Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rarotonga - C.I.C.C. Titikaveka

Sunday, February 20

C.I.C.C. - Titikaveka
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Kia orana! This morning, we all went to church at the Cook Islands Christian Church (C.I.C.C.) just down the street here in Titikaveka (again, that's “Tee tee kah' veh kah”). There's a C.I.C.C. in every district (five districts on the island), so pretty much every village has one. About 70% of Cook Islanders belong to this denomination, and the church is central to village life. So, it seemed like the best place for us to visit, since it would be most typical (at least, in our minds). And since it was just a short walk from the house, it was convenient, as well.

It would be rare to be made to feel more welcome anywhere. We were greeted on the walk, we were greeted at the stairs, we were greeted at the door, we were greeted inside. And with each greeting came an invitation to share some refreshment after the service. Probably 30% or more of those in attendance were guests. So, we assumed the refreshments would be cookies and coffee or something like that, which is pretty much what we offer our guests at home. More on that later.

The service was lovely and easy to follow, though lots of what went on was in the native language (the homily, for instance). There were presentations by visiting youth groups, choirs, and so on. We had heard that just the native singing, with beautiful island harmonies, would make church attendance worthwhile, even for those who don't normally attend. I must say, the singing was absolutely glorious. Really, if you go to church here, and the singing doesn't bring tears to your eyes, well, there's something wrong with you!

I took a photo of the church when it was empty,
so as not to disturb the service.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
You can't accuse these folks of “going Gospel light,” either. The Gospel is presented clearly, with a call at the end of each presentation. If you've been to that church, you have no excuse unless you weren't listening at all, ever. You can't say you didn't get the message.

Some of the songs were familiar to me (“Holy, Holy, Holy” and “Days of Elijah” and “I Believe in Jesus” and even a country song), other not so much. The songs I knew, I sang with all my heart, just like I would do at home. The songs I didn't know, I listened to and absorbed deep in my spirit. There were tears in my eyes through most of the song service, as I thought about the unity of the Body of Christ. Here I was, halfway around the world, but I was of one heart and one mind with brothers and sisters I'd never met. Connected. So, yes, I was emotional. And I'm not about to apologize for it.

The five of us enjoyed the service very much. The invitation to the gathering afterward was repeated several times during church. But there were one or two in our group who were unsure about staying, so, not wanting any of us to be uncomfortable, we all decided to just walk home for lunch. Ha! One of the deacons cut us off at the pass and was rather insistent that we should eat with them. I guess we almost committed a terrible faux pas, unknowingly. We didn't want to insult our hosts, so we followed him to the fellowship hall.

Boiled taro, sweet potatoes, and a bunch of other goodies.
Photo by Jo Gade. All rights reserved.
It wasn't just light refreshments. It was a whole meal of island specialties, served buffet style. I thought the tables would collapse from the weight of the food, which was piled high. There was delicious ika mata (fish marinated in coconut favorite), poke (banana cooked in arrowroot, also very yummy), roasted pork, chicken, lamb, etc. There were fruits and vegetables. I ate sea cucumber roe cooked with egg, and I loved it. I know! All of us agreed that this meal was even better than the one we'd had at the dinner show. By the way, you are expected to pile your plate high and eat until you are absolutely stuffed and cannot eat another bite, as though it is your last meal.

Waiting in the guest section.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
One thing I found strange, though, is that the church members sat together at tables with tablecloths, while the guests were seated on plastic chairs and wooden benches in a corner of the room and outside. The members ate first, and then the guests were invited to eat. Membership has its privileges? This is completely opposite how we do things at home, where the guests are seated in places of honor and are served first. That doesn't mean I thought it was all wrong or was offended or anything; I just noted that it was different and thought it would be interesting to find out why the custom is the way it is [Perhaps to demonstrate to guests that there is more than enough food to eat here? Or perhaps fattening up the captives during cannibal days of yore?...No offense! Just making a joke and wondering is all). There was certainly plenty of food, as the platters were replenished over and over again, and we were encouraged to eat more and more until I thought I would burst. As I said, we couldn't have felt more welcomed. Good job, C.I.C.C. Titikaveka!

Our property manager, Rongo, was a little surprised to see us at church, I think. I hope it was a pleasant surprise for her. It was certainly a pleasant surprise for us to see her there, a familiar and friendly face.

What to wear: Ladies, you are expected to keep your shoulders and upper arms covered modestly and also to wear a skirt or dress (rather than shorts). So, please don't wear your bathing suit cover-up to church on Sunday morning. I don't think they would refuse to let you in, but it just wouldn't be honoring and respectful to show up dressed in poolside clothing. You can wear sandals, and you don't have to wear stockings. Thank goodness! Also, please wear a hat. Your sun hat will do. The local ladies wear the beautiful and quite expensive woven pandanus hats to church. The hats are decorated with woven flowers, silk flowers, black pearls, and so on. They wear dresses with short sleeves (as opposed to no sleeves), generally, or else a shirt and blouse. The ladies also wear huge black pearl earrings and pendants, and there's certainly no lack of places where you can purchase these in Rarotonga. Gentlemen, you might want to pack a pair of khakis (You can wear them on the plane) and a Hawaiian shirt. The local gentlemen will be wearing shirts and ties, but you can get by a bit more casually. Again, thank goodness!

It was a very hot and sticky day when the breeze died down. It was a steam bath in church, and, suddenly, the wind kicked up and the rain poured down in cool buckets, providing some much-needed relief. So, you might want to bring something with which to fan yourself (other than the church bulletin, that is).

Just so you'll know and can plan accordingly, things are closed in Raro on Sundays. It's truly a day of rest. Get your groceries and your gasoline on Saturday. We should go back to doing that back home, because there's really nothing like knowing that you might as well rest, as there's nothing else to do. I had forgotten how relaxing that is!

In neighborhood news, people have moved into Hibiscus, the house behind ours. They arrived late last night from New Zealand for a wedding. Auckland is just a couple of hours flight from here. Come on! There's no justice in the world.

Rarotonga is a very popular wedding destination, which is no surprise to me. I still don't really understand the whole “destination wedding” thing. Why not be married in your home church? Why invite all your guests to your honeymoon destination? And it's such a huge expense for your guests. But, on the other hand, fewer guests are able to attend. Hmmm.....

Ahhh. This is living. Look at that water!
Photo by Bob Hampton. All rights reserved.
So, we rested this afternoon. You know, sitting on a lounge chair overlooking the lagoon from our awesome deck and listening to the far-off waves crashing on the reef while reading a good book (in my case, The Girls), every once in a while taking a cooling dip in the refreshing water...well, how do you describe that? It's paradise, truly. And you can't do this at home.

Tonight, we had a light meal of seared ahi tuna that Bob bought at the market yesterday, and coconut rice that I made, and guava and pawpaw and cucumber. It was very tasty.

I washed the dishes, and Karen dried. I find that I'm not minding cooking and cleaning up while camping in this lovely house on the beach, after all. I suppose I was tired the other day when I complained about it.

It's 9 p.m. It's been hot today, but it seems a bit cooler now. Jo and Karen have gone to bed, my husband's doing crosswords, and Bob is editing pictures, as is his nightly habit. The guys have used up the 150 meg of internet time we purchased, so we'll have to get more tomorrow. Or the next day. Or whatever.

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