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On a Sunday in late November 2015, we had visited the church in that rural farming community. Gary had preached and I was asked at the close of the morning service to give a pep-talk to the church people about launching their own kindergarten. There is no school of any kind for miles around so all children must leave home and live with relatives elsewhere if they want to start their education. I do not normally give such pep-talks but in light of the lack of education for the children, it was not difficult to underscore the need and their ability to do something for their children. The church itself had 50 children in attendance that morning!
So to be asked just five months later to come and attend the opening of the first kindergarten was awesome!
JBI Dean of students, Pastor Kiel Maimai and a group of JBI students accompanied me and Jasmine. Pastor Kiel and the students were to speak in the Sunday morning service which would follow the official ribbon cutting ceremony of the kindergarten.
Welcome speeches were given by Pastor Charley Job and the community leaders. The chief announced the name of the school as LoriNafeNaka Kindergarten and it was unexpected to be thus honored. The next day was my birthday so it was a very special gift. The other parts of the name identify the two language groups the school will serve.
The kindergarten was made of local materials by the community and sits on the church property. I was asked to cut the vine across the door with a machete knife and then we went inside to look at the lovely schoolroom.
Group photo above: myself, Mrs. Charley Job, Pastor Charley Job from Green Hill, JBI students, Pastor Kiel Maimai, and local Pastor David Willie. Pastor David Willie (photo below) is a 2013 JBI graduate and became the pastor of the church after graduating. Rangorango began as an outreach of Green Hill church and many people have come to Christ.
Sunday morning services are held under blue plastic tarps as the former building was destroyed by Cyclone Pam last year. This community depends on market gardening for income and was very hard hit by last year’s cyclone and the drought which followed. The JBI students led the morning service, shared testimonies and song, and then Pastor Kiel preached. We had a wonderful service and a potluck dinner followed.
Please pray for Pastor David Willie and his family as they minister among the people of Rangorango. Please pray for the kindergarten teacher and the little ones being taught each day. If you would like to help provide a more permanent church roof for this congregation or school supplies, please contact us.
I was so impressed when I visited the primary school at Teouma Green Hill on the 22nd of April 2015. It had only been a few weeks since Cyclone Pam had devastated the southern half of the country. The upper Teouma farming community had been destroyed by the category 5 cyclone. The Green Hill School, started by Pastor Charley Job, had lost every building, most of their furniture, and books to the violent winds. But the headmaster had rallied his teachers and the community and by April 22nd they were back in class. This was truly a remarkable sight as teachers propped their blackboards on the ground and students huddled together on the grass to do their lessons. A hodgepodge of donated plastic tarps provided a roof over each class. It was an amazing effort to move on after an unprecedented disaster and I knew that others would want to assist and encourage such resilience.
The first commitment to finance a new class building for these children came from the Australian Christian Churches International Relief (ACCIR) and I am forever grateful to them for their partnership and trust. A building plan for a simple 3 classroom building was drawn up and paperwork signed.
Once the funds were in hand, the process of purchasing the materials and getting them up the 4WD bush road began. The delivery process took much longer than expected. Most local businesses did not want to send their delivery trucks off road. A big thank you to MCI for being the only coral and sand distributor willing to deliver all the way to the school site. Wilco Hardware and Bluescope Roofing also graciously delivered. But for the remaining tons of materials, cement, wood, rebar, and eventually water, local pick-up truck drivers had to be hired to make the deliveries.
A couple of months after Cyclone Pam, Vanuatu was hit by an ElNino drought and all rain ceased. Most people in Vanuatu are not connected to a water supply but rather depend on catching rainwater. The prolonged drought greatly improved the delivery conditions of the road to Teouma which most of the time is a slippery, rutted four wheel drive mud road. On the hand, the drought has prevented the market gardening community of Teouma from regaining its normal cash income and caused great hardship. Crops were replanted promptly post-cyclone but the harvest has been meager.
On November 23, 2015, reconstruction officially started on the Green Hill Primary school. The community had fundraised to purchase tools, buy fuel for the generator to run the cement mixer, and host temporary construction workers.
Everyone had been stocking water in tanks and containers to use in the pouring of the cement floor. The water on hand ran out half way through pouring the cement slab. Again the community rallied by filling water containers at a nearby lake and bringing it to the worksite. The workmen continued to mix cement as the people brought water. The cement slab was finished this past week. The rest of the building is a wood construction so there will be less need of water.
If you would like to assist the rebuilding of the Green Hill Primary School, we are currently needing funds to buy school desks and chairs. A second classroom building will also be started in early 2016 and about $40,000 US is needed.
Rhonda, a dear friend in New Zealand, contacted me shortly after Cyclone Pam and wanted to know what she could send to help. I knew that rice and basic food was being distributed already so I asked for used clothes and bedding. So many people had all their belongings blown away in the cyclone that it seemed like used clothing would be helpful. She took up the challenge and mobilized friends and they collected, sorted, washed and packed lovely clothes for Vanuatu and in the end a whole 20ft container was shipped.
On Thursday, May 21, I got a message asking me to come the next morning and empty the container. I hired a truck and took along Jeremy, Pastor Kiel, and a handful of JBI students. It took us about 6 hours to unpack and take all the boxes to JBI to organize our distribution.
Since then we have delivered clothes to community groups and churches, who in turn have shared them with their members. I have met a lot of new friends and drove down unfamiliar roads while delivering clothes to needy communities. Everywhere people have been so grateful for the unexpected gift of clothes, shoes and bedding.
I honestly never knew, how many boxes of clothes could be packed into a 20ft container. We piled a JBI classroom high with boxes and took truckloads of boxes to nine communities the first day. The room looked just as full afterwards! We have continued to deliver clothes and then asked others to come by and pickup boxes.
Jasmine and Jeremy have been a great help. Jasmine organized the boxes as they arrived to the JBI classroom. Jeremy helped empty the container and reload trucks. The JBI students generously worked during their school break and made deliveries. Thanks also to Floyd for lending his truck for deliveries in town.
And THANK YOU to our New Zealand friends who blessed so many people with lovely clothes, shoes and linens!
A month after Cyclone Pam, food shortages continue to be everyday concerns for many people in Vanuatu.
For urban populations, most food is purchased as few urban dwellers have space for food gardens. The inhabitants of Port Vila and surrounding areas who need cash to purchase food are struggling. Money is being stretched in so many different ways. Houses have been damaged, roofs need to be replaced, clothes and other belongings blown away by the storm. There is not enough money to buy food from the supermarkets and replace everything else. Local neighborhood vegetable stands have not reopened as there isn’t local produce to sell.
The tourist trade stopped abruptly. Hotels and restaurants were closed and employees laid off. Thankfully, some establishments have continued to pay their staff. But taxi drivers and tour operators have felt the loss of income dramatically. A couple of cruise ships have called in to Port Vila in recent days and brought relief supplies as a gesture of goodwill but infrastructure in the southern part of the country is not ready to receive tourists yet.
Rural populations in Vanuatu normally depend on their subsistence farming to feed their families and bring in cash. Rural populations do not have grocery stores in their villages. After the cyclone, families quickly cleaned gardens and replanted with any available seed. Some crops like yams were coming to harvest and they are being consumed. Places with yams have been granted a short reprieve. Then there will be a time of waiting before other crops are ready. A hungry time as it is often called.
We have been blessed to receive two shipments of fresh island food from the food gardens of Sanma Bible Training Center on the northern island of Santo. They were just outside of the path of the cyclone and did not get the damage many other islands experienced. Bryan and Renee Webb and the school staff have made such an effort to dig up root crops and send us 26 big bags of produce on the Vanuatu Ferry this past Thursday.
JBI students washed all the vegetables and repackaged them into family size bags. Today over a 100 bags were taken to needy families in Port Vila.
We are so grateful to those of you who have given funds for food, much of that through Convoy of Hope. As funds comes in, we will continue to give out food both in the urban and rural areas.
On Wednesday, April 8th, I (Lori) was asked to become the treasurer of the newly formed Vanuatu AOG Church National Disaster Committee which will serve as the official voice for fundraising and rebuilding.
Our task is to rebuild church facilities damaged or totally destroyed during the passage of Cyclone Pam (March 13-15, 2015) and to continue food distribution in specific areas of need.
We have met five times in the last 10 days in order to open a new bank account and compile information. We are handing all the incoming damage assessment reports and photos of church properties. The information has been put on computer and priority lists are now in place. We have a few Assemblies of God churches in outer islands which have not yet been visited and their buildings may also be damaged.
This level of devastation in so many different places and islands by one cyclone, is unprecedented, I believe, in Vanuatu history. 188,000 people were directly affected by this cyclone, having lost homes, subsistence farms, and/or businesses. Our church members are among them.
Fifty-one Assemblies of God church buildings on four different islands have had damage assessments. 31 of 51 are totally destroyed. The remaining twenty churches suffered damage, mostly iron roofs and timbers blown away.
Pastor Hosea of Karimasanga, South Tanna, (pictured above) is standing in the doorway of their village church. Nothing is left of their building. He also lost his house and many belongings.
Will you please share our need with others who may also be able to help us?
For the immediate repair of Joy Bible Institute:
Checks can be sent to: Assemblies of God World Mission, 1445 Boonville Ave. Springfield, MO. 65802.
Please designate any checks mailed to Assemblies of God World Mission for:
J. Gary Ellison, AGWM account #236425 – JBI project #5619
Cyclone Pam was called a “monster” even before she began to ravage the islands of Vanuatu. This massive storm travelled down the length of the country bringing devastation from the island of Pentecost to Tanna in the far south.
Port Vila, the capital city, is located on the island of Efate. Port Vila is the most heavily populated place in the whole country of 63 islands. This is where Joy Bible Institute is located. The island of Efate took a direct hit from Pam. The subsequent devastation, with an estimated 85% of all houses severely damaged or totally lost, shows the power of 320kmph winds.
The capital city is a mass of debris: roofing materials scatter the roads, power lines are down, huge trees are uprooted, house floors sit exposed to the wind, and even concrete walls have been pushed over by the fierce winds.
People who already lived on meager resources are now left destitute. The country’s infrastructure has also been crippled: mobile phone towers buckled, satellite dishes broken, schools sit roofless, government buildings battered, and the main hospital eerily broken and empty.
The great efforts to bring basic services and development to the island nation of Vanuatu over the years have been wiped away with one powerful cyclone. The full impact of Pam, the loss of human life, and the scale of the disaster will only come to light in the weeks to come as the ships take to calmer seas, the small planes land on grass runways, the mobile phones begin to ring, and news comes from all the remote villages and islands still silently suffering.
Please pray and give to assist the wonderful people of Vanuatu.
It is great to be back online and have internet service again! Getting a house, unpacking and moving has not been as easy as we had hoped…never is really. Things take much longer than you hope they will. We moved into our rental house and five days later had our first robbery which resulted in the loss of Gary’s new Apple laptop and my mobile phone! It was such a shock to us to have this happen! We are so thankful that Gary had everything except a most recent Bible study backed up. Unfortunately, his computer cannot be replaced here and this is really hindering him from getting his work done. The thieves came again two weeks later and damaged windows and a door but did not get in. UPDATE: Our landlord has just installed security bars on the windows. Thank you for praying for our safety and good rest.
Two weeks ago, we were sitting out Cyclone Vania, which actually formed near the southern Vanuatu island of Erromango, about 100 miles away. It was a slow moving cyclone with high winds which uprooted trees in our yard and all over the Joy Bible Institute campus. The campus still looks like a war zone as so many large trees have come down. We are thankful that no buildings were seriously damaged but we lost the bananas, papayas and much of the avocado crop which the students eat.
The southern islands of Vanuatu were harder hit by Cyclone Vania with food gardens and huts destroyed. For people in rural areas this means food shortages until the next crops can be planted and harvested in 4 to 6 months. We know of four AG churches on Tanna which were heavily damaged. The damage reports are still coming in from other rural areas. Plans are underway for a shipment of food to be sent to Tanna with the assistance of AG World Relief. Thank you to those who have given towards this. Pray that things will go smoothly and a ship will be going south with space to take relief supplies very soon.
UPDATE: Yesterday a second cyclone called Yasi passed over the northern Vanuatu islands of the Banks. All domestic flights were cancelled due to the high winds. Our missionary colleague, Bryan Webb, who was down in Port Vila with us over the weekend and unable to fly home yesterday. His wife and children went through the cyclone alone. I am happy to say he was able to get on a flight home today. We have many churches on the small Banks Islands and are waiting for damage reports. So please pray for the people in the Banks who have just gone through this cyclone. The meteorological department has predicted four cyclones to hit Vanuatu this season.
In February we wrote about Hurricane Gene which had devastated the small southern island of Futuna. Thanks to AG World Relief we quickly had money in hand to send emergency food supplies on the first ship going to Futuna after the disaster. Futuna is a small island and the inter-island ships only stop there a few times each year. Ever since February we have been waiting for the next ship headed to Futuna to send more supplies. This morning I was able to put 19 sheets of metal roofing on the MV Southern Star leaving for Futuna tonight. This roofing is to help repair the damaged AG church. We needed 44 sheets of metal roofing but I only had funds on hand to purchase 19 sheets. I want to thank local business Vate Industries, for a great price on the 19 sheets! If you would like to assist us in providing some or all of the remaining roofing, please email us. About US$2,200 will finish the job!
After several delayed departures due to ship engine problems, an alternative ship, the M.V. Northern Star left the wharf this evening with emergency relief for the small southern island of Futuna (see map). On board was a shipment of food which we purchased with Assemblies of God World Relief (AGWR) funds. Futuna was severely hit by Hurricane Gene in January and ever since then we have been trying to get emergency food to the inhabitants. The M.V. Northern Star is the first ship going to Futuna since the hurricane. Please pray that the ship will have a safe trip south to Futuna and that the cargo will be unloaded and distributed without further delay. Pray also for our two Assemblies of God pastors on Futuna, Pastor Michel and family, and Assistant Pastor Maine and his wife who have a newborn baby.
THANK YOU TO ASSEMBLIES OF GOD RELIEF and everyone who donated funds. We were able to ship 825 bags of rice, 120 bags of sugar, 300 bags of noodles, 120 medium size cans of powdered milk, 240 bags of nutritional chocolate drink mix for the children, 384 cans of meat and 144 boxes of salt. We also thank the local wholesaler, Au Bon Marche, for generously adding 120 small bags of powdered milk to our shipment. Three boxes of food and clothing were sent to our pastors and their families as well. Soon this food will be distributed to the people of Futuna. May God bless each of them as they receive and all of you who have given!
Hurricane Gene did not come far enough north to cause damage here on Efate but it has caused great destruction on the small southern island of Futuna. We talked with Pastor Robert’s wife today and she told us that they had been in contact with family on Futuna yesterday. They are rejoicing that no one was killed but trees were uprooted and the crops devastated by high winds and torrential rains. The local houses did not withstand the winds either and only in a few areas were the houses spared. The Assemblies of God church is one of the buildings still standing.
We have heard that a ship may be headed to Futuna in a few days and we have asked for AG relief funds to buy rice and canned foods to send with it. Please pray for the people of Futuna as they begin to clean up after the terrible hurricane. Pray that our pastor and his congregation even during their own loss will be an example of compassion and encouragement to those around them.