In 2017, Castlemaine Church of Christ (Victoria) signed a formal Partnership Agreement with Churches of Christ Conference Vanuatu on behalf of the East Santo Churches of Christ. They have been sending teams to Vanuatu since 2012, starting with three visits focusing on building construction. Then in 2016, the Sunday School in Australia raised funds for the primary school in Vanuatu and a team travelled again, providing materials for the primary school in Sara Village (East Santo).
Ian Jones, Mission Deacon, says, “At each partner visit since 2012, we have seen barriers broken and relationships formed to the extent that we really are now family. A partner visit is a time to give much blessing, but also to receive much blessing.” Ian’s last visit to Vanuatu was in September, to run a children’s sports day and visit the many East Santo Churches of Christ villages. Ian reports on the team’s visit:
“The team consisted of four adults: myself and Jenny Jones, Dave Tolputt and Marg Peck and five young people, Thomas Critchley, Levi Chaffey, Gabe McCoy, Paige Clapton and Alicia Garigos. I was planning on doing some health screening for diabetes and high blood pressure as these are becoming more common in the ni-Vanuatu population. The visit certainly achieved its goals. The sports day program was participated in with much enthusiasm by the children. We even managed to sow AFL seeds into a soccer and rugby-dominated culture! We managed to visit five of the six villages that make up the East Santo Churches of Christ. The hospitality provided to us by the ni-Vanuatu locals was very humbling.
The young people on our team were taken out of their comfort zone. No running water, no electricity, no access to social media, sleeping on a roll mat on the floor, totally different food, but they coped admirably well. The team participated in a daily devotion on the fruit of the Spirit, ably led by Dave Tolputt. We were asked to look out for evidence of the fruit in our day-to-day activities and interactions.
There was also time for rest and relaxation with a visit to one of the renowned Blue Holes, Champagne Beach and Port Olry. We were also able to see first hand the effect on communities on Santo that the influx of people, displaced from Ambae as a result of the volcano, was having. The village of Rotal has gone from a handful of families, to receiving an additional 30 families. The team was able to provide some small practical help for this situation. The needs are great, but we can each do our little bit to help alleviate the situation.”