Islanders Reject Volcano Messiah, Choose Jesus

Michelle Toy

Wes Brenneman reread the letter to allow the exciting news to permeate.

As director of Cru in the Pacific Islands, he had just received a letter saying that nearly 5,000 cult members on the island of Tanna now believed in Jesus.

Soon, Wes and other staff members traveled to the island to see the evidence firsthand and record what they observed.

The 10,000 islanders used to follow a strange cult messiah called Jon Frum, insisting he was a former American GI who would one day emerge from a volcano.

But in September 2004, missionaries came to Tanna to become partners with the missionaries on the boat Dayspring III to show the JESUS film. They also brought other evangelistic materials, along with lessons to help new believers grow in their faith.

The islanders saw truth in the film, and many placed their faith in Jesus instead of the cult messiah.

Leaders on the island even asked if the group would leave the projector and film on the island so that more people could know Jesus.

As a result, Wes and the others found a total of more than 300 villages and 7,000 islanders who now believe in Christ.

At one village of a few hundred people, they met Silas Iou, a missionary who teaches school and leads the church.

They instantly noticed that the village was different than the others on the island.

"[The villagers] seemed more animated, their eyes sparkled, they smiled more, and…they were happy to see us," said Wes.

Staff videographer Bob Rictor described the village as "organized, clean, and emanates order and peace."

Throughout the village, Pastor Silas had set up leaf shelters with painted pictures teaching the Bible, theology and Christian living. He is determined to help rework the people's beliefs and teach them new truths about Jesus.

"I added another name to my list of heroes of the faith: Pastor Silas Iou from Tanna," says Wes.

Cru's focus now, together with the churches in Vanuatu, is to provide resources for the islanders to grow in their faith and be able to tell other islanders about the gospel.

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