GCI-Australia pastoral leaders Randall Bourchier, Mary Bourchier and Phil Van Dijk recently visited GCI members in the Solomon Islands. Due to ill health, Henry Kuper, GCI’s coordinator for the Solomon Islands, has been unable to travel within the islands as he has done in the past. Randall, Mary and Phil visited Henry in his village on the island of Santa Ana, then traveled to the north-west corner of the Solomons, where they visited the church in the village of Qiloe on the island of Ranonnga (see map below, click to enlarge).
Henry together with the small church in Santa Ana made the group feel welcome (see picture below). Conversations with Henry were helpful in exploring the immediate future God has in store for the relationship between the GCI-Australia church and the churches in the Solomon Islands. The group met for services with the Santa Ana congregation twice—sharing the gospel, prayer, communion and meals. One of the most moving times came at the end of the first service when Henry and his wife Elisabeth were honored for their years of devoted service to the church in the Solomon Islands. The group gave them a certificate of appreciation from the Australian church along with some small gifts.
Communication and travel is very difficult within the Solomon Islands. For example, a journey that would take an hour by plane may take anything between a couple of days to a week by ship. Sometimes shipping connections may involve a wait of days or weeks. Phone connections are sometimes unreliable and access to the Internet and email is available to very few.
The group then travelled to the village of Qiloe, where they were again warmly welcomed and cared for. They met three times with the GCI congregation there, sharing worship, meals and informal discussion. They also met with the church board. Since a visit a year earlier, there has been much progress. Newly ordained deacon, Tipa Andrew (pictured with his family below), has been instrumental in advancing a development plan for the village, including a new church building. It was thrilling to hear how God has led the church in Qiloe to seek partnerships involving local government, the neighboring village and GCI Australia.
Teaching in the Solomon Islands
The GCI leaders from Australia, in visiting the Solomon Islands over the last few years, have learned a lot about how to teach there. Some approaches work and some don’t. Originally they taught in English, being assured that the villagers would understand. That turned out not to be true, and so the teachers adopted a multipronged approach with an emphasis on the use of visual props. Now messages are delivered in simple, clear English, using as few words as possible. Those words are then translated into the local dialect by the best local English speakers available. The teachers engage the audience by sitting at floor level (see picture below), sometimes moving around displaying a picture or even creating a visual illustration. In a village culture where the men and women sit on either side of the hall for services, moving between the men and the women with the visual props creates an effective illustration of our one new humanity in Christ.
Messages during the visit centered on God’s big story with Christ as the center, our fruitful attachment to Christ as the Vine through the Spirit, and our life together as the church gathered in worship, in learning and in fellowship; and the church dispersed as each member extends God’s love to all as they go about their daily tasks.
Reflecting on the trip, Randall wrote this:
For Mary and myself, this trip was a time of emotional farewell to our brothers and sisters in the Solomon Islands. We’re thankful and privileged that God has made possible our visits during the past decade. We continue to be encouraged by what God is accomplishing in all our lives as we live responsively in fellowship with him, in Christ and through the Spirit! We’re also overjoyed that Phil has been able to be with us during the final two visits. We’ve enjoyed watching his God-given gifts blossom as God prepares him for future trips to visit GCI Solomon Islands. May God bless him and those who accompany him as he visits in December 2018.