Vanuatu Crisis Response
With many living as subsistence farmers in jungle villages, Vanuatu is a nation familiar with widespread poverty and primitive conditions. The destruction wrought on March 14 by Cyclone Pam has only made those realities worse.
Draw a direct flight plan from Hawaii toward Australia and go three fourths of the way. You’ve arrived at this nation of more than 80 islands, 65 of which are inhabited. The Assemblies of God in Vanuatu includes 141 churches, located across all major islands and attended by about 60,000 worshippers, almost a fourth of the total population of 267,000.
On Saturday, March 14, (Friday in the U.S.), Cyclone Pam veered from its predicted course to carve a path of destruction across much of Vanuatu.
“Vanuatu has many remote tribal groups,” says Greg Mundis, executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions. “I’m praying that believers in Vanuatu will be able to meet the needs of the suffering and reach out with the hope of the gospel in the aftermath of this tragedy.”
According to CNN, Pam made landfall with sustained winds of 155 mph and gusts up to 200 mph. Initial reports of damage from the capital, Port Vila, describe flattened buildings, trees plowed over and piled up, and residents seeking shelter in schools and churches. More than 90 percent of the houses and buildings in the capital were damaged or destroyed. All power across the island nation was wiped out, creating a communications blackout.
Assemblies of God missionary Bryan Webb is coordinating relief efforts in Vanuatu with the assistance of Convoy of Hope and local AG churches. A second COH Disaster Services team is en route from Springfield, Mo., as well as 40 tons of food, water and supplies.
Russ Turney, AG World Missions Asia Pacific regional director, asks for prayer for workers’ travel in very difficult circumstances, for the safety of all personnel involved in relief, and for hearts to be opened to the gospel in the aftermath of tragedy.
“Pray for our missionaries, churches and congregations in Vanuatu as they reach out to their communities to meet desperate needs and share the hope of the gospel in the midst of this tragedy,” Turney says.
News reports continue to place the death toll at 11, a low figure attributed by one Associated Press journalist to many communities taking “shelter in larger buildings such as schools and churches — a practice that relief groups have impressed upon Vanuatuans as a life-saving measure during storms.”
Numbers of those structurally protective churches have been built by the Assemblies of God, and AG believers will be reaching out from their churches to help those who are suffering in their communities.
“The news media have under-reported the Cyclone Pam disaster,” says Convoy President Hal Donaldson, “but AGWM, Convoy of Hope and our partners are committed to helping the people of Vanuatu recover from this tragedy. Thousands have lost everything they have and need our help putting their lives back together.”
To give a gift to help those suffering so much, go to giving.ag.org and click on the “Vanuatu Relief” button at the top of the page.
— Scott Harrup