Saturday, 20 April 2013

Pangaimotu

On the last morning of the Bishop's conference on Pangaimotu Island, just off Nuku'alofa in Tonga, we had been asked to walk around to the other side of the island for our morning Eucharist. So, leaving our little ferry by way of a floating jetty we walked the ten minutes from Big Mama Yacht Club, where we had been meeting, and found Archbishop Winston Halapua waiting for us. He was dressed in an alb and was talking on his cellphone. Here, in this place where it felt about as remote as it gets he was still connected.
Which was why he had asked to meet us there. The spot he chose was one where, as a small boy, he had gone fishing with his father. As he explained it, the clergy stipend back then wasn't nearly enough to feed the twelve members of the Halapua family, so his father put food on the table using his expertise with a throw net. Little Winston's job was to gather the fish his father took from the net and form them into a sort of raft to float back to the mainland. It was a place of cherished memories, where the little boy had performed useful and enjoyable work with his adored father. But now the beach had changed and the coconut palms were dying off because global warming was causing a rise in sea levels. No matter how remote we are, we are still connected.
Pangaimotu is exquisite. There is a gently sloping beach, palm trees, coarse golden sand, warm water and a charmingly down at heel establishment run by Ana, aka Big Mama where blue water yachts stop for R&R and where locals come for swimming and picnics. We sat under a canopy made from driftwood and palm leaves for a few days to discuss the affairs of the Anglican church in Polynesia and Aotearoa/New Zealand. Perhaps because we were so relaxed, or perhaps because there was no way we could do anything but talk to each other, this was one of the friendliest and most productive meetings of its type I have attended. We chatted, prayed together, ate, sang songs as we travelled to and from the island, walked, swam, drank the local beer, and did our best not to snooze during business sessions. A lot got planned. A lot was decided. Friendships were deepened and renewed in the hot still Tongan days together. And in the middle of our idyllic landscape, there was always a visual reminder of the importance of what we were doing. Just off the jetty is a rusting shipwreck, pointing up out of the water like a giant shark's head. On most days little boys (and the occasional bishop) jumped off it into the crystal clear water. Right beside it was another, smaller wreck, and as we walked around the island I could count another eight, varying in size from small fishing vessels to large ocean going ships. These were boats driven ashore in hurricanes, and left to rot because the Tongan government had no money to remove them, and not enough power to force their owners to do so. It was another reminder that we are all connected, and that the cost of a modern trading economy often falls on the smallest and most vulnerable, whether it be people or nations.
As Justin Duckworth reminded the Christians of Dunedin a few weeks ago, our call as resurrection people; as followers of Jesus,  is to fight oppression wherever we see it. And here in the eroding shoreline of Panaimotu and the thousands of tons of abandoned iron was sign enough of what we are called to sacrifice ourselves to defeat.

8 comments:

Christina Brennan Lee said...

Thank you, Bishop, for this and other blog posts I have read of yours. I was pleased to have met you briefly on Easter Day at St. Paul's while I was a guest of the Dyers. Your thoughts today come through to me as a call to reflect upon what rusting wreckage there is in my life to which I remain too connected and have chosen to leave in place, polluting my interior environment. It is much easier and less emotionally expensive to leave the wrecks in place. But having experienced much beauty in life, especially recently, in the midst of the trauma and tragedy that is rampant in the daily life of this world, I am reminded to work consciously to lift the wreckage from the depths, dismantle and recycle the usable parts as lessons, and keep connected to those parts of my life that lightens the load of others and myself. Again, thank you.

Kelvin Wright said...

Thanks for your reflection. its an aspect/application I hadn't thought of. Here, the wrecks remain because they are beyond the capacity of the Tongans to remove them no matter how much they may desire to.There is metaphorical worth in that as well! In the case of Big Mama Yacht Club the wreck has become an asset providing the sort of adventure I enjoyed in my boyhood but forbidden most children these days because of our obsession with safety. This also has a profundity.

I guess my initial reflection was the invitation to join the fight against the powers which killed Jesus: ultimately the same powers which threaten low lying Pacific nations like Tonga and leave debris scattered in once pristine places. Thank you for inviting me to reflect

Kelvin Wright said...

Incidentally, I have added some pictures to my facebook page. only viewable by my friends unfortunately but if you ask to join that select band... well.... you never know your luck!

Katherine said...

As usual, you pack a lot into each post. You have me thinking about the personal effect of things undone that should have been, and things done that should not... on our efforts to move forward. Coincidentally my 'quote for the month' in my diary is
'Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense' - Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I have a picture of you jumping off the wreck in full regalia...

Katherine said...

Well, I don't actually HAVE a picture. If I did, I might have to be persuaded not to put in on your FB page... heh.

Kelvin Wright said...

"So do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today." - Matthew 6:34.

As it happens I took a purple frock to Tonga but didn't need it. I wish I'd thought to jump off the wreck in it. Then it would have justified its place in my suitcase.

Kelvin Wright said...

And also

"Lord, it is night.
The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.
It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done; let it be.
The night is dark. Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.
The night is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.
The night heralds the dawn. Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.
In your name we pray."

- from A New Zealand Prayer Book

Toni said...

This is cool!