Fiji

Final reflections from Fiji

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Here are some reflections from Graeme Mitchell on the recent Golden Oldies mission encounter in Fiji. The full article, along with many photos, can be read by clicking here.

Farewell Fiji, again.

“Many Fijians have so little, but they have given us so much, to make us feel welcome and part of their families” “I feel so humbled and inspired from this mission”

These phrases summarise many of the team’s observations of their days visiting and contributing to mission projects around Suva.

Supporters Generosity

The Mission commenced with many residents from Archer, families, friends, supporter groups, churches, previous Golden Oldies members contributing to the mission with donated equipment and materials; donations to purchase specialist equipment to take; and commitments to pray for the mission.

We purchased medical equipment and supplies, laptops, kitchen utensils, guitars, received donated carpentry tools, sports uniforms, childrens bible stories, bibles, school stationery, scientific calculators, teaching instruction manuals on core cirriculum subjects, family packs of childrens books and towels-soaps-toothbrushes, sheets, towels, pillow cases, tea towels, and other items that came to a total of 150kg of excess baggage.

Fiji Airways in their generosity heard about the mission to suppport the people of Fiji and offered to donate the full 150kg of space ‘free of charge’. That has never occurred before, and we were very appreciative of their sponsorship to bring all these treasures to their Fijian people.

We landed in Nadi, Fiji and all 21 boxes of excess freight thankfully were claimed off the conveyor belt, with only 40-minutes to find our ‘ground courier’ who was going to drive all the freight to Suva, 5-hours away. But, there was Customs to get through. We were required to have an Import certificate, Customs broker and pay import tax! An official Customs Officer opened the first box (50 children’s books) and started asking how much each book was valued at. Time was ticking on. 30-minutes before we had to check-in for our domestic flight to Suva. He asked about what we were doing, requiring a description of each box, then suddenly said ‘oh away you go, no charge this time’ There’s a saying in Fiji that says ‘God is good…All the time…God is good’ How very true that was at that moment with the many prayers of people supporting the mission.

Rushing through the terminal, we met our driver, crammed all 21 boxes into his car, and he headed for Suva. We met him at the Bible College 4-hours later! His car must’ve had wings!! This event was the beginning of many little miracles that we encountered every day of this mission, as we saw God’s presence touch the hearts of people we met.

Bible College Home

The Bible College near completion, after its significant development

The team returned to their ‘spiritual home’ again this year at the St Johns Bible College, after the College has been going through a major redevelopment over the past 2-years. Although not quite completed, the GOM team were the first ‘guests’ to be allowed to stay at the newly expanded College. Some slept in the yet to be completed Cafeteria, to ensure all the team could remain on the campus. The Chambers extended family showered the team in their love, wonderful hospitality and care, with the team being so appreciative, as every other team has felt in previous years. A sanctuary for a tired team as they returned to the college each evening.

Villages become families

The Villages welcomed the team, more as returning friends than visitors or strangers. The benefit of returning each year building trust, and renewing friendships was evident through the continued ‘talanoa’ (conversations) we had.

Arriving one evening to a squatter village on a hillside outside Suva, the village had prepared a makeshift shelter with tarps draped over the bamboo poles protecting us from the monsoon downpour we were encountering. This was the meeting room for that evenings event. From a kava ceremony, to formal introductions, to lovu-cooked food, to children dancing, and then engaging with Golden Oldies to dance under the stars on rain-soaked spongy grass, this became the model for many of the team visits to other squatter settlements we visited.

But there is a serious side to all this, as well as gifting some of the supplies we had brought with us, we wanted to further the partnership to build village well-being and offer spiritual encouragement.

 Micro-enterprises

One of the main projects significantly advanced was the ‘mud-brick’ vision. To establish training in brick-making and carpentry skills, to then build affordable cyclone-proof housing and church buildings for these squatter villages. In addition to this is the expectation to sell bricks as another money source alongside their fish and veges currenlty sold at the road side.

 

Roger and Thomas, along with Alfred from Fiji, spent all week meeting church and village leaders, developing, revising, then revising their plans that could make the project genuinely feasible. At weeks end, they announced their much anticipated proposal.

 

A Project Manager is being employed by Golden Oldies to oversee the establishment and development of the making of mud bricks in 3 villages, one on the other main island of Vanua Levu. They are importing 2-new mud brick machines from China to compliment the one already about to start operation in making bricks. The first bricks made are going to complete a demonstration affordable home, a new Sunday school and extension to a church.

 

Building materials are scarce and expensive in Fiji , and being the first to offer this alternative cheaper mud-brick to expensive cement-bricks could help take the squatter villages out of poverty and overseas aid dependency, to offer these village-churches some greater self-determination and regular employment for their men folk. The next 6-months will be a very interesting time for all involved, and something the Golden Oldies are very proud of supporting through fundraising for the seed money needed, technical and operational support as partners in the project.

Crafts expansion and diversification

One remote squatter village we visit relies solely on sales from its minute crops and fishing. The men row for 1.5-hours through mangrove creeks to the ocean, then another 5km out to sea to catch their fish, then return on the incoming tide with their catch. Sadly they are noting a reduced quantity of fish available, and with the sea levels notably rising as they share their concerns for their survival. Furthermore, on their village border demand for new housing is bringing the bulldozers alarmingly closer to invade their village lifestyle of decades. With all that doom and gloom, they challenged us! Get on with what you have and continue to innovate. Last year the team saw them experimenting with making grass brooms to sell. They had made two. And by the end of that mission they had made another 10 and delivered them before the team departed.

 

This year, they were prepared for the GOM teams arrival, and it was beyond our wildest dreams. They had diversified to make a range of crafts to sell. By the end of this visit they couldn’t believe they had sold everything, amazed and proud of their efforts. The value of their morning sales was equivalent to 5-months of selling fish and veges at the road side stall! Visiting this village every year by the Golden Oldies has brought deepening friendships and  some measure of new hope for the diversification of their micro-businesses.

 

To read the rest of this article and to see the many photos, click here.

A little old church with a big punch

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An update from the ‘Golden Oldies’ in Fiji. 

St Lawrence Church is the oldest Anglican Church on this island and is over 150-years old – and it looks like it! But this small church wants to spread God’s love into a town where over 50% of its community lives below the poverty line.

Situated in the heart on the main street it is a ‘light of hope’ for the locals that comprise a large number of Hindi faith. A woman’s ministry to new young mothers at the local maternity hospital is one example. Ladies visit weekly and deliver clothing and blankets to the new Mum’s at this bustling hospital that has an average of 3 births/day -on average! The Golden Oldies went and met the nurses and the new Mums with two Mums with one-hour old babies.

This followed to a visit next door where Archer nurse Adele and Junior Golden Oldie Andrea have been working in a 24/7  Health Centre where they attend to 500 patients/day. The medical equipment from Archer residents donations and fundraising was gratefully received and is highly valued. This equipment will increase the number of patients they can see daily and it was heart warming to see how much difference it will make in this community

For more updates from the ‘Golden Oldies’ click here.

 

The Evolution of Golden Oldies (Issue 22)

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For the past three years Graeme and Jane Mitchell have led teams of ‘Golden Oldies’ on short mission trips to Fiji. Each year this group, consisting mostly of retirees, discover that participation in God’s mission is for everyone. They even take a nurse with them to make sure everyone can participate. The Golden Oldies have returned inspired and now see new ways they can help with the variety of mission projects in and around Fiji.

The short-term Golden Oldies mission trips are expanding. Previous years’ Golden Oldies are being inspired – and energised – to return for further mission adventures. Last year’s trip became a bit of a ‘McDonalds Combo’ with our returning Golden Oldies being known as the ‘Graduates’ and the first-timers as the ‘Interns.’

Interns

The Interns spent the time visiting and learning about mission projects in Fiji. Like previous trips we visited ministries focused on everything from housing to education to health. We also expanded to include aged-care and even a prison ministry. One of our rather nervous Golden Oldies found the prison visit especially engaging: “We were the first people to visit this so-called juvenile prison… only to find out the age range was actually 17-80 years old. That was a shock before we even got through the gate! But what a wonderful experience it was.” As a result of this visit, a new prison ministry with a local Anglican church is being established.

Graduates

Meanwhile the Graduates used their years of experience and skills to transfer knowledge to a number of ministries. Teachers were able to pass on their wisdom to teachers and students. Biblical teaching was offered to students and ministers at the Bible College. Medical training and support was given at a village hospital. Sulus were sown for the girls at an orphanage. And a woman’s craft day was run to teach ladies a range of crafts.

Rev. Amy Chambers, principal of St Johns Bible College in Suva, says “the Golden Oldies are no longer strangers to us, they are family. We are encouraged by their missions and it is building a special partnership with the churches of Fiji and New Zealand.”

Youth Mission

Prior to this trip, a short-term youth team was sent to Fiji as well. The NZCMS Haeranga interns joined up with the team and together they visited a number of mission projects. One of the interesting observations was how much Fijian students value their education. Basden College, an Anglican School, offers second-chance education to students who have fallen off the rails. These students shared their testimonies of been given a second chance at school, and this impacted our youth significantly! As a result of this trip, several team members are now looking at joining the Haeranga Mission Internship in the future.

In July this year we will be running another youth mission trip, and in August, another Golden Oldies trip. Please get in touch if you are interested!

 

Contact Graeme and Jane Mitchell          021 460 338         graeme@goldenoldiesmission.com

www.goldenoldiesmission.com

 

Originally published in Intermission (Issue 22, May 2015)

God of my Journey

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This week’s blog comes from Natalie Downes – one of our recently graduated Haerenga Interns from 2014. This year has been one of many experiences, challenges, and growth.

You learn many things while living in a new culture – sometimes unexpected things. Learning how to weave a traditional Fijian mat wasn’t on the list of things I expected to learn, but I’ve discovered the process captures something of my journey through the Haerenga Internship.

To prepare a mat, the process involves cutting down the plant, stripping the thorns, and putting in a process that changes the nature of the plant till it’s ready to be woven together… The journey is not an easy one. From comfort to discomfort, undergoing change is painful at times – this year has been a great life changing process. When I think of a mat as my journey I know there’s the Master Weaver who has been faithfully weaving together the strands of my journey, taking the highs and lows, the struggles, learning and joys and weaving it into something beautiful.

My journey is nowhere near complete. One thing I’ve learnt this year is that mission isn’t something we step in and out of. It’s a lifestyle, a lifestyle of open hands, open eyes and ready feet. A readiness to serve when you see a need, to step out onto shaky waters when He nudges.

One of my daily happenings during my final placement at St Christopher’s home in Fiji was to wander with the kids to school, sometimes with two on each hand and one clinging to my sulu! After a week or so of doing this I started to recognise the people we passed every day and began to make some ‘road friends.’ There was the Indian lady on her front porch, an older woman raking, Aunty Va selling veges. One time I met a lady selling milk which somehow led to me running off on a spontaneous fishing trip with her family! You never know where a hello may lead!

I still struggle with the whole conversation/sharing thing. Is it enough to just make friends, to listen to their stories or should I be more ‘evangelistic’, trying to get God in there in some kinda obvious way. Perhaps God speaks anyway whether or not I actually say his name – in the smiles, in taking the time to stop. These encounters allow me to ‘see Jesus’ in the people on my journey. People on the side of the road become ‘road friends’ when we take the time to notice them, and listen to their story. I thank God for weaving these precious people into my story, even if our encounter is momentary.

Engaging in mission like this is not something I’ll leave in Fiji but a way of life I hope to continue. An orientation towards community and sharing, a readiness to invite people home, to chat, to listen. An awareness that I am blessed to share, I am given things so that I can be generous.

My mat still has holes and loose ends, struggles and unanswered questions, but I’ve seen God’s faithfulness throughout this year (often in hindsight!) and I know that something’s taking shape even though often it just looks like a big mess of flax. My mat will probably never be finished but I look forward to the weaving process and I trust my Master Weaver.

 

THE MUSE

Sometimes we are caught in the little details of life and can’t see or trust a bigger picture – the Master Weaver is at work even when we cannot see it. What part of your story do you need to trust the Weaver with this week?

THE MOVE

Spend some time with these words and prayerfully enter into the response and trust this prayer invites.

God of our journey remind us that you are near by Joyce Rupp.

 

As we journey through life, we often face fear of the unknown, doubts, hesitations, anxieties and insecurities.

      God of our journey remind us that you are near…

Life is an unfolding mystery, sometimes a painful search and sometimes a wonderful discovery

      God of our journey remind us that you are near…

Our hearts are restless, because we are pilgrim hearts whose Home is not here

      God of our journey remind us that you are near…

When our footsteps grow weary, when we stumble along the way, discouraged, and doubt so easily comes forth to meet us

      God of our journey remind us that you are near…

We are always learning what to leave behind and what to take with us as we move along the road of life

      God of our journey remind us that you are near…

We encounter God continually in the constant cycle of ‘setting out’ and ‘coming Home’. Sometimes we allow life to be so busy as we travel, that we miss this Special Presence

      God of our journey remind us that you are near…

Expectancy, anticipation and courage rise up in our beings when we are open to the ways of God in the wilderness

      God of our journey remind us that you are near…

In our journey we need a strong conviction about the beauty and goodness of life, a vision of hope that endures the pain and the struggle, and a thread of love that weaves through all our dreams…

      God of our journey remind us that you are near…

God of our journey, we need a burning bush to set our hearts aflame with deep love of you. When the road of life seems long and tedious; when the dying and rising gets to be too much, be that pillar of fire by night. Be that comforting cloud by day, so that we cannot only see the way but can be confident of your gracious presence which is our strength and our hope. Thank you for your nearness.

      God of our journey remind us that you are near…

Haerenga meets Middleton

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After leaving Waidradra village we got one day of debrief and rest before starting on our next adventure: joining twelve Year 13 students and two teachers from Middleton Grange High School, Christchurch for a whirlwind two week missions trip in the West (along with Jon, the awesome and ever encouraging NZCMS communications guy who doubled as one of the trip leaders).

Initially I was a bit apprehensive about the whole thing as I went from feeling like we were almost blending in with the Fijian way of life to again being a very obvious group of white foreigners. However I was quickly put at ease by the way the group approached the trip, being so keen to learn the Fijian ways, to grow and be challenged by what they experienced.

I’m still not entirely sure what our official role was with the team but I think I ended up being a kind of blend of cultural advisor/ big sister/ added volume in songs… basically extra hands for whatever came up. And my goodness plenty came up! It was a bit of a shock to go from our more marathon-like pace to the short term mission sprint. There were school classes to take, sports matches to play, assemblies to run (sometimes off the cuff, a true mission experience!), hospital visits, house visits, village visits, meals with priests, sermons, songs, testimonies, swimming, horse riding and that’s just a taster!

Some stand out moments.

Teaching at a primary school in Sigatoka. Basically our team of four was thrown in front of a group of 50+ excitable Year 5 students in a very small room and asked to entertain the kids for 50 mins. 50 minutes later we didn’t want to stop! I think we all had just as much fun as the kids singing songs, teaching actions and acting out David and Goliath (complete with marching armies).

Warm welcomes. These were had wherever we went but a particular stand out was in Lautoka where all 18 of us were welcomed into the Bishop’s own home to stay. It would have been much less of a hassle and intrusion for our hosts if we had stayed in the church building, but in true Fiji style they would have none of that. What a testimony of the Fijian hospitality and love.

Stepping out. I was challenged to step out of my happy, comfort box and preach my first sermon on Fiji soil. Took me long enough!

The team. It was a real pleasure to journey with the team and watch them go from being awkward bystanders to embracing the culture: being swamped with kids, initiating conversations with randoms and diving into new situations instead of hanging back. Please keep the team in your prayers as they settle back in New Zealand and ponder what God has for their futures.

The Happenings to Come.

I’ll spend the next week in Suva hopefully making the most of my holiday time. I think there’ll be plenty of Skype dates and emails as I assure various family members and friends that I am still alive and kicking after my leave of absence! Following that we start our final (what?!) months placement in St Christopher’s Home which is an orphanage just out of Suva run by some lovely Anglican nuns. From what I can gather we’ll spend our afternoons and weekends with the kids and during the day be involved with ministry stuff in the local Anglican Church of St Christophers or helping the nuns…we shall see what excitement pans out!

Natalie’s reflections

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I have found my way back to some internet with time to spare so I’m thinking it’s high time for an official update of our recent goings on. So much has been happening in the past few weeks it’s hard to know where to begin. Last time I left you hanging one week into my village stay so we shall start from there.

 

Village Happenings.

What an amazing experience. Four weeks of village happenings: an after school program with 50 or so kids. Daily prayer rhythms (starting at 5am!). Swims at the beach and river. Fish caught, cooked and eaten within minutes. A bonfire with kiwi style sausage and bread. Buckets of washing to pound. So much singing, a couple of funerals, multiple breakfasts in one day…

 

A few things that struck me the most.

The ‘community-ness.’ This has been such a beautiful thing to see and a privilege to be a part of. From what I gathered, community here means no one goes wanting, if you have a little you share. A catch of fish sometimes makes its way around the whole village! When I wandered through the village at a meal time there was without fail a call to ‘Mai vakasiga levu’ (come, have lunch) often from people I hadn’t even met. It’s a real testimony to how big the Fijian hearts are, how ready they are to share their food and lives. I experienced community in joyous times and in struggles, being bound together as we shared birthday celebrations and mourned the loss of someone close. It was wonderful seeing the way the youth and young adults cared for the younger village kids as brothers and sisters and how the kids were welcomed into any house for a meal.

The commitment of Father Demesi (the Anglican priest in the village) to the church. Even though often there were just two or three gathered for 5am morning prayer he still wandered across to church every day to begin thanking his Lord.

The interesting way of washing. Basically they take a huge bucket, fill it with water and clothes and then take a large pipe and pound! Apparently they were just handwashing clothes until they saw this pipe method on a Taiwanese movie (or something like that) and decided to give it a try!

 

Some musings, wise or otherwise.

Being available. I’ve been learning the importance of making yourself available – approaching houses, saying yes to offers of breakfast and a chat, moving my past fears of awkwardness and intrusion. Some of my most precious conversations have happened when I’ve done just that. A spontaneous chat with an Aunty in the village turned into a nightly family prayer with her and her five kids – where we sang ‘I’m gonna clap, clap, clap, snap, snap, snap and praise the Lord’ so enthusiastically that I think the whole village could probably hear!

Mission is messy. Coated in dust and dog poo, snotty noses and sticky hands. Late nights, heavy eyes, fuzzy brains. Dealing with multiple plans, changing plans, or no plans at all. Embracing the familiar ‘uncomfortableness’ of having no idea what you are doing, should be doing or will be doing next. Yet out of all this mess comes real beauty. Kids’ laughter. Games of duck-duck goose and tag. Beautiful drawings, a shared sunrise, spontaneous worship. Deep friendships, stomach-hurting laughter and shared sorrows. Family, community, love.

 

A few prayer needs.

Next placement. Our next placement will be with the St Christopher’s Orphanage. It would be awesome to be able to invest into the children in ways that last. They are used to having so many visitors coming into their lives one day and leaving the next and I’m not sure how we can make a real difference. Please pray for wisdom in this.

Myself. In this last month I’m aware that it would be easy to get comfortable and forget to step out and continue to be challenged. It’d be awesome to have prayer that I’ll recognise and grab hold of new opportunities (or even make some!). I’d love to grow more in sharing encouragements with people, in praying for healing and in preaching. All these things make me a bit uncomfortable so I think I’ll need that extra nudge to actually take the step when the time comes.

Fiji, Faith and Justin Bieber

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I’ve made it back from Fiji! It’s been a whirlwind little tour.

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!

On the way to Fiji

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I’m now on my way to Fiji, sitting in my little seat several kilometers above the ground. Tomorrow morning I’ll see our Haerenga Interns for the first time since they left NZ a few months ago. They are excited to see me as well – and I got a call early yesterday morning just making sure everything was in order for my visit… and to make sure I hadn’t forgotten to bring them chocolate!

On Wednesday we’ll spend the day filming footage for a new Haerenga promotional video. We’ll also be documenting their experience as they take me on a tour of the village that has become there home over the past number of weeks. After that we’ll spend a couple of days doing a mid-way debrief, processing their journey in Fiji thus far.

On Friday we’ll be joined by a team of year 13 students from Middleton Grange School. We as NZCMS are assisting them with an Encounter Team short-term mission trip. I’m joining the team as the “mission consultant” (a nice title I think!) and for good measure we thought our Interns could join as well. We’ll spend almost two weeks visiting churches, schools, orphanages as well as spending time meeting people on the streets and in the markets. These students are about to be leaving school, facing the great big world for themselves. What an amazing bridge into adulthood – a time of discovering the world and serving other people.

 

Here’s a little message from Manaia, one of the team:

In the September school holidays a group of fourteen, year thirteen students from Middleton Grange School in Christchurch will be travelling over to Fiji for two weeks on a short-term missions trip. For many of us, this will be our first time on a missions trip. We will begin in Sigatoka, where will be connecting with the community through the church, schools and a hospital. After Sigtoka, we will travel up to Nadi and Lautoka, where again we will be immersed in the rich Fijian culture and actively involved in community life. This journey has the potential to be a life changing experience, so we ask for your earnest prayers for our safety and that God will use us to impact the people we encounter on this trip. We also ask that you continue to pray for the nation of Fiji, that God will continue to heal its people and bless its churches.

 

Please be praying for me and the team over the next few weeks. I’ll be doing my best to write the occasional blog post – so long as the internet will allow me!

Haerenga Happenings

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I have now officially been a Waidradra villager for one week! First impressions… Hmmm. There’s so much life! Kids running around, dogs in various states, puppies and chickens popping up in bedrooms, roosters crowing at all hours off the day and night! I love the communitiness (I have a feeling that I just made a new word!) of the place. We all eat sitting around the tablecloth which is spread on the floor. Whenever anyone comes past you call “Mai, gugu tea” (come have breakfast)! Everyone is related in someway or another and I now have many ma’s, pa’s, momo’s (uncles). We’ve been taught how to plant cassava at the farm (normally a male job but I managed to tag along!). Other new experiences include my first bush bash in a sulu, tasting a jack fruit (a big, ugly spiky thing that tastes like a strange mix of banana and pineapple), cooking everyday over a fire, oh and 5am morning prayer! I get jolted out of bed every morning by the banging of the lali, signalling the beginning of the rhythms of daily prayer which shape many of the villagers’ lives. There’s something rather cool about the first croaky words escaping from my mouth each morning being ones of praise to God.

Something that I discovered very quickly is what a luxury privacy and space is and how much I take it for granted. I’ve been really blessed to discover the beautiful beach which is within running distance of the village. It’s become my place of retreat in the morning before facing the hubbub of village life.

The interesting thing about being close to such beautiful sandy beaches is that the village is right near some rather fancy resorts. I think the mere proximity of the two makes the contrast between village living and resort life very stark. Two worlds in tension and I feel like we are hanging somewhere in between – not a particularly comfortable place to be! We’ve already been offered horse rides and boat rides to nearby islands which many locals haven’t had the chance to experience.

This first week has been the hardest yet in Fiji, though I’m not too sure why. Perhaps it’s a bit to do with what I mentioned above – language barriers and a general dip in excitement making me question why I’m here and whether we have anything to offer. Somehow though, a couple of days within the mayhem of our after school program (our main task while in the village) and I’m feeling much more alive and excited to be involved. God is good! Please pray for inspiration in how to teach the kids – that we would be able to be creative and have fun while still learning about God and their place in his plans.

We’ve all been having a go at learning Fijian with varying degrees of success! The locals are so excited to teach us which is lovely and I’ve been really enjoying connecting with people. I’ve even ended up getting ukelele lessons! My hope is that in these conversations there will be opportunities to encourage people in their faith, to share and pray. Please pray for boldness in taking these openings, for discernment and the right words (especially where English is not well understood).

Thank you for your prayers and support. May you be comforted and hopeful knowing that in God we find shelter, refuge and strength.

Cathedral Happenings

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We are now 3 weeks into our 5 week placement at the Anglican Cathedral in Suva. It’s been a real mix of experiences and paces. Our typical day goes something like this: 8 30am devotion with staff. …

Yep, that’s about all that we can be sure of!

It’s pretty organic, even if plans are made they’re bound to change so we just take things as they come!

So what has come? We’ve done a few devotions with the kids in the kindy attached to the church. This usually involves fending off about 20 kids each who all want to hold our hands, touch our hair, show us their monkey bar tricks and lament about the girl beside them who apparently doesn’t want to be their friend anymore! Eventually we do manage to do some sort of devotion – the kids are especially fond of the action song ‘I’m gonna clap, I’m gonna snap and praise the Lord.’ Somehow I’ve also ended up as a Sunday School teacher … more clap clapping and snap snapping!

Further happenings involve piling plates with food at a funeral, singing Fijian and Hindi worship songs, selling books at the church bazaar and being part of the daily church services. They’re slowly giving us more responsibility in these services – tomorrow I’m in charge of intercession (prayers for church, world etc.). Having not had a particularly Anglican upbringing, words like liturgy and Eucharist were foreign to me and the practice of saying words altogether seemed a wee bit robotic (no offence intended!) However, as I’ve actually listened to what is said I’ve come to appreciate how God focused it is – you basically spend the whole time praising him instead of just looking at the me (what he’s done for me, how much he loves me etc.). It’s beautiful. Something else that’s struck me is hearing God worshipped in another tongue. We had the privilege of visiting an elderly man at the hospital with one of the cathedral priests who conducted the communion in Hindustani. Even though I couldn’t make head nor tail of anything said it was so cool!

We’ve also had the chance to work up a sweat (not that that takes much in this temperature!) We had a spontaneous afternoon of house moving last week, helping a lady and her grandson shift a very impressive amount of boxes between houses. Saturdays are spent church cleaning where I’ve learnt that cleaning windows is not my ideal job – they’re never quite clean enough for my liking! I also got another chance to join the women who do hospital ministry. We prayed for a couple of wee kids and I was amazed at how thankful the mothers were, that something so simple could mean so much. One of the mums, a Hindu woman, shared about how she had seen a process of healing in her daughter after she had been prayed for a few months ago. This girl who just a few weeks ago had her eyes rolled back, tongue out with no ability to sit was now able to focus, had the beginnings of speech and she was sitting. Woah! It all seems rather busy when I share like this but there has also been spaces: time for personal devotions, walks and runs and also times of sitting, waiting and not knowing. To be honest I struggle with this a bit. I’m one for action and feel like we’re here to serve so we should be serving. It’s challenged me to do some rethinking. What is mission? Does it have to be doing? Or can we get so caught up in the action that we miss the moments of just sitting and listening? The other day I went to help at a bazaar at an old people’s home but there was an oversupply of helpers so I just ended up sitting with an old Indian woman for a few hours, listening to stories of her life. Is this a waste of time or just time invested differently? Is taking time to pray, journal and just soak in God’s presence mission? It doesn’t seem like that’s helping anyone but myself. But then again perhaps it’s the core of it all, the foundations of where effective mission comes from. When is it time to serve and when is it time to graciously receive? So many questions!