Working with families to restore purpose and hope

Written in May 2015 by Jenny

When the land sale was finalised in March this year we began building in a small carport to make a home for our family on the land.  We moved in at the end of February although we were not finished building - no corro on the upper part of the external walls and lots of other finishing jobs that would ensure strength in a storm!  We were so excited to move to our land, settle in and begin work on the Jeremiah Project.  A week after moving in we found out a cyclone was forming and predicted to hit our home of Vanuatu at an estimated Catergory 5 level in less than a week!!!  You can imagine the flurry of activity that spun from this news.  We were both already rather exhausted spending the previous 21 weeks living in a different place almost every week and 17 weeks of that was sharing homes with friends and family and then busily trying to build a home to live in, sort through our containers - one that we stored in Vanuatu with our belongings we had accumulated whilst living here and another that had been sent over with some of our belongings from oz and a whole lot of donated goods for the Jeremiah project.  In the week after we moved in we had emptied a great deal of boxes into our small home (7.5 by 5.5m) and also into a small local hut already on the land.  After news of the cyclone we prayed about how to respond.  We decided to empty everything from the hut back into the container, all our mattresses, clothes and belongings from the house back into the container.  In the week of prep, Andy had to buy and make storm shutters, finish building our house and move a truck load of belongings!  Everyone pitched in to help!  Eli screwed in over 400 extra roofing screws.  There was so much going on!  In this busy preperation time, I was not at all worried about our safety during the storm but I really struggled with how we would get all we had to do, done in time.


Early in the week our friend Maxie called Andy and said he was worried about the big tree over our house (to which Andy replied - Me too!!!!) and want to come and cut some branches down.  So Maxie and the boys came and cut down some of the massive big branches over our house which was an amazing blessing both because Andy didn't have time to deal with the tree whilst he was trying to secure the house, plus he isn't good with heights!!! :)  During the week Andy also was juggling work jobs as well!  Whilst doing a job at a friends house they offered for us to come and stay with them during the cyclone.  Given we were rather uncertain of how our place would withstand the wind especially with all the trees scattered around ours and the surrounding properties, we decided this was the safest thing to do.  On Thursday 12 March (Eli's 12th birthday and the day Cyclone Pam was expected to hit) we went to Bob and Brenda's house to ride the storm together.  We couldn't possibly have anticipated what was going to happen in the following 24 hours.  Friday came and we all enjoyed a morning swim - even refering to our adventure as a cyclone party - helping the children relax :).  The house was situated on a ridge so we knew it would cop the full brunt of the storm but they had what we called a bunker - a small shed/garage near the front of their home - concrete walls and roof with a roller door.  This was where we were to stay when the strom hit.  Because it was so slow moving we almost became a little complacent, not moving into the bunker and thinking we would be ok in the house.  Cyclone Pam hit Efate Friday night. By about 9:30pm water was running down the walls of the house and at about 10pm Andy popped to the bathroom, Bob, Brenda, their two sons, daughter in law and I watched as the ceiling fell in their lounge area - it was a high ceiling and a large area and the whole thing just fell down!  Bob yells - to the bunker! Grab a child!  We all grab a child and by this stage Andy comes out to find us all running around rushing to get out of the house!  We ran down to their garage (attached to the house) and waited till it was safe to run from the house to the bunker.  Bob stayed behind to close the house roller door and as he did the ceiling in there fell on top of him!  In the bunker the roller door buckled with the winds and at this stage the boys all realise its not going to hold!  There had been plans to move a truck in front of the door but for whatever reason hadn't happened.  So Bob, his two sons, Adrian and Daniel, and Andy shoved bbq, outdoor furniture, whatever was in the bunker against the door and held the door with all their might!  Now when the winds would hit the boys were thrown backwards by the force!  In my mind I'm thinking there is no way they are going to be able to hold this door shut!  I start praying "God, don't you take my babies, please God don't take my babies!!!!" and I sing - I sing praise songs to God - it was so crazy loud so I just sung at the top of my voice.  At first we had the kids on stretchers but then Bob worried the door might blow and land right on us so we squished into either side of the roller door at the front of the shed - Brenda and Joanna with two pikinini and me with three.  I prayed that Noah and Isaiah would not think I had abandoned them leaving them with Brenda and Joanna - they seemed so so far away!  By now I began praying to God - "Ok God, I'm ready.  If now is my time I am ready."  With everything within me I was sure I was not going to see the light of day.  For over five hours the men held the door with - I am certain - the help of angels!  Just before sunrise the storm had subsided enough for the men to let go of the door and everyone dozed for a short time before we opened the door at first light.  There was debri everywhere!!! The roof of Bob and Brenda's house had been totally ripped off!  Inside their house looked like a bomb had hit - stuff was scattered everywhere!! Ceiling was all over the ground, a foot or so of water was through the whole place, there was even sausages scattered across the floor from inside the fridge!!!  Andy and I were sure by this stage that our home would be gone.  When we looked around at the destruction we were sure that our place would be destroyed also so we prepared ourselves for just that - we reassured eachother it was ok - God had provided for our every need till now and He wasn't about to stop.  Andy ran home to our house (we had left our truck at Bob's shop warehouse which was a blessing because where it was parked at their house was their roof, so it would have been detroyed!).  As Andy ran he looked around and saw homes and land that he had never seen before - massive trees upended, branches all gone.  As he came around the corner of our street he could see our home in the valley - it was there! And it looked to be ok!!!  Sure enough it was.  God had saved our home!  The tree above had dropped some massive branches on the other side to where Maxie and the boys had cut down - ones that would certainly have crushed the house had they have been on the house side.  But the house was ok!!! :)