More than 300 Rotuman islanders gathered for a rare camp meeting over the year end. The gathering became the talk of the 2000 unique indigenous people who inhabit the isolated islands of Rotuma. Rotumans are more connected ancestrally and culturally to the Polynesian peoples of Tonga, Samoa, Futuna and Uvea than they are to Fiji, but proudly they constitute a minority people within the Republic of Fiji.
This was a rare gathering because transportation to and from the island is a tremendous challenge.
"I was wait-listed for over three months on the one plane to the island each week," explains Pastor Alex Currie, keynote speaker for the camp meeting. "[I] then ended up travelling by ship for 50 hours with another 150 attendees."
The weekly plane only carries six or seven passengers, depending on the amount of luggage each carries. Due to the lack of transportation church leaders seldom visit this volcanic island of 43 square kilometres (13 kilometres long and four kilometres wide at the widest point and 230 metres at the narrowest) that is located 12 degrees south latitude and 177 degrees east longitude. Rotuma is 646 kilometres directly north of Fiji.
Pastor Currie preached every evening and on Sabbath during the 10-day celebration. He was ably supported by Glory 4, a quartet originally formed at Fulton College but whose members are now serving in three island groups: Kiribati, Samoa and Fiji. "This singing group made a huge impact not only on the campers but in special events and other church services on the island," Dr Currie says.
The theme of the meetings was "family life", which highlighted the influence of notable Pacific Island families on their own families and on Adventist family culture.
Dr Currie was supported by a team of other ministers led by Pastor Mike Sikuri (Family Ministries director for the Trans-Pacific Union) and Pastor Fred Taito, newly appointed minister for the island, who cared for morning meetings, including a Vacation Bible School and recreational activities.
One hundred and fifty campers lived in tents and in a public school and were fed with island produce grown by local Rotuman farmers. One day 260 delicious watermelons were picked from one farmer’s garden alone. (This to the people was a miracle in itself for only Adventists were harvesting watermelons, according to a non-Adventist chief who visited the camp.) Pineapples were harvested by the barrow load. Root crops were in abundance. Coconuts were so plentiful they could be picked anywhere on the island. Fish is also a staple part of the isolated islanders' diet.
With no hotels or motels on the island, Dr Currie stayed with Dr and Mrs Taukave, long-time friends from his Fulton College years in the 1970s. Dr Taukave, a highly qualified medical practitioner, who is now 86 and retired, was awarded Gardener of the Year in 2012 for all of Rotuma. His vegetable garden embraces about 1.5 hectares. "He’s the envy of much younger farmers," Dr Currie says. "A great testimony to a healthy Adventist lifestyle."
The highlight of the gathering was the baptism of 10 candidates on the last Sabbath morning. It was held at 7 am because of tidal times. Pastors prepared nine Rotumans and one Indian woman for baptism in the quiet waters of the peaceful Pacific Ocean. Many people testified to the blessing of God on the camp and with improved transport hope to have a camp on the island every second year. "Pray for Pastor Taito as he is led by the Spirit to touch the lives of these beautiful Pacific Island people," Pastor Currie says.
The next camp is planned for December 2015.