Final Reflections

John Ward who took the teams devotions shares his final inspirational thoughts with the gathering

“My life has fresh meaning”, said Aliva at the teams final meeting.

And as our Golden, Golden Oldie, Keith our oldest member at 82 summed up the teams feeling quite succinctly by stating, “this week has been quite remarkable”.

Archbishop Winston for Polynesia, at a farewell at the Bible College prior to the teams departure for the resort said, “I think your Junior Golden Oldie, Andrea, sums up all your reflections, ‘this mission has changed me’ and your coming has in fact changed us all. Now I announce that the Golden Oldies Mission is to be an important part of missions to our Islands going forward into the future”.

The ‘Junior’ Golden Oldies say their thanks to the children at the Bible College with Archbishop Winston looking on

The Golden Oldies were welcomed by villages that had never hosted a ‘white group’ before, dining with squatters that are about to be evicted off their land they have lived on since birth, meeting children at the Church-supported school achieving academically against all odds considering many walk from squatter villages to attend school, to fellowshipping in churches from tin sheds to the decaying oldest church on the island urgently in need of restoration, to communing with the bible college students and their families at the bible college hostel, to relaxing and reflecting on all this experience at a tourist resort.

The mission has been life-challenging, life changing, and there was a genuine consensus that “we need to walk the talk”. Joe, the Church Projects Coordinator and our guide throughout this mission told us,

Team Leader Graeme Mitchell, thanks the community of St John’s Bible College and Churches of Fiji for their warmth of friendship and partnership in this mission

“We must move missions away from handouts to our villages and people. We need to give them training and resources to help them help themselves. Help us buy the fishing rods, teach them how to use them, and not just continue to feed them with fish that doesn’t break this cycle of poverty”.

And so the team launched the establishment of the ‘Golden Oldies Mission Development Fund’.

A fund to support people and projects, in partnership with the church, to build the Kingdom of God in Fiji. Funding of Fj$10,000 had already been raised prior to coming on mission, and this money is the first contribution to supporting people and projects identified.

The team from its mission visitations have initially endorsed the following ministries they would like to pursue supporting:  education scholarships for students to attend school and/or tertiary training; a vocational building adjacent to Basden College; a toilet block at St John’s Church in the Valley; the Boys Brigade ICONZ programme introduced and adapted to Fijian children/youth; children’s books for the villages and theological books for the Churches/Bible College; a stove for ‘aunty’ at the bible college; and financial support for church staff, like Joe, to provide more developmental assistance to these schools, villages, and churches.

The Golden Oldies Mission Team and family of St John’s Bible College

One final observation. The poorer the village/church, the greater the generosity of gifts showered upon the team and hospitality offered.

Yes it has been a ‘remarkable’ mission.

The first ever ‘Golden Oldies Mission,’ and God-willing and with his leading, the beginning of a new chapter in missions, with our wonderful Golden Oldies, recruited as a new wave of foot soldiers returning to the frontline, leading the charge!

Graeme Mitchell

Golden Oldies Mission Team Leader

19-27 August 2012

Medical Emergencies do occur!

Even with the best planning, there is always the risk that our Golden Oldies may on occasions need some medical assistance. Having a Registered Nurse, Adele, with us on the team has provided a great comfort to our members. However when visiting remote villages, and a change to normal daily routines this can unintentionally cause some health issues to arise.

Chris being given some ‘loving TLC’ on a remote island during a day trip

Yet in each situation we faced, the presence and planning by God was evident.

Yes there were a few cases of diarrhoea, insect bites and grazes, but quickly remedied with medical support from Nurse Adele.

But when one of our team fainted in the Church at Pacific Harbour, God ‘in advance’ had already planned the seating arrangements! Seated at the back, our member fainted into the arms of Nurse Adele, ‘coincidently’ seated next to him. Then with Principal Amy and her husband George travelling the hour from Suva and joining the team for this service, they ‘coincidently’ had the only vehicle that could provide transport to a local hospital for a medical assessment. Promptly seen by a doctor there he was released and made a rapid recovery.

Not to be out done, travelling back to Suva airport to return home, another Golden Oldie had a turn for the worse, again with support from Nurse Adele, and communications with our Fijian support team, we were able to divert to a hospital only 3-minutes away. On arriving within 1-minute our member was being treated by professional and efficient nursing staff.

Nurse to the Golden Oldies, Adele, (second on left) always keeping a watcheye on the team

He is making a full recovery, and he and his wife, along with Nurse Adele who stayed to provide any further care needed, will return to NZ later this week. They are recuperating at the Bible College in Suva where the team spent the first part of the mission, receiving VIP care and love from the Christian community there.

The encouraging aspect is; with our experienced senior nurse Adele, our Fijian team support, the Fijian medical system, and God’s protection and provision every step of the way, our Golden Oldies have been kept in good health.

Interestingly, since this Baianarama coup, his priority is quality health for all people, Fijians and visitors, promptly and professionally administered. We saw evidence of this first hand through our two ‘hospitalisations’. In fact Baianarama regularly unannounced, visits medical centres to check their performance. Prior to his leadership this standard of care was unheard of.

Resort time: Rest, Recreation, Reflection

Our Golden Oldie mermaids, Jill in the water and Ngaire on the ledge chatting at Uprising Beach Resort

An authentically Fijian Tourist resort, Uprising, at Pacific Harbour, an hour south on the coast was to be the much anticipated ‘holiday part’ of the mission.

The Uprising staff, and especially Kelera, treated the Golden Oldies like royalty ensuring their every need was cared for. The team enjoyed resting under the palm trees, walking the beach, swimming in the sea and resort pool, exploring the local shops and reading.

A day trip to a remote Island, included the only Village living there providing a traditional Fijian

Trip to Yanuca Island

luncheon cooked in a Lovo (like a hangi cooked above ground with food covered in coconut and banana leaves to steam cook the food), talking with the village people, swimming and snorkelling on the coral reef. “I’m 80 and today I’ve just been taught snorkelling, how wonderful!”

Mike, Shaa, and the team form ‘Fishing Charter and Pleasure Cruises’ looked after the team as VIP guests, even lifting some onto their launch. Another wonderful day out and the island looked just like those tourist brochures we see, they’re real!

Hosted by Holy Family Church at Waidradra, Pacific Harbour

The Golden Oldies were also warmly hosted by the Holy Family Church at Pacific Harbour for a Church service on the Sunday, followed by a Village luncheon afterwards. Father Demesi and his people even built a ‘community hall’ outside their church on the lawn for the occasion.

The team finished the Resort time reflecting on the mission and the personal transformation it was bringing to our own personal lives, and how to respond to partnering with the Churches in Fiji going forward.

Locked in the Loo!!!

Help! Save Me! I’m locked in the toilet!

‘Poor ol’Andrea was locked in the lavatory, she was there from…’

well until Golden Oldie SUPER Grant was called to rescue the damsel in distress.

Yes ‘Junior’ Golden Oldie Andrea went to the loo last night before bed and as she went to unlock the toilet door, the latch jammed shut! With no way to crawl underneath and a tall door that towered above her, she was stuck. Cries of ‘stop sitting on the job’ and ‘well just try harder to turn the latch’, were all in vain.

A plea for help to Super Oldie, Grant was made and with Swiss pocket knife in hand, and some kiwi ingenuity the rescue operation went into full swing. With a growing crowd of on-lookers, the 70-something Super Grant scaled the wall of the toilet door, up, over the top and a few minutes later the damsel was rescued, much to the

SUPER Golden Oldie Grant saves the day, ‘My Hero’! says Andrea

applause and tears of joy from an anxious and frightened mother (well maybe not!).

Well done Golden Oldie Super Grant, Andrea’s hero for life!

Kamikaze Ferris Wheels

Hibiscus Festival Week in Suva

A night off, and with the annual week-long Hibiscus Festival is in full cry at Suva’s main park, the Golden Oldies hit the fair ground. Looking forward to an evening of cultural entertainment on the big stage turned into totally the opposite.With the thousands of excited Fijians, we jostled our way through the stampede into what turned out to be an oversized circus of side shows.

Not even a coconut shy, they used dented coke tins! 4 shots for a $1 to knock down the 11! tins. $60 if you can knock them all down with one ball, ummmmm.

But the most frightening thing was their 11 kamikaze ferris wheels. They pack upto 5 into the 4 seats where possible, and when loaded they take off at 100mph and don’t stop for 10-minutes! At the very top you are thrown forward so you are looking at the ground a million miles below you, then thrust backwards, rocking until you hit

Fijian ferris wheels makes Kiwi ones like creche

ground-zero, and then start this horrific manoeuvre all over again. And the best part of the nightmare? Putting your feet back on solid ground.

Strange thing though, the ‘Junior’ Golden Oldies enjoyed it!! Next time my $2 will go on the coke tin shy!

Two firsts

St Lawerance, The first Anglican Church on Fiji’s main island

St Lawrence Anglican Church in Nausouri is the first Church built on Viti Levu,1881, and today hosted the first ever Golden Oldies mission group from NZ. Nestled in the main street of a bustling little town and opposite the courthouse, this quaint little church has seen better days.

The beautiful architecture and its proud history are fading as this church now sits in disrepair. Its brokenness reflects its physical appearance, but spiritually there is a strong sense of God within its walls and people who worship here.

The Golden Oldies were hosted by the parish for a luncheon and their dreams to bring the love of God to this township were expressed with passion and conviction. Sometimes its difficult to explain why you are moved by things, but this tired historical church had something anointed about it.

The presence of God was very evident

It left its mark on the Golden Oldies as they said their farewells, pondering about how working in partnership they could support the restoration of this once fine church back to its former glory.

Ambushing a Squatter Village!

Walking past squatter shacks on the way to a remote village

The Golden Oldies unannounced, descend on a squatter village through a plantation jungle track passing similar squatter settlements along the way. Biscuit tin shacks with mud floors, fire pits against the inner wall, and cloths draped over doorways are the family’s life possessions.Yet on arriving at this remote village with it 10 shacks and 60 people, we are instantaneously welcomed and offered coconuts for refreshments.

The children climb to the top of the palms, the men slash the tops off them as they fall to the ground, and the fresh cold coconut-lemon flavoured juice is enjoyed by everyone.

This village is another example of the church raising funds to secure the land for them and future generations. Their only income is from the men going out in their canoe-styled fishing boats on a rising tide through the

Spot the girl that has climbed up the palm tree (at top) to get coconuts for the Golden Oldies to drink

mangroves to the sea, and return when the tide turns and refills the mangroves by their settlement.The stillness, peaceful surrounds on a warm 25C afternoon with the birds singing in the palms above felt idyllic. The reality is they live there permanently and survival from day to day is their life.

St Christopher’s Orphanage

“I met a man driving taxis at the airport, and when he discovered I was an Anglican minister, he told me he had lived at St Christopher’s orphanage. He told me his Dad attacked and killed his Mum, then he got life imprisonment, so Social Welfare had him placed into the orphanage to grow up. The love of the sisters, daily routines and strong Christian teaching gave him a foundation for life. He was now happily married with a child. Without St Christopher’s he doesn’t believe he would’ve made it in life.”

This was one of the stoies told today and why the orphanage continues to receive such high recognition.

The Golden Oldies were entertained by the children with singing and dance,

“we have nothing to offer you except our voices”

and sing they did with all their heart. After a tour of the home

More children arriving at the orphanage are coming from family abuse situations

including the nursery with little cots lining the walls, the children released from formalities, took over the ghetto blaster and break dancing began. One boy’s Michael Jackson moves stole the show and was loved by everyone.Today the orphanage is attracting more children from abuse situations and its ministry to the children of Fiji is one of real Christian love in action.

‘Black birding’ and St Gabriel’s

The ‘tin church’ bringing a community together

Maybe Christchurch can take a leaf out of the poorest people in Fiji, the Melanesians, ingenuity to building new facilities. The newly ordained Melanesian minister was given a week to build his new church, as the local people could no longer fit into his lounge for services. So within the week, up went the ‘tin church’ which the Golden Oldies visited today. 100 people from the local village attend services inside this structure each Sunday!St Gabriel’s dream is to build a more permanent structured building to be use as a church, community centre and pre-school and fundraising is already underway.

They are of Melanesian descent which is a tragic story in

Being welcomed by our Melanesian friends

itself. The white people went to the Solomons and surrounding islands and there they  ‘kidnapped’ young men to be slaves for building the roads and railways in Fiji and work in the sugar cane plantations. This kidnapping was called ‘black birding’. Today the Melanesians are the poorest of all the ethnic groups in Fiji and due to being declared ‘migrants’ they have never had entitlement to land. The Church has made a significant impact in helping the poorest of the poor from the injustices they have endured over the past century. And it is this current Government, believe it or not!, that is putting these injustices to right with the PM office committing itself to protecting these people from greedy landowners who are trying to evict them off this land.Many of the villages we visit involve these gentle and friendly Melanesian people, who have welcomed us warmly as friends not guests.

A Village in the Valley

Catherine talking with the village students

Leaving Suva city and travelling out to an isolated village down a very steep grade to the valley floor, you could feel the dampness in the air of the surrounding swamp-like paddocks. The isolation from the city has made it a very poor area with high unemployment. We complete the cross-country journey over narrow wooden bridges by going up a small rise to disembark in an ancient school yard, St John’s Primary School.  The sparse school has at one end a Church and Vicarage, and a dining hall that

Village youth group performing during dinner

was to become our place for tonight’s welcome to the Golden Oldies.

We hear about the history of the Village, school and church, their pride in their students achieving academically against all odds, and their desperate need for a toilet block. The church, the hub of their village, has 300-people attending each Sunday, but since it was built in 1958 they have never had enough money to build toilets, and so they

AAW groups from this village meeting with AAW members Mary and Jill (kneeling). And is the rumour true that Jane (left) is planning to join up?!

have to use the adjacent vicarage.

The formal ceremony of welcome, prayers, singing, kava, speeches, dancing, and banquet meal, all made the evening another heavenly encounter. The friendliness of the people, although living in poverty of material richness, they made up for in spiritual joy and spontaneity of friendship. The heart-felt glow of love and appreciation for the kindness bestowed on the Golden Oldies wanted them to reach out and solve their hardships then and there. Although one

Junior ‘Golden-Oldie’ Andrea, feeling at home amongst her new sisters

sobering observation was that as we ate like Kings and Queens , and even having ‘seconds’, the children performed song and dance to entertain us, no one from the village had eaten. Only after we had finished did they distribute our leftovers amongst themselves, each plate of leftovers being shared between 3 children.

On leaving, the deep sense of sadness in saying goodbye forever was softened in the knowledge that this wasn’t going to be a final goodbye. Our children had adopted a village of new brothers and sisters. While several of the Golden Oldies were talking about returning to this village, to partner with them to help fulfil their dreams. Including completing those toilets unfinished since 1958.