What a privilege it is to serve our partners throughout the world.
Recently, Barrie Yesberg (GMP Board Chair) and I had the opportunity to travel and visit the Churches of Christ Conference of Vanuatu (CCCV). We were invited to attend the signing of an MOU between South Seas Evangelical Churches from the Solomon Islands and CCCV, as they seek to strengthen ties for greater collaboration in the areas of leadership development, training and mission.
This visit allowed us to spend some time getting to know the new General Secretary, Owen Bani and the CCCV team based in Santo. We spent the days travelling out to remote islands and villages, visiting churches and projects supported by our supporters and meeting the locals and hearing their stories.
On the Sunday, we enjoyed a vibrant worship gathering in the church at Bombua village. It was a helpful cultural lesson, as what I thought at first was a small gathering of a dozen people, was actually the preservice worship as dozens of children had their Sunday School lesson in the shade of a nearby palm tree. When that concluded the chapel filled and the exuberance lifted. All ages gathered, men on the right, women on the left, no seat was spare and people flowed out onto the steps. The joy in the worship was electric. We sang songs affirming God’s goodness and our gracious acceptance as his beloved children. Holding hands with strangers and praising God with song and swinging hips was one of the most moving worship experiences I’ve had in a long time. It refreshed my soul.
Later that day, we visited newly established communities, formed by the refugees from Ambae when the volcano erupted. Only a third of people originally from Ambae live there today, everyone else has moved out of fear to resettle on other islands like Santo. A challenge for these families is limited public services and accessing essentials like clean water, so it was pleasing to meet families who had benefited from water tanks donated with your support and CCCV’s efforts.
The next day we travelled to remote villages in the central highlands of Santo. Here we met with village and church leaders and heard Owen Bani’s vision that every community ought to have three things - a school, an aid station (small health clinic) and a church. In the far-flung village of Butmas, we saw the French-speaking school (the children didn’t reply to any of my attempts to practise my limited French! More practice needed) and saw the centrally located aid centre, but when we came to the church, it was missing with only its foundations left. The 2020 Cyclone Harold had blown it into the jungle. Chief David said, “We can educate our children and care for our sick, but the heart and soul of our community is missing”.
Cyclone’s are a common feature in Vanuatu’s calendar. Kevin and Judy caused havoc earlier this year and at the time of writing this, Lola has just left her mark. Global Mission Partners is supporting three disaster recovery projects currently and looking at doing more through the Church Action Network Disaster Operations (CAN DO), especially in the area of disaster preparedness.
On the island Malo, just south of Luganville on Santo, Barrie observed newly built churches with cyclone proofing built into their design. This will allow communities to have a central place to seek safety together when the alarm is sounded. It’s projects like these, when Christian community and good development practice come together, that inspires me as I consider the future of Global Mission Partners.