Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

New Blog Started

Hi - I have started a new blog related to St. David's Presbyterian Church, Richmond, New Zealand.

The Blog is 
Hopefully there will be a weekly thing to chew on.

cheers and God Bless


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It’s been over a year since the last blog.

We are now in settling into NZ life in Richmond Nelson.


Kids are at school – back into it. Vivienne looking for work and Jon is minister at St David’s Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Nelson.


God Bless

Saturday, December 01, 2007

signing out

its quiet
we leave Talua today
everyone in our house is asleep – its 4am
maybe its not so quiet
i can hear devotions being sung from Ps Mata's house
also, the crickets are chirping, the bats are flying outside our bedroom again - the berry's are back in the tree, and the roosters are beginning to crow.

we went to bed last night with all our bags packed, ready to go,
the bus picks us up in under two hours, we fly south from Santo leaving Vanuatu in a few days,
the house is clean, the new staff house PCANZ paid for is finished and has been opened, it has been named "Heniko House", graduation 07 is over so my final talk talk at Talua complete - I was guest speaker. some students have left, others leave in the next week or so, several are staying at Talua cos boats to their islands are few and far between – the students will stay over the summer break working at Talua till Feb 08 when it all begins again. by then two new kiwi's will be here living in Heniko House and we will be living somewhere in NZ.

there were tears in our family last night, the excitement that we are going back to nz had disappeared, much sadness over leaving behind close friends and leaving such a special place. my heart is heavy, saying bye to the new house, our house, the bursar office - spaces i needed or spaces i put a lot of energy into - last night i finally completed journaling all November transactions into the laptop before the generator went off, I only have December to complete when back in NZ. Thursday night i had to start the generator and turn it off two hours later - my last time at doing that, there have been plenty of 'last time' for this or that. no more long church services J, graduation was long but also gut wrenching shaking hands realizing this is the end, that some of these friends go back to the bush and I might never see them again, thank God for coffee in heaven and plenty of time to catch up and storian with mates, and thank God that heaven will not be very white at all but be filled with people of every race, nation and colour, white will be the minority - that will be good - heaven will have some character, soul, loud singing and charm that white people can't crank up. I'm going to miss being here, the whole family will miss being here.

God has been good, all the time, He has been good

this is Jon, signing out off from Talua

papa God bless you all

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Three weeks to go

Three weeks to go and we will no longer be at Talua - that is creating many mixed feelings. Last night the children at Talua put on a farewell for Connie, William and Simon. It wasn’t last night, I should say it was yesterday, as most events here involve a day of preparation, where everyone comes together to prepare. It would be like having guests around for a BBQ, but they also all come around during the day to cook and prepare the food together, sitting under a tree organizing who will say what and being community together. I will miss that. I will miss many things. I will miss some things I don’t even know about. And yet I desire to get back to NZ. I am looking forwards to be “normal” again, to eat normal food, to not have students or staff knock on the door at 5:30AM asking for this or that in their roundabout way, to have good health care available, to not be ‘stared at’ as if we are strange, to be able go to a church service in English and enjoy theology that is developed and the list goes on, some things I can name, other things that are too hard to express. On the other hand we have feelings of hesitation about leaving due to the friendships made, the number of needs, the simple way of life and the knowledge that NZ life is hectic, materialistic and complicated. No doubt we will have some kind of reverse culture shock, probably not initially but later as we each slowly process things we have seen and experienced and decide to buck the NZ system, not wanting to lose certain aspects of life we gained or adsorbed in Vanuatu. What will make this hard is we will have absorbed some things that we don’t realise or are too difficult to articulate. Therefore no doubt we will have various times of frustration and not know why.

I preach for a call soon after getting back to NZ. That will be interesting, I wonder if I drop some Bislama in by mistake - not that my Bislama is very fluent.

I don’t want to be a successful minister - in the way the world see’s success, with numbers, flash clothes and slick church services. On the other hand I do want to be successful in the sense that people grow in their relationships with each other and God, and yes, there should be new converts but not cos of me but because peoples relationships with God and each other are richer. On the issue of success, from the world’s perspective Jesus Christ failed. He died when if he had kept alive he could have healed more, preached more, travelled more……..but he died. I think that somehow a minister has to die, die to the need for success, for slickness and sophistication where amazing programs are run and people come to church for entertainment, escapism and not true spiritual growth. One beauty of Jesus dying is he rose again three days later - no one else has ever done that! It confirms that profound words he spoke during his few short years of ministry were true and not just a kind of philosophy and clever sayings. It proved that to be successful one must die. Jesus said For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” I wonder if I will be able to die to self…………………

God Bless

Friday, November 09, 2007

PCV General Assembly 2007

It was a privilege to attend the PCV GA.

Getting there was as much an adventure as the event, and getting back was a test of in patience.
Talua staff all ready to head off to the boat when we were told it was a day behind schedule.
24 hours later we arrived to find they were still loading cargo. After another four hours waiting we could board. Our luggage was loaded and piled up with a tarpaulin put over top. Then another tarpaulin put over us for sun protection. Before we boarded the skipper assured us the boat was safe and legal, and that there were enough life boats if we needed them. He also asked that once everyone was settled, they stay put due to the overcrowding.

So everyone found a space, lying or sitting on cargo, or luggage, a few seats in the back and some sitting on 44 gallon drums of fuel. At around 8pm we headed off, with most people trying to get some sort of sleep.

I had been told before that one normally sleeps 10 minutes at a time, waking up and going back to sleep for another 10 minutes repeating the process for the whole night. Up till around midnight I used a 44 gallon drum as a kind of pillow – I got my 10 minutes doze now and then. Around 1AM I was given one of the crew bunks, and I managed longer than 10 minutes at a time, getting up around 5AM.

Upon waking it was a pleasure to see the day would be a cracker and we were passing Ambae Island. Breakfast crackers and mugs of tea were passed around for breakfast.

Two hours later we arrived at the very north of Pentecost and the day’s journey down the cost of Pentecost began.

The barge dropped off supplies to the scattered villages down the cost of the island.

Drums of fuel would be tossed into the sea, a crew member would then hold the drum as a small dingy would go inshore.

The cargo unloaded was a mixture of items; iron, cement, food and clothing were loaded onto two small dinghies’ to be delivered to the villages.

As we made our way down the island, crew looked out for smoke rising from any beach, the smoke being a sign that a village had cargo to be loaded onto the boat.

We spent the daylight hours going down the coast of Pentecost. This frustrated some of the people travelling to the assembly but I enjoyed the boat trip as the weather was nice, the sea was calm and Pentecost is a beautiful island.

We arrived at North Ambrym in the dark, more cargo was unloaded and loaded before we headed for South East Ambrym, arriving around 1AM. It took 2 hours to unload all our bags and selves into the small dinghy’s which then navigated through the reef landing at Moru Village. It was a very special feeling to arrive at Moru. In 2005 I helped build water tanks and in 2006 helped paint the church roof. The first voice I heard was Ps Jackson – it was a joy to meet him again and hear his familiar voice. We then hopped on a truck and headed off to Utas. It felt great to be back to South East Ambrym, seeing familiar faces and places. I got to bed around 3:30AM and up again at 5AM as the day kicked off with showers, breakfast, and the opening of the assembly. It was a good thing our boat got us there in time for the opening as the PCV moderator was on our boat.

I enjoyed being at the GA, it gave me hope for the future of the PCV because there are plenty of keen & committed pastors. When praying together I sensed the Holy Spirit (it can’t have been too much coffee in my system – I only had one cup a day). I did find the meeting procedure tedious but when a lot of people can’t read, the previous days minutes have to be read out, word for word.

One highlight was the daily Bible studies – the theme was Evangelism. The speakers were good with their talks leading to good discussion in the small group sessions. Many of the issues talked about are issues PCANZ congregations need to be thinking about.

The living conditions at GA were basic, although (thanks to St. Ninian’s Church, Blenheim); there was a sit down long drop available as well as the plenty of swat hole toilets). The shower was not very private and the water only worked now and then so I came home a bit smelly! My accommodation was a temporary thatch hut with a thatch floor and I could see the sky though the thatch roof. There was no door – just a curtain.

The food was OK but as time went on I think the cooks got a little tired – who wouldn’t having to cook around 400 people? When it rained – and it rained a lot near the end – it must have been very unpleasant to cook for so many people on open fires.

The evening before I was due to fly out it started to rain. A couple of tropical depressions turned up (a high out towards Fiji and a low out towards Aussie) and so it blew and poured for the next few days. The grass airstrip was closed until five days later, so my time at GA was nearly doubled.

The main meeting hall was a temporary structure with thatch walls and a corrugated iron roof - the iron just sitting there with concrete blocks holding it down. When the rain began people would be shifting around trying to dodge drops of water. After one particularly heavy downpour, we thought our huts and everything inside them would be soaking but amazingly not much water ended up inside the thatch roofed huts. This surprised me because I could see daylight through the roof of my hut. Some groups did have small streams of water flow through their huts but a bit of digging soon stopped that.

The rain caused damage on South East Ambrym. The main road to the airport had a 15meter wash out. On the way to the airport climbing down and back up out of the wash out on foot was a little tricky. The water supply was also cut off, most likely due to the dams being clogged up with ash (happens every big rain), and presumably pipes lying in the creek being damaged from flood debris.

So I got back to Talua, five days late but it didn’t matter – it was a blessing to attend and spend time with neat people.

God Bless

Friday, October 26, 2007

blog blong Vivienne: Good Sports in Vanuatu

I miss being able to watch sport while we are living here in Vanuatu. I am an enthusiastic sideline supporter of our kids' sport in NZ and watching some TV sports coverage is an enjoyable form of relaxation for me. We cannot pick up any broadcast TV here without a satellite dish. So I was a bit sad to miss coverage of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games last year and I had thought that 2007 would be another bad one to be without televised sports coverage. Remember how much promise there was at the beginning of the year with the prospect of the Cricket, Rugby and Netball World Cups approaching and finally another chance to bring back the Americas Cup? Now, of course, we realize that it was false promise only and the prospects of the Netball World Cup yet to come are looking less than rosy.

We couldn't watch the rugby or even listen to radio commentary. The best that we could do for the recent AB's- France game was go to a website that updated the progress of the game and gave brief written comments on the action every few minutes. This was agonizingly slow at our internet speed, especially as the end of the game drew near and the score wasn't looking good. Any way perhaps the less said about that the better. There is a good side to being out of NZ in this 'Year of Sport', and that is not to be subjected to endless analysis and recriminations in the fall out after the All Blacks' failure.

I must share with you, however, one of the Bible readings which was read out at church here on that black Sunday morning (Bear in mind that these readings have been planned since the beginning of the year and almost no one follows rugby here anyway).

Lamentations 3 v19 – 26 talks about downcast souls, bitterness and gall, but also turns to hope and waiting quietly. How appropriate as another 4 years of waiting begins. Perhaps a bit less boasting about being the best in the world and a bit more waiting quietly to demonstrate it on the field might be in order for 2011.

So while we may not be able to see
the cut and thrust of the world's professional sport, there is still plenty of cut and thrust sporting action around here, too. I am amazed at the variety of sport and games that the children of the Talua community here play together. They often organize themselves into team games with complex rules without any adult input. And the games usually involve children of a wide variety of ages, and both genders, all playing together, even if the game needs the best sporting skills for success.

Sometimes it is a local version of a well known game like Bat and Ball, which is like rounders or softball but utilizing whatever type of ball or bat is handy. Or 'Stonem man long middle', which is a type of Dodgeball. There are also distinctly Vanuatu games like Shell Coconut which utilizes a stack of empty coconut shells which must be knocked down by a thrown ball and restacked before all members of the other team are tagged and out.

Whichever game is the game of the moment, that game tends to be played to death for a few days or even a week or so. Then it is dropped and not played again for months. There are also less structured games like the war games that the boys were playing a while back. Of course with this game much of the fun was in the preparations with all manner of weaponry being constructed from bush materials or whatever bits and pieces could be scavenged. When played, this game involved lots of tearing around the houses and in the surrounding bush, hiding out, laying in wait, and of course 'killing' others.

Whatever game is being played there is no such thing here as a quiet game. All games are accompanied by HEAPS of noise – enthusiastic yelling, shrieks, complaints of cheating, claims that someone is not actually 'out' or 'in', name calling and insults... This even applies to games like cards or marbles which are fiercely competitive and in the case of marbles or elastics, are almost never 'friendly's. Mostly this is all noise, but occasionally a game will end acrimoniously when the obligatory cheating gets too hard to take. I wonder how our children will adjust to refined, self-controlled games back in NZ. Games with refs and rules that must be adhered to, and where you can't hurl verbal abuse at your opponents (and then be best friends with them afterwards, of course!).

The game of 'elastics' is one that has remained popular here for a month or 2. It involves the acquisition of rubber bands. It is played on the concrete (especially under our veranda if the weather is wet) or on a clear patch of ground. It involves throwing a rubber band down in turns and trying to overlap your band over those of your opponent to claim those bands for yourself. There are complex additional rules that I really haven't got my head around. The bands are available quite cheaply in town and it is played all over the region. Some people (like Simon) accumulate great chains of bands, and some people (like Simon) sell on their winnings to other less skilled players who keep losing all theirs. I feel the 'elastic season' may be on its way out as just lately the bands have been used more for flicking at people than playing the game! I guess that was inevitable!

I should also briefly mention the 2 main 'official' sports that are played here in Vanuatu. Every week the students have about 1 ½ hours to play sport together on a Thursday afternoon. This is traditionally Volleyball for the women and Soccer ( football) for the men. Occasionally the genders swop codes or play something else but not often. If ever there is a gathering of people, for example Independence Day celebrations or big fundraisers, these almost always include volleyball and football competitions. Even small villages in the bush will send teams to such events. Interestingly there isn't as much vocalization going on by the supporters watching these games. You don't hear very much cheering of the home teams on – although there will be plenty of laughter if someone makes a fool of themselves by falling over or scoring an own goal, etc. Maybe the enthusiasm of the kids' is tempered a bit as they grow older. It will remain a strong memory for me as one of the 'Sounds of Vanuatu'. I wonder if the children will be conscious of the difference when they return to school and sports teams in NZ?


Saturday, September 22, 2007

one happy mum

Our eldest son Phillip arrived at Santo airport today from Blenheim, NZ. The photo says it all.

Canoe races, snakes and more visitors

Hi all, today is an exciting day as Phillip turns up for the school holidays.

In the garden right behind out house, some children were climbing a tree to get across to come coconuts and came across a snake. We first knew of this with a whole lot of yelling and excitement. Look at the photo, kids throwing rocks, coral, branches and coconuts into the tree and as you can see. Finally with a mixture of fear and excitement – the kids had their prey.

What was interesting was how everyone was scared of the snake. It took ages before anyone picked it up. Sheila (the student in the middle of the photo where two guys are holding it) would run away even if the snaked took a breath or winked an eye. Watching the students and children was more interesting than the snake……what with the shrieks and how everyone was so jumpy.

It was fascinating – especially since no snakes in Vanuatu are dangerous. Someone would touch the back of another person and they would jump – even if the snake was 10 meters in front of them.

The kids put the snake in a box, hoping it would be around the next day when Phillip arrives from NZ . Well – in the morning when they checked the box the slithery fella had escaped. So somewhere, out there is an angry snake. Often with their teasing of it it would lift its head and bare its teeth.

SIL were here for the first two weeks of the term teaching students how to translate from Bislama to their own local language. So it meant less lecturing for me which was handy for getting paper work and more items for the new staff house sorted. The middle weekend they were here the Santo Students held a fund raiser down at Najingo, one photo is Ross from SIL taking a short devotional talk. The day included many canoe races from Najingo to Tangoa. I was not keen cos if things went wrong – I didn’t want to tangle with any sharks – when asking students why they didn’t race – they didn’t want to become shark kai kai either!

Last weekend was Talua Sunday. It’s the Sunday when all Talua students and staff preach in different churches around Santo. We went inland to Vunavos village. A bush mission student Helen came with us. She led the service and I preached. It is quite away inland so I took the motor bike to save us walking too far (carried us halfway there as the Talua truck took the others the first half and we all came back on the bike. It’s up hill as well as inland, we had some great views on the way.

take care and God Bless

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Urgent prayer need for Dillon Boe

Hi guys,


You will be pleased to know that Dillon is out of hospital. I don’t really know what was wrong with him as many ni-van people seem to have a very naïve understanding of medicine. Daniel said it was some king of blood infection. Dillon will need to be careful for a while but will be OK.


So thanks for your prayers. My ankle is the same – at least it’s not worse.


Jon & Viv Parkes
Talua Ministry Training Centre
PO Box 242, Luganville,
Photos while at Talua: 

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Urgent prayer need for Dillon Boe

Hi guys, D4 Students Daniel and Margaret took their son Dillon for a check up yesterday as he had been a little bit ill for a few days. I was to pick them up at “Bamboo” later in the arvo for the return to Talua. When they didn’t turn up we went back to the hospital to find Dillon had been admitted with some kind of blood infection.

Now the hospital is kind-of scary, not cos it’s a hospital, but cos of the scary stories of poor medical procedure we have heard from various Talua staff and students (sometimes diagnoses made without any testing resulting in wrong diagnosis and procedures). The place is not that clean either, yesterday Margaret was sitting on Dillon’s bed and a massive cockroach was taking a stroll over the bed and across her dress, later it was watching us all from the wall.

This is a stressful time for Daniel and Margaret as last year their other son died from cancer. So if you are the praying kind of person, please pray for Dillon and his parents.

I need a few prayers on my behalf as well. I have a small ulcer on the inside of my right ankle. It started as a scratch when we were visiting Mota Lava but it is now a small hole. Cos it’s right on the bone there is not much flesh for circulation so healing will take some time. Also I am back to wearing a surgical stocking to keep the blood pumping – not that pleasant really since the temperature has risen in the past two weeks. So some prayer will be good.




Jon & Viv Parkes
Talua Ministry Training Centre
PO Box 242, Luganville,
Photos while at Talua: 

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A week on Mota Lava

The reason for no blogs lately are varied. Been very busy with visiting teams and building the new staff house. Another reason is we spent a week up in the Bank Island's - staying with Bishop Charles and Mary Ling on Mota Lava. The first photo is from the south looking up the east side. In the photo people are waiting for a boat to drop of cargo into a small dingy that will then bring the goods ashore. The supply boat was the first one to the island in around 5 months. And for some reason it was chocker with cement for building projects on various islands and therefore did not have much room for food supplies. Many of the orders for supplies the small shops had made back in May and June - did not arrive. Charles had ordered a lot of stock for his small shop - he was heart broken as nothing arrived.
The next photo is also from the south but looking up the west side towards the airport (just off the edge of the photo). These four guys had been to their garden (a 2hr walk) and brought back some of the produce on their 'local trucks'. Right along this coastline rubbish from fishing boats and other vessels is scattered everywhere. The wheels for the 'local trucks' are bits of foam cut into wheel shapes - the foam was found washed up on the beach.
The day we left - Charles and Mary looked after us so very well. On the last night they killed a pig and we had a small feast. Charles and Mary's son, Father Tione Ling teaches with me at Talua. We also meet with Tione's inlaws - we visited them in their village and they came to the feast. At low tide we could walk to a small island called Ra. While there we met up with the parents and family of a student at Talua. So it was a good time, and I was reminded how the students live in the real world of Vanuatu - I think too often my views are based on the false impression of living at Talua and the busy life of Luganville and Port Vila which host less than 20 percent of Vanuatu's popluation. Yet even on Mota Lava DVD's of recent films are watched by the locals in the grass huts and a small generator running to power it all - so even in the remote parts of Vanuatu the west is encroaching.
Bishop Charles is very forward thinking and hard working. His section and house were lovely with a track down to the beach (right where the photo of the four boys and their local trucks was taken). Charles took us for an hour walk up into the bush in middle of the island, here he has a large "farm"(garden). Everything from plenty of Pineapple's, and lots of local island food, to Pepper and Vanilla. Also African Yam - which is the closest thing to Potatoes we can find on Vanuatu.
So the time at Mota Lava was great. The day we left we had a 5 hr wait at the airport on the island (a shed with no loo, and the air strip was overgrown with a guy mowing a part of it with a small lawn mower). A flight to the north from Santo had been double booked so our flight had to fly to an island and back to Santo before returning further north to pick us up. The airport is a 2 hr walk on the north end of the island - we went on the only working on the island to the airport - that took 50 minutes, that was 50 minutes of wondering well the wheels fall off (sounds very simular to Ambrym when the wheel did fall off the only ute when we arrived at the airport - back in 2005). The chassis of the ute was not in good shape so the vehicle did not drive straight - it kind of crabed along partly twisted.
Thanks for your prayers
God Bless
see more photos of while we are at Talua:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More Comings and Goings - by Vivienne

As I wrote recently, we have been spoilt with our many visitors at Talua this year compared with last year. This pattern seems to be continuing. Most recently we have enjoyed the company of 2 NZ Pressie ministers here for a week to deliver a series of lectures to staff and students. We were delighted to share some meals with Martin and Phil and I think they enjoyed their experience of Talua and Vanuatu. Their wisdom from years pastoring and experiences of the church in NZ were challenging and well received by staff and students alike.

Today we have had a surprise visit from two New Zealanders whom Jon met up with while in town. They were Bishop Richard from Nelson and Father Dale from Havelock. Both have strong connections to our families and home town in NZ – it's a small world! They have been in Vanuatu doing some work for the Church of Melanesia and so it was a real bonus for them, and us, that they could come out here to Talua to see where the local CoM Fathers are trained.

We also have a new neighbour to visit and have here for some meals. Larry is an American Peace Corps worker living in one of the Navota farm houses and working nearby with the Fisheries Dept. He has just completed 2 years working on various community development projects on Tanna. He lived very much immersed in the local custom village life there in the Port Resolution region of Tanna. Many of the villages on Tanna have retained much of their tradition and customs so life for him was very basic. The house he is now living in at the farm is much more westernized than his previous home made of bamboo and thatch.

I have felt quite challenged by his way of life and the extent to which he was able to mix and live simply local style compared to us. Have we brought too much of our western living with us here to Vanuatu? Yes, our life is a lot more basic and simple here than in NZ and we don't have the materialistic strive to keep up with the Jones, but maybe that is because here we are "the Jones". Are we creating expectations and wants in others by them seeing the way that we live and what we have? Do we really need so many conveniences and 'goodies' to help us survive here?

Last year we visited our house girl, Madelyne, and her family at their home on Tangoa Is. We shared a meal with the family but were not invited into the home. My guess is that this is because working daily with us, Madelyne is acutely aware of what we have, what we eat, what we do, etc. and she felt her home didn't measure up. We would do our absolute best not to give any impression of looking down on her home or way of life, but maybe she didn't want either side to feel uncomfortable.

Recently, Jon bought an expensive brand of toilet paper when the usual varieties were out of stock. I was horrified to see that it cost almost as much for half a dozen roles of paper as Madelyne makes working for us 5 mornings in a week. Now that sounds terrible, but I must assure you that we pay Madelyne a good rate and help her in many other small ways as we are able to. We don't normally spend so much on toilet paper, but we do eat Western style and pay high prices for imported goods like milk, cheese, tinned goods and weetbix, as well as eating a lot more meat than most locals eat. Simon commented recently that we eat more chocolate here than we used to in NZ. He's right – at least for most of us – maybe Jon used to eat more in NZ than he does here! He would say, however, that here it is mostly Australian chocolate which is nowhere near as good as NZ chocolate, anyway! Simon has been particularly spoilt with chocolate this year with gifts for his recent 13th birthday including lots of chocolate that came with some of our NZ visitors. Chocolate is one of our treats here so when someone goes to town (usually once a week but recently a lot more often) they often bring some back. Jon would say that those little things help to make life bearable here – they are not so important to me not being a chocoholic!

Looking back as we pass the three quarter mark of our time in Vanuatu, could we have done things differently? I'm sure that we could be simpler in our style of living but we are not living in a village situation here. Talua is an unusual mix of traditional Vanuatu life (some students living in traditional huts and all the ni-van staff and students cook in outside bush kitchens over an open fire), and the Western necessities required for an academic institution in the 21st Century. English must be used for teaching as all textbooks and journals, etc are in English. Electricity from a generator /solar panels must be available for students/staff that are studying and working in the evenings. Computers need to be used for email, accounts, the library, student records and much more. As Talua develops its BD programme over the next few years computers will be increasingly used for internet research and producing work that can stand up to scrutiny by peer academic institutions. Personally we rely on having electricity and computers a lot for Jon's lecturing and bursar work, as well as the kid's school work through the New Zealand Correspondence School. We also rely on the communication tool of email and the internet to stay in touch with the rest of the world in general and more specifically our own family and friends.

So have we just done what we needed to do to help us survive while here, bringing our fridge, bread maker, microwave, laptops, dvd player, music, etc or have we been trying to be too Western and comfortable?? Good question and not easy to answer! There are 3 'white' families living here at Talua and each one is a little different in how they cope and how simply they live. I'm not completely comfortable with some of the lifestyle choices we have made but I am part of a family unit and we have to look after the needs of the whole unit. We wanted to bring our children here because of the myriad things they would learn from this cross cultural experience but we have tried to sweeten the pot a little, too at times. I should not be too hard on myself or us as a family. Ultimately we are only living here in Vanuatu for 2 years, and so the real question is how we will live when we get back to the materialistic world of NZ. Will we be different after our experience of living in this 3rd world nation? I hope so!



Monday, July 30, 2007

Comings and Goings

It has been a busy time of late at Talua and our home, with lot of people coming and going. The first of the New Zealand teams to come to Talua for the purpose of building a new staff house arrived at the end of June. They were a mixed age team from Katikati and they enjoyed a great time here, making steady progress on the first stages of the house building. They also spent time with the women's programme, the kindy kids and 2 local schools. They were hosted by student and staff families and ate their meals with the single students. They built up wonderful relationships with many people here and no doubt both sides learnt heaps from each other.

Just before they left, William and I went to Australia for a short break in Brisbane. We met up with Jon's sister, Raewyn and stayed with kiwi friends there. This was a continuation of a family tradition of each niece and nephew having a turn for a special trip with Raewyn. We had a good break and enjoyed a taste of normal life for a while. William went with the aim of getting up close and personal with koalas and enjoyed a wonderful day out at a wildlife sanctuary where hands on contact was encouraged with kangaroos in particular and we have wonderful photos of William holding a koala. He also got to spend a lot of time on the play station which was also a real treat for him!

While we were away, our places in our home were filled by a couple from Australia. They came to Talua as part of a small team doing some field work associated with their study to become bible translators. Jon managed to cope marvellously with hosting Mel and Shane and they enjoyed their time here.

Also arriving just before we returned was the Mission Partners team from Australia. Some members of this team have been faithfully making twice yearly visits for a number of years, gradually working on Talua's new library. It is hoped that the new library will be able to be opened early next year after another work party comes at the end of the year.

Last Sunday our family was also pleased to be able to welcome my brother Stuart who made his first visit to Vanuatu to come to see us and look around a bit. The weather, which has been wet, wet and more wet recently around here did improve a bit for Stuart's visit and he had opportunities to go diving on the wreck of the President Coolidge and at Million Dollar Point, go horse trekking and take local motorbike rides and swims. He had a taste of what life is like for us here and then on Sunday left to try out some of Vanuatu's other delights. He was also privileged to be part of the farewell of the Aussie team and also the welcome of the next Kiwi team.

That's right – no sooner had one team gone, but the next one arrived this time coming from Canterbury to do the next stage of the new staff house. This team of men hopes to get the roof on the house. They are also billeted with staff and students, with one man coming to share meals with us for the next 2 weeks. We hope that the weather will hold for them. They look to be a hard working, hands-on team who will get plenty done, weather and circumstances permitting.

Phew, it is definitely the time of year when people make the most of cooler conditions to come to Vanuatu. We enjoy the company and stimulation of new faces as it helps to break the routine of being here. We have to say that we particularly like to have Kiwi visitors – there is just an automatic connection there even if we have never met before! We were a little starved of kiwi contact last year, but this year has made up for it. Still to come, in September is another team to work on the staff house – hopefully to come close to completing it. This group is from Rotorua. We are also very much looking forward to Phillip coming in September. We miss him being together with us here – although he is having such a good time in NZ that he really doesn't miss us much.

Everyone appreciates the contribution that these visiting teams make to Talua as a whole and to individuals. Talua would not survive without a lot of outside support. We get a bit "feasted out" though, after all the welcomes and farewells, and feel for the cash-strapped students having to contribute so often. This is another interesting part of our lives at Talua in 2007.



Monday, June 25, 2007

No phones

Anyone trying to contact us – the phones have gone down at Talua. They went down on Saturday and have not started working yet. This email is from Luganville.
The first Katikati team arrived last Saturday and are fantastic people mixing really well.
God Bless

Sunday, June 17, 2007

blog blong jon ulcer update / sports Day / raining kiwis

Well the ulcer is fully closed over so no more stockings. Thanks for your prayers. Also thanks to Andrew and Susie - medical staff at Wairau Hospital.

Yesterday was the Talua Sports Day. It's a fundraising day by the sports committee (committee this committee that - they love meetings here, in fact I think they think that that is all an ordained person is to think about - committee meetings for this that and the other thing). It was a tad wet - bucketing down - but that didn't dampen the fun or the arriving soccer and volleyball teams. With island music blaring in the background, plenty of soup (meat stewing in the pot), stickmeat (kebabs without the marinade), rice rice everywhere, green coconuts for drinking, cakes, popcorn and laplap - yesterday was an agreeable day. In the evening we cranked up our data projector and everyone watched one and a half movies before the generator was turned off. We also watched video footage from the sports day - that created a lot of laughs.

How not to kill a bullock! Talua does not have a rifle, and the Navota Farm manager was away this week in Port Vila - he usually does the shooting. So on Friday, students in charge of killing the bullock spent most of the afternoon chasing one with an axe. What did that stress do to the meat you ask? I went to the kitchen and paid for the fillet and striploin cuts… … … as tough as boots, just like the stew and stickmeat at the sports day. At least our jaws had a good workout at the sports day. The rest of the week has been pretty normal with teaching continuing and all bursar work up-to-date.

The week before last it rained Kiwis and at the end of next week it will begin to pour down. The head honcho of the NZ Pressie Church - Martin Baker (Assembly Executive Secretary), Kerry Jones (Office Manager for the Global Mission Office & one of my bosses) and Ross Davis (Director Youth and Community Projects BGI) visited South Santo. I nearly got them stuck in mud with the Talua truck when out and about on Navota Farm. They had a look around Talua and Navota but were too chicken to swim to Tangoa Island … … I wonder why, and I am still not sure why Kerry wore high heels when visiting a farm … … but it is was great to have them visit. On Friday we escorted them to Arore Island for a swim in the resort's pool and some western kai. It was a hard job but someone had to do it!

Next Saturday 6 kiwis fly in from Katikati to begin work on a new staff house for Talua and then a week later 20 more drop in from the same church. If you are the praying kind of person, pray that all the building materials are here when we need them - because that seems to be the hardest thing to keep organised. The Talua students are making the concrete blocks but time is running out and we need plenty more. Prayer for safety would be a good thing as well.

God bless


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Game Fishing

Geoff (from Seascape Charters) helping William bring in a massive Barracuda. Vivienne and Liz watching on. South Santo in the background.

The 18kg Yellow Fin Tuna

Liz with her Mahimahi. It was a good day. For more infomation see the blog called Clay Pots and Tuna

The Wusi and back

Marshall's Ute - thats THE UTE!

The rugged West Coast between Tasiriki and Wusi, Santo Island, Vanuatu.

The famous Wusi Clay Pot (ground pot)

Back at Tasiriki, looking back up the coast line and that is the dinghy we went in. Wow - what a journey!

Clay Pots and Tuna!

Ulcer update: Your prayers are appreciated as the ulcer is nearly closed over - only a few more days of changing the dressings regularly and wearing surgical stockings.

It’s the trip, not the destination! It was great to have my sister (Liz) visit a couple of weeks ago. One reason being it was a good excuse for us to get out and about and do some of the tourist stuff. One adventure was a trip Wusi village. I’d had it in the back of my mind for a year or so, it’s just the getting there as that is not easy. Wusi is a very remote village halfway up on the rugged west cost of Santo. Accessible only by a 12 hour walk from the end of the road or a 2 to 3 hour precarious journey in a small dinghy up the dangerous coastline, from the end of the road. We took the dinghy option.

Over all - the destination was not the highlight - it was the actual trip, the getting there and back that was such an experience, it was fun, new, scary, wow, weird, friendly, beautiful, breathtaking, and real-good-to-get-back-in-one-piece sort of an experience!

First was the Ute trip to the end of the road. One of the current Bush Mission students, Ps Marshall Ray (of the Protestant Church), drove us the 2 ½ hour trip to the end of the road to a village called Tasiriki. Early on the Saturday we jumped into Marshall’s Ute and oh………what a Ute. The deck was tied on by one piece of rope (or the deck would tip up); there were no windows (so when it rained we got wet); the windscreen wipers were not there (so when it rained Marshall stopped in a creek to wash the screen for our 2½ hour trip back in the dark); the radiator leaked and did not have a cap (so when passing through a creek Marshall would refill the radiator and a spare water bottle); there was only one headlight (it had to be switched on from the outside by twisting a few wires and giving the fuse a bit of a shake, at least the headlight worked!); some of wheels would come loose (every now and then Marshall would get out and tighten the wheels), the starter motor did not work (Marshall never turned the ute off until we got to the end of the road and then he parked it back up the hill a little); and then there’s them breaks, Marshall stopped at one village in the middle of nowhere and replaced a break drum part he had left at this village previously. The part had no break mechanism inside of it but at least it meant the wheel stopped coming loose. I asked Marshall how many breaks were working and he replied one on the front and one on the worries!

On arrival at Tasiriki we asked around for a dingy and skipper for hire. After waiting two hours a 5meter dingy turned up (had a 25hp outboard) and we set off in the ocean up the rough West Coast of Santo. It was a highlight to see the coastline, with villages scatted along here and there, (some that Talua students come from). On the hills, halfway up certain ridges in the jungle we could see smoke rising where people were no doubt clearing new gardens. Along the coast, in places there were beaches with the occasional dugout canoe pulled up above the high tide mark, other places sheer cliffs with nowhere to land.

We were fortunate because our boat was the fastest one based at Tasiriki and that meant only a two hour trip. Some boats take up to four hours for the journey, we past two other dinghies that were also heading north. None of us wore lifejackets, we were exposed out the ocean and yet it was just a normal journey. After two hours of hugging the coastline (most of the time) we arrived Wusi.

Wusi is just another village, but very dry compared to anywhere else in Vanuatu. Why go to there - it is the only place in Vanuatu where they continue to make clay pots the traditional way. So we spent time watching a pot being made. Clay is gathered from land near the village - an alluvial plain. There are no potters wheels spinning, just the shaping of the clay into a ball by hand, then hitting the clump onto ones knee to get the basic pot shape, then using a bamboo spatula to create the rest of the pot including patterns and decorations. They leave it to dry for a month or so before red coloured clay (found high in the mountains) is used for colouring. Then it is time for the firing process in a earth oven. For this a heap of wood it burned to heat up rocks in a hole (like a NZ Hangi), the pots are place in the hole on top of the hot rocks before being covered with a heap of Bamboo - the Bamboo ignites, there is a huge fire and the kilning process is finished. We purchased a number of pots, had a bite to eat and then began the intrepid journey back to Tasiriki. 

The trip back was into the waves and therefore more uncomfortable. When the waves were at their biggest I did turn around to gage the expression of the driver, and he had a huge smile and gave me the thumbs up. Obviously this was normal weather although Liz and Vivienne thought I was trying to drown them and Connie was freaking out for a while until Vivienne turned counting the bigger waves into a game. Simon, William and I just enjoyed being "out there", as well as the rugged coast and feelings of remoteness, we saw a Turtle swimming by and flying fish with one in mid air for a over 30 meters. It rained a bit of rain. When we got back I lifted up the fuel tank it was empty - the driver judged the amount of fuel needed to the last drop! We were all smiles and a tad relieved.

After that it was the return 2 ½ hour drive in the dark to home. On the way we stopped at Marshall’s village so I could take a family photo for them. In some ways the ute trip was just as dangerous and eventful as the dinghy trip. The road was incredibly rough, at times the wheels spinning and slipping flat tack to get us up a steep section of the “main road”, there were river crossings, ford crossings and careful monitoring of on coming vehicles with only one headlight shining - in fact if you see one headlight over here, it means a ute, not a motorbike. We also stopped for each oncoming vehicle to talk to the driver, this is the custom whether on foot or in a vehicle, to exchange where one has come from and where one is headed.

In all a memorable day with the journey being the highlight rather than the destination.

Tuna! The other tourist activity we experienced during Lizz’s visit was game fishing - we went out for an 8 hour charter. It was a tad rough at times - one of us managing to spray the skipper with vomit, he was working at the stern of the boat when the seasick person was leaning over the side halfway up being sick, the wind spraying the skippers. But in all, we thoroughly enjoyed the day, catching plenty of fish that we brought back to Talua for all students and staff to have a good feed that night. All of us caught fish with a total of 11 Yellow Fin Tuna (one was 18kg), one Mackerel Tuna, three big Barracuda, and a Mahi-mahi. I also hooked up a huge Marlin - I couldn’t believe how hard it was to wind in with my arms were getting tried. After several minutes winding the Marlin was off again, with plenty of line going out further and further. I started again bringing it in when some of the others in the boat saw it jump out of the water about 500m away (just like on the fishing programs on TV), then the line broke, right up by the trace so perhaps its own sword cut it, that's what the skipper seemed to think - he lost his $150 lure. It was a great day!!! At one stage when heaps of fish (including Yellow Fin Tuna) were having a surface feeding frenzy, we saw a very big Shark enjoying the easy prey, its fin poking out of the water as it swam around. Later we also saw a pod of Dolphins - they were smallish so we think they were Hector Dolphins - they swam with us for a while.

Add to all that - Liz being is a top chief - she cooked us up a treat that night!

Mate its hard work working for the Boss.

Boss bless


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Blog Blong Jon: Bali / Ulcer / Term Two

It has been a long time since posting to this blog. The main reason is I had to go to NZ to get the Tropical Ulcer on my ankle under control and before that, we had the difficult task of just having to go to Bali for a conference - such a hard task! We are all well and my ankle is slowly getting better.

The time in Bali was great. Thank you mum and dad (Judith and Basil) for coming to Talua and putting up with hot humid conditions and looking after the kids so we could relax at a hotel in Bali. We thoroughly enjoyed the Council for World Mission (CWM) Global Missionary Gathering. There were 65 missionaries present from UK, India, Caribbean, Pacific Islands, Taiwan, Africa, Singapore, Korea, New Zealand & Australia, of which 2/3 were non-white! Having so many different cultures and ways of being gave the gathering a depth and richness that spoke of the Kingdom - and to be honest - gave a glimpse of the truly colourful display of cultures and peoples that are and will be gathered-around-the-throne. Being white it was great to be among the minority.

One themes of CWM is Everywhere to Everywhere’. So at the gathering there were people from UK working in Africa, people from Africa working in Caribbean and people from Caribbean working in UK and so on – a full circle.

Even though my ankle was very sore during that time, Viv and I got to see parts of Bali, Viv saw more than I did (she even had a go at paragliding one day) and CWM organised a tour for us to see various places of interest. We enjoyed convenience of hot water, power, air conditioning etc. and managed to see some of the scenery and experience the hawkers telling us we need to buy this or that because it would bring us good luck!

At the gathering various people spoke, it was good to learn more of the history of CWM and future thinking. There was also time for conversations. It was special to hear so many different stories of the good things the CWM missionaries are doing, and hear some of the hard conditions they have to work in - life at Talua is a picnic. It was sad to have to say goodbye and yet we are all thankful for the rich experience of the gathering.

At the time my ankle was still very sore and even though the idea of going to NZ to get it checked had never occurred to Viv or myself, some of the doctors at the gathering advised us my ankle needed more specialised attention. We travelled back to Talua and after a few painful days decided I should go. The three weeks in NZ coincided well with the Talua exam week and two weeks term break.

The highlight in NZ was spending time with Phillip, he is doing really well, going to three different youth groups, and enjoying the lively singing at Elim Church in Blenheim. I also enjoyed meeting up with so many old friends and family. It seemed a long time to be away but the ulcer only started to reduce in size during the last week before coming back. Since then thankfully the ulcer has reduced in size each week - ½ml and 1ml respectively - so at that rate it will be cleared up in 4 - 6 weeks time. Viv is great, patiently changing the dressing twice a day and I have the privilege to dress in ‘Drag’, wearing a surgical stocking to keep the circulation pumping down on the ankle. Another good thing is it is no longer painful.

Term Two has kicked in and we can’t believe two weeks have gone already. Last week has been a lot of fun doing special “tourist” like things because Elizabeth (my sister) visited us. More on that action in the next blog!

God Bless and thanks for your prayers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In Bali

Hi everyone
We (Jon and Viv) are in Bali at the moment for a CWM Global Missionary Gathering. It is great except Jon has a major health problem, a "tropical ulcer" on his ankle and he might have to go back to NZ for it to come right. Please pray for Jon.

We get back to Vanuatu on 23rd April.

God Bless
Jon and Viv

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Tsunami Warning 2nd April

Tsunami Warning
I do not want to take away from the sadness of what happened in the Solomon’s last Monday as a result of the earthquake and following tsunami………that was tragic.


The following is our experience of the tsunami warning for Vanuatu on Monday 2nd April 2007.

Last Monday I was in the middle of teaching a class when mama Cindy came to the room looking all worried and asked me to take the old Talua truck to the local school (Tata) and collect all the kids blong Talua there was a tsunami warning.

This warning message arrived around 10:40AM from a nephew of the principal – not an official warning. He said he had heard on the radio a tsunami was expected around 11AM. So it was off to the school in the old blue Talua truck driving it as fast as possible with one eye on the ocean in between the coconut palms. Got to the school to find they had just heard as well……not from the Government Disaster Centre but the boyfriend of the school secretary had rang from Luganville.

Luganville was totally shut down, all shops, banks and whatnot closed for the whole day. On Tuesday when chatting with a few Luganville shop owners, one had known about the tsunami warning from around 9:30AM while another was working in her shop at 10:45 when a friend walking past asked her “why are you still open……..” Rather sad really……..what if there had been a big one.

At the school I asked the teachers what their tsunami warning procedure was...they didn't know, so I suggested they get all the kids up to the medical centre quickly, there was about 5 minutes before the 11AM deadline, the medical centre is on a rise about 10 - 15 meters higher than the school and only a 3 minute walk away. Well in the process of the teachers telling the kids, about a third of them (and some teachers) tore off into the bush helter-skelter back to their homes - potentially serious if there was a big one coming. It was emotionally upsetting seeing the kids run off towards their villages as if it was a big one…….……..their houses are along the beach (up a few meters but still at risk).

I drove the Talua kids back to Talua and we waited. Viv listened to NZ radio and it sounded like the wave would have hit by the time we had had the warning - the earthquake was 7:30AM Vanuatu time…..we later found out the tsunami tidal surges actually arrived around midday.

When talking to folk in Luganville on Tuesday, some people went down to the wharf to see what would happen (not clever)…….about midday there was a strong unusual tidal movements, with the tide going out and then coming in, all much further than normal etc. It sounds like this happened about three or four times.
Back at Talua around
midday, some staff and students took to the hills. Monday night some staff and students were still frightened and stayed ether in the hills or they went to Luganville to sleep in the hospital or houses on the hill. Later during the day we heard NZ radio say the wave would hit NZ in the late afternoon, we figured it was well past. Pastor Fiama (Talua Principal) was frustrated with the National Disaster Centre (he said it was the disaster), as he tried to ring them all day and never got a definite answer - either way, so he was quite worried all day not knowing what was happening.

The last time a big tsunami hit the Talua / Tangoa region in South Santo (sometime in the 60’s), it was during the night and no one was hurt. Back then it sounds like most people around here lived on Tangoa Island - which is reasonably high. People got up and went to the main land to work in their gardens and instead found fish and whatnot lying inland about 500 meters on the road. Today many of these people live in villages along the stretch of land where the water washed through………..where the school kids went running off to.

God Bless


Sunday, April 01, 2007

couple more photos

Getting ready for the movie Storm Breaker (part of Williams Birthday party). A good name after having Becky visit last Tuesday. The actual film was great, plenty of action and heaps of gadgets……the only problem was the DVD we had was a dud with the last 5 minutes of the movie missing.

So now it is quieter and things are kind of back to normal. In theory the bursar work should become more straight forward with less students around…….but I am discovering that things are not as simple as that and in the process of trying to help fix past financial errors I am finding it more and more weird. If you are the praying kind of person -wisdom would be a good thing to pray for me. Also health as I have an infection on my ankle (slipping over when checking the water supply a few weeks ago). The rest of the family are well. Yesterday Simon and William went catching fresh water prawns – they came in at tea time saying there was no need for tea as they had already had it, then they shot out the door again to watch Flubber at Mama Linda’s house. Connie was out most of the day, swimming and playing. Viv, Connie Posted by Picasa

Becky visited

We had a visitor this past week. She arrived without warning around midday on Tuesday and left just after midnight. Becky was her name. She wasn't too bad. She caused a rough night with plenty of wind and rain but all in all she was a mild cyclone that ended up passing us on the west of Santo. A few trees fell over, knocking out the power at 8pm. But by midnight the wind was calming down. After dark the male students were split into 6 groups patrolling Talua until the storm settled. When they knocked on our door to check we were all seemed a bit of a joke to them. At least it was a mild one and we all slept fairly well.
In these two photos we are checking things for Becky. One photo we are about to go onto the roof to ensure the solar panels are fastened securely. The other Andy and I are sliding a sheet of timber along a window to protect it. Our own windows were not protected and if there is a next time I would find something to protect them from flying debris of branches, iron and whatnot. With only louver windows and fly screens for protection - they didn’t seem very secure against a cyclone. We even had water coming in through a porous section of the concrete block wall.

William turned 10 on Friday so we had pizza for tea on Thursday and lunch Friday (bought them from the Beach Front Resort this side of Luganville). American Hot Dogs for Friday dinner and Bacon and Eggs for Saturday breakie. Added to that William had friends around for a movie Friday night.
Its been a quieter week at Talua as Friday 23rd March the 67 Short Course Lay Ministry Students graduated and have left campus. Our water supply is now working properly again with about 70 less people consuming water. There is now room to sit in the dinning hall /church for services and devotions.

Graduation Day was a special day, starting at 4:45AM, taking photos of food (pig and bullock) preparation, teaching my normal English Classes and then after lunch the Graduation Ceremony. I took nearly 100 photos that day (and another 100 of students during the 6 week course) and spent until very late on Graduation day printing photos for students. The next morning I was woken by a student at 4AM and thought it was a tad early for more photos to be printed. But instead I was asked to drive the bus into town to drop students off……the bus driver was sick. So by 9:30AM I had completed two trips into town, and also spent an hour at the airport waiting for an arriving Certificate Two student – a tiring few days.
 Posted by Picasa