By Rev SEIK PITOI
AT THE Rarongo Theological College in East New Britain, students are sent out during Education Week to other provinces to give presentations on certain topics of importance.
In 2011, teams were sent to Bougainville, New Ireland and West New Britain to do awareness on the environment. As a student at Rarongo at that time, I was on the team to Kimbe in WNBP.
Over the days leading up to our departure by sea, I was told by our lecturer in charge that he had chosen me to join him for the week at the Kimbe Town church, while my other friends would be sent to the settlements near Kimbe and to remote villages. While I do not make a fuss about where God sends me, it was still a humbling feeling to be spared roughing it out in a village while enjoying the modern conveniences of electricity, running water and flush toilets in town.
However, all that changed when we arrived at Kimbe. As hosts rolled up at the town church grounds in their vans and trucks to pick up their billets, I was called aside by the lecturer and told that he had changed his mind and had chosen another student to be with him. I was now being sent to Galilo! I had no idea of where Galilo was, nor anything about the village.
I was joined by a few other students in a 15-seater van and we left in the evening, dropping off students at various locations throughout the oil palm land. Soon, it was just me and my wantok, Rev Simon Iubu of Barakau Village. We arrived at Hoskins where Simon would spend his week. I was excited to see Hoskins because I had lived there for a while as a small boy in the late 1960s when my dad was district inspector of schools.
I obviously didn’t have much recollection of the place but there was a warm feeling about being there. Leaving Simon behind, I was on my way to Galilo. While travelling, I asked the driver if there was a school called Kwalakesi. He said there was and we would soon drive past it. When we arrived, he slowed down so I could see it. Due to the fading light, however, I could just make out some of the buildings that made up the Kwalakesi Primary School which are still in use. Again, memories flashed back in my mind to my early days in school there with my two older sisters.
At 8pm, we arrived at Galilo. We stopped at the pastor’s house and found that the pastor and his wife (Marama) were away at another village. Only the kids and a grandchild were home. A deacon was duly summoned and he came to spend time with me as we waited for the pastor.
I was hot, sticky, miserable … and hungry! The pastor, Rev Wesley ToWarkia and Marama arrived at midnight! After an apology for the long wait, I was told communication from Rarongo wasn’t very good so they were not sure when a student would arrive. Nonetheless, this wonderful couple and their lovely family became excellent hosts during my week there.
The next day, I got up bright and early and had a walk around the house, admiring the beautiful flowers that graced the yard. In front of the house was a large oval. Breakfast was soon ready and due to the ‘fast’ of sorts the day before, I really got stuck into the tasty meal. I couldn’t believe it – wild fowl eggs was the main dish! I was to learn quite a lot about this blessed village over the next few days.
My first surprise was to find that this was the village of my outgoing Moderator at the time, Rev Sir Samson Lowa. I also found that elders at my local church (RSKMC), Roy and Vunais Mumu, hailed from that same village. Roy is the Secretary for Department of Transport, and with other senior public servants like the late Sir Brown Bai, prominent sportsmen, academics and others, are some of the distinguished sons of Galilo Village. After breakfast, the minister and I went for a walk around the village. I noted that it was quite a large village and covered a fair distance to walk around.
During my time there, I learnt a bit about the Christian history of the village. Where the pastor’s house stands and the large oval in front of it are part of the land purchased by ministers Doley and Verebesaga in 1903 when they were sent out by Rev Fellmann from Kabakada in East New Britain to purchase land from Nakanai villages.
Fifteen years later, the “beautiful feet” of two Samoan pastors arrived and for the first time, declared the Gospel of Jesus Christ on Galilo soil. (Rom 10: 15). The power of the Word of God transformed the Nakanai tribe, a people group that covers Hoskins to the border of ENBP, and made them a blessing to the work of the Kingdom of God. (Adetailed account of the history of the Methodist Church in Nakanai was covered by Roy Mumu in last week’s Weekender).
Another thing I learnt about the village was wild fowl eggs. I’ve seen wild fowl eggs in my Rigo area but nothing like this. When I spent a night at the neighbouring village, Lavege, on the banks of the Kapiura River, the volume of eggs increased at every meal. I learnt later that there is a wild fowl eggs conservation centre called Pokili, and there are rules for when to harvest and how many eggs one can collect.
In fact, that morning when we went to Lavage, we hopped on a truck filled with egg diggers, all attired appropriately as they have to burrow through tunnels to get to the eggs. Thankfully, the villagers’ adherence to the rules ensures they will enjoy the blessings of eggs for a long time. Interestingly, when I forgot the name of Lavege, I was informed by Mumu that one way to remember it is to think of those lovely eggs – “love eggs”. The delicacy from that area will remind you of the name of the village!
At the time of my visit, Galilo was one of the villages in Malalia Circuit. In 2015, due to its size, it was upgraded to circuit status, taking in Lavege and Sabantapun villages under it. That is a vote of confidence in this great village which has been a blessing to many people.
In 2018, the Galilo villagers celebrated the centenary of the church. A plaque was unveiled by the Bishop of New Britain Region, Rev Waninara to commemorate the occasion. Also, a book written by former missionary, Rev Brawn, called Journey to Nakanai, was launched by Rev David Sauten. This year marks their 101st year as a growing vibrant village church.
Kuanua in Galilo
I thoroughly enjoyed my week in Galilo village. I especially loved their choir singing. Powerful voices would thunder those glorious Kuanua hymns with their trademark harmonies. I was impressed. But Kuanua? My confused look was set at ease when Rev ToWarkia explained it was the Tolais from ENBP who came as Methodist pastors/teachers, accompanying the Pacific Islander and European missionaries. Hence, many of the Nakanai people are able to understand, or even speak fluently, in Kuanua!
I did my presentation on what God says about the environment and our role as stewards of His creation. We discussed our responsibility in taking care of the environment, rubbish disposal, health of our oceans and rivers, and basic cleanliness around our homes.
Later, walking around the village and seeing some neatly kept yards showed me that the people actually lived the message. Indeed, as Christian people, their lives and environment reflect God’s glory!
During the week, families invited me for meals. I was really touched by their love. Then, the families of Roy and Vunais Mumu combined together to host a glorious farewell lunch – with even more eggs! I told the family that after eating so many eggs, I was beginning to look like one! The final farewell fellowship meal was hosted by the church.
Soon, it was time to head back to Kimbe. Some students returned to Rabaul via ship, while I heard a few sailed back on dinghy!
But Galilo had another surprise for me. Besides a financial gift from the Galilo church, I was also given an airline ticket to fly back from Hoskins to Tokua on Air Niugini! I flew back in style, loaded with wild fowl eggs, and with fond memories of that special village. I am glad God had the final say, and I was replaced in Kimbe to spend an unforgettable week with His precious people in Galilo.
On her 101st anniversary this year, I say, “Congratulations, Galilo”!
- Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.