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53 churches destroyed by Cyclone Pam

Port Vila, Vanuatu—The Seventhday Adventist Church in Vanuatu is trying to remain positive as they look to rebuild after Cyclone Pam, but the situation is dire. Fifty-three churches have been “lost” according to latest reports, six schools have had multiple buildings destroyed, and 20 pastors and 100 teachers have lost their homes, not to mention all the other church members.

The rebuilding may take years because many church members have lost homes and income sources to the cyclone. Tithes and offerings will be significantly reduced for some time, because 80 to 90 percent of church members are subsistence farmers who operate on a cash crop economy. For many, crops and livelihoods are wiped out and will take a long time to recover.

“Yes, the devastation to our church properties is great. Many churches, both permanent, semi-permanent, and temporary, have all been destroyed— some partly, some with complete destruction,” said Vanuatu Mission president Nos Terry Mailalong. “That is a big blow to the members, for most of these people in the rural areas would not have any source of income because their source of income is completely destroyed.”

While the government may provide support to rebuild the schools, and agencies like the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) are working to keep people feed, shel-tered, and healthy, there is no money to rebuild the churches that have been destroyed. Mailalong has called for groups who want to do “fly ’n’ builds” to come and help.

“The biggest need is . . . for the church in the South Pacific to stand together to rebuild the loss to the church. Our biggest need is funds to provide building materials, fly and build teams willing to go and reconstruct the lost church infrastructure. This is probably one of the disasters in the Pacific Islands where the church has incurred the biggest loss ever.”

“[In the short term] for most of our churches that are destroyed [we need] tarpaulins that can be used to provide temporary shelter for wor-ship, and even to house some of our pastors/ministers who have lost their homes,” said Mailalong. “About twenty of my ministers/pastors have lost their homes, personal belongings, and books. So I am appealing for anyone who has spare books that you think can be useful to my pastors out here in the islands, and they will be very much appreciated.”

Pastors through the ministerial associations of the South Pacific Division and Australian Union Conference are helping provide Bibles and books for those pastors who have lost their resources, and Adventist schools throughout Australia are hoping to do the same for teachers and schools.

Last year, Vanuatu experienced its highest number of baptisms ever, and the churches swelled to overflowing after the Port Vila Evangelism 2014 campaign. The challenges of nurturing and finding space in churches for all these members has been heightened by Cyclone Pam’s destruction.

A special fund, held in trust by the South Pacific Division (SPD), is being set up to help with the reconstruction of Adventist churches and schools that have been damaged. If you live in SPD, donations can be made through the Adventist eGIVING Web site, under the option labeled “Vanuatu Cyclone Pam Assistance.” The Hope Channel has also established a special fund to assist in this rebuilding effort. Visit www.HopeChannel.com/donations /vanuatu-appeal to give.

To donate to ADRA’s Vanuatu Disaster fund, visit www.adra.org. Money donated to this fund will be used to support ADRA projects throughout Vanuatu. [Adapted from Jarrod Stackelroth/Record.net.au]

Adventist Church president holds first meeting with United Nations chief

New York City, New York, United States--United Nations

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concerns about grow-ing religious intolerance worldwide and invited the Adventist Church to work with the United Nations (UN) in helping people during a private meeting with Seventh-day Adventist Church leader Ted N. C. Wilson on April 6, 2015.

Wilson, the first Adventist Church president to meet with a UN chief, noted that the church has long supported religious liberty and said it was willing to team up on initiatives that followed Christ’s ministry of helping people physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. “Seventh-day Adventists should be ready to witness for the Lord anywhere we go and to testify of God’s blessing in our lives and what we can do in His name,” he said. “The world is waiting for this type of heaven-inspired testimony with clear answers to today’s problems.”

Ban spoke about global issues such as poverty and a lack of education before voicing his concern about religious intolerance reaching unprecedented levels globally. Ban underscored his belief that people should cultivate a respect for all, including those of other faiths. He indicated that he appreciated the Adventist Church’s work in promoting religious liberty as well as education, health, and humanitarian aid through the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA). ADRA has worked with the UN in assisting refugees in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Wilson told about various church initiatives that correspond with the UN’s mission to help people. “We had an excellent meeting with the secretary-general and some of his staff, sharing with them about the Adventist Church’s activities,” Wilson said. “We focused on certain things that the Adventist Church can help with, such as religious liberty, freedom of conscience, ethical and spiritual values, respect for human dignity, family guidance, encouragement for young people, and basic human necessities like pure water and fundamental edu-cation.” Wilson added, “Only if we are led by the Lord can we be truly effective in our outreach to the world, pre-paring them for Christ’s soon coming by carrying out the practical ministry of Jesus through the Holy Spirit’s power.”

[Adapted from Andrew McChesney/Adventist Review]

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