A Rough Road to Mission Fields

On Tanna vehicles are things that are pushed as well as driven

On Tanna vehicles are things that are pushed as well as driven

As well at teaching at a Bible college on Tanna, I have also been asked by Southern Islands Presbytery to support a group of local mission workers who are working to evangelise members of the John Frum cult and the ‘Unity in Christ’ Movement.

I am not sure exactly what my role will be, but I will be involved in training, encouraging, and providing resources.  To do this effectively I need to be able to get to their villages.  That is where the vehicle comes in.

Tanna is different to many other islands in Vanuatu.  On most islands the people tend to live around the cost leaving the interior less populated.  But this is not so on Tanna.  On Tanna people live all over the island in small villages.

Riding Tanna style! This is one of Tanna's good roads

Riding Tanna style! This is one of Tanna’s good roads

Other islands such as Malakula and Santo also have many villages in their interior, but Tanna is different again in that there are far more roads that connect these villages.  There is a “Bush Mission” on Santo but it is in a very rough area where the only access is by foot. But on Tann you can get at least close to most villages with a good 4WD vehicle, and that is what we intend to do.

You can pay for transport  but even just a 20km round trip can cost $100 making frequent trips to mission fields unfeasible.  The feedback from mission workers in the past has been that visits from their local director have been too infrequent, so to effectively support these people while still dedicating the majority of time to the Bible college, we really need a vehicle.

Creek crossing on the way to the Bible college after heavy rain

Creek crossing on the way to the Bible college after heavy rain

The roads are rough and very rough in parts so we need a good strong 4WD.  Even to get to our home at the Bible College is a rough road with three creek crossings.  A ute is helpful for moving things like building material and we have four kids so the ideal vehicle would be a dual-cab 4WD ute such as a Hilux, Landcruiser, Navara, Patrol, Triton (L200), Isuzu D-MAx, etc.

To the praise of God our home Presbytery in Western Australia has given us a financial gift so that we can buy a vehicle and so engage in this work.

Buying an appropriate vehicle is one reason why we are in Vila (Vanuatu’s capital) for a while before going to Tanna.  However, it is proving to be a difficult task.

Used vehicles are in high demand, sell for very high prices compared to Australia, and are often in poor condition.  We soon realised that we had underestimated the amount that we need to spend.  Cheaper cars tend to be in not good enough condition to handle Tanna’s rough roads.  Vehicles that are in good condition are really quite expensive.  Another dilemma is that we were looking for an older model because newer models have computers and are harder to repair, but then again, most older cars are in pretty poor shape.

One of the best "roads" on Tanna is the ash plain next to the volcano

One of the best “roads” on Tanna is the ash plain next to the volcano

We talked to some missionaries who have been on Tanna for about 10 years about their vehicle.  Their story wasn’t about one vehicle but rather a list of vehicles that they went through.  Their message was clear: get the best vehicle you can!

So that is what we are trying to do.  As you can see there are many factors involved and a lot to weigh up with each car we look at.

Please pray for us that God in his grace will provide something.

There will be frequent updates about or progress via our facebook page

This entry was posted in Mission Fields and tagged , , , by Tom Richards. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tom Richards

I am an Australian pastor serving with the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu. I currently teach at Talua Theological Training Institute on Santo and formerly taught at Enefa on Tanna. Mi wan man Ostrelia be mi stap long Vanuatu we me wan pasta wetem PCV we me stap tij long Talua Theological Training Institute long Santo. Bifo me wok long ples ia be bin tij long Enefa long Tanna.

10 thoughts on “A Rough Road to Mission Fields

  1. Tom,
    how are you guys going? Not sure if you know us, but Emily stayed with us in Esperance and we knew Margaret’s Dad quite well (a long time ago).
    We go to Vanuatu each year (Ambae) to train trainers who work in local schools. We are back for a few weeks in June. Be great if we could catch up. Generally spend a week in Vila.
    My view about the 4wds is that the later models with computers are generally much better. If something goes wrong you can replace a module or computer rather than rebuilding a diesel pump. Conditions for vehicles in Vanuatu is fairly brutal and it takes a heavy toll – tyres, suspension, rust etc.
    Let us know how you go with the fund raising,

    Kind Regards

    Steve and Jenny Florisson

    • Hi Steve and Jenny, thanks so much for your note. Yes we have heard abut you through Emily and others. Yes it would be great to catch up. The problem of course is transport. At this stage we don’t have any plans to be in Vila in June. We will see…
      Thanks for your comments regarding newer cars. It is at least encouraging. I guess the thing is whether mechanics on Tanna are able to do that kind of work. I guess with more newer vehicles going to Tanna the mechanics will have to catch up with technology.

  2. Hi Tom

    We think and pray for you guys often – the kids are missing their friends. Is an off-raod bike an option when the family are not with you? Possibly less wear and tear on the ute and therefore better use of money over a longer term?


    • Hi Andrew,
      Thanks for your comment. We really value your friendship and your thoughts and prayers.
      I think your idea is very good and we may well do that. I will just get their first and get a feel for how I will work first. Maybe I will always try to take someone with me like a local counterpart or a student. I will see how it all works out.

  3. UPDATE: We have found a vehicle. Praise God for answered prayer! It is an older Toyota Hilux – what we were looking for.
    As we have got more advice from missionaries in the country we have realised that perhaps the best way to go is actually a new vehicle since they break down less and (unlike Australia where we are from) keep their re-sale value well.
    Perhaps we will keep this car for the first year or two while we settle in and consider a new vehicle after we are confident that we will stay in the long term.

  4. Hi Tom and Margaret,
    For some reason we can’t download your newsletter this time. The report reckoned it was corrupted. Could you possibly resend it in another format. We haven’t had trouble with your newsletters in the past. Facebook has kept us up-to-date. So glad you have visas and a car and that the kids are happy. You’ll be a bit homesick for family since little Joy was born. We understand that feeling. What a blessing technology is to bring you closer though.
    A Janet and U Sam XOX

  5. Hello Tom and Margaret, I like the idea of a sling shot – tell Sam I’ve been scaring Cockatoos that have been eating my macadamias. So you are in the house? Good to hear. Much love Dad

  6. Hello Tom and Margaret and tribe. It feels as if you are so far away, yet really no further than you were in Perth. Looks like things are slowly sorting out for you. Annie must be really growing now. How are they all managing? We are busy getting our winter vegies planted. We are building a new garden. So life goes on as normal in Yandina. Grandma and Pa both unwell with a series of ailments. Dad and I both full of beans.
    With love, Mum/Lou/Granny Lou.

  7. Dear Tom and Margaret and lovely family,
    How are you? How are things in Tanna? I’ve been thinking about you guys and hope you’re all ok. I hope you’ve been able to sort most stuff out and the children are happy. Margaret,
    I was talking to your Mum and she said that you’ve had a lot of rain which has made things a bit difficult sometimes. Praying that you receive some comfort and help where ever it is needed.
    God bless.
    I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch as much as I should.
    Love and prayers,
    Marion Beard XO

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