A fire crackles in the humid air of Vanuatu. Young men emerge from the darkness and greet one another, their friendships add a warm glow to the atmosphere. This gathering has greater purposes than simple comradery, however: it is a place of conveying value and honour – first for those who join the fire-lit circle, and then beyond them.
As a patriarchal society, men carry power in Vanuatu. Domestic violence is a major problem. Men feel a sense of entitlement to dominate over women. But this is not the way to a good life, and one man wants to demonstrate and facilitate a better way.
Patick was raised in Vanuatu. He has traveled widely in missions and speaks five languages. But his heart desires to make a difference in his own nation, so he pioneered “Mat Time.”
Recently married to head nurse Mel Thacker of the Family Care Centre, Patick meets with local young men once a week. They gathered in a special nakamal built for this purpose. The small, grass-covered enclosure is the traditional meeting place where men in a village go to discuss community issues.
As chicken pieces roast, Patick talks about subjects that men need to understand: how to be a good father, why violence is not the answer, that respect for women forms a cornerstone of a stable society, and how providing for your family is a God-given responsibility.
Slowly, as young men sit around on woven mats listening to Patick’s instruction, changes begin to take place. His perspective shared during “Mat Time” comes as a surprise to these young men, who have been raised in repetitively violent homes with no mentoring on how to be responsible members of the village community. In some cases, rape is considered a rite of passage! Attitudes change and men begin to express their desire to have a better life, as better husbands, better sons, and better workers for the village.
It is through friendship – acceptance, and honor – that discipleship happens, and discipleship leads to transformed lives. Patick faithfully extends friendship to these men – and the nation of Vanuatu will never be the same.