Preparing for a mission to Temotu requires much planning as the Islands are scattered across this remote Diocese. One of the aims, as Provincial Mothers’ Union (PMU) President, is to visit as many Dioceses as possible and as Temotu had not been visited for three years we made it a priority to make a mission trip to the area.
We had two specific aims in our visit. Firstly, we needed to address the area of leadership (in the absence of both a Diocesan Mothers’ Union President and a Vice President) and secondly, we had been given the resources to help communities in their response to Covid 19, communities which due to their remoteness had been difficult to support.
Following his consecration as the Bishop of Temotu Diocese in February, the Right Reverend Willie Tungale, had made plans for a tour of the Outer Islands, and so the mission visit became a possibility.
On arrival we collected data on the various MU programmes, and also looked at MU membership in the islands, the existing women’s projects such as literacy and parenting and we also collected information on government services such as education and health, transport and communication to discover their main challenges and needs. We also wanted to find out what information had reached the area regarding Covid 19.
We were also able to provide encouragement by bringing news of the international work of the MU and of course encouragement in their work to hold firmly to the parenting values that promote stable Christian family life, to be strong in prayer life, to work together with church leaders and chiefs and elders. We also called for husbands to support the Mothers’ Union work and their programmes.
Various challenges became clear, the obvious one being the remoteness of the islands (Nukapu, Pileni, Duff Islands. Anuta, Tikopia, Vanikoro and Utupua) which makes it both expensive and risky to visit. Unfortunately, because of its poor economy, many shipping companies do not prioritise this area to bring services to the communities. They are vulnerable to both natural and man-made disasters such as cyclones and strong winds, rough seas, sea rise, tsunami, etc. Communication is also challenging, with poor phone signals.
Medical service for very serious cases is always a big issue and sadly we still see the oppression for women and girls.
We also found various strengths to be thankful for, both economical as well as spiritual. The vast oceanic resources could be developed, as could internal tourism, and there is drinking water on Duff Islands, Anuta and Tikopia that can be exported to Honiara to bring income to the communities. Due to the remoteness there is a deep reliance on God.
As various issues came to light, we have been able to make some strong recommendations, including the introduction of training workshops for the women and a careful look at the communication of issues surrounding Covid 19.
We were very blessed to be able to make this visit and we give thanks to God for opportunity. During the tour we received warm hospitality on all the islands and we saw the safe birth of three babies aboard the Southern Cross.
Pamela Abana, Mothers’ Union President