Sunday on Ambryn
Fri 29 Aug 2014 01:49
Tim, Imo's Dad has just left and we're all recovering from his action packed final days on Hebe.
To return to our saga, after our intrepid expedition up the volcano we awoke stiff and sore. Tim swam to shore and back and we gathered ourselves to go to church. Tim was keen and Imo came along too which was great.
Apparently the island is dour Presbyterian and we found the 10 o clock service wasn't happening after all.
Upon asking around we were directed on a 15 minute hike, (ouch! - Ed) to another church built of sticks with open sides and brightly coloured material hanging for shade.
Neil Thomas Missionary Church
Inside packed on to benches was the congregation in floral dresses with puffed sleeves and dozens of children who all turned to stare fascinated by our arrival. A bench shuffled up, all smiles for us and I was handed a dog eared bible in pidgin. The vicar kept saying this blong you and that blong you which was a verse from St Paul's Letter to the Thessalonians. We joined in a happy chorus in English and then there were prayers and lots of clapping. I asked the toothless old dear beside me if we would have communion and she laughed and said no we've been here since half past eight, we were 2 hours late ! Then as the children and men filed out they all stopped to warmly grasp our hands and say God bless you. There were about 30 children who were as good as gold, can you imagine Whiteparish church after a 2 hour service with all those kids. We were loved and welcomed and the congregation were so happy it was a joy.
-We learned that this was a break away church after a charismatic Australian, called Neil Thomas, came to the village in 1985. They showed us the proper church they were trying to build and we met the lovely Melinda, church secretary and chief fundraiser and Mary a wonderful school teacher. Such intelligent and kind women. We accepted their invitation to return later that afternoon for Fellowship. We were so moved we wanted to donate to the building of the church and also give the youth club footballs.
On our way back to Hebe we met the old chief who after telling us about his ailments….." I got malaria, I got sugar, I got blood pressure and I don't want pills " - (clearly didn't fancy the dentist either- Ed)
He told us the Presbyterian church was also being re built and they were fundraising, and that there had been some disagreements between the two churches over the years. If you thought re building one village hall was tricky you should try two churches.
So Tim and Andrew had some serious discussion later as to how we could benefit this community without creating havoc. We would have to do the same for both !
Fellowship that afternoon was absolutely wonderful, we sat on the bamboo mats on the grass and watched the happy gathering. They all came with pots of food and mega tea pots that the Mothers' Union would envy. Andrew presented our gifts the donation and football and we made sure Melinda and the vicar understood we would be doing the same for the other church, they visibly sighed with relief.
Melinda eventually found rather a puzzled wife of someone to do with the Presbyterians and handed over the football and donation she thought we were balmy. Still we felt we could really trust the bright and kindly Melinda to deal manage the situation. Dear me ….village life.
The fellowship meal was infinitely tastier than Roslyn's. Plates laden with rice, cabbage, plantain and pumpkin were handed round, also the traditional delicacy, lap lap, offered enthusiastically. It was grey slimy, chewy and slightly sweet. We smiled and washed it down with mugs of sweet tea.
The children ran around in the sunshine playing with a dear little piglet, chickens and dogs. An unforgettable parish picnic.
Finally we heard that the bay is visited by GREAT WHITE SHARKS….in fact there have been 2 fatal shark attacks, and a few years ago one was caught close to shore with a chicken. It was 3 metres long……(lucky swim Tim - Ed)