Compelled is a mid-term mission program on Tanna Island, Vanuatu, serving with the Southern Islands Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu.
People are placed in small rural villages to encourage local mission workers and to work alongside that worker to grow the fledgling churches that have been established there.
Southern Islands Presbytery has an excellent missions program in place whereby they send local mission workers to non-Christian areas to plant churches. These mission fields are supported by a Bible College to train workers and a Discipleship Centre to disciple new Christians, teach basic literacy, and prepare people for college.
In many cases however, mission work on Tanna is slow going and many mission workers get discouraged and even leave their posts. At the time of launching this program, there are nine mission fields that do not have workers.
Having a fresh worker come in from overseas for even a short time could really re-energise and encourage local workers as they see the lengths that people would go to to support their work. Beyond this, a fresh face ministering in a small community would create a focal-point for the work and give the potential to grow the church through an intense period of ministry and outreach.
Additionally, this is an opportunity for you to experience real ‘coal-face’ cross-cultural ministry and to grow in your dependence on and love for your saviour. We hope you become ‘hooked’ on mission and ministry at home, and return to serve here or somewhere else long-term.
Who Should Come?
Compelled is open to single men and married couples without children. Single women and couples with children could serve in other roles on Tanna but this work would not be suitable due to safety concerns.
You need to be able to explain the gospel clearly and to be able to minister at a lay level in your local church (something like leading a Bible study). So you do not need to have completed a formal course (although it would be helpful) and all your training could be done in your local church.
You need to be physically healthy and mentally strong.
You will also need a positive reference from a partner church.
At present Westminster Presbyterian Church, Australia, Grace Presbyterian Church, New Zealand, and Presbyterian Church of America are the denominations that are currently directly linked to mission work on Tanna. However there is no reason why other reformed and evangelical churches and works couldn’t become ‘partners’ for the purpose of sending you (we would all just need to do a little more homework on each other).
There is a written application process. All appointments will be made by the Missions Committee of SIP.
The duration of the program is open from four months to one year.
Money and Support
You will need to be self-funded or raise your own support. We do not presently have the capacity to fundraise for you and ask that you request your local church to oversee all your fundraising to ensure that you are adequately and yet legitimately supported. Having all funding come though one church will also make your visa application easier.
You should raise what this work will cost you. You will need to cover your airfares, your visa and work permit costs (approx. $300USD), your insurance, your vaccinations prior to departure and your living expenses of approximately $120USD a week. That would place the cost of one person coming from the east coast of Australia or New Zealand somewhere around $3500.
You need to read Christianity and Animism in Melanesia: Four Approaches to Gospel and Culture by Kenneth Nehrbass before you come – even if you are just thinking about mission work it is worth reading! It is available through Amazon.
You should begin learning Bislama using the Peace Corps resources on-line.
You will also have to complete your visa application process before you arrive, have had all your vaccinations, organised your insurance, and booked your flights.
Once you arrive, here on Tanna you will do a month of language learning and cultural orientation at Southern Islands Presbytery Bible College.
Students will help to teach you Bislama and college staff (especially my wife and I, Tom & Margaret Richards) will prepare you for your ministry. During that time, you will live at the college and visit the mission field where you will be placed.
Compelled is not for the feint-hearted. Living in rural Vanuatu is not easy. You will be living amongst people who speak a different language to you and have a very different culture. Although you will learn Bislama, which is a creole based on English that will allow you to communicate with many people, you will not learn much of the language that is spoken every day by the people around you. Coupled with living amongst people who have a very different world-view, this will be frustrating and isolating.
Although you might choose to take a small stove, you will be eating regularly with the people around you which will mean a starchy and low protein diet, which will probably be different to what you are used to.
Your housing will be basic as will be your toilet and washing facilities.
Health will be an issue. Stomach bugs such as giardia are common and may cause you to lose weight and physical strength. Simple cuts and scratches will become infected quickly and may be a constant issue. Thankfully, at present Tanna is free of malaria but other vector-bone diseases such as dengue fever remain a risk. There are many diseases that occur here which might not be common at home and you will need all vaccinations recommended by your country of origin.
Safety and Emergency
Emergency response as well as pastoral care will be done by me (Tom Richards). I am a pastor with Westminster Presbyterian Church in Australia serving at Southern Islands Presbytery Bible College and as the Director of Missions with SIP. I also have emergency response qualifications and experience in sending out people to do projects in rural areas of Vanuatu.
Tanna has a reasonably equipped hospital staffed by local doctors as well as doctors from Canada.
None of this guarantees your safety and you must be covered by basic travel insurance that includes emergency evacuation. We use Mission Care and this might be a good place to start.
A lot of Tanna is covered by 2G mobile networks. It is likely that your mission field will have mobile coverage at it or within walking distance of it. There is also an internet cafe and a post office in Lenekel, Tanna’s only town.
We do not want Compelled to appear to be what it isn’t. It is a program of the Southern Island Presbytery of the PCV, and the initiative of me, Tom Richards as the Director of Missions for SIP. There is currently no mission organisation in Australia, New Zealand, or the USA that will be preparing you, helping you to fundraise, organising your flights, visas and insurance, or sending you out. While three denominations are listed above as partners, they are simply involved in other aspects of mission on Tanna, and none of these has so far formally endorsed this program.
Having said that, we will do everything we can to prepare you (mostly through email) and support you through the whole process. Please consider your involvement prayerfully.