Tag Archives: Bryan Webb

IDYLLIC MELANESIA

‘Thick dense cloud cover obscured the central mountain ranges of the mainland, but once out over the Solomon Sea visibility was excellent and I was enthralled at the beautiful turquoise colour of the shallow waters surrounding small islands and coral atolls which appeared to be floating in the deep blue ocean.’

Brian D. Smith, ‘Land Of The Unexpected’


‘With the morning sun, Savusavu revealed itself to be located in one of the most extraordinarily beautiful settings I had ever encountered in the islands. The town overlooked Savusavu Bay, an alluring expanse of blue water hemmed in by verdant peaks.’

J. Maarten Troost, ‘Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu’


‘The Île de Pins, touted by guidebooks to be the South Pacific’s most beautiful island even though used by Napoleon III as another Devil’s Island to incarcerate French convicts of a political nature, lies within extensive reefs at the lagoon’s eastern boundary. Like all the islands raped by loggers and sandalwood traders of the nineteenth century, its forests are gone, though a scattering of pines remains to illustrate its name. Hidden within is the landlocked lagoon of Upi, several square miles of pristine water broken only by coral mushroom islands dotted here and there and a single pirogue with rickety outrigger and ancient pointy sail to riffle the surface.’

Andrew Rayner, ‘Reach For Paradise’


‘Vanuatu is misty mountains cloaked with lush tropical rainforests dotted with quaint thatch villages next to cold bubbling springs.’

Bryan Webb, ‘The Sons Of Cannibals’


‘We now returned to the other islands in the group Vanikoro (Vanikolo) and Utupua, Vanikoro particularly impressing me with its isolated beauty. A sheer-sided mountain plunged into the fjord like inlet where the ship anchored, while in contrast a narrow strip pf land at its base housed lush meadows and the peace and tranquility of the mission school. The sun set, completing the picture; a blazing red sky setting the mountain on fire, then almost before the magnificent show had disappeared, stars showed through the evening dark and the sky was a mass of delicate lights.’

Roger Webber, ‘Solomoni: Times and Tales from Solomon Islands’

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VANUATU BY BRYAN WEBB

Vanuatu. Where to go? What to see? What to do? Bryan Webb, an Assembly of God missionary and the author of two fantastic memoirs, ‘Hungry Devils’ and ‘The Sons of Cannibals’, gives his recommendations.

Stay at Ranpator

Ranpator is an amazing village on the west coast of Pentecost. The water is brilliantly clear, the sunsets are spectacular, the people are warm and friendly, and the food is amazing. It is a place where you can completely unplug – no Wi-Fi, no electricity, and no distractions.

Swim in the Man Pool and the Woman Pool Waterfalls on Santo

There are thousands of waterfalls on Santo. My favorite is hidden deep in the bush and far from all commercial tourism. To get there look for a transport headed to Big Bay at the Unity Store. Once you get to Unguru, hike up to the village of White Grass and ask Chief Robert to give you a guide to the waterfalls. It will be about an hour and a half walk total so be sure and pack drinking water and a lunch. There is no more beautiful place to swim and picnic in Santo. As a bonus, you will be swimming under waterfalls that only a handful of outsiders have ever seen.

Spend the day at Champaign Beach

Anyone who has ever been to Santo will tell you to visit Champaign Beach. It is simply the most beautiful beach in the South Pacific. Sadly, I see lots of tourists who only budget an hour or so at this great beach. Trust me, it’s worth a full day. Pack a lunch or plan on walking to one of the nearby bungalows for a simple meal.

A CHAT WITH… BRYAN WEBB

Bryan Webb, an Assembly of God missionary, has been residing in Vanuatu for more than fifteen years. In his two books, ‘Hungry Devils’ and ‘The Sons of Cannibals’, he relates his experiences of living in a foreign land, giving readers a fascinating account of front line missions. Being a very kind man, he took the time and answered a few questions regarding his work and the South Pacific.

BRYAN WEBB

Pasifika Truthfully: You are a missionary so travelling to distant lands is an important part of your life. But how did you end up in Vanuatu?

Bryan Webb: Our journey into the Pacific started while I worked the night shift in a factory to pay my way through college. Many of my fellow workers were Pacific Islanders. Their descriptions of their islands were mesmerizing, and of course everyone invited me for a visit. My wife Renee and I developed a number of close friendships and took them up on their invitations. Once we had visited several Pacific island nations we felt sure the islands would always be our home. A number of factors convinced us to settle in Vanuatu: the people, the opportunities, but mostly friendships.

PT: What was your first impression of the archipelago? What surprised you most about the country and its people?

BW: Renee and I began our Pacific travels in Micronesia, where the islands are tiny, so when I first arrived in Vanuatu I was amazed at the large size of the islands. The thing I found fascinating about the people was the amazing diversity of language and culture. In Vanuatu, Christian and Kastom, stone age and space age exist side by side. My first day in Luganville I was window shopping at LCM, one of our Chinese stores. Distracted by the items displayed in the window, I bumped into an elderly gentleman as I turned to go. I was startled to discover he was wearing little more than a hunting knife.

PT: Was it difficult to adjust to a new culture?

BW: Cultural adjustment is always a challenge. However, we found adapting to Vanuatu to be relatively simple. Bislama, the national language, is easy to learn and most people are very eager to befriend you and teach you about their culture. I think diving in and truly immersing yourself in the culture is the key to a successful adjustment.

PT: You described the peculiarities of living in Vanuatu in your two books, which are just phenomenal. It seems that one of the hardest things you had to deal with was ‘reconciling’ your teachings with the traditional values of Ni-Vanuatu people.

BW: I believe Christ and his teachings are transcultural. The greatest challenge I face is stripping my cultural preconceptions away so that I can present Christ and his teachings in the Ni-Vanuatu cultural context. Often what seems like a contradiction between Ni-Vanuatu culture and Christianity is really a contradiction between Ni-Vanuatu and Western culture.

PT: Do you think those indigenous beliefs and traditions, which are a big part of Melanesian cultures, should be preserved?

BW: Yes and no. Culture is complex. No culture is static, and that is a good thing. All cultures are in a constant state of flux. Culture ultimately springs from environment, and cultures change as the environment changes or as people collectively come to understand and relate to their environment differently. Ni-Vanuatu as a whole live in a rapidly changing world, with those changes some aspects of culture will become outdated or irrelevant, others will prove to be critical to maintaining their identity in this changing world. In the end only Ni-Vanuatu are qualified to guide themselves through this process. I am, however, completely opposed to the idea of asking people to follow outdated and irrelevant traditions, so that tourists can gawk at people living in the equivalent of a cultural zoo.

PT: You’ve been living in Vanuatu for quite a while now. Have you adopted any of the customs or practices?

BW: No doubt I have become a third culture person. I will never be fully Ni-Vanuatu, but I will also never be fully American again. Vanuatu has placed an indelible stamp on my life. I find myself focused on people rather than tasks, and events rather than time. Most of the changes are subtle and really don’t stand out till I visit America again.

PT: And how, in your opinion, has the country changed since your arrival?

BW: Vanuatu is rapidly modernizing. Cell phones and Internet have transformed communications. Women are gaining a voice in the culture. Most of the changes I see are good. The negative would be an increase in drug abuse and pornography.

PT: You wrote two books. How many more interesting tales do you have? Is there a third volume on the horizon?

BW: Vanuatu is so fascinating there is an endless list of stories. My challenge is taking the time to write. I am currently working on a book with photographer Gaylon Wampler. Gaylon is an amazing artist with a camera. Together we hope to create a stunning photo essay of Vanuatu. This project will be very different than what I have written to date. My first two books are focused on my experiences and were decidedly religious. This book will be completely focused on the people, culture, and beauty of Vanuatu. We are doing this as a gift to the children of Vanuatu and 100% of the proceeds will go to providing education for underprivileged children. This book was inspired out of my experience in the story, ‘Warm and Well Fed’ in the book ‘The Sons of Cannibals’. We are aiming for a December 2015 release.

‘THE SONS OF CANNIBALS AND MORE TALES FROM VANUATU’ BY BRYAN WEBB

‘The Sons of Cannibals and more tales from Vanuatu’ is Bryan Webb’s second publication regarding his missionary work in the Melanesian archipelago. Although a separate book, it is a continuation of his previous memoir, ‘Hungry Devils’.

THE SONS OF CANNIBALS

Summary

Having spent over fifteen years living in Vanuatu, Bryan is practically a local. Familiar with the area and armed with a wealth of knowledge, he is no longer bewildered by the unusual customs or seemingly odd behaviours of the islands’ native inhabitants. Together with his family, he heartily carries on with his mission to preach the gospel.

However, his work is not always easy. Certain cultural idiosyncrasies still prove to be an obstacle Bryan needs to surmount. Well, how do you share your faith with the followers of the Jon Frum Cargo Cult who await the coming of their prophet and his divine gifts in the form of TVs, cars, and refrigerators? You can only try. And this is exactly what Bryan does. He tries; every single day. And he surely gets his rewards. Because when the sons of cannibals labour together to build a church, he can’t help but smile.

Review

This book is no different from its informal predecessor, ‘Hungry Devils’. It is just a second volume that delivers another batch of short stories. And this is why it’s worthy of your attention. Webb’s tales are, again, phenomenal. Strikingly engaging, they will take you on an incredible adventure, revealing the secrets of Vanuatu that only the locals know.

Despite obvious similarities between the two memoirs, this one is a little more focused on the country’s enchanting culture. Ni-Vanuatu way of life serves as an underlying theme that runs through the entire book. In a few of the chapters, however, it is especially prominent. The author delightfully describes and explains how the natives give directions (left, right, right, left, left is right, right is left, up, down, toward the ocean, away from the ocean, generally: till you get to the tree), what ‘storian’ is, and how long one needs to wait to have something – anything – done. He also compares Melanesian traditions with their Western counterparts, analyzing the patterns of behaviour in both societies. These detailed, in-depth delineations not only give you a better understanding of the aforementioned culture but also make you aware of how diverse our world is.

Of course, Webb doesn’t write exclusively about the archipelago’s folkways. The narratives wander from his missionary work to the indigenous communities he meets, from the country’s geography to its rich history. Once more you are provided with a thorough and very enlightening tour of the islands, where the past coexists with the present in almost perfect harmony. You can’t blame Bryan for falling in love with the land of smiles, can you?

The Webbs’ experiences are recounted in a graceful, light-hearted manner with the necessary pinch of gentle humour. The author’s fearless self-reflection and ability to laugh at his own failings make this book brim with emotion and honesty. Sharing your successes is easy. Sharing your failures and mistakes, not so much. But Bryan Webb doesn’t seem to care. He is truthful and thus very inspiring.

Every single story in this compilation is a winning read. The writing is excellent, the content insightful, the Melanesian country unusually vivid. You couldn’t ask for more. Simply perfect.

‘HUNGRY DEVILS AND OTHER TALES FROM VANUATU’ BY BRYAN WEBB

‘Hungry Devils and other tales from Vanuatu’ is a collection of short stories about modern missions in the South Pacific, penned by Bryan Webb – a long-term resident of the islands.

HUNGRY DEVILS

Summary

Vanuatu is a challenging country for a missionary. With its many tribes, distinctive cultures, and over one hundred local languages, it tests even the strongest-willed of men. But Bryan feels right at home in this tropical Melanesian paradise.

Day after day, despite many adversities, he preaches the word of God to the native inhabitants, trying to incorporate his teachings into local traditions. At the same time, he gets to know the islands, absorbs the Ni-Vanuatu way of life, and immerses himself in everything the archipelago has to offer. He laughs and cries; he struggles; he fails and succeeds. But he survives and, so it seems, thrives.

Review

What a wonderful book this is! Thoroughly captivating, insightful, revealing, thought-provoking. Bryan Webb writes about Vanuatu with a fierce, uncompromising passion he doesn’t even attempt to hide. In the opening sentence of the first chapter he declares: ‘Vanuatu is the land that I love, my surrogate home, the land of my calling’. After such forthright statement, you just know the next pages are filled with some incredible tales. And you can’t wait to read them.

The most impressive feature of this account is its remarkable completeness. Everything – from scenery to people to customs and traditions – is described in equal measure. The author doesn’t confine his attention to one element only, but rather portrays the country as a whole. In some of the stories he takes readers on a guided tour to remote villages, painting a vivid picture of the lush tropical settings, while in the others he delineates cultural practices of indigenous and often forgotten tribes, providing an insight into their distinctive folkways. These different subject matters form a cohesive unity that makes the memoir an immensely interesting publication. But, not only is it engaging, it’s also very informative. This may have something to do with Webb’s extensive knowledge of the archipelago. As a long-standing resident of the islands, he demonstrates an unusually high level of familiarity with the Ni-Vanuatu culture and way of life. His narratives are characterized by accuracy and precision of an insider’s eye. Although from a distant land, Bryan Webb is a local; a local foreigner, you can say. His genuine affection for the Melanesian country couldn’t be more evident. He respects the natives, at all times. He never condemns them, even when their actions elicit his rage. But most importantly, he doesn’t judge what he sees and experiences. Not once does he suggest that something is worse, strange, less worthy. Whether it’s cultural relativism or the effect of his missionary kindness, I don’t know. It might be both.

Speaking of which, religion – or, to be exact, the author’s pastoral ministry – is as much of a prominent topic as Vanuatu itself. Webb outlines the peculiarities of his day to day work, offering you a glimpse into the world of twenty-first century Christian missions. Moreover, every chapter is laced with biblical citations that beautifully complement each tale. Now, I know what some of you may be thinking: that’s too much religion for one book. Well, even if this particular subject is beyond the sphere of your interests, I guarantee the author’s adventures will draw you in.

Especially taking into account that the memoir is incredibly well written. Despite the fact that it often broaches very serious issues, Webb maintains a light tone that is breathtakingly delightful. His style is concise yet detailed and descriptive – his words, which evoke a profound sense of ‘being there’, let your mind travel. And, I must say, this is an amazing journey you wish could last a lifetime.

All in all – I will be straight and to the point here – if you read ‘Hungry Devils’, you will be hungry for more.