We live on the island of Santo (Espiritu Santo, actually, can you guess what that means?) in Vanuatu. I am here because my husband teaches at Talua Ministry Training Centre which trains leaders for the Presbyterian, Anglican and Church of Christ denominations in Vanuatu. We came here under the hand of God. It felt like we just kept walking through open doors. Sometimes it felt like we shut certain doors, sometimes it felt like some were shut and locked in our face. Looking back it was all under God's hand.
Both of us had grown up in Christian homes and had understood and responded to the gospel as children. As we grew older we were challenged to use our lives to serve God and his people, though unsure for many years what form this would take. We undertook practical and theological training convinced that this would be a great help to us either in lay or ordained ministry, but even as we began our final year of theological training the road beyond was very hazy. This was when I began praying in earnest.
While at University my husband had become friends with a Tongan man. We had heard and continued to hear from him about the great need for the faithful proclamation of Christ in the Pacific islands. Other friends urged us to think beyond the land girt by sea. Eventually we were able to say to God, "Well, we are willing to go, Lord. We'll start knocking on doors. You open them or you close them."
In following through on our interest in the Pacific we became aware of Talua Ministry Training Centre in Vanuatu. There was a need for someone to teach Bible and Theology for one year. This suited us well, particularly as we had no particular training in cross-cultural work, and the teaching would be in English. So we applied, were appointed and we came. The year extended to two, then four and will be six at the end of this appointment (end of 2010).
What are the hardest things about being a cross-cultural missionary?
The answer, or answers, to this question form the basis for a lot of the discussion between Naomi and myself in our letters. Perhaps we could put this question on hold?
What is one of the biggest challenges you find in being a Christian woman in Vanuatu?
The biggest challenge for me is to make sure I keep growing and thriving spiritually. I think this is difficult for most people in formal Christian leadership for while they are responsible for teaching and nurturing others, sometimes there is no-one to teach and nurture them. It is easy for people to assume everything is OK, when we have the same struggles as anybody else. This problem is magnified in our case for three reasons. First, for historical reasons, missionaries in Vanuatu are highly respected so while we are formally 'under' the care of others, this never happens in practice. Second, it is difficult just to make friends who will keep me on my toes and ask the difficult questions. Differences in language, culture and education all strive to make this difficult, as well as pride. Three, formal worship is all in a language I am still learning. This makes it difficult to concentrate on and follow what is being said, especially when also looking after small children. In short, I feel isolated from all the usual helps associated with being part of the body of Christ.
How can we pray for you and your work in Vanuatu?