In the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by ocean as far as the eye can see. Twenty miles of coastline dotted with palm trees, magnolia, papaya, mango, banana, hibiscus, bougainvillea, cup-of-gold. All indigenous.
It is Sunday morning and they arrive at the little church building. “Kia Orana” is how they greet. “May you live on.”
In the church, in front of the pulpit, is a platform laden with produce. Watermelon, papaya, bananas, an assortment of garden veggies, fresh eggs, smoked parrot fish, too many things to list here. Most came in baskets woven from the leaves of an island plant; I saw women doing this on Saturday. A quick inventory leads to some mental arithmetic, arriving at a fairly reasonable estimate of two metric tons of food.
After church, everybody go to the pastor’s home next door to the church building. To my surprise, tables laden with food – fish, pork from the umu, an assortments of cold salads, fresh fruit, long tables constructed from planks resting on trestles. Too much for all of us, even though there are quite a few holidaymakers that were woken at various resorts, where they were invited to attend this love gathering at one of many local churches.
Lunch is over. Much of the food that still sit on the tables, get packed in for the hospital on the hill. Then every tourist is given a plate to take home but all object, having eaten perhaps a bit more than really needed. it is a feast, after all. Then they are told to take these plates of food, go find someone who does not have enough, donate it. It means to reach out to strangers wile on holiday; that surely wasn’t in the travel brochure!
I grew up in a similar tradition, halfway around the globe, where we cares and shared. Even as kid, we saw this so often. Our church denomination built schools and hostels for people with physical and mental disabilities, or old age homes. I presently rent an apartment in such a center. If the tithes were not given, this place would not have been built.
A few decades ago, we met every Tuesday evening at my home, every Thursday at another and shared from His Word, prayed for each other, there was unity, oneness of mind. We shared food, took care of the needs of each other. Political change drove us apart and those who could afford to, even emigrated. My family got relocated a thousand miles away but we returned in 2004, after an exile of a decade. Sadly, we have never seen this kind of fellowship again. Yet someone invited me to become involved in a church he is pastor, details need to be sorted out, but it is far from where we live and we have no car, no income, can’t even pay our rent right now. His own church is brand new, lots of building going on, but they have a mission inclination that I was called to help expand, build and teach. Of course, this is what I am called for so this is at the top of my list.
A real challenge, to do practically as we did do as a family – the challenge is in Acts 2 and Acts 4. See if you have the integrity for that! See if you have the heart, faith, guts and tenacity to be the true church. 😉