A partnership begun

In December 2005 a team of 14 people from Johnsonville Uniting Church traveled to Lelepa Island off the coast of Efate in Vanuatu to spend a week living with the island people and learning about their culture and way of life.

The trip was a wonderful experience for everyone who took part.

Several young people were part of the JUC group and they put together a highly interactive programme for the children of the village. Each morning some 45-70 children would gather to do art work, sing songs and other activities.

The women of the JUC group got to know the local women and to hear about their dreams of building an ablution block for their women’s hall so they could host women from other islands and parts of the world in further exchanges.

Running water, sewage and power are non-existent on beautiful Lelepa island which is the home to some 500 people.

The men in the JUC party helped sieve sand for the mortar which would form part of the finish for the concrete block walls of the new church being built on the island.

The original church was destroyed by a hurricane some 12 years ago. The replacement building commenced about four years ago.

On their return from Vanuatu members of the Johnsonville Uniting Church shared their experiences of the warm hospitality they had been shown on Lelepa. The JUC team talked about the needs of the people and in particular the desire to finish the church with its large roof which would become not just a place of worship but also a means of collecting rainwater.

JUC have since pledged to fund $24,000 for the purchase of the roofing materials and the work to roof the church is now well underway. A fund raising group hopes to raise further funds to also purchase louvre windows. With the roof and louvres in place the Lelepa Presybterian church building will become useable as a focal point in the village of 500 people.

The people of JUC hope to keep in touch with all their new friends on Lelepa Island in a spirit of partnership.