(This is part of an ongoing series chronicling memories of my life growing up as a missionary kid in Vanuatu. For links to previous posts you can go here)
One of my favourite memories from Talua is the church services. Every Sunday morning church was held in the hall. Chairs were set up in rows with an aisle down the middle. The women sit on the left, and the men sit on the right. The single girls sat at the front of their side and the single guys at the front of their side. The students wear their uniform of white Island dresses for the girls and short sleeve white shirts, black pants and ties for men. Dark skin sets off white so nicely (skin like mine just looks even more sun burnt).
Someone would start up a chorus and the whole church would sing simple praise songs while we waited for church to start.
While we were in Vanuatu only the New Testament had been translated into Bislama (Since then the whole Bible has been translated) so we would read New testament readings in Bislama and Old Testament readings in English. The sermon was always in Bislama (unless their was a visiting western preacher) so it took quite a while before we could understand the whole service.
Above all else I loved the singing. Everyone had a copy of a blue songbook with hymns and choruses translated into Bislama, Ol Sing Blong Nu Life. Some of those hymns were so popular, and we sang them so often I can’t sing them in English, the Bislama words keep sneaking into my mouth. Maybe it’s because they live in an oral culture, one so full of music, but all the Ni-Vanuatu staff and students have natural musical intuition. Without any accompaniment everyone naturally takes their parts and all the voices lift in absolute harmony. It sounds so beautiful.
After the service is over the choruses start again as we all file out in order to shake hands with the preacher and any other significant people. It starts with the people in the front row filing out one by one, and no one leaves until it’s their rows turn to leave.
I like order. I like knowing exactly what to do when. I appreciated filing out like that.