Vanuatu trip - a step into the unknown

On 10 December fourteen people will travel to Vanuatu under the banner of the Johnsonville Uniting Church to visit the village of Natapao on Lelepa Island.

Lelepa Island,just 45 minutes away from the capital of Port Vila, is home to some 500 people. It is an island without running water, electricity or any essential services. For many years the people of Natapao have been constructing a church/cyclone shelter, which is still a long way from completion.

The visiting group’s primary intention is not to act as a construction team or to be missionaries; as the islanders have strong church ties of their own. Rather, the group aims to develop a long-term relationship with the people of Lelepa to share experiences, to learn something of each other’s cultures, and to assist with their building project.

The group will be taking nearly $6,000 raised by an energetic and hard working fund-raising support team who generated wonderful support from many people within and outside the parish.

Discussions with the locals during the eleven day visit will determine how much more JUC and others within our community might do over the next year or two to help the Lelepa islanders meet their goal of a fully functioning church/cyclone shelter. The roof of the church will also provide a means of collecting rain-water to help meet village needs.

While on the island, the six younger members of the JUC group will run a children’s programme, a fun way of getting to know the younger members of the island families.

Temperatures over 30 degrees and the lack of facilities that New Zealanders take for granted will take JUC team out of their comfort zone. The group and their many supporters are, nevertheless, looking forward to developing new friendships with the people of Natapao Village and gaining new life perspectives from the experience.