Saturday 30 June 2012

Photos three

At the markets in Lenakel, Tanna

Waiting for the coffee shop in Lenakel, Tanna

Teaching music in the class

About to leave Vanuatu for Auckland

Leaving Port Vila for Tanna Island

The team at Tanna Island

Robyn sitting with the girls

Teaching English

Day four at Tanna

Worship on the beach - day four

Teaching the students new songs

Carlton hard at work

Natalie Clark showing Calrton up!

Trevor joining in the fun

Trevor at the local primary school

Carlton in front of the first Presbyterian church on Tanna Island

Eating peanuts straight from the vine

The team in front of Mt Yasur (the active volcano)

Mt Yasur erupting 

Outdoor activities with the children 

Outdoor activities with the children

Outdoor activities with the children

Outdoor activities with the children

Day Eight

Today really is a blur and I'm writing this no longer from Vanuatu but from Auckland, New Zealand.

It was a 4.30am start to get to the airport for our 7am flight and by this time we were all feeling the effects of the week and were getting quite tired. Soon we were on the plane heading for New Zealand. Everything happened so quickly and I'm still processing things, looking at photos and thinking about all that has happened in the last week and what it will mean for me in the future!

When I first laid eyes on NZ outside of the plane window I couldn't help but feel a joyous feeling that accompanies the saying "there is no place like home" but I also couldn't help but feel a certain ache for my family back in Vanuatu - I have really fallen in love with this country and the beautiful people that reside there.

It was great to run up to my Mum and give her a great big hug but at the same time I knew that I would soon hug goodbye to a team that has really become my family over the last week! I probably rushed the goodbyes a bit because I knew if I thought bout it too much I would probably start crying (and crying wouldn't look good for my 'manly' side). Soon I was walking towards the car with my Mum and I couldn't help but wonder why the team wasn't walking with me; it felt weird to not have them around me anymore - I know I will miss them heaps!

In a weeks time I will do an official "post-Vanuatu blog" because that will allow me time to process and think about all that has happened and what this trip will mean now that I'm back in New Zealand!

For now I just want to thank God for the amazing opportunity I was blessed with in the last week!

Thank you Carlton and PYM for running 'Going Global'!

Thank you Robyn for assisting Calrton as team leader!

Thank you to my family in Vanuatu and in particularly in Lenakel College for showing me God in such an amazing way!

Thank you to my family Carlton, Robyn, Tervor, Natalie one, Natalie two, Rebekah, Laura, Hannah and Sami for being such a great family in the last week - you were each a huge blessing and I will never forget our time together in Vanuatu.

And thank you to everyone who has prayed and supported this trip in some way; shape and form - I know without a doubt that this trip was well prayed for and God's presence was experienced in amazing ways throughout the week by everyone!  

Day Seven

This morning we began our day by walking down to the local market before going to the coffee shop to have some Tanna coffee and buy a supply of Tanna coffee to bring back to NZ. It seems like we are adjusting really well to Island life; we don’t feel the need to rush anywhere and we are learning to go with the flow and take things as they come! It was great to be able to start the day in a small café with the team and we actually made a new friend because the guy working in the café was also a Christian and spent the whole time asking us questions and talking with us about some of the work his church does on Tanna.

When we arrived back in the school we took a few more music classes. Although it was getting hard for some of us in the team because by this stage in the week we were singing the same songs over and over again, it was great to hear the students learn new songs and we were able to let the students sing some of the new songs on their own and they did very well and have such loud voices (which was good because I was loosing my voice). I have said this in earlier posts but I have to say it again; the students have absolutely beautiful voices and I honestly wish I could bring them back to NZ so you could all hear what we were able to hear. In one of the music classes the students didn’t want us to leave; they kept saying, “just one more song” and it was such a powerful moment to know that we really have become family in the school; the students are now comfortable and want us to stay with them in the class rooms teaching them.

The students were also starting to come up to us asking us to teach them a song or guitar or to play sport with them - I must say it is really humbling to see how much they have welcomed us into their lives in such a short time!

We were also able to have a conversation with the Principal of Lenakel College and hear about the history of the school and what their ‘needs’ are for the future; it was a touching moment and I know everyone in the team is thinking of ways we can continue to help our family at Lenakel College.

The Principal and teachers were also so adamant that we take their story back to NZ so that their brothers and sisters in Christ in NZ can be praying for them at Lenakel College. We assured them that we will definitely be taking their story back and that the relationship between us (PYM) and the school is just beginning and will continue into the future. In fact; after this blog I have to write an article for SPANZ and we promised them that we would send them a copy so that they can see their story go throughout the nation. 
Then it was time to pack; time to have a photo with the students of the school and before we could blink we were back on the back of Utes heading towards the airport. As the students stood on the field waving goodbye I couldn’t help but hope and pray that “this is not goodbye; this is just – see ya later!”

Jonathan (read earlier blogs if you don't know who Jonathan is) greeted us again at Port Vila Airport and took us to Hideaway Island where we were spending our final night. As we walked onto this resort we were overcome by different feelings and emotions. Someone on the team (I cannot remember who) summed it up the best saying: “On Sunday when we came here to Hideaway Island we just wanted to stay on this resort in paradise but now that we ARE here at the end of the week I can’t help but to want to go back to our family at Lenakel College!” I think we all felt the same; a week ago we just wanted to stay and relax at Hideaway but now that we were there we really just wanted to go back to Tanna!

We decided to go to this restaurant on the mainland for dinner and as we walked into this restaurant we walked into western civilization. The people; the music; the food; the atmosphere all reflected the western world and I think we all felt very uncomfortable. I think we had all adjusted to Island life and coming into this environment so quickly shocked us a little bit. We decided to go back to hideaway (which was much more quiet) and have a dinner as a team and reflect on the past week.

As we sat as a team and shared our experiences of the last week we could all tell that we had all experienced something special in the last week! We all felt changed by our experiences and although we are still in some way working out what that ‘changed experience’ means we know that God has done and is doing great things in each of our lives. We shared our fears of going back home and we shared 'what' we learnt at Tanna and would like to take back home with us.

It was a sharing time when people were open and honest; tears rolled down some of the faces and we realised without a doubt that a special 'community' had been established between the Going Further team. Although tomorrow we will all head back to our different parts of the country I truly believe we will stay in touch and always be friends; we have been a part of something huge that will stay with us forever!

Carlton thanked us and shouted us all dessert and we in turn thanked Carlton and Robyn for their leadership over the last 7 days!
After dinner it was party time because Natalie Watkin-Ward celebrated her 21st birthday the very next day so we wanted to celebrate this milestone in style in Vanuatu which truly is a paradise that we have all fell in love with!  

Day Six

Today was a bit different to our other days because a lot of the senior students were preparing for the dinner the school had planned for tonight. The dinner had two main purposes; first, to thank some of the parents of students of the school for building a new fence around the school property. Second, to farewell our team as we are heading back to NZ tomorrow.

It was a bit of a sad feeling to know that we leave tomorrow; the time has gone so fast and we are loving every moment we are spending with the students! The students are truly amazing and are so joyful to be around – they laugh at absolutely everything!

Because a lot of the senior students and teachers were planning and preparing for the dinner a lot of the junior classes were unsupervised so we decided to play sports with them outside and teach them new games. We gathered them together and played games with them such as: duck duck goose; Indian death ball; dodge ball; captains coming; cat and mouse and a lot more! It was so much fun to run around with the children and laugh with them as we tried desperately to keep up with them in the hot temperature that we are not used too!

After lunch we were able to take a tour around some of the coffee plantations on Tanna Island. Tanna is known for its coffee as it is the only island in Vanuatu that grows coffee beans because of the rich volcanic soil. As we were driving through the coffee plantations we were also able to go for a drive along the beach which was so very beautiful! What made the drive so amazing was again the people on Tanna Island. At times you felt like celebrities because everyone would stand up and wave to you and shout out “hello” and you spend a lot of your time waving to the people. This would normally not be a problem except you are on the back of a Ute trying to keep balance so many times I almost fell off because I was trying to wave and hold on at the same time (I’m a boy; I struggle to multi-task!)

We had a bit of free time in the afternoon so we used this to get up to date with our team training! It was good to sit as a team and read about ‘community’ and realise that in our short week we have actually done really well at building a community among the members in our team.

The highlight of today would have had to be the farewell dinner that the school put on for us. We went into the school hall and the children had covered the walls and ceilings with plants and flowers – it was stunning. They had made beautiful lathes for us and presented them to each member of our team. They did a tribal dance and got the team to join in with them – a fun experience that had the students erupting in laughter as the uncoordinated Carlton and Jeremy tried to keep up and keep in time in the dance!

When the principal of the school addressed us with a speech it was so beautiful and really did bring tears to the eyes or some of our team! He opened by mentioning that when we walked into our welcome ceremony at Lenakel College each member of our team had a look of ‘concern’ in our eyes! However, now as he looked at each of us he could now see that we each had a ‘sparkle of joy’ in our eyes and commented; “what happened in the week for our ‘concern’ to be transformed into ‘joy’?

I myself have reflected so much on that very question because his comment was so true; our looks of concern and worry have been transformed into complete joy! So what happened? I have only one answer and that is ‘God happened!’ I have no other way of explaining everything that has happened in the last week – living with the students and doing life with them has been one of the most transforming experiences of my life and it was great to hear how the school enjoyed having us just as much as we loved being there!

Listening to the principal speak helped us realise it has been a two way street; we have not only grown and experienced God but the students and teachers were able to do the same through our visit as well and the invitation was left open by the school for future teams to visit if we would like to bring future teams there in the future.

We as a team were able to present the school with gifts that we had brought them from NZ including a new guitar for the students to continue to do their music. The school then presented each of the team member’s with a gift – we prayed and then the feast begun! It was a humbling experience to have a community who doesn’t have much go to such a huge effort to thank us and bless us for coming and being with them for the week!

After dinner the students put on a concert for us doing different dances from their home Islands – Natalie Clark and Robyn also surprised us by joining in with the students in a couple of the dances. It was a night of laughs; a night of joy; a night of celebration in the presence of God; a night of being blessed by each other and a night of what I can only describe as ‘community.’ It didn’t feel like we were strangers any more, we didn’t feel out of place – it felt like we were all ‘one big happy family’ (which is actually a song the students taught us). I don’t want to leave tomorrow – however, I’m encouraged by the invitation that we are always welcome back! 

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Going Global Photos

Hey everyone,
So, for some reason to put photos on the blogger takes AGES to even get a single photo loaded but for some reason facebook is much quicker, so for now I have put a few selceted photos up on my facebook 'Jeremy Selfe' (I have made the album public) and we are trying to contact Gordon to get him to somehow link those photos from my facebook with the PYM facebook page so hopefully that will all happen today.
Once I'm back in NZ I will easily be able to get photos up onto the blog :-)

Day Five

I’m finding more and more of what I want to share in my blogs is not the structured ‘programmatic’ stuff that we do with the children each day but rather it is the random un-planned times where the ‘unexpected’ happens.

This morning started like most of our mornings beginning with 5.30am devotions with the students of the school; then breakfast and then into classes where we have been teaching English and then today we also did a class on NZ geography. Teaching the students has been amazing and there have been great moments within the classes – especially when we have been breaking into smaller groups and talking to 3-5 children getting them to have conversations in English; asking them about their favourite food and their favourite things to do in Tanna and things like that.

After a morning of classes we had an unexpected surprise, our Volcano trip was rescheduled for this afternoon so that we could see that Volcano at night because that is when it looks the best. It was a two hour drive on rough, steep roads, standing on the back of 4 wheel drive Utes and it was one of best car rides ever! The views as we drove up and down (and over) mountains was just spectacular.   

The Volcano itself was simply humbling! We stood at the foot of it to have a team photo and as the photo was taken we heard this loud thunderous rumble! The team all looked at each other – what are we getting ourselves into? When we got to the edge of the creator you cannot even explain what we saw; smoke and ash billowing up into the sky. Then, without warning you will hear a loud crash like thunder which usually makes everyone jump and then a fountain of lava will shoot into the sky. It was spectacular and at times rather frightening as lava got within 200 meters of us at one stage (we then moved locations after that explosion). I must say, as it got dark and night set in, words cannot then explain what you witness because the lava is so bright and red as it floods into the dark night sky! Truly one of the most amazing things I have ever seen and it really gave me a new understanding for the power and might of God.  

Then it was back to the school for a quick dinner and then we gathered into the hall for an hour of singing with the children and then we did night time devotions with them. It was a great night! The children taught us some of their songs in their native language of Bislama, we taught them some of our songs in English (like, ‘Move a little bit closer” and “Every move I make’), we all sung together ‘Lord I lift your name on high’ which they already knew. Then after devotions (we did a creative drama of the good Samaritan) they taught us a couple of new action songs, one in Bislama and one in English. It was a great night and we laughed with the children so much – they are really starting to open up to us and feel comfortable with us.

Again, it was this random (almost unplanned) hour singing with the children that I found really impacting. Just standing with the children, being able to teach them and have them teach us – it was just an amazing experience. As I watched the team dance and sing with the children I realised this trip is going better than I planned – I have often pictured how a ‘dream’ mission trip might look and this trip is going beyond what I ever imagined. Could I be falling in love with off-shore mission? (If you read my first blog you might understand my surprise because it is never something I thought would escite me).

It is time for bed because these 5.30am starts are really starting to get to me! I’ll try and get some photos up but no promises as this internet is very slow. I can’t wait to see what unexpected surprise God has in stall for us tomorrow.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Day Four

I’m in a bit of a predicament because I’m wondering if I can find the English words to describe what we experienced today – it was probably more than I ever expected form this trip and I feel that if I do try to describe it I probably won’t be able to do justice to everything that has happened!

The simplest way to describe it would really be that today our team ‘dwelt among’ – in fact; as we reflected on today Carlton had us reflect on how ‘dwelling among’ in the school impacted us today.

In the afternoon our team had ‘unscheduled time’ and we all ended up breaking up into different groups and doing different things with the students. Everyone in the team has different stories and amazing experiences to share and I wish I could tap into their brains and share them all with you (because I got to hear them at our team debrief), but I can only share with you from my experiences.

After trying to connect to the internet to put on yesterday’s blog and realising my computer and the internet at Tanna don’t seem to be compatible I went outside to try and track down the team. I heard some of the team had gone to the school gardens so I went to find them and soon saw Robyn and Natalie Clark with a group of the students. As I moved closer the students called out to me; “Jeremy, Jeremy, come and see our gardens with us.” I had a deep sense that something amazing was going to happen and I realised I didn’t have my camera so I quickly ran back to the school to grab my camera before walking back to the gardens.

As I started climbing up the steep hill to the gardens I could hear my voice again; however this time the children were hiding in the trees so I couldn’t see them; “Jeremy, Jeremy, can you see us?” Then the children would erupt in laughter knowing that I had no idea where they were hiding!

Robyn, Natalie and myself began by watching the children work in the garden; planting different plants; chopping up bigger plants to become wind shelters for the smaller seedlings; different things like that. Before long we were joining in and learning how to do it; we were excited to be learning new and different skills and the children were excited to be able to show us the world that they live in and what they do on a day-to-day bases. It was truly unbelievable.

Watching the boys use these big machete type knives was amazing and being a ‘boy’ myself I had to join in and very soon the boys were teaching me how to cut different plants out with this big knife. I soon learnt however that to chop something down (like a weed) was the easier of the jobs I would be doing with a big knife. I told the boys that I would love to try cutting a coconut open and before long the boys were climbing up a coconut tree to get some coconuts and soon they were teaching me how to open them using the big knife. They made it look easy and I really struggled but after some agonizing minutes and a few close swings that almost took off a few fingers I was drinking fresh coconut milk and eating fresh coconut flesh. Then it was time for me to try and climb a coconut tree and the boys couldn’t stop laughing as my tall lanky frame tried to get up a coconut tree. After getting a couple of metres of the ground I decided to give up mainly because I didn’t think my knee (after surgery) would hold but to be honest, even if I never had a knee injury I still don’t think I would have got much further!

Then three of the boys started showing Carlton, Trevor and myself around different places and telling us about life in Tanna. They took us to a local primary school which had the most amazing views of the ocean ever!  We then moved to the very first Presbyterian Church that was built on Tanna Island by the missionaries a hundred years ago. As I looked at the grave sight of three of the missionaries and looked at this church that was slowly falling to pieces I couldn’t help but thank God for the lives of these missionaries. We are following in their footsteps; their work has not been forgotten and because of their work we are able to come in and continue to share the love of Jesus with the people of Tanna as they in return share the love of Jesus with us – it really is a true partnership!

The boys then took us to the local soccer stadium showing us many different things on the way; then it was down to the beach for this amazing walk along the rocks! Once we were back at the local markets we decided these boys deserved a drink so we bought them a drink before heading back to the school for a much anticipated soccer game (they are very very good).

Today our lives were impacted in such a huge way; we learnt so much about the students and their lives here, we were able to experience it with them and help them along the way; I know my life has been forever changed because of the experiences I encountered today! But as I reflect, I couldn’t help but realise that it is not one sided – we have been able to share our lives with the students and I know they have enjoyed showing us their Island as well as learning about our lives back in NZ (they all loved one of the pictures that one of my friends took of Auckland city at night which I have on my phone – they couldn’t believe the bright lights of the city). I know when I leave Vanuatu I will have thousands of stories to share with the people at home but I also believe as we leave, the children will also have stories of their experiences here with us – it is a two way street and I believe the team will all be going to bed tonight praising God for all that we experienced today. I think I am safe to say that our team is buzzing after our experiences today and are eagerly awaiting our 5.30am start tomorrow morning (never thought I would say that about a 5.30am start)!