Building a church in the jungle and surviving on rice, taro and fish on the Solomon Islands, was how a group of Longburn Adventist College students spent their school holidays.
The group of 18, including four teachers, arrived home to Palmerston North, New Zealand, after a mission firmly accomplished in the Pacific.
It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I loved the environment, the routine we had every day, and the people were so friendly and hospitable
They spent three weeks helping to build the church on the island of Kolombangara, which is still recovering from a devastating tsunami in 2007.
The students looked after children from the village in the mornings before working on construction of the church in the afternoons.
They say working conditions were tough, with bare feet the norm on the construction site and all work done by hand, but that didn’t dampen spirits.
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” says 17-year-old Benjamin Brungar. “I loved the environment, the routine we had every day, and the people were so friendly and hospitable.”
In very hot conditions, the students lugged bags of cement, buckets of water and timber beams to the construction site, and dug holes for the foundations.
The accommodation for the students was a specially built hut made of wood and roofing iron, in the rainforest— accessible only by river. Their main diet consisted of rice, noodles, fish, taro and vegetables.
Fifteen-year-old student Sara Greenfield said the trip was incredibly rewarding. “It was absolutely awesome, I loved it. All the kids were just so energetic. They’d play in the mud and climb coconut trees 10 times faster than I ever could. It reminded me of a 10 times more hardcore version of my childhood.”
Teacher Lisa Laney said after initial unease, the locals warmed to their unfamiliar guests. “We were the first white people to really ever enter that village. At first, we were a bit scary to them, but they overcame that and became very comfortable around us.”
It was evident that the local children enjoyed spending time with the students. “They were very affectionate. They’d come and sit on our lap, and hold our hands.”
Miss Laney said the school planned to return to the village at the same time next year, perhaps to build a school.
“At some of the boarding schools we saw, many of the children have to paddle about half an hour in a canoe, then walk another half an hour to get to school, so they could really use something a little closer.”