A Travellerspoint blog

January 2019

Auckland, New Zealand

Kindly Kiwis

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Auckland is charming, lively, friendly and mightily attractive. Much is happening. The city skyline is dotted with cranes marking construction sites, and the streets are in (literal) upheaval as they dig tunnels for a new light rail system under the city center.
Through it all, the Aucklanders smile, G’day each other and offer earnest help if you look lost. The water sparkles all around this City of Sails, and its residents sparkle as well.
One poignant scene – the three little ones busking on Queen Street, ardently playing their violin, cello, and keyboard and singing while looking very poor and hungry. No parents in sight
We spent the morning in the Waitakere (Maori for cascading waters) Ranges with two bright and amusing guides who know and love every native plant and animal. We were intrigued by the rangiora leaf, the bushman’s friend, whose soft underside serves two purposes. The fuzz makes it excellent toilet paper (they say) and can be written on and used as notepaper (we saw).
We climbed down to the Karekare waterfall (where scenes from The Piano were shot) and walked out to a black sand beach. The sand is not actually black, but when you run a magnet over it (see below), the iron bits separate and turn the magnet quite black. Then your feet start to burn because the iron gets very hot.
The naturalists proudly showed us the manifold ways New Zealand is combatting invasive species: poisoning fields of purple and white South African agapanthus (be still my heart!), trapping the hated mustelids (weasels, stoats, and ferrets) who kill their native birds, poisoning possums with cyanide laced peanut butter. (You can almost here echoes of “build that wall.”)

They are also proud of local Manuka honey, a natural antiseptic/antibiotic that they rub on ulcers, pressure sores, diaper rash and whatever else ails ya.

In the evening we went to the Northern Club for dinner with Jane and Doug Kline. This “gentleman’s club” is 150 years old, gracious and traditional. We enjoy seeing how the other hemisphere lives – but didn’t quite get the customs right at this one. While the young frolicked in the bar before dinner, we gathered in a reading room with 20 foot ceilings. While the young were eating in a bistro downstairs, we were welcomed into a large (20 x 40’ ?) and elegant dining room with a pianist playing just for us. The food was superb; the service absolutely excellent, and we had a very good time.

Posted by HopeEakins 15:54 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)


The Lord's Day

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Here is what we did on Sunday.large_ade39f40-21af-11e9-bacc-ef4c3139d89f.jpg

ECUMENICAL WORSHIP Aboard the Silver Whisper January 27, 2019

Hymn: God of Grace and God of Glory

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray. Almighty Father, whose blessed Son prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one: Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Psalm 95: 1-7 (The verses in bold are said by the people.)

Come, let us sing to the LORD; let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth, and the heights of the hills are his also.

The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

The Scripture Reading

A Reading from the letter to the Church at Ephesus

[Christ] is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. (2:14-22)

A Reflection The Reverend Hope Eakins

This is called an “ecumenical” worship service. Someone asked this week what the word ecumenical means. The answer is “worldwide,” from a Greek word, and I like the idea that what we are about in this place is worshipping God in a wide way, in a common way and in our own ways both. We could also call this a non-denominational service, but that sounds negative, saying what we are not rather than what we are. Non-denominational also reminds us that we Christians have divided ourselves up into separate groups whose identity rests on being different from each other.

How easily we get divided up that way, immigrants and native-born, old and young, male and female, black and white, rich and poor, and on and on. The differences aren’t bad; they actually enrich us. What’s bad are the separations, the distinctions that pit them against us, the partitions that hurt our world and hurt our souls. This kind of division is a besetting problem of the human race. Families, marriages, neighborhoods, towns, cities, and countries can all too easily split into bitter factions.

No wonder St. Paul was so insistent in his letter to the Ephesians, insistent that Christ has broken down dividing walls that separate us. No wonder that on the night before Jesus died, he gathered the little community of his closest followers to eat a last supper with him, and offered the earnest prayer: “Father, I pray that all who believe in me might be one, just as you and I are one.”

Two thousand years later, Jesus’ prayer for us might seem to have gone unanswered. True, in the first hundred years after Jesus, when Christians were a persecuted minority, they generally formed close, family-like communities, so much so that their pagan neighbors are reputed to have admired them, saying, “See how these Christians love one another.” But once Christianity became the established religion of the Empire, unity became much harder to maintain. Theological controversies divided Christians into opposing camps. In 1000 AD the Church split formally in two, the West centered on Rome and the East on Constantinople. Five hundred years later, the Western church fragmented further with the Protestant Reformation - the splitting of the Church, the Body of Christ into many different and sometimes competing parts.

We are all familiar with some of the consequences of this unhappy division: parents who won’t speak to their children who married outside their church, congregations torn apart by internal bickering; little islands like the one we have just left behind in Tonga with what seemed like twenty Christian churches, each claiming to be the one true faith, my own Episcopal Church rent by disagreement over questions of human sexuality and the ordination of women.

But here we are today on the Whisper, cruising in the South Pacific. We come from different parts of the world and from different faith traditions, and yet on this Lord’s Day we have come together to worship the Holy One we all call God.

We have come to acknowledge God’s presence in our lives, to give thanks for our many blessings, to ask for pardon, wisdom and strength for ourselves and to commend the people we love and the world around us into God’s care. We have come to hear once again the Good News that God who made heaven and earth and all that is in them so loves us that God became one of us in Jesus of Nazareth. This is Good News that gives healing and hope and enlists us as God’s partners in mending broken hearts and a broken world.

What we have an opportunity to do here in ecumenical non-denominational worship is to focus on what Christian people have in common wherever they come from and whatever denomination they belong to. We can focus on what is fundamental and essential.

Maybe we can learn something here that we can take back to the congregations to which we belong, something about what is basic to Christian community and what is not, something about finding unity and purpose that transcends our differences.

What if Christians everywhere focused on the Good News of Jesus rather than on denominational differences? What if the world saw Christians united in feeding the poor and healing the sick, advocating for peace and justice, taking care of our fragile planet, providing education and encouragement for young people – instead of proclaiming that we have got a better understanding of God than they do, instead of insisting that we’ve got our theology right and they’ve got it wrong? Well, God knows what might happen! And maybe it’s happening right here this morning with the members of the household of God on the Silver Whisper.

The Prayers

Almighty God, we see our world and yearn to make it whole, yet we know our vision is small and our efforts are weak. In your mercy, O Lord,
Come into our darkness, and bring light.
Enlighten your Church. Deliver us from our preoccupation with old habits and old assumptions; open our eyes to see your hand at work in the questions of the present day; fill us with fresh dreams and fresh hopes; and bring us together as one people for the work of healing a broken world
Come into our indifference and awaken expectation.
Enlighten the world. Break down the walls of hostility that divide the nations and peoples; set before us the vision of this fragile earth as our island home; and open our minds and hearts to work together for the common good.
Come into the enmities of this world and bring peace.
Enlighten us. Take away our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us; give us grace to reach out in love to the stranger; bless those who mourn and those who are sick in body, mind, or spirit especially those we now name in our hearts and with our voices. (pause) Use us as you will to make your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Come into places of suffering and bring strength and comfort.
Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, “Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you;” Regard not the sins but the faith of your Church, and give to us the peace and unity of that heavenly city, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you are alive and reign, now and forever. Amen

Summing up all our petitions and all our thanksgivings, we pray in the words Jesus taught us

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy Kingdom come;
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory
forever and ever. Amen.

The Blessing May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace, and may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

HYMN: Christ is the World's True Light

Officiants: The Reverend Hope H. Eakins, The Reverend William J. Eakins
Music: Alex Manev
Usher: Doug Kline
Altar Guild: Jane Kline

Posted by HopeEakins 13:20 Comments (1)


Sailing over the non-bounding main

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Here is what we did on Saturday. H&B.


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The Kingdom of Tonga


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The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago of 169 islands, of which 36 are inhabited. All together, the islands occupy 300 square miles scattered over 300,000 square miles of ocean. It doesn't look like a tropical island, as the palm trees are mostly covered by vines and deciduous trees and there are no sand beaches. We toured the island of Neiafu in a Chinese bus that was likely 60-70 years old. You can see the upholstery below. The buswindows were wide open and as we traversed the lanes, tree branches whipped into our arms and faces. Almost all of the houses had a motor vehicle in the front yard - missing a hood, or wheels, or a door. These seemed to serve as storage sites or perhaps the "parts shop." Some houses had working vehicles as well.

Our charming guide Leyte took us first to Holy Hill, where, she explained, the Holy Spirit had descended one day in 1834. What happened then, we asked. "The people sang and danced and raised their hands and spoke in languages we did not know." It must have had a powerful effect because there is a church on every road. The country is deeply Christian; the established church is the Free Wesleyan, and there is even a little Anglican parish, St. Andrew's, with 30 members whose mission is to provide fresh water for their neighborhood. The Roman Catholic Church has unusual windows in the chancel; they look as if giants are standing outside peering in. The cemeteries are flamboyant with large banners picturing the deceased and giving the dates of their "sunrise" and "sunset." Finally, we learned that Sunday is indeed a Sabbath Day. Anyone who is caught working is jailed.

We visited the Kilikilitefua wall, a low heap of stones that is so overgrown it is hard to see (look carefully in the green photo below). Until about 1920, the wall was the census; that is, every time a boy was born, a rock was added to the wall (girls got small stones).

We also saw a cave and the Department of Revenue Services, but the island really has no tourist sites. Neiafu is a fascinating glimpse of beautiful and happy people who fish and farm and make crafts. There are no fences or barns. Our guide said that Tongans would never confine their animals. Cows, pigs, sheep and chickens run free and everyone knows to whom they belong.

Posted by HopeEakins 20:50 Archived in Tonga Comments (0)

Where oh where is Wednesday?

Worldly time

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We have lost Wednesday. Yesterday was Tuesday and today is Thursday, and ship's passenger Ralph Ponce de Leon (yes, that's his real name) had a birthday on January 23rd - but he didn't. Customarily, we put our medications in little pill containers - and Wednesday's capsules still sit there. The basic idea is this: sailing westward around the world, one gains an hour 24 times. There's no free lunch. That time has to be "paid back" one way or another, and the teller sits at the International Date Line and takes away 24 hours in one fell swoop. Check Wikipedia for a better explanation. This is a short week.


Posted by HopeEakins 20:36 Comments (0)

At Sea

Between Cook Islands and Tonga

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It’s a good thing we like sea days! We are beginning a three day journey from the Cook Islands to Neiafu, part of the Vava’u Group of the country of Tonga. It’s a long way from everywhere.

We occupied ourselves today with things like a knife skills demonstration, a wonderful presentation by Saroo Brierley, author of A Long Way Home, the story in the film Lion, and of course Team Trivia.

We marvel at how amazingly connected we are in this remote part of the wide ocean. E.g., our ship’s newspaper, the USA Times, an 8.5 x 14 page that purports to contain the world’s news (a miracle, given that it has 1½ pages of sports and ½ page of business), had a front page article today quoting Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin’s comments on the storm in the northeast. E.g.2, after son Bruce forwarded a notice from Walgreens that a blood pressure drug Hope takes had been recalled for containing a contaminant, the wonderful Dr. Antonio Fernandez (Hartford Hospital) sent an opinion about getting a replacement in Auckland. So we may be in the midst of wide waters, but we feel very close to you all.

Love, H&B

Posted by HopeEakins 16:44 Archived in Cook Islands Comments (0)


Cook Islands

sunny 80 °F

Rarotonga is the capital of the Cook Islands. Cook Islands is "an island country in free association with New Zealand." The relationship is confusing and sounds like that of a late teen with his parents, one not yet fully launched but encouraged to live on his own. The country is composed of 15 islands which total 90 square miles in area, spread over 2 million square miles of ocean. That isolation sounds extraordinarily difficult to us - imagine one hospital for the whole 2 million miles and having to fly or sail everywhere, but the folks take it in stride. They call Rarotonga the "mainland" (it's about 8 square miles) and hop on and off little planes, often in bare feet.

Gift stores are filled with motivational signs painted with adages like "The first to apologize is the bravest; the first to forget is the strongest; the first to forget is the happiest." The vegetation is lush and beautiful. The people are quite kind and quite quite large. (No pix because it seemed impolite to ask permission to photograph people just because they were obese.)

We took a wonderful plane ride across the island's green mountains and then went along the lagoons and reef and sea. Cook Islands is a fervently Christian country, the enduring result of missionary effort in the 19th century. The prominent denominations are Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Seventh Day Adventists.

Love, H&B

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Worship Service and Sermon

January 20, 2018

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Aboard the Silver Whisper January 20, 2019
Graphic of outrigger. Hymn: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray.
O God of peace, You have taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of Your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence, where we may be still and know that You are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Psalm 84:1-6

How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts! *
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; *
by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.

Happy are they who dwell in your house! *
they will always be praising you.

Happy are the people whose strength is in you! *
whose hearts are set on the pilgrims' way.

Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs, *
for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

They will climb from height to height, *
and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, *
and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

For the LORD God is both sun and shield; *
he will give grace and glory;

No good thing will the LORD withhold *
from those who walk with integrity.

O LORD of hosts, *
happy are they who put their trust in you!

A Reading from the letter to the Hebrews

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” (11: 1,8-12)

A Reflection The Reverend William Eakins

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

We have seen evidence of such faith as we have been sailing through the far-flung islands of Polynesia. Over the course of some 2,000 years, the intrepid ancestors of today’s Polynesian people managed to spread themselves out across the vast reaches of the Pacific Ocean. What motivated those pioneers of centuries ago to take the risk of sailing out in their frail vessels beyond he horizon across the ocean into the unknown? Surely it must have been something very much like what the Scripture we have heard this morning calls “faith.” Like Abraham of old, those courageous and daring Polynesians were searching for someplace, somewhere that would be better than the place they were willing to leave behind. Those Polynesian explorers must also have had a reasonable hope that what they were searching for, they would find.

How much we need such faith as we face the unknowns of our life, things like cancer, divorce, death of a loved one, unemployment, retirement, financial recession, global warming, political conflict. The list is unending. How can we cope when the world around us shakes and becomes uncertain? Let me tell you a story.

It happened one New Year’s Day when my wife and I were vacationing at a dude ranch on the edge of the Sonoran Desert and took the ranch car to drive down to Mexico. We went the long way through Tucson to get there, but there was a much shorter and more direct route for our return. Just north of Nogales on the U.S. side of the border, Arizona Route 289 headed westward for about 20 miles to a place called Ruby and beyond there connected with a road near the Elkhorn Ranch. Route 289 looked a little narrow perhaps, but it was nicely paved, and we had a bright star in the western sky. All was well for about ten miles until the pavement ended abruptly and Route 289 became a dirt road. “How bad can it be?” we said. It may be a dirt road, but it’s a good dirt road and it’s only ten more miles to Ruby. So on we went as night fell. The road climbed steeply and became very rough. The potholes were wide and deep and filled with rain water. Up up we went along the edge of a deep canyon; the headlights sometimes shined against the other side of the abyss and other times they lit the night sky. We had no idea where we were and we had no GPS; all we had was that star. Sometimes it disappeared behind a cloud or behind the mountain, but it was always there. Mile markers still counted the way to Ruby, mile 18, mile 19, and mile 20, but even when we got to 20, there was no Ruby, just the eyes of animals reflecting our headlights. The temperature dropped, and the prayers we had been saying silently we started saying aloud. And then we saw the sign, a sign saying “Danger: Primitive Road Ahead, Proceed at Your Own Risk.” But we had no choice; there was no turning back now because there was no place to turn around. So on we went, looking for the star, reassuring each other, and saying our prayers, and finally, after driving some four hours to go 35 miles, we made it back to the ranch.

There are some important lessons about journeying into life’s unknowns in our Ruby Road adventure. First there is the essential importance of having a sense of direction. We knew where home was. As long as we kept heading west, we would eventually get to our destination. The same is true in life. We need to know where we are heading. Christians believe that we are on our way to heaven, the place where we shall see the One in whom we believe face to face. As our opening hymn puts it, we are pilgrims, travelling through a barren land, and yet as we journey on through life’s ups and downs, we are guided by a star, the promises of God in Holy Scripture and above all in the person of Jesus Christ. Christ is our model of the values that shall endure, and Christ is our inspiration for persevering in trying times.

Secondly, how very much we need our fellow pilgrims. I was very grateful to be with Hope as we made our way across the Ruby Road, grateful for her encouragement and support and companionship. Likewise as we travel on the wider journey of life, we need to know that we are not alone, that we are part of a community where we are known and loved. We need the strength that comes from being together to hear and reflect on the stories of our faith and to pray for each other and for the world.

And finally, we need to have the faith that God is with us, supporting us and strengthening us and guiding us. Fear not, says Jesus, and be not afraid because I am with you and will always be with you. Fear not.

The Prayers

Holy God, we offer our prayers for all peoples of the world. Raise up leaders who will govern with wisdom, integrity, and compassion. Give us courage to pursue the vision of liberty and justice for all.

Happy are the people whose strength is in you.

We ask your blessing, O God, on this worship congregation aboard the Silver Whisper and on the congregations from which we come. Deepen and strengthen our faith and work through us to accomplish your mission of healing a broken world.

Happy are those who dwell in your house

We pray for those in any kind of need or trouble: the sick and the lonely, the brokenhearted and the sorrowful. Relieve their suffering and give them hope.

Happy are they who put their trust in you.

Lead us forward, Lord God, into whatever lies ahead. As we continue our voyage this week, give us fresh glimpses of your abiding presence with us and with this world that you have made and fill us with joy and gratitude.

Happy are those whose hearts are set on the pilgrim’s way.

Let us now pray in the words our Savior gave us:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Blessing
Hymn: He Who Would Valiant Be

Officiants: The Reverend Hope H. Eakins, The Reverend William J. Eakins
Music: Lech Was
Altar Guild: Jane Kline
Usher: Doug Kline

Posted by HopeEakins 17:39 Archived in French Polynesia Comments (0)

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