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Cyprian Morris: Days of My life

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Fifty-eight years as an enthusiastic SMSM leave many days to be remembered with joy and gratitude; some have bright happiness, some with innate sadness but overall contentment. After chilly days at Heretaunga novitiate beside the Hutt River (1946 was a very cold winter) came years of study, time on Maori Mission in Aotearoa New Zealand, and off to an academic life in Samoa where the sun shone and the rain blustered, butterflies abounded and the air was perfumed with flowers. In both places I worked with endearing and interesting people. They are still my friends and in a sense my family.

Renewal of the spirit brought me to Boston area, USA for a period before heading South to our newly established mission in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis on the mighty Mississippi river was a city of contrasts, Our work and dwelling was with beautiful black people, still plagued with close memories of slavery - Martin Luther King had been killed a short time previously and sorrow, resentment and grief were present. In our area about a block from the river, there was poverty and prejudice but also a dawning hope for the future. Times were changing. A new playing field was opened for all the children. All the old people were involved in the life of the area; some of the old ladies (70 plus) were courageously entering into literacy classes every day - 'I want to read the Bible for myself before I die' was one expressed aim; others provided service in baby-sitting from early morn until afternoon when solo parents returned from work. Religion was important and occupied most of Sunday with preaching, singing and giving witness - even children were heavily involved.

The Memphis on the other side of the invisible dividing line was truly beautiful, everything one would expect in the way of gracious and elegant people; streets lined with flowering trees and great order and beauty everywhere. We worked on awareness one of the other, rousing interest with visits, field trips and visits to scenic grandeur and cultural diversions.

Communication was a problem as my clipped New Zealand English speech was not easily received. 'Can't hear a word' was shouted at me by teenagers, eager not to understand as we went on an expedition to the pool or the vast forest where once Martin Luther King had walked and played.

In two ways we moved into the hearts of the young people; teenagers came to our house to have help with homework or school projects and moved as part of the smsm family. Other trips of groups into the fashionable Memphis opened eyes to opulence and beauty; we had access to a country house for weekends and went in small groups to experience the wonder of walking in the dark of a windy night and sleeping alone in all that space - very scary and by morning I was buried under ten or so sleeping bags whose occupants needed to keep in touch.

All this (and much more) was over 25 years ago. Since then I have entered once more into the special beauty of New Zealand and delighted in people and places in the Solomon Islands. All these people and all these places are written in my heart and my prayer map forever.


Cyprian Morris smsm