At the end of June, the Vanuatu District was organized into a Stake. Since then the leaders have been very busy with Ward organizations and everything else that has to be done to move the Church forward in such a big way. On August 9, our Etas Ward was the first to have its Bishop and counselors called and it was a great day for us.
Left to right. First counselor Fred Massing, who also was the first missionary called to serve from Vanuatu way back when. Bishop Hilliman, Second counselor Alerd James and Clerk David Tangarasi
Our Ward Relief Society
On our way home from church we have to go down a steep, bumpy hill. Just before we start down we have a beautiful view. Pictures are never as good as the real thing but we love the contrast between the blues of the sea and sky in the background, with all the green coming back. In a lot of areas, the vegetation has come back to the point that it's hard to believe how bare everything was just five months ago.
We have been very busy learning the numerous aspects of our call. The list is long and most of it comes under the umbrella of Self Reliance. Now that the Stake has been organized and the Wards are coming soon, we hope to be able to initiate some of the programs that will help the children have a better chance of receiving a high school education. This was what our call was originally about but with the lack of Senior Couple Missionaries and a cyclone in March, we've had to spend our time in different directions.
We have also been asked to help with the recovery of Vanuatu following Cyclone Pam. We are working under the direction of the Lebens who are the Humanitarian/Welfare Missionaries. We have been trying to identify the villages where we and the membership can do the most good. Most people have been able to construct some sort of temporary shelter from whatever materials they were able to salvage after the storm, but we want to help them to be able to build homes that will be sturdier and more resistant to future cyclones. While VaLynne has been taking care of the office and all that entails, I have been spending almost all my time in my assigned villages trying to assess the houses and what will be the best path to help the families have safe shelter. This has put a heavy burden on VaLynne, but she has been able to "Cowboy Up" and keep things going. One of her assignments is that of Mission Nurse. A Mission Nurse has been called but she won't arrive until the end of November. Although that means extra work and responsibility, she enjoys the interaction with the Elders and Sisters. One great blessing of this assignment is that she has to have a car assigned to her, which gives me the freedom to be gone most of every day without having to worry about her being able to get to where she needs to be.
We have been asked to document every house that we will be supplying materials for with a complete list of needs and a record of family members. We have them stand for a picture holding a number. We can then match the number with the information we receive from them and will be able to track progress much better.
This is one of our Ward members in front of his house the morning after the storm
and his wife in front of what they have been able to rebuild
Some people have been able to almost completely rebuild but most have not. Some are still living with neighbors or family and a lot are at some stage of rebuilding but almost everyone needs help.
The list goes on and on so you can see there is still much work to be done. We feel truly blessed to be here at this time and be able to learn so much about life and living from such great people as these. We have grown to love them and appreciate them and their attitude toward life. Many of them lost everything that most of us think we couldn't live without, but they from day one have had the attitude that nothing else matters much as long as the family is OK. They have been called the happiest people on earth and I think it is probably true. They certainly haven't let a little thing like a category five cyclone get them down and now we hear that the El Nino is going to cause severe drought for the next several months. I imagine it will be a major blow to a country that is still trying to pick itself up but I'm sure we will endure it well.
I know this is short, but we may soon have more to show and tell.