MENU

The Story of Vanuatu

By Paul Kooistra, Mar 19, 2013

If it were not for the fact that the TV program Survivor featured the island nation of Vanuatu most Americans would never even have heard of the place. When I stepped off the plane onto the lush tropical island of Santos, I began to wonder if I had not made a mistake. I was told that malaria was prevalent, that drinking water was rain water, and electricity was not available out in the villages. So why was I in Vanuatu? The reason I was in this South Pacific nation highlights a quiet but growing aspect of Mission to the World’s ministry. It is the foundational importance of theological education in the task of church planting.

Consider the history of the Christian church in Vanuatu. Amazingly it is a Presbyterian Church birthed in the 19th century by Scottish Presbyterian missionary John G. Paton.

When Paton and his young wife first set foot on the island of Tanna in the year 1858, they were acutely aware that the natives he hoped to evangelize might eat them for supper. (Missionaries who had preceded him had in fact been devoured before sunset on the day of their arrival.) Paton wrote that, “His spirit, like leaven, was at work! A new lifestyle supplanted old hostilities. Thefts, quarrels, crimes, were settled now, not by club law but by fi ne or bonds or lash as agreed upon by chiefs and their people. Everything was rapidly and surely becoming 'new' under the influence of the leaven of Jesus. Huts and plantations were safe … heathen worship was gradually extinguished; and though no one was compelled to come to church, every person in Aniwa, without exception, became before long an avowed worshiper of Jehovah.”

Why then would Mission to the World begin mission work in Vanuatu in 2004? It would seem the work is done. But what the church in this land lacks is solid theological education. Since the days of Paton a great deal of liberalism has crept into the church as they have sent their ministers to Fiji for training. Even more alarming is the fact that cults are growing both within villages and even Christian churches. One island has many villagers who worship a mysterious World War II G.I. named John Frum. He is said to live within the island’s volcano, and will return some day with many “goodies.” There are even churches that have Mormon pastors.

I relate this story to you so you will be able to see how important theological education is to the planting of churches around the world. Reformed theology builds churches that are God-centered rather than man-centered, and covenantal theology grounds believers in the Scriptures so they are able to withstand the attacks of unbelief. This emphasis on sound theological education is a strength that the PCA brings to the mission world.

What does it gain us if we plant churches that are initially full, only to find them dwindle because the teaching is biblically weak and doctrine glorifies man rather than God?

Please login to continue
Forgot your password?
Recover it here.
Don't have an account?
Create an Account
Sign Up for Free
Name
Email
Choose Password
Confirm Password

GET INVOLVED

3 x 3: Experience Missions Across Australia and New Zealand
Summer Internships
Women's Ministry Intern
1–11 Months
Children's Ministry

Conversations with a Contractor in a Post-Christian Culture

A contractor noticed religious books at a missionary's New Zealand home and wondered how Christianity could possibly be relevant today.

SEE MORE

One Day on Mission in Fiji (VIDEO)

MTW Australasia missionaries ventured to Fiji for a gathering of Island to Island partners to dream and strategize about the mission.

SEE MORE

4 Ways to Avoid Colonialism on the Mission Field

For those preparing for global missions, increasing your cultural sensitivity is an important part of your preparation.

SEE MORE

Pray for opportunities for missionaries in New Zealand to share the gospel clearly in a post-Christian culture where faith seems irrelevant to many.

Pray for Grace Church Christchurch in New Zealand, where more than 25 nationalities are represented on any given Sunday, as the leaders as church leaders seek to intergrate visitors.

Pray for discernment regarding how best to reach Christian leaders in the Pacific Islands and assist them in their understanding of the Christian faith. 

Pray for the Island to Island partnership bringing together Pacific Islands nations for a coordinated gospel effort. Pray for churches in Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and the Cook Islands. 

Pray that as we engage people globally with cultural sensitivity, that they would be open to relationships with MTW missionaries and, more importantly, open to the truth of the gospel.

Pray for those in Vina del Mar, Chile, devastated by raging wildfires, particularly those involved with our CEMIPRE ministry to the blind and differently-enabled.

Pray for those who God is reaching in Sydney with the truth of a grace-based gospel.

Pray for internationals from around the world living in Brussels, Belgium, and for the MTW team working there to reach them with the truth of Christ.

Pray that people engaging with MTW's efforts globally would not only be drawn into a relationship with Christ, but also into the local church.

Pray for Immanuel Church in Brentwood, West London, and for the surrounding community, that God would strengthen believers and draw people to Himself.

SUBSCRIBE TO STORIES & MORE

Good news in your inbox, once per week.