Valasi Adventist Primary School, on the remote island of Guadalcanal (Solomon Islands), is the only Adventist primary school serving Catholic communities in this mountainous region.
The school started around 2009 following an initiative by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) to build a water supply system in the region. The school now has two volunteer teachers for grades one to four and a total of 87 students.
Senior teacher Caleb Ripo left school after sixth grade. Some might regard him as uneducated, however he listened to God’s voice and went to work with these simple people as a “volunteer in action”.
One of the highlights from last year was a visit by Catholic priest Francis Ceaser. Due to the remoteness and isolation of this region, a priest only visits once a year for the annual church festival.
For this particular visit the village elders came and asked Caleb to help them organise the festivities. They also invited Caleb and his students to participate in the welcome program.
The day came and the guest of honour arrived. Caleb and his assistant, Graham, lined up with the students and sang the welcome song.
Caleb noticed the priest's interest as the children read and sang to him. After the elders' welcome, the priest stood up and expressed his thanks to Caleb and his assistant teacher for the work they were doing for the children in his parish. He said this was the first time he had received such a welcome from his congregation in the mountains.
The priest went on to encourage and challenge his congregation to support the Adventist mission school. He said neither the government nor the Catholic Church could come up to the remote mountains and provide a Christian education. He asked the people to work closely with the teachers and their families, and also with the Adventist mission who had the heart to come and help them.
At the end of the welcome program he requested Caleb ring the bell for the evening prayer at the church. This is the main church service where members are required to make confessions to the priest. Following the service the priest visited Caleb’s home and confessed to Caleb and his wife that he actually went to sleep while the people presented their confessions. He went on to say that God, and not man, should listen to confessions.
The following day, the priest preached from the book of James:
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain” (James 1: 22-26, KJV).
After reading the texts, he told the congregation that many of them, including himself, were like these people who read the Word but did not understand it. While they claimed to be Christ's followers they continued to practice witchcraft, smoking and drinking, and were not following the Bible's teachings.
He then made a comment that surprised Caleb and his wife. Referring to Caleb, he said there was someone in the congregation who read the Bible, understood it and followed its teachings. He said Roman Catholics read the Bible but did not understand it. "We say that we are Christian but do not accept the full teachings of the Bible."
The priest went on to challenge parents to allow their children to attend the Adventist school so that their minds could be opened and they could teach the older people the truth.
During the communion service many of the older students decided not to partake of the bread and wine. When questioned by their parents they said it did not agree with what their teacher had told them from the Bible.
After communion a feast was held. The priest told his congregation to separate the food onto two tables: one for the teachers and students who did not eat pork and some other foods, and the other for all the communities.
Before the priest left he took an evening church service and again admonished the people to support and send their children to the Adventist school.
Caleb sat through all the meetings and he was brought to tears, praising God for the messages given by the priest. He said he had been working with the people for five years but the priest had made a greater impact than what he had been able to achieve.
Caleb—named after the late Pastor Caleb Ripco, a pioneer in the highlands of Guadalcanal—and his wife have requested that our Church family remember them in their prayers. Although isolated and "uneducated" they are entrusted by God to carry out His work.
Joseph Pitakia is Education director for the Solomon Islands Mission.