Thursday, March 26, 2015

March 27, 6:00am (NZ time)

Dear Parents, Families and Friends of our Missionaries on Vanuatu,

Unless something changes, this will be our last post on the blog. The intent of the blog was to provide some quick information on what was happening on the ground in Vanuatu. Hopefully, it was helpful. As I'm sure you realize, it will take many months and years to get things back to normal in this country. A lot of progress has already been made and it has been wonderful to see the resilience of those that live there. There will also be many changes with the missionaries concerning where they are assigned and what they will be doing. The missionaries have been a shining light to the people of Vanuatu.

To get more information, we suggest you follow this link:  Pacific Area Newsroom. Here's an article about their resilience and cooperation.

Pacific Area Office

Here's a news release that will go out soon.

Latter-day Saints Grateful for Church and Government Aid Following Cyclone

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gratefully acknowledged the action taken by government and Church leaders immediately after Cyclone Pam struck. The devastating effects of Cyclone Pam were felt by everyone. Lives lost, gardens ruined, homes damaged, rivers widened, bridges broken, power poles and lines wrecked, and water supply polluted.

Whilst many around the outer islands and even Port Vila are awaiting supplies, the six branches (congregations) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around Port Vila, have received enough help to support life for at least three months.

Many Latter-day Saint families are sharing a portion of their food and other supplies with neighbours and friends, whilst awaiting further assistance. The Church continues to help Latter-day Saints and others in need with supplies of food, water and clothing which have been sent to outer islands.

600 emergency food boxes were sent from New Zealand to Port Vila this week, with another 1,400 boxes on their way in the coming weeks. The 600 boxes are being sent from Port Vila to Tanna this week, along with 100 tents, water, rice and flour. The Church is also in the process of shipping 1,000 water containers with purification filters; 3,000 litres of water; and 200 cartons of milk powder to Port Vila.

Vanuatu Latter-day Saint leaders have purchased in Port Vila food, water, tents, tarpaulins, tools and building supplies – and are distributing these to Latter-day Saints and others in need who have been sheltering in Church buildings since the cyclone.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

March 24, 8:15pm (NZ time)

1) We had a conference call with President Brewer today and much improvement is being made. The missionaries are continuing to work hard to restore the living conditions on the islands. Food shipments from the members in Tonga and Samoa are being processed and will arrive soon.

2) The members in New Zealand sent 600 buckets of food to Port Villa and these will be shipped to Tanna tomorrow afternoon on a boat. The food will arrive in Tanna before Thursday 12:00pm. The additional 1,400 buckets will arrive to Vanuatu soon.

3) The situation in Port Villa is much improved and food is readily available. However, Tanna is lacking many items.

4) Below is a map that shows the islands and it shows where many of the chapels are located. There are still quite a few members living in these buildings.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

March 23, 10:45am (NZ time)

NZ navy ship heading for Vanuatu

Here's an article in the news that mentions the church's effort in getting the food boxes to Nanuatu.
  - sky NEWS article

Friday, March 20, 2015

March 21, 4:30pm (NZ time)

New Zealand 'Mormon Helping Hands' Volunteers Send 2,000 Food Boxes to Vanuatu

Volunteers packed 2,000 emergency family food boxes in Auckland today. The boxes will be flown to Vanuatu in the coming days to be distributed to people recovering after this month's Cyclone Pam. Watch a video featuring volunteers assembling the emergency food boxes.

March 21, 5:00am (NZ time)

We had a good conference call yesterday with President Brewer and the Vanuatu response team. Much is being done to get supplies to the country.  Concerning your missionaries:
  - President Brewer will be going to Luganville (on the island of Santo) this Sunday
  - Then, he'll be doing a zone conference on Malekula on Wednesday

The missionaries are all doing well. Of key importance is the health and safety of the missionaries and President Brewer is also making sure they have adequate food supplies. The report back is that the missionaries are working hard at getting the lives of the people in Vanuatu back in shape.

We have encouraged all the missionaries to communicate with their families, so you will know directly from them that they are safe. Given the lack of internet service in many places, this might take a while to happen. If you have any concerns feel free to contact us and we will follow-up with President Brewer.  Send an email to:

Thursday, March 19, 2015

March 20, 1:50pm (NZ time)

Leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Vanuatu are continuing to reach out to Mormon congregational ministers across the nation. There have been no reports of fatalities among the membership of the Church. Needs are being assessed in communities — and food, water and other supplies are being distributed where possible.

Earlier today Pacific Area President of the Church, Elder Kevin W. Pearson, said, “We are doing all we can to talk with our local leaders in our congregations across Vanuatu. We are extremely grateful that reports to this point indicate that none of our Church members have lost their lives.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with any in Vanuatu who have lost loved ones, sustained injuries, lost their home, crops or livelihood, or who are suffering in any other way. We will continue to reach out in love and support, as best we can, to our Church members and others in the coming weeks and months.”

“It is deeply reassuring to hear reports that people are calm, working to recover and rebuild, and are helping their neighbours. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are absolutely committed to walk alongside our brothers and sisters in Vanuatu as they grieve, recover and rebuild. We are here for the long haul.” 

March 20, 10:54am (NZ time)

Dalton Pearce is one of 11 Latter-day Saint missionaries who rode out Cyclone Pam on Vanuatu's Tanna island last weekend.

In this video clip from TVNZ current affairs program Seven Sharp, reporter Emma Keeling meets up with Dalton on Tanna and gives him a chance to send a message home to his family.

Watch the video at TVNZ's website (the missionary is 2.58 minutes into the clip):

March 20, 7:22am (NZ time)

A wonderful note that a missionary Mom got:
So just so you all know things are ok and we are all ok here.  There has been some damage but still not too sure what is happening around Vanuatu yet because the phone lines are all down right now and we were lucky to find some internet today at a school here…the only place in Malekula that has internet right now, so I have a little time to write this letter.  They have told us that there is another one that is on its way, but whatever happens we will be safe and there is no need to worry.  All the missionaries in each island met in a central and safe location before the cyclone, and us in Malekula stayed safe in a brick house.  It has been quite the experience, but we still don’t know too much of what has happened or will happen because the phone lines being down, but things will always press forward and there is a purpose in all this for the work of the Lord.  Throughout this hard time, people will begin to remember their Father in Heaven again, and be more open to the missionaries.  This I know, we must always look on the positive side of all things and I just want you to know we are safe and don’t worry! I have definitely felt your prayers and your love and God’s love.  I am grateful for you guys and the love of the Lord. Love you!
p.s.  No worries mama, I’m alright :)

Mom:  Just goes to show the strength and resilience of these missionaries!  They feel the love of the Lord, and his guiding hand and protection!  So grateful for all those who have worked tirelessly to ensure the safety and well being of our sons and daughters!  Thank you!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March 19, 7:08pm (NZ time)

Latter-day Saint missionaries from the island of Tanna after flying into Port Vila on 19 March 2015. 11 missionaries endured the brunt of Cyclone Pam along with other residents on the island.

March 19, 4:01pm (NZ time)

NEWS RELEASE - AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND — 19 March 2015, 4.01pm
All Latter-day Saint missionaries in the Vanuatu Port Vila Mission are now accounted for, safe and well. The 11 Latter-day Saint missionaries who were on the Vanuatu island of Tanna when Cyclone Pam hit last weekend are now back in Port Vila. The six missionaries on the island of Ambae are also accounted for and safe. Where possible, missionaries throughout the nation are distributing food and other supplies to communities in need, and assisting people in other ways.

March 19, 3:51pm (NZ time)

From Sister Smith (missionary couple in Vanuatu) to a Mom of one of the missionaries on Ambae:   The Zone Leaders returned from Ambae last night and the missionaries are doing well.  The missionaries have resumed their normal activities and are moving forward.  Nice news! We did send about 2,600 lbs of rice and flour to Ambae.  Many gardens were wiped out.  At the big market house here there are plenty of pomplemoose. (giant grapefruit) and root vegetables.  Most of the bananas went down so the food shortage may occur in a month or so when new crops are not ripe. Your sons were given a small amount of money (cards do not work) but it will not carry them too far. President Mahit is hoping to go to Ambae by plane this weekend for Church business but the planes are not flying to Ambae currently. We will check on banking this morning.  Everyone here is calm. These people know how to live without much. Your sons do also.

March 19, 1:50pm (NZ time)

Members in New Zealand will be putting 2,000 food boxes together this weekend. The boxes will be assembled by "Mormon Helping Hands" volunteers from the Mt Roskill Stake. The Church has chartered an Air New Zealand plane to transport 700 of the boxes this Monday. The remaining 1,300 boxes will be sent via commercial flights next week. The food selections were done by members in Vanuatu.

March 19, 12:44pm (NZ time)

The six Tanna elders as well as the assistants to the president will return today. The schedule is to load the food on the plane in Port Vila at 10am and be back to Port Vila about 2pm. The missionaries will turn this second plane load of food over to President Moukura.

While staying in the school, in Tanna, the police asked the missionaries to be responsible for morning and evening devotionals which were conducted by zone leader Elder Beynon. The devotionals consisted of invocation, hymn, gospel message and benediction.

March 19, 10:30am (NZ time)

The Mission Home has power now.  That was some great news to hear!

March 18, 6:45pm (NZ time)

After talking with President Brewer, here is an update:

All five sisters serving on Tanna arrive safely to Port Vila and were at the mission home with President and Sister Brewer. He said “all of them were in very good spirits and looked just like they did last time I saw them.”

The food purchased by the church and flown to Tanna was delivered to the care of Branch President Moukura of the White Grass branch. The District President was simply too far away.
The 6 Tanna elders as well as the assistants to the president will return tomorrow. The schedule is to load the food on the plane in Port Vila at 10am, depart at 11am, arrive 12pm and depart by 1pm, back to Port Vila about 2pm. The missionaries will turn this second plane load of food over to the President Moukura.

Power has been restored to the Mission Office and the power company is currently working on the street the Mission Home is on. President Brewer is hoping to have power to the Mission Home as early as tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March 18, 11:35am (NZ time)

Yesterday two Latter-day Saint missionaries based on the Vanuatu island of Santo took a commercial boat to the island of Ambae where there are six missionaries. As communication channels have been down, no contact has yet been made with these missionaries. We expect to hear a report later today or early tomorrow. The Santo missionaries are carrying emergency supplies to assist those suffering from the effects of cyclone Pam.

Another two missionaries from Port Vila are flying to Tanna on a small plane today which has been chartered by the LDS Church. They are taking aid to the people in need there and they will also transport missionaries back to Port Vila.

Monday, March 16, 2015

March 17, 3:30pm (NZ time)

Within the last hour the Vanuatu Port Vila Mission President, Larry Brewer, made contact with missionary leaders on the island of Tanna. The missionary leaders confirmed that all 11 missionaries are accounted for and safe. The Church is chartering a small plane tomorrow from Port Vila to Tanna. Two missionaries will be on board with food and other supplies to give much needed relief to those suffering from the effects of Cyclone Pam. The plane will also be used to bring the 11 missionaries on Tanna back to Port Vila.

March 17, 1:20pm (NZ time)

Latter-day Saint leaders in Vanuatu confirmed this morning that missionaries serving on Efate, Santo, Malekula and Gaua islands are accounted for and safe. Efforts are continuing in establishing contact with missionaries on other outer islands.

Church leaders in Port Vila purchased food and other emergency supplies yesterday which are being distributed to Church members and others who are sheltering at Church buildings, as well as others who have moved back to their properties in order to start rebuilding their homes. 

Several Church’s Pacific Area Office employees in Auckland are flying to Port Vila tomorrow to support local leaders in meeting the needs of people affected by the cyclone. This includes setting up partnerships with other churches and agencies so aid can flow as freely and quickly to those in need.

March 17, 10:55am (NZ time)

My husband and I cannot thank you enough for your email!  As we still have not heard from our son yet, we know from your email that he is accounted for and that is good enough for us.  Even though we are anxious to hear from him, we will soon enough.  Email is such a wonderful invention that the Lord has provided in our lives! Your email was a true blessing!  Our heart aches for those families of missionaries serving on Tana and we continue to pray that all will be well with the missionaries and the island people on Tana.  Thank you for the updates!  Please extend our gratitude to the other brethren in the area office.  The peace that was confirmed through the email update was so appreciated!

March 17, 9:17am (NZ time)

... parents of a full-time sister missionary reported that they understood her to be safe and well, as she is serving in the New Caledonia region.

March 17, 8:02am (NZ time)

A note from a missionary's Mom:  we have just heard from our son who is serving on the island of Malakula, he emailed us from a school on the island, and said everyone is ok, there is a lot of damage, but all of the missionaries are ok. Hope this helps, it was a relief to hear from him.

March 17, 6:00am (NZ time)

Service improving all the time; US$250,000 in free credit provided for Digicel customers
Monday March 16th 2015 - Port Vila, Vanuatu: As recovery efforts commence in Vanuatu, Digicel has made good progress in restoring its network enabling customers to make and receive calls, text messages and emails. The Digicel network in Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila, is almost fully restored and teams will soon now move to connect the rest of Efate, Tanna, Santo and the other islands.

The off-island fibre connectivity has been fully restored and bandwidth capacity over satellite has been increased by 500%, ensuring domestic towers have sufficient network capacity available.

Speaking from Vanuatu, Digicel Asia Pacific CEO, Michael Murphy, said; “We are deeply saddened by and concerned about the destruction caused by Cyclone Pam that hit Vanuatu on Friday and the devastation it has left behind. We know that at this time communications are of utmost importance as families and loved ones stay connected with those across the islands and abroad – and we are working tirelessly to enable customers to do so.

“With that, we have completely restored network connectivity in the capital, Port Vila, and are working with the Government and local companies to get technical staff to the outer islands so we can restore communications in as many locations as possible,” continued Murphy.

Public charging stations are being deployed across the islands so that customers can power their phones and Digicel is providing US$250,000 in free credit so that customers can get in touch with their loved ones as services are restored.

While Digicel’s technical teams from Fiji and Papua New Guinea are currently working remotely, charter planes and helicopters are being prepared for flight today. In addition, Huawei, SES and other key vendors have kindly donated technical resources and equipment to aid Digicel in its recovery efforts.

Updates of network and service availability are being communicated as they happen on Digicel Vanuatu’s Facebook page

March 16, 8:04pm (NZ time)

Reports from Latter-day Saint leaders in Fiji and Tuvalu confirmed today that all missionaries in the Fiji Suva Mission are accounted for and safe following Cyclone Pam’s destructive impact on the weekend.

In the neighbouring Vanuatu Port Vila Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all missionaries on the main island of Efate are in Port Vila and are safe.

Due to communication lines still being down to the outer islands of the Vanuatu archipelago, contact with missionaries serving in these locations has not yet been made.  Efforts are ongoing to make contact with and support these missionaries, Church members and others in these outer islands.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

March 16, 1:05pm (NZ time)

Here is the email from Sherm and Cheryl Smith, serving in Vanuatu: "We are ok.  No Internet for maybe a long time.  Please inform friends and family.  Cell phones will not work also. All missionaries in Santo and Gala are okay. We have not heard from other areas. Also, no planes or banks."

Elder/Sister Smith, Elder/Sister Kerns

March 16, 10:30am (NZ time)

Dear Concerned Family and Priesthood Leaders,

This is coming from the Pacific Area Office. We know there are many concerned parents and leaders wanting an update about their missionary. Here is a brief report on what we know concerning our missionaries serving in the Vanuatu Port Villa Mission:

  • All missionaries serving in New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and the Island of Efate where the capital city of Port Vila is located are safe and accounted for. 
  • Communications with the outer islands have not been established. All missionaries were instructed 2-3 days prior to the arrival of the cyclone to seek shelter in the safest building on their island a concrete building which is going to be either a church, hospital or school. We have every reason to believe all of our missionaries are safe, but we have not been able to confirm that yet.  There is no phone or internet/email contact with the outer islands. We are hoping to establish contact within the next few days.
  • The islands to the north of Efate/Port Vila were spared a direct hit from the cyclone, these islands include Ambae,  Malekula and Santo. While we have yet to receive a report, we have every reason to believe the people of these islands and our missionaries did not experience the devastation reported on Efate.
  • The island of Tanna did take a direct hit from the cyclone. Prior to the storm our 11 missionaries were all moved to the westside, the safer side, of the island in the care of a local priesthood leader who took them to a school official who welcomed the missionaries into his safe building. We have not yet had contact with anyone on Tanna.

This morning local time we held a conference call with the Mission President, President Brewer, as well as a highly placed government official who is one of our local priesthood leaders in Port Vila, our Area Seventy for Vanuatu, our Area President, the Director of Temporal Affairs as well as Welfare staff for the Pacific Area.  The safety of our missionaries was the first topic of discussion, followed by the role the church will play in providing relief to those affect by Cyclone Pam.

Pacific Area Offices