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  • Added September 26th, 2015
  • Filed under 'All Sorts'
  • Viewed 1561 times

Vahevahe: A TONGAN CONCEPT FOR SHARING ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES IN M

By Siosifa Pole in All Sorts

Ministry is not a one person band but a collective of people who have the same passion and determination to take risks in order to make a positive difference to peoples lives and communities.

Vahevahe: A TONGAN CONCEPT FOR SHARING ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES IN MINISTRY
In the last two weeks I attended the OBSA (Oceania Biblical Studies Association) Conference in Samoa. It was an exciting event for all of us who participated but especially for those who were in Samoa for the first time, like myself. The theme of the Conference was; Bible, Oratory and Oceania Literature. There were twenty presenters who presented papers from various contexts in Oceania on this theme. I was privileged to be one of the presenters who participated in sharing the rich heritage of our Pacific natural resources as a means to extract ideas and concepts which can assist us in our interpretation of Biblical texts, transmitting, and assimilating of ideas through oral tradition and literature. In my presentation, I used a Tongan word vahevahe, meaning, 'sharing, dividing, or distributing' as a method to interpret Biblical texts but in particular the gospel of Matthew. I would like to use the same concept in this article in reference to ministry as a sharing task, rather than just one person's responsibility.
Because ministry is a vast area, it is also complex, I believe the concept of vahevahe is vital to its effectiveness and fulfillment. Vahevahe is a Tongan concept for sharing responsibilities and ideas for the purpose of lifting a burden and stress from someone or from a family. On important occasions such as funerals and weddings in the Tongan context, there are always attempts to share the costs and the responsibilities within the family/kāinga who is organizing such an occasion. The main purpose of sharing the responsibilities and the costs is to ease the stress and burden this family/ kāinga goes through. It is also for the purpose of allowing others to participate as way of empowering one another. Everyone who is involved in such occasions has the opportunity to give and receive, which demonstrates the value of sharing. There are four ways that vahevahe could be viewed as a successful concept for ministry. Firstly, vahevahe is reciprocal,
secondly, it is collaborative, thirdly, it is hospitable, and fourthly, it is educational.
Reciprocity is an integral part of communal life. It enables everyone to give and to receive as a way to maintain mutual intimate relationship. Because everyone participates in giving and receiving, it certainly takes away pressure and stress. Being open to give as well as to receive is a vital part of vahevahe. You can't receive unless you are willing to give. This reciprocal attitude and practice would certainly create harmony among those who practice ministry. If there is a harmony in relationship then hopefully ministry will run smoothly. It doesn't mean that everyone should agree with each other, or practice the same ministry. However, it does mean that every ministry is different, and they need to exchange and share together. Paul uses the analogy of the human body in 1 Corinthians 12 as an example for reciprocity of gifts in ministry. Because every gift is unique like the body parts, therefore, they all need to be treated equally and to give each of them equal opportunity for ministry.
Collaboration is always an expectation in ministry, especially in a community that is so diverse. It doesn't mean that everyone needs to agree with each other but rather that everyone agrees to work together in the midst of their diversity and to agree to disagree. I was impressed last Sunday with those who were flocking to the Forsyth Barr Stadium to support the World Day of Peace. There were different groups from different faith communities, different ethnic groups, and different dance groups. It was both their diversity and collaboration that contributed to the success of this event. It means that there was no single group that could claim the success of this event, but rather all the groups who involved. Collaboration is important to the success of ministry. We can't succeed with our purpose or goal in ministry unless we commit ourselves to work collaboratively. Therefore, we can't afford to compete against each other. Rather, we must empower each other to work together as a team. Henri Nouwen in his book, entitled, Creative Ministry, states, "Competition has become one of the most pervasive and also destructive aspects of modern education." (p.12) Although, Henri statement refers to the damage that competition causes in academia it can still apply to ministry. Those who are in ministry need to work collaboratively in the midst of their diversity rather than trying to compete with each other.
Hospitality is so important in strengthening bond in ministry. It is about sharing one own resources to make someone else feel welcome and feel at home. In sharing resources with someone who is desperate, you not only detach yourself from your wealth of resources, but you also encourage the other person to do likewise. Real hospitality is not only one way but two ways. The receiver of hospitality has something to give back as an expression of appreciation and thanks. It doesn't matter how big or small the act of hospitality is, so long as we are willing to share, which again denotes the concept of vahevahe. The exchanging of hospitality is not only about sharing resources but also valuing everyone's contribution.
Because the vahevahe concept is reciprocal, collaborative, and hospitable, therefore it is educational. The passing and sharing of resources among those who are doing ministry will extend knowledge and deepen understanding. It means that there is no end to learning in ministry. Ministry is not a one person band but a collective of people who have the same passion and determination to take risks in order to make a positive difference to people's lives and communities. I hope that all members of our Parish will continue to be open to sharing our many gifts and resources together, for the improvement and growth of our ministry.
Siosifa Pole