So many things were so crazy and different about Vanuatu that when I tell people about it, many are surprised when I say I loved it there. Here are the things I loved most about Vanuatu. First of all, the people are amazing. I love the friendliness, the generosity, the kindness, the shyness, the modesty, the simple lifestyle, the freedom from materialism, the slower pace, the love for children, the quiet smiles but also the energetic greetings. They are a lovely people. To the left is me talking with my "seatmate" on the flight between Vila and Santo. His primary language was his tribal one, secondary was Bislama, and tertiary was French. Fortunately for me, he was pretty decent in English too! The people are so patient and friendly and willing to puzzle out a conversation. With Mario here, we spoke a little bit of French, I tried to figure out a little of his Bislama, and we spoke a bit of English. I mentioned before how much I loved the singing at the various church services while I was there. This is the choir at Matevulu College. They were fabulous! I'm not sure I could ever get too much of being a part of the singing there.
Secondly, it is an amazingly gorgeous place! The Garden of Eden couldn't have looked a whole lot different. :) Here are some of my favorite shots of areas there. These first ones are of a place called Blue Hole, which is a lake formed from a fresh water spring source. We got to swim in it and it is quite cold, probably the only cold thing in Vanuatu! The water truly is this aquamarine color. I promise I didn't add in turquoise on my photo editor! :) This next picture is one of my favorites with the gorgeous blue sky and all the tall magnificent palm trees. Here are some great ones of the ocean after the cyclone blew over. It really is clear enough to see the bottom!For another of my favorite ocean front shots, see my post on the storms (at the end). Here is an awesome shot Houghton got of some of the islands as we were flying from Efate down south to Santo island up north. The only real competition for scenery like this is Glacier National Park in Montana and Banff in Alberta, Canada.
Of course my other loves should be easy to puzzle out from my earlier posts about the food, the fun flora and fauna, and some of the great connections with people made there.
Over the summer I wrote out a list of my highest desires or wishes in life, especially in a missions setting. So many of those are met in Vanuatu. Those wishes include (in no particular order):
1. being able to support or lead with a role in logistics/administration (I got to do a ton of this on the survey trip and it looks as though there will be no shortage of ways I can be of use in these areas for the rest of the missions team.)
2. being involved in discipleship (Whether with kids or adults, I'm sure there will be connections with people right away to be able to encourage others in their spiritual growth in the Lord, not to mention many to introduce to the Lord for the first time!)
3. having a way to get away alone to refresh and be with the Lord (this one could be tricky, especially the first year there)
4. having connection with family (Here is my sister Gretchen and her husband, Houghton and their kids Jesiah and Gwenyth. We are all on the same missions team! What an awesome blessing too to have parents who are so supportive and invested. Here is my dad on this survey trip. My mom is looking forward to checking it out with him in the future!)
5. not being cold (no fear of that in steamy Vanuatu!!)
6. freedom from fear, safety (The guys ran into 2 single white girls working separately on Malakula island and although they were happy to see other white people who spoke English, they were very content and not endangered in that setting.)
7. having a way to exercise ( I still have to figure this one out in hot Vanuatu. I might need to get some better swimming skills.)
8. having friendship and accountability (This will be met on the team and with other contacts in Vanuatu and I'm sure the Lord will provide other great friends there.)
9. being able to work with kids (There's no shortage of kids in Vanuatu and they are happy to talk and interact even with people like me with limited language! I would enjoy contacts through a school there and this sort of connection seems to have unlimited possibilities for people willing to teach English, which I am.)
10. work with people who follow through (I really have a great team! See some of my first posts for a team picture. There is a possibility of another family joining in with us as well and they seem really awesome and like they would be a great addition to our ranks.)
11. a chance to use the French I've always prayed I would get to use someday (Even though I stink at it, it is really fun to practice and I got to do so more than I expected in Vanuatu on this trip! I'm also starting to learn some Bislama, the lingua franca in Vanuatu, and it is very fun to learn!)
12. husband (I'm still praying about this one but the Lord has truly given me great contentment as a single woman. I'm in no rush!)
These items aren't the result of any sort of Biblical or inspired list, just hopes and prayers. I'm not unwilling to be somewhere that this list isn't fulfilled but what a blessing that the Lord seems to be opening up a way to serve in a place where so many of them would be! What an amazing God! I prayed before going on this survey trip that the Lord would give me a love for the people and the islands. He certainly did that and much more. Should the Lord will, I would love to return and serve Him in Vanuatu. Now He just has to answer prayers for provision for this (the return) to happen for me and the team and we'll get this show on the road! May God be glorified in me! Psalm 19:21 "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails."