Settling In: Ministry in the Solomon Islands

Settling In: Ministry in the Solomon Islands

Greetings from Trinity School for Theology and Ministry at Airahu Training Center!  I have been in the Solomon Islands about four weeks now—though so much has happened that it feels as if I have been here much longer! This is a beautiful land, with beautiful people, and I hope in my newsletters and blog posts that I will be able to convey just a glimpse of these beauties.

I have begun to settle in at Airahu, an Anglican center that hosts a monastic order, a rural training center, and a theological school.  This institution is quite unlike anything I have experienced in the United States.  Each component—the Melanesian Brotherhood, Trinity School for Theology and Ministry, and the Rural Training Center—function independently of one another. Yet, they share the land together, regularly come together for times of religious activity, social events, and occasionally meals.  There is no sense of competition among the groups, and each seems to be working toward the same goal—to tangibly apply the teachings of Jesus to life in the Solomon Islands.

Continue reading below to learn a little more about each of the three programs at Airahu

Rural Training Center

Education is a real social challenge in the Solomon Islands.  Most of the Islands have no secondary schools, so teenagers travel to the capital city of Honiara for high-school education.   There are increasingly limited and highly competitive opportunities for students the further they go in their education.  Nor does education does necessarily lead to employment—many good jobs are given to “friends and family.”

The Rural Training Center provides vocational training to students throughout the island of Malaita.  There are several different tracks available—agriculture, carpentry, homemaking, etc.

The students and staff at the Rural Training Center are eager to learn different styles of agriculture.  In the image below I am explaining a permaculture design to a few of them.  The Banana Circle (pictured below) will be a feature in a future newsletter or blog.

Melanesian Brotherhood

The Melanesian Brotherhood is a religious order that was started by Anglican Melanesians in the 1920s.  Brothers take a vow to chastity, submission, and evangelism.  They are a missionary order, regularly traveling two-by-two across the countryside providing pastoral care.  They are an asset and an aid to the parish priests who serve throughout the villages.  At Airahu, several brothers live and help teach at the Rural Training Center.  Some are students at the school for Theology.  The Brothers also host morning and Evening prayers daily, and a Eucharist service on Sundays.

In the image below, one of the Elder Brothers expresses his gratitude for those who prepared lunch for us.

Trinity School for Ministry and Theology

Not to be confused with Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA (where I just graduated from!), TSTM offers a diploma program in Theology and Ministry also located at Airahu Training Center.  Students attend for three years before graduating.  After graduation, most students are ordained to the diaconate before becoming parish priests.  Students at TSTM come from all over the Solomon Islands.  Many are from Malaita, but some students come from as far away as the Western Province, Guadalcanal and San Isabel.  In this picture, I am teaching some of the TSTM students at the Chapel of Melanesia at Airahu.  Jon and were the speakers at a campus retreat a few weeks ago, facilitating discussions about the Lord’s Prayer.

Arriving to the Solomon Islands

Arriving to the Solomon Islands

SAMS Missionary Bridger Dean Baldwin shares the latest from his recent arrival to the Solomon Islands.

I’ve been in the Solomon Islands (locally: the Sols) for about a week now, it is good to be here.  Thanks for all your prayers!  I am beginning to settle in with Jonathan and Tess Hicks, and their five wonderful children.

Last Friday I was welcomed by staff, faculty and students to Trinity School for Theology and Ministry.  The welcome ceremony was quite humbling, wow, some time I will have to write about it!

Jon, Tess and I have had some great conversations together.  I am thankful for your prayers that we quickly bond as a team.  It seems like once in a while I will be able to head into town to send out  and check emails, etc.  In the mean time, to inform your prayers please remember me in the following areas:

  • That Jon, Tess and I continue to form a relationship of trust, mutual encouragement and good communication
  • For opportunities for me to learn Pidgin and engage int he students at Airahu
  • That I will wisely get into a healthy routine.

Thanks for all of your prayers, we are off to a great start here.  I hope to be sending another update in another week or two.  It turns out I can get online fairly regularly in Auki, a short bus ride from Airahu.  The connection is not the greatest, but it will suffice.  Hoping to take care of bills and essentials in my short time.  Thanks!

Introducing Myself: Dean Baldwin

I consider it an honor to have been invited to serve as SAMS’ first Bridger to the Solomon Islands.  For me, the 6-8 month internship as a SAMS Missionary Bridger is another piece in a life-long discernment process as I, along with the Church, consider a long-term call to missionary work.

I grew up in Cato, NY where my family and I attended the Oswego Christian and Missionary Alliance Church (C&MA).  From a very young age I was drawn to the idea of cross-cultural ministry.  In 2004, I matriculated at Toccoa Falls College, North of Atlanta, in order to begin preparations for future ministry.  I graduated in May 2008 with a BA in English and a minor in Biblical Studies.

After graduating from Toccoa, I lived in Aliquppa, PA for several years during which I gained practical experience working in a diversity of community-focused, faith-based, grass-roots organizations.  Among these organizations was Uncommon Grounds Café, a coffee house ministry of Church Army USA.  Under the tutelage of John Stanley, a Church Army missionary from Australia, I gained practical, spiritual, and theoretical foundations for Christian ministry and evangelism.  While in Aliquippa I was introduced to, and touched by, the Episcopal/Anglican Church and theology.

For the last several years, I have continued to learn a diversity of practical and theoretical skills from a diversity of experiences.  As final preparation for this internship, I am completing a MA in Religion from Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA.

Work in the Solomon Islands excites me for several reasons.  The primary purpose for this time is get a taste of what longer term missionary service might be like, and to discern with my missionary-mentors, Jonathan and Tess Hicks, along with the Church in Melanesia and my sending churches if God is calling me to longer-term cross-cultural ministry.

I am intrigued by the Solomon Islands in particular because of their geography and culture.  The Solomons are some of the least developed (by Western standards) places on the planet.  A significant portion of the population continue to work as subsistence farmers.  Growing up, in some ways, on a “hobby farm,” I am intrigued to add to learn to grow food sustainably in another climate.  Many of the plants that are grown in the Solomons resemble or are identical to plants that were grown while I lived on the Big Island of Hawaii.  In fact, anthropologists often draw links linguistically/culturally/agriculturally between Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia and Hawaii.

As of now, I hope to serve from July/August 2017 until January/February 2018.  Jonathan and I are in contact as we begin to line up what my internship will look like.  Possibilities include teaching, farming, supporting the local Church of Melanesia in whatever capacity I can, but most importantly, traveling with the posture of a learner.  Over the next several months, I will continue to update this blog as I prepare for the 6-8 months I will serve in the Solomon Islands.

Would you prayerfully consider supporting me?

Many Blessings!