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Smiling in the face of adversity

Tuesday 19 April 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Features, Weekend

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Smiling in the face of adversity
Mama Nane’s Cook Island smile shines through pandemic clouds. SUPPLIED/22041413

Cook Islanders, like others in many South Pacific nations are known for their warm-hearted greetings. Cheek-to-cheek kisses and loving embraces are followed by the laying of sweet-smelling Tiare Maori Ei on head or neck.

These welcoming gestures are all everyday expressions of love and friendship in the Cook Islands. What happens when these everyday displays of affection are stopped?

The Covid pandemic introduced many new customs to the world including social distancing – with no exception for Rarotonga and the Pa Enua.   

A popular holiday destination spot for many tourists and widely considered a gem of the South Pacific, the Cook Islands was awarded best in travel for 2022 by travel brand Lonely Planet. An estimated 189,286 visited this Archipelago in 2019, with the tourism industry contributing to almost 70 per cent of the Cook Islands economy.

But during 2020 and 2021, the Cook Islands were closed off to the world for over 16 months due to Covid-19.

For local Cook Islander Mama Nane Napa, she has continued to remain hopeful over this time despite coping with the challenges of the pandemic. Despite the challenges of the past two years, Nane’s delightful smile is still beaming at the radiant age of 81-years young.

“People are very anxious about the pandemic,” says Nane. “Many don’t know a way out and have unanswered questions – they don’t know how to remedy the challenges we are facing right now.”

Although homebound for much of the pandemic, Mama Nane has remained resilient. For her, life over the past two years has come with some of its greatest challenges – dealing with the effects of old age, isolation, and the loss of a loved one.

Nane experienced the sudden loss of one of her beloved sons, William, in August of 2021. “It was tough losing my son over this time – very much so and I really miss him,” she remarks. “But I had my family and friends around to support me and I have a strong confidence in what the Bible promises for the future.”

By focusing on the Bible’s uplifting promises of a time soon to come, Nane exudes an unwavering love for life and a brighter tomorrow. She credits her resilient fighting spirit and positive outlook to her faith as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“The Bible is like a friend to me, and I never feel lonely or without company,” says Nane. “I try to talk to Papa Upe,” a close family friend at the house, she says, “and people probably think I am shouting across the house because he is deaf in one ear. But, with the Bible, I always have somewhere to go for answers and I don’t ever feel lonely.”

Besides gaining comfort from her faith, Mama Nane voluntarily offers her time to share comforting words from the Bible. Normally seen enjoying door-to-door Bible talks, she says she thought she wouldn’t be able to meet as many as she used to before the pandemic arrived. To her surprise the opposite has been the case.

“Now they come to me,” she says. “So, I enjoy my neighbours and family visiting with all of their questions and my day ends up being very busy.”

Although gloomy clouds of discouragement in the form of old age and losing a loved one can feel heavy at times, Mama Nane has continued to look beyond these immediate trials with a contagious optimism.  She says she always enjoys the annual memorial of Jesus death as an opportunity to look forward with hope.

“When you are in your 70’s or 80’s you tend to forget a lot at our age, but I am reminded of a beautiful hope in Isaiah 65 where it speaks of the whole earth being a paradise. All people will build their own homes, look after their own gardens – it will be so beautiful – and we will come to know real peace. I will be able to see my family, my sons, my loving husband and my parents. I can’t wait for that time.”

This year the annual Memorial of Jesus’ Death was held on Friday 15 April, 2022 by video conference. Last year over 21 million attended this event worldwide. For more information on this event, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, please contact Victor Ioramo Local Spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses at (+64) 27204-2972, vioramo@jw.org or Daniel Breukelaar Local Spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses at (+64) 21556-034, dbreukelaar@jw.org.