Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Finishing the Translation office

When the cyclone hit, it tore down much of the siding for our Translation office, but it was able to be fixed back up and now the office and toolshed have exterior walls.  The office has a roof now as well made of thatch.  Here's the siding process:
 Jenita is the local diamond pattern master for bamboo siding.  It's pretty complicated to get all the slats in the right order!  We told everyone to just put it in the normal way so it would be faster and easier, but they insisted that it had to be diamond pattern or it would look "rubbish".  :)
 They just measured the wall with sticks and the window space too to weave the walls before putting them up.
 Elder Harre cleaning up bamboo slats to be woven into the walls.
 George and Jenita counting and checking their work.
The older guy here, Totang, has been so helpful in all village projects lately.  He used to be a chief in the village many years ago, but then moved to Vila for work (as a builder, among other things).  He came out to Ambrym to visit and ended up staying several months.

And the roof just got put up fully a month or so ago so the office is fully functional and usable now, including power that was run over from the house. 
Here's the roofing process.  This roof should last 5 years or more, and Houghton lined the inside so when it does degrade, it won't fall down into the office. 

Awesome to have a completed office to work in and get translating the Bible in!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Cyclone Pam

Cyclone Pam came and went and left a lot of damage in her wake.  God protected all the people of our language group and no one was injured or killed during the category 5 storm.  Virtually everyone in our village lost at least one building, however. 

Community dining hall roof
My language helper Alice's house where her grand-daughters stay when school is in session. 
Houghton's language helper George's house in the distance.  There is a road here that the breadfruit branches are blocking.
George's house from the back.

Our new bamboo siding fell off the translation office and a tree fell on the front.  Only 1 cement sheet was busted though, and although 2 of the frame boards were broken, they can still be used.
Our brand new toolshed was completely undamaged but the old one, where all the tools still were, is the leaning building to the right.  All the mango crop for the season got blown off though.  :(
Matal looking out at the damage.
The tourist information house for all those who come to see the volcano.
Another view of the tourist info house.
My language helper, Lala's sleeping house and kitchen both sustained damage.
The brown you see in the middle of this picture is our friend Lily's roof.  The far right is the village well.
Another view of Lily's roof.
Lily's kitchen.
Our friend Marie's kitchen (left) and eating house (right).
The tree that fell on Massi's house (left) and Imkon's kitchen (right). 
This tree fell exactly between our friend Momon's kitchen, and Elder Harri's kitchen.
Tree down on Moti's sleeping house.
Jesiah, Yanik and Tekon playing in the tree that fell on the translation office.
My language helper, Mali's house on stilts was miraculously spared, but trees fell in the road right next to her house.
Taaso's house (left) and kitchen (under all the branches to the right).
Another view of Taaso's house.
Looking back toward Taaso's house.  He's in the turquoise shirt in the middle of the picture, walking on the tree that smashed his kitchen.
Another view of the translation office and all the trees/branches that fell down on and all around it.
Addy searching for any salvageable mangoes.  The translation office is behind the tree in the middle of the picture.
The tree that smashed Malibu's kitchen.
Wotan's house completely blew over (see next picture).
 This is in Vila, the capital city, where we go to resupply.  This mangled tin is the roof of a building, Hilltop, that is one of the accommodations our organization uses for us when we come out of the village.
 A view from the missing roof of Hilltop.  The Richards had their town stuff stored up in here.  The Vila staff did their best to wash and salvage everything, but books and papers didn't do very well.
Another view of Hilltop's roof.  Hilltop is the house in the middle top of the picture.  Our friend Loui is the caretaker of the grounds for our organization and his house is the one on the left.  His house sustained lots of water damage, as did the office building where I stay when we are in Vila.
This is in Vila where the handicraft market sits for tourists to browse through locally made items.

The death toll in Vanuatu for this cyclone was very minimal, considering, which most attribute to the fact that the majority of people here live in thatch houses, which when smashed are less deadly than a tin, timber, or cement house would be in a more developed nation.  Thirteen are confirmed dead, according to Vanuatu Daily Digest, out of a population of about 250,000.  We are grateful for how God spared our lives and those of our people, and our house as well.  We are also grateful for the prayers and encouragement of our friends around the world. 

Many people have asked how to help, and we have been directing people to an account set up by our friends Ian and Joanna Walter with Build Aid.  Ian helped build our house, and has been working the last year or so on building a school on the far side of our language group.  (He took the above picture at a school in Linbul village north of us about an hour's drive.)  Ian came out to check on us a day or two after the cyclone, chartering a plane in order to get to us.  He brought a satellite phone, which allowed us to contact our parents for the first time and let them know we were alright.  From there, they were able to pass the word along through Facebook.  They have set up a fund that will go toward rebuilding in North Ambrym that you can access at  We are ok personally for supplies and such, but many of our friends could use assistance.  If you prefer to give toward needed building repairs in Vila where we go to resupply, you can give toward that same fund, but just e-mail us and let us know you'd like the money allocated for that, and we'll communicate that to Ian and Jo.  The fund is not tax-deductible, unfortunately, so if you need tax deduction, organizations like Samaritan's Purse, the Red Cross, and Save the Children are helping Vanuatu with relief as well.  Just be aware that gifts to these organizations can't be specified to Ambrym where we are ministering, but can go to help Vanuatu relief efforts overall.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Two weeks or so ago we had a fair-sized earthquake that caused a new vent to open up at our volcano.  Up to this point we've never gotten ash-fall here in the north of our island (Ambrym), but do occasionally get acid rain that has affected mangoes and yams, as well as some other crops.  With the new vent, we experienced a few days of ash-fall that in just a few hours covered up our tanks and plants (see photos).
The ash feels like fine sand grit all over your body when you go outside.  Houghton had to sweep our solar panels off a few times a day so our batteries would continue to charge.
We have fortunately been saved from ash lately due to a change in the wind, but we have heard that although lava levels at the new vent have quieted a bit, the ash continues to be a problem.  There are observation stations up at the volcano that measure and predict and put our volcano activity up from it's normal Level 1 to a Level 3 of 5 for about 2 weeks.  However, by God's grace, the level just went back down to 2 as of yesterday.  We've decided that if the level raises to 4, we'll pray seriously about relocating, but as of now, things seem to be stable.  However, please pray for continued calming of the volcano and that the ash-fall would subside, as well as that God would protect the crops for all these subsistence farmers of Ambrym.  We get our updates from  Thanks for your prayers!

Translation Office and Toolshed

Our builder friends Bill, his son Marcus, and Nico all came from Santo island  a week or so ago and put up 2 new buildings for us:  a translation office, and a toolshed.  We hired a local block-builder to put up 3 blocks high on the toolshed, but the 2 cement slabs were already in existence, so that saved quite a bit of work. 
 Translation Office
 Toolshed (George and Bill)
Office (Marcus)
Toolshed with its 3 blocks high sides

The community wanted a tin roof on the toolshed so they can get a water tank on it at some point since it is right at the place where people come into the village (so they can get a drink when they come through). 
 Making and putting up the trusses.  Nico and Philip.

 Cement sheeting went in for our internal walls (Office).

 Nico and Philip putting in the windows (office).
Bill hanging the shed door.

The (nearly) completed shed.
The (nearly) completed office.   The guys and Houghton worked 4 days to put up the 2 buildings and all that remains now is bamboo siding (the translation office has interior walls already = cement sheets) and a roof for the office. 
I also got a new desk, a hanging kitchen cabinet, and a door hung while the guys were here!
 Our translation house roof will be made of thatch panels.  Here the ladies are sorting and taking the spine out of the leaves (Momon, Meri, Jowed).
 Momon bundling leaves together.
 Jenita, Sophia, and Jesika
 Leya and Sera are making a local broom out of the leaf spines.
 Me and Jesika.  I found that I can only get the spines out successfully 1/2 the time without tearing holes down the middle of the leaves so my way to help is to sort and fasten.  :)
 Nini (with daughter Lilian) is fastening (sewing/sticking) thatch onto bamboo handles to make a roof panel.  These panels are layered on top of each other.  The closer the layering, the longer the roof lasts.
 Some of the guys (George, Bong, Totang, Temarr) working on natangura panels.
Here Totang is fastening the leaves on to the bamboo handle.  When each new column of leaves is on, that column is fastened with a thin piece of bamboo.  Here he is breaking off his thin bamboo pieces so he has a piece to fasten his last column.
About half of what we need for roof panels has been made and the plan is that this week more leaves will be cut and we'll finish up the last 75ish panels.  The community plans for tomorrow to be a work day to weave bamboo together for the 2 buildings so we hope people come and help out and these buildings can get finished up and we can start using them.  A toolshed will be great for organizing what we have as far as tools (that currently end up all over the village as people borrow them).  Having an office to work in will be so helpful!  We are so grateful to God for the provision of materials for these buildings, as well as the volunteers who have poured into them.