Melanesia / South Pacific Field: Prayer is being requested as Tropical Cyclone “Pam” gains strength in the South Pacific, making its way toward Vanuatu. This category 5 storm with winds currently at 160 mph with gusts to 195 mph (257 kph gusts to 315 kph) is forecast to reach Vanuatu on Friday afternoon local time .
Following are updates received from David and Sylvia Potter, Nazarene Missionaries on Vanuatu
We are literally sweating as we anticipate the arrival of Cyclone Pam, not just because we’re not sure what to expect, but also because of the heat and humidity that comes with the storm. It was predicted nearly a week ago that this cyclone would be the most severe hurricane/cyclone of the Pacific. It didn’t look at first like it would eventuate, but it has moved slowly south from the Solomon Islands and all the conditions have been ripe for it to become more and more serious. We are watching about 4 or 5 different online weather sites to try to be the most informed about its progress. Yesterday and during the night, the cyclone’s progress toward the south pole slowed significantly and it has again intensified. The cyclone has reached a Category 5 this morning with sustained winds of 115 knots and gusts to 140 knots. They are predicting that the winds will get even stronger as the central pressure of the cyclone continues to drop. The weather forecasters are never entirely sure about the track that the cyclone will take, but what is concerning us is that it is aiming to hit us directly or narrowly miss us to the east – either prediction will bring very severe winds that will be very destructive.
We traveled to visit the people in our churches yesterday that are living in homes that would never stand up to the winds. When we arrived at these various places we found people completely unaware of the danger that was approaching! They had heard rumors that the cyclone had already passed. We did our best to convince our friends to begin preparing and looking for safe housing. We are thankful that the Vanuatu army helps to relocate people to schools and safe shelters during situations like this. The people in Vanuatu are for the most part entirely dependent on the food that they grow in their gardens, most of which are root crops which take 3-6 months to develop. The winds and heavy rains that come with a cyclone can ruin gardens and the available food supply.
We have never faced a cyclone in our present house since we moved in 7 years ago, so we aren’t really sure whether our home will stand up to these fierce winds. David is screwing plywood sheets over our huge windows all around our house today. It is so hot and humid that closing up the windows sounds terrible, but it looks like the weather will be somewhat calm to handle the big sheets of wood today.
I’ve been teaching a Bible college class every evening for the last week and a half, and will teach this evening if the winds and rain hold off. You can’t imagine how hard it is to concentrate on preparations for class and for my students to focus on what I’m teaching, with a cyclone breathing down our necks!
Please be praying with us for our situation.
• We are asking God to do as Jesus did on the sea of Galilee – to block the wind and waves so that people’s lives are spared.
• Pray that people will be wise in preparing for the storm even as they pray and trust God for protection.
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• Pray that we will know what to do and how to help people during this time.
We may very likely lose our internet service and possibly phone service as we move into the thick of the storm on Friday or Saturday (Thursday and Friday in the US), so please know that we will keep you posted as soon as we can.
Thank you for standing with us in the storm.
Sylvia and David
We still have internet service and thought we’d just give you the latest information. We had a quiet day yesterday (Thursday) as far as winds and no rain, which made it possible for us to get nearly all our big windows boarded or covered. We have been assisting the people we know who live in inadequate housing to be in touch with the National Disaster Management office which provides emergency shelter in various locations throughout the area.
This morning the winds are gusty, but will become much, much stronger through the day if the weather forecast continues to prove true. Cyclone Pam is forecasted to either hit our island directly or pass just a bit to the east of us in the middle of our night tonight (about 12 hours from now). Winds at the center are predicted to be 115-150 knots when it reaches us. After it leaves us, we fear that it will directly hit the islands to the south of us including Aniwa and Tanna where we have a Nazarene church and many people for whom we are concerned.
We thank you for all the replies to our request yesterday for your prayer support. We know that God hears and he alone has power to save. The Bible says that, “He is not willing that any would perish, but all would come to eternal life.” So we are crying out to Him for His mercy.
Grace and peace,
David and Sylvia