To all good people of God (DOVNC)
Greetings in the name of our risen Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I believe that each one of us has been preparing ourselves and our lives during this Lenten season.
Particularly as we end this Lenten season and look towards our Easter celebration it again gives us hope after walking through the tragedies and uncertainties of Good Friday. The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ has proven that God is the creator and author of human lives and no tragedies can turn God’s faithful people away from the love of God.
However, during this Holy Week it has been a challenging time for us as followers of Christ, as we are faced with this Tropical Cyclone Harold.
Also as we are still in the period to keep measures as imposed by the WHO through Ministry of Health ( MOH) in Vanuatu, I would like to send our sincere condolences to families who have lost their loved ones caused by this COVID-19 Pandemic in a shocking short time. We then appreciate how small and how connected our world really is.
This pandemic has taught us that unity and the duty to care for our families and our neighbours is a responsibility that each one of us must take seriously. We must remain safe and observe social distancing, hygiene protocols and hand washing with soap and water at all times and in all places.
This Good Friday, I am speaking to you from the town of Luganville, on the island Santo in the Diocese of Vanuatu and New Caledonia. With our country facing the devastation of the second Category 5 cyclone in a space of 5 years, I come to you today with both a heavy heart and open hands.
Tropical Cyclone Harold has wreaked havoc upon our communities in Santo with over 500 households completely destroyed and others in dire need of repairs and renovation. Our villages have been left without water, communication and food shortages are expected in the coming weeks. Over 5000 people are homeless.
Our Anglican Church of Melanesia and Diocese of Vanuatu and New Caledonia has activated its Emergency Operations Centre to respond to the growing needs of individual parishioners, parishes and communities within which we live and serve. The need for spiritual fortitude and faith could not be more tested and I appeal to you our good fellow brothers and sisters, our partners and our members of the church to communicate with our Emergency Operations Centre based at the ACOM office in Luganville to provide any assistance to this response period and the recovery phases.
Our Parish working parties have started clearing the debris throughout each parish. Our clergy are deploying as members of the Health Cluster Emergency Medical Team to provide COVID-19 awareness and spiritual encouragement to affected communities and people living with disability.
I am in contact with the Vanuatu Council of Churches to ensure our churches are working together to respond to this mounting disaster.
I have made the decision to postpone Easter celebrations by one week to allow for families to take stock of the damage to their homes and properties and settle into the long road to recovery. We are in a State of Emergency.
This Easter season has brought its own challenges but the human spirit and our faith in an almighty and eternal God must never falter.
The trees and gardens may be destroyed, but our spirit remains intact. Our homes and families may be struggling but our faith and our Church remain standing.
We are untied as a church and a people. We have seen this magnitude of devastation before and we have recovered. We will do it again.
And so I call on all partners of the Anglican Church and the Anglican community at large to assist us in this time of great need. So that we may rebuild, we may build back our communities and we may resume the mission of the church.
I, therefore, as the Bishop of Central Vanuatu and New Caledonia, wish to communicate Christ’s humility and greatness expressed in Paul’s letter to the Philippians’ in Chapter 2.
“Your life in Christ makes you strong and His love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit and you have kindness and compassion for one another. I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind” (Phil: 2: 1-2)
May the spirit of our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ find peace and hope in our hearts as we continue to face these challenging situations of this recent disaster and the COVID-19.
Grace and Blessings
Bishop of the Diocese of Central Vanuatu and New Caledonia