Monday, December 30, 2013

Tanna Missionaries - Christmas Eve Day - 2013

      We thoroughly enjoyed meeting with the missionaries.  There are sixteen serving in Tanna - four sisters and twelve elders.  It was hot and dry - very dusty.  That morning the District leaders picked us up, and we went to the town of  Lenakel.  This is one of the largest centers on the Tanna.  There are only about 2500 people that live there, but it is a center of commerce.
      The missionaries had a  service project for four hours in the morning.  They all worked on the property of the Unit President in Lenakel.  Clyde helped the missionaries make the Christmas calls home to their families while they worked.  I was at the center in town administering English language exams for returned missionaries that want to attend BYU-H.  Everyone reconvened at about 1 PM for lunch.  We had an all-you-can-eat buffet brought in by a local restaurant.
      You can see that it was not fancy at all.  There were none of the niceties of tablecloths, etc. The hall is a building that is owned by the chief.  The Lenakel Unit rents it on Sundays for church services.  They use the plastic chairs.  We rented it for our activity as well.  The food came in hot in the heavy cast kettles.  There was rice, chicken, a beef stew, vegetable greens, island root vegetables, cold cucumber salad, a marinated cabbage salad, etc.  The beef stew was really quite good.  For dessert, there was chocolate cake, fried bananas, and vanilla ice cream.  Clyde went and bought some water bottles at a small shop.

      After everyone had more than enough to eat, it was activity time.  Some of them talked and threw a rugby ball around.  Many set up a net and played volleyball and some basketball.  We had brought a ball bump with us.  The district elder's had told us the balls were all flat. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas in Tanna!

      Because Vanuatu is such a spread out country - the islands cover over 800 miles from north to south, it is impossible to gather all of the missionaries together for a Christmas activity.  Consequently, each area had there own celebration.  The senior couples were to host the events in each location.  The Mortensen's are in the Solomon Islands.  The Jolley's are on Malakula.  The William's are on Santo and gathered the missionaries from Ambae as well.  The Call's and the Wallace's are in Port Vila on Efate.  So -- we were assigned to travel to Tanna for Christmas.  There is not a couple serving there and Port Vila has three of the couples.
      This is the plane that we flew on to Tanna.  It didn't seem very big.  And - the ocean seemed immense.  The district leaders met us at the airport and took us to the Evergreen Resort.  We only had one small suitcase between us.  However, we had six large boxes packed with Christmas things for the missionaries.

     There were fresh cut flowers all over the room.  The flowers here are beautiful.  Sadly, they do not last long enough.
      The room was very small.  It just  had a double bed.  The walls were all of leaf construction - as was the ceiling.  We had a shared bathroom with another little hut.
      We could hear everything going on at the resort.  One night there was a chicken in a box outside our room.  It was packed to go on the plane the next day.  It made noise all night long.  We think that it was trying to scratch its way out.

This is outside of the resort - on the beach.  It was a very warm day!
      The tree roots are so gnarly.  They have to be above the ground, because they can not get inside the coral.  There is very little soil in Vanuatu that is not just a thin coating on the coral.
      The restaurant at the Evergreen Resort was wonderful.  The food was a real treat.  It was outdoors so we had various bird visitors.  We only had three meals there.  The Christmas buffet that was posted sounded incredible, but we flew home that morning.
Clyde was usually checking the weather
forecast or some such thing.
      There were incredibly beautiful sunsets.  However, we did not stay outside long because of all of the bugs.  For some reason, they really like to eat Clyde.  I keep telling him that it is mind over matter.  He just doesn't believe me!
Beautiful skies - and this was from where we were eating dinner.  I didn't stand up!

      On Christmas morning, we returned to the airport.  With all of the boxes delivered, we were much lighter.  The plane for the return trip was even smaller.  It held sixteen passengers.  However, it was a relatively new plane!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Trees in the Southern Hemisphere

       When we first arrived in New Zealand last February, there were beautiful trees with red flowers.  Naomi told us they are the Christmas trees.  They start blooming in December and last for several months.  I have been thrilled to find the same Christmas trees here in Vanuatu.  I think that they will only get more beautiful.  There are many more blooming each day.

       The trees start out complete bare.  These trees have the big long pods on them.  The flowers then start blooming and then the foliage comes.  The foliage is very fine - almost like ferns.

These flags are at the entrance to the University of the South Pacific campus in Port Vila.  The Christmas trees are beautiful behind them.  These Pictures just do not do them justice.

Christmas Decorations

       It definitely does not seem like Christmas here in Vanuatu.  It is hot.  There are Christmas sales of stuff - toys, stuffed animals, balls, etc.  But - we spent one Saturday looking for Christmas decorations.  No one had any idea what an ornament was.  They have awful looking artificial trees here with a few sparse lights.  These are found in the Chinese stores for the most part.

       Vanuatu is a Christian nation.  Even if they do not have Christmas decorations, surely they would a Nativity.  Wrong - we asked every where.  No one knew what that was at all.  Finally I got them to understand Baby Jesus.  However, that did not help.  There is nothing like that here.  Finally, Clyde checked in a Catholic shop.  They sell pictures and statuary.  They had one Nativity.  The clerk did not even give a price, but he said that it was very expensive.  He said the people in Vanuatu would never purchase such a thing.  Clyde said that it was a large set with animals.  My quest for
Wisemen is completely out of the question.
Even Clyde was unhappy with the lack of attention to Christmas!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Youth Conference - Vanuatu Style

      It seems very strange to be having a youth conference in December.  However, you must remember that in the southern hemisphere it is summer.  Now is when the students are out of school.  The plan was for two very full days.  They had workshops and activities. The first night they had what was called "Island Night".  It was really great fun.  Each branch represented a different island.  They danced and sang.  Many of them had tried to come up with some native costumes.

 It was like an old fashioned roadshow event.  The transitions from one branch to the next were
not very clean.  There were lapses of time, but the kids were having great fun.  Island Night was held on the big lawn at Blacksands Branch.  And - each group also had food from their island.  After the presentation, the refreshments were the island foods.  They took group pictures of each of the YM/YW groups from the various branches.  The kids in the yellow t-shirts are all from Blacksands Branch.  They have a great Young Mens President that had the shirts hand painted.


      As usual, more girls participated in the dancing than the boys.  And - the older women were glad to dance.  The costuming was just somewhat symbolic.  They really got into it.  They sang loud and clear.  It was fun to watch and listen.

      As the evening progressed, it turned into everyone dancing and singing.  The children and all of those that were there watching were on the lawn participating.  Raiza got me up dancing too.  Clyde took the picture after we had stopped dancing.
      The second day they had a testimony meeting on the beach.  That evening they had a Choir Night.  All of the young sang together.  The entire youth conference was very interesting.  We were mainly observers.  However, in many ways it taught us so much more about these good people.  They are islanders;  they are natives.  And - they love their Heavenly Father!!!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Self-reliance with the Stanford's

      The Stanford's are a couple that served a mission in Fiji.  When they returned home to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, they had the inspiration to sell everything and return to Fiji.  They did!  Bro. Stanford says that he knew he was suppose to help the Fijian members be more self-reliant.  He has always been an entrepreneur and knew that he could help the people set up businesses.  He is a very lively man.  It is hard for the people to resist him.

     The Stanford's were in Vanuatu for a week.  They also serve the area presidency on special assignments.  They were in Vanuatu to help evaluate the readiness of the Port Vila District to become a stake. While they were here, they offered a fireside to the Young Single Adults about starting their own businesses.  It was very well attended considering only fourteen hours of notice.  Bro. Stanford had lots of innovative ideas.  The bottom line is that they need to offer something unique.  It may be an old idea but with a new twist.  Some of our young people are staying in touch with them to further their own ideas and plans.