A few miles out of town, you turn off the main road and head up a track made only for 4wheel drive vehicles to get to Green Hill, Upper Teouma. The road is deeply rutted, flooded, muddy, and a challenge to the best of drivers! The trip takes about 45 minutes if you do not get bogged down along the way.
Until Cyclone Pam, I confess I had never been there, I was always told that our car could not make it. (It most definitely would not!) I knew there were several Assemblies of God churches in the upper hills of Teouma and would see the pastors and their wives at various gatherings in town.
In April, the newly formed National AG Disaster Committee, hired a Landcruiser and driver and headed out for a damage assessment trip to Teouma. We had already done assessments of easier to reach churches and communities.
A month after the cyclone, the long grasses had grown but the trees were still mostly stripped of leaves, branches broken, and many completely uprooted. Teouma is a market gardening community, nestled high in the hills. The cyclone whipped over these high plateaus ferociously, ripping crops out of the ground and blowing away every building in some settlements. It was a sobering drive.
Our first stop was to Pastor Charley Job in Green Hill. Every building in their area blew away except his small cement block house. Their house had safely sheltered all the nearest neighbors during the storm. After the cyclone, they stepped out of their house to find their primary school gone, the church building gone, and the nearby church’s widows house also gone. The winds were so violent that almost nothing of the school was found within walking distance. They recovered only enough to rebuild a shed to store relief and donated school supplies in.
Green Hill Primary School had just reopened for classes the morning of our visit. Not all the children were back in school but the principal and teachers were doing their best under teach. Salvaged wood and donated plastic tarps were the new classrooms. Children sat mostly on the grass, as very few desks and chairs survived the cyclone. Normally 120 children attended this school.
I can tell you that I promised them that day to write letters and find someone to help them rebuild. Many damaged schools in town had not even begun to reopen when this school, which had lost everything, was back in session.
From Green Hill we came back down to visit Pastor and Mrs. John Yalsi of Red Ground, Teouma. Their farming settlement is perched high on a cliff overlooking the Teouma River Valley. It is a beautiful spot but was completely devastated by the cyclone. Everything was destroyed including their church. Even the cement walls crumbled. The church members climbed down the high cliff to recuperate metal roofing sheets and things for their houses. In the photo above, the pastor and his wife are standing in front of the ruins of their church. When we stopped to see them, they were busy in their gardens replanting crops to take to market in Port Vila. Until they had crops to sell, they would have no income.
After a short visit, some words of encouragement and gifts of rice and meat, we continued on down the hill towards another Teouma church pastored by Pastor John Yalu.
Pastor Yalu and his congregation, had used fallen coconut trees, bamboo, and blue plastic tarps to make the nicest temporary church I had seen. He was concerned that day because his wife had been away during the cyclone and was coming home to a house without a roof (photo on the right). We gathered with some of the church members and heard how God had protected them. Again after leaving some food, we continued on our way to visit other pastor and other destroyed church buildings.
The Assemblies of God had 30 church buildings completely destroyed and another 20 severely damaged by Cyclone Pam. Many pastors and their members lost their homes and their incomes. Thank you for praying and giving to help us rebuild churches in Vanuatu destroyed by this cyclone. If you haven’t yet given, we need your help. Please send all gifts to our AGWM account and label them for cyclone rebuilding.