This July 9th-19th Evangelism Explosion’s (http://www.eeinternational.org) Continental Director David Clark will be taking a team from Colorado to Fiji for a week to train pastors in Island EE on Vanua Levu (the second largest island in Fiji). I am honored that I was invited to join this team along with a group from Phoenix, AZ. After prayer and discussion with others I have decided to go and since I have bought my plane tickets; I'm committed.
I wanted to be able to keep people updated on what’s going on with me as I prepare for this trip and what I learn from it so I thought writing a blog would be a good way to do it. The people in the group I will be traveling and teaching with are David and his wife Sue Clark, Sarah Williams, Cindy Millar, Georgie Heil, John Fruchey, Jim Ayers, Ivan Kuipers, and Cindy (don’t know last name yet). I’m really looking forward to getting to know these other missionaries.
The village we will be staying at is about an hour outside of Labasa on the island of Vanua Levu. The village itself will be a new and interesting culture for us to learn from. An easy read reference is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_Fiji if you’re interested in learning more than I mention here.
Sue has told me I will need to wear skirts and modest, shoulder covering clothes in the village. The skirts need to be knee length at least. Most people wear flip flops, as the Fijians take off their shoes upon entering a home. We may have good access to electricity, I will have to wait and see.
A little about the culture of the tribesmen on the island; we will feel like we are stepping back in time a bit because the women all serve the men. Sue has been there before and saw no women mistreated, they just have different roles than we do here in the US. Not wrong, just different. The women and men both work very hard in this culture. Everything is work; doing laundry by hand, boiling water to wash dishes, digging plants for dinner. It is not overly strange, just a harder life style.
The men eat their meals first and then the women eat whatever is left over. Often times there is a community bowl in the middle of the table and utensils may or may not be used. They often use only one utensil, cleaning off in their mouth before dipping back into the main bowl, or sugar bowl. In some villages, some eat with no utensils, just their fingers. They also are not big on washing their hands so this is something we will have to graciously accept.
In the past some missions groups treat the Fijians as lower citizens and we need to be very careful to not offend or look down upon their customs.
It is very much a community and things such as guitars or video games may be borrowed and left around or perhaps not returned at all. Sue also gave a warning to women about jewelry. If we compliment someone on something, they may just take it off and give it to us. Some women also expect this in return. She basically said that we should not take anything that we would not be willing to give up. I will be taking small items like necklaces, teabags, & candy to give away as gifts.
Some of you have asked me about the percent of Christian’s verses other religions in Fiji. Here is what I have found: The CIA world factbook (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/print/fj.html) states: Christian 64.5% (Methodist 34.6%, Roman Catholic 9.1%, Assembly of God 5.7%, Seventh Day Adventist 3.9%, Anglican 0.8%, other 10.4%), Hindu 27.9%, Muslim 6.3%, Sikh 0.3%, other or unspecified 0.3%, none 0.7% (2007 census).
Our team will be meeting once a day for a time of devotion and prayer. I ask those of you reading this to be praying about the trip. Please pray for the health of the team and our service/testimony as we are with the Fijians. I will continue to update you.
As my mother always said “Love is Eternal” -- Julie