Out of the five islands in the district of Tafea, Futuna was the only island where there was no Adventist presence, despite the church’s many attempts.
It was an historic day for the Vanuatu Mission on August 15, with 16 people giving their lives to Christ in the first baptismal ceremony conducted on one of the nation’s remotest islands.
The baptism was held at Herald Bay on the island of Futuna, located in the far south of Vanuatu*, with church and community members from Efate and Tanna islands making the journey to witness the special event.
Tafea district leader Pastor Jonathan Moses conducted the baptism. Two days later, he also led the dedication ceremony for the first Seventh-day Adventist church building on the island, marking the establishment of the Adventist message in an area that had remained mostly untouched during more than a century of Church work in Vanuatu.
“Out of the five islands in the district of Tafea, Futuna was the only island where there was no Adventist presence, despite the church’s many attempts,” said Pastor Moses.
A sign is placed on Futuna’s first Adventist church.
According to Adventist leaders, the people of Futuna simply did not want other Christian denominations to have a presence on the predominantly Presbyterian island.
That attitude has changed, however, as evidenced by Futuna’s paramount chief, Johnny Naweiakasi, officially opening the Imaraga Missionaries Seventh-day Adventist Church on August 17. People, including Christian leaders, from all across the island also attended the ceremony.
During the dedication service, Vanuatu Mission representatives paid tribute to Elder Rakau from the Epauto Seventh-day Adventist Church in Port Vila for inviting and sponsoring Pastor Solomoni Taipo to work on the island of Futuna.
Pastor Taipo, from Fiji, arrived at Futuna in 2013 without knowing anybody and unable to speak the local language (Bislama, Vanuatu pidgin). However, he felt certain that God had called him to Futuna, and was determined to offer Bible studies and help the local communities in any way possible.
His work was soon noticed by a local resident Kopaji Maioho and his wife Esther, who gave Pastor Taipo land to build a church.
The bond established between the Fijian pastor and the Maiohos remained strong. When Kopaji passed away, Pastor Taipo went to live with Esther and her children to help around the home and support them financially.
Kopaji’s mother was among the 16 people baptised.
Pastor Solomoni Taipo embraces Kopaji’s mother following her baptism. The Fijian pastor said he was “very humbled” to witness the first baptismal service ever held on Futuna.
The Vanuatu Mission has high hopes for Futuna’s first Adventist church. The name of the church (Imaraga) means “multiply”, and church leaders will soon begin lay training to resource and equip people to be missionaries for Jesus.
* Not to be confused with the French-administered Polynesian islands of Wallis and Futuna, north east of Fiji.