Thursday, December 15, 2016

From Pioneer Area to Phase One District


With great excitement, Nazarenes from five congregations in Port Vila gathered at a rented municipal hall in November 2007 to celebrate what we thought was our first District Assembly.  We were joined by Rev. Jesse Middendorf, the General Superintendent in jurisdiction over the Asia Pacific region at that time, Rev. Verne Ward, the Asia Pacific regional director, Rev. James Johnson, the Field Strategy Coordinator for South Pacific Field, and their three wives.  The Church of the Nazarene in Vanuatu had 17 members at the time and two organized churches and three preaching points.  It was a grand celebration with special music presented by the various congregations, a big meal together, and our hearts were encouraged to continue moving forward.  We weren't really a district yet.  We were a Pioneer Area.  We had some growing to do!

L to R: Rev. Verne Ward, Jr., Rev. James Johnson, Rev. David Potter, Rev. Dr. Jesse Middendorf.

Mary Tasso and Pastor Meriam Naunga prepared the food for our meal together.

Rev. Peter Isaac joined the Tebakor and Fres Wota congregations in a special song.


On Saturday, November 26, 2016, the Churches of the Nazarene in Vanuatu met together for their 10th annual assembly this time on the district land located at Erakor.  It would be our last time to gather as a "Pioneer Area."  A large canvas tent had been rented for the occassion and the local congregation had worked hard to construct a beautiful corrugated tin church for some of the activities.  For the weeks leading up to the assembly, work crews showed up almost daily to build a toilet facility and to lift up every valley, make every high place low, and the rough places smooth.

A two-stall toilet block being constructed at the district property.

Working together to level the land for the large tent.

The assembly began on Thursday night with all the churches meeting in the newly constructed Erakor Central Nazarene Church - the seventh Nazarene Church to organize in Vanuatu.  

Ladies like the two pictured below decorated the inside of the church with beautiful blue and white fabric and gorgeous flowers.  This is Pastor Meriam on the left with her daughter Ronah who had just returned from university studies in Fiji.

All five Port Vila Nazarene churches were represented along with members from the church on Aniwa Island and Tanna Island.  Yes!  The Nazarene Church in Vanuatu has grown!  This year there are 179 members attending seven organized Nazarene churches on three islands with four congregations who are not yet organized as well as four other locations where people are receiving the Word of God!  Praise the Lord!

Music has been an important part of our gatherings since the beginning!  After the preaching on Thursday night, each of the congregations were given time to share the special music or dramas that they had prepared.  In the picture below, the children and pastors of Black Sand Nazarene Church shared Bible verses that they had learned and what each verse meant.

The District Assembly began Saturday morning, November 26th.  The ladies helped to make the tent that was rented from the government disaster office look as beautiful as possible.  It was exciting to see not only adults arriving for the assembly, but lots of young people and children too!  

Our Field Strategy Coordinator, Rev. Harmon Schmelzenbach and his wife, Cindy, were able to be with us.

District Superintendent, Rev. Peter Isaac led the assembly with great enthusiasm!

Harmon shared lots of encouragement and Peter translated.

During the breaks, there were opportunities to fellowship together.  

Pastor Timothy and Pastors Gideon and Aline from the Prima Nazarene Church.

Pastor Letin from Black Sand Nazarene and Pastor Meriam from Malapoa Nazarene Church.

Bennett Isaac and Malapoa Nazarene Sunday School teacher, Christopher.

District assembly means LOTS of reports!  There are also new district leaders to be elected and district ministers' licenses to be given.

Pictured above, the nine pastors who received a district minister's license for this next year.  There are also nine locally licensed pastors.  The number of women who are feeling God's call to be pastors is growing.

Before the assembly closed at the end of the day, the pastors had prepared a special drama showing the Light of the gospel being shared first by the missionary and then by each new person that received the Light.

At a strategic point in the drama, Harmon stepped forward to declare that the Church of the Nazarene is officially a Phase One District!  This was met by enthusiastic cheers from the congregation!

The pastors who had performed the drama then shared a specially written song for the occasion expressing their joy in this important historical moment.

The next day, Sunday, all the churches gathered again at the tent to worship together and to celebrate the graduation of Pastor John Nato from South Pacific Nazarene Theological College.  

As principal of SPNTC, David had a few words to share.

Pastor Anthona led a student choir.

Pastor John shared his testimony.

For the first time in his life, Pastor John has completed an educational program - the Pastor's Course of Study - and earned a Certificate in Ministry.  When he was in grade school, the family had no more money to pay his school fees.  So he dropped out of school.  This was a very proud day for him and his entire family as he was recognized for this huge achievement.

One of the traditions in Vanuatu is to hang a flower ring or a long piece of cloth around the neck of someone you want to honor and to douse them in baby powder.  John stands nearly covered in "honor!"  His mother and father stand beside him, as well as his sisters and their children.  Pastors Seul and Letin (right) have co-pastored with John at Black Sand Nazarene Church for the last 2 years.

Following the graduation we all shared a special meal together.  The graduate was seated at a table with his father and missionary leaders.  Even though the day was very warm and humid, he refused to take off his graduation gown.  This was a special day like none he had ever experienced before, and it seemed he wanted it to go on for as long as possible!

One of the Erakor Nazarene Church members is a chef.  He is also a gifted food artist.  When he saw the preparations being made Sunday morning for the meal, he went to work carving some papayas to decorate the head table!  What a blessing!

These are exciting days for the Church of the Nazarene in Vanuatu, but we anticipate the coming days to be filled with even greater things!  The Vanuatu District wants to move to Phase Two in just one year!  What does that mean in specifics?  It means that there will need to be more than twice the members as this year, the number of organized churches should at least double, and we will need to be ready to ordain 10 pastors as elders!  That is a very ambitious goal, but the pastors and Christians were eager to work together to do their best to reach it.  Please partner with us in prayer to see these incredible goals realized.  Pray that as we grow in numbers, we will grow stronger in our faith, deeper in our relationship with Christ, and more like him in his love.

"I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth."
Psalm 57:9-11

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Passing of Time

Nine months have passed since we sent out our last newsletter!  We have been keeping busy teaching courses for SPNTC and encouraging and supporting the pastors and leaders of the Nazarene churches.  We are excited to share a story in this newsletter about a young man that we’ve been working with for the last 9 years.   

John being dedicated by David in 2008 at Black Sand Nazarene Church
One of our first memories of John was as a young boy in Sunday School marching around one of the central posts of the church.  John blew on the end of a long branch of a papaya leaf, his imaginary trumpet, together with the other children.  They were reenacting the day the walls of Jericho fell down.

Today he is co-pastoring the Black Sand Church of the Nazarene with no less faith than he exhibited as a small boy.  John is an accomplished guitarist and a district leader for Nazarene Youth International this year influencing the youth of our churches to live wholeheartedly for the Lord.
Pastor John (in red shirt) with leaders from his home village.

We were excited that he was able to join two Nazarene Compassionate Ministry teams for trips to Tanna, an island to the South, on December 2015 and July 2016.  John was not only able to distribute water filters and help build a much needed cement water tank, but also able to visit his dad’s “home” village.  There he discipled a young couple, Seth and his wife, and another villager, Joshua, teaching a Membership class, and accepting them as the first three Nazarene members in that new church plant!

Pastor John has now completed all requirements of the South Pacific Nazarene Theological College to graduate on November 26th of this year.  He continues to minister at the Black Sand Church of the Nazarene.

Peter and Jenny and their boys arrived back in Vanuatu in time to participate in the District Leadership Retreat (pictured here with Pastor Natja from Aniwa and Pastor Kidhly from Erakor Nazarene Churches).

Peter and Jenny returned from their home assignment in May with their three sons.  We praise the Lord for the financial support they received during their deputation and especially from Peter’s home district in PNG which gave the equivalent of $15,000 to help build a district center on the land in Vanuatu!  Peter is working with the District Advisory Board members to develop plans for the center.  He is also working with the pastors and church leaders to implement our new vision statement: Every Nazarene becoming more like Christ and multiplying outward!

David and his father sharing the Word together on July 5.

On August 31st, one month after returning to Vanuatu following our vacation in the States, we received the news that David’s 95 year old father had passed away.  We made the long flight back to Colorado Springs to be with the family for the funeral.  Dad Potter was a kind, loving, godly influence in the lives of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, as well as countless others who knew him. 

Within a few days after arriving in Colorado Springs on September 4th, David was seen by the “Walmart optometrist” for some strange symptoms he was experiencing in his left eye.  He was seen the following day by a retinal specialist who confirmed that he needed immediate surgery for a detached retina.  The surgery was done just two days after his Dad’s funeral.  We are thankful for David’s sister and brother-in-law who have given us a place to stay while David’s eye recovers.  Because of a gas bubble that was placed in David’s eye during the surgery, he is not able to travel to any other altitude which means no flying until the bubble has been absorbed.  The retinal specialist advised David yesterday that he needs another surgery on October 10th to fully restore his vision.  We are thankful for medical insurance provided to help us in times like this, and for our Global Mission team that granted us medical leave of absence until it is safe for David to fly home to Vanuatu.


Please join us in praying for these needs:

  1. ·        Every Nazarene in Vanuatu will become more like Jesus and be actively sharing their faith with others.
  2. ·        Strength, wisdom, and protection for DS Peter Isaac and his family.  Pray also for Peter’s wife, Pastor Jenny, who is taking university classes as well as her normal missionary responsibilities.  Also pray for their three boys, Bennett (18), Ennrich (14), and Junior (10).
  3. ·        Nazarene pastors and leaders will have the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace guiding them into loving, trusting relationships with each other.
  4. ·        Prima Nazarene Church where the enemy is working hard to destroy and discourage the members and pastors.  Pray that forgiveness and reconciliation will take place.
  5. ·        Pedro and his wife Meriam who have recently opened their home to start a Nazarene church in an area of our island, Efate, where there are no churches.  We held services there for the first time in August.
  6. ·        Seth, his wife, and Joshua, who have recently accepted the responsibility of overseeing a new church plant in their village, that they will grow in Christlikeness and be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Their village is in the southern part of Tanna Island.
  7. ·        The District Advisory Board to work in unity with DS Peter to establish the plans for the construction of the district center and development of the district.
  8. ·        Nazarenes will give full authority to God’s Word and be cleansed of all that clings to their lives from their animistic religious past.
  9. ·        Complete healing of David’s eye with restoration of his vision.
Thank you so much for your prayers and support of the work of the Church of the Nazarene in Vanuatu and for us personally! 

With our love and gratitude,

David and Sylvia
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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

First - Ever Graduates of SPNTC Vanuatu!

God truly answered our prayers for an inspiring and meaningful inaugural graduation for South Pacific Nazarene Theological College in Vanuatu!  We wanted to share some photos from the day...

Choir of SPNTC students and graduates

Rev. Harmon Schmelzenbach preached a dramatic message

...which was translated by Rev. Peter Isaac.

Churches and families gather around their graduates

Pastor Gideon with his church and family

There was lots of delicious food! 

L to R: Pastor Austin, Pastor Joe, and Pastor Gideon

A tremendous celebration!  Glory to God!