, South Pacific Adventist Record and
At least four Seventh-day Adventist churches were flattened by a devastating cyclone that struck the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu over the weekend, church leaders said.
Many church members also have lost their homes and taken shelter in evacuation centers, but none are known to have been injured when Tropical Cyclone Pam pummeled the islands on Saturday.
“There are no Adventist casualties in Port Vila that we know of, but people have lost friends, neighbors, and loved ones, and the church is committed to supporting our community in any way we can,” said Nos Terry, president of the Adventist Church’s Vanuatu Mission.
At least 11 people were killed in the tragedy, the United Nations said Tuesday. But everyone seems to know someone who died in the close-knit community in Port Vila, the country’s capital with a population of 47,000.
Church leaders have yet to receive any word on church members outside of Port Vila because most of the country's radio, phone and Internet connections are down and bridges are destroyed.
“This makes it difficult to really assess the damage,” Terry said by telephone.
Four churches in Port Vila were completely destroyed, Terry said. The Potoroki Adventist Church, one of the largest churches in the city, lost part of its roof, its porch, and a house behind the church.
The Vanuatu Mission compound itself will require minor repairs, while many of its computers and other electronic equipment will need to be replaced following water damage. Some Hope Channel equipment also was destroyed or damaged by the water.
Terry said he worried that island churches would have trouble meeting next Sabbath.
“The greatest need of the church as I speak now is to put roofs on churches or at least shelters so people can worship again,” he said.
Workers from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency are on the ground, assisting people in the evacuation shelters and preparing emergency aid. ADRA also is seeking to reestablish contact with 10 missing staff members on two remote islands.
Church leaders, meanwhile, are filling out insurance claims on damaged property and then will have to wait for payments to come through.
“I would solicit the prayers of our people throughout the division for the church here and the people of Vanuatu,” Terry said.