Solomon Islands Ministries Newsletter (Issue 1)

Monday, February 5, 2018

Solomon Islands Ministries - South Malaita Visit

Our trip to the Moscom Fellowship in South Malaita started and finished with travel dramas!  We were scheduled to leave Honiara at 8:00 pm on the Sunday night following our return from North Malaita but the boat departed at 6:00 pm instead, despite confirming the time with the port that morning.  A second attempt to depart the following day on another boat was also frustrated when transportation at the other end could not be arranged.  Therefore, the trip was rescheduled until the end of the week with a change of route through Auki and Atori.  Instead of a direct 24 hour boat trip from Honiara to Moscom, the change of plans would mean the ferry from Honiara to Auki (as with our northern trip), a four hour truck drive to Atori and then two hours on a small 'mosquito boat' south to Moscom.  This change of plans meant that Vanessa opted not to go on this journey due to her fear of very small boats and open water.  This proved to be a wise decision as we encountered up to 2 metre swells in some sections of pretty rough waters over this leg of the trip.

The name ‘Moscom’ was originally coined as a radio call sign by the local village leader when he worked for Australian Aid.  It is a hybrid of the actual village name ‘Mosipe’ and the word ‘community’, which stuck and has now become known throughout Malaita.  This village leader responded to the need for a church in Moscom by contacting his close friend in Honiara who was instrumental in bringing The Salvation Army to Solomon Islands.  The community wanted a church that cared for more than just their  spiritual needs, so they were very responsive to the message they heard about The Salvation Army through the visit of Captain Soddy Maraga from PNG.  Over the past few years, the Moscom Fellowship has been led by a local Salvationist named Miriam, with the strong support of the nearby SDA Pastor Seke.  Like Kwai in North Malaita, The Salvation Army has grown around a few families in their village, but unlike Kwai, this congregation has a notable absence of men, who watch on from a distance when not attending their watermelon farms.  Miriam is a hard worker who does her very best to juggle her duties in the village as a mother and grandmother with the responsibilities of being the congregation leader.

We were greeted at the beach, further along the shore than planned due to rough waters, by a large group of very enthusiastic village kids, .  This meant a 20 minute walk through the neighbouring SDA village and up a rather steep hill back to Moscom, with the kids super keen to carry our luggage.  We arrived at the village on dusk and were once again blessed by a lovely welcome song by a group of children and a time of worship and fellowship.  

The Saturday program was much the same as Kwai in North Malaita with a session of teaching about Salvation Army symbolism and a session discussing the Sacraments.  Unfortunately Ness wasn't there to teach the kids so they all (25 of them) decided to sit in on the adults session.  I'm not really sure how much they took in but they at least pretended they were interested.  The Sunday Service had quite a different feel to up north but was nevertheless a wonderful time of worship.  The girls performed a vocal item that featured some beautiful harmonies that lived up to the reputation of amazing singing in the Solomon Islands.  On Monday, Wency led four sessions of Soldiership Classes and I got to sit back and watch this wonderful man of God in action.  The questions that followed each of these sessions demonstrated a genuine desire to integrate what they were learning into the realities of living out their faith in a remote village.  These classes resulted in two Adherents being accepted that evening during a Fellowship Meeting.

Village life in Moscom maintained the beautiful simplicity and generous hospitality that we enjoyed in Kwai.  It was such a pleasure to interact in the life of the village through conversations over meal times and even joining in a spontaneous game of mud soccer with the boys!  It was somewhat of a spectacle having the visiting 'white Pastor' playing in the mud and word spread through the village like wildfire.  The boys thought it was hilarious every time I slipped over in the mud while trying to kick the ball.  Another aspect of village life we witnessed was the migration of watermelons from the hillside farms down to the beach in readiness for the boat to Honiara.  The farmers hauled countless bags of melons, weighing approximately 50 kg each, on their shoulders down the steep hills.  I couldn't sit idle watching all this physical activity so I followed one of the farmers back up the hill to lend a hand, which was very much appreciated.

Unfortunately, village life is not an Utopian existence.  While engaged in one of our evening conversations, thieves from a neighbouring village broke into our room and stole all the money we brought with us to support this Fellowship from my bag!  This was a significant amount of money that would have been a real blessing to Miriam and this congregation.  The village leaders were devastated that this happened to their guests while in their care and it was a harsh confrontation with a growing problem in this remote area where people have to work very hard to survive.  Nevertheless, this disappointing experience did provide a platform for prayer and teaching from Ephesians 6:10-20 about the spiritual battle in which we are engaged.

I said at the beginning of this post that our trip started and finished with travel dramas.  Well, our trip home was a 38 hour saga!!  We were scheduled to leave on Tuesday but our boat didn't show up.  It was then supposed to arrive at 10:00 am on Wednesday but ended up arriving at around 3:00 pm.  It took three hours to load up the melons from all the farmers waiting along the shoreline that spread across four villages.  When the boat eventually set sail out of the bay it was starting to get dark so it docked at a nearby port for the night because the Captain wasn't confident sailing in the dark due to the lack of navigation equipment on board!  We slept on the boat to stay close to our belongings and woke up very early in the morning to a large crowd waiting to board the boat with their cargo, including a rather large pig.  The journey through the channel dividing Big and Small Malaita was rather calm but got very wet along the way.  It also got very crowded as we were met by smaller boats along the way to transfer even more people and cargo on board.  By the time we reached the last port at the end of the channel our boat was overcrowded with barely any room to even stand with people jostling for positions to get out of the rain.  This was the scene for a cramped, cold, wet and miserable final 10 hours across Indispensable Strait between Malaita and Guadalcanal during the night (fortunately we picked up another Captain before departing the port who was confident sailing in the dark!).  At around 3:00 am we noticed some sparks on the floor in front of my feet.  An electrical wire was exposed between our deck and the engine room below, which was shorting out sending sparks through a rust hole onto the 
metal deck that was awash with sea water!!  Together with rough seas and constant storms, it was a very long night and the sight of land couldn't come quick enough.  We arrived in Honiara port at around 6:00 am but had to wait another hour before we docked as the crew pushed through the crowded boat to collect fares.  Praise God that Wency had the money for our fares in his belongings, which didn't get touched by the thieves a few days earlier!

Despite the dramas and discomfort of the journey, the experience was irreplaceable!  We got to share in the reality of many Solomon Islanders who have no other way to travel between the Provinces.  We got to see island life up close and personal.  Underneath the tropical beauty that surrounds us everyday is a challenging existence that exposes the vulnerability of these incredibly resilient people.  This experience provides us with a deeper understanding of the context in which our brothers and sisters in Christ are serving under the flag of The Salvation Army.  May God give us wisdom to use this experience to inform and guide us as we lead The Salvation Army in this context.

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