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Salvation Army considers next step in Vanuatu

Salvation Army considers next step in Vanuatu

Salvation Army considers next step in Vanuatu

29 May 2018

Lieutenant-Colonel Lyn Edge spent time with the children in the care of Lilyrose Sarilobani, the unofficial leader of the work in Vanuatu.

By Simone Worthing

The Salvation Army in Australia is considering what steps and direction need to be taken to engage and partner with the ongoing work in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.

National Secretary for Mission, Lieutenant-Colonel Lyn Edge, recently visited Vanuatu with Major Darren Elsley, the officer at Tweed Heads Corps, which oversees the Army’s unofficial work in Vanuatu.

They visited the Army’s outpost in the capital, Port Vila, and learned more about the second, more remote outpost in Aneityum, the southern-most inhabited island of the country.

“Our visit was all about information gathering, relationship building, ministry support and increasing our understanding of possible next steps into the future,” said Lieut-Colonel Edge.

“Darren is responsible for this ministry, which is in my portfolio, so I was keen to know it better.

“I felt it was time for a Salvation Army cabinet member to visit the country, see firsthand this unofficial, but growing work, understand what is happening there and offer our support.

Lilyrose (left) with the children in her care.

“This was my first visit to Vanuatu in a Salvation Army capacity – although I was here many years ago on my honeymoon!”

Lieut-Colonel Edge preached during the Sunday meeting of her visit. She also focused on spending time talking with Lilyrose Sarilobani, the unofficial leader of the work in Vanuatu, and the children in her care.

“We spoke about all the good things that are happening as well as some of the challenges around resources,” said Lieut-Colonel Edge. “I was inspired by the depth of her commitment.

“Lilyrose runs the outpost and looks after about 12 children. She ensures that the children are fed, go to school, and learn about Jesus. Resources are tight though; when we arrived, the children there were simply having rice for dinner.

Many corps and individuals support this work including covering education costs for the children Lilyrose cares for, and contribute to food, clothing and shelter expenses as well.

Major Elsley explained that, even though the work is not recognised by International Headquarters, individual Salvationists who go to Vanuatu from Tweed Heads and other places also often take over clothing, school supplies and financial aid for the children, and are engaging with the people there.

Ian and Marion Dooley from the Tweed Heads Corps, who have been visiting Vanuatu for ministry since 2010, also make regular trips and carry over donations for the work.

Major Darren Elsley and Lilyrose shopping at the local markets for a community lunch.

Lilyrose, herself a senior soldier, runs junior soldier preparation classes for the children, and on this visit with Lieut-Colonel Edge, Major Elsley enrolled Vanuatu’s 37th junior soldier.

The number of children coming to stay with Lilyrose at the outpost has been increasing since Cyclone Pam devastated the island in March 2015.

“Many of the local chiefs have been telling parents that, if they can’t care for their children, to send them to The Salvation Army,” explained Major Elsley. “The kids come and might stay for a day, a week, or several years.

“Lilyrose is their caregiver and spiritual mother, but she has no income. Many of the kids come from difficult backgrounds of neglect and abuse, but they all become junior soldiers and go to school. Their living conditions are basic but they have such a happy and joyful spirit. It’s just great to see!”

For those interested in supporting the work in Vanuatu, please contact Major Elsley at


  1. Adrian Venditti
    Adrian Venditti

    Good to read that you are working in this country Vanuatu, but sorry to see that you describe it as 'unofficial'.

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