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Love is all around

IN 2005 I spent Christmas morning in hospital in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands.

I wasn’t sick or injured; I was singing.

At that time I was the Army Chaplain deployed to support about 400 Australian Federal Police personnel and 100 Aussie
soldiers who were part of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

The local Rotary Club had invited us to join them on the visit to the local hospital to sing Christmas carols and distribute

It was one of those slightly chaotic mornings when one wonders if there ever was a plan.

We rose early, put on our uniforms, had a cup of tea, went to pick up boxes of groceries and gifts from the home of a Rotarian and then made our way to the hospital.

We seemed to spend a lot of time waiting for everyone to arrive.

During the waiting we swapped our slouch hats for Santa caps.

Some of the young soldiers came along spreading goodwill, especially one called Luke who wore a clown suit and a big smile.

He had learned some pidgin and managed to get a good laugh out of some of the patients.

Honiara Hospital was missing lots of things that you would expect to find in Australian Hospitals.

There were no sheets on most of the beds, no air conditioning and the louvre windows let in plenty of insects as well as a

Privacy was a scarce commodity in the multi-bed wards and family groups sat beside the beds by day and slept on the floor at night.

Many of them had come down from remote villages to be with their loved ones and welcomed the bag of groceries given to
them by the Rotarians.

It would feed them while they waited for healing to occur.

One little boy sporting a cast on his arm unwrapped his gift to find a football.

I nearly fainted when I saw him rip the drip from his arm and run outside to kick the football around with the young soldiers.

The choir walked into every ward and sang a couple of verses of each song from the tattered song sheet.

Many of the family members would chime in with the words of the much loved carols.

That day fragments of the Gospel story were mixed with the legend of the little drummer boy as we sang about a God who took on flesh and dwelled with us.

All the faithful were invited to come and worship along with the angels who announced the birth of the newborn King.

In the maternity ward Madonna and child were perched on a mattress covered with what looked like old curtains.

The new mum was breastfeeding and smiling up with big brown eyes.

I wondered how many more babies she would have in her lifetime.

This Christmas season I hope that you will have an experience in which faith, hope and love find expression even if it is
not well orchestrated, carefully controlled and all neatly organised.

I introduced myself to a greyhaired lady who had joined the choir.

She said her name was Hannah.

“That’s a good biblical name,” I replied.

“Yes,” she said, “I am Jewish but always come here on Christmas morning because I used to be nurse here and I remember how much it brightened up the patients when visitors came on Christmas Day.”

All in all it was a delightful experience.

There were people of deep faith and people of no faith at all.

There were people sitting with loved family members and people who were thinking of their own loved ones far away.

Hope was stirred as we sang about a God who rules the world with truth and grace.

I came away from that event smiling broadly at how it had all turned out.

The Solomon Islands have long been known as The Happy Isles so perhaps some of that had rubbed off on me.

This Christmas season I hope that you will have an experience in which faith, hope and love find expression even if it is not well orchestrated, carefully controlled and all neatly organised.

Just maybe, God will break through the chaos and be revealed.

“May the God of hope fi ll you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13