Golden Oldies

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.

Golden Oldies to visit Fiji Cyclone villages

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Last week we shared about the Golden Oldies Fiji trip coming up in August. (The original article can be seen here.) This year’s Golden Oldies will visit a remote village that had 27/31 houses destroyed in Cyclone Winston. The village is part of the Suva Cathedral Diocese, and the team will hear stories and discover ways they can partner with the church to restore village life there.

Golden Oldies Mission leaders Graeme and Jane Mitchell visited the area two-weeks ago as part of the planning for the August mission. “The devastation is as bad as it looks on TV, yet the people continue to praise God even in their adversity” commented Jane.

They also presented medical equipment to an over-stretched hospital the Golden Oldies support. This was a humbling experience, with people waiting for six hours for medical attention in ankle deep water.

For more information on August’s Golden Oldies trip, including how to apply, click here.

 

 

Golden Oldies Mission 2016

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Offering specialist introductory mission trips for seniors.

This year’s ‘Golden Oldies’ trip to Fiji is coming up in August. It’s an opportunity to put your gifts and experience to work as you meet with locals and engage in a variety of mission projects.

Staying at an orphanage we visit schools offering second-chance education for students from squatter settlements, a small health/emergency centre and maternity hospital, an old people’s home in the WW2 barracks, a prison, remote villages existing by subsistence farming, cyclone-impacted villages, and more.

The trip will: • Be fully escorted with experienced leaders • Be based in Suva, Fiji • Will run for 12-days, 9th – 20th August 2016 • Be interdenominational, including seniors from throughout NZ

The team is hosted by the wonderful families of the St John’s Bible College and St Christopher’s Orphanage. We will take you to see and experience the missions the Church is involved around Suva. Also see ongoing mission projects being supported by the Golden Oldies, including the underresourced hospital, a sanitation project in a remote village and a kindergarten established in a church.

At the end of the mission the team run a ‘Workshops for Life’ day which offer a range of topics using the Golden Oldies skills and life experiences. These have been well received by the Fijian community in previous years. Workshops have included crafts, small business set-ups, property maintenance, health clinics and Sunday school teaching. Then to finish off the trip we will take you for two nights at a tourist resort. This gives us time for a bit of ‘R and R’ and reflection for what we’ve experienced before we return to NZ.

Applications close 29 April 2016 BE QUICK! LIMITED POSITIONS AVAILABLE

 

For more info visit www.goldenoldiesmission.com or email graeme@goldenoldiesmission.com

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.

 

Golden Oldies in Fiji

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The latest team of ‘Golden Oldies’ leaves for Fiji today (Saturday) for eleven days. There are 24 members on the team from throughout New Zealand, including several over 80!

They are visiting and ministering in a variety of contexts: schools helping children from squatter settlements, a health centre and maternity hospital for young mothers, an old people’s home in the WW2 barracks. There will be trips to remote villages, and the team will host a mission training day at the Suva Cathedral on Friday. Your prayers during the mission would be appreciated.

Follow the ‘Golden Oldies’ daily at www.goldenoldiesmission.com

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)