Marists in Tanna, Vanuatu
Fr Ókustino Epokifoóu writes from Tanna Island, Vanuatu, where the Gospel first arrived in the 19th Century but met strong resistance. Cargo cults are still active – especially the John Frum cult.It is one of the least developed islands in Vanuatu, and one of the most populated – with some 29,000 people who live mainly from subsistence farming. The Marists were called on mission there in the 1980's.
Tanna was one of the Islands most devastated by Cyclone Pam [Category 5] in March 2015 – destroying homes, schools and Churches.The current Marist Community are Fr Eneriko Nacolarara [Sup/PP – Fiji], Okustino Epokifo'ou [VSup/Bur -Tonga], and Louis Maite [Vanuatu - Education].
Frs Okustino-front centre, Eneriko-rt of Okustino, and Louis far right: with Teachers and Parishioners
I enjoy the work here in the middle of the island in the bush where there is no electricity and water source for all the villages in this mission. I am here with Fr Eneriko and Fr Louis.I and Eneriko work in the Parish, and Louis works in the School. We rely on rain water for drinking and farming, and on our solar panel system for power.
Even though it's only Fr. Louis involved directly in teaching, I and Fr. Eneriko look at other needs of all the schools such as building classrooms and giving inputs to principals and teachers about Catholic faith discipline. Our mission here in Tanna is to help enable the life style of the people to move forward.
A joyful community in front of Mt Yasur - active volcano on Tanna
The people of Imaru and Lamlu and other mission stations still hold on strongly to their traditional custom rather than the Christian culture but most of them have already become Christians. In the area of hygiene, we need a very strong movement to change their way of life such as chewing fresh Kava and then using a flour bag to squeeze the kava. However, looking at the way they live they are too slow to change.
The reason why we grow gardens is to help the community with our daily meal and the people to learn new methods of planning their gardens. We help the people to learn how to plant crops in a way that they will have variety and continuity.
We want to help the people of our parish to be as self-sufficient as possible, as well as accepting help we need from the Provincial Administration and Projects.
We enjoy doing God's work in the footsteps of Mary - spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
Fr Okustino can be contacted on facebook: okusitino epokifoou