It’s an exciting time of transition for Church of Christ churches in Fiji. With the Director of Fiji Community Churches of Christ, Bruce Edwards, leaving at the end of 2018 after six years, local pastors are being encouraged to plan for the future, exercise local leadership and operate as many parts of the united body of Christ.
When Bruce leaves, it will be the first time in the history of Global Mission Partners’ (GMP) involvement in Fiji that there will be no director or staff person leading the churches on the ground. Instead, pastors and their churches will become self-sufficient, establishing their own methods of self-care and managing their own teaching and professional development – with assistance from GMP as it is needed.
Listening to the stories that the pastors and their families tell, one could be forgiven for thinking that the church of Acts is being lived out. The pastors have witnessed miraculous healings in their communities, and they focus heavily on visiting people for prayer and preaching the word. While their resources are somewhat limited compared with Australia, they are faithful in spreading the gospel through presence, sign and word.
While the churches are built upon a strong foundation, they are also vulnerable. Fiji is a society with many churches, and the Fiji Community Churches of Christ (FCCC) consists of a few small – but vital – communities, which have been deeply impacted by Bruce’s encouragement.
The churches run in small spaces, some of which are temporary structures. For many of the churches, a permanent building would give them a greater sense of identity, and place them nearer to those who cannot access the current worship services held in town.
While the churches are sad that Bruce’s time with them in Fiji is coming to an end, they also recognise that this is the beginning of a new season and look forward to GMP’s continued support.
The churches were recently visited by GMP staff from Australia, including the new ICP Director and GMP Deputy Executive Officer, Craig Brown. Throughout the visit, Craig was reminded of the strength and fragility of the Fijian churches, and returned having both taught and learnt from them. During the visit, two Fijian churches had the opportunity to hear from Craig. One was the church in Lautoka, which meets in the outdoor area of the Cathay Hotel in a low-roofed, run-down setting, and the other was the church at Lomawai, which meets under a temporary shelter on farmland overlooking the Coral Coast. The two churches, with a combined attendance of 60 people, were encouraged not to define themselves as ‘small’, but as being able to do the things Christ did—to speak the words of Christ and act through the Spirit of Christ.
Later in the visit, the Fijian pastors met with Craig and Bruce for a pastors’ retreat. Those attending the retreat included Raj and Nirmila Deo from Vuci Rd, Alexander Kumar, David and Christie Reddy from Lautoka, Muneshwar and Stella Goundar from Sigatoka, as well as their families.
For two days, the pastors and their families gathered together to listen to each other’s stories, reflect on transition as a journey, and explore what it means to be the body of Christ in unity, diversity and action.
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6.
During this time, the Fijian pastors planned for the future and took up the challenge of exercising local leadership. Craig reflected that it was a valuable time of prayer for one another, eating together and sharing in communion.
Bruce’s departure will no doubt be felt in Fiji, but an important partnership remains. GMP will continue visiting the pastors and communities, offering pastoral care and encouragement, and receiving encouragement in return.
There is both strength and fragility in Fiji ministry, and it is important to continue to support and grow this ministry in years to come. Through prayer, funding and mentoring, the work happening in Fiji can continue and become self-sustaining.