God and Hope TV Credited With 2,213 Baptisms in Vanuatu
A three-week evangelistic series on the South Pacific island is filled with surprises.
A three-week evangelistic series in the capital of the South Pacific island of Vanuatu resulted in 2,213 baptisms, an unexpectedly large outcome that marveling church leaders attributed to the Holy Spirit’s work through daily television broadcasts of the event.
The series, titled “Hope for Port Vila” and part of the Adventist world church’s “Mission to the Cities” initiative, officially ended last Sabbath, Sept. 13. But the final 115 baptisms took place the next morning after the 28 ministers who spent hours baptizing at the series’ main venue, Freshwota Park, ran out of time.
“Hope TV is truly a miracle,” said Simon Luke, general secretary of the Vanuatu Adventist Mission. “Had it not existed, the boost in the number of baptisms would not have happened.”
Attendance swelled as the series was aired live on the church-owned Hope Channel and made available on free-to-air television to residents of the capital, Port Vila, as well as the cities of Luganville and Lakatoro. More than 5,000 people were attending the evening program in Freshwota Park by the third day of the series, and 9,000 to 12,000 showed up on the last Sabbath, Luke said.
Church leaders offered praise to God for the tremendous response to the gospel message — a response that will fill the Vanuatu Mission’s 77 churches to overflowing. The Vanuatu Mission, which covers a territory with a population of 258,000, had 19,000 members before the series began.
“I do not know where the new members will meet,” said Glenn Townend, president of the Trans Pacific Union, which includes the mission, speaking by e-mail. “There is some space in existing churches. However, this is one of the challenges — places of worship.”
Church leaders attributed the baptisms in Port Vila and two other sites solely to the work of the Holy Spirit, but they noted that the television broadcasts had been particularly effective. The evangelistic series also was broadcast on the radio and was live-streamed online.
Luke said he was aware of numerous stories of people who joined the Adventist faith through Hope TV, including an elderly man who watched nightly and afterward shared what he had heard with his wife, who has eye and memory problems. On Sabbath, the couple was baptized together with their son and his wife.
In another instance, a boy became convinced that he wanted to give his heart to Jesus while he watched the preaching and baptisms last Sabbath, Luke said. “His parents could not stop him, so they had to reluctantly take him to the pond to be baptized,” he said.
Hope TV also led 18 inmates, including one woman, to get baptized. The prison allowed the inmates, convicted of minor offenses, to attend the Sabbath meeting, where they joined thousands of people watching the worship service projected on a large video screen.
“Each time the pastor gave an appeal, these prisoners would stand up before the screen and give their hearts to Jesus,” Luke said.
He said that the Hope Channel has become a household name across Vanuatu in just three weeks.
But the evangelistic series did not unfold without challenges. The leadership of several other Christian faiths on the island grew increasingly bitter and threatening after Adventist presenters spoke at the end of the first week about the holiness of Sabbath and how the day of worship was changed by post-apostolic Christian leaders from Sabbath to Sunday. Comments on social media were salted with hate and obscenities. Unknown people threatened to deport or even kill one of the presenters, Jean-Noel Adeline, head of the Church Ministries department for the New Zealand Pacific Union Conference.
“Someone called the office and threatened to do something and promised to make sure Pastor Jean-Noel did not leave the country alive,” Luke said. “Although nothing concrete took place, the threat was real and you could literally feel the presence of the evil forces at work.”
In another incident, the family of an Adventist pastor woke up in the morning to find thick blood in their bathroom and more blood smeared across a bed sheet outside the house and on a pair of men's underwear in their washing sink.
“This literally struck fear into the heart of the family,” Luke said. “But that is as far as Satan was allowed to go. God protected this family.”
Perhaps more than anything, the many baptisms showed that God remained in control, church leaders said.
Among the prominent citizens who were baptized was a senior Health Ministry official, a former senior Education Ministry official, and the wife of a Cabinet minister, the leaders said. Joining them were two non-Adventist pastors, one with his whole family.
Church members were especially rejoicing over the rebaptism of more than 30 people who had broken away from the Adventist Church to form various movements. Luke said that those baptisms last Sabbath showed that the evangelistic series not only brought conversion but also healing to the local church. “It was a historic moment and a powerful picture of unity of God’s church,” he said.
Luke said he believed God was able to especially bless the evangelistic series because Adventist members in Port Vila were willing to humble themselves, confess, and repent of and renounce sin.
“The church came into one accord and unity, and God poured out his Holy Spirit,” he said. “The baptismal result is only an indication of this outpouring.”
Adventist Review, Aug. 28, 2014: “Vanuatu: Evangelistic Series Under Way”
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