March 27, 2015

Vanuatu Cyclone Takes Serious Toll on Adventist Church

Updated on March 30, 2015

, South Pacific Adventist Record

The Adventist Church suffered serious losses when Cyclone Pam battered the South Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu, including the destruction of at least 18 churches attended by 2,400 members.

Twenty pastors lost their homes and all possessions, but they and other local church leaders are more worried about the faith of scores of newly baptized members who also lost everything in the cyclone earlier this month.

The Vanuatu Mission had insurance for its headquarters but not for the churches, schools, and clinics that were damaged or destroyed, said Nos Terry, president of the church’s Vanuatu Mission.

“Yes, the devastation to our church properties is great,” Terry said. “That is a big blow to the members.”

Francois Keet, chief financial officer for the Trans-Pacific Union Mission, said Vanuatu urgently needed funds for building materials and construction teams to replace the lost buildings.

“This is probably one of the disasters in the Pacific Islands where the church has incurred the biggest loss ever,” he said.

Information about damaged and destroyed churches was included in a report released by the Vanuatu Mission this week. The report also mentions damaged schools and clinics.

Terry underscored that the report only focused on church-owned property and did not include hundreds of church members’ homes.

“Of course the people are resilient, trying to do something to rebuild their lives, but I can tell the spirit and morale of some of our members is down,” Terry said. “So please do remember us in your prayers, that the loss of earthly temporal possessions will not have an adverse impact on the spirituality of our people, especially the newly baptized members.

“Instead this experience will strengthen their commitment to the Lord, this is what I pray would happen,” he said.

Last year, Vanuatu saw record baptisms in connection with two evangelistic series. The thousands of new members filled existing churches to overflowing. The challenge of nurturing the new members and finding space for them in churches has been heightened by Cyclone Pam’s destruction.

Many church-owned structures that remain standing, including at least 10 churches, have lost roofs or sustained other damage.

“The urgent need for most of our churches that are destroyed is tarpaulins that can be used to provide temporary shelter for worship, and even to house some of our pastors who have lost their homes,” Terry said.

He said about 20 pastors have lost their homes, personal belongings, and books.

“So I am appealing for anyone who has spare books,” he said.

The church also has lost equipment. All three satellite dishes at the Vanuatu Mission compound were destroyed. A solar-powered hot-water system on the roof of the Vanuatu Mission president’s house was destroyed, and most of the mission’s IT equipment suffered water damage.

Four Adventist elementary schools on the island of Tanna were completely destroyed: Enikis, Leaur, Lowanata and Entaniue.

The Maumau elementary school and most of the Kwataparen junior high school on the island of Efate were destroyed, and most of the Port Quime High School on Epi was destroyed.

Six Adventist clinics operate on Vanuatu. Only one, the Port Quime clinic, suffered some damage, to its roof, ceiling, and walls. A nurse’s house also was damaged.

Adventist Church leaders around the Pacific are calling for prayer and support for the church in Vanuatu as it starts to rebuild.

“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.”

A special fund, held in trust by the South Pacific Division, is being set up to help with the reconstruction of Adventist churches and schools that have been damaged. These donations will not be tax deductible and can be made through the Adventist eGIVING website.

ADRA have also established a Vanuatu Disaster fund, but money donated to this fund will be used to support ADRA projects throughout Vanuatu and not to rebuild churches that have been destroyed.

Click here to read Terry's complete report on the damages to church properties across Vanuatu.