Day 7 (Wednesday 25th)
This morning the women in our Team led a Seminar for local women on the theme of mission. Over the course of the morning the Team led discussions on overcoming barriers to sharing the gospel and identifying gifts. There was opportunity to encourage women with testimonies, some time sharing a gospel outline (using gospel beads), and some model talks on women in the bible. The highlight for the Team was the opportunity to pray and talk with women who come from a vastly different background but share the same faith and desire to serve God in mission.
This night we went to a local church that sadly had recently been shaken by a powerful minister who began promoting a kind of Judaising teaching including the claim that he was a prophet with special revelation from God. The central SSEC body intervened and a large number of the congregation left with the pastor. It was painful to see the human damage caused by false teaching but encouraging to see the sacrifices made by faithful brothers and sisters who remained and even joined the church to support it. While theological education for clergy and laity is no guarantee against false teaching, this particular case brought home the desperate need here for training that would protect churches against such blatant heresy.
Day 8 (Thursday 26th)
This morning it was the men’s chance to run a seminar for local pastors. Because the normal mode of preaching in the Solomon Islands is topical rather than expository, it was decided that this might be a useful thing for us to focus on.
Peter Orr began the session with a talk on both the why of expository preaching (God has given us Bible books and not a textbook of topics, expository preaching helps us avoid our blind-spots and hobby-horses etc.) and the key elements to consider when preaching in this way (the purpose of the letter, the context of the particular chunk of text we are expounding, the main idea of the passage etc.). This was followed by time in pairs where pastors worked with a Team member on a passage (Col 1.15-23) to think about the key elements and how they might teach it. The time concluded with Peter preaching a model sermon on the passage with occasional pauses where he ‘showed his working’.
While it was disappointing that only 6 pastors were able to make it (in part due to a number attending the same funeral), it was encouraging to hear insightful questions and ‘light bulb’ moments for some of the pastors. The common theme coming from pastors was that – contrary to what is sometimes arrogantly supposed from the West – expository preaching would be far easier for congregations to follow than the prevailing topical ‘chocolate box’ preaching that leaves people confused because of the stringing together of random verses from all over Scripture.
Even though there were definitely encouragements with some discussion about forming preaching groups and having further seminars, the stark reality is that many pastors here are so lacking in basic education and training (due to poverty) that the hope they might be competent handlers of Scripture in the pulpit is a long way off. For example, one attendee didn’t realise John 3.16 was part of a book called John’s gospel and could not even afford the OT portion of the NIV bible let alone own commentaries or theological books. May we never complain again about not having all the books we want!
This night we again visited two churches. One of the churches, Bethlehem, was in a remote area with a very basic building. Yet their sense of the need to proclaim the gospel encouraged them in 2013 to somehow raise the funds for 60 of their children to fly to Vanuatu to evangelise people there.
Day 9 (Friday 27th)
This morning we visited the World Vision headquarters which is one of the main channels for aid in the Solomons which is the world’s second largest recipient of overseas government funding. After a tour of the main offices we visited a centre for abused women run by an order of Anglican nuns. This property is by the ocean and reached by dirt roads through semi-jungle. The stories of those who end up here is heartbreaking with women either being victims of domestic violence (65% of women here have suffered in this way) or rape (with some not yet even reaching the age of 10). One is left with a deep sense of hopelessness in the face such a widespread problem caused by such awful sin. Perhaps the most amazing thing about this idyllic little community is that the nuns who work here do so on an entirely voluntary basis receiving no money for their work.
We again visited two churches this night. Taba’a Local Church is perhaps the most remote that we’ve been to so far and is reached by some pretty hairy dirt-road terrain. The church sits on top of a ridge that overlooks Honiara and is a very basic building with a dirt floor. Despite their few means, we were met with incredible generosity in the form of welcome songs, dancing, flower leis, and a huge local feast. The real highlight of the night was the preaching of the prodigal son (by Luke) and the exhortation to come home (by Eric) that a number of congregation members responded to.
Day 10 (Saturday 28th)
Sadly our visit to a church tonight was cancelled. Some of us headed into town to the Breakwater café (a little air-conditioned, Brewtown-like oasis in the centre of town). Others went to the beach while some poorly characters stayed home nursing Honiara-belly! An epic game of touch footy with Eric’s sons and others who live at SWIM finished off the day.