Lamen. The other group walked south.

Robyn and I had time to debrief and evaluate the overall workshop with the organizing pastors. We enjoyed sitting on the beach looking at the distant island of Malekula to the west and the twin active volcanoes on the island of Ambrym to the north. Robyn also discovered the right spot to stand on the beach for mobile phone service.

That night as the sun set and the cool air descended, we were happy to go sit by the open cooking fires in the kitchen and chat with the ladies. The workshop was over so the young men had vacated the kitchen and we were now free to visit with the remaining ladies.

Bongovio BayBongovio Bay

Friday, our departure day, happened to also be the bi-monthly market day. Our truck taxi driver was booked to carry produce and vendors north to Rovo Bay market but would come back to take us south to the airport in the late morning. Our check-in time was 2 p.m. for the 4:30 p.m. flight to Port Vila. The truck arrived as we were about to sit down for an early lunch so the food was quickly packed up. Our hosts climbed in the back, and away we all bounced to the airport.

Taxi to airport

Once at the airport, we were weighed and our bags weighed for check-in, Pastor Sam’s wife, opened her bundle and served up a hot meal. The taxi driver joined us for lunch but he was anxious to get back on the road as his market group would need a ride home, and it would be a couple of hours before he would reach them. So we said our goodbyes and our hosts got back in the truck for the long ride home.

Sitting in the airport chatting with other passengers, we learned that the grass airstrip was only half-mowed as the lawn mower was broken. A spare part was expected from Port Vila the following week to repair it. In the meantime, a healthy group of cows was grazing and mooing contentedly on the airstrip. Every once in a while someone would glance out and check if they were still there. Once the flight was expected, several people ran out and made sure all the cows had been chased back through the broken barbwire fence and the airfield was secure for a landing. Our plane left a half hour early as all seven passengers were waiting. We boarded the same plane that had brought us five days earlier and enjoyed the views on the way home as much as before though we flew at about 5000 feet altitude this time.

Valesdir airport, Epi Island

Our conversation centered on planning our next teacher’s training together. I am certainly looking forward to it!

We were blessed to have Pastors Russell & Robyn Harbour, from Australia with us teaching second term at JBI. The Harbours served in Vanuatu for three years before returning to ministry in Australia in 2010. It was great to have them back on the team again for 3 months. The students thoroughly enjoyed the classes they taught. They traveled on the weekends speaking in many different churches and taught seminars.

Pastors Russell and Robyn HarbourSexual Purity seminar

Robyn in classPurity seminar

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