We are on the move—again. My husband, Wayne, has been asked to be the general secretary for the Trans Pacific Union Mission in Fiji, an honor for him and an exciting move for our family, but—how do you say Goodbye to a place that has changed your lives forever? I’ll tell you how—quickly!
Last week we were in Fiji checking out schools for the boys, finding a car, and looking at our house. We have come back to the Solomon Islands to finish the final two weeks of our assignment in Honiara. In that time we will have farewells from schools, churches, and the office. And somewhere in there we will pack up, sell up, and clean up!
One of the things I have learned here is to plan big for God, no matter how few your resources. Some pretty amazing things have been achieved during the past two years: a huge mission outreach, the setting up of a nationwide radio station (still in progress), a health program that has reached more than 100 people and is exploding in popularity, smaller missions on every island, and large-scale renovations at Betikama Adventist College.
How was all this achieved with no money? God truly owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He has moved on the hearts of so many people who have given until it hurts. And He has multiplied their gifts so that the money stretches further than we ever dreamed possible. I heard Wayne say the other day that he wants to change the nametag on his door from “President” to “Passenger” because we have been on an amazing roller-coaster ride with Jesus at the controls. Now we move to Fiji in the hope that we can revisit the results we’ve had in many other missions across the Pacific. We go boldly, intending to plan on a huge scale and then watch as the Lord provides.
Another lesson I’ve learned is to never be ashamed of your God. The Solomon Islanders talk openly about their loving Father. They never hesitate to say grace in public, to pray in a huddle at airports or wharfs, or to invite strangers to meetings or socials. Their boldness has been a silent witness to me and I thank them for that.
Exciting things are happening at Savo, our closest neighboring island. We have tried in vain on several occasions to witness to a few of the villages there. The last time our pastor tried, he was expelled from the area. But then the annual Dorcas Federation met in Savo, and things began to change. Every year dozens of Seventh-day Adventist Dorcas members from area churches visit a remote area where there is much need to minister to people. They enter the village singing so that everyone knows they are there. They offer workshops on cooking, sewing, dyeing fabric, sewing machine repair, hospitality, and Bible study. One day is set aside for what they call “Highways and Byways.” This is when they distribute bundles of clothing and food and mix with the locals. The ladies turn the region upside down! And while the women are being the hands and feet of Jesus, the men cook for them, enabling them to focus completely on their ministry. The women make friends and reach out to the people and the men follow up with meetings and baptisms. They make a fantastic team!
One of the great needs on Savo was for a water tank. The Adventists gave a tank to another church, absolutely amazing the priest and the entire congregation. They wondered why Adventists would care whether or not they had fresh water to drink. And hearts began to soften.
Recently, young people from our Mbekona church went to camp at Savo and to quietly witness to the villagers. When they arrived, they were overwhelmed to be given a welcome fit for a king. They were even invited to hold their Sabbath worship in the non-Adventist church with many of the locals attending! In turn, our youth attended their church service on Sunday. Our pastor was even asked to preach. What topic did he choose? The Sabbath! Nerves of steel, I tell you!
Our young people made friends with many of the local youth, some of whom have told them they want to become Adventists because they are a people of the Word and people of action. They have been invited back to hold meetings, and surrounding villagers have begun to show an interest in attending. Ivan Ghemu, the head elder, said to me, “I was planning on ways to make a difference there, but instead I’ve been running as fast as I can to keep up with God.”
Another story comes from the beautiful island of Choiseul. The regional director and his team were holding outreach meetings there when they heard about a woman who had been living in the bush by herself for 30 years and had turned feral. She had been living with a pack of ten dogs. It took a few days for them to find her, but when they did, they were shocked to see a wild woman with fiery eyes and completely unkempt hair and nails. They gently befriended her and asked her to come back to the village with them. She did. Slowly the community reached out to her and she began to attend some of the meetings. We have just gotten word that she has responded to a call to give her life to Jesus.
The last story comes from a minister’s wife in Honiara. In 1986, Christine became a Seventh-day Adventist. Her family was horrified, especially her brother. She was disowned and told to leave the village. Luckily, it was around that time that she decided to study nursing at Atoifi, our Adventist hospital on the island of Malaita. Little did she know that her mother and father mourned deeply for her. When she returned home for reconciliation, everyone in the village welcomed her except her brother. He had not forgiven her for leaving their beloved church. He told everyone that he disapproved of her being there and that this Adventist church should be taken and “thrown into the mangroves.” (This was the stretch of beach used as toilets for the village.)
For more than 20 years, he interrogated her about her beliefs and beat her mercilessly. One time she noticed a bush knife sitting on the table beside him. “Even if you chop my head off I will not renounce my beliefs,” she said. This infuriated him even more and he beat her more fiercely than ever before. She was black and blue the next day, but she felt no pain and kept praising God for His goodness. When I asked her why she kept going back, she simply said, “I stopped fearing death or pain a long time ago. These are my family and I am the only Seventh-day Adventist who they will let into their village. What else can I do?”
When Christine married, she took her husband, Gary, back to her village with her (he is a nurse and an Adventist pastor). The village was so embarrassed about the beatings that they felt that they needed to compensate Gary for the shame that had been brought on him. They allowed him to run a mission in the village and even let the Burns Creek church build some pit toilets for them. This was a huge need for them and their hearts began to soften. Eventually, five people were baptized from this village. The baptism was held in the water at the end of a pier that separates the now unused men’s and women’s mangrove areas.
The devil may have wanted to throw Adventists into the putrid water, but God had other ideas of how this water could be used! Because of this dear woman’s faithfulness, her whole village is beginning to open up to Jesus.
Well, the time has come for me to sign off. Thank you for sharing our journey. And thank you for your prayers. God has been faithful to our family and protected and blessed us beyond belief. I must be the luckiest woman in the world!
Our family moved to the Solomon Islands in 2011 for what we thought would be a five-year stint. The Lord had other ideas. In the two years He allowed us to serve Him there, Wayne worked as the president of the Solomon Islands Mission while I homeschooled my eldest son and introduced CHIP (Complete Health Improvement Program) to Honiara. People often ask us where home is and I stare at them blankly before trying to explain that it is a more difficult question than they probably realize. Wayne is from Melbourne and I am from Sydney; our last Australian appointment was in Tasmania; and we now serve God in Fiji. The best way to answer the question is, “When I finally hang my hat on that golden stand in my mansion in heaven, then I’ll be home!”
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