This report is from Rod Matthews, GCI mission developer in Southeast Asia and Oceania.
On Friday, April 29, a very strong earthquake registering a magnitude of 7.3 struck in Vanuatu at 6.30 am local time and was pinpointed close to the island of Malekula where our GCI congregation is located. Vanuatu is on the “ring of fire,” which girdles the Pacific Ocean and is subject to earthquakes and volcanoes coming from the clashes and movements of the earth’s tectonic plates. Little was reported internationally about this quake because of the relatively low population on Malekula and with no reported loss of life. However our church community in Vanuatu is located on Malekula, and our facilities there sustained significant damage.
The quake was relatively shallow at 15 miles deep, and therefore it caused significant damage to buildings in the northern end of Malekula near the town of Norsup where the airport is located. The large circle on the map above shows how close the quake was to Norsup. Our church compound is near the village of Rory, about 6 miles north of Norsup.
We were immediately concerned about the welfare of the local people including our church community. Vanuatu pastoral coordinator, Rex Morgan, from our New Zealand office, received a text message from Vanuatu elder Billy Taren with the good news that no one was hurt. We are most grateful to God for the safety afforded our members there. Billy reported that none of their homes had significant damage.
Unfortunately, one of the two main buildings at our church facility was badly damaged (the one to the rear of the church compound pictured at right). The “guest house” in the compound, which contained the kitchen, bathroom facilities and two rooms used for storage and sleeping quarters also was badly damaged. This building was built with a more substantial construct and a metal roof in order to collect rain water for the tank, after years of suffering from a local water supply that was unreliable and intermittent often due to local political and social conflicts.
Vanuatu’s national pastor, William Davies (pictured at right with Rex Morgan, center, and Billy Taren, left) will travel from the island of Espiritu Santo (which also experienced a 6.0 earthquake a day later) to Malekula to encourage the members, help assess the immediate needs, and begin planning for how best to restore the facilities knocked out by the earthquake. We will be evaluating their need for outside assistance. In the meantime, they will be encouraged by your prayers for a more stable time ahead and by knowing that their brothers and sisters in Christ around the world know and care about their frightening experience and its results.