Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Last few months in the US

My last few months in the US I got to celebrate Christmas with family, share with churches, speak at and recruit (for missions) at Frontier School of the Bible, and see friends one last time before heading out, back to Vanuatu for another term.
 Richards family
 Team Vanuatu!
Kaiden and I. Who doesn't love hanging out and eating ice cream together straight from the tub?! 
 Christmas Eve Thulesens and Richards
My handsome parents on Christmas.  I got snowed in at their house Christmas day so stayed over with them overnight. 
 I got to hang out with a few friends one last time in Boise, ID when Heritage Bible flew me out for their February missions conference.  Rachael, me, Suzanne, and Jonie.
 Cooking with Sophie and Zoe.
 Some last looks at the frozen river and snow by my apartment in Montana before heading off to the tropics.

Last church presentation at our main sending church, Grace Bible in Miles City, Montana.
Gwen taught herself to play the ukulele so the Richards sang together for church.  Gwen is on the ukulele, Si on the drum, Hought on guitar, and Gretch on a tenor ukulele.

I'm so grateful for the time I had in the US with family and friends, and to be able to share the ministry God has led the Richards and I to in Vanuatu.  God is doing great stuff, and we praise His name!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Family Story Bible dedication in Vanuatu

A woman taking a peek at the Family Story Bible pictures and text
Houghton returned to Vanuatu in October when I was in Boise in order to be present for a locally planned dedication to go along with the distribution of the Family Story Bible.  The Family Story Bible covers stories from Genesis to Acts in the local language of Rral, where we work.  This is not only the first little bits of God's Word EVER in their language, but also the first fully published book in their language as well.  Prior to this work, the language was only oral.
Saro'an Ne Yafukon Ge Rro' Me Ne Buluim Nyer means "The Story of God that is coming to all the families."  There are a total of 142 stories, along with a glossary in the back.
The community where our teammates live (Olal village) was responsible for the program, organizing the food for the following feast, and for also organizing the transport of people from around the language group.  Olal is about an hour's drive north of our village (Ranvetlam, the most SW in the language group), and about that far again from the village furthest SE in our language group so there are a lot of details involved in making an event like this come together! 
Culturally, in Vanuatu, big ceremonies to celebrate landmark events are common and expected so we put these things in the locals' hands as there is a specific way these events should run and we'd likely be too informal about it all.  They planned for speeches of those who were involved in the translation, speeches from community leaders about the anticipated impact of a story Bible in their language, about the history of Bible translation generally as well as for Vanuatu as a whole and our language group particularly, and a feast to follow the distribution of the books themselves.
Jones helped MC part of the event.  He was MC for all our past literacy workshops and was key in distributing literacy curriculum as well. 
Some men who came for the dedication look over their copies of the Family Story Bible.
Houghton was able to get some live video on Facebook during the dedication.  If you aren't friends with me or the Richards on Facebook, send us a friend request and you'll be able to get to these links.
Philip, one of our local teammates (pictured above, talking at the dedication), is introduced and talks about the upcoming dedication in these next 2 videos.
Hello from Philip part 1 (58sec)View from the Ellis house to the event venue, hello from Philip.
Hello from Philip part 2 (4min 46sec) Greetings from Ambrym, meaning of Family Story Bible from Philip and locals.
Reading and discussion of the Family Story Bible.
One of the meat cooks for the event is excited about his copy of the Family Story Bible.
A cow and several pigs were butchered for the feast following the Family Story Bible dedication.
Houghton had a speech in the ceremony as well. 

Thoughts on the ceremony. video (6 min 40sec) Casey and Houghton's thoughts on how the dedication went and impact of it.  Short interview of Scott who came just for the dedication from the US.
Women who came for the dedication hold up their Family Story Bibles.  The women pictured here closest to the camera are from the villages nearest to where we live.
Elder Harri is amplified while discussing the history of Bible translation in Ambrym. 

Live feed videos and discussion around the event. 
First live feed (2min 49sec)
Second live feed(4min 36 sec)
Third live feed (23min 01sec)

A young boy peruses his copy of the Family Story Bible outside of the Catholic church nearby on a Sunday following the dedication.

 Local school girls bring their copies to school in the days following the dedication.
In town, Houghton checked in with some friends from our village who are getting some Bible training this year.  Meri, Yanik, and Masing.
Yanik had a fundraiser for school so Houghton helped him drive produce and laplap (local favorite food) around for sale.  Scott and another friend helped in the food distribution.

Houghton did quite a bit of distribution of the Family Story Bible in the capital city, Vila, as well.  He set up at the local market in the center of town and handed copies out to North Ambrym people coming through the market.

Prior to the dedication, Houghton did a series of interviews with our teammates, Casey and Val Ellis.  Click on the link to view.
Casey Val interview #1  (7min 44sec) Intro to Casey and Val
Casey Val interview part 2 (3min 39sec)  A different life from the US.
Casey Val interview part 3 (7min 22sec) Why Bible Translation?
Casey Val interview part 4 (6min 44sec) Interview with Berrna, local teammate of the Ellises 

Around the time of the event, Houghton put together some other videos with interviews of our teammates on various topics as well as with others around for the event.
Ian with BuildAid is interviewed about his ministry.  video (2min 08sec) He and an American living in Vanuatu were our main builders and he is currently working on our teammates' home.
Casey and Val talk about why they chose to build/remodel a house rather than live in a thatch one.
Casey and Val talk about their part of our team and how we can work together to reach our people group.
Above 2 videos: (house video 3min 49sec), (teamming video 1min 16sec)

Thanks for praying with us for the distribution of the Family Story Bible!  We are so thankful for the locals who helped us make it possible to translate, edit, and distribute it.  Over 400 copies were distributed just at the one dedication event in Olal!  Our people are still beginning readers (with some needing further literacy workshops when we return) so please pray they are patient with the process and don't give up.  Pray also that God uses this book to further His kingdom and introduce Himself to our people in their own language.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Hiking in the badlands

After presenting at a church near the Montana badlands, my parents, Si, and I went hiking up in them.
 We found dinosaur bones and fossilized tree branches.
 Fairly unique view.
We didn't have time to drive back in far enough to see some natural stone bridges, but maybe another time.  It was a chilly but pretty hike.  Growing up we used to hike every weekend somewhere.  I miss those days!  I guess I don't miss my dad killing dozens of rattlesnakes, but the hiking, outdoors, and time together was fun!

Frontier School of the Bible missions conference

Frontier School of the Bible, where Houghton and Gretchen attended, welcomed us for their bi-annual missions conference.  We're really wanting to recruit more people to serve in Vanuatu in all the other language groups who need Bibles translated so it was fun to talk to students about missions.
 Houghton had 2 workshops during the week and I took one.  I spoke on serving single overseas.
We also enjoyed conversations with students in between workshops and classes and with professors and staff.  Please pray for the students at FSB as they make decisions about where and how to serve in ministry in the future!

While at FSB, we made arrangements to get together with some friends from Nebraska as well.  Several weren't able to meet with us, but Craig and Marguerite, who adopted my 2 kitties back in the day came out.  I wasn't able to get out to see my cats at her place this time, but she takes fantastic care of them (better care than I ever did)!

Boise Idaho, my home sweet home...9 years ago.

I spent the month of October visiting friends and churches in Boise, where I lived from 2000-2007 (before moving to Vanuatu).  I LOVED living there and made great friends, so it was so nice to spend some quality time there again.  I was pretty terrible about taking pictures with people, so if I didn't with you, I'm SO bummed I didn't, and sorry we missed the opportunity!  
 I got to meet Mindy's husband and see their new house.  She and I were accountability partners for years and had all sorts of fun together.
Zach and Mindy.
 Thanks to Suzanne, I got quite a few of great shots of my time at her place!  Greg and Suzanne's girls are Zoe and Sophie and they are pretty special.  We went hiking one day.
 Suzanne, Sophie, Zoe, and I.
 Pumpkin carving!
 Our finished products glowed prettily in their backyard. 
 Kids pose at a Fall festival with friends from Greg and Suzanne's church.  It was so well organized with potluck items, fresh hot cider, all kinds of activities, and a Gospel presentation.
 Gen and I met for coffee.  I worked with her at Greenleaf Friends Academy for a year and a half.
Jack and Allene Tomlinson are friends from church.   In a lot of ways I felt like they were adopted grandparents to me in Boise when I lived there.  Jack's new hobby is making sculptures with jewelry he finds at thrift stores.  He also hooked me up with a ton of fun jewelry!!
Melinda and I.  She took me to Costco so I could pick up some things for Vanuatu!  She and I worked together at Willow Creek Elementary.  I also got to get together with another co-worker from that school, Lynn, and my previous (and best ever!) boss, Marie.  It was very fun catching up.
 I got to hang out with the Hangstefers a few times as well.  (Pictured:  back L to R Jonathan, James, David, Eric.  front Addyson, Rebecca, and Beth).  I met them at church back in the day and we've been good friends ever since.  They even send me snail mail in Vanuatu!

Also while in Boise I was able to get travel immunizations, complete a few dentist visits, and got all my Vanuatu clothes purchasing done.  Aside from all the fun I had catching up with people, I loved soaking in good sermons and being a part of 3 different Bible studies.  Being in the village in Vanuatu means virtually never sitting under good sermons and never being a part of a Bible study or Christian fellowship.  Even being in the US makes it difficult to get good spiritual "feeding" because typically we are on for services, and while it is a ministry we love where we share about what God is doing overseas, it means we aren't getting fed ourselves.  And we are on the road so much it is difficult to commit to any local studies.  So being in one place for 5 whole weeks was a HUGE treat and soaking up God's word and fellowship with Christians was awesome.  For all you dozens and dozens of other people I got to see, I LOVED seeing you and so appreciate you making the time to hang out.  Missing you all already!