Anglican Women’s Studies Centre Hui, Nuku’alofa, Tonga, November 2020
– a reflection by Bolivia Smith
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7: 13-14
Jesus never said anything will come easy to us in this life, but He did say it will be worth it. Sitting back and thinking about my journey as a young woman in the Church as well as a daughter of God, I am very humbled and blessed to have been a part of the Anglican Women Studies Center in Tonga.
Leading up to my departure for Tonga, many times I cried and asked the Lord, is this worth it? What is the purpose of this? What will I get out of it?
Some of the key Goals for this Hui were to reflect on the Journey of Women in the past, present and into the future, and one of the initiatives of the Anglican Women’s Studies Centre is to serve and advance the interests and needs of the women of our Church particularly those undertaking theological training. Through fellowshipping and networking with other women of our church, we mentor and encourage each other through the early stages of our ministry.
The Hui for me was so special, as it reminded me of why our role is special within our Church, Communities and especially our families. I was reminded of the importance of our calling as women to “mother” “nurture” and “recognize” the journey or paths that we must take.
The different speakers who were invited to share with us, touched on learning the importance of why our roles within the Church, in communities and within our own homes is key to the future of our Church. Outlined further are some of the key takeaways for me, from the different speakers.
Dr Mele’ana Puloka (President of the Wesleyan Church Schools) spoke of our Journeys from the past to the Future. It’s not about the Past, it’s about who we are now. Our past does not determine the NOW, and what we intend to do. One of the few things that stood out for me when she said, “It takes a woman/mother to make a journey.” Why?
Mothers, by nature, are to nurture our young ones and not contribute to their downfall. In the Bible it speaks of how a wise son will make the father proud, and a foolish son brings shame to the mother. Naturally, our mothers are at the forefront of bearing our pain, and the sufferings that we go through in life. They are also be the ones who will go to any length for their children. This is why we are reminded always, that it is OUR RESPONSIBILITY to nurture.
Mrs Katrina Ma’u Fatiaki (Senior Development Programme Coordinator) spoke on “Developing the leader within you”. Some of us are natural leaders, whilst some of us need to find our inner strengths to become leaders. She highlighted the importance of having a “teachable heart”. By this she means a heart that is open to change, a heart that is open to growth and most importantly a heart that is open to explore God’s will for us. I believe that regardless of how others perceive us, the circumstances that we endured, the hardships that we had to bear, how we value ourselves will determine how others value you. So as women we need to step up and be women who represent possibilities.
Mrs ‘Eleni Levin Tevi (EU: Tonga Desk Coordinatrice du Programme) spoke of the “Initiative of women that impacted the Church – Journey from the Past to the Future”. There were 3 key points that Mrs Tevi made about the role of women in:
- Good Stewardship of God’s creation: Environment Awareness
- Healthy Living: Addressing NCD
- Godly Leadership: Through Mentorship & Accompaniment through activities
Rev Ikani Tolu (General Secretary Tonga NCC spoke of the “Ecumenical Movement in the Pacific”) made a very interesting talanoa about “Indigenous Spirituality”, where “Diversity & Vulnerability are our strengths.” We were once again reminded about our roles as Women of the Church/Country as stewards in terms of nurturing our inner strengths. My experience is that everyone comes broken and in need of nurturing. Whatever the circumstances, the hardships they are in, those experiences contribute to our development and there is no need to judge. Nurturing involves offering a safe space for them.
Motherhood for me is someone who nurtures giving their unconditional support to their children throughout their lives. This I think is the true definition of motherhood. We as women in leadership need to bring out our “Motherhood” and start caring for our young people and guiding them in their decision making. This is a commitment we need to make if our children’s futures are to be secured.
Fellowshipping with the representatives for the AWSC was humbling and learning experience for me. They shared their experiences, and the wisdom learned over the journeys they took and the hardships they endured. Personally, I went into this Training feeling so defeated, and came out with the comfort of knowing that I am not alone.
The round-the-table talanoa with these ladies, reminds me of the “Fale Komiti” back home in Samoa where women of the village gather to weave and share their experiences with each other. This itself is a tradition that is slowly fading in our Samoan culture and needs to be revived in all the villages, as I believe this is where the true role of motherhood is learnt.
The symbol of weaving is I think reflective of the journeys we have made as we weave our stories and experiences to better our understanding of ourselves as mothers and our roles in motherhood.
Bolivia Smith lives in Samoa where she is the Team Leader CIT – Systems (Samoa Water Authority). She is the daughter of Rev Dr Le Vaotogo Frank & Tulimatai Smith. Bolivia is 33 years of age and hoping to start Lay Minister Training this year. She is a very strong advocate for Young People.