Remote Fishing Village Greets Oldies

Early today we set off by bus in the Suva rain to a river landing site where we headed down a large river to where it meets the sea. Nakui is a little bit of paradise tucked away near the coast line. Seemingly untouched, the scenery is beautiful and the people were even more so.

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The team make their way through Nakui village.

The village chief and elders welcomed us with a traditional ceremony – the men drunk Kava and then it was offered to the women. After a few rounds of Kava we joined in discussion with the Elders, wanting to start to establish a relationship with this village and get to know what they need.

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The children put on traditional dances, the team presented their cloth Meke.

We made our way over to the Nakui primary school where we were entertained by singing and dancing by the children. They were humble and respectful to us, kneeling and clapping as they presented us with flowers, drinks and our meals. We responded by singing a song and reading bible stories, apologizing to them that our singing wasn’t quite up to there standard.

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Alison dancing with one of the village children.

The children asked us to join them in dancing on their school field, which we happily obliged. We also joined them in some rugby, netball and volleyball. They were sad to see us go and as we departed the village we were asked by the children, elders and chief to come back again next year. The fellowship is already starting to grow.

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Traveling through the mangroves.

The journey back to the boat landing was a bit longer and exciting than expected. First one of the boats wouldn’t start and then another ran out of petrol half way up the river! After a long ride back up the river and through the mangroves we finally made it back. Tired, a little sunburnt but content and inspired we all made it safely back “home”. No swimming or paddling needed!
Kylie.

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Dancing the Night Away

Last night the Golden Oldies were privileged and honoured to be hosted by a village. We were shown love, grace and inspiring fellowship as we were welcomed into this small community.

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The team dramatise the bible story of Peter and Jesus on the water.

Cabiti is a small Melanesian village up a long winding hill. The village consisted of around 20 families with many attending at St. Barthelomeus church hall last night. A small, humble building that was brightened and decorated with beautiful silk fabric. They are still in the process of building and extending their church, something which we are hoping to partner with them to help accomplish -with mud bricks!

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Discussing the opportunities of ‘Mud Bricks’ with the village Chiefs.

We were traditionally welcomed in the Fijian language, ceremoniously we were presented with Kava as a gift and were welcomed by the village men as they accepted us as part of their community. Some of the men of our group accepted the Kava on behalf of the group. They were then invited to sit with village Chief and Elders around the Kava bowl to discuss the villages needs and opportunities.

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The youth showing us a traditional dance.

Then came the dancing! Some youth stood in the middle of the hall and treated us to a ceremonious dance. Halfway through the second song we were invited to join, attempting to follow the movements. You could see them brighten, laughing and smiling as these “Oldies” from New Zealand were excited at the chance of learning a traditional Fijian dance. After a wonderful dinner more dancing was held and this time the youth took us in a step by step guide. It was hard to tell whether they were laughing with us or at us – we hope it’s both!

The village women presented us with gifts of Sulu’s and shell necklaces as we said our farewells. A connection had been made with the village of Cabiti and the missson opportunites and excitement has just began!
Kylie.

Back to School!

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Students play Tennis on the field at Holy Trinity School.

Holy Trinity School is a Primary School in Suva with 750 students and only 18 teachers. Four of the teachers were away this week, throwing our Golden Oldies of Wendy, Avila and Norma in the deep end to teaching large classes between 40-45 children. They have done a great job and loved being called ‘Maam’!

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Wendy hard at work, teaching a class at Holy Trinity.

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Avila and Norma after a long week at teaching at Holy Trinity

Today we got a chance to experience it for ourselves, spending time in the classrooms. There were three or four Golden Oldies in each room, as we split up and tried to met as much of the children as possible. The children were so excited to see us, jumping out of their seats and loudly greeting us. The groups did all different things, some of did quizzes, songs or just talked one-on-one with the children.

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We played “Simon Says” with the children in one of the classrooms.

In our class Pauline gave the children a talk about how important education was and why she decided to stick with it and do more after working. Next we asked the teacher what they were studying and Alison helped teach them, asking questions about where each parts of the body were, what they did, and even asked them to teach us how to say them in Fijian. Sadly all too quickly it was time to go!

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Don showing some of the children his “magic tricks”.

I found myself being hugged by about 30 children all at once as we said goodbye and tried to leave, but it was like they didn’t want us to go! They children were all hanging onto me as I made my way slowly out the door, some of them even tried to follow us out the door! It was an amazing experience and I felt honored and privileged to bring smiles to these children faces.

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Donations of new PE and Sport Uniforms for the school.

It was a real eye opener to the way the school operates and how the children are educated. The teachers are trying their best in conditions of a school bursting at the seams, with little resources and not enough classrooms. I loved the experience of being in the class and meeting the children. Their happiness at seeing us and their joy of joining in with activities and singing was inspiring.

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Jane in fellowship with the women and children at St. Christophers.

This had been a morning of inspiration. Before this we had visited St. Christophers orphanage. We were given a tour by one of the ‘children graduate’ girls who is studying at University and now helps out there. There are 28 children at the orphanage at this time, ranging from just one up to early 20’s. It was with great relief and a weight lifted off our shoulders at the sight of how well run and how much care, grace, and love was provided here. I was inspired by the amount and variety of books they had at their library as well.

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Sister Karlo and Melva having a laugh at St. Chritophers.

God was certainly moving in the places we visited today, moving in the loving calm and grace, and in the crazy, yet passionate, chaos of an over stretched school providing great education to so many students.
Kylie.

Find Happiness

This morning and early afternoon the Golden Oldies made a trip to some ‘squatter’ villages. It would be a real look at the Fijian people and the way that they live, love and show hospitality.

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The team with the people of Nadawa village.

First was Nadawa, a small village of 12 families consisting of 62 people, including children. With no electricity, one source of water and the constant fear of being forced off their land by Property Developers for housing these people had nothing that our Western Culture would call ‘useful’ or ‘acceptable’ to offer. Yet they gave everything, this small village welcomed us with smiles, songs, food and blessings in abundance.

After a walk through the village, we were hosted by the women of the village to morning tea, but not before we were treated to the sight of some of the older children climbing trees for coconuts, and then offering them to us to drink and eat! It was  a lot of the teams first experience of fresh coconut and the consensus was a good one!

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Mary discussing craft ideas with a village mother.

During morning tea we had the opportunity to buy some arts, brooms and traditional dress made by the women of this village. It was joked that the purchase of these goods were your ‘ticket’ to get back on the bus afterwards. We all walked away with some purchase.

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The team trek through plantations to get to the remote village.

We were farewelled with smiles, songs and heart. Happiness was in the children’s eyes as they waved us goodbye. Gratitude and love in the eyes of the village parents as we donated children’s bible books to them. A warm and beautiful heart as they escorted us all the way out of the village, helping us along the muddy tracks to ensure we we returned to our vans safely.

Secondly, we visited the parish and village of St Gabrielle’s and the lovingly-named ‘tin cathedral.

But a lovely surprise, after much talk the community was well on the way of completing a new church building. It had walls and a roof, a great improvement from the foundation that the team saw last year. Due to be completed in December the new and strong building is a beacon of light, sitting just off the main road.

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Jane and Gwyn with the ladies of St Gabrielle.

We were greeted by the village all lined up to each shake our hands and thank us for coming. And then, they wanted to take photos with us! Happiness, laughter and ‘Vinaka’ was shared in that building, a beautiful representation of what is to come with God’s grace and help.

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Being welcomed into the ‘Tin Cathedral’.

We then had a formal welcome and gathering in the ‘tin cathedral’. Sitting in their church was a true testament to this communities faith. Once again, we were hosted by a people that had so little, but was willing to give us so much in a show of gratitude of our visit. A large lunch, songs, prayer and introductions, and a chance to met and talk to these true Fijian people. An embodiment of their culture, an embodiment of God’s love and family.

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St Gabrielle singing a farewell inside the ‘Tin Cathedral’.

Happiness was once again the theme as there was not a single face in that cathedral without a smile, we were farewelled with spirit, songs and enthusiastic waves of goodbye. The whole congregation stayed on the road outside the cathedral were we could see them, waving and kissing goodbye as we drove off.

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Farewell from the people of the two ‘cathedrals’ of St Gabrielle’s.

Today the Golden Oldies found a little happiness. Recently tourism adverts for Fiji have stated that Fiji is where ‘you find happiness’ and while this is true in a large sense, there is also something about it that we need to think about.
I believe it to be more rewarding to go looking for that happiness. To go off the beaten track and find the real Fiji, it’s people and it’s happiness. Go looking for those that just want to say Bula!
Kylie.

Sewing machine answers prayer

The Golden Oldies visited the oldest church on the main Fijian Island that has spiritual and historical significance. In all honesty, St Lawrence Church should’ve fallen down in the last cyclone, but only one wall caved in, now covered by a blue tarpaulin.
Yet the Parish people and their spirit remains committed to its cause. In particular they have a mission to help the young mothers at the local maternity hospital, but confessed to a small problem. The sewing machine they had to make blankets for the new mothers ‘has gone for a long walk’. Now ‘miraculously’ the team brought a donated sewing machine to give to a needy cause. St Lawrence seems to be this place.

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St Lawrence Church will use the new sewing machine to help young mothers at the local Maternity hospital as an outreach

Following on from here we visited this Maternity hospital and the Health Centre that we have supported for several years. The overwhelming impression was increased demand for their services, stretched resources, but a calm orderly system appeared to be working. Our Nurse Margaret, was impressed with the cleanliness of the hospitals, and the professionalism of the staff. We met the Hospital/Centre Manager, with literally hundreds of people waiting for medical attention in makeshift waiting rooms. Her passion and commitment to caring for the ‘little person’ in the region was impressive, and they were humbled with the generous gifts of medical equipment and supplies to assist them in their work.

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Retired Nurse Alison shows Dr Dasi some of the donated medical supplies desperately needed for her work here 

Lunch was at Basden College and meeting the new Principal. He had spent the last year in the Interior of Fiji, teaching students in tents after the cyclones. Many houses are still not built and people remain in tents 18-months later. ‘Teaching children to pass exams in the heat of the day in tents should be demoralising’. But his students excelled and passed. This ‘culture of learning’ he has brought to Basden and it was impressive to see his expectations for student living. ‘If they don’t come to school for a week, they might as well not come to school for the year’  is the new standard. I want to train my students at school as if they are in a job. You need to learn to attend school each day, just like a job’. It was good to pray for his role and then the team spent time with students in their classrooms.

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Roger hands over some school books to Principal Parker at Basden

Final stop was the Government run Old People’s Home in the WW2 barracks. People usually residing here have no family, physical or mental disabilities, or dementia, and many are amputees.

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Elsa presents a sewn blanket to a resident

Staff showed compassion and great care in facilities that are basically large rooms with no privacy for anyone. The team handed out stitched blankets sewn by Archer residents that brought smiles and heartfelt thanks from residents. Medical equipment and supplies were donated and a laptop provided to the nurses -their first. The team spent time talking and encouraging residents, praying Gods love over them.

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Neville spends time with one of the residents

So does any of these visits make any difference? The Fijians tell us ‘you know, it warms our hearts to see you caring for our people. Thank you for coming and giving of yourselves, and your generous donations mean a lot to us’.

Today has been a good day.

When It Rains…

Rain poured down on us as we made our way up the steep hill into Matata Village. Umbrella’s casted a canopy of colour as we carefully made our way up, being greeted with smiles and waves of the villagers as we went. Matata village is a squatter village of 200,  and as the rain poured down it felt like we were welcomed and greeted by all of them. This was our first village to visit, and it was the first ever visited by the Golden Oldies on there first trip to Fiji, a relationship that had grown from quiet politeness to a surge of laughter and fun, dancing in rain and mud – sharing life together.

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St. Michaels with a new lick of paint and final preparations on “the shack”.

The heart and hub of the village is the church St Micheal’s and All Angels, a beautiful building that is their shelter in bad times as it is the most stable in the village. But the Church is not where we will spend our evening, in stead we were in “the shack” a make shift hall that the villagers worked hard to put up just for us, and will spend time taking down after we left. And this is only a small amount of there hospitality. For a place with so little, they give so much. They are only happy to give all they have for the visitors that had come to their village – they welcomed us “home” with food and joy and bright smiles that could not be dampened by the rain.

 

It is a tough feeling accepting a large meal from a community that you know does not have much. But it is also a privilege, the people of Matata wanted nothing more that to show us their hospitality, and the large and beautiful meal was a part of that.

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The Sunday School children treat us to dances during dinner.

As the night went on we were treated to the Sunday School Children performing dances that they had practiced just for us. Entertainment while we ate dinner, but the sight was so amazing that you had to wait to eat dinner, as you didn’t want to miss a millisecond of the beauty that the children showed. Their smiles and souls shined bright as we applauded each performance. But it was nothing to the smiles that were about to come, when the rain stopped and the music turned on – the muddy grass would soon become a dance floor.

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We begin to join the dance with the village children!

I have always thought that saying a child’s smile was the most beautiful and pure thing in the world was a bit cliché. But these children are the epitome of that saying. I have danced in the rain many times in my life, but never quite like what we did tonight. As we joined the children and village in their dance we were no longer visitors, we were, a part of them. Family, friends – brothers and sisters in Christ.

-Kylie.

Is Praying worth it?

Do we expect God to answer prayers?

This was a question posed by the Archbishop today as he spoke at the Suva Cathedral to us, and 18-people who gave a commitment to following the Christian faith today.

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ArchBishop Wiston preaching to a packed Cathedral today

The powerful sermon left an impression on me that will not just last today, but something I will ponder for the months ahead.

That is just what I got the sense of. I had just been in a place of prayer, filled with God’s spirit – and I was challenged by this experience.

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Golden Oldies arriving at the Cathedral for today’s service

The Cathedral is a beautiful place, and not just in its masterwork of stone and wood, but the people that gathered there. The people worshiped God, and the raising voices of a congregation that believed whole heatedly the words that were leaving their mouths sung with such conviction.

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The congregation witnessing the confirmation of the 18 candidates.

I left feeling uplifted, being among people who loved a living God, and I can only conclude that they believe God answers their prayers. But what about you? Do you have enough faith to believe that God can answer your prayers too?

Kylie.