Reflecting on the rollercoaster of experience that was our month-long mission in Fiji, I find myself at a loss for words to adequately describe all that we saw and learned and did. But undeniably, everyone came away from the past month changed in some way. In fact, the slight lateness of my submission of this blog is a typical example of the ‘Fiji time’ mindset which some of us find ourselves in: things will happen when they happen, in God’s good timing, and if they have to get pushed back because of relationship building, well no harm done. During my first few days back in Australia, I have felt myself leaning against the flow of timetables and appointments and schedules, lingering to chat to people and being far more enthusiastic and open about conversing with complete strangers.
Fortunately, we were prepared for this type of reaction during our last few days in Fiji. We stayed in on an island called Waya Lai Lai, one of the few resorts in Fiji owned and run entirely by Fijians. Although not the type of “resort” we would usually expect (perhaps “backpackers by the beach” would be more accurate) we considered it five-star luxury in comparison with other accommodation we’d experienced. In addition to the structured time we spent debriefing with each other, there was also a lot of free time to spend reflecting, journaling and discussing the past month in a more informal manner. Another benefit of our time at Waya Lai Lai that I only appreciate in hindsight was the opportunity to slowly acclimatise to western culture again. For instance, sitting on chairs and benches instead of the floor, and getting to use showers with warm water and actual shower heads, and being able to confidently drink tap water were some small but significant things which many people greatly appreciated, especially the half of us who came directly from their time staying in villages.
Fiji has definitely changed me and challenged me in many ways. In Fiji I learnt what it properly is to trust God, and now I need to work on bringing that back to Australia with me. Something I’ve found is that when you are completely and utterly removed from everything familiar, it suddenly becomes much easier to hold your own life, worldview and culture up to the light for examination. Our month in Fiji on short term mission was so valuable in many ways. I have no doubt that we had positive effects in many places, whether it was in helping give theological training, or teaching children God’s Word, or in encouragement to local churches, or building relationships to foster long-term evangelism. However, I feel the people most profoundly affected by our mission were ourselves. Personally speaking, I learned a lot about myself and my faith, but more importantly about God; about relying fully on him and about trusting in his perfect timing, and about his worldwide mission.
I would also like to take this opportunity to extend a huge thank you to all the Year 13 staff, for consenting to herd 92 cats around Fiji for a month, and for all those who supported students in their mission, both prayerfully and financially. We couldn’t have done it without you (and Jesus of course!)
Sylvia Schouten is a Year 13 student and a member of St George North Anglican Church