Weattended church six times in four different villages over our stay. We traveled by boat to Busama and Salamaua and walked the beach and cliff path to Asini. In each place, we experienced great hospitality. We worshipped; we made our little introductory speeches, which got better every time; then a plate of fruit and fresh coconuts were brought to us before we toured around the village. Upon our return, food was brought out and we ate a traditional meal. In each place we met the women who made up Manoa's committee to support the Gejmsao Guest House and Women's project. During our stay, women would come from these villages with food for us, to clean the grounds, to help sew dresses, or to help with laundry after guests had left. It truly is teamwork and a ministry of the heart.
Besides taking care of the Conference Center and Guest House, Manoa travels to the 13 parishes, cooks, washes clothes, tends her garden, and raises her family. Her gardens are on the mountain-side and she walks up to the clearing to dig sweet potatoes, taro (another tuber), and manioc. There are fewer greens on the coast and the fruit is limited to pineapple, ripe banana and green banana (which you fry). Because of her dedicated work for the past 13 years as Het Meri, she was invited to join three other people who travelled to North Carolina in June, 2009 as part of the companion synod relationship. It was no small sacrifice for her to leave her family for three weeks. Because she felt so blessed in being part of this delegation, she was intent on reciprocating the hospitality. Her hospitality and generosity are part of her deep faith. On December 23rd, just two days after we arrived and as we were sitting in our morning language class, Manoa brings her hand-driven Singer sewing machine to the big table in the Conference Room and begins to sew. Shortly after, she comes over to me with a tape measure in her hand and quickly takes my measurement shoulder-to-shoulder. For the rest of the day, Manoa busied herself making me a meri blouse. Not only did she make one for me, but for herself and her two daughters, Gejmsao and Elizabet. By that time, Gejmsao and I had become very good friends, so this was pretty special. Little did they know how special it was to me to wear my meri blouse on Christmas Day to church.We knew that our first Christmas away from our family and friends in the U.S. would be different. As we reflected on what to do over Christmas, Pr. Kinim's suggestion to go to a village was divinely inspired. Not only did we enter the life of the villages we visited and where we worshipped, we gained a Christmas "daughter" in Lynn, our teacher, and found a family with whom we could celebrate Christmas. Manoa Yawsing is the Het Meri (Head Woman) of the Malolo Circuit. She has 13 parishes and about 60 congregations along the coast and in the mountains that she is responsible for supporting the women's ministry. Two years ago she was asked to move down to the coast to be the caretaker of the Gejmsao Guest House, so she and her husband, James, and their four children moved to a simple house at this Conference Center. The children are Inok, age 13, Elisabet, age 11, Imanuel, age 9, Gejmsao, age 5; and since November Manoa has taken in her one-year old nephew, Angua. Manoa's 36-year old brother had died earlier in the year.