I am sitting in a Cafe overlooking the harbour in Honiara, Solomon Islands. It is Sunday morning, and the atmosphere is vibrant and the cafe full of chatter…
I have spent this week in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands, on the remote Rononga Island attending the UCSI General Assembly. The UCSI are embarking on a process to develop a Strategic Development Plan to be better enabled to utilise their limited resources and to access future opportunities in a coordinated and strategic way to the benefit of their communities. UnitingWorld is supporting them on this journey and I was there to talk with the Assembly about the process and the importance of the Church developing this plan.
It has been an interesting trip characterised by fear and reassurance, of venturing into the unknown and finding family and community instead of the struggle and challenge that my apprehension predicted.
In the UnitingWorld office before I left we laughed as I tried on the life jacket I would be wearing on the open ocean boat trip to Rononga Island, somewhere in the Western Province in the Solomon Islands. Here began my apprehension. Upon searching Google maps, my fears seemed to be reinforced, as a thickly vegetated island image appeared on screen with no roads, actually no signs of human life at all.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those princess types who require all the 5 star comforts. Quite the contrary, however you get to a stage in life where you appreciate the little comforts, like a toilet not already occupied by a billion big hairy spiders, or a shower with walls, a mattress to sleep on, running water and electricity… Ironically comforts that clearly not everyone can take for granted.
When I arrived at Gizo the adventure began. First was the boat ride from the airport to town. Then there was the challenge of identifying which of the myriad of identical boats were waiting to take me to Rononga, all while trying to blend in among the local crowd and needless to say, failing dismally. As it turned out none were for me, my chariot was yet to arrive
With life jacket on and apprehension high I climbed into the open boat and braced myself to be tossed about at the whim of the ocean. But to my surprise after only an hour on the ocean I arrived safely at my destination without needing to rely on the life jacket at all.
And as I entered the dining hall of delegates, I was again surrounded by an ocean, a sea of friendly faces, many familiar to me, and many I was yet meet. And from the very first I was at home.
As I reflect on the last few days it occurs to me that the invitation to this kind of adventure that takes us out of our comfort zones is not so uncommon. Sure it may not literally require traveling on a boat to a remote island of the Solomon Islands, but the challenge to face our fear and to take that journey from fear into the unknown. It seems to me that the place of fear is often within our comfort zone and all too easy to cling to, because at least it is familiar and it is known. But to face that fear and stride into the unknown, now there’s a journey. As we talked about the UCSI strategic planning at the General Assembly, I could see that this is that very same journey for many in the church. While the current situation may not be as effective as it could be, at least it is known and understood. But to challenge the systems and open up the Church to significant change, well that’s a boat ride into the unknown. But it is not a journey taken alone.
And often that journey can be difficult but it’s not without its joys. The ocean was surprisingly calm, the breeze across by face and the feel of sea spray on my skin refreshing and the scenery, breathtaking. Amidst the journey I found a beautiful peace. Not only did I arrive safely on Rononga, but I the boat ride was totally awesome!
For the record, the toilet was totally clear of hairy 8-legged freaks, Wet Ones can be a makeshift shower where privacy is lacking, a torch produces light and there is nothing like water piped directly from untouched mountain springs
My lesson from the week: Me fela trust him God! Him good fela full time!
Aside: An added bonus of the trip was that I got to use the very exact same toilet we made in the workshop with the Women’s Fellowship last year. Very cool! Well, except of course for the awkward stinging sensation on my upper thigh immediately after using the toilet. As I went back up to meet the women, one asked if it was ok. I smiled through the searing pain to assure her it was fine. “No ant bites?” she asked. “Oh is that what that is” I exclaimed rubbing the painful area. They laughed. Situation normal!