On the 13th January, Karen and Terry Nutter and Fred Johansen and I left Brisbane airport for a brief 2 week visit to Tanna. While the others are hard working builders, inventors, painters, exhorters, etc, I am a retired primary school teacher. (Actually, on reflection, all four of us were teachers). I only mention this so you can see that there are many ways of working in God’s service in this remote community. We weren’t the only visitors this time. 27 adults and children, previously from Tanna but who now live in Port Vila had travelled by ferry for a Bible School led by Bro Phil Shaw from the Southern Vales Ecclesia in SA.
Along with the local brethren and sisters plus children and interested friends, a total of 117 people stayed in the school for a week bunking down on their mats on the floors of the staff housing or in the classrooms. Everyone was rostered for readings, food preparation, chopping wood, cooking in huge pots over the fires and for cleaning up. Days began early with Bible readings and breakfast followed by studies and group discussions in their local language about The Beatitudes. I, unexpectedly, took 45 children under 12 so the others could concentrate. Thankfully Phil provided crayons and activity sheets! The evenings included a games night, a cultural night and a Bible Quiz night. There was great joy and much laughter! There was time set aside each day specifically for talking to interested friends, many of whom had been attending the Sunday morning meetings regularly. The planned beach outing became the high light of the week when eight women and two men were baptised in the sea! What an exciting and glorious day of fellowship, thankfulness and praise to our Heavenly Father and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
All the Port Vila families stayed for another week with their extended families in their own villages because most of them had not been back to Tanna for sometime as the cost of fares is too much. In the second week we were joined by Steve (builder/ carpenter) and Di Wood (painter and much appreciated house mum) and Ian Sawell (Electrician). The small houses were repaired, and reconstructed and furniture was made, roofs and rooms were painted, cement drains and steps were constructed and the old electrical fixtures were made safe and new ones installed. The daily readings were discussed to the sound of shiny black beetles skittering across the ceiling. The weather changed from very hot to torrential rain and sometimes to the sound of a grumbling volcano but the workers kept on with their task force of local people. Our living area became a carpenters workshop.
I ran workshops with the teachers each day in preparation for the new school year. The school has an enrolment of 370 students from Kindy to year 10 this year. From kindy until year 3 children learn in their mother tongue but from year 4 onwards there is a focus learning is in English even though they sing and often read the Bible in Bislama and French is still a compulsory subject in high school. It is very expensive to run a school with teacher wages, maintenance of grounds and buildings and teacher housing being high cost items. These are all financed by donations and we provide ‘free’ education. However, through working at Kapalpal, some of the school staff have become very interested in the Bible and the hope we have.
Students have Bible lessons each day and in learning to read they all have the opportunity to learn about God and to follow Jesus. The school also has a good reputation in the eyes of the community and all of our new baptised members have been connected to the school in some way. It is a very effective way of preaching and so rewarding for anyone who chooses to spend time there. There is work for every one. Please remember this isolated group of believers in your prayers.
Sis Jenni Chand