Construction work has started on 53 Adventist churches destroyed by a devastating storm on the South Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu in March, even though only two-thirds of the needed funds have been raised, church leaders said.
About US$350,000 of the required US$540,000 in financing has been raised through donations and a variety of fundraisers since the category-5 Cyclone Pam ripped through Vanuatu four months ago.
The money has come from the General Conference, the Southern Asia Pacific Division, and various church groups and individuals.The South Pacific affiliate of Adventist Church-operated Hope Channel alone has raised enough funds to rebuild six churches.
The first churches are expected to reopen in October.
“This is an amazing effort, and the church needs to read, see and hear about this,” said Glenn Townend, president of the Adventist Church’s Trans-Pacific Union Mission, or TPUM, whose territory includes Vanuatu. “TPUM and Vanuatu Mission would like to give a huge ‘thank you’ to God’s people and to God.”
The president of Vanuatu Mission, Nos Terry, cautioned shortly after the disaster that the local church would not be able to rebuild on its own.
“We would need our brothers and sisters to help to rebuild our churches and schools at least, not to mention our homes,” Terry said. “The extent of the damage is beyond our capabilities.”
The church saw explosive growth in the small, remote nation during two major evangelistic series last year, baptizing nearly 3,000 new members. Many of them lost their livelihoods and new places of worship in the storm.
People responded to Terry’s appeal.
One of the more unique fundraising drives was a three-hour organ concert hosted by Avondale Memorial Seventh-day Adventist Church in Cooranbong, Australia.Twenty-two organists tag-teamed for the organ marathon in May, raising about US$2,300 for building supplies.
The concert featured an intergenerational group of Suzuki organists, including 7-year-old Johann Thompson and 90-year-old Glen Laurie.
Townend recently met with Peter Koolik, a builder from Brisbane, Australia, who is coordinating the rebuild and repair of churches in Vanuatu.
Koolik has designed a prefab iron building that can be constructed onsite in five to seven days. The building is rated to withstand category-5 cyclones and can be insured.
With some slight adjustments these buildings can also be used as classrooms for school rebuilds.
ADRA teams from Australia and New Zealand are constructing and funding school projects, and several churches have volunteered their services to assist in church building projects.