The first church to be rebuilt in Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam devastated the island nation and destroyed 53 Adventist churches, has held a worship service.
Pang Pang church was filled for the October 17 dedication service. Two other churches were also being built at the time: Epau and Moso.
Elder Freddy from Pangpang said their new church is an answer to their prayers. “It's like manna falling from the sky” he said. He thanked the wider church family for giving their offering to support and that the members are very happy. “It is the best church building in the whole village.”
Brisbane builder Peter Koolik designed the prefab iron buildings that can be constructed on site within five to seven days. The buildings are rated to withstand a category 5 cyclone and, importantly, can be insured. There are two sizes: 12x6m, which will seat 70 people, and 12x9m, which will seat about 110. The smaller church delivered to the site for construction will cost $A16,000 and the larger one $A24,000. These buildings can be adjusted and used as classrooms for school rebuilds.
ADRA Connection teams from Australia and New Zealand are constructing and funding the school rebuilds.
In September, 10 of the prefab churches were shipped to Port Vila from Watson Park, Brisbane.
At this stage—through funding from the South Pacific Division, General Conference, Trans-Pacific Union Mission, Risk Management, Australian Union Conference, Southern Asia Pacific Division, HopeChannel, Pacific Adventist University, local conferences and missions and many individual donors—around $A900,000 has been raised for the rebuilding of churches.
The Trans-Pacific Union Mission (TPUM) and Vanuatu Mission are very grateful for the help received so far. “This is an amazing effort and the Church needs to read, see and hear about this,” said SPD president Pastor Glenn Townend, who was formerly president of TPUM. “TPUM and Vanuatu Mission would like to give a huge thank you to God’s people and to God. We are well on the way to really supporting Vanuatu.”
But there’s still much work to be done. Adventist Volunteer Services sent a team to construct the first churches but other teams from local churches and schools are also welcome. “We just need more teams to do the work,” Pastor Townend said. “That is the major need.”
Church leaders also recognise that rebuilding churches is not the only need faced by Adventists and the communities in Vanuatu. “The damage to the Church [in Vanuatu] is more than physical,” said SPD chief financial officer Rodney Brady. In disasters like this, he noted, “crops are lost and people lose their jobs. The effect is lower incomes and lower tithe. The flow-on is the Mission may have to lay off ministers and close schools. We saw with Vanuatu an initial large drop in income and the SPD allocated a large amount of money to cover the potential drop in Mission income. It was reported to me that there has been a drop but the recovery of jobs and income may be happening faster than expected,” Mr Brady said.
Soon work on the Church’s new multi-purpose centre will begin after plans were put on hold after the devastation of Cyclone Pam. Last year Vanuatu experienced its highest number of baptisms ever and the churches swelled to overflowing after the Port Vila Evangelism 2014 outreach. The challenges of nurturing and finding space in churches for all these members has been heightened by Cyclone Pam’s destruction.
An estimated 50 per cent of Vanuatu’s population of 125,000 people were affected by Cyclone Pam, which ripped through the island nation in March.
- Jarrod Stackelroth and Jean Pierre Niptik