Pastor on jungle mission

IN 2013, a missionary from Fiji answered the call to serve in one of the most challenging places in the Solomon Islands.

Pastor Apisai Nawai of the Assemblies of God Church in Fiji did not anticipate what he would face as he trekked to one of the remote parts of the Melanesian island. Situated up in the mountains of East Kwaio on the island of Malaita, is a tribe that has had no contact with the outside world.

The Alafe tribe live the way their ancestors have lived for thousands of years, following customs and rituals that have defined their way of life.

Mr Nawai, described life up there taught him resilience and a will to adapt. Even the journey to the village itself is not for the fainthearted. The Nasukamai, Ra villager says he catches an open truck from Auki, which travels for up to 15 hours to the next destination — Auvasu Village. Then from there he begins a long trek up the mountains for nine hours before he reaches Alafe.

“There are 41 villages up in the highlands, I have managed to visit 21 villages,” he says.

“When I first came to Alafe, the people there lived in leaf houses with roofs that reached close to the ground on either side. I slept on the earth with no pillows or blankets. Some of the people even kept their pigs in their homes.

“They wore leaves or a small piece of cloth to cover their body. Unmarried women wore nothing at all.”

A big issue there was lack of clean water, says Mr Nawai and he would go without a bath for three days. Added to this also was the Alafe belief that taking a shower would wash their skin away. It’s interesting listening to various customs practised by the tribe of Alafe as seen through the eyes of Mr Nawai.

“The women are bought with shells for their hand in marriage and if a woman is about to give birth, they build a hut deep in the forest to stay in. Following the birth they then come to the priest (who are the second most powerful behind the chief) to offer a sacrifice. The sacrifice would come in the form of slaughtering a pig,” he said. “My wife and three sons were supposed to join me in this work, but given the hard circumstances up there, we’ve decided that I go up there alone,” he says.

With meals that consisted only of roasted sweet potatoes and water, Mr Nawai said it took a while to adapt to it.

“I made sure that we did not disturb their way of life but showed our mission work by living like them and helping them in whatever they needed. At this stage, they have requested to have a school built to educate their children and I have been working hard, approaching the Solomon Island Government as well as the AOG church in Solomon Islands to help.”

The children of Alafe only wear clothes when they come down to the school, otherwise it’s living as nature dictated. Mr Nawai says at this stage, his concentration is to help build a bigger classroom from the one they built in 2013 to accomodate the more than 70 schoolchildren. “After that, we hope to get a nursing station as the nearest one is about a five-hour walk away. After all this, then we’ll see about building a small church.”

The missionary was in Suva for a few days to collect more contributions as well as get sponsors for education materials for the children of Alafe. “This is for the children of Alafe, it’s my calling and I hope to fulfil it,” he said.

Mr Nawai has also called for kind people interested in helping the children with education materials to contact him on +676 8606783

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