Island search for lost souls
Island search for lost souls
6 May 2016
A modern-day take on how Jesus called disciples to him is being enacted by a small band of recently enrolled Salvationists on an island in the South Pacific. In 2014, four residents of Vanuatu’s southernmost island, Aneityum, became its first Salvationists when they were enrolled by Tweed Heads Corps Officer, Major Darren Elsley, who is overseeing the Army’s pioneering work in that country.
As Jesus walked the shores of Galilee calling disciples, this quartet is trekking around Aneityum (population 1700), sharing the Gospel message with whomever will listen. Their desire to respond to Jesus’ command to go and make disciples was inspired by a Salvationist couple with a group of children in their care when they visited Aneityum from the Vanuatu capital of Port Vila where the Army “opened fire” a year earlier (2013).
“What they shared with us touched our hearts,” said June, one of the four. In between being a tour guide, June helps run a gift and souvenir stall on nearby Mystery Island, which is part of Aneityum and a mecca for visiting cruise ships. The tiny island is uninhabited but boasts a grass airstrip.
A small hut at Nicole’s house (one of the four Salvos) in the village of Iyatalau in the foothills of the mountains, serves for Sunday worship services. At first the congregation was just the four of them but now boasts 20-plus and even a Sunday school. They have had to renovate their worship area to cater for the increase.
As they set out with God’s message, June says they carry with them a book about The Salvation Army and Founder William Booth, a book she describes as ammunition “in case someone wants to take aim at us.” But on an island where there are five other faiths, explaining what The Salvation Army is all about is tough going. “We tell people it’s a movement raised to help those in need. There are differences between the denominations here, but we let it be known that on this island we have many streams that all run down to the one sea and while the faiths may worship differently all prayers go to the one God,” June said.
While Mystery Island tourists are greeted by rows of stalls offering similar wares, there’s something different about June and her team’s stall – stall number five – because it’s where you will also find a Salvation Army donation box. June explains: “From what we sell and what is put in the box we can help the sick, the elderly and prisoners. Many who are in jail on Vila have been disowned by relatives, but we are called to show everyone God’s love. Some of the money also goes towards helping the children on Vila in the care of Lilyrose and William (the first-ever Salvation Army soldiers to be enrolled on Vanuatu).”
Firstly praying for more souls and then going out with God’s Word, the Aneityum Salvos are putting their faith into action by sowing seeds for the Lord to water, and there’s evidence of that happening. Their prayer also is that more tourists will become aware of The Salvation Army’s presence when they set foot on Mystery Island, a jewel of the South Pacific. As one visiting Australian Salvationist told June, if more people were aware of the Army being there more people could help their efforts for the Kingdom. For more information about the Army’s work in Vanuatu, contact Major Darren Elsley at the Tweed Heads Salvation Army.¶