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The Rewards of Being a Missionary Kid in Vanuatu: Angelene’s Story

by | Wed, Mar 20 2024

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Eighteen-year-old Angelene White has fond memories of missionary life in Vanuatu. Her parents, Danny and Janice, were starting a church and Angelene’s earliest memory was of playing with the local children in Port Vila as a six-year-old. The people of Vanuatu are very friendly and welcoming, and although most of the children couldn’t speak English, they played happily together. As Angelene got older, the language barrier became a challenge. Over time, Angelene learnt the local language of Bislama.  

Today, Angelene and her parents are missionaries on Tanna Island, located in southern Vanuatu and famous for Mt Yasur, the world’s most accessible active volcano. Angelene has seen the volcano erupt several times, describing it as breathtaking.  The Rewards of Being a Missionary Kid in Vanuatu: Angelene’s Story

Angelene shared the challenges of living in a third-world country where there’s no plumbing, hot water, bathrooms, or even a proper roof on their house. The most challenging is the lack of adequate medical care. Danny and Janice flew to Sydney when it was time for Janice to give birth to Angelene. Even today, the lack of medical care means flying people out of the country, which is expensive and not always possible. This is one reason Angelene feels called to medical studies. 

Seeing God at Work 

Angelene enjoys being a part of her parents’ mission work. She’s been able to meet people from different cultures and other missionaries, and seeing God at work is very rewarding. Working with the local children brings her so much joy and she finds the simple things are the most rewarding. These usually go hand in hand with being tired and dirty, which Angelene says is 80% of the time.   

‘I mostly work quietly behind the scenes, cleaning, translating when mission teams come over, and writing reports. I am blessed with the opportunity to work with and teach the one to thirteen-year-old kids in Sunday School, which is the highlight of my work,’ said Angelene. ‘I can’t really say who has been saved directly due to my ministry. I know I have an effect, and that effect is only made through God and is for the good of God’s work. I have led friends to Christ in Australia, but as I was only saved when I was 12 and my time has been split between living in Vanuatu and Australia, I would say that my part in the ministry is still taking shape and will develop in God’s timing.’ 

Finding Strength in God 

Angelene draws strength from Isaiah 41:10, where God reminds her that when troubles, fears, and doubt surround you, it can be so easy to go to God as a last resort or forget He is there.  

‘This verse reminds us that as believers, we always have God beside us. He will never leave us. This is an important thing for young people today to remember,’ said Angeline. ‘We often feel surrounded by hate, prejudice, and judgment by others in this current culture, but we as young people need to always remember that God is our only judge. As harsh as it sounds, those who are judging us and trying to stop us from walking in our faith will one day be judged by God and have to answer to Him. So, instead of fearing people, let us fear God. Not in a frightened, worried way, wondering if He is going to rain down judgment on us, but rather let us fear Him with praise and glory because He saved us from Hell through Christ Jesus. Let us not be afraid, or frankly even care, about the opinions of others but instead tell them about Him. Tell them of His love and His care for them just as He cares for you.’  

‘I’m not a special person. I struggle with this so much, and often I fail. I almost never feel confident when it comes to sharing God with others, but God is so good in that He doesn’t ask us to feel brave; He just asks us to be brave. Isaiah 41:10 says, “Be not dismayed for I am your God. …” So, as hard as this may seem, how can you share your faith? Invite someone to church. Ask your co-workers if they need prayer. If they say no, you might feel stupid for a second, but then what? As teens, we often feel embarrassment or rejection is the worst thing we could feel, but when we remember that Christ DIED for us, it can put those feelings in perspective. God says three times in Isaiah 41:10 that He will do something. He will strengthen, uphold, and help you. So, who can you lead to Christ today?’ 

The West and China Versus God 

 Angelene has seen Western culture creeping into the once simple life of the locals in Vanuatu. When there were no mobile phones to distract them, they would be eager to listen to whatever you had to tell them. While younger primary-aged children are still keen to learn about the Bible, teens who can access their parents’ mobile phones are like any other teenager in the western world. They are influenced by western culture, music and everything that goes with it. Those who live on a part of the island where there is no internet access are less westernised.  

In the last few years, China has heavily invested in infrastructure in Vanuatu, particularly on Tanna Island.   

‘We didn’t have any paved roads before, and it took three hours to get somewhere that now takes just 20 minutes because the Chinese have come in and built roads around most of the island,’ said Angelene. ‘Even what used to take a day or two of travelling across really bumpy dirt roads, now takes two hours.’ 

While this is a positive move forward for locals, the downside is that there are a lot more car accidents because people are travelling faster and there are no speed limits imposed.  

While there have always been Chinese businesses on the island—mainly restaurants—there are now more businesses like hardware stores, food stores, and Chinese influence within the government.  

While some locals are benefiting from the building of these infrastructures, and are being employed for these projects, others object to the Chinese influence. Those who live in remote areas are not even aware of what is happening.  

Young People Hungry for God’s Word 

Angelene said the children in Tanna are very open to hearing about the Bible. They give you their full attention and what you say has an enormous influence on them. It’s easy to impact them while they are in primary school. It’s the teenagers who are more challenging to reach, especially once they have a mobile phone.  

‘They want to come. They’re excited, and they want to please you. While their literacy isn’t what it would be in Australia, they work really, really hard to try and please you and to try and learn. They actually listen, which is very useful when your skills in speaking their language aren’t the best,’ said Angelene. ‘I remember some of the younger boys aged around eleven whose skills in writing and reading weren’t necessarily at the level required for the curriculum we had for their age group, but they would sit there for 20 minutes to write out a single sentence for a Bible verse. They would do it the best they could in their best writing, getting all their friends to help them. They would work really hard. It was absolutely beautiful.’ 

These children know that the effort they put into learning the Bible will reap a reward and it gives them hope for a better future. They are more likely to pursue an education and, in some cases, the desire to go to university. Sunday School instills a sense of self-worth and morals, which has a ripple effect in the community. The simple act of learning to read and write enables these children to become the leaders of the future.  

‘A lot of people will drop out of school early and pursue other career paths. But I have noticed those who are on fire for God deliberately pursue a higher education because they see it as a way of being able to express their faith and support their families as opposed to thinking about themselves,’ said Angelene.  

‘It is really, really rewarding to work with the kids over there. Not only because they try so hard, but they value what you’re doing, and they take hold of any opportunities you give them. It’s good because for many what we’re teaching them is more than what they’re doing at school. It gives them the opportunity to be able to not only hear, but also learn the Word of God, which at that age they are very receptive to, and it’s beautiful to see. They have fun and they’re with their friends, so the next week they invite more of their friends. They’re really enthusiastic and they really appreciate the opportunity.’  

If anyone wants more information about Angelene’s family ministry or would like to support them, contact Danny White at coralsea@bigpond.net.au 

This article was inspired by Angelene’s interview on 20Twenty. To listen to Angelene’s full interview, click the link below.