Through the Storm: Stories from Vanuatu
Cyclone Pam traveled across the island nation of Vanuatu on 13 March 2015 and left a trail of destruction in its wake. After the storm, churches immediately began to reach out to their neighbors in need. Local churches in Vanuatu reached out to their neighbors, prayers were sent from around the world, and donations were made to support the relief efforts. The church has rallied around those affected by the storm. Today we share stories from the field about the resilient churches and people of Vanuatu and celebrate God’s work in and through our church.
Our Friend Jimmy
The Prima Church of the Nazarene is a church plant located just outside of Port Vila, the capital city of Vanuatu. After the storm, the church gathered together to share their stories, to thank God for His protection, and to worship once again. Jimmy lives in Prima, an area where many of the structures were flattened by the storm and attends this particular church. Even though his home lost its corrugated roofing sheets in the wind, and his household items are still scattered in his yard, Jimmy worked hard in his community after the cyclone to help many people restore the roofs on their homes.
The actions of Jimmy and other local church members have served as an incredible expression of God’s love and care. The chief of Jimmy’s village expressed his deep gratitude to God and the Nazarene church for rice, water, and tarps that were given immediately after the cyclone had passed.
Meriam and David
Further north, Meriam and David pastor a local church in the community of Vila North. Much like the rest of the island, their neighborhood was impacted greatly by the strong winds of Cyclone Pam. “No matter which direction I turned, the wind was hitting us,” Meriam recalls. “I told [my family] to gather up your clothes because we’ll run with just what we are wearing. The first wall lifted. Then the next wall. Then the roof.” Meriam and her family fled to the hills near their home and took shelter in a small cave carved into the side of the mountain. Not a single post of their home was left standing after the storm passed through. Although it is difficult, “like in the story of Job, we will still love God and serve God and do his work. We thank everyone for your prayers.”
Peter and Jenny Isaac, missionaries to Vanuatu from Papua New Guinea, retold the story of how their family rode out the storm. “We heard the wind and saw how dark it was … we thought about how we had given our lives to God in mission to save others. Who would save us?” The uncertainty of what was ahead created anxiety within the family, but they resolved to trust in God. “In the morning we looked out and saw that it was as if someone had used a chainsaw to cut down everything … in the 10 years we have lived here, we’ve never faced anything like this.” While the experience of the storm was traumatic, the Isaacs are determined to continue being channels of God’s compassion to their neighbors. Peter remembered praying during the storm, “I was thinking about all of our Nazarenes here on Vanuatu who were sleeping in houses that aren’t brick houses. I just prayed that God would hold them in his hands. I see that he has answered prayer.”
As local churches continue the relief efforts, we are reminded that the beauty of Vanuatu “cannot be masked by the current tangle of leafless trees and fallen branches … its real beauty is in the people,” says John Watton, NCM coordinator in the Asia Pacific region. We are encouraged by the hope and determination of the people of Vanuatu, and we celebrate how God is using His church to reflect His compassion in the midst of disaster.
Watton reminds us, “Although there is still plenty of clean-up work yet to be done, it is inspiring to see just how much has already been accomplished. … Our local church members have been involved in helping restore their own communities. Today, the people up at the Snake Hill church plant sent a big sack of vegetables down to the people at the Prima church. These are key times for the church to be the church."
“Thank you to the Church of the Nazarene, who has provided food and water in this disaster.” – Seul, church leader
Learn more about the church’s response and how you can help at ncm.org/Vanuatu.