Republic of Vanuatu

The South Pacific nation of Vanuatu is made up of 83 islands, situated approximately 1,200 miles east of Australia’s northern tip. Our closest neighbors are New Caledonia and The Fiji Islands. While approximately 60 islands are inhabited, the majority of the country’s 260,000 population reside on 12 major islands. The standard of living in Vanuatu is quite diverse, with the capital city of Port Vila offering a very modern lifestyle opportunity, whereas the large majority of outer-island inhabitants engage in subsistence farming and have no running water or electricity. Tourism is the economy’s primary source of revenue, followed by agricultural exports including kava, beef, coffee, cacao and copra.

History of mission:Vanuatu

PHASE 1: Our mission team (Aaron & Cindy Baker, Mike Olson, Eric & Shawnda Brandell) originally formed in 2004 and arrived in Vanuatu in April 2005. We spent the next six years working primarily with congregations on the main island ofitem3 Efate. It was during this time that we learned Vanuatu’s trade language, Bislama, and gained insight into the country’s diverse culture and customs. The first two phases (2005-2013) of our work were overseen by the Columbine Church of Christ in Littleton, CO.

PHASE 2: Beginning in 2011, our mission team spread out to follow opportunities that had been presented on other islands within Vanuatu. The Baker family lived and worked in Tanna for a year, evangelizing in the area and edifying two newly-established congregations. They moved back to the United States in early 2012, and continue to be involved in the work through yearly mission trips. Mike Olson moved to Santo, where he lived in Luganville (the only other “city” in the country) and worked primarily with the Shark Bay congregation in a village 18 miles outside of town. He moved back to the United States in March 2014. The Brandells moved to Malekula in 2011, and worked with two newly-established congregations for three years.

Phase 3 Work Plan

Beginning in 2015, the Brandells recommitted to living and working in Vanuatu through 2025, which will ultimately put them in country for a total of 20 years. The Church of Christ in Perkins, OK, had been a longtime financial supporter of the work in Vanuatu, and agreed to take over as their sponsoring congregation as they moved forward into Phase 3. The congregation had sent a group of campaigners to work with them in Malekula back in 2011, which whetted the congregation’s appetite for a more involved role.

The Brandells see God opening new doors of opportunity, and anticipate that He will continue to do so. They are now based in the capital city of Port Vila, and are primarily involved in the following three areas of work:

1. LaetHaos Ministry
We have shifted our primary outer-island focus to bringing church members to us. I was inspired towards this ministry modelLaetHaoswhite while reading through Acts, noting the way Paul sometimes drew others to himself for discipleship, subsequently sending them out to minister. We like to refer to our new place as the “LaetHaos” 
(Bislama spelling of Light House) - a place where Christians can rekindle the
flame of their faith, be encouraged to let their lights shine brightly in their everyday walk, and gain insight into the lamp of God’s word to then take back to their communities.

CanoeFamily2017 was our inaugural year to put our plans into action, and God has blessed us with a fruitful ministry. We are designed to conduct a nationwide event each quarter, which this year included a men’s retreat (22 attendees), a youth camp (65), a women’s retreat (52), and a preacher training workshop (10). In total, we hosted 100+ people representing 13 congregation on 5 different islands. We have looked to get the local churches involved in the planning process and in funding their members to attend these functions. In conjunction with our yearly on-site visits, and those from short-term missionaries, we believe that this scenario provides encouragement, excitement, and action within local churches at a broad, organic level.

2. Family Mission Trips
Our children attend a year-round school, with a two-week break in between each YouthCloseof their four terms. This affords us the opportunity to make three outer island trips as a family each year, during which we visit with Christians from at least seven congregations on three islands. As need and opportunity arise, I am able to make solo outer island trips as well.

These visits are a lifeline to our ongoing ministry, as nothing is more beneficial than being in local homes and villages, and because some are not able to travel to our LaetHaos events. Our time in the village is primarily one of fellowship, and we always have the opportunity for more formal teaching and worship as well.

3. Day-to-day Ministry
Last but not least, we stay busy with various regular ministry opportunities here on the main island. We work closest with the Church of Christ that meets in the Etas area, but also enjoy meeting with some 100 people from around Efate Island ShawnTeachduring our monthly combined assemblies. We host a monthly youth day, where 20-25 youth from three area congregations come together for a day of service, study, worship, food and games. We also conduct Bible studies with small groups and individuals, including a current study that began in 2016 going through all 66 Bible books, which should be completed by the end of this year. Shawnda volunteers at a local kindergarten, and takes part in the Efate Women’s Ministry program.