Natalie

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.

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.

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.

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.

A Blemheimite on the East Cape

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Natalie, one of this year’s Haerenga Interns who comes from Blenheim, shares about their recent trip to the East Cape. 

Our most recent adventure involved a two week trip to the East Cape – we did the whole circuit of the Cape starting from Gisborne and then heading North, ending with a rest day in Waihi. This was our cross cultural mission experience to give us a heads up before Fiji. I’m not sure if mission is quite the right word for it as I feel like we gave very little and in return got blessed with incredible hospitality and by the way in which people opened up their lives and stories to share with us.

Something that challenged me throughout this time was the issue of belonging. As one of the only Pakehas I initially felt unsure of what the cultural norms were. I was a bit uncomfortable as we went to a local Gisborne marae with a youth group. However as we were welcomed into communities and families in Ruatoria and Te Araroa, I ended up feeling more connected  than back at home!

A few of the many fantastic experiences: making cardboard swords and shields as part of a school holiday program, watching the sun rise at the most eastern point of NZ, listening to stories of the history of the land and the Maori people and watching God at work through ordinary people. It was also a really valuable time for building us interns into a team.

So now it’s back to the studies for a wee bit. On the horizon we have a weekend in Timaru participating in what is yet undisclosed business! I’m back at home for Queen’s birthday and then it seems we are getting a bit short on weekends before the big day, June 23rd, when we head off towards warmer shores! Flights are booked – Fiji, here we come!

To hear more from our Interns visit  their blog at haerengainternship.wordpress.com