Recently I drove with Bob to Gabensis Adventist School about 45 minutes from Lae. The scenery at this place is rather beautiful – green, lush forests, quiet hills, rushing rivers, tree lined road to school and a quaint church down a coloured flowered pathway, overlooking the hills. Hundreds of church workers, pastors, teachers and office workers from the Morobe Mission were there for a retreat conducted over a few days. They had all brought their tents and had set them up in the classrooms, beside the buildings or on the verandahs. They were being instructed, admonished, taught and generally encouraged to be good SDAs, follow all the doctrines and fundamentals and be ready 24/7 for the defensive or the charge.
The people were friendly and looked happy enough. They enjoyed the camaraderie and the close proximity of their tents. Their food was provided from a temporary kitchen and twice a day they lined up to receive their portion – lots of rice, root vegetables, some chicken or tinned fish and sliced paw paw and watermelon. The children ran freely, the young teachers jostled and joked with each other, the mothers attended to and rocked their babies. The ministers looked serious and determined. The singing, as always, was beautiful and the harmonies coming from the church was food for the soul.
The most surprising and shocking experience for me was the opening of the muumuu on Sabbath – the special Sabbath lunch. The banana leaves were stripped off the huge stone covered feast in the ground. Steam and smell belched forth and here was hundreds of dark grey taros and a whole cow! Bones and brown meat soon separated as the men pulled the meat and vegetables out and onto large tin bowls. They used rib bones of the cow as spatulas and serving spoons. The large leg bones were separated and given to the dogs. What a massive feed they would have! It was a horrific and sad sight and a very smelly experience. Soon the campers lined up with their dishes and plates to receive their share of meat and taro along with some watermelon and paw paw slices. This was their delightful Sabbath lunch! I wondered if there were any vegetarians there and what they would propose to eat. I wondered was there anybody who cared about animals, about their health, about the original diet. Was anybody trying to live a more healthful life?