Mission Trip to Torba Province

The most northerly islands of Vanuatu are the Torres and Banks islands, commonly known as the Torba Province. JBI students have been praying and preparing for months to go to Torba on their 2008 mission trip. They have shared their vision with churches and raised the funds to cover their trip expenses.

Yesterday, eleven JBI students boarded a small inter-island cargo ship headed for the island of Espiritu Santo. They should arrive this evening in Santo and stay at Calvary Assembly for weekend ministry. On Monday the group will fly to the Banks where they will begin two weeks of ministry and speedboat travel.  They plan to visit churches and minister on the islands of Gaua, Vanua Lava, Mota Lava and Mota. Please pray for their safety and God’s anointing as they travel and minister over the next two weeks.

Interisland cargo ship, Tina, headed to Santo Waiting while the last minute cargo is loaded

Half of the student team ready to get onboard

Students riding on ship cargo deck

Sunday at Evangel Temple

JBI Ministry TeamWe went to Evangel Temple Assembly of God this morning to hear one of our JBI student ministry teams. The guys are from five different islands in Vanuatu (pictured left to right) Cedrick from Santo, Job from Ambrym, Tom from Tanna, Clovis from PA190017Mota and Norman from Paama. It was a wonderful service. Cedrick, a second year student preached and many came to the altar for prayer afterwards. An offering was taken to help with the JBI student mission trip planned to the northern Banks islands in November.

During the greeting time I turned around and saw people whom I recognized but could not believe would ever be in Vanuatu. I was astounded to see old family friends, Alex and Janet. They have come to Vanuatu to work with an NGO. We are just delighted to have them in country!

Praying for New Recruits

Fresh Wota AG

This morning at Fresh Wota Assembly a group of newly trained military men and women were attending service. Their commanding officer had brought them to service and requested a special prayer of installation for them. Gary prayed and Rev. Raymond Clay, senior pastor of the church, is standing beside him.

Three of our JBI students were leading the Sunday morning service. Kelfau from Pango led worship, Christiong from the Banks gave his testimony and Alick from Epi island preached on “Dealing with Disappointments in Life” from Matthew 11:2-6. Having just finished a course on “Expository Preaching” with Gary, he did a tremendous job. An offering was taken to help the JBI students with a missions trip they are planning in November to the northern Banks islands.

Children’s Day

July 24 is Children’s Day, a national holiday in Vanuatu. Ekoftau Assembly organized a fun day for the neighborhood children and our children were eager to join in the fun. They had sports competitions, coloring contests, verse memorization, food and lots of fun!

Little girl Handing out prizes

Treats Little boy

Marriage Seminar for Pastors

Thank you to those of you who were praying for us concerning the marriage seminar we led on Saturday at JBI. We had such a busy week with many extra commitments, unexpected visits and car troubles that by Friday night we were not feeling as prepared for the next day’s seminar as we had planned to be. But the Lord knew all about that and greatly helped us.

The seminar was sponsored by the AG Shefa district for couples in ministry. We entitled it “Together in Marriage, Together in Ministry” and 35 pastors and wives attended. One pastor and his wife had to walk three hours down to the main road to catch transportation into town. It is humbling when people make this kind of effort to attend. We had a great time sharing with them about God’s plan for marriage and ministry. Please pray for each couple as they go back to their homes and churches around the island of Efate.

Pastor's wives Pastors at seminar Gary speaking Participants

Missions Sunday

Pastor Willie David Saul preached at Ekoftau Assembly of God church on Sunday. Though he could have chosen a quiet retirement, Pastor Willie resigned his city pastorate a couple of years ago and has been traveling as an itinerant evangelist. He goes to the remote places of Vanuatu to encourage pastors, to preach revival services in churches of any denomination and to evangelize unreached peoples. This has been physically demanding for a man of his age, as he has hiked through dense bush, slept along the trails and experienced God’s provision in some very difficult circumstances. He was initially financed by a group of Christians from the island of Paama but now others are wanting to share in this vision. Pastor Willie just finished a tour of each of the southern islands of Vanuatu in the Tafea province and is planning to head to Malampa province next. We thank the Lord for pastors like Willie David Saul and his wife who continue to serve the nation of Vanuatu.

Paama choir Pastor and Mrs. Willie David Saul the material around their necks is a traditional welcome gift.

Ekoftau Baptism

After this morning’s service at Ekoftau Assembly of God, everyone walked down to the nearby lagoon for a baptismal service. It was already a cold day and then it started to rain. Three brave young people, Susanna, James and Pascal, were baptized in very cold water by Rev. John Railau.

Ekoftau Baptism Rev. John and Susanna Susanna is the daughter of Rev. and Mrs. John Railau, Fijian missionaries assisting at the Ekoftau church. We first met John and his wife in 2002, when they were students at the South Pacific Bible College (Fiji) and we were interim directors at the school for 5 months. Just a few days after our arrival in Port Vila last year, we were walking downtown and had the great surprise of finding the Railau family in Vanuatu!

North Tanna Pastors’ Conference

Miss Pilot checks the fuel tank for the engine on the right. Flight from Port Vila south to Tanna

It all started on a twin engine eight passenger plane, piloted by a VERY young lady to whom I entrusted my life for the 75 minute flight. She did an excellent job flying us from Port Vila, the capital, to the island of Tanna (see map above). In the photo above, the pilot had climbed up on the wing to check the one of the engine’s fuel level. (Hover over the photos to read their descriptions.)

Map of Tanna showing the route of the three hour boat trip to the North Gate BayThe longest and most harrowing part of the trip was the three hour boat trip up the west coast. Sixteen pastors with their backpacks piled into an 18 foot boat that shouldn’t have had more than nine passengers aboard. Then they asked me to pray for a safe journey! I felt like we were tempting God! We had hardly gone a few hundred feet when a wave came crashing over the side of the boat. I was trying to decide whether I should attempt to save my camera equipment if I needed to swim to shore – O, great was my faith!

2007 JBI graduate John Nako in front of our 9 passenger boat!Along the way, Christians in canoes brought us food for the conference.The pastor went ashore to bring back baskets of yams. 11 pastors move to a second boat. I and four others stay with the luggage! The waters soon calmed a bit, but as we traveled up the coast, we would stop periodically as church members along the way brought us food which we piled into our very full boat. It soon became apparent that we needed another boat to make the rest of the trip, much to my relief!

Here are a few photos of the rugged coast.Tanna's northwest coast Tanna's northwest coastTanna's northwest coast Finally, after three hours, we arrived at North Gate Bay:

North Gate Bay toward church location

The above photo is actually a composite photo, but it gives you a better idea of the area. You see our little yellow boat and some of the buildings where the church is located on the hill.

Sessions with pastors

The Great Commission and
the Great Omission

Wednesday evening was an evangelistic service for the village, so I preached on the God who is looking for true worshippers, based on the story of the Samaritan woman in John 4.

On Thursday and Friday mornings, I had the privilege of speaking for some seven hours to about 25 pastors concerning the Great Commission of making disciples of all nations. On Thursday, we took an in-depth look at Matthew 28:18-20. Far too often the emphasis has been on evangelism and altar calls as if that were the goal. It may be the starting point but it is not the finish line. The mission which Christ gave the church is far greater than evangelizing. We have not done what Christ mandated us to do when we’ve distributed tracts, preached sermons, had altar calls or even baptized new converts. He will evaluate us on the basis of whether or not we have made disciples by teaching them to obey everything that he has commanded us.

On Friday morning we considered the biblical characteristics of disciples as described in the New Testament and had to ask whether we as pastors are true disciples; we reproduce what we are. We also dealt with the process of how we are to make disciples and the need to evaluate all church programs and ministries in terms of whether they are accomplishing the mandate to make disciples. It was evident that the Lord was dealing with hearts and challenging them to obey him in the task of making disciples.

Beware of the sharks!

Tiger shark! Early Friday morning afforded some extra excitement as one of the pastors insisted that I come down immediately to the beach with my camera. On Thursday they had slaughtered a cow for the conference. That evening they took a hunk of beef a couple hundred yards out to sea. They secured it with a large fishing hook and high test fishing line. Tied to the end of the line was a plastic sack with a small hole in it, containing cow’s blood, enough to lure something big. The line was then secured on shore. They checked the line at about 1:00 am. Something had taken the bait. They pulled in a three meter (10 foot) tiger shark!


By the time I got there, there was a good crowd of people and the shark had already been disemboweled. During our five and a half days together, we enjoyed wahoo, tuna, black fish, parrot and other fish, and of course, the shark!



Final Sunday Service

Sunday morning worship serviceOur final service was Sunday morning. Once again it was my privilege to bring the Word, a message on the responsibility of pastors to lead  the church to full maturity in Christ Jesus from Ephesians 4:7-16.




Final Trek Back

I had noticed soon after our arrival that there were about ten pastors with us who had not been on the boat. When I asked them how they got to the site, they told me that they had trekked in over the mountains, a hike of two and a half to three hours. I definitely wanted to go back with them to see what I had not yet seen!

Sunday after church, we had a hearty meal and began the trek up the mountain. I carried only a small sack with water and my camera; I had sent my 30 lbs. backpack with the boat!

Pastors take a moment to enjoy the beauty of Tanna.

The scenery was remarkable. From certain points we could see at once Mt. Yashur (Tanna’s volcano), the islands of Futuna, Aniwa and Erromango.

Halfway there!




More miles to go!





Village on the way Village girls Tanna children Coming down the other side of the mountain, we passed through villages, were greeted by children playing in the jungle and saw where some of our pastors serve. It was nearly two and a half hours before we found a dirt road. It would be another half hour before we found a truck which would take us the rest of the way to meet the other pastors that had taken the boat. (I was happy to know that they had not capsized with my backpack!) I spent the night in Lenakel and returned to Port Vila by plane on Monday morning.

Final thoughts

We have 30 churches on the island of Tanna. Being able to meet with the pastors and help renew their sense of mission was vitally important to the work of the Lord here. I believe that the Lord directed me specifically to speak about the priority of making disciples and the pastors expressed the appreciation for the way that the Lord dealt with them.

Please pray for these pastors that they will continue to grow in the Lord and be the shepherds that God has called them to be. And pray for us that the Lord will continue to enable us to speak discerningly and boldly into the lives of pastors and church leaders in Vanuatu.

You will find more photos of my trip to Tanna here.

Pastors’ Conference – North Tanna


On June 4th, Gary took an hour flight south to the island of Tanna to speak at the Tafea Pastor’s Conference. After landing at the Lenakel airport on the SW coast, he joined a group of pastors for the 3 hour motor boat trip to the northern tip of the island. Pastor Am Tuprik and the people of North Gate village were their hosts for the next five days. There were 16 people and their luggage loaded in the small motorboat probably suited for 9 passengers. As they went along the coast, Christians on shore flagged them down and loaded yams and other produce into the boat for the conference. The boat got so low in the water of the sometimes choppy sea that finally, half of the passengers transferred to a second motor boat (photo above). Everyone arrived safely by sea. Other pastors walked several hours on inland trails to attend the five day conference. The photo below right shows the pastors who attended. One of the participants was John Nako, who graduated from JBI in November 2007 and is now working with Pastor Johnny Lava on the island of Tanna. The rest of the story to follow…

North Tanna coastlinePastors attending    Teaching sessions