Lent 2015 – Journey of Prayer

Thanks to those who have requested receiving our reflections from Solomon Islands during Lent. We have gathered the sent Bible verses together and spent a prayerful Versesmorning writing them out for the brothers and sisters here at Tabalia, and thinking of you all. Here is a photo of all the Bible verses we have gathered. We will be distributing them this weekend to the four communities as they celebrate Religious Life Sunday at the Headquarters of the Sisters of Melanesia on Sunday 15th February.

We arrived in Honiara last week and have received a wonderful welcome at All Saints Church, Honiara, and at the Headquarters of the Melanesian Brotherhood (Tabalia) where we are staying at the moment. Each member of the four communities Melanesian Brotherswill be given one Bible verse together with the name of the person who has provided it and a short piece of information about each of you – e.g which city you are from, or Sarah with The Melanesian Sistersthe work you are involved with. We have asked them to pray for you by name throughout Lent.

Please pray for the novices and brothers and sisters from the four communities here in Solomon Islands and for the vital work they are doing with the local communities:

The Melanesian Brotherhood (Tabalia)
The Community of the Sisters of Melanesia (Veranasso)
The Sisters of the Church (TNK)
The Franciscan Brothers (Hautambu)

We will send our first reflection by email next week, in time for Ash Wednesday.

We pray that you have a grace-filled Lent with a deepened awareness of the unseen chain of God’s love as you pray your Bible verse. It is not too late for others to take part.

Love Catherine and Sarah

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Return To The Solomons

Greetings from Honiara!

Sarah and Cath have had a busy first week catching up with old friends and spending time with the Sisters of Melanesia at Ellison Pogo House.  We delivered the last of the associate medals from Australia and received wonderful hospitality from Pru Haldane in Brisbane. Head Sister Collin is well and has grown in confidence in her leadership! We leave for Tabalia tomorrow and we are just working out our itinerary for our trip. Please pray for Religious Life Sunday being held next week at Veranaso (Sunday 15th February) where members of all the religious communities will gather for teaching and worship. Thank you to everyone who has sent in a Bible verse for the Lent Prayer. Next week these verses will be circulated to the four communities for mutual prayer throughout Lent.  

Sarah and Cath

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Leaving Gizo

As I write this email, we are sitting at Nutsitupe airport, which actually is a narrow island in the South Pacific with an airstrip just long enough for a small propeller aircraft to take off and land – we are surrounded by the most beautiful shades of blue/turquoise sea, which we have sampled many times over the last week.

We have been on the island of Gizo in the western province of the Solomon Islands for a holiday after the completion of our work on the main island of Guadalcanal. We have been staying in a leaf eco-lodge on a palm-fringed beach, only solar power for lighting, so no other gadgets have been operational!

We have felt totally integrated into this remote village community, attending their church, even invited to a wedding with not just one bride, but six! It was very unusual, and very long… Another touching moment was when the owner of the lodge asked me for anointing – so I blest some cooking oil in a shell, and did that little request for him. We have also met a headteacher from the neighbouring island of Vella Vella, who would like to strike up a friendship with a local school – however no emails, so it will be slow correspondence.

We have just heard that our aeroplane has a broken wheel, so we have to wait here another 5 hours – we are the only passengers! Maybe off to Gizo town by canoe for a fish lunch… this is Solomon time!

Many blessings

Helen & Rosemary

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Holiday on a South Pacific island!

We are now in the last phase of our stay here which is the holiday bit!

We are on an island called Gizo staying in an eco-lodge. This is a leaf house on stilts right at the water’s edge – literally down the steps from the living area and into the warmest sea imaginable with great shoals of fish to look at… there is,however, no internet connection here -only solar power for lighting. The one and only town on the island is 17 km away which is a 2-hour journey in the back of an open truck along sandy ‘roads.’ It is there that I hope to send emails tomorrow.
I am not sending anymore photos as they take an age to download, but I can only describe this in a cliche – a most beautiful, idyllic paradise island that you see in picture books!
Apart from resting, reading, snorkelling and swimming, and the occasional ride on the back of truck or in a motorised canoe, I am hoping to write up my reflections and observations of the last month visiting the several religious communities here and living the ‘Solomon’ way of life. That depends on whether I can get my tablet charged up somewhere. If not, there is always the 24 hour flight home…

We certainly are realising how little people here (and now ourselves too) know about current world events – it is, I imagine, like living in a vacuum of village life as it was 150 years ago in our country. But for the next week this is our home – amongst some lovely self-sufficient people who cannot do enough for us to make our stay a wonderful experience.

Every blessing

Helen & Rosemary

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Another Week of Solomon Time

Another week has passed in Solomon time… which means lots and lots of waiting around for things to happen! It has rained a lot this week – when that happens people (well, the men anyway) go to sleep… However we had to become pro-active to make things happen, and we have in fact had a very busy week.

Eventually on Monday, Brother Clifton, the Provincial Master of the Franciscans, picked us up in his truck and took us to stay with the Brothers in their Guest House. It was a simple and basic place but they looked after us with generous hospitality and made sure we had a kerosene lamp when the generator failed (which was most of the time). Brother Clifton is coming to Hilfield Friary in Dorset at the end of this month for an international conference – I think he will be very cold… The view from our veranda was stunning with jungle and the ocean, with the tropical rain storms waking up the mosquitoes. Brothers William, John, Hubert, Greg and numerous others paid us great attention presenting us with Chinese cabbage, coconuts and  paw-paw.

Our mission in this area was to visit the Sisters of Melanesia who were just ‘next door, but it meant going downhill on a treacherous, slippery array of steps of varying depths and strewn with hazards of all kinds (especially wearing flip-flops! Then up an equally challenging incline to reach the Sisters at Verana’aso. But it was so worthwhile – our workshops with them have been the highlight of our stay so far. We did life saving skills with the novices (girls in their late teens and twenties mainly) with Brothers John and William playing unconscious, amid lots of hilarity. We also did Bible quizzes, drama, and singing. We were amazed at how quickly they picked up the tune and words of ‘Abba, Father, let me be’ and their final rendition of this for us is a moment we shall cherish. This community has the least resources of all that we’ve visited. They have no running water – they wash everything, including themselves in the river at the bottom of the hill – they suffer bad stomachs and itchy skin from time to time, and yet, amazingly they are incredibly clean and happy. They need a powerful enough generator to pump the water from the well up to the top of the hill where they live, more water tanks to collect the rain water, and some shower blocks and toilet facilities built there. Rosemary had planned to do some health & hygiene with them, but had to abandon that idea – where do you start if you have no clean, running water as a basic commodity which all people could and should have.

Today, back in Honiara, we have visited the British High Commissioner, Dominic Meiklejohn, and had an interesting conversation about our observations of the Solomon way of life – its anomalies, idiosyncrasies and frustrations… Solomon Islands, he maintains is just about as far removed from 21st century western civilisation as you can get – and not just geographically.

Our working time here has almost come to an end – we have a Provincial Mothers’ Union evening of entertainment at the cathedral tonight! Then tomorrow we fly to the island of Gizo in the Western Province for some days of holiday before returning to this island prior to flying home via Brisbane. However I’m sure the forthcoming days will not be without adventure, so I hope to keep you in touch next week.

Every blessing

Helen & Rosemary
In the Solomon Islands

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Helen & Rosemary Arrive

Well here is the long awaited photo of THE DRESSES !  Actually they are the TheDressescoolest thing to wear so quite a bargain for a job-lot from Christchurch market – we shall probably leave them behind though…

We are now at Tabalia, the HQ of the Melanesian Brotherhood where the novices train and live and work on the land before becoming brothers, sent to places across Melanesia. Their worship here is an inspiration and the sound which these young men PreTrekproduce in their chanting is unbelievably powerful and evocative. Rosemary has gone off trekking with some of them and the sky has suddenly become ominously heavy with rain clouds…

We have given a training session this morning with some clergy wives and MU members in life-saving skills (Rosemary) and Bible drama (me). They are coming back for more tomorrow!

I am only a few yards from the graves of the seven young members of the Brotherhood who were massacred here on this island in 2003 Tabaliaduring the tribal uprising as they sought to bring peace and reconciliation between the rival factions. The grief surrounding this event of over ten years ago is palpable here, yet the joy and vibrancy of the brothers, and their overwhelming hospitality radiates to all-comers – their sheer joy of living in the Gospel is infectious. Both Archbishops Rowan Williams and Justin Welby (last month) visited and prayed at this place.

Please continue to give thanks for the Melanesian people, and for our safe travel and continuing good health.

Many blessings

Helen & Rosemary

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Final Week

Sitting in a hotel lobby in Brisbane, Solomon Islands already seems a long way away. This week in the Solomons was as busy as our first week. 

In ClassOn Monday, we went in to St Nicholas school. In HallWe toured the classrooms and were encouraged to see many of the teachers carrying out the activities we had shared with them in the training. This was enabling the children to practise their English whilst having fun. The teachers were making good use of the In Lessonspace they had, including taking some of their lessons into the school hall. We were able to join in and assist, answering any questions. 

On Tuesday, at Norman Palmer school, we were pleased once again to see many of the teachers using the planning format we had given them and showing that they had already been practising many of the games and activities with their children. The children in Grades 3 and 4 were very grateful to receive the loom band bracelets that had been made for them by some of the children from Tipton and Feniton Primary schools. 

At our final evaluation session on the Wednesday, the teachers were able to reflect on what they had learned and share action plans together across both schools. It is hoped in the coming year that opportunities will be provided for further school based workshops and joint ACoM training. The teachers in Honiara were also excited at the prospect of the potential opportunity for a chosen few to visit the UK as a reciprocal visit. 

Monday and Tuesday were the hottest days we had experienced since we arrived in With The British High CommissionerHoniara, so it was a real treat to be invited to have afternoon tea with the British High Commissioner in his air conditioned home. It was interesting to share our own observations with him and to learn more about the background of the Solomon culture from him, as well as hearing some of his insights into the islands and their people.

Shortly after returning from this visit, we were picked up by the Archbishop of Solomon Islands’ driver, to take us for a lovely meal with the Archbishop and his wife. He is an Farewell Super With   David And Maryincredibly gracious and gentle man and we enjoyed our evening getting to know both him and his wife better, hearing a little of their plans for after his retirement next year. It was also reassuring for him to tell us as he drove out of the car park to take us home after the meal that he ‘always drives slowly at night’…until he added ‘because I’m short sighted’!!

A big thank you to Norman Palmer School, who invited us out for a lovely meal to mark our last night in Solomons. There was certainly no shortage of food and drink to be ploughed through. It was nice to be able to socialise with those who had helped to organise our trip from the Solomons’ end. We enjoyed sharing our experiences from our visit and talking about how our partnership may develop in the future. 

This morning saw our final farewell at Norman Palmer School. The service was filled with song and we were able to exchange gifts and share our gratitude for the time we had spent in Solomon Islands and the hospitality we had been shown. After the service, we were given a tour of the new school building…much progress has been made since Colin was there for the ground breaking ceremony last year. 

We were driven to the airport after this and arrived in plenty of time but, true to our experience of the last 10 days, the plane left on ‘Solomon time’…an hour late! Now we’re on our way home, ready to hand the baton on…

Amanda, Ruth and Ruth

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