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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!