Friday, August 14, 2015

Alphabet workshop

August 4 we had an orthography (alphabet) workshop with representatives from all areas of our language group.  We met up in a village about an hour's boat ride north of us, Makam.  We were very pleased with the turnout of 74 leaders from all areas of North Ambrym, in addition to Kindy and class 1/1st Grade teachers from every school.

We presented the full alphabet which is fairly different from English,
and made a book for the pre-K/K and 1st grade classes with sample words/sentences using each sound in the alphabet.  Here are a few pages:
 "The centipede is biting."  "Freshwater shrimp/praun/crayfish."
 "Sleeping house" "The call goes up."
 "Sleep is good."  "The fire is alight."
 "The pig is rooting."  "The bird is flying."
"Ana's knife."  "The worm is squirming/rolling."

We presented this alphabet book as well as a workbook highlighting why we chose the various letters for each sound and how they contrast, such as "e" with "ee."
"Meeting for the Rral alphabet" book and "Rral's alphabet" book.

 Logistics for the workshop was headed up by Jones (pronounced like Jonas), who is the head of curriculum for the school district of North Ambrym.  His help in organizing the workshop was invaluable.  He invited the majority of the participants (after helping identify who would be best to invite), set up the venue, organized the cooking and food, and was MC for the event.  We are so grateful for his help in these areas!
 Guys sitting in the back.  We hope to further involve the chief in the yellow shirt in this picture.  He was very vocal in the meeting and had lots of great input.
 Lembunu (Kindy teacher in Fanto, a village about 20 minutes from us), Jenita (a Kindy teacher in our village), and I leading the song that goes with the alphabet book.  Sorry, I forgot to get it recorded!
 Philip Joses demonstrated how an experienced reader sounds as he read through one of the Children's Bible stories.  Everyone is concerned that their language is difficult to read (because they've never read it), so we hope to have further workshops to get people practicing, and also show them good readers and how they can sound with a bit of practice.  We've tentatively scheduled follow-up workshops to practice we we taught in October and November, using Children's Bible stories.
Houghton discussing the various sounds in the alphabet.
About 3/4 of the participants came to the workshop by boat.  We were able to use the Translation Committee boat for this, which worked out great!  Those from villages near to Makam walked, and the rest came by Ian's truck.  Ian, who helped us build our house a few years ago, has been back and forth a lot the last year or so building a school and staff homes for a school in the far northeastern villages of our language group.  His supporters helped him get a truck over to haul supplies from the cargo ship drop site to the school site.  He has helped us out several times with this truck and did so again, bringing people from the NE side of the island over to the workshop.
 A men's group from one of the Oz churches that support BuildAid ministries (Ian's crew) also made a bunch of wooden toys/games that we passed out at the end of the workshop.  The pre-K/K schools and 1st Grace teachers each got 2 tic-tac-toe boards to play with and a wooden whistle.  We taught the teachers how to play tic-tac-toe, and then had fun playing at the coral beach while we waited for our ride after the workshop.  Here's Addy playing with Rrorrin.
Jenita, one of the Kindy teachers, (and Rrorrin's mom), playing with Gwen.  Jenita is also the wife of George, one of our main language helpers and translators.

Praise God with us for this start to literacy in a before unwritten language, and pray for local motivation and interest in reading now as we prepare to introduce parts of God's word.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Translation Team

With our new office complete, we have been able to start hosting meetings with all our committed language helpers; soon to be translators, Lord-willing! 
Our newly completed translation office
 We are working on our last checks on the Children's Bible, translating key terms for the Bible (like God, Jesus, shepherds, peace, soldier, etc), and formalizing things like word breaks and spelling. 
Our main helpers:  Lala, Alice, Philip, George, El Harre
We hope to print out the Children's Bible when we're in Vila in a few months, and then distribute it as a literacy tool and for people to try out the alphabet we've proposed.
For you in the US, please pray for us on your Wednesdays as we meet as a full team on Thursdays our time.  For you in Australia, please pray for us on Thursdays.  We still meet individually with our helpers the other days of the week.  We hope to soon start teaching this group some translation principals and a Bible overview course as we finish up with the Children's Bible and begin verse-by-verse translation of the Bible, Lord-willing!


Vanuatu has over 100 languages, the most per capita of any country.  Only a very few have scripture in their language yet, so we feel an urgency to see God raise up more people to be involved in getting God's word out to our neighbors around us.
Languages of Vanuatu map
Houghton went last December to Australia to recruit young Australians at a mission conference.
Jesiah went to Oz too, and he and Hought got to connect with good friends as well.
The Wycliffe booth at the missions conference in Oz.  Wen Lee in the middle is an awesome recruiter and works with Wycliffe Oz.
 This last month, we hosted Nathan, a videographer from the US, who gave a whole week of his time to come film a recruitment video for translation in Vanuatu.
Nathan (sitting) came out with Ross (our old boss) for several days.
Video in progress
The same time he came out, two girls from Moody Bible Institute came to check out what Bible translation in Vanuatu looks like.

Celebrating 4th of July with Anna-Marie and Hannah
Visiting the Kindy (preschool, Kindergarten) with the girls.  I go most Fridays to hang out with the kids and learn language. 
Working with Mari
It wasn't all work!

Hannah and Anna-Marie heading out to another island

Please pray for these opportunities and future ones, that God would bring more workers to minister with us for the salvation of ni-Vanuatu and for His glory!  Oh, and by the way, if you're reading this, seriously pray and consider coming out or working with us or partnering with us to see God's word get to the people of Vanuatu.  And tell your friends about Vanuatu!!

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.