As most of you know, we have been involved in a weather event here in Vanuatu. Port
Vila was hit hard by Cyclone Pam and we have been really busy trying to keep people sheltered, fed and with fresh drinking water. We have been without internet and electricity until yesterday when they were finally able to get power to the main Chapel in Port Vila. Yesterday, I didn't find time to write, but today I will try to sent a few pictures with more to come. Words do not tell the whole story, nor do pictures but together we will try to let you know what's been going on. Maybe some journal entries will be helpful:
The first thing we did was to get the Sisters from Etas and brought them in to Fresh Water to stay with the Sisters there. We then bought groceries, put everything in our bungalow up high and in general did everything we could think of to prepare for Cyclone Pam. At about 2:00 we were in line at the pump to top off our tank with diesel. President Brewer called and said he was calling all missionaries on the island to come in to the mission home. By the time we arrived at about 4:00 the wind and rain were picking up quite a bit. The main force of the storm was predicted to hit us between 5:00 and 7:00. Although it was quite a storm at that time, I felt that if that were as bad as it was going to get, it wouldn’t be too bad. By 10:00 we had lost power and we were experiencing the full force of a category 5 cyclone. This went on until about 2:30 or so. The storm seemed to just hang over Port Vila for that whole time without any let up. It was hard to sleep, so the sisters in the next room sang hymns. It was really beautiful and comforting to them.
Words cannot express the destruction we woke up to. A tree had fallen on a corner of the house in the early part of the storm and when we got up in the morning we could see that quite a lot of damage had been done. A lot of water had gotten in during the night so there was a lot of work to do to mop up and clean up all the debris in the yard. As we looked down over the city and harbor, we could see a lot of damage, but we couldn’t see the full extent from where we were. No one was hurt and we came out if it rather well. One of many miracles of the night and day was that about 9:00 AM, I received a phone call. No one had any service. Even the satellite phones were not getting out. Yet I received a call from a sister out at Etas asking me to come out and take photos to show the leaders so they would know how bad the destruction was in the village. I told her I would come as soon as possible, but I had to wait for roads to be cleared and get clearance from President Brewer. At about noon, VaLynne and I and the two Elders from Etas went out to see the damage and talk to the members of our Branch. The roads were all but impassable but we finally arrived to find a scene that would break anyone’s heart. Almost every member of the village had lost their home. It was almost total destruction. Thankfully, the members had sought refuge in the Chapel. It held up remarkably well and no one was injured. Although they had lost almost everything, they were happy. “We are alive, our families are safe, and we can always rebuild.”
On Monday, March 9, Elder and Sister Leben arrived from Germany to serve as welfare and humanitarian missionaries. We took them to our favorite Chinese Restaurant and this was our view.
Same building after the storm
This was taken at about 4:00 PM. The main force of the Cyclone was to reach us between 5:00 and 7:00
This tree fell on the corner of the Mission home during the evening. We didn't realize the extent of the damage until the next morning.
The road to Etas
Before going up to Etas, we thought we would drive to where the Sister missionaries had been living to see the condition of their house. We made it this far and decided it was far enough.
When we arrived at Etas, this is what we found. We have over 100 pictures of this day that don't look much different.
The man on my right lived in the house just behind us.
notice the tree base in the upper right
The children of Etas were not having the opportunity to receive an education because of the remoteness of the area and the cost of transportation. A couple of years ago through a joint effort between the Church and the community they started to build a school. It was put to use by the end of last year. As you can see, there isn't much left. Just a few tables and benches
the old Chapel stood
As did the new one. The families of the village took refuge in the Chapels and no one was injured. A week later, many families are still living here as they have no where to go until their homes can be rebuilt. We are spending most of our time right now making sure the people in the outlying areas have enough food and water
Journal entry, Monday, March 16
. We spent most of the day trying to find food to take out to our chapels. By midafternoon we had four trucks loaded with enough food to last until the end of the week by which time we hope to have a good supply coming in. We took our load out to Etas. Due to a national state of emergency, we have to stay off the roads between 6:oo PM and 6:00 AM so we are limited as to how much we can do in the evenings. We went out to the Erakor Chapel to have a look. It is a bush chapel made out of 4X4s and tin. All the houses around the Chapel were gone but the Chapel was hardly touched. Even the books inside were not ruined. Another miracle.
No, this building hasn't been destroyed. This is what is called a bush Chapel, built for small branches in more remote areas. Notice the benches and chair are still upright.
These gentlemen saw us looking around and just had to come over and visit. They were busy cleaning up what was left of their houses and needed a break
They loved having their picture taken with VaLynne and had to ham it up a bit. Remember, they had just lost almost everything they had, yet they have the ability to enjoy life like no other people we have ever met.
We're out of time for now. We will take it from here when we get the chance