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Paddling around the world

by David Walter, Regional Partnership Facilitator for the Pacific

Two men and a woman with arms around each other standing behind a black, yellow, green and red colored canoe.

Pastor Allen with David Walter and Reverend Linda Knieriemen with Vatimol” in Holland, Michigan

August 20, 2010—At the recent World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Pastor Allen Nafuki was elected to a seven-year term on the executive council of that body.  This was quite a coup for this small country.  Despite the fact that nearly 35 percent of the people of Vanuatu are Presbyterian (undoubtedly the highest percentage in the world and one to make us envious), Vanuatu is a country of only 220,000 people spread over some 83 islands.  Traditionally delegates from Australia represent Oceania on the Executive Council, but this time it was time for one of the little guys.  The Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu (PCV) is thrilled to say the least.  Now, after 62 years of independence as a church, it will have a say on a worldwide basis.

Pastor Allen is the Secretary of Mission for PCV and he had been serving as acting Assembly Clerk of the WCRC meeting.  He took part in the Mission to the U.S.A. program sponsored by the Synod of the Covenant in 2008 and spent two months in Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  There he was known by the children as “Pastor Fuki” and is loved by all.  A former member of parliament in Vanuatu, Pastor Allen has served in a variety of positions within the church including being a parish pastor.  He is known for his skills at reconciliation and his affable nature makes that immediately apparent.

While Pastor Allen was here in 2008 he and another colleague, elder Jonah Mael William, fashioned an outrigger canoe from a big maple log.  Upon completion it was named “Vatimol” by Jonah, a word in his local language from Ambrym Island meaning “all one family.”  It has a placed of pride in front of our church in Holland, Michigan.  In Vanuatu canoes are a principal means of transportation from island to island.  Historically these canoes were used to discover and then populate all of the Pacific islands in what was one of the most amazing voyages of discovery in the history of the world.  Now Pastor Allen is using this canoe to illustrate the world as community and how that community embraces all of us whether we come from large, powerful countries or smaller ones that few have ever heard of.

We too are excited for one of our partners and we wish him bon voyage on his world travels.


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