Melanesians, are people who came from the Solomon Islands to live in Fiji. Well actually, the young men were kidnapped by the white people and smuggled to Fiji to work here as slaves in their sugar plantations. When slavery was finally abolished they have struggled to overcome barriers of no land ownership, no education, no employment. For two days the Families Mission team are visiting primarily these Fijian-Melanesian squatter and slum villages.
Yesterday this ‘Village in the Valley’ hosted the team and they were treated like royalty. The children spent the afternoon in classrooms with the students,
International sports at its best!
then participated in a school sports programme, went for tours of the five villages that make up this community, were invited into families homes and some were even able to pray with the elderly there, and then in the evening were the invited guests to a truly Fijian ceremony of kava!, speeches, music, dance, a lavish dinner, and gifts beyond compare. Children from every class here having prepared parcels of treasures for each child in the team.
Village Chief, Rev Jone, welcoming the NZCMS Families Mission and their ‘chiefs’ to the ceremony
A humbling and honouring experience, their generosity in giving from their absolute scarcity. And equally impressive is: their school recently was acclaimed as a top education centre in Fiji, the village U14 rugby team winning the Suva rugby competition, a dream to secure computers for the school, students keen to learn and seeking education scholarships, and wanting to foster and nurture the partnership that is developing between them and these Mission teams, with wise guidance from the Anglican Church of Polynesia. A partnership developing as meaningful and heart-felt for everyone.
Hundreds followed the team as they walked back down the track in the dark to meet their bus. Unravelling everyone from their good-byes took time, and we left leaving a part of our hearts with these welcoming people in this beautiful Village.
The goodbyes just kept on going and going and going!!!
The village school in the remote valley
55-years ago, a church was established in a remote Melanesian village deep down in a valley, that is isolated and the people were uneducated and unemployed. Surrounding crops being their only food source. A primary school was established that now caters for 290 children, while today the church caters for 300 villagers on a Sunday.
Last year the Village Chief, Rev Jone, shared the village’s desperate need for a new toilet block. Something they wanted to built when the church was established back in 1958. Since then it has been a longing dream. The only toilets are in the school that caters for the school and church, and now regularly break down.
The toilets are half completed, now lets finish them!
The Golden Oldies Mission Group visiting the village heard the story and cry for help. They responded in said they would like to partner with the Village. But, the village had to make a start to raise the Fj$12,000 needed. Now, 11-months later, 55-years on, what was a only a rubbish heap has dramatically been transformed into a half completed new toilet complex. How? The village had a sense of hope that there were people beyond them who cared about them, and would support their dream. Miraculously they have raised Fj$6,000 and now with the support of the Golden Oldies and this NZCMS Families Mission this project is about to be completed. A wonderful example that a short-term mission can have real value and meaning.
Fijian and NZ children playing together at the orphanage
The Orphanage, St Christopher’s, caters for children with many sad stories. The Anglican Sisters showing unparalleled Christian charity of personal self sacrifice and decades of compassionate care, transform an orphanage as best they can into a ‘home’.
Out team arrive to find the power is off, and we are greeted in partial darkness. Yet as a Sister says,
“we have no power, but Gods light will brighten our time together”. And she was right.
The orphans kids sang to us, our team responded in song, our children performed their stick dance, and then they were all released.
Out onto the large grassed field in front of the orphanage, the youth play volleyball, Dads and kids play basketball, Mums and toddlers played with bubble blowers, others chat one-on-one, our younger children are taught to climb coconut trees by the home boys (well sort of, getting about 1ft off the ground); and as darkness descended the shrieks of laughter from all over the field can be constantly heard.
“oh I wish I could bring these girls home to live with us” perhaps summed up the heart-felt feelings being expressed as we climbed back on the bus to return to our ‘home’ at the Bible College. A lasting treasured memory for everyone.
“oh what a thrill to spend time with these children”
And as for the Hindu wedding…. the tempo is building as now the dancing begins. Head under the pillow time!
The English designed the Cathedral to protect it from SNOW! and to keep it warm, they had no windows!
The Anglican Bible College sits on hill overlooking the Suva harbour. Next door there is a large Indian Community Centre, and tonight in the late hours of the night we’ve hit the jackpot. There is a full blown Hindu wedding underway with blaring sound speakers, hundreds of people celebrating the event, and the food is still being prepared and cooked! The noise police appear an unknown concept here! Sleep it appears will be rather disrupted tonight.
Yet I think it will come easily. The team started with a tour of the Anglican Cathedral. A church designed by the English for snow and to retain heat –no windows; then they ran out of money and the second half was built by the Fijians –complete with multiple windows for the sea breeze to flow through! Sure says something about adapting to the culture you’re living in!
160 pre-school children attend the Cathedral kindergarten
A wonderful surprise was with the singing by the 160 kindergarten children in their ‘classroom’ here at the Cathedral. As our children visited them, well more truthfully, gate crashed their classroom these pre-schoolers immediately wanted to perform an impromptu concert. And for an encore our kids mingled with them and cherished the moment. Suddenly it was time to depart, and head off on the bus.
And now the Hindu party is winding up, not down, feeling more like Calcutta than Suva. A loooong night ahead!
The kindergarten begins when the fence is completed
Singatoka, a small town on the Coastal road to Suva has a threatening river running through the centre of it. One recent flood swamped the Minister’s house and settled a foot high throughout the historic church. This Anglican Church sits dwarfed by the neighbouring Mosque, and struggles to survive. Yet Father Daniel, his wife Catherine, and Parish have a vision. To use their church as a kindergarten for the children of Singatoka. For the last 18-months they have worked with the Education Ministry to fulfil the criteria, and fundraised to cover the costs of its start-up.
Meeting the children wanting to enrol in the kindergarten
Now they’re nearly there.
The kindergarten can start at the beginning of next year, if they can jump the last hurdle. The team heard their story, needing to build a perimeter fence for the children’s safety. They have installed most of the posts and have purchased some wire netting. Now Fj$1200 (NZ$800) will complete the project.
The group were warmly hosted, offered a delicious array of foods for lunch, and departed for Suva praying with them that their vision will be fulfilled.
It seemed to many as the bus departed, that so little investment from us, could make such a dramatic difference to them and the children of Singatoka.
The mission team of 38, including 25 children, students and youth touched down in Nadi to the lovely warm chorus of Fijian music and song.
A quick shuttle service to our ‘set of digs’ at a local Nadi ‘hotel’ to allow us to prepare for our first evening at St Christophers Church for dinner and youth concert.
Thinking everyone was tired from the trip was quickly dispelled when everyone saw the hotel pool. It didn’t take long to see that this mission adventure will be hard work. Yet the evening was wonderful with the Fijian youth singing songs, delicious smorgasbord of Fijian ethnic food, and discussions ranging from church styles, schooling style and even who will win the Super 15 rugby!
First impressions have been “I love Fiji”, “its so cool”, “the people are amazing and really friendly”.
Sunday. Our bus broke down and the church service was delayed until we arrived late after it was quickly repaired. Would that have happened in NZ?! It was wonderful to see the children perform their stick item in church, and heart warming to see the way the minister prayed for each child prior to communion.
So that was Nadi, now onto Singatoka, but we’re running late for lunch there.
This mission thing is hard work!!!!
St John’s Bible College Principal Rev. Amy Chambers and NZCMS Tour Leader Graeme Mitchell
Rev Amy Chambers, the Principal of the St John’s Bible College in Suva has been coordinating the Fiji side of this mission.
“Fiji is ready to host this first-ever NZCMS Families-Youth mission. Our people are very excited about having the children and families come to our churches, schools and villages. One of the remote villages the team are visiting has never hosted any team before. They are a fishing village, so we hope they catch enough fish that day for your dinner!”
And she said only had one concern as the team prepare to come. It’s getting very cool now in Fiji, the temperature has dropped down in the evenings to 22C!
And the team is ready too. They are taking their 500 children’s books and have fundraised a further NZ$1,000 to gift to the Church for their ministries in Fiji as well.
500 children’s story books heading to Fiji
The call came out to the team. Leave 5kg spare in your luggage… for children’s story books. Shopping bags filled with books were prepared and distributed to everyone at the last training session.
Over 500 books are winging their way with the NZCMS Families-Youth mission to Fiji that have been collected by team members and the Golden Oldies. These children’s books will be distributed to the children in the remote villages, and to the Church schools that are educating the children that come daily form the squatter settlements and slums.
A Village Mum said,
“we have no children’s story books, and our children need to learn and practice their English. Can you bring some children’s books to our village?”
And this is what the team will be doing on this mission. We will post photos later as our children handover the books to the Fijian children.
A children’s stick dance
The Christchurch Team’s last training session started with a real mission experience.
Due to circumstances beyond their control, nearly everyone was late arriving. The training time schedule had to be suddenly revised with times for each session reduced, requiring tolerance and grace by everyone! All rather frustrating, but hey, that’s what can happen on mission. Welcome to mission, and we haven’t even left NZ yet!
The teams first ‘choir’ practice![/caption
One of the features of the session was the children preparing a stick dance that tells the story of the cross. They plan to perform this at the schools, orphanage and villages. And as for the team singing session? Well a few more choir practices will be of great benefit to us, and for those we will sing too!
Some of the Christchurch team and their family supporterrs
“Its wonderful to see 38 people coming on this life-changing mission”, says Graeme Mitchell the Team Leader, who has set up this mission using his experience from the first-ever Golden Oldies Mission to Fiji last year.
“In fact, many of those going have never been out of NZ, let alone to experience a third-world culture”, he says.
The team comprises of 25 children, youth and students, and 13 parents. The team is coming from Nelson and Christchurch, and is supported by five churches.
The Nelson Team, along with NZCMS National Director, Steve Maina, and Christchurch member Andrea
NZCMS is about to run the inaugural Families-Youth short term encounter mission to Fiji. The Nelson team had an evening training session recently and it was exciting to see the enthusiasm and excitement they had for this mission adventure.
As Denise said,
“gosh how are we going to cope waiting to go. Why can’t we just go now, its going to be such an amazing experience for us all. I’m sure our children (and us parents!) will be challenged by what we experience.”
And I think all the whole team feel those sentiments. What a privilege it is to go and meet our Fijian Christian family and learn about their culture, lifestyle, and contrast the challenges they have compared to what we face here in NZ.
Anyone know how many more sleeps there are to go?!!