Thousands of cult members who used to worship a mythical messiah figure they believed to dwell inside a nearby volcano are giving their hearts to Christ after viewing the Jesus film.
The people on the isolated South Pacific island of Tanna, in the country of Vanuatu, have long put their faith in John Frum, a figure they insist is a former American GI during World War II who will someday emerge from the volcano and shower his believers with wealth and knowledge.
Frum has been described as a combination of John the Baptist, Uncle Sam and Santa Claus.
Yet members of the cult quickly forego their volcano "god" after viewing the Jesus film.
"As they see the film, as they see the picture it became more real to them. It is like Jesus coming alive and being in their presence," said Pastor Phil Wiwirau, part of the Scripture Union team in Vanuatu, in a recently released Jesus Film video.
"The Jesus film also touched a lot of lives …[at] the crucifixion part… People came forward with tears and repentant heart because they could realize why Jesus had to die on the cross…"
Among the 10,000 islanders who formerly adhered to the volcano cult, more than 4,666 people from Tanna have converted to Christianity, according to Wes Brenneman, director of Campus Crusade for Christ in the Pacific Islands.
In September 2004, missionaries had come to Tanna to show the Jesus film and to bring evangelistic materials and lessons to help new believers. Since the missionaries' custom permit would expire within days of their arrival, the leaders of the island asked the mission group to leave behind the projector and film on the island so more people could watch the film and know Jesus Christ.
Now a total of more than 300 villages and 7,000 islanders on Vanautu have accepted Christ, according to the Campus Crusade for Christ Worldwide Challenge magazine's March/April 2007 issue.
"When I received my baptism…spirit filled me, opened my head and my heart and I see Christ," testified Isaac Wan, Jr., son of the village Chief Wan, in the video. "And I bring Christ in my heart… I really want for my father and family to come to Christ…. I pray every night and day, I think about my family."
Vanuatu is a group of over 80 islands in the South Pacific Ocean set between Fiji and New Guinea. In total there is an estimated population of about 212,000 according to the CIA World Factbook.
"I believe there are people out here on Vanuatu…that are dying without Christ and we need to reach them," said Pastor Wiwirau. "That is the main focus of us going to them with the film. Showing them the film and inviting them to the Lord, because without Him they are lost and they are going to hell. I believe this is what the Lord wants us to do."
The Jesus film, a two-hour docudrama about the life of Jesus Christ, is based on the Gospel of Luke and is shown by the Jesus Film Project. The film is seen in every country in the world and is translated into hundreds of language since it was first released in 1979. More than 1,500 Christian agencies use the film, which has had more than 6 billion viewings worldwide. As a result, more than 200 million people have decided to accept Christ. Currently, there are 2,409 Jesus film teams worldwide.