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