Thursday, July 3, 2014

Meet Pastor Meriam!

Pastor Meriam
During the recent Pastor Retreat held at the beach on Eratap Point, Pastor Meriam stood and said, “I never thought I would be a pastor.”  She went on to share how the Lord has faithfully led in her life and now she sees that God has a plan for her.

Meriam has been part of the Church of the Nazarene family almost from the very beginning.  Perhaps the first time we became acquainted was at a ladies' Christmas party that was held at our house in December 2003.  We had been holding worship services on the front veranda of our house at Malapoa for a few months.  Many of the women who came to the party were related to Meriam - her mother, sisters, sister-in-law - and all were her friends.
Ladies Christmas Party 2003 with Natalie Ward
Meriam is in the second row wearing glasses
Malapoa had been her home since 1980, the year Vanuatu gained its independence from England and France.  Here is what she shared with us in an interview about her early years:
“I grew up on the east side of Efate Island in a small village called Forari.  When I was old enough my parents sent me to a French school. My family attended a church in the village but there was no change in the way they lived.  My daddy was an alcoholic.  Sometimes when he was drunk, my mother and I had to leave our home to be safe.

       “My daddy went to Port Vila to find work.  In 1980 when Vanuatu became independent, my family all moved to Port Vila and made our home in an area called Malapoa.  In 1983, a group of evangelists talked to my daddy and he saw that his life was not right.  Then our home changed!  He began to train me in reading the Bible, and our family joined in worship together.  But, after some time, the [extended] family left us at Malapoa and went to their own homes because of disagreements.
“I wanted the good life to continue.  In 1990, I found a church called Trinity Church that was running a Bible study near my home and I joined it.  It was in that Bible study that I made my personal decision to follow Jesus and to do his work.  I stayed in this church and grew spiritually.  I had been praying for God to give me a husband, and at 20 years old, I married my husband David Naunga.  I enjoyed being a Sunday School teacher.  But, then the church leaders had a disagreement and the church split-up in 1996.  We did not join another church until 2003 when Nazarene missionaries moved to Malapoa and began holding services."

2004 Charter members L to R:
Joe Iamtang, Meriam Naunga, and Susan Wilson
Meriam quickly showed her interest in being a follower of Christ and got involved in the weekly activities of the church.  She was one of the three charter members who joined the Church of the Nazarene on December 19, 2004.  She lovingly cared for the young people in the church and was pleased to be asked to be the youth leader.

When we began the pastoral training program in January 2006, Meriam was one of the students in the first class.  She and her husband had been planting a church near their current home outside of Port Vila.  A team of college students from Point Loma Nazarene University had come to Port Vila in the summer of 2005.  Part of their ministry was to hold a kid's club near her home and then shared the Jesus Film in the evening.  Meriam continued to reach out after they left.
Some of the Vanuatu delegates to the
2006 Nazarene Holiness Conference in Fiji.
Leimawa is standing right of DS Gabriel Kaulo from PNG.
Meriam was working in her vegetable garden with a neighbor lady who had become her friend.  While she was working, Meriam shared the gospel with Leimawa who then prayed to receive Christ as her Savior.  Meriam continued to disciple Leimawa who was one of the first two Christians to be baptized in the Church of the Nazarene in Vanuatu.  In February 2006, Meriam and her husband and Leimawa attended a Nazarene Holiness Conference in Fiji where Leimawa shared her testimony.

Meriam received her district pastor's license in 2011 when she was assisting the District Superintendent, Rev. Peter Isaac, in pastoring the Eluklom Church of the Nazarene.  At our last district assembly, Meriam was asked to become the pastor of Vila North Nazarene Church where many of the people who still live at Malapoa are now attending even though it is a long way from their homes. The congregation meets in a rented classroom for worship each Sunday.  Pastor Meriam said, "We are still looking for land where we can build a church at Malapoa."  Rev. Isaac commented that "Meriam has already taken in seven new members this year and has started another membership class with seven more people who want to join the church.  She is a good leader." Meriam said, "I have a deep desire to do God’s work; it makes me glad and I feel satisfied serving him as pastor.”  When we asked Meriam if being a woman pastor is a challenge to her, she said, "Even though women are not respected as leaders in Vanuatu, I feel that I am respected as a pastor in my church."

Meriam's family is also involved in ministry.  Her husband David is the district treasurer.  Her oldest child, Rona, is now in her final year of secondary school and is applying for scholarships to continue her education in accounting and computers in New Zealand.  Rona recently assisted in the Children's Camp as a puppeteer with her cousin Susie.  Meriam said, "I'm glad that my daughter is following the road that I've walked."
Pastors and Wives Retreat 2007
Front row: Revs. Peter and Jenny Isaac, Meriam Naunga, and Esther Taso
Back Row: Pastor David Taso, David and Sylvia Potter, and Joy and James Johnson.

Pastor Meriam was one of two pastors who attended our first pastor retreat in Vanuatu in 2007.  Today there are four other district licensed pastors and four local licensed pastors who are serving the Lord in the Church of the Nazarene.  When we first arrived in Vanuatu in 2003, we began to "ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth workers into his harvest field", and God has faithfully been answering that prayer!  We thank the Lord for Pastor Meriam and her great contribution to the building of God's Kingdom in Vanuatu.
Pastors and Wives Retreat 2014

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