, South Pacific Adventist Record
Thirty-five people have been baptized in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu, including 16 at the inauguration of the first Seventh-day Adventist church on a remote island, and 19 people on another island who rejoined the Adventist Church after breaking away 17 years ago.
It was an historic day for the Adventist Church in Vanuatu when 16 people gave their lives to Christ in the first baptismal ceremony conducted on Futuna, one of the Vanuatu’s remotest islands.
The baptism was held at Herald Bay in the far south of Vanuatu, with church and community members from Efate and Tanna islands making the journey to witness the special event.
Pastor Jonathan Moses, leader of the church’s Tafea district, conducted the baptisms.
Two days later, he also led the dedication ceremony for the first Seventh-day Adventist church building on the island, marking the establishment of the Adventist message in an area that had remained mostly untouched during more than a century of church work in Vanuatu.
“Out of the five islands in the district of Tafea, Futuna was the only island where there was no Adventist presence, despite the church’s many attempts,” Moses said.
Watch the first 16 Adventist baptisms on Vanuatu’s island of Futuna. Video: Adventist Record
According to Adventist leaders, the people of Futuna simply did not want other Christian denominations to have a presence on the predominantly Presbyterian island.
That attitude has changed, however, as evidenced by Futuna’s paramount chief, Johnny Naweiakasi, officially opening the Imaraga Missionaries Seventh-day Adventist Church. People, including Christian leaders, from all across the island attended the ceremony.
During the dedication service, representatives of the Adventist Church’s Vanuatu Mission thanked an elder from the Epauto Adventist Church in Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila, for inviting and sponsoring pastor Solomoni Taipo to work on the island of Futuna.
Taipo, from Fiji, arrived at Futuna in 2013 without knowing anybody and unable to speak the local language, Bislama, a Vanuatu pidgin. However, he felt certain that God had called him to Futuna and was determined to offer Bible studies and help the local communities in any way possible, church leaders said.
His work was soon noticed by a local resident, Kopaji Maioho, and his wife, Esther, who gave Taipo land to build a church.
The bond established between the Fijian pastor and the Maiohos remained strong. When Kopaji Maioho died, Taipo moved in with the widow and her children to help around the home and support them financially.
Kopaji’ Maioho’s mother was among the 16 people baptized.
The Vanuatu Mission has high hopes for Futuna’s first Adventist church. The name of the church, Imaraga, means “multiply,” and church leaders will soon begin lay training to equip people to be missionaries for Jesus.
Meanwhile on Tanna Island, the leader of a breakaway group joined 18 of his followers in returning to the Adventist Church through baptism.
Timothy Kaio and his wife and sons, along with other members from the group, took part in a reconciliation ceremony after 17 years of separation from the mother church.
Vanuatu Mission president Nos Terry Mailalong officiated at the baptism on the shores of Bethel in front of members from the 11 organized churches on Tanna. He was joined by mission Ministerial Association secretary Kaio Timothy, and Tafea district leader Moses.
In his testimony after the baptism, Kaio appealed to other members of his group to return. Others who were baptized shared their testimonies of how they wasted years criticizing the mother church and failed to fulfill the gospel commission of Matthew 24.
People traveled from across Tanna to the Bethel church for the service, with some relatives flying in from Port Vila. Songs were composed especially for the event.
During a special service after the baptism the Bethel church choir sang and Mailalong spoke on reconciliation.
“Today I am a happy leader knowing that I am leading a unifying church,” Mailalong said.