by Devon Janse van Rensburg on Unsplash

Vanuatu: Students face communication struggles as they deal with the aftermath of a cyclone during COVID-19

If you can’t imagine a place untouched by coronavirus, consider Vanuatu. This island nation in the South Pacific is one of few countries that has no confirmed cases of the virus. However, the island’s greatest defence – remoteness – is also its greatest weakness.

The tiny nation had closed its borders to all outsiders, including foreign aid workers, when Cyclone Harold ravaged the islands, destroying crops and infrastructure, and killing 27 people. With the country’s economy so fragile, the damage to food supply will create major problems to those already struggling to provide. Closed borders and poor communication networks also mean that any foreign support will be greatly limited.

These challenges make the situation particularly frustrating for Joel and Tiffanie Atwood, the Breaking New Ground project leaders for Vanuatu. The Atwoods came to Vanuatu to pioneer an IFES movement among university students and to train future ministry leaders in theology and preaching. However, they are currently stuck in Australia due to the closed borders. Joel says:

“We’re feeling the distance from our friends! Currently all tertiary campuses are closed and the technology in Vanuatu isn’t quite up to digital ministry yet.”

With no stable form of communication with their friends, the Atwoods are praying from afar for ministry to continue in Vanuatu. Students on the islands are left to their own creativity to figure out how to stay connected as the nation rebuilds.

Let’s pray for Joel, Tiffanie, and the nation of Vanuatu this week:

·      Pray that Joel and Tiffanie would be encouraged as they wait in Australia. Pray that they can connect with students in Vanuatu.

 ·      Pray for students in Vanuatu to find ways to encourage each other despite communication difficulties.

·      Ask God to provide enough food and supplies to the nation of Vanuatu, as imports are limited due to COVID-19.

·      Pray for continued protection from coronavirus, as the nation’s healthcare system is not equipped to handle the gravity of a pandemic.

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