Solomon Islands Ministries Newsletter (Issue 1)

Friday, July 27, 2018

Solomon Islands Ministries - Salvation Army Convention

While visiting the North Malaita Fellowship soon after our arrival to Solomon Islands in January, I met with their leadership team and asked the Fellowship Leader Charles Akwastaloa what his vision and goals were for this year.  He expressed to me a very strong desire to bring the churches together from the surrounding villages to present the mission of The Salvation Army in North Malaita.  After follow-up conversations, his vision developed into an opportunity to also bring together the three Salvation Army congregations from around the Solomon Islands for worship, fellowship and witness in North Malaita.  Six months later, Charles and his family turned this vision into reality by hosting the very first Salvation Army Convention in the Solomon Islands.

Over the weekend of the 19th - 22nd July Salvationists from Honiara Corps and Moscom Fellowship joined with the Kwai Fellowship in North Malaita and with other Christians from surrounding villages, including Lolu and Capernaum where new Salvation Army missions are soon to commence.  The Territorial Commander, Colonel Kelvin Alley from PNG, was our invited guest for the weekend.  He flew from Port Moresby to Honiara where he met us for a connecting flight to Auki in Malaita, followed by a four hour drive on the back of a truck up the North Road to Kwai.  Along the journey we stopped at Forcem Market, about an hour out of Auki, to pick up the group from Moscom who had traveled by mosquito/banana boat from Maro'upaina Bay to Atori the day before, and then embarked on a three hour drive along the East Road that morning.  For all of the Moscom group this was their first time ever on a truck and their first time travelling to this side of Malaita.  The time and effort expended just to get to the convention was indicative of its significance in the lives of those who attended and in this season of growth for The Salvation Army in the Solomon Islands.

Upon arrival we were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd, along with some local cultural dancers who ushered us into the conference area prepared by Charles and his family for a very warm welcome. Beautiful floral leis were presented to the Territorial Commander, Vanessa and I, as well as the Moscom contingent.  We were then blessed by a heart-felt welcome song by the Kwai congregation before words of welcome were given by Charles.  The rest of the evening was a vibrant celebration of worship with all three congregations participating through various musical items.  Colonel Kelvin Alley gave the opening address, setting the tone for the rest of the weekend by outlining his theme - "Foundations for a Rock Solid Faith."  It was a truly inspiring evening with nobody wanting it to end, despite their tiredness from a long day of travel.

In addition to some amazing teaching and fellowship over the weekend, the convention reached a climax on the Sunday morning with the Territorial Commander officiating three very significant ceremonies during the worship service.  These ceremonies commenced with the enrollment of two Junior Soldiers from the Kwai congregation.  The enrollment of Webster and Rebecca has brought the number of Junior Soldiers for this relatively new Salvation Army congregation to 12 young people, who are being discipled by Junior Soldier Sergeant Phillip Omelengi.  Immediately following was the enrollment of 17 new Senior Soldiers from the Kwai and Moscom congregations.  Three of these new soldiers traveled from Moscom for this special occasion and the other 14 new soldiers represented a number of surrounding villages in North Malaita.  Unfortunately, the 4 recruits from Honiara, 4 from Manao'oba Island and another 7 from Moscom were unable to make the trip over for the convention.  They will be enrolled in the coming weeks at their respective home churches.  After the enrollments, Colonel Kelvin Alley called to the platform Kwai leaders Charles and Judith Akwastaloa for a history making announcement for the Solomon Islands.  The Kwai congregation has been operating under the banner of the North Malaita Fellowship since it commenced in July 2017.  Over the past twelve months this congregation has become a spiritually vibrant and evangelically active Salvation Army church growing in membership and mission.  In recognition of this growth and development, an application was sent to THQ for the North Malaita Fellowship to be given Corps status, officially recognising it as a fully functioning church in The Salvation Army.  The Territorial Commander took great delight in presenting a Certificate of Recognition of Corps Status, making this the second Corps in the Solomon Islands.  From that moment the 'North Malaita Fellowship' became known as the 'Gateway Corps, Suafa Bay.'  This was indeed a momentous occasion that reflects something of the mighty movement of the Spirit in Malaita.

One of the highlights of this convention for me was seeing the pure expression of joy on the faces of everybody in attendance, especially from the Moscom congregation.  The Moscom Fellowship live and worship in one of the most remote parts of Malaita and rarely have the opportunity to interact with anybody outside of the four villages on Maru'upaina Bay in East Areare.  To come together with other Salvationists in such a way opened up the internationalism of The Salvation Army to this congregation, even in this small corner of the world called Malaita.  All of a sudden they were not alone!  Now they feel as though they are a part of something so much bigger than just their small Fellowship.  They built friendships and made spiritual bonds that will last a lifetime.  We witnessed the Moscom Fellowship leader Miriam come alive and emerge out of the timid cocoon of uncertainty seen in our previous trips to Moscom.  She danced and laughed and cried during worship and boldly declared her passion for the Lord in such a way that Vanessa and I turned to each other at the same time and asked, "Who is this woman?!"  Then there was the row of four young girls from Moscom whom I captured through the lens of my camera during the Friday night worship service.  This was truly a divine moment I will never forget!  Rarely have I seen this depth of worship and unrestrained passion pour out from the hearts and mouths of such young lives.  Words seem so inadequate to describe the full impact of this event, but I am certain it will be spoken of for years to come.

We are immeasurably grateful to Charles, his family and the congregation in Kwai for all their hard work to host this event and for their gracious hospitality; to the Territorial Commander for making the trip to North Malaita and for providing the right word for the right occasion; to Paul Harohau who funded the transportation of the Moscom contingent; to the neighbouring churches who joined us in fellowship and provided musical support; and to those who travelled all the way to North Malaita. Most of all we give glory and honour to God for the mighty movement of His Spirit throughout this weekend!

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