Earlier on this blog I mentioned a “warm Melanesian welcome”—a hackneyed phrase, one that came easily in my jetlagged state. Happily, I can now explain this better because we’ve finished day four of our trip and I’m seeing patterns in how we are received at many ministries in the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOM)—including the Christian Care Centre for victims of domestic violence and the Community of the Sisters of the Church at Teteni Kolivuti.

Here’s the rundown of what happens:

1. Warriors

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The ACOM truck stops mysteriously 50 metres from our destination. The Primate leads the team by foot, and then suddenly a fierce warrior leaps out of the bush, screaming and brandishing a machete. A couple of metres later another jumps out, covered in leaves, grass, and paint.

This spectacle (which now makes us smile) is supposed to show how Melanesians welcomed the first missionaries.

2. Flower garlands

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We are often given garlands made of local frangipani, orchids, and even tumeric stalks. They smell wonderful.

3. Music and dance

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Women and sometimes children gather in two lines to do what they call an “action chorus,” coordinated movements to English or Pidgin praise songs, played from a stereo. Sometimes they also sing hymns in clear, strong harmony, a favourite being “Loving Shepherd of Thy Sheep.”

4. Huge spreads of food

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Coconut water, fresh papaya, sausages, curried chicken, and more. All ministries have been generous in sharing their food, which often takes a lot of work to prepare and clean up. We saw sisters today scrubbing their cooking pots with stones.

(I admit I have few photos of the food part because by this time I am enjoying the hospitality.)

So that’s what a Melanesian welcome often looks like. Of course it’s just the preface to good tours and good discussions with ACOM partners in these places.

So now it looks like “warm” is an understatement. These welcomes are pretty spectacular.