Five years after the Pacific War ended, the land on which Betikama Adventist College is now established resembled a warzone. Broken helmets and military relics, scattered throughout the area, served as haunting reminders of the bloodshed that had taken place during World War II. Leftover ammunition and hand grenades continued to pose a very real danger.
It was the last place anybody would think to build a school. But where many saw a war-torn wasteland, the Adventist Church saw a great opportunity to share the Gospel with the people of Guadalcanal and the rest of Solomon Islands.
It was the last place anybody would think to build a school.
When Betikama first opened its doors in 1948, few could have imagined the influence the school would have on the country. But with hundreds of former staff members and students (both local and expatriate), including a number of local cabinet ministers, coming together for Betikama’s 65th anniversary in September, the impact of the school is clear.
Among the special guests were Dickson Ha’amori, Minister of Education and Human Resources, and Charles Sigoto, Minister of Health and Medical Services. Representatives of the Prime Minister were also in attendance, as well as the vice chancellor of Solomon Islands National University and the director of the University of the South Pacific (Honiara campus).
“Betikama trained a lot of national leaders, including the current Prime Minister,” said Pastor Lawrence Tanabose, general secretary of the South Pacific Division and a former Betikama student. “The school is very well known by the Solomon Islands government, and other institutions both in and out of the country.”
Dickson Ha’amori, Minister of Education and Human Resources, speaks during Betikama Adventist College’s 65th anniversary celebrations in September. [Photo courtesy: Lawrence Tanabose]
Despite the presence of high-ranking politicians, the star of the celebrations was Betikama’s founder and first principal, Pastor Lyndon Thrift.
Speaking during Sabbath School, Pastor Thrift (now 93 years of age) captivated the audience with stories from Betikama’s humble beginnings. Pastor Thrift shared how students would go out into the jungle looking for fuel and other supplies left behind from the war. He also recalled his interactions with the United States army, and how the commanding officer helped the school gather enough food supplies to feed students for five months.
“We saw so many miracles take place in that first year,” Pastor Thrift said. “The danger was very real—we had an abundance of unexploded 75mm shells and hand grenades scattered around the property. But nobody got killed.”
Betikama’s founder and first principal, Pastor Lyndon Thrift.
Aside from a time of reflection, Betikama’s 65th anniversary also served as an opportunity to look forward. A key part of the four-day program was the establishment of the Betikama Alumni Association. The group had already been active for a number of weeks, donating funds and renovating classrooms, but was yet to be officially recognised.
“The establishment of the Alumni Association was a milestone event for the Church,” Pastor Tanabose said. “It shows the Church is really building up momentum in Solomon Islands.”
In another momentum-building move, it was announced that Pacific Adventist University (PAU) has begun the process of developing a tertiary campus at Betikama. The new campus, slated for completion at the end of 2014, would become the first Adventist tertiary institution in Solomon Islands.
The new campus will open as a School of Science with the potential to expand into other areas. The Education department of the Solomon Islands Mission also revealed its intention to formally involve Avondale College and Fulton College in supporting the new campus.
“It really is amazing,” Pastor Tanabose said. “Sixty five years ago, Betikama started out with just 16 students. The school has grown so much since then and impacted hundreds of lives. Who knows how many more lives will be touched in the years to come.
“God is good.”
*This article appeared in the November 2 issue of RECORD. A few amendments to the story have been made since the printing of the magazine.
Linden Chuang is assistant editor-digital for RECORD.