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 http://www.geohazards.gov.vu/index.php/hazards-updated-events/volcano-alert-status.  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.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A little listen in on what our language sounds like

I thought it might be fun for you to hear a bit of what our language here in North Ambrym, Vanuatu, sounds like.  Here are 3 audio files.  This first one is with Mali, who is my Tuesday language helper.  She is sharing here about the local custom for circumcision (which is done when a boy is between 8-13 years old).  The file is 3 minutes, 30 seconds.  It's just audio and I introduce the text in English.  This is me with Mali in the picture below.

Next is Jenita, one of our neighbors, telling about when Gwen and a boy were playing with a toy snake and threw it at her, and how she freaked out about it, even though she knew it was fake.  :)  (Most people here are terrified of snakes, although there are no poisonous ones here.  They have black magic connotations.)  This one is 50 seconds and is also just audio.  I introduce her short story in Bislama, the trade language that we actually know well. I'd love to have Jenita as a language helper because she is a very slow and clear speaker, but she's from another island, Ambae, north of Ambrym, and married a local guy about 10+ years ago and moved here, and I need to stick to native speakers.

Finally, here's a New Year's song (they do village-to-village New Year's caroling here so have LOTS of New Year's songs). This one is called "Yim je ne siba", which means, "We call out thank you" (for a new year). This one is introduced by me in English and sung by Elder Harry, who is part of our village family.  It's 2 minutes 10 seconds.  Gwen, Si, and I stayed up until midnight on New Year's Eve with several of the villagers and we had a New Year's carol, dance, and shouting (hip hip hooray!) time when the New Year hit.  Very fun!  I hope to know the songs by heart next near so I don't have to be the annoying person with my flashlight on, singing from my notebook, in the nice moonlight night. 


Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas in the village

Christmas in the village in Vanuatu is community times a billion!  The principal for the local secondary school (grades 7-10) set up an agenda for the day that started at 6AM and ended around 10PM.  Everything possible was done together - everyone together.

It started with breakfast at 6, eating bread baked in what used to be a drum of fuel but was hollowed out and set in cement to become an oven.  Then there was time set to shower and get dressed and ready for the Christmas service.  This involved singing and Houghton sharing a gospel message.  Unfortunately, the distractions were at a maximum and heat was too so it was difficult to hear him and to focus, but he had a chance after church to share again, which was very well received.  After the service was a community present-giving time.  Parents who purchased things for their kids gave the presents in to a community spokesperson, who called out the name on each package.  Each child came forward and received his/her gift(s) and everyone clapped for them.  Afterwards was lunch all together.  We were asked to cook 2 soups and some cakes, so these went into the food line along with pig meat, watermelon, various types of the national food of laplap (a dish made with local starchy vegetables), and a variety of baked vegetables.  After lunch there was a time of presentations and Houghton was asked on the fly to share his thoughts about Christmas.  Since he wasn't sure what was wanted, he just asked for questions.  The questions asked by the village men didn't necessarily relate to Christmas, but they were excellent spiritual questions.  Distractions were at a minimum this time around, and the village men seemed to participate with avid interest.  Please pray for God to work through these opportunities to bring understanding of who Jesus is and what salvation is.

This time was followed by activities, led by some of the village men.  Pictures follow.

 Everyone lining up for lunch.
  Kids first!
Sack races for the little ones, complements of empty flour bags from the morning breakfast of bread.
 Watching the events:  Gwen, Evelyn, Addy, Dora.
 Trying to kick the ball through a tire.
Blindfolded walk to cut a sucker (lolly for you Aussies) off a string.
 You Miles City-ites...notice Jenita (woman on the left) and her t-shirt!
 Boy's soccer highlights.
 Tug of war!
 After all the activities, everyone sat around and chatted a few hours until dark, when it was time to eat together again, and we were asked to show some Christmas videos.  The principal has a system for showing movies so we watched a few together until about 10PM.  It was a long, full day.

One other thing for prayer is that God would bring unity within the village.  Only about 3/4 of the village participated in the activities, as the remainder choose to separate themselves out and not be a part of Christmas events, as well as others throughout the year.  We'd love to see the village come together so pray with us that God would make this a possibility.

We enjoyed all the festivities of Christmas in the village, but decided to do our own present time just as a family. 
 Kaiden and our unintentionally semi-adopted dog Mandy, both seem to enjoy the same presents...
This was a hit with Addy the chef!
 Grandpa and grandma made me rich!

Addy showing off her present to Houghton.

Merry Christmas to you all!  May you be blessed by Christ's humility in coming to earth for us and experiencing a human life on our behalf.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The chicken and the egg

 We recently got a shipment of baby chicks of our own.  We had help building a chicken coop and run.  Unfortunately, our original surrounding fence didn’t keep out hungry village dogs, so we lost the majority of our chicks in the first week, but 7 of them are still going strong and are enjoying a more fortified coop.  We look forward to finally having fresh eggs available to us!