Jan 30, 2009
Farewell to the Ravia Family
Pastor Eliki Ravia, his wife Aeyesha, and son "Nem" at the airport on their last day in Saipan, Wednesday, January 28, 2009.
Pastor presides over the baptism of five new members on his last Sabbath in Saipan, January 24, 2009. True to form, Pastor was busy with the Lord's work, literally right up to the day he left.
The Ravia family surrounded by church members and friends at the airport.
Many people come and go from Saipan,and all make their mark. But among the student missionaries, contract workers, and various others who make Saipan home for awhile, there are those for who leave a still larger, broader, deeper imprint. These people make more than a mark--their presence in our little Adventist community on Saipan and beyond defines an era. These people may range from institutional leaders (take the Era of the Ludders--that of Richard Ludders, the former dental clinic director, and his family) to everyday people (the Era of Malou, a dental assistant at the SDA Clinic for decades). What they all hold in common is a length of time in Saipan that is measured in years rather than months, during which they've become an integral part of daily life in Saipan. When they go, Saipan is irrevocably different. Their position may be filled, their jobs carried on, but their space in our hearts remains irreplacable.
One such family took their Long Walk this past Wednesday, January 28, 2009. With the departure of our beloved Pastor, his wife Ayesha, and their young son, the Era of Pastor Eliki Ravia on Saipan came to an end. At least for now anyway (for they promise to return). Pastor Eliki has gone to Fiji where he will be pursuing further education at Fulton College. We were sad to say good bye to our pastor, school board chair, and for Babs and me, our next-door neighbor and friend of four and a half years. But we are also happy and grateful for the inspiration, good memories, and love they've given us all over the years.
Pastor Eliki was one of my heroes in my Annual Heroes and Inspirations blog last year and with good reason. He and Ayesha are gentle, genuine souls. Their fervent faith and classic brand of Adventism are leavened by their sincere humility and embracing love. Even when he bid us farewell at his going away party this past Saturday night, January 24, he was asking us to forgive him if he'd hurt or offended any of us in his pastoral efforts. And instead of basking in his own glory he was,with tears in his eyes, paying tribute to other members who have worked tirelessly, and thanklessly doing the grunt work of the church. But pastor was just like those deacons he honored--ready to pitch in for the church at the drop of a hat, willing to work hard without expectation of thanks or reward. Whenever I've had the occasion to work with the Ravias, I've found myself "marveling and recognizing them as having been with Jesus."
I will miss that sturdy knock on our door and opening it to find Pastor grinning with a bunch of bananas or soursap fruit in hand. I'll miss his trade mark self-deprecating chuckle and his confident "No problem, no problem" in the midst of the latest church debacle. I'll miss Aeyesha's neighborly kindness and shy smile. I'll miss "Nem's" little visits to our house and his fascination with our dog Kimo. I will miss the Ravia's fellowship and friendship. But I know that they will be a blessing wherever they go--that Pastor's passion for people and for the Lord and for people and the Lord to come together will continue to burn brightly. Wherever they go, the Ravia's will be a light of God's love. And if God does, indeed lead them back to Saipan, as they hope He will, after their sojourn in Fiji, they will find a church family welcoming them back with open arms. And if not? Well, then we'll look forward all the more to that day when there will be no more goodbyes and an eternity of good times together.
God bless, and Godspeed, Pastor Eliki, Ayesha and "Nem".
Pastor and Ayesha with a young church member at their farewell party, Saturday night, January 24, 2009.
"M", "Little Sister", and "J" present "Nem" with a farewell gift from his schoolmates at the SDA School at the farewell party.
"Nem" checks out his memory book.
Angie, "Nem's" kindergarten teacher, with "Nem".
"Nem" with school friends who came to the airport to see him off.
"Nem" with his kindergarten classmates at the airport. "Nem" was pretty excited about leaving actually. He got lots of candy and gifts and was probably thinking, "Man, we should move more often!"
Pastor and Ayesha with some of our recently baptized church members from Kagman.
Ayesha with two women from the church.
linic CFO Ernie Lacorte and Carol with Ayesha.
Pastor handing over church keys to our head deacon at the airport.
Babs and I with our next door neighbors for the past four and a half years. It's awful quiet next door since they left.
The Ravias with some of our students who came to the airport to see them off.
The Ravia family takes their Long Walk.