Vanuatu info

Vanuatu's location
Vanuatu (von-oo-ah-too) is a little country of 83 islands in the South Pacific located east of Australia, southeast of Papua New Guinea, north of New Zealand, and west of Fiji.   If all the islands were condensed together, it is about the size of Connecticut.  Ethnically, the people are Melanesian, like their neighbors in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Papua, and Fiji.  For a country of only 240,000 people, they are the most linguistically diverse nation in the world per capita with over 100 different languages spoken throughout the country.

The people, the ni-Vanuatu, and their nation (which was previously called the New Hebrides) became independent from the former French/English condominium government on July 30, 1980.  They are now a democratic country with elected parliamentary officials.
Vila housing

Climate in Vanuatu is tropical with a wet (hot and humid) and dry season.  The wet season typically lasts from November to May and the dry season is usually from June to October.  Cyclones are common from December to April.  One of the most destructive cyclones in Vanuatu's history, Cyclone Pam, hit in March 2015 and was incredibly destructive to the eastern and southern islands of Vanuatu, including Ambrym, Efate (where the capital city is) and Tanna.  Many houses were destroyed, but most notably the gardens people live from were wiped out.  There are 9 active volcanoes in Vanuatu - many of the islands are volcanic in origin.  Our island of Ambrym has 2 active volcanoes at its center.

Village housing
Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila, and another city to the north, Luganville, host about 20% of the population.  Housing in urban areas typically consists of homes of wood, cement, or tin with corrugated tin roofs.  More wealthy families have homes with cement floors, others have dirt floors.  In the villages, where the majority of the population lives spread out over the islands, home construction is mainly woven bamboo siding with thatch roofing.  More wealthy homes may have cinder block bases and cement floors or even corrugated tin roofs.    Most villages have different huts for eating, sleeping, cooking, bathing, and an outhouse.  The picture to the left is an eating house (left) and a cooking house (the smoking one).

Various types of laplap
The main occupation in Vanuatu is subsistence farming, with nearly all families growing gardens to provide for themselves.  Some fishing is done, although without conservation laws, many reefs are soon fished out and ni-Vanuatu don't have the equipment to catch the larger fish further out in the ocean.  Protein sources include fish, fruit bats (flying fox), and the occasional pig/chicken/cow for special ceremonies.  Main staple foods include root (starchy) vegetables:  taro, sweet potatoes, yam, and manioc (tapioca).  The national favorite food, laplap, is made of a starchy vegetable grated and mixed with water into a paste and cooked with island cabbage leaves in large laplap leaves between hot rocks.  Other regular foods include island cabbage (various types of greens similar in taste to spinach), breadfruit, banana, papaya, coconut, and various other tropical fruits, depending on the season.  At various times if extra money is needed (usually for school fees since school, for those who go, is private) families work for a few days or weeks shelling and roasting copra (coconut meat) to sell.  Exports from Vanuatu include copra, vanilla bean, cocoa, some coffee, and beef.  However, the coffee and beef businesses are owned and maintained mainly by Australians.  The other income to Vanuatu is tourism, mostly centered in the capital city, with the occasional adventure tourist heading to the outer islands.
Ambrym island

Ranvetlam 'wharf'
We were invited to live and minister in Ranvetlam village (see map above, on the northwest) on Ambrym island.  Ambrym is located in the north central part of the country.  We're working in the language of North Ambrym, Rral, which is spoken in all the villages in the northern tip of Ambrym.  This language group is made up of about 5,000 speakers spread out among the villages (with about 1,000 of those in the urban areas).  We were asked to translate the Bible into the language and also to do Bible teaching, as well as develop an alphabet, make a dictionary, and other literacy materials. We spent 2013-2014 building a home, then started learning the language the end of 2014.  In 2015, we were given the go-ahead to start translation after passing a language exam.  We started translation work soon after, and in October, 2016 we dedicated and distributed our first translated work:  a Family Story Bible.  It includes 142 major redemptive stories from Genesis to Acts.  We also did a lot of literacy training the end of '15 and beginning of '16.  We are now working on Old and New Testament translation.

Crater of one of the volcanoes
Ambrym has two active volcanoes in its center.  Following an earthquake in February 2015, their activity increased dramatically.  In April, they calmed back down again, for which we are thankful.  We reach our village by flying from the capital city (Vila) to the grass airstrip in west Ambrym (Craig Cove), then taking a fishing boat with an outboard motor 1-2 hours north up to Ranvetlam.  At Ranvetlam, we climb the rocks at the "wharf" and hike into the village.  Supplies come via cargo ships which come from either Port Vila or Luganville cities and to our village. 

Our latest videos:
2016 Furlough video:

2015 Vanuatu Recruitment video:

For more information on Ambrym or Vanuatu, here are a few good links:
Kids in Ranbwe village, Ambrym, just north of Ranvetlam.