But would we do it again? We decided we would and within a year of offering ourselves to Adventist Volunteer Services, we found ourselves on a small tropical island in Vanuatu. Here the Seventh-day Adventist Church began an educational facility in 1927, now known as Aore Adventist Academy.
Every location has its own set of activities, beauty, challenges, duties and excitement--and we didn't take long to discover we could be just as happy here as in every other place we've lived.
There is always enough work for an army of workers but sadly, the labourers are few. So why not train young men to make furniture and build houses, thus providing experienced workers for the multitude of maintenance and building tasks that arise in any mission field?
My husband is a practical man. He can set his hands to almost anything. My skills, too, are more along the practical line--typing, sewing, cleaning house or gardening. But it seemed the Lord wanted us to build a trade school, to prepare men with life skills and especially as a preparation for the life that never ends.
We set about planning with much enthusiasm and while we had little finance for the venture, we knew the Lord owned "all the silver and gold" necessary for the project.
As plans turned into activity, our spirits were somewhat dampened as it became obvious we would have a lot of paperwork to attend to--something really daunting to us. We wanted to get busy with the physical work, not be bogged down in reams of paperwork.
Challenges have a way of rearing their heads when one would prefer smooth sailing on a calm sea. Deadlines for registration of our new trade school came and went, and we were sidetracked by building and refurbishing clinics in Vanuatu for some months. The goal of registration seemed to retreat further into the distance.
But we must never cease to marvel at how much higher the Lord's thoughts are. Rainy-day delays in Tanna gave us opportunities to plug away at the paperwork in a dim, unlit cottage. When our submissions were acknowledged, it became encouragingly clear that registration was much nearer than we thought.
An audit of our facilities was carried out in our absence and the work our students had accomplished in the building of our new school complex was highly commended. While still working away, we received the news that our school is now a registered training provider with a high standard of accredited modules for furniture making, building construction and boat building.
Though just the beginning of a dream, we believe the Lord will add labourers to this corner of the vineyard, to provide skilled training in plumbing, mechanics, electrical skills, sewing and more.
The building process has been slow but steady, and after taking two years out of studies, our students are about to put the roof in place. What a thrill to see their enthusiasm as they lifted the heavy trusses into place and nailed down the battens. The boys themselves have milled the timber, then built the trusses on site.
We could have looked for a fly'n'build team to come and build it in a matter of weeks but instead, this school will belong to the boys who have worked so hard to make it a reality. In the process of building, four "new" boys have attached themselves to the workforce and they look forward to joining the first-year class in just a few months.
And, of course, the Lord is faithful. He has provided a number of interested people who dug deep to help our project become a reality. The provision of a portable sawmill is proving a real blessing in providing timber for buildings, as well as furniture, providing opportunity for the boys to add extra skills to their experience.
The boys have already chosen the name for their school, otherwise I might have suggested they call it "Ebenezer." Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means "the stone of help"), for he said, "Up to this point the Lord has helped us!" 1 Samuel 7:12. Jill Macgillivray, with her husband, Alastair, works as a church volunteer in Vanuatu.
This story is used with permission from Signs Publishing Company. More of these stories can be found in these collections: Ordinary People—Extraordinary God, Ordinary People—Faithful God, and Ordinary People—Generous God