The island of Tanna is part of the island nation of Vanuatu. It’s a sleepy island known for its active volcano and a religious cult known as John Frum.
Followers of the John Frum cult believe that many years ago a man named John Frum, apparently an American seaman, appeared to leaders during a traditional ceremony. They say that John Frum told them he had come to rescue them from the missionaries and colonial officials. He instructed them to stop following the White man’s ways, to throw away their money and clothes, to take their children out of school, and to go back to living in their traditional ways. These traditional ways include drinking kava, a mild narcotic, and worshipping the magic stones their ancestors had given them. The cult’s leaders insist that John Frum lives in their sacred volcano, Yasur, which means “god,” and speaks with the leaders at night during the secret ceremonies.
At one point the cargo cult included a significant percentage of people living on Tanna Island. But Adventist lay leader Max Senembe [SEHN-ehm-bee] is working hard to lead John Frum followers to Jesus Christ.
John N. was a member of the John Frum cult. “John Frum came in the form of a spirit and told the people, ‘Don’t go to school. Don’t go to church. Hold on to your customs,’” John said. “So I took my children out of school. I became a spokesperson for the cult’s leader. In time I realized that keeping my children out of school would not serve their best interests, so I sent them away to school. But I continued to be a spokesperson for the demon that called himself John Frum.
“Then someone found out I had been sending my children to school, and they took me to the community court. The leaders didn’t like what I had done, and they threatened to beat me. Because the cult lived as a commune and shared everything, it would have been difficult and dangerous to stay with them. So I offered to quit the cult and move my family away from the village. They agreed.”
Adventists in the area where John lived invited his wife and children to attend church. The children liked the programs and attended regularly. John’s son invited him to join them, and he began to attend. When the lay pastor, Pastor Max, held a weeklong evangelistic series, John attended. There he learned basic truths of the Bible including who Jesus is, what the Sabbath is, and about the real Second Coming. Max studied the Bible with John and his family. It took two years, but eventually the entire family joined the Adventist Church. Other leaders in this cult have abandoned their cult beliefs and accepted Jesus as the only true God.
Pastor Max has made the John Frum cult his mission field, working hard to identify the members of the cargo cult and talking to them about Jesus. “John Frum is dead,” he says. “He’s not coming back. Jesus is alive; He loves you, and He is coming back—not with a shipload of goods, but to take His followers to heaven.” Many cult members are realizing that they’ve spent their lives worshipping a demon, not a god. They’re listening to God’s words and leaving this cult. But others still cling to their beliefs and their traditions.
While Max shares his faith with those in his district and shepherds the 300 members in four Adventist congregations, others share God’s message of love through health ministries.
Adventists have renovated its two medical clinics on the island of Tanna. Adventist nurses care for the people’s health needs and share God’s love through their ministry. They hold out-clinics and vaccination days in the villages surrounding the clinics. They teach healthful living and disease prevention to parents, and teach maternal and child health to expectant and new mothers. People are learning that Adventists care about them. They appreciate the health care they receive at reasonable cost and are glad that they no longer have to walk for hours in the hot sun to the government clinic to receive medical care.
Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help build more medical clinics in isolated, difficult-to-reach places in the islands of the South Pacific. Thank you for sharing so that others can know that God cares for them and wants them to be in good health and worship Jesus, who will come back. He won’t be bearing gifts; He’ll be taking His believers home.