A missionary’s experience in the Cook Islands.

Friday July 15, 2016 Written by Published in Church Talk

IT WAS the afternoon of September 11, 2011 when I first disembarked from an Air New Zealand plane at Rarotonga International Airport, and saw a beautiful rainbow appear in the sky.

 

It was such an awesome sight that it soothed my feelings of disenchantment of being away from my own country of the Philippines and from my friends and loved ones.

The rainbow gave me a kind of consoling welcome in this new environment and as I approached and joined the queue to present the necessary documentations to the immigration officer, I saw in the welcoming smiles that same rainbow welcoming everyone.

After a week’s stay in Rarotonga, I proceeded to Aitutaki for my first missionary immersion and encounter with God’s people in the Cook Islands.There again, I encountered the warm, loving hospitality of the Aitutakians, with their often repeated “Kia Orana” greeting. Silently, and with an unutterable amount of joy in my heart, I continued my journey with the people in Araura, Pa enua with trust and confidence in God walking and guiding us along the way.

After three years in Aitutaki I was sent to another mission, in Atiu. In solitude I kept on pondering my island life with the people of God, joyfully working, praying and walking with them in our journey together. In this way, I found that we were like a rainbow with our different colours, yet united and blending together. These two characteristic traits of unity and blending together, in my opinion, are very profound in the traditional and cultural celebrations of the island communities. For example, there are celebrations of island nights, weddings, burials and memorials of their loved ones who have passed away; festivities such as hair-cutting, birthdays and family reunions.

Likewise there are government and church gatherings and celebrations such as Constitution Week and thanksgiving services among others, and added to these are joyful singing of melodious island songs, dancing and sharing of food, all done with grand display. Like the colourful rainbow, so also with life: Although we come from different family backgrounds, cultures and traditions, that are unique and diverse, we live together in harmony, respecting each other’s expressions and way of life.

What a beautiful community of love and peace can be seen through the tranquility and harmonious relationships in the lives of people on the island of Enuamanu! I understand that this is also common to all Pa Enua in the Cook Islands.

During my five-year long immersion with my Christian brothers and sisters of various denominations in the Cook Islands, particularly in Aitutaki and Atiu, I was blessed by God to enjoy the tranquility of island life. The uniqueness of each island and its people adds a depth and brightness of colour which helps a person to appreciate, to know and love God.

As a community of Christians, we find ourselves praying together. We join together in praying with Jesus as he prayed “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). As pastors of different denominations, and being members of the Religious Advisory Council in the island of Atiu, we spend at least one hour every month praying for one other and praying for the flock of the Lord entrusted to us.

On many occasions, we come together to offer our praise and thanksgiving celebrations for what we have experienced of the goodness and mercy of Almighty God. This, I believe, is the deeper expression of unity in diversity towards the realisation of the prayer of the Lord Jesus himself to the Father, “that they may all be one.”  (Jn 17:21)

If we can pray and work together, and see each other eye-to-eye beyond our own church doctrines, and if we can treat and serve each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus, without any dent of discrimination but sheer love, then I believe that we are also heeding the exhortation of St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians: “Now, in Christ Jesus, all of you are sons and daughters of God, through faith. All of you, who were given to Christ through baptism, have put on Christ. Here, there is no longer any difference between Jew or Greek, or between slave or freed, or between man and woman but all of you are one, in Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Christ, you are of Abraham’s race and you are to inherit God’s promise.” (Gal 3:26-29).

Kia matutu e kia maroiroi tatou te au taeake e.

                Fr. Faustino Galo, MSP.

                A missionary Priest of the Catholic Church

                working in St Anthony of Padua Parish – Atiu

1 comment

  • Comment Link David McDonald Saturday, 16 July 2016 12:18 posted by David McDonald

    Fr. Halo,

    I enjoyed reading your account of the good Christian people on the Cook Islands. We were fortunate to visit Cook Island, on a Queen Victoria cruise, last year. I was attracted to your parish, St. Anthony of Padua. We, in Florida, have the same parish in San Antonio, Fl. My granddaughter graduated from the school a year ago. Very fine school, over 125 years old!

    Please continue to look after the good Christian people on the Cook Islanders. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the island

    Respectfully yours,

    Dave McDonald
    Jdmcd@ij.net

Leave a comment