Sunday 9 July 2017 [See also post for Saturday]
Port Vila Sea Wall, Efate
In God we Stand … it’s on the Vanuatu coat of arms, the currency – everything official and Government related. The constitution refers to the country and the laws it passes, as being grounded in the Christian faith and today this was seriously reaffirmed when the newly elected President of the Republic of Vanuatu participated in a service of Dedication and Commissioning at the Paton Memorial Church.
It was a big afternoon, with the man himself, Paster Obed Moses having been a Presbyterian minister (of 30+ years standing) up until just a couple of weeks ago – talk about one serious promotion! In fact Paster Moses was living in a church house next to the central office up until his official inauguration the other day at parliament house, when a big black car came and took him off to his new residence.
Paster Moses, now His Excellency President Moses, either ran or attended many of the church meetings I’ve attended over the years here in Port Vila and he was well aware of the work we have been doing through Medical Sailing Ministries in support of the people of Vanuatu
The service started at 2:00pm – (not all that long after the usual morning service had wound up) and to say it was well attended would be an understatement – I’ve never seen the place so packed, with rows of seats outside as well. There were speeches, singing, prayers, but most importantly the address from President Moses, who reaffirmed the need for national unity, peace, honesty at all levels of society, the importance of remembering the vision and struggle of independence and a reminder that this is a Christian country, with laws and values based on the teachings of Jesus.
Given the political turmoil of the past couple of years (read: 14 members of parliament out of a house of 52 sent to jail for corruption) President Moses seems just what the country needs, the challenge to deliver, effectively starts tomorrow.
Around 3:30pm the service was winding up and as the President and his wife filed out, closely followed by the church leaders and other dignitaries, I leaned over to Barry Stewart and wondered out loud “I wonder if they do the hand-shake thing with so many people here, it’ll take hours”
Well guess what … they did the handshake thing! And 30 minutes later we were still sitting in our seats waiting for our row to get its turn to stand and shuffle to the middle aisle for the final push to the exit and the personal handshake with His Excellency. Barry Stewart was just in front of me and having been one of his patients, Paster Moses, sorry, His Excellency President Moses, warmly shook Barry’s hand and thanked him for coming. My turn next and with a big smile and a strong handshake The President said, “hello Rob, when did you get back?” … “Ah … yesterday and congratulations, well done, we wish you every success!”
So there you go, quite definitely the ONLY president of any country in the entire world that knows my name !! Quite apart from knowing we’d sailed off with a medical team around 2 weeks ago and were due back about now! I felt really privileged.
(as fond as I am of taking photos, even I thought a selfie on the steps of the Paton Memorial Church – just me and the President – would appear a bit crass?!)
I got back to the boat around 4:30pm and after a day without an internet connection – apparently you need credit in your account, which I was able to remedy with Barry’s technical assistance – I sifted through a collection of emails before heading up to Deb’s place overlooking the bay for a group sunset and pizza night; something of a farewell too as many people are flying home over the next few days – Doug, Tami, Antonio, Martin, Gerry and Annette, with Daniel and David leaving today.
Having been such a dynamic and talented sailing and medical group – brought together through a pretty random, self-selection-volunteer-application-process – it’s somewhat sad and anticlimactic to have everyone drift away, back to their usual, normal lives.
If I was getting poetic I’d say it was a bit like a “sandcastle on the beach of life” … a thing built at one particular time, and for one particular purpose, only to be washed away by the incoming tide; leaving only a memory … plus of course a stack of photos, videos, blogs, Facebook posts and comments etc etc. Although in this case hopefully a lot more – with a swag of very satisfied dental, medical and optical patients – plus the all-important Oral Health Survey data … 154 participants from 7 separate locations on 4 different islands!
While I was mixing it with the President up on the hill, Peter and (Dr) Doug made their way over to the Boat Yard to meet “the Germans”, check out the underwater damage to their boat, while also dropping into the yacht club there. They spoke with the marine surveyor and in order to complete his insurance assessment, of the German’s damaged yacht, he indicated he’ll be coming over for a chat at some stage.
It’s a full moon tonight. The air is still, it’s cool (by local standards) and very quiet. It’s just Peter and me aboard at the moment with new crew, for the second mission due in the next few days. Tomorrow it’ll be case of continuing the clean-up and starting the sorting and restocking for the next team – the show must go on !
Smooth seas, fair breeze and Long God yumi stanap