News Release

Elder O. Vincent Haleck Explains Why Latter-day Saints Do What They Do

Church leader meets with Vanuatu prime minister and news media

When a reporter asked Elder O. Vincent Haleck at a press conference in Port Vila last Friday (2 September) why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is so involved in efforts to strengthen Ni-Vanuatu families and communities, Elder Haleck replied, “It’s due to our beliefs. We follow Jesus Christ.”

The press conference was one stop during a three-day visit by the president of the Pacific Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the island nation last week.

During his visit, Elder Haleck met with the prime minister of Vanuatu, Hon Charlot Salwai, and also inspected a number of communities where Latter-day Saint volunteers are working with local Ni-Vanuatu to repair and rebuild homes which were damaged or completely destroyed during last year’s Cyclone Pam.

When hosted by Prime Minister Salwai at his Port Villa office, Elder Haleck presented the leader with a letter of congratulations from the First Presidency of the Church on his election earlier this year. The First Presidency is the most senior governing council in the Church.

Elder Haleck was accompanied at the meeting with the prime minister by Yvon Basil, president of the Church’s Port Vila Vanuatu Stake. A stake is a group of Latter-day Saint congregations.

Prime Minister Salwai, Elder Haleck and President Basil discussed the united effort between the Government of Vanuatu and the Church in rebuilding and repairing houses.

Prime Minister Salwai acknowledged the Church’s considerable assistance, not only since Cyclone Pam, but previously. He spoke specifically of the Church’s donation of wheelchairs to the Vila Central Hospital. 

“We look forward to continue working in partnership with the Church,” Mr Salwai said. “We appreciate all the help you have given to this nation.”

Elder Haleck shared with the prime minister that the Church’s focus is on lifting lives, fortifying families and creating caring communities. 

“We believe the family is the basic unit in the Lord’s plan,” Elder Haleck said. “We teach a lot about how to build a good family in the Church and the community, so our members can be good citizens in Vanuatu.”

Elder Haleck also expressed appreciation for government policies on religious freedom that allow missionaries to serve in Vanuatu, and young men and women from Vanuatu to leave for 18-24 months to serve as missionaries in other parts of the world.

The Church has around 75,000 missionaries teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and serving communities in 418 missions across the world.

Elder Haleck was accompanied at the press conference by Hans Sorensen, the Church’s Pacific Area welfare services manager; and James Tounguen, the Church’s director of public affairs in Vanuatu.

Elder Haleck discussed with reporters some of the humanitarian efforts supported by the Church since the devastation caused by Cyclone Pam, including providing water and water tanks, food supplies, clothing, hygiene items, along with the extensive housing rebuild and repair projects.

Over the last few years the Church has provided over $750,000 USD in humanitarian aid to the people of Vanuatu. This aid was made possible due to donations made by Latter-day Saints and others throughout the world.

Various humanitarian projects are supported by and in some cases coordinated by senior Latter-day Saint missionary volunteers.

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