Ray, Becki and Thano Sparre arrived in Port Vila, Vanuatu on March 2, 2017 for a 3 month MAPS assignment. Ray is teaching the Spring term at Joy Bible Institute in Port Vila. It was like coming home for this family after sixteen years. The last four years of their 28 year missionary career in the Islands of the Pacific were spent here in Vanuatu. Their Island ministry came to an end in 2001 when their son, Thano, was seriously injured in a stateside motorcycle accident. Now, a decade and a half later, the door opened for the Sparres to return for another season of ministry in this island nation.
Something happened the first week at Joy Bible Institute that caused Ray to reflect back to another time, many years ago, when they were serving in the Solomon Islands. While teaching at a small Bible School in Henderson, Ray encountered a student named Paul Puqara (POONG-KARA). Paul, had a genuine conversion experience. He had a very good mind and performed as a top student. But, when the Sparres returned to the Solomon Islands after serving a term in Pohnpei, Ray learned that this promising young man had fallen away from faith. Ray reflects, "The last time I saw Paul, he was half drunk, mouth plastered red with betel nut juice and smelling very bad. It was so sad, and heartbreaking to see such potential apparently wasted".
Fast forward to the first week of Spring term 2017 at Joy Bible Institute in Vanuatu. Ray writes, "There is a student here named Coleman, with his wife Daisy and their three small children from the Solomons. Friday he asked me if I would be willing to dedicate their youngest child, a little baby boy, born in December. A couple days passed, and Becki told Ray that she had seen something on Facebook suggesting that Daisy's family name was Puqara (POONG-KARA) the same as the "Paul" they had known in the Solomon Islands many years ago. Ray and Becki looked at each other and said, "Could it possibly be...?"
Later that day when the family arrived for the dedication it was confirmed that Daisy was Paul's daughter. It was an overwhelming moment for Ray. "I about lost it," he said, "I hugged Daisy and cried rejoicing tears with praise to the Lord. Wow!" Daisy shared how her dad had recovered and is now functioning effectively in ministry..
"What a great story and great reconnection!", Ray writes, "to think that after all these years my heart-break over Paul would here and now turn to joy, and I would get the honor of dedicating Paul Puqara’s grandson, little James Kiel to the Lord ... here in Vanuatu!