Written May 2015 by Jenny
We are Andrew and Jenny Rowan. We have been married for 14 years and have five beautiful children. Eli, 12; Rebekah, 10; Noah, 8; Isaiah, 6 and Jeremiah, 2. I homeschool our children and Andy has a started a business in Vanuatu to help fund us as we both Andy and Jenn establish The Jeremiah Project.
One of the many things we have learnt through our time in Vanuatu is that there is ALWAYS a story!! :) So in the interests of keeping things shorter than a large novel, we will give you a summary of the background leading to the Jeremiah Project and then give you regular "island stories" - both flashbacks of the many stories to be shared of the journey and updates of all that is happening on the ground here in Vanuatu for our family and for the Jeremiah Project.
Our connection with the beautiful country of Vanuatu first began when Andy came for a mission trip with Citipointe Church Brisbane in September 2008. At this time Andy fell in love with the people and the place and never a day would go by, after his first visit, that he didn't think of Vanuatu and its people. Andy returned the following two years for missions trips with Citipointe, completing their commitment of building school classrooms and refurbishing the communal toilet block in Seaside Paama.
In 2012 we decided to go to Vanuatu the following year for a month long mission trip with our four pikinini (children). We came to Vanuatu in March 2013 and worked with Liberty For the Nation and stayed at their school in Prima - Community Christian School Vanuatu (CCSV). It is here where the Jeremiah Project first began!
In the fourth week of our mission trip, Joseph, school principal and friend, came to Andy and said, A mother from our village back in Tanna has had a baby and her father wants to kill him. The baby is a boy, his parents are not married and the father is married with children from another village. The boy has no inheritance of land or family blood line. Would you adopt him? As you can imagine we were completely shocked by the news and request. The maternal grandfather would not let anyone within the villages adopt the baby for fear of him attempting to claim inheritance when he grew to a man.
Just a half hour before this happened I was praying to God and asking Him to guide me and my family in regards to what we were called to be doing. I have always had a big heart for babies and young children. Mothering them since I was not much older than a toddler myself! When I heard of the request I pulled out my bible and started praying for this helpless baby whose fate was to be killed. I still couldn't believe that someone would do this - this poor child! The bible verse I opened to was in bold print on the page:
JEREMIAH 1:8 "Do not be afraid of them for I am with you and I WILL RESCUE YOU," says the Lord.
Straight away we knew his name was Jeremiah!
That night Andy had a dream. He saw two hands holding a baby and heard the words "Will you care for this child?" The answer was of course yes!! We knew this would be difficult but couldn't say no! We were going to adopt a baby boy!
During Andy's other mission trips he saw things that confirmed to him that Jeremiah was not the only baby in this situation and that other babies were killed or abandoned and that there was no charitable organization dedicated to helping these mamas and babies. That day Andy also had the picture of land that was self-sustaining and had homes for others like Jeremiah. From this picture THE JEREMIAH PROJECT was birthed!
The next day we were worried we had committed to something we may not be able to do. What would we do with Jeremiah once we had him and his birth mother flown from Tanna to Efate. How much would this cost? Could we even bring Jeremiah into Australia? Many concerns were raging through our minds. On the trip into town that day we heard on the radio, Dr Michael Youssef preaching. He said "Often we find ourselves in unreasonable and illogical circumstances. But you need to choose, will you live a faith filled life or a calculated Life?" Wow! That was the confirmation we both needed! Whatever was ahead for us, for our pikinini and our new son, we would trust in God! That night our dear friends Maxie and Michelle who work for Liberty for the Nation (also originally from the same village in Tanna as Jeremiah) had offered to care for Jeremiah on our behalf until we could bring him home with us. Another confirmation that God was in control!
On Thursday 4 April 2013, our family met our newest member - Jeremiah Peter Rowan. Jeremiah was born 25 March and was just over one week old. We had 2 1/2 precious days together before we headed back to Australia and had to leave our new son with Maxie and Michelle. On 4 August 2013, Jeremiah's grandfather, Peter came to visit him for reconciliation. He had come from Tanna Island and specifically asked Maxie and Michelle to see Jeremiah for the purpose of apologizing to him. We believe this was of great significance in the process of forgiveness and healing for all of us involved.
After four months of trying to sort out paperwork with a lawyer on the Vanuatu end (whilst still in Australia) we realized we needed to go back and finalize Jeremiah's adoption on the ground ourselves. In August 2013 our family set off again, returning to Vanuatu and reuniting with our son/brother, Jeremiah. This trip was to be two weeks and our hope was to finalize paperwork and receive a visiting visa for Jeremiah to go to Australia. Our thoughts were that we would certainly be going between both Australia - our home country and Vanuatu - Jeremiah's home country and the home of the Jeremiah Project, a great deal. We successfully obtained legal custody of Jeremiah, his passport, birth certificate and all relevant documents in miraculous timing, only to be rejected on Jeremiah's visiting visa to Australia, on the grounds that Jeremiah was a threat to overstay his visa. We received the rejection at the airport so we said very traumatized goodbyes and Andy, with Eli, Rebekah, Noah and Isaiah went back to Australia, leaving me and Jeremiah in Vanuatu to reapply for a visiting visa with more detailed information.
Another two weeks passed and a second rejection notice received. At this time I was living in Mele Village with our island Mummy, Stella and her family. Upon the second rejection we decided Andy must pack up all our possessions and leave our home in Australia and begin a life in Vanuatu - together - as a family. Within 24 hours of this decision, Andy had organized my cousin and his family to move into our home, on 3 1/2 acres with over a dozen animals; received a call organizing the delivery of a donated storage container for us to store all our things in. Within five days our home was packed up into storage and within a week Andy and the kids were on the plane back to Vanuatu to reunite with their mama and brother!
For fifteen months we lived without a job. We can simply declare God's greatness in providing for our family in too many ways number. We thank all those who have, over this journey, supported us so generously. In this time we decided we would begin establishing The Jeremiah Project. We registered as a charity organization within Vanuatu. An interest free loan was given by generous donors in Australia for the purpose of establishing the Jeremiah Project and providing a place to live for our family. We found land and began the very lengthy process of buying the block chosen for the establishment of the Jeremiah Project (actually "leasing" the land as all land can only be leased in Vanuatu). The process took over a year! In this time we lived in four different homes - Mele Village, Prima, Erakor Village and Bellevue Park. Today we reside on the land bought for the Jeremiah Project - "Graon Blong Hop" - "Land of Hope". It is here that we will establish the Project base.
Written in May 2015 by Jenny
When the land sale was finalised in March this year we began building in a small carport to make a home for our family on the land. We moved in at the end of February although we were not finished building - no corro on the upper part of the external walls and lots of other finishing jobs that would ensure strength in a storm! We were so excited to move to our land, settle in and begin work on the Jeremiah Project. A week after moving in we found out a cyclone was forming and predicted to hit our home of Vanuatu at an estimated Catergory 5 level in less than a week!!! You can imagine the flurry of activity that spun from this news. We were both already rather exhausted spending the previous 21 weeks living in a different place almost every week and 17 weeks of that was sharing homes with friends and family and then busily trying to build a home to live in, sort through our containers - one that we stored in Vanuatu with our belongings we had accumulated whilst living here and another that had been sent over with some of our belongings from oz and a whole lot of donated goods for the Jeremiah project. In the week after we moved in we had emptied a great deal of boxes into our small home (7.5 by 5.5m) and also into a small local hut already on the land. After news of the cyclone we prayed about how to respond. We decided to empty everything from the hut back into the container, all our mattresses, clothes and belongings from the house back into the container. In the week of prep, Andy had to buy and make storm shutters, finish building our house and move a truck load of belongings! Everyone pitched in to help! Eli screwed in over 400 extra roofing screws. There was so much going on! In this busy preperation time, I was not at all worried about our safety during the storm but I really struggled with how we would get all we had to do, done in time.
Early in the week our friend Maxie called Andy and said he was worried about the big tree over our house (to which Andy replied - Me too!!!!) and want to come and cut some branches down. So Maxie and the boys came and cut down some of the massive big branches over our house which was an amazing blessing both because Andy didn't have time to deal with the tree whilst he was trying to secure the house, plus he isn't good with heights!!! :) During the week Andy also was juggling work jobs as well! Whilst doing a job at a friends house they offered for us to come and stay with them during the cyclone. Given we were rather uncertain of how our place would withstand the wind especially with all the trees scattered around ours and the surrounding properties, we decided this was the safest thing to do. On Thursday 12 March (Eli's 12th birthday and the day Cyclone Pam was expected to hit) we went to Bob and Brenda's house to ride the storm together. We couldn't possibly have anticipated what was going to happen in the following 24 hours. Friday came and we all enjoyed a morning swim - even refering to our adventure as a cyclone party - helping the children relax :). The house was situated on a ridge so we knew it would cop the full brunt of the storm but they had what we called a bunker - a small shed/garage near the front of their home - concrete walls and roof with a roller door. This was where we were to stay when the strom hit. Because it was so slow moving we almost became a little complacent, not moving into the bunker and thinking we would be ok in the house. Cyclone Pam hit Efate Friday night. By about 9:30pm water was running down the walls of the house and at about 10pm Andy popped to the bathroom, Bob, Brenda, their two sons, daughter in law and I watched as the ceiling fell in their lounge area - it was a high ceiling and a large area and the whole thing just fell down! Bob yells - to the bunker! Grab a child! We all grab a child and by this stage Andy comes out to find us all running around rushing to get out of the house! We ran down to their garage (attached to the house) and waited till it was safe to run from the house to the bunker. Bob stayed behind to close the house roller door and as he did the ceiling in there fell on top of him! In the bunker the roller door buckled with the winds and at this stage the boys all realise its not going to hold! There had been plans to move a truck in front of the door but for whatever reason hadn't happened. So Bob, his two sons, Adrian and Daniel, and Andy shoved bbq, outdoor furniture, whatever was in the bunker against the door and held the door with all their might! Now when the winds would hit the boys were thrown backwards by the force! In my mind I'm thinking there is no way they are going to be able to hold this door shut! I start praying "God, don't you take my babies, please God don't take my babies!!!!" and I sing - I sing praise songs to God - it was so crazy loud so I just sung at the top of my voice. At first we had the kids on stretchers but then Bob worried the door might blow and land right on us so we squished into either side of the roller door at the front of the shed - Brenda and Joanna with two pikinini and me with three. I prayed that Noah and Isaiah would not think I had abandoned them leaving them with Brenda and Joanna - they seemed so so far away! By now I began praying to God - "Ok God, I'm ready. If now is my time I am ready." With everything within me I was sure I was not going to see the light of day. For over five hours the men held the door with - I am certain - the help of angels! Just before sunrise the storm had subsided enough for the men to let go of the door and everyone dozed for a short time before we opened the door at first light. There was debri everywhere!!! The roof of Bob and Brenda's house had been totally ripped off! Inside their house looked like a bomb had hit - stuff was scattered everywhere!! Ceiling was all over the ground, a foot or so of water was through the whole place, there was even sausages scattered across the floor from inside the fridge!!! Andy and I were sure by this stage that our home would be gone. When we looked around at the destruction we were sure that our place would be destroyed also so we prepared ourselves for just that - we reassured eachother it was ok - God had provided for our every need till now and He wasn't about to stop. Andy ran home to our house (we had left our truck at Bob's shop warehouse which was a blessing because where it was parked at their house was their roof, so it would have been detroyed!). As Andy ran he looked around and saw homes and land that he had never seen before - massive trees upended, branches all gone. As he came around the corner of our street he could see our home in the valley - it was there! And it looked to be ok!!! Sure enough it was. God had saved our home! The tree above had dropped some massive branches on the other side to where Maxie and the boys had cut down - ones that would certainly have crushed the house had they have been on the house side. But the house was ok!!! :)