Foundation Day In London – A Year Ago Today

Brought back happy memories…

On 24th October, 2009 I celebrated Foundation Day in London with my friends and members of the Queensbury Methodist Church (QMC) as part of their World Mission Week events.

Unless you are from Kwato Island, Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea, you are likely not to have heard of or know what Foundation Day is about.  This is a special event that celebrates the life of the Founding Father of the Kwato Church and the Kwato Mission in the Milne Bay Province – the Rev. Charles William Abel.

Simply put, Foundation Day is the celebration of the birthday of Rev. Charles William Abel within the Kwato Church community. It is a time to gather and reflect on how far the Church has developed from a core of dedicated and committed adherents of the Kwato Church’s congregationalist ways of worship to a fully-fledged Church established by law in PNG.

The Kwato Church grew from humble beginnings through the outreach work of Rev. Charles Abel who came to Milne Bay as a missionary from the LMS (London Missionary Society). The celebrations almost always has a re-enactment of the arrival of Misiebo, as he was referred to by the local people then – a mispronounciation of ‘Mr Abel’.

Choirs are also a major feature of this celebration as the Abels were credited with the introduction of choir singing and the tonic sol-fa music system to Papua New Guinea through the Kwato Mission. This is one of the most striking legacies of Abel’s work in Papua – the other being domestic science, nursing and midwifery, boat-building and the trades and of course the teaching, learning and speaking of the English language.

The Foundation Day is usually a time when we feel proud of this part of our heritage as we sing the Kwato anthem:  ‘Father The Light’. The opening lines go something like this: “Father, the light has come to us we have known. Thy wondrous power that can transform us and make. Anew our lives blot out past evil sown. And give us the victory for our Lord Jesu’ sake. O hear us as now we bring our country to Thee. For bound other people Thou dost wait to set free…”. I remember learning this song in Grade 5 with the late Aunty S. Mark who was our choir teacher then. We had to learn the song through the tonic sol-fa method before we can even dare to sing the words. Kapole…those were the days at Koeabule (KB) Mission Primary School near Alotau town, in the Milne Bay Province.

The name of the Church is the Kwato Church – its name taken from the idyllic little island called Kwato surrounded by four equally beautiful islands of Logea, Samarai, Bonaruahilihili and Ebuma – Logea being the largest and Ebuma being the smalles of the cluster of five islands. Samarai, east of Kwato was the district headquarters of the Milne Bay District then up to 1966/67 thereabouts. Kwato Island is boomerang-shaped and has a plateau on which the Church stands. The Church building on Kwato Island is one of the two stone churches in Papua New Guinea – the other one is in Rabaul, East New Britain Province. The Kwato Church was built by some of the best local stone masons in the area, and with local labour and completed in or about 1937.

This time last year, I was delighted and honoured that the QMC Council accepted my suggestion for this celebration and diarised it in the Church programme for the latter part of the year.

Prior to the gathering that evening, a few friends and I arranged the Morcombe Taylor Hall and I took some of my PNG artifacts, baskets and books to put on display. This was partly, a good opportunity to share something about PNG to my QMC family here in London, and partly to create an appropriate atmosphere for the celebration.

Display table - PNG baskets, artefacts etc

Of course the cooking began the evening before with the preparation of the mumu. This is because it takes hours in either an electric or gas oven. Thanks to sis CK and other wantoks who helped with shopping and peeling of veggies. Without their help and support we would not have had any PNG food to add to the celebrations. We had two big mumu dishes  which were a hit.  To accompany out delish mumu kaikai we also had barbequed pork and chicken curry. I had a special cake made for the ocassion by a local cake maker which had an imprint of one of my photos on the cake – that gave it that special touch. Of course there was also icecream for dessert.

Barbequed pork... courtesy of The Four Seasons, Chinatown, London

On the night I was blessed to have over 50 QMC members join me. The gathering of the QMC family was further graced by the Minister of the Church, and Superintendent of the Methodist Church Circuit for Barnet and Queensbury.

I gave a PowerPoint presentation on the Kwato Church – it’s history, work and legacy which received excellent feedback from the audience. I praised God for His many blessings that enabled me to bring the Kwato Church back to England in this way – through the celebration of Foundation Day.

Mumu...yummy, yummy, yummy

It was a great gathering and a good time was had by all – from what I gathered at the Chruch service on Sunday  (25 October, 2009).

Stratford: Views From A Moving Train…

A big upturned basin...

When I was heading towards Burnham-on-Crouch a couple of months ago, I was excited when I realised that my train would be passing through Stratford – the main venue of the London 2012 Olympics. This is what I saw through the glass windows of my train carriage. The awesome structures that are going up and soon to be the pride of Britain as Olympians gather from far and near to once again flex their muscles for Olympic medals. Wondered how many medals are going to contested here and what sport would be played here.

The UFO has landed...

Against the setting sun, the building looked like an unidentified object (UFO) has landed in East London. It was kind of weird. Anyway, in a strange kind of way it made me think about the Olympics and if this beautiful scene is a sign of things to come in 2012, I think Team GB should do very well and top their gold medal tally from Beijing. I am sure this place will be the centre of the world, sports-wise in the not-too-distant future.

The sunset in the background was spectacular!

As the train pulled away I could only imagine what the crowd would be like here in two years time and what noises would be emanating from that huge saucer-like structure. Already this is looking like a theme park – an Olympic theme park that will come to life very soon.

A mast-less galleon...

I also saw this structure. It looked like a mast-less galleon. Wonder where the Flying Dutchman is? From this angle it looked like a horse-drawn carriage but without the horses. I wonder what sport would be played at this venue?

Like a tail of a monstrous whale...

From this distance it looked like a tail of a diving monstrous whale into the blue yonder.  The sunset was stunning. I hope the Olympians will enjoy sunsets like this when they are here.

Wow! broken mast?

From this angle as the train got farther and farther away from the station, the same structure looked like a galleon with a broken mast. It also looked like the left-side of a sandshoe…

As the night sky darkened, back to planet Earth, as we chugged, chugged, chugged towards the sea, another lot of musings began to take hold of my mind. I thought of the friends I am going to spend the weekend with and the special Sunday service the following day.

Another journey…