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Tears of hope
Roline Keke and her husband Henry Keke are from Ambrym but live at Tagabe in Port Vila. They were in celebratory mood and felt at peace to be taking part in the Centenary Celebrations of their church at Baiap in West Ambrym last month. Roline Keke received a call from her daughter and was glad that Mao Manuake remembered to call her at Baiap at this time all the way from Port Vila.
“Hello my girl! Is your family well”, her mother asked with joy.
“Mum…” she said then paused then continued, “the reason for this call is to tell you that my husband Ricky Manuake, the father of my children is reported missing on a boat that was returning to Efate from Emae. He is suspected to have drowned and I just don’t know what to do. Who is going to look after the children and I?”, she asked her mother and started crying. She was also four months pregnant.
The sudden news hit her mother like nothing she had ever heard before. “Oh my girl Mao, take courage and don’t cry. Be strong please. Your father and I are coming home to you”, she pleaded with her daughter and blinked as she could not hold back the tears from her own eyes.
As any loving mother would do, she also started crying with her daughter on the phone feeling her pain with her. “Please my girl Mao, I don’t want you to worry but to take courage and be strong to accept any consequence that may come as a result of what happened. Daddy and I are coming now but you have to accept it if the worst comes to the worst…”, she tried to comfort her daughter through her own tears.
Her mother could hear her sobbing voice on the other side of the phone say, “Mummy I don’t know what to do and I am sorry for myself and my children…”.
“Please do not worry any further than where you are at now. This is one of those challenges that we have to face and if the worst comes to the worst then you must accept it”.
Her mother said it was also a major challenge for her and her husband. “We never thought that such a thing would happen to us as we rejoiced in celebrating 100 years of growth of our church”, she said.
“I prayed to God and asked Him to care for the children’s father if he was floating out there at sea and to keep him warm because the weather was cold. My husband and I entered the Power House at Baiap to pray for our daughter’s husband. We drew a bible text from the Promise Box and it said that God would ‘preserve his soul”.
They interpreted the text to mean that his life was in God’s hand and also that as he was originally a member of the Presbyterian Church; their daughter had successfully helped him to know the truth.
On their arrival in Port Vila she immediately went to their daughter and alas, Mao was physically weak because she was pregnant. “I assured her to rejoice as she had won another soul into the faith including their children. I started on the road to comforting her towards recovery. She is making good progress”, she said from her table in the Restaurant Wing of the Market House where she cooks and serves hot meals to her customers.
“I still call her every day on the phone to check on her and to remind her to be strong spiritually. In fact following our tragedy, I stayed with my daughter at home for two weeks to pray with her and encourage her to always remember that God never forsakes His people regardless of the circumstances”.
Roline Keke said she also comforted her daughter’s ‘sister’, Serah Manuake from Makira who was married to Ricky’s only brother Joel Manuke, a teacher at INTV. Both brothers were among the eight passengers not accounted for after the tragedy.
Serah is a mother of five children. “I said to them to trust God and reminded them that in their suffering and challenges with their children, they have to let God become the Father of their children”, she said.
Only God knows what the future holds for the children whose fathers are gone. “I assure both women that this is not the end of the road for them as mothers because God has a thousand ways to deal with such challenges but I also stress to them to make sure that they do not forget God”, she stressed.
She called both women and told them, “Daddies of this world do not have everything that we need and when we ask them for something, sometimes they cannot provide it because they do not have it. But Jesus has everything and when you have faith in Him and ask Him for anything, He will provide it because He has everything”.
She also introduced them to Number 777 and explained that it means that you pray seven days a week and at 7 o’clock in the morning and 7 o’clock at night. “I remind them not to forget God and to pray to Him in line with Number 777”, she said.
Every mother wants the best in life for her daughter to marry into a well secure family especially spiritually and economically. Mao’s Presbyterian-born husband was a hard working carpenter and he had started to attend his wife’s church and was a member of the choir group at church.
He and his brother Joel Manuake joined the trip to Emae to attend the ordination of their new chief after the death of the last chief. The two brothers were among the eight who remained behind on the scene of the tragedy while they waited for the three men to swim to Mataso to get help. That was the last time that they were seen and spoken to by the survivors. Help did arrive but perhaps it was far too late. Nobody knows what happened to them but they were assumed to have drowned.
Roline Keke and her husband Henry Keke have a message to share with our readers as to why God allows such a tragic experience to hit. “My husband and I do not know if some of you have faced similar challenges but we want to tell you that God allows us to go through such challenges to shape our lives to allow us to recognise where we are at, to help us build our faith to become stronger spiritually”, Mrs Keke said.
“We thank God for allowing us to go through our challenge to help us to identify with God. While our daughter is still sad, we keep encouraging her to recognise her place and not allow it to weaken her spiritual focus but build on it to become a stronger mother”.