When our church first got involved starting up a partnership with Vuci Rd church in Suva, Fiji, my expectation was that we would be helping the small community of Indo-Fijian believers in church development. I was overawed by the prospect, given my lack of experience in anything resembling leadership development, music ministry or anything else that a church might hope to ‘develop’. I expected to be the team ‘manager’ rather than ‘leader’ and those from my church who are better equipped in these areas would take over, and my involvement would fade out.
Whilst other church partnerships may progress in this way, ours has not. There have been no great developments in terms of leadership or new ministries as a consequence of our visits. Instead, our journey with Vuci Rd church has been much more low-key, which has allowed me to remain involved!
Each year we visit (we have now made four trips) we find the bond between the folks at Vuci Rd, our team, and our home church in Nowra grows stronger. We know that the small church in Fiji looks forward to our visits and the encouragement and injection of enthusiasm we bring. We feel like family now and take delight in sharing the joys and struggles the community faces. We all sense God’s pleasure in seeing two small parts of His family sharing together in fellowship, worship and prayer. We have learnt much from the Indo-Fijian way of doing life and ministry, and each visit we bring a little of our way to add to the melting pot of their experiences.
Each year our teams have spent much time in preparation and prayer, particularly regarding the activities we run, the teaching and messages we share. This has often stretched and challenged us personally, and has got us on our knees seeking the Lord’s guidance. That is always a growing and rewarding experience. And whilst we believe that what we share is heard, and hope that it sows some seed for growth, what we have found is that the community, more than longing for our teaching and activities, looks forward to the sharing of our lives and our stories. We take new worship songs to leave behind, and they are received well, but not as well as our prayers for the struggles in their lives. I have been personally impacted by that.
It’s not just the church members who want our prayers but the people we visit in the neighbourhood, often of other faiths, who also welcome us in to hear their stories and bring their struggles before God. It makes me wonder how often people in my world at home would appreciate the offer of prayer. I am also impressed by the dignity and honour the Fijian community bestows upon the older members of our team. The ‘Grandma’ on our team is the most loved, most remembered, most welcomed member of our team in the homes of Vuci Rd.
It is the unexpected moments of connection that leave the deepest impression on my reflections. A group of women gathered around a table, colouring Bible verse sheets together, joined across cultures and languages by the luxurious opportunity to abandon duties and responsibilities to share something just for the pleasure of it. The grandmother we have met each year now, but who we have only ever been able to communicate with minimally via an interpreter, brought out a bag containing her unused saris – one for each of the ladies on our team. It was a gesture that transcended language and touched our hearts profoundly.
Visiting Vuci Rd has always been transformational for those of our church blessed with the opportunity to go. There are others who, despite circumstances that prevent them making the trip, have still been very much a part of our team. We continue to develop ways of helping our whole church feel a connection with our partner church in Fiji, and there are some who are part of our team by being a powerhouse of prayer. They ride the highs and lows of life in Vuci Rd with us.
And for those of us who go, the opportunity to share the experience develops bonds that remain long afterwards. Appreciating the character, personality and gifting of fellow team members – watching them accept new challenges and find their feet in a different culture and environment, is something that blesses me every trip.