A short note on our move to the West next year and our small team, the Trailblazers.
When you think of a trailblazer, what picture comes to mind?
A simple definition of a trailblazer is, “someone who makes a way through wild country”. Sort of like pioneers.
However, trailblazers are more than just pioneers, they are both pathfinder and path-marker. In the original sense of the word, a trailblazer was someone who laid out markers to guide those that would follow. The famous missionary, C. T. Studd when told by critics to go home, that he had done enough replied,
“God has called me to go, and I will go. I will blaze the trail though my grave may only become a stepping stone that younger men may follow.”
I’m sure that if you look through the Bible and missions’ history you’ll find many men and women who have said similar things as they ventured out into unfamiliar territory. Maybe some are coming to mind right now. People who gave up their lives to fulfil the greatest commission – to be trailblazers for the Gospel of Christ.
The picture that comes to me as I think of this word – Trailblazer; is that of the early missionaries from the Pacific who harnessed the innovation of a great seafaring society and used the dreaded double-hulled war canoes as vehicles to bring light to their savage neighbours. Settling, learning native languages and passing on the message of love and hope.
For Judith and I, it has always been our plan to assist the ministry in Vanuatu once she completed her training. [We hope this is still very much part of God’s plan for our lives as well.] However, as we’ve prayed and talked about our next steps, we’ve felt God’s leading for us to be a part of this opportunity in the West of Fiji. The West, specifically Namaka in Nadi has been an outreach ground for our conference and missions’ teams in the past few years and momentum has slowly started to build.
This year after our respective projects to Tonga and Nadi, we sat down with the national leadership to talk about the future. It became clear that while we felt ready to move back to Vanuatu, the logistics were very much not in our favour as a young couple. Plus, we had no experience leading a campus team; even if we had decided to go, we would have still greatly relied on the guidance and leadership of our Fiji team.
So the decision has been made and we’re excited.
Along with Nathan Alfred, we are calling ourselves the Western Trailblazers. The West for us is a stepping stone firstly for our own development as mission workers and secondly as a way of giving back to our home nation of Fiji. Establishing the movement in the West will strengthen the movement’s cause to having Fiji the spiritual hub for sending and resourcing the Oceania region. Our commitment for now is up until the end of 2020 and our focus in Nadi over the next year or so will be to pioneer and lay the groundwork for a sustainable movement in the West trusting God for his favour and provision.
Please remember us in your prayers.
ps. We can’t tell you how excited Nathan, our fellow worker was when he got the news. Nathan had been pushing for a move to the West and had already been meeting with key students from Namaka. [Yeah boy, saddle up your horses, we’ve got a trail to blaze]
TuMa and I are so grateful to be working alongside such a diverse collection of individuals on our staff team, each with varying skills and interests. This year we’ve had the privilege of seeing our co-staff, Nanise Rainima, represent Fiji in the 67th Miss World 2017 Beauty with a Purpose Pageant. Though we miss her, our hearts and our prayers are with her all the way!
Every year teams made up of students and staff plan a week-long ‘Mission Project’ to different universities and tertiary institutions within Fiji and neighboring countries. This year our destinations included Suva, Nadi, Samoa and Tonga! TuMa joined the Tonga team while I joined the Nadi project team.
Nadi (FNU Namaka Campus)
‘Overcoming our faith barriers’, a challenge from the June Voyagers Conference was what the students took with them as they set out to meet new students and share with them the Good News of Jesus Christ.
For some, raising funds for the mission trip was a faith barrier they overcame, and others simply sharing the gospel to strangers was beyond them. Some students shared that stepping out of their cultural comfort zones and sharing with ethnic Indian students (most of whom are either Hindu or Muslim) was something they never dreamt of doing; even though nearly half the population of Fiji are of Indian descent.
Here’s what Mesa (a student) writes:
The sharing was exciting and they were really intrigued as what we were sharing. I have felt that I just conquered one of my greatest challenges. What motivated me the most was that early the next morning, while we were still having our training, I received a text from one of the Hindu friends saying that he was really motivated by our sharing and that he was thankful about it. He was thinking of making a really big “change” in his life. I was really inspired by this and this boosted my willingness to go out and reach more, touch more lives and save more souls for Christ.
Praise the Lord for just enough students on the Namaka campus for the project students to not only focus on their comfort-zone iTaukei but also our ethnic Indian brothers and sisters.
Another student, Pita, shared that his faith barrier was not ‘stranger oriented’ but in sharing with an old friend from high-school. One whom he used to get up to a lot of mischief with back in the days. This was of course, if the Lord allowed their paths to meet again in Nadi.
Our last day on campus ended with a combine fellowship and a game of touch and volleyball with the Namaka students. This was it, Pita thought, but just as he got onto the playing field, he spotted his old mate on the sideline and knew instantly the tugging on his heart was an indication to quit the game, go over and say hi. The ‘hi’ turned into a late lunch catch-up and gospel presentation by Pita, to his friends’ surprise. Pita was honored that day to be the Lord’s vessel in leading his old mate to Christ.
Tonga Missions Project
What a great blessing to join Sai and a team of 11 students to the beautiful Kingdom of Tonga. We were just blown away by the hospitality and friendship. God is working mightily in the Kingdom. At this point I should point out that we currently have no full-time staff in Tonga and the students go out of their way to organise weekly gatherings with other Christian fellowships.
“It’s not about the label; Navigators, or Cru, or CF. When we gather on Mondays for our Connexion on campus, it’s just a group of believers that want to worship God together”.
Picnic with the students.
Church service at Saione.
Kami sharing with a student at TTI.
Going through the “Knowing God Personally” booklet.
Men’s Time at Veitogo Beach.
Girls performing at a church celebration.
Time for some ice-cream.
During our time there the team was able to share with students at USP and Tupou Tertiary Institute. We had a total of 120 spiritual conversations and 70 gospel presentations over the course of the week.
My favourite part of the project was just building relationship with the students leaders in Tonga. Many of whom were sacrificing their time and money to be with the team that week. They joined us for our trainings every morning and accompanied us on outreaches to schools and churches and team retreats. We also had a fellowship meeting at Tupou Tertiary Institute where I got to share a bit about the Holy Spirit and living the Spirit Filled Life.
I’ve really felt the presence of God while being a part of the outreach and trainings this week. My parents try to discourage me from coming, they don’t really understand the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing but that’s okay. I know this is what God’s called me to do and I know it pleases Him. That’s all that matters.
Here’s Tasi singing “Ulo mai ho’o maama” as we farewell our Tongan friends at the airport. I swear this clip makes me tear up everytime.
Overall Mission Projects Stats
467 exposed to the Gospel
Suva – 53
Nadi – 144
Tonga – 120
Samoa – 150
365 presentations of the “Knowing God Personally” booklet.
USP’s ban on the ministry work on campus stands despite our efforts in requesting the ban be lifted. Our senior staff and ministry board members continue to seek other avenues to address not only the issue of the ban but more so the USP Religious policy that was enacted in Nov 2016.
Regardless of the policy, students continue to meet for Bible studies, fellowship and training, most of which now happens off campus either at McDonald’s over a cup-a-tea or soft serve ice cream or at our office a 15 min walk or 5 min bus ride away from USP. We thank the Lord for providing these opportunities to meet with students.
What may seem an obstacle has actually opened up the minds of our staff to explore more creative alternatives of reaching Students apart from going on campus. The Judea Express was a suggested alternative where we hope to reach Students living in accommodations just outside of USP.
Pictured below was one such opportunity that Judith was a part of where a couple of older Student Life members (Student Leaders) from Fiji and Vanuatu were encouraged to share the gospel to a group of girls living in a house located not far from USP. More than 15 girls were present from Vanuatu, Solomon Is and Fiji and heard the gospel presented along with a testimony.
In our previous January newsletter we were anticipating two upcoming events; Staff Conference and a Vanuatu trip.
What a way to begin the year with a week long time spent with our regional staff from Fiji, PNG, Guam, NZ based regional staff, and the US. We also had Rose from the Solomon Is and Veronica from Tonga who have both applied to join staff but have yet to serve their two year bonds in their individual countries.
Highlights from the Conference include:
Morning sessions working through the 10 growth indicators in the Book of Jonah with Mark Yardbrugh.
Afternoon couching sessions with Marc Rutter (Cru HR) developing skills in the area of practically guiding conversations to get desired outcomes (couching).
Commissioning our first mission team to Samoa a group comprising Soi & Fataki from Tonga with their three sons and Sera Tuiyalani from Fiji.
And last but not least, getting to meet staff from around the region.
Time in Vanuatu
Right after Staff Conference, there was an opportunity to head back home (Vanuatu) mainly to tie off lose ends at both Judith’s old work places but also to actually meet in person those of you supporting us in ministry and tell you a bit about what’s been happening. We were so grateful for this opportunity and loved meeting with you. For those we weren’t able to meet we hope to catch you next time. Please do let us know when you are in Suva.
Not until half way through the school semester are we finally getting into a regular routine in life consisting of staff meetings, appointments with students, new staff training, family functions and house and yard attending. We had hoped to move to Suva at the beginning of this year but with the way things have panned out have decided to stay a while longer here at Pacific Harbour, and enjoying coming back to the calm and quiet compared to the hustle and bustle of Suva.
Having spent a full half year of 2016 solely dedicated to raising our financial support plus settling in here in Fiji, what a nice change it was to finally be working with University Students since Feb this year (2017). Being engaged in the heart of what the Student Life movement is all about “A community passionate about connecting students to Christ” has been a great eye opener to the great need for Christ at USP.
Connecting with Students (especially first years) at the start of the year is always a crucial time for our staff and student leaders. Students are less tied down to commitments and more available to meet up and talk about the survey forms they filled out with us during orientation week or during one of our weekly connection meetings. Where they indicate an interest to know more about God and what ‘Student Life’ is all about, we, the staff and student leaders, follow up on by calling them up and meeting with them one-on-one. I must say, not everyone responds enthusiastically or responds at all, but for the few that do, we get the opportunity to share the gospel with. And if they want to meet up again and again and again, these are the few we get to do life with!
Over the past couple of weeks Judith has finally settled on McDonalds as her base for meeting with girls for Bible study. From the 70 or so phone calls made and 20 or so actual face to face conversations, she has a total of about 8 girls that she meets with on a regular basis (Weekly) and a couple other inconsistent or new appointments weekly.
Our new work year began on January 2nd as we dove right into an intense yet very rewarding two weeks of theological studies. We were both privileged to be a part of John Majors and Mike Sense’s class of Biblical Interpretation and Communication; learning the intricacies of interpreting a passage of scripture and then developing it so that we could deliver a lecture. Phew! What a way to start the year. We are thankful and praise the Lord for growing us in these areas the past two weeks.
Our Digital Strategies team have just sent through a report on an online campaign Cru Fiji was a part of in the month of July.
We were glad we could be a part of it and blessed by so many stories from around the world of discipleship. One of the stories we really enjoyed was of Josiah. Josiah grew up in the Amazon completely convinced that he was luckiest kid on Earth, but when tragedy struck at the age of 13, God revealed to him a much greater identity.
“Someday I’m going to be gone… but who am I going to leave? I want to leave a generation of disciples who will make disciples better than I did” Josiah Huber.
A few weeks before our wedding, Judith invited me to a Scripture Union camp for kids. It was to be her last camp before moving over to campus ministry. We had an awesome time with the kids. I’ve found that one of the joys of living and working in a small place like Port Vila is the opportunity to work with and alongside other ministries. It’s a blessing to rub shoulders with people serving under different umbrella organisations; Scripture Union, Youth with a Mission (YWAM), Christian fellowship, Bible translators and other missionaries. During my short time there God has reminded me of how he uses us all in different ways but with the same objective, to help fulfill the Great Commission – to make disciples of all nations. I can honestly say that one of the highlights for me was simply “guys’ fellowship”; where we’d meet on a Tuesday night, read a passage of scripture and just break-off into talking about the “big questions” in life… in BISLAMA! [laughs] God is so good. I feel that God has been teaching me to be more practical with my faith and not to limit ministry to students on university campuses but to be open to opportunities that present themselves everyday. Not by going out on the streets and giving out tracts but by learning to love people more and being sensitive to their circumstances. More than that; offering to lend a hand.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to share such exciting news. Judith and I [finally] got married on Saturday 21st May at Joy Memorial Chapel in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Thank you for your continued prayers and support, the day was truly one that we will never forget and one of many fond memories.
Church was packed to the rafters and it was such a joy to see a large contingent from Fiji fly over to be part of the celebration. I was especially happy that my older brother was able to come in all the way from Afghanistan. What a pleasant surprise!
I don’t think we can really begin to express how overwhelmed at how smoothly everything progressed; only that God is faithful and that he was with us every step of the way.