Solomon Islands Ministries Newsletter (Issue 1)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Solomon Islands Ministries - North Malaita Visit

Before arriving in Solomon Islands we read about a new Salvation Army Fellowship that had commenced during May 2017 in North Malaita after two newly enrolled soldiers from Honiara Corps returned to their home village on the Kwai River.  Their arrival home was good news for their village as the church they left behind had disbanded due to the infidelity of the pastor.  After sharing their joy of joining The Salvation Army in Honiara, their witness led to a number of conversations among the community leaders that resulted in their decision for the discouraged church members to become the first Salvation Army Fellowship in North Malaita.  Previous leader of The Salvation Army Solomon Islands Ministries, Major Malcolm Herring, visited this fellowship just before returning to New Zealand and 15 new soldiers of The Salvation Army were enrolled!  As the newly appointed leaders of The Salvation Army in Solomon Islands we knew straight away that we would need to plan a visit to this Fellowship early in our role to see for ourselves the progress of what God had commenced in this remote location and to encourage this newly formed Fellowship of The Salvation Army.  We also wanted to make a strong statement to these new Salvationists that our appointment was not just to Honiara but to wherever The Salvation Army extended throughout the Solomon Islands. 

Our trip to Malaita started at the port of Honiara on a passenger ferry that took three hours to sail to Auki on the west coast of Malaita.  From there we climbed onto the back of a public truck with nearly 20 other passengers and a mountain of luggage for a bumpy four hour drive to the furthermost point of North Malaita.  The road trip took us through some stunning tropical landscapes, over some precarious river bridges and along the beautiful western
coastline of Malaita.  We were greeted upon arrival by a very enthusiastic congregation dressed in their full uniforms eager to meet their new leaders.  This warm welcome extended to a weekend of generous hospitality and rich fellowship that expressed deeply the kingdom values of Christ and their cultural values of community.

While our visit was certainly to meet and greet the members of this Fellowship, it was also to provide some teaching and to participate in their worship services.  Each day commenced with a 4:30 am Prayer Meeting and concluded with a two hour Fellowship Meeting that featured some of the most passionate worship and prayer we have ever experienced!  In many ways, Vanessa and I felt like spiritual dwarfs among these people.  If we thought the singing in Honiara was inspiring (which it is), this church took it to another level.  

On the Saturday I conducted a Teaching Seminar in two parts to teach on 'Salvation Army Symbolism' and 'Salvation Army & Sacraments'.  For such new Salvationists, these themes filled in a lot of gaps in their knowledge and understanding about the distinctives of Salvation Army worship and culture.  They fully engaged with the teaching and asked appropriate questions to seek clarity and to make sense of my Aussie accent.  During this Teaching Seminar Vanessa took 17 children through Junior Soldiers Preparation Classes, which is a young people's discipleship program in The Salvation Army.  At the end of the classes 7 children indicated that they wanted to become Junior Soldiers; which is the first group of Junior Soldiers in the Solomon Islands.  

Sunday Worship was something special!  Their church building is an old wooden, open-walled structure, positioned on top of a very steep hill that stimulated nearly as much physical energy to get to church as the spiritual energy that was generated during church.  A congregation of 46 gathered to celebrate their love for Jesus in their usual passionate style.  One of their leaders led a lengthy testimony time that had people eager to not only share their testimony through words but also through song.  Vanessa then had the absolute pleasure of enrolling the 7 Junior Soldiers before I had the privilege of preaching the Word of God.  It is always humbling to see people respond to the Word of God, but to have 13 of these soldiers kneel at the make-shift Mercy Seat (that I had taught them about the day before), recommitting their lives to God and His mission in North Malaita, was a truly overwhelming experience.  The afternoon included a Leaders Meeting, another first for North Malaita, that completed the picture for us about the scope of ministry already occurring in and beyond this village.  To listen to their leaders express their vision for the future was energising.  I cannot wait to write up my report for the PNG Territorial Commander about this growing ministry!

Throughout our stay in North Malaita we enjoyed fully engaging in the simplicity of village life.  From swimming in the river with the kids, watching food being prepared with cultural methods, eating food grown in the village, to showering under a tap behind a canvas screen out in the open air; life in this village offered an unexpected richness that is rarely experienced in the city.  

Returning home to Honiara was a bitter sweet experience.  Despite our enjoyment of village life, we did miss being connected to the wider world.  Yet, leaving this place, even after only a few days, was like being separated from a sense of family again.  There is something supernatural about the body of Christ that transcends culture and language through a deep unity of the Spirit, I imagine much like the disciples experienced in the early church.  We left North Malaita with a great deal of excitement for the future of this Salvation Army Fellowship.  We also left with enormous anticipation for what might be ahead in the second part of our journey to visit another Salvation Army Fellowship in South Malaita next week.

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