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Vanuatu Battered by Cyclone Harold

Superstorm Cyclone Harold hit the island nation of Vanuatu hard and has decimated many towns and villages.

The author, Bryan Webb, is the AGWM area director for Pacific Oceania.

On Sunday, April 5, superstorm Cyclone Harold slammed into the western coast of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu.

A slow moving yet monstrous storm, Harold made its way across the southern edge of Espiritu Santo, pounding isolated villages with flooding and winds in excess of 120 mph. Devastating the small islands of Tongoa, Iraki, Malo, Aore, Bokisa, and Tatuba, the storm then turned to pummel Luganville, the provincial capital of Sanma province.

Over open sea between the Sanma and Penama provinces, Harold strengthened before landfall over Pentecost Island with winds of more than 200 mph.

The incredible windspeed combined with the slow movement of this storm guarantees massive widespread damage. Initial government assessments estimate that villages suffered nearly complete destruction of houses and towns had damage to more than 50 percent of buildings.

In northern Vanuatu, after many frightening hours with no communication, we received word that our missionary team on Santo — David and Amy Julian with their two small boys and my daughter Alecia Webb — are safe.

The remainder of the missionary team in Vanuatu were not affected by Cyclone Harold and are moving to assess and plan relief efforts. Missionary Sam Paris is leading this effort.

Sam writes, “Vanuatu has been in a state of emergency with borders closed and all inter-island travel locked down for weeks now due to precautions with COVID-19. The government has opened up inter-island travel as of April 5, and I am in the process of getting flights up to the affected areas to assist fellow missionaries, pastors, and many friends who weathered the brunt of this storm. Please pray for all those who were hit by this storm and for us as we assess the damage and see where we can help in relief efforts in the worst-hit areas. Pray that we (and all our colleagues based on different islands) would be a blessing and a light during this time of heartache and rebuilding.”

Jeff Hartensveld, AGWM Asia Pacific regional director, agrees. “Please join us in prayer for our team on the ground so they can begin to aid in the relief. This one won't be easy. We are in miracle territory now.”

My wife, Renee, and I have lived on Espiritu Santo for 19 years. We have trekked its shores, climbed its mountains and spent thousands of nights sleeping in its primitive villages. Together with a team of fellow missionaries and local pastors, we have planted dozens of churches, built a medical clinic, a Bible Training Center, and seven schools.

Our knowledge of Santo and Pentecost is intimate. Foreign-sounding village names like Tesariki, Ranpator, Namuru, and dozens of others for us conjure the faces of chiefs who have welcomed us, pastors we have trained, believers we have worshiped with, and the smiling faces of children who are educated in our schools.

This tragedy is personal. Our hearts are broken and swollen with grief.

Editor’s Note: We are not making a financial appeal at this time, but if readers wish to assist with relief efforts they are invited to designate their contribution to “AGWM Crisis Response — Vanuatu Cyclone 891167-9 (72).” To give online, click here.