It started off with visting our three Haerenga Interns for a debrief. It was fantastic to see them in the village context that had been their home for over a month and I was amazed to hear Warena conversing in the local language - I've been trying to learn Norwegian for about 7 years, yet he's already about as far along with his Fijian! We then hopped on a bus across the Island to meet the team of students from Middleton Grange School, spending the next couple of weeks traveling with them.
I've not been part of a short-term team for a good number of years and I wasn't quite sure how things would turn out. As should be expected when you throw a bunch of young adults (with only a couple of months before they graduate I don't think they can be called kids anymore!) into a foreign context, the first few days were a little rocky. But we quickly found our feet as a team.
Most of the team dove on in head first - preaching for the first time, sharing testimonies for the first time, singing in front of groups for the first time, offering personal prayer for the first time. Some were a little more hesitant, but over the trip they also warmed up and started stepping out more and more. I can honestly say that every one of this group grew in their faith considerably over this short span on time.
To give you some insight into the sorts of things we got up to, we spent two days visiting a school in Sigatoka. On the first day we split our team into three groups, each group taking four Religious Education classes over the course of the day - quite the 'deep-end experience' for students who have never taught a class in their lives! My team was the cream of the crop (sorry other teams - but I really do love my little team)!
Our first class was a great hit - it turns out white folk dancing terribly at the front of the class is quite the amusing sight. Plus I came up with a neat trick to get the energy levels high from the start. Throughout the day you could hear the constant commotion coming from the other classrooms where our teams were sharing. In a quiet voice I commented about how every class was listening to the noise coming from all the other classes, wondering if they were missing out on the best show. So, to make all the other classes wonder what on earth was going on - and to make them wish they were in our class - we were all going to start laughing. Quietly at first, then building into a fury of hilarity. We'd take it down for a moment, then quickly build to an overwhelming roar of laughter. And when the other classes asked what had gone on, we'd all just say "you had to be there" and leave it at that.
Needless to say, we made all the other classes very curious!
It wasn't all fun and games. The students took the opportunity to share their faith. One of my team shared her testimony openly with the classes and I'm certain it struck home for many. She'd also share a song or two with the class that related to what she had to say. It therefore seemed fair that, in a Year 11 class, one of the students share a song with us. After a lot of giggling one of the girls was nominated and came up the front. I was expecting a Fijian song so was surprised to understand the words she was singing. It wasn't until we reached the chorus that I realized I knew the song - "Baby" by Justin Bieber. Needless to say, this was my favorite rendition of the song - thanks to the drumming on desks, the 30 person backing chorus, the Fijian swag added to an originally underwhelming song, along with the fact that me and the team couldn't stop laughing at the whole situation.
So there you have it: Faith, Fiji and Justin Bieber collided in the most unexpected way!