Sometimes as we are driving around we will see an interesting sign. This one is in front of the Wilco store which is our Home Depot, sort of.
We are still trying to figure out what this really means
During cyclone Pam, some of the furniture in the mission home received some water damage so it needed to be replaced. We found the "boys" delivering the old furniture to storage. We always find it interesting how many people you can fit in, on, and around the back of a truck. We have counted as many as 12 in the back of a Toyota.
You can't read it in this picture, but the sign on the right says "Cleance sale". It has been there since Pam, but when I finally got around to taking a better picture of it the other day, it was gone.
If I have been rather vague as to exactly what it is we're doing here, it's because it has been somewhat confusing. We were called to be "Education Specialists" and on our way here we had just enough of a layover in New Zealand to get about a three hour training in what is called the Pacific Area Initiative. We also knew we would be working with a new program called P-13. Public education goes only so far here in Vanuatu and while private schools are available to the people they can be expensive. Vanuatu is reported to be one of the poorer countries in the world so help is needed. The P-13 program is money privately donated but administered by the Church to help children and youth get their high school education. Requirements for P-13 are that they are active in the Church and if they are seminary age they must go to seminary. If parents need help with tuition or fees for their children to go to school they go through their Branch President or Bishop who submits the application. We are very fortunate in that we have an education volunteer who takes care of it once the Priesthood turns in the applications and it's a lot of work, but we do have overall responsibility. There are a number of programs that have been and are being developed to help improve the education at all levels. When we arrived and were taken to our office, we noticed the sign above the door said "Self Reliance" and a part of that program is the Perpetual Education Fund" or PEF. This is a fund that was developed so people are able to borrow money to gain skills or a higher level of education in order to improve their chances of earning a better income and improving their situation. The only thing we knew about PEF before we came here is that we donated to the fund every month to try to do our part. We have spent a large part of our time learning how it all works and trying to make sure the program is administered properly. We questioned why our call had been changed and were informed that education is part of Self Reliance and that it all works together, so we are still trying to fit it all together and make it all work. We still basically report to two different offices at Area Headquarters but now we have a good idea to whom we report for which area we are working in.
All this is leading up to the next picture.
I don't know if I've ever known a Carpenter who didn't drive a Ford, so I was a little taken aback when I saw this sign.
But back to our story. As I mentioned, one of the things we do with PEF is to help people secure loans from the Church in order to improve their situation. The reason it's called the "Perpetual" education fund is because the idea is that once someone has graduated from whatever school they attend, they get a better job, spend more time with their family, and with the money they earn, they pay back the loan and the money paid back can be used to help the next person, hence the word "perpetual". Part of what we do is to help make sure they are able to pay back their loans so the system can keep working as planned. One young mother started falling behind in her payments and when I contacted her, she explained that she was working for a reputable car dealer. I was excited for her until she told me that she was working without pay. Apparently, companies can call it an internship and not have to pay someone until they "prove" themselves. She has been there for almost three months so we decided maybe she should start looking for a different job. It seems that the goals we are trying achieve are not being met. Not two days later, we found that another of our young mothers has been working twelve hours a day, six days a week without pay for over ten months. She is also First Counselor in her Ward Relief Society. As you can imagine, it's difficult for her to spend any quality time with her family or take care of her Church calling. Needless to say, we advised her to give her employer an ultimatum. The only problem is that we still have to help them try to find adequate employment.
These are just a couple of the issues we are learning to deal with as we try to do our best to serve the Lord by serving these great people here in Vanuatu. We have grown to love them very much and want to understand their culture and their lives so we can do a better job in our efforts to help them.
OH, I almost forgot. In the middle of all this we had a cyclone that kind of got in the way of a lot of things we needed to do. We are still quite involved in the recovery effort and I'm sure we will be for some time, (another department to report to). The new Mission President and his wife call us "Department Missionaries" rather than "Mission" Missionaries because we report (VaLynne is in charge of writing up the monthly reports) to three different departments and not to the Mission President! The immediate needs have mostly been taken care of but a large percentage of the people are still living in inadequate housing and water supply is an ongoing problem. We are also being told that because of El Nino we are going to have a very severe drought.
Just a few days after Pam, this sign was in place on the road into the city from the airport. In typical fashion I waited until vegetation had covered the word "welcome" before I got around to taking the picture, but I think the sign has been left there to show the world that a little category 5 cyclone isn't going to get us down. (Either that or it's just that nobody has bothered to take it down. You never know which it is here in Vanuatu.)
July 30 is Independence Day. Needless to say, there is a lot of excitement in the air.
I understand it's going to be quite a party. We don't know whether to try to participate or to run and hide.
Just another beautiful picture
Just one more story. Our friend John Bannion, who is the Church facilities manager for Vanuatu, told us that a while back he had some work to do on one of the islands. He knew he would be living off the land so he took some rice and a couple of tins of spam or something of that nature to be able to feed him self. While there, one of the Branch leaders asked him if there was anything he would like. John said, "well, a roast chicken would be nice". The man took off and came back in about an hour with
a roast chicken
VaLynne is still the mission nurse and loves it (That is the one exception to being a Department Missionary rather than the Mission Missionary). In case we haven't mentioned it before, there is a desperate need for Senior Missionary couples here in Vanuatu and I'm sure that's the case all over the world. Please come. And if you are truly righteous, you might even get called to Vanuatu!