So you've never heard of Vanuatu? Perhaps that’s because it’s such a young nation. With its pristine beaches, fragrant foliage, and unassuming lifestyle, Vanuatu is indeed one of the best-kept secrets of the South Pacific.
Until 1980, when it achieved independence, Vanuatu was called New Hebrides, and ruled jointly by Great Britain and France. Vanuatu means “the land stands” or “exists.” People born in Vanuatu are called “Ni-Vanuatu.”
The islands of Vanuatu are part of Melanesia, a large archipelago that includes Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. The country’s population of around 200,000 is scattered over 82 islands totaling about 13,000 sq. km. of land. From top to bottom the islands stretch across 875 kilometers (about 550 miles) of Pacific waters.
Traditionally these communities were oriented to the land as gardeners rather than to the sea as fishermen. Their diet primarily consists of root crops such as yams and manioc, plus lush tropical fruits – bananas, pineapples and citrus fruits.
Almost all Ni-Vanuatu have had some contact with Christianity for well over 100 years through different missionary and church agencies. Early missionary work included attempts at Bible translation. About 38 language groups have some Scripture, but most were done in the late 1800s and are no longer understood.
Of the approximately 113 languages spoken, 18 translations are currently in progress. The full Bislama (Vanuatu pidgin language) Bible was published in 1998. In December 2005, the first New Testament was dedicated. There could be as many as 40-50 languages still requiring Bible translation work, but that can only be determined after further language assessment is completed.