God’s grace in the Solomons
Posted on: 14th September 2022
CMS short-term worker David Pettett has had a long and varied ministry career—serving in city and regional Australian parishes, church planting in Japan, and working in prison and hospital chaplaincies. He is currently lecturing at Bishop Patteson Theological College in the Solomon Islands. Here he speaks of the need for supporting and continuing this ministry long-term.
When I first came to the Solomon Islands three years ago with Langham Partnerships to help run a two-week preaching school, we visited Bishop Patteson Theological College, the training college for the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOM). As we spoke with the college principal, my colleague suggested that I could teach at the college. Already wanting to have another teacher with a PhD on staff, the principal thought that was a good idea. So I began a four-year contract at the beginning of 2020.
Serving students during COVID
Due to COVID and border closures, I spent the last two years teaching remotely. Thanks to God, I finally managed to get all the necessary permissions and clearances to come to the Solomons even when a major outbreak of COVID had put Honiara into lockdown. I arrived on 4 February this year. The start of the semester was delayed because of COVID. As I have spent time with the students in person this year, I have been very encouraged by how much they have learned from the emailed lecture notes over the previous two years.
The Anglican Church of Melanesia demonstrates a clear biblical focus, and an urgent desire for evangelism. This means I can draw students’ attention to the Scriptures to challenge fuzzy thinking. Like most of us, they tend to emphasise law rather than God’s grace. It has been a delight to see them light up when they can see the truth of Romans 5, the chapter that begins with these profound verses:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Learning to apply God’s grace
Students in their final year of their BTh studies are required to write a 15,000-word essay. Part of my role is to help them decide the focus of the essay and to work with them in developing their argument. Most students have questions about their local culture, and how much people understand how to demonstrate their Christian faith in the way they live. It has been a privilege to help students consider and then write about how the gospel impacts culture: why there may be certain cultural practices some tribes have given up, and why others have tried to syncretise those practices with the gospel. All the while, we are wrestling with how to apply God’s grace in thought and action.
I will finish my contract at the end of 2023. I will be 72 then. It is time to retire and ensure the ministry is continued by younger people. The deputy principal asked me last year to recommend two people with PhDs to help further the work of the college. Could one of them be you?
How informed are you about our Pacific neighbours? What steps could you take to learn more, including asking those who live in your community about their story and what they know of Jesus?