When my father, Ron Killingbeck, arrived in Noumea, New Caledonia in the summer of 1967, he found a young Assemblies of God couple, Jean (John) and Simone Ledru, and their three young children already there. This young man from northern France had stepped out in faith to come to New Caledonia to reestablish a Pentecostal work which had been started many years previously through the witness of J. Rousseau. But by this time only a handful of people remained from the initial work.
Jean Ledru and my father joined forces. The Ledru family had been holding services in their living room for several years. Upon my father’s arrival, a storefront building was found on the main road in a neighborhood called Faubourg Blanchot to have public church services. Faith Temple, in Seattle, Washington, gave the funds for the down payment and the building was purchased. The store was cleaned up, painted and our family of three moved into the two back storage rooms while services were held in the large store area.
The Ledru family, who had previously lived on the far side of the city of Noumea, moved into a colonial house right down the street from the new storefront church. The church soon became a hub of activity. Early on Sunday morning the French-speaking congregation gathered for their service. My mother played a small electric organ for services and my parents began taking French lessons with a tutor.
The Ledru family lived simply and sacrificed greatly for many years as Rev. Ledru worked a job and pastored the now growing French-speaking congregation.
Shortly after my parents’ arrival in New Caledonia, it was pointed out to them that there were several thousand islanders from the nearby country of the New Hebrides (colonial name for Vanuatu) working in New Caledonia. The majority of these migrant workers spoke some English along with Bislama and were feeling somewhat isolated in a French-speaking country. My parents quickly met some of them and realized they were just getting into trouble on the weekends with no where to go. My parents immediately started services in simple English at the Faubourg Blanchot church. As they began to reach out to these New Hebridean workers, they learned Bislama, the trade language of Vanuatu. Within a short period of time, the English service became a Bislama service and the congregation grew quickly.
This was truly a divine appointment, because as the Vanuatu workers finished their contracts in New Caledonia and returned home to Vanuatu, the Assemblies of God was started in the country of Vanuatu. A national pastor from Fiji moved to Port Vila, Vanuatu and started the first AG church in the capitol city. His translator was Loulou Manwo, a young man converted in Noumea and later the first Bible School graduate. My father began visiting former congregants who had returned to Vanuatu, preaching and teaching on several islands and in many villages.
In 1972, my family moved to Santo in the northern part of Vanuatu to start a church and reach out to the many northern islands. Except for a few short stays in France, the Ledru family remained in New Caledonia, the church grew, preaching points were opened around the island, other missionaries joined them and national ministers were trained and sent out.
Late Friday night, September 12th we were notified that Rev. Jean Ledru had died earlier in the evening of a heart attack and gone to be with the Lord at the age of 80. He leaves a lovely wife, children and grandchildren and also a wonderful legacy of obedience to the Lord and a life spent in leading others to God.