Bird leaves executive job to join church ministry

Dr Cliff with his wife Siera Bird. Picture: SUPPLIED

IMAGINE leaving a high paying job in the corporate world to pursue work in the church ministry.

That is exactly what The Rev Dr Cliff Bird did more than 30 years ago, when as the acting chief executive officer for the Solomon Islands National Provident Fund, and at the height of power, he took the spiritual path.

“I guess, I had felt that I was too cooped up in the office. There was no interaction with the people on the ground and I wasn’t getting fulfilment from that job,” he said smiling.

“There was so much potential to grow in that role, but I turned it all down to do God’s work.”

Dr Bird is the head of the Council for World Mission (CWM) which is housed at the Pacific Theological College (PTC) in Nasese, Suva.

CWM aims to equip young people who want to pursue a life in the church ministry.

Through their Training in Mission (TIM) program, young people from around the Pacific region and the world are brought together to undergo a seven month mission training at PTC.

It is a youth program that is rooted in faith, God and a sense of spiritual reflection.

“I spent perhaps, 90 per cent of my tertiary education in Fiji,” he shares.

“I completed my Bachelor of Arts in economics and history at the University of the South Pacific then I worked for the Solomon Island Government for a few years where I was the counterpart to the national energy advisor to the Solomon Islands.

“After that, I joined the Solomon Islands National Provident Fund as an administrative manager before being promoted to senior administrative manager, then to acting CEO.

“Many people thought I made the wrong decision to leave — given the opportunities offered.

“But one of the reasons was because I had a wife who was quite involved with church work so it was a match of ideas and vision. It’s been 30 years and we have never regretted our decision.”

A descendant of a British navy captain, who fought in the First World War and settled in the Solomon Islands, Dr Bird says he learnt to be self-sufficient at an early age.

He grew up being leader of student councils and was often at the forefront of leadership. This he says comes from his boarding days at school where he was shipped off at age nine.

“There was a time back in the Solomon Islands where students had so many scholarships on offer and you just had to choose because there was not a lot of young people that qualified. I was among a few that managed to get and we were quite lucky.”

Dr Bird hails from the Western Province the largest of the nine provinces of Solomon Islands. This area is known for its beautiful tropical islands, coral reefs and WW II wrecks, ecotourism lodges, and head-hunting shrines.

The province contains many small lagoons and most of the country’s tourist trade outside Honiara. Since joining the church, he has managed to complete his Bachelor of Arts in Divinity and a Master of Theology and Ethics at the Pacific Theological College.

He later completed his Phd at the Charles Sturt University School of Theology in Canberra in Australia in 2008.

One of the works he is proud of is the establishment of a high school which he helped set up at his province in 1999.

His home town had been pleading for the educational institution for more than 20 years but came to no avail. He took a year off from the church to get the school off the ground.

“Most of our children were travelling far away from home to attend school and we had to do something about it. So in that one year in 1999 I worked with the community to start this high school. We managed to put up four classrooms, one school library. It started with six teachers and 60 students.

“I’m proud to say that it is one of the successful academic institution in that province.”

Nowadays, Dr Bird enjoys his work leading the many young people in their TIM program.

He added; “retirement is not in the cards just yet”.

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