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Vanuatu Festival 2018

I returned on Sunday night from another excellent trip to Vanuatu. This time I flew via Nadi, as the ticket to Vila was much cheaper if I stopped in Fiji. On Saturday 22 September I was able to attend a service at the home of Waisea and Sarome Navuruvuru. The members in the Western part of Fiji meet there every month.

I arrived at the airport Saturday afternoon to hear that my flight to Vila had been delayed, and after three hours’ waiting came the dreaded announcement that it had been cancelled due to mechanical issues and the plane was still in Vanuatu. Another couple of hours of waiting followed as the airline arranged to put up the 70 or so passengers in a hotel in Nadi until the next scheduled flight, at 12.30 Monday morning.

So I arrived in Vanuatu a little bleary-eyed at 3.00am on Monday. Later that day I visited Eveline Kanas, who runs a shop in Vila, and employs another of our members, Wamea Tolily. Early Tuesday I flew to Norsup in time for the service at 10.00am. Because of the cancelled flight I had missed the opening Festival service on Monday, but William Davies was able to speak at that one.

We were blessed to have Jan Jackowiak visiting us from Adelaide this year, and he gave sermons comparing the old and new covenants. The spiritual temple and church leadership were two of the topics I addressed, and William Davies spoke on the renewing of the mind.

A number of members gave sermonettes and readings, and there was plenty of special music and dancing, often featuring the children. Afternoon activities included a petanque contest which ran over several days, frisbee throwing, and a colouring competition for the children. On three afternoons everyone got together for a group lunch on the church grounds. Attendance ranged in the 30’s and 40’s, with a high of 47.

The weather was windy, and cooler than usual, with rain at times. The rain was gratefully welcomed by the members. A three year drought has now been broken, and it was great to see the gardens looking green and productive again, after resembling a desert the last few times I have visited. The church has just harvested a bounteous crop of kumara, planted near the church building, and another crop has now been put in.

The church building has been renovated after the earthquake of 2016. Les and Kaye Evans strengthened it by adding a solid timber framework in May this year, and the local members completed the iron roof about a month ago. Insulation keeps the building cool, and the new roof makes the acoustics much better than before, when the roof was thatched. The cracks have been plastered over and the next job is to paint the hall inside and out.

I discovered that Billy Taren had asked to go home from hospital so he could die in his own bed. He went home on the Saturday afternoon, and had a walk around the church building, delighting to see the roof had just been finished. Then he said, “It’s time to go now”, and lay on his bed with his sons Obre and Marius holding one hand each, and died peacefully at 6.00pm, of kidney problems. He is buried next to the church building, with a lovely concrete plaque over the grave.

Billy’s son Marius is now leading the church, ably supported by his brother Obre. Marius, the only one who can speak English, is encouraging all of the members to begin learning English, and they are using the English hymnal at services.

I spent another day in Vila on the way back to Auckland, and met with a dozen members there. Several from Malekula have moved to Vila seeking work, so the group in the capital has grown. We met for several hours’ discussion and a light lunch. The group is planning to start meeting regularly, and Eveline Kanas kindly offered her home as the venue. One of the group, Kalsine Rouclily, is a bus driver, so he drove us all to the airport where we said our goodbyes.

The Vanuatu members asked me to pass on their warm greetings to you all, and to express their thanks for the support in both materials and prayers given to them by their family in New Zealand. Please continue to remember them!

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