Fiji

Final Reflections

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A team from Christchurch has recently returned after a week long Encounter Mission trip to Fiji. The team of 25 offer their final reflections from their time in Fiji. 

The 25-members of the team have visited remote villages that have never hosted a white group before. They attended six churches – from the Suva Cathedral, to the ‘tin cathedral’, to a make-shift church in a bus garage. They have heard about the plights of people kidnapped from the Solomon’s and brought as slave labour to Fiji. They combined with Cathedral youth to minister breakfast on Suva streets before dawn; learnt about specialist laptops developed for majority-world countries at the University. They heard the testimonies and singing of students from an Anglican High School. They met children living in an orphanage. And they experienced living together ‘marae-style’ at the Bible College.

The team sang and taught songs, shared personal testimonies, spoke out publicly to groups, prayed for strangers, and offered themselves to serve as best they could in the villages they went to. So what were some of the common reflections from the team members, mainly aged 15-21 years, many travelling out of NZ for the first time? Here is a summary:

“When I wake up every morning I need to be more grateful for what I have.” “No food, really means ‘NO food’. If you don’t catch fish, you only have your crops to eat.” “The villages gave from what little they have, and they gave us their time.” “Fijian people are so welcoming. We were strangers, but they treated us like family.” “We need to learn to be more thankful for what we have.” “They have a richness of spirit and poverty of wealth, and I would say we were the opposite.” “Second chance schooling was encouraged and appreciated.” “My faith has grown and I want to grow even more in God and stay connected with him.”

The team also has put their lessons into a mission action plan for when they come back to NZ, in response from the incredible, inspiring, life-changing experiences they have had. Commitments they have made include:

To partner and invest in establishing a kindergarten at the coastal village they visited. It needs furniture, books, stationery and toys. A donation by the team of Fj$1600 is being pledged. Bula material for the children at the orphanage is pledged of Fj$400. (The Golden Oldies ladies will then use this material to teach them to make their first-ever bula dresses and shirts in August.) To establish a ‘reverse mission’ and fundraise to bring students from Basden College to NZ for a mission in 2015, maybe even to Easter Camp. To gather up children’s bible story books for the Sunday School group at the tin cathedral who have no books for teaching. To find ways to support the amazing ministry and people of the St Johns Bible College. To give thanks to God for this life-changing experience. This short term mission has enabled the team to grow personally in their faith, but at the same time it has established further partnerships with the people of Fiji, to build the Kingdom of God.

A final thought shared with the team: “Did you know, your visit to that remote Melanesian village way up the Singatoka valley has meant so much to those people. Taking time to travel there has uplifted their spirits. They will talk about it for years. Bula Vinaka”

To hear more about their time in Fiji visit their blog at www.encounterfijimission.com

Fiji update

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Bula all!

Well I don’t quite understand how this has happened but I’m writing this having just spent a month on Fijian soil. Wow time has flown! We’re now two weeks into our first placement at Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral and have been extra blessed to be hosted by the Dean and his family. Change is in the air however with Kristy and I moving to new pastures this afternoon. We are still in the dark as to who our new host families actually are – what an adventure! I’m not quite sure how I feel about the move. On the one hand I’m really excited to experience Fiji from a new angle with the potential of gleaning some Solomon island or Indian perspectives on life. I’m looking forward to making more attempts at cooking Fijian style and hearing some life stories. Connecting and sharing life is such an important part of the culture here – it’s rather special.

So yes, there’s much to look forward to but at the same time it’ll be sad to leave. It’s amazing how much a part of a family you can feel in two weeks! I think it’s definitely a tribute to how welcoming and inclusive the family is as opposed to anything we’ve done on our part. We’ve joined family devotion, learned the art of roti rolling, played multiple games of catch and I’ve had my hair done/pulled in multiple directions by the wee girl! It just dawned on us today that this is almost the first time for the whole year that us interns won’t be living together. In fact I could probably count the nights not spent sharing a room with my Siamese twin (Kristy) on my fingers! I think we’re all going to feel a bit lost without our intern buddies!

Something I’ve been learning is that God has a knack for leading us into the unfamiliar – new environments, unfamiliar worship styles, different ways of putting faith into action, strange names for the familiar (the other day I discovered that a baked bean toasted sandwich is actually a jaffle). I guess it’s in the unfamiliar where we begin to realise that we don’t have all the answers and there’s a need to rely on something (or rather someone) other than ourselves. An uncomfortable thought! So as we go this afternoon, deeper into unfamiliar territory, I’m looking forward (if somewhat apprehensively) to the controls being once again wrenched from my grasp and surrendering this next stage to my God who sees things from a way bigger perspective than little old me. A God whose purposes are eternal and who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

Perhaps surrendering control isn’t such a bad idea after all!

Fiji Reflections

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First I want to say what an amazing and beautiful….and HOT country this is. Plus the hospitality of the people making this Journey even more exciting.

The first couple of days being here was a get-used-to-the-culture (and heat) time. We went to the markets and saw these huge crabs, tried traditional Fijian food like the “Lovo” (food cooked in the ground like the Maori Hangi) and watched these guys praise God in ways I find awesome.

We had the privilege of being apart of a St Luke’s worship and praise night held on a Wednesday, which allows people to sing and praise but also gave them space to share their testimonies and what they are thankful for in their life.  We met the man of the church which I call ‘Uncle Junior’, known for his humour and high pitched laugh. At the cathedral there was a BIG group of Australians here taking a gap year to come to Fiji and do training for mission.

We were then joined with another Australian group with a organisation called ‘Evangelism Explosion’, or ‘Xee’ in short. Xee is a programme that takes you through mission and discipleship training where you do on the job training. With them, we learnt about our fears of approaching people about the Kingdom of God and how to turn that around so we can teach others about the Good News.

Last week we had a group of about 25 youth, leaders and adults come over for a short term mission trip. They were so much fun to be around, to laugh with, to cry with, to experience God’s presence in a way we wouldn’t usually. As we partnered with them, we journeyed with them to places like Basden College, where we learnt a lot about the school history, the school’s famous reputation for singing and even heard a few testimonies, one coming from a boy who loves to sing his heart out. We got to mix and mingle with some of the students – and I found a boy who was 6 ft 9 towering right over me.

After spending a few hours at Basden college, we then set out to St Christopher’s orphanage where we met some people hailing from the mighty Waikato of Dio for Girls. We introduced ourselves as they did themselves, and even traded a few songs with each other. At lunch time, we ate and ate and … well ate till we couldn’t any more. We gathered the boys from the orphanage and team and took them out to play some games of Rugby, Soccer and even Basketball. We met so many new brother’s and sister’s from this visit. It was so good to see the work of the nun’s and what they do for the kids.

Our next trip was to a village which could only be reached to by boat. A lot of us were looking forward to the trip – this village is known to make it’s source of income by fishing, and I love my tuna. We were welcomed onto the village and given Kava to drink as a ‘welcome to our family’ tradition. And this was my first time trying Kava. We then were welcomed to a school of kids that were more energised than some of us were, ready and keen to play rugby before and after lunch – I wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment. We were given a tribal dance performed by the school boys and which made some of us a bit scared. After lunch, we all danced together – I must add, I have some very classy moves. But all in all we sang some gospel songs that the kids of the school could join in and have fun with.

On the last full day with our Kiwi friends we visited a village in Wailouku and were welcomed with such beautiful singing from their choir group. We followed with a huge feast and got the opportunity to meet and greet people. We exchanged songs and even language tips. As our Kiwi friends left the next day, we gave farewells and hugs and words of encouragement to share. I said: “All of you guys grew spiritually only in the few days you guys had here.” Some people have taken back some of the values they had learnt like being grateful to God.

Although it sounds like its all been well and no challenges, it isn’t true. We have all had challenges face us in different times. One of my challenges is humbling myself, knowing that I’m not better than anyone else. Putting others above myself… I find that hard because back in high school, reputation was all about me. But God says in Philippians 2:3, “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves”. That’s my challenge I have been faced with being here in Fiji and I hope to grow spiritually and take on the challenge and finish it and move on.

Three weeks in

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I’ve been in Fiji for three weeks now and it already feels like way longer. The amount that has happened is unbelievable we’ve stayed at three different places and met so many amazing people! We spent a couple of weeks at St John’s, and were made a part of the family there. Over that time we had four short term mission teams that we spent some time with, two from Sydney diocese in Australia, an International team with Evangelism Explosion and a NZ team from Shirley, Christchurch. It was great to have these teams around and one of the Australian teams ran an EE workshop that we found really interesting and helpful. However, after spending time with the different teams, I was challenged in thinking through the purpose of short term mission, or even mission as a whole. The places we visited often had very little and gave us more than they could provide, and that was the Fijian way to do things. It went as far as a whole fishing village having a public holiday just for our visit.

It’s easy to feel like I’m coming in to show people how things are done. This made me ask: what does it mean to be a Learner and a Servant when we have the privilege to visit these places? Being a Learner-Servant is a key model that we interns have looked at, recognising we do not have more knowledge or skills to give, rather have more to learn and receive when we are welcomed to another’s home. Would we spend more than we could afford when a guest visits our home? How do we appreciate such amazing hospitality and serve those who want to honour us – their guests.

I finally lost it with myself when we at a village we were visiting and meant to be helping we got very publicly referred to as tourists. I realised that’s pretty much what we were, and it left me wondering how we were to do anything here in Fiji if that how we’re always seen. I spent a few days pretty unsure of things and trying to figure out why Im in Fiji, when one of the St John’s staff started giving me jobs to do and joking with me. It gave me a realisation that I was becoming a part of the family there, and to them I was no longer a guest at St John’s, I figured that if I belonged there, then I could get to a point where I belonged in Fiji and was no longer a stumbling tourist. As to where short term mission fits in, I had my big uh ha moment when the NZ team were doing their debrief and almost all of them talked about how they could be more missional at home. I figure if a few weeks experiencing another culture on a short term mission trip can change how someone responds to being missional at home then it’s pretty worth it.

Orientation to a new culture

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It feels like we’ve been here forever, so much has happened the first 2 weeks even though we are taking it ‘slow’! My feet are enjoying their release from the confines of sneakers and I haven’t had to wear a jersey once! We had a great transitioning couple of days with Kirstin’s aunty, a kiwi who married a Fijian, and she had some really good tips for how to become a part of their culture. As far as cities go Suva is quite beautiful with heaps of green, lovely bushy bits to walk and hills. The locals we’ve met from the churches we’ll be having quite a lot to do with are lovely, so warm and welcoming and … they are incredible cooks! Curries, traditional lovo (like our hangi), tropical fruit, freshly baked bread – we’ve been utterly spoilt!

So far we’ve just been doing orientation – getting our bearings, learning how to use buses, meeting heaps of people, going to various church services and worship nights. We spent three days with an Aussie team who’ve come to train people in how to share their faith. That’s been a bit scary with on the job training involving wandering into town and talking to real-live people!

We said good-bye to Kirstin on Friday so are now officially ‘on our own’ in the depths of Fiji. Our grief over her departure was slightly lessened by being joined by a youth team from Shirley in Christchurch. We tagged along on trips to villages, a childrens home, serving breakfast to people on the streets. All these experiences have challenged me quite deeply. As we visited the villages I was shocked by how people who had so little honoured us with so much. It didn’t sit very well with me that they potentially used a good chunk of their resources – fish caught that day, chickens, veges – to feed us. How do I graciously receive what they offer when I know it comes at such a sacrifice? These are people who live everyday with the question: will I catch enough to survive today? Yet they were so gracious and thankful for what they had. Pretty convicting!

I love how community orientated people are over here. How people are so ready to have a good time together, to get up and dance and sing. One person starts dancing and suddenly the whole village is up and boogieing – a good experience for us reserved kiwis!

We’ve just started our first six week placement at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Suva. I’m still a bit unsure about what we’ll be doing. I think we’ll have a bit to do with the kindy and school which the church oversees, lead some devotions, run the book stall at the church bazaar on Friday. Basically we’re up for anything! The priest in charge is great, a real hard case with heaps of experience and wisdom too. He’s almost like a Dad to us, and in fact will be for at least a week as we are all being hosted by him and his family. Which brings me to a prayer request. At this stage we were all meant to be hosted by different families but Kristy is a bit under the weather so we’ve all been taken in under the priests wing. Please pray for recovery of energy for Kristy and for healing – that her cold won’t transition into something more serious.

Thank you (vlog)

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Our Haerenga Three want to say thank you for all your support. Please remember them in your prayers. Some of them are still in need of financial support to get them through to the end of the internship. If you feel God prompting you to help out with this please contact us.

Applications for Haerenga 2015 are now open – http://www.nzcms.org.nz/haerenga

To donate to our Haerenga Interns visit http://www.nzcms.org.nz/get-involved-3/donate-to-nzcms/. Write “Haerenga” as the reference.

The Interns have Landed

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Bula!

After a rather extended journey (requiring some good old missionary-like flexibility) we have our feet planted firmly on Fijian soil. In fact they are quite literally on the soil with my winter white tootsies rather enjoying their release from the confinement of sneakers. My taste buds are also having a great time – currently savouring their first Fijian banana. Yum!

Yesterday we made an exploratory journey by local bus to Suva, our home for the next 3+ months. As far as cities go it’s surprisingly pleasant with a beautiful waterfront, trees and even some hills.

First impressions: – A fascinating mush of Fijian, Indian and western influences. – Some shockingly expensive supermarket food – $18 for a box of muesli! – Markets full of fresh fruit and veges- heaven! – Lovely, smiley locals

It’s strange how familiar things like supermarket shopping take so much more energy in an unfamiliar environment! After finishing our shopping mission most of the team required naps. We’re already learning local tricks like doing dishes without filling a sink and tonight we’re attempting a curry using real coconut milk. Just have to get it out of the coconut…

Right must get to the cooking, photos will hopefully follow shortly.

Bye for now, Nat.

The Great Commissioning

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On Sunday night we had the privilege of joining our Haerenga Interns at their commissioning service at St Christopher’s here in Christchurch. It was an amazing time. Each of them shared the highs and lows from their journey so far. We then had the privilege of gathering around them and praying for them alongside their new friends, mentors and leaders. It has been very special to  journey with them over these four months – four months which have flown past!

These three youngin’s have truly become a part of the NZCMS family. Although we’re excited that they will soon be serving God in Fiji, we will thoroughly miss their presence in the office. Their passion for God, their desire to learn and their heart for mission have been an inspiration to us all.

With all this in mind, can I ask you a big favour?

If you had the chance, perhaps you’d want to take one of our interns out for coffee so they could share some of their story with you. Imagine how great it would be to take them for coffee every week of their internship to learn how their story unfolds. Well, they leave for Fiji in just over week so the prospect of a coffee isn’t all that feasible. But perhaps you could use the money you would spend on that weekly coffee to sponsor one of their missional journeys. Even just $5 a week for the next 6 months will make a huge difference, enabling them to serve God during this season. What’s even more exciting is that this season will set them up for a life passionate about mission!

Now, it wouldn’t be fair to put forward a request like this without taking it seriously myself. So how about we make a deal. If five people join up to support one of our interns at least $5 a week, I’ll do the same! Does that sound like a fair deal? If you’re interested either contact us (03 377 2222) or follow the giving instructions here.

To give to Natalie use the code 04Ym19. To give to Kristy use the code 04YM21. To give to Warena use the code 04YM20.

Lastly, please do be praying for these three over the next six months while the Interns are in Fiji. Your prayers are ever so valuable.

Click here to download an image of the interns. You can  print it out and stick it on your fridge? It can remind you to pray for them throughout the day.