When Elizabeth Vidilini first went on the Fiji mission trip in 2018 as part of the Youthworks Year 13 gap year program, she didn’t imagine she would return multiple times as a leader. Every time she returns, she not only observes the ways in which current Year 13 students grow and are changed but finds herself humbled and shaped by the Fijian church and the things God is doing globally.
“I have been encouraged each time I’ve visited Fiji by their love for one another and the way they share life throughout the week,” she says. “1 Thessalonians 2:8 sums up what I think the Fijian church does so well: ‘Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well’.”
The mission trip to Fiji is an integral part of the Year 13 experience. It allows students to solidify their theological studies in a practical way as well as lifting their eyes to see different contexts where the gospel is proclaimed.
The students’ time in the country is spent working alongside local churches and communities in their gospel teaching. They get involved in youth groups, church services, kids’ and preschool ministries, and are split into small groups to visit different villages and get immersed in the culture – staying with local Christian families and sharing life with them across the week.
Over the years Mrs Vidilini has attended, she has observed the partnership between Year 13 and Fijian churches grow in love and depth, fostering existing relationships and reaching into new churches and villages.
Submerged into a different world
Mrs Vidilini, who attends church at Jamberoo, found her first trip to Fiji five years ago a bit of a culture shock as it brought her face to face with the poverty many village families experienced.
“As a student, the village I was in was very poor and isolated,” she says. “There was a lot of neglect, poverty and sadness that I couldn't do anything about.”
Observing how families carried on with day-to-day life despite challenging circumstances humbled her.
“This challenged me to trust that God is bigger than us, and his plan is greater than we can imagine,” she says. “The truths in his word reassured me that he knows and cares for these people more than I ever could. God is faithful in keeping his promises to protect and care for his children, even in remote villages in Fiji.”
God works when we have nothing left
Now as a leader on the annual mission trip, Mrs Vidilini is not only humbled by the Fijian church but by watching younger students grow in their faith.
“Going on a short-term mission trip brings with it so many great experiences, but with these come the temptation of feeling like it’s us at work and not God,” she says.
“This year, our local Christian mission didn’t get the opportunity to do as much ministry as they would have liked. This helped us to stop and reflect, as a team, on the fact that God is working for his glory and we have the blessing and joy of being part of that.”
Each mission provides a new cohort of Year 13 students with the opportunity to be challenged, wrestle with their faith and see how God is working through their weaknesses.
“I have had the privilege of caring for students as they’ve been pushed emotionally and physically,” Mrs Vidilini says. “Through it, they have grown to see that God works through them even when they feel like they have nothing left to offer.
“Nearly all of them return to Australia reminded of God’s goodness and that his plan for salvation is far greater than we can imagine. We are left trusting God’s sovereignty, and return home reflective of how we can continue to serve God in the places he has put [us] in Australia.”
Pray for Year 13 and the Fijian church
- Pray that the Fijian church would continue to grow in its understanding of grace
- Pray that gospel truth will continue to be proclaimed among a growing number of other religions and worldly distractions
- Pray that gospel preaching will be faithful and point to Jesus’ saving work on the cross
- Pray for Year 13 and the continued partnership with the church in Fiji long term – that Fiji would continue to be a safe place to visit and that local churches may continue to welcome the team and graciously partner with them in the gospel
- Pray that through missions, the church in Fiji will be strengthened and many would grow in faith