Final Reflections

Sharing during our visit to a remote Village up the Singatoka Valley

Sharing during our visit to a remote Village up the Singatoka Valley

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

Singing at a Coastal Village school

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 loved playing with the children at the orphanage

The team loved playing with the children at the orphanage


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.
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$1,600 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.
and finally, 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.
What a joy to share Gods love with all the children we came across

What a joy to share Gods love with all the children we came across


“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”
Vinaka. Thank you to all our families, friends, and especially our away from home family at the Bible College. Vinaka vakalevu.

Vinaka. Thank you to all our families, friends, and especially our away from home family at the Bible College. Vinaka vakalevu.

Finding Nemo

A day out, relaxing on an outer tropical island

A day out, relaxing on an outer tropical island

Day off! In actual fact it was another culture shock. From experiencing remote and humble villages to the grandeur of what tourists do. Fiji islands are as they look in the postcards, with their clear warm water and idyllic beaches.
Have you found Nemo yet?

Have you found Nemo yet?

Today we were privileged to enjoy that tourist luxury. Cruising on an ancient sailing ship, snorkelling on the coral reef, singing and dancing on the way home. A great final day to end the mission.
Fijian music and dancing as we return home from our island adventure

Fijian music and dancing as we return home from our island adventure

Heavenly singing

The Village school caters for all the children in the valley

The Village school caters for all the children in the valley

Tonight’s mission was to a remote Melanesian Village, deep down in a valley that is cold and damp. Another squatter settlement, undesirable land not wanted by other people due to its hostile terrain and conditions endured there. St John’s at Wailoku has a Primary School for 270 children, a church and community hall.
They sang like angels from heaven

They sang like angels from heaven

The team were welcomed by a Church musical team, who had the previous night competed in choral competition. The evening was full of music with harmonising and volume of voice it was if we were in a heavenly cathedral. With a lovu cooked fish and chicken there was time to introduce ourselves to the village people, exchange facebook details, and finished with a wonderful chorus of medleys as ‘one’.
Got the photo...and each others facebook address. Friends forever.

Got the photo…and each others facebook address. Friends forever.

Squatters humble us

Walking through the plantations to the squatter villages

Walking through the plantations to the squatter villages

Trekking alongside the cassava crops and underneath coconut palm tree plantations we passed tin shack settlements that make up these squatter settlements.
Freshly opened coconuts were enjoyed by everyone

Freshly opened coconuts were enjoyed by everyone

As we arrive at the Anglican supported village we are welcomed by the village people, elderly, mums and the children. Some of the children travel daily from here to Basden College, so it was a type of reunion for the youth and these students. They promptly sent a girl up the palm trees to kick some coconuts down for us to enjoy. The overwhelming impression as we left was, they were so happy with so little
The squatter village welcomed us as their own family

The squatter village welcomed us as their own family

Bustling Suva at … 5AM!

We arose just after 4am to join the youth group from the Suva Cathedral for the breakfast ministry to the homeless on the streets on Suva.

Out on the streets at 5am to serve breakfast to the homeless

Out on the streets at 5am to serve breakfast to the homeless

The homeless get off the streets before sunrise, so it was a rush to meet them before they vanished. Yet it was a shock to see so many young people hanging around the streets. The night clubs had closed at 3am, but Suva’s youth were still mingling around, in the dark, watching the team set off for the city streets and parks. Homeless people with their cardboard for mattresses, shopping bags over their feet for socks, and jerseys over their head for privacy were familiar sights. The team offered sandwiches and hot tea to everyone they came across, sometimes they wanted prayer and it was a privilege to pray for them.
Offering breakfast to a person in the heart of Suva's main street

Offering breakfast to a person in the heart of Suva’s main street

In very courteous English they would reply with ‘thank you very much’ for the kindness bestowed upon them. The homeless were appreciative and the night clubbing youth looked lost and aimless. Another culture shock.

Venturing to a remote coastal fishing village

Travelling down the waterways to the coastal village

Travelling down the waterways to the coastal village

The team departed anxious and nervous about the mission ahead. Travelling by bus for an hour to the river, then 45-minutes down the river to the coast. Often at high speed, with sea spray covering these Fijian long boats to this village we went through narrow mangrove inlets to this village that had not hosted a white group before. Not sure who was the most anxious and nervous.
Arriving at the school

Arriving at the school


With a traditional kava welcome, we were then led onto their local school to be honoured with singing, traditional Fijian haka and dances by the children, and an array of delicious fish for lunch. The village has little land for crops so their only food is fish.
Singing was a great way to connect with the children

Singing was a great way to connect with the children

The team responded with teaching the children some songs and more games and dancing.
The girls lay down some cloth during the dance as a gift and  cultural response of thanks

The girls lay down some cloth during the dance as a gift and cultural response of thanks

We heard of their dream to start a kindergarten too. They have a building and a teacher, but no crayons, toys, books or furniture to start the pre-school learning centre. It left the team thinking about how they could respond to this challenge.
Leaving the hospitality and warm welcome, again, was heart-wrenching. The life and joy of this beautiful village and people and touched everyone very deeply.
Nathaniel, our bold dancer!

Nathaniel, our bold dancer!

Bring the little children unto me

Mike increases his family members

Mike increases his family members

The team introduced themselves and sang to the children at St Christopher’s Orphanage, but what followed was spontaneous joy.
Everyone enjoyed the time out on the field

Everyone enjoyed the time out on the field

Interacting with the children out on the field. Boys running around and kicking balls, girls talking and talking and more talking. It was a struggle to finally drag the team away from the friendships that were made.
Girls just 'hanging out'

Girls just ‘hanging out’

Fijian students given another chance

Containers joined together create new classrooms for students

Containers joined together create new classrooms for students

Basden Anglican High School does specialise in educating students from the local squatter settlements. Yet it does more than this, with their inspirational leader, Principal Mika second chance education for those who having slipped away for a few years, are now being offered entry back into school. With support from two generous and gracious Australian ladies the school has also modified containers to create new classrooms for its growing roll.
The team learning and sharing at Basden

The team learning and sharing at Basden

The team heard the testimony of this years head boy, a 22-year old returning to school this year to try again. Another young man had previously spent time in prison, and he too was now using his musical skills, writing songs and back at Basden, start over again. From these inspirational testimonies, Mel stood up and shared her story.
Students at Basden College get a second chance at education.

Students at Basden College get a second chance at education.

A loving home, needing to discover her own faith, and now wanting to serve God with all her heart. “I would never have had the courage to do this before this mission, its given me such confidence, and I want to encourage others to go all out for God” she said afterwards. Singing, testimonies and sports followed.

4-hours becomes 12-hour travel marathon

Our cosy bus with all us sardines inside!

Our cosy bus with all us sardines inside!

Day 2 – our first surprise. The bus for 25 team members, their luggage and the 4-hour travel time from Nadi to Suva was all about to change! Simply put, the 30-seater bus trip had no luggage space and it was going to be a little crammed –to put it mildly, with the team becoming sardines, as they bumped and rattled along the roads heading to Singatoka. The Church of the Good Shepherd family lead by Rev Daniel Sahayam and his wife Catherine shared their 3-year vision of establishing a kindergarten at their Church.
The mission supported fence near completion so a new kindergarten ministry can start

The mission supported fence near completion so a new kindergarten ministry can start

Now with the near completion of the boundary fence for the children’s safety, their dream is about to be fulfilled. Upto 50 children are hoping to enrol on the daily programme, which in turn will connect the church to their families and the wider community.
Singatoka is a multicultural small town with its Hindu temples and a mosque, and is bordered by the large Singatoka river. ‘The Singatoka river valley goes up into the highlands is called ‘the valley’. This is Fiji’s salad bowl region where all of the vegetables are grown for the country. It was this river valley we travelled up, along the shingle pot-holed tracks, up steep inclines, over ridges, passing village men cutting sugar cane, others travelling with kids on horseback, and woman selling fruits on the ‘road’ edge. Finally an hour later ending up in the floor of a remote valley Melanesian village.
“Its usual to launch people into mission from the mountain tops, so they can soar; not the valley floor, where they taste the bottom first, but at least now the sky is the limit for them” was a comment I heard after this experience!
Well done Caleb!

Well done Caleb!


Yet one team member said the experience of this village ‘was the highlight of her life’! Warmly welcomed with floral garments, a traditional kava ceremony, singing, dancing and a village banquet. The team responded with introductions and singing. So was it mission? Well they learned about the kidnapping of the Solomon people, being shipped to Fiji by the Colonial English to work in their sugar cane plantations, the injustices and lack of identity they have struggled with. Yet in this poor village, living on leased land, the team was treated like royalty and honoured by these humble Christian people. This team was the first group to visit this village from overseas, that in itself gave them great encouragement and hope. People cared enough about them, making the effort to spend time in their ‘home’. It was worth extending the day trip a further 3-hours.
We were treated like royalty

We were treated like royalty


And if that wasn’t enough, the team then travelled along the coastline to be greeted and hosted by another small Melanesian Church in an impromptu altered large expansive open-air bus garage! Another ceremony of thanks and gratitude for spending time with these people, along with another kava ceremony and banquet. Add a further 2-hours to the journey.
The starlit night was upon us as we then set off again for Suva, and to supposedly participate in a youth rally at a coastal church, St Lukes, with 50 other international youth. Guess what? We were rather late, by ummm 3-hours! Still they had prepared a meal for the team, entertained them with comedy skits, and finally saying our Vinakas we crawled back into Suva city to find the Bible College, a bed and collapse!
The team embraced the children everywhere we stopped

The team embraced the children everywhere we stopped

Wow! Its SO hot!!!

“Wow these people are so cool!”

“Wow these people are so cool!”

Landing at Nadi in 28C was so cool, I mean hot! Welcomed with the musicians singing as we entered the airport was heart-warming. Suddenly to alarm when 15-year old Caleb was accosted by Customs with a mysterious package in his suitcase. On closer investigation it was discovered to be his bongo drums rapped in towels.
Bula! Welcome to ‘our home’

Bula! Welcome to ‘our home’

They didn’t expect someone to be bringing Fijian drum BACK to Fiji. Smiles all round, then leaving squashing into our shuttle to experience our first sights of Fiji
Urgent attention to acclimatising to the heat was immediate.
Chilling in the pool

Chilling in the pool

Tonight’s resort has a pool! Cool! Refreshing! Now we’re ready to prepare for the mission ahead of us.
Devotions started badly. In fact their singing was abysmal so we’re told several occasions by our Head Choir Master Mr Mike C. However we rehearsed fervently raised the bar to a standard that may get us through our Street singing tomorrow in the marketplace at Singatoka. He drove us hard and took no prisoners! Mr Andrew G. led our devotions ensuring us that we all have a place and something to offer on this mission.
Reflecting on this message, looking up at the starry sky on a balmy evening we all meandered off to bed with a sense of excitement in being here, along with panging feeling of nervous in trepidation about tomorrow. Now to face the rattly room fans, with snoring room buddies, and obviously we will awaken refreshed to what lies ahead!!!
The team preparing for its first mission encounter tomorrow

The team preparing for its first mission encounter tomorrow