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Snapshot of Vanuatu – The official languages of Vanuatu are Bislama (an English-influenced creole), French, and English. There are over one hundred other indigenous languages spoken on the islands of Vanuatu by various gorups. Vanuatu’s population is primarily Christian, with the Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Anglican churches being the most dominant. Traditional indigenous beliefs are also practiced by about 10% of the population. Most of Vanuatu’s population makes its living from fishing and other agricultural activities, and pigs are considered a symbol of wealth in the country. Most of the population lives in isolated villages in rural areas. Traditional music, which uses several types of drums is still quite popular in rural areas, while zouk and reggaeton are popular in the cities. Fish dishes are quite common in Vanuatu. Most families grow their own food, which regularly includes taro, yams, coconut, and tropical fruits such as mangoes and pineapples. Kava is an extremely popular drink that is traditionally drunk before dinner.
Snapshot of the Solomon Islands (part of the Vanuatu Port Vila Mission) – English is the official language of the Solomon Islands, though Pijin (an English-based creole) is also spoken by much of the population. Christianity is the dominant religion in the Solomon Islands, with the Anglican Church of Melanesia, Roman Catholic Church, and South Seas Evangelical Church being the largest denominations. Many aspects of traditional culture are still practiced and promoted in the Solomon Islands, with some adaptation for modern life. Radio is extremely popular in the Solomon Islands, in part due to higher illiteracy rates and to the difficulty of reaching rural areas for other media. Traditional music includes both vocal- and drum-based styles, though rock and reggae are also present with their own unique island style. Soccer and the related futsal and beach soccer are the country’s most popular sport. Fish is the staple of meals in the Solomon Island, and is often accompanied by rice, sweet potatoes, or taro. Other dishes include Poi – fermented taro roots either made into a porridge or served with chicken or fish. Bananas and other tropical fruits are often served with caramel and whipped cream as a dessert.
Snapshot of New Caledonia (part of the Vanuatu Port Vila Mission) – As a special collectivity of France, the official language of New Caledonia is French. Several indigenous languages are also spoken in New Caledonia, the most widely-spoken being Drehu, Nengone, and Paicî. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest religious denomination in New Caledonia, though many Evangelical churches are also popular. New Caledonia’s population is primarily composed of the Kanak ethnic group and those of European descent. Woodcarving is a popular traditional practice. Masks, totems, and flèche faîtière (an arrow placed on the roofs of Kanak houses) are common carved items. Ceremonial dances and music are also important in Kanak culture. Soccer, horse racing, and women’s cricket are all popular sports in New Caledonia. Staple foods in New Caledonia include fish, rice, taro, and yams. Tropical fruit such as passion fruit, papaya, and coconut are also popular. Traditional Kanak cuisine includes bougna, a casserole made with chicken or seafood and banana, sweet potato, and taro, which is then wrapped in banana leaves. Deer and flying foxes are also occasionally used in cooking.
Vanuatu membership: 5,491
New Caledonia membership: 2,138
Solomon Islands membership: 509
Rice, island cabbage raw fish salads, rice, chicken, and different kinds of roots (manioc, taro, ignames), sea turtle, shark, flying fox (fruit bat), cat, pig, beef, chicken and many different kinds of shell fish.
Missionaries in areas that are more spread apart have cars, but in the more urban areas, missionaries will walk.
Be careful after dark, especially sisters, as there is a high tolerance for alcohol and drug use.
- At marriages, different tribes present huge amounts of rice to the tribe of the bride in order to “pay for her.”
- When you enter the home of someone who is very traditional (something that is wearing off among the younger generation), you may have to do something called “custom,” which means you present the head of the household with some fabric and some money.
- When you are offered food, do not refuse it. Eat some of it then say you are full, but never refuse it. Otherwise, you may hurt the feelings of those feeding you.
French, in New Caledonia:
“Choc!” = cool
“L’engin” = awesome (literally, “engine”/”machine”)
Bislama, in Vanuatu:
“Alo” = hello
“Afta?” = what’s up?
“Olsem wanem?” = How are you?
“Mi oraet/Mi gud/Stret nomo/Set” = I’m good.
“Yu blo wea?” = Where are you from?
“Wanem nem blong (blo) yu?” = What’s your name?
“Hao maj long (lo) hem?” = How much is this?
“Papa God” = Heavenly Father
“Jisas Kraes” = Jesus Christ
“Tabu Speret” = Holy Ghost
Durable sandals for sisters (Chacos, Keens, etc.)
Duffle or gym bag
Sweater or jacket
Sturdy sandals that cover toes
Filtering water-bottles (often found at Distribution Centers)
Short-sleeved shirts (for sisters and elders)
Vanuatu Port Vila Mission
PO Box 1412
Packages and mail are safe for delivery but may take several weeks.
Current mission blog: http://lmbrewer.blogspot.com/
Straight from the Vanuatu Port Vila Mission:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
“Everything you need is available, it is all just really expensive.”
“Many processed American food items, like macaroni and cheese.”
*What did you eat the most of?
“Lots of rice, meat (chicken or beef) and seafood.”
“Chicken and rice!”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“Most everyone is friendly to you, but there is a deep racial tension between Kanaks, Tahitians, and Wallisians”
“In the tribal cultures, younger siblings couldn’t marry until their older siblings did.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the Vanuatu Port Vila Mission?
“Learn the language and pay attention to how it’s spoken locally. Learn to try new things. Learn to drive stick. Stay motivated; don’t get complacent and lazy.”
“Learn to open your mouth and talk to everyone–the best recent converts we had were found after hours of knocking doors every day. It seems ineffective, but infinitely worth it when you find that one person who has been looking.”
“The Church gives you doxycycline; use it and also mosquito nets. Wear your pants long, fold them up when crossing rivers and mud then fold them down. You leave them rolled up and you’ll soon find hundreds of mosquitos on one leg. Wash your mouth and hands after eating or you’ll attract millipedes that will sting you and leave you in a swelling, agonizing pain for days. Also, pack light, if you haul your 50-100 lbs suitcase with you to the outer islands, expect to carry it by yourself for three hours up a mountain in the mud and rain.”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“Be aware of your physical readiness, even the slightest ailment will be amplified because mission life is physically demanding”
“How to be a better missionary–how to better love and serve everyone, including my companions.”
“Work hard and take your call serious, but that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have fun. Enjoy it; smile and laugh as much as possible.”
“Learning the language (French) in New Caledonia was interesting. I had done up to French 202 at BYU and I expected to catch on quickly, but because I was a bit hard on myself, I didn’t feel like I was progressing fast enough in the language when I was first there. My trainer chastised me a little by telling me not to worry and that it would come. Understanding was the easiest part [for me] and then being able to respond in the language. But, after a few months I felt strong in speaking, although it is difficult to ever get rid of an accent in French so I was always not native because of the accent.”
**Did you serve in the Vanuatu Port Vila Mission? If so, we would love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.**