After a bit of rest yesterday, this is going to be another full full full day. We depart at 8:30 am.
9 am – Davuilevu Theological College
We are in a gorgeous hilly, landscaped setting of the Nausori area, adjacent to the Rewa River about 15 miles north of Suva. Davuilevu (“large conch shell”) is the principal Methodist College and training institution of the Church. Director Rev Epineri Vakadewavosa and his wife Titilia are old friends to a number of us, from our few visits to Fiji and their many visits to California.
There is Lotu led by Rev Timoci Nawaciono and with stunning anthem and hymn-singing. Rev Epineri offers words of welcome, Bishop Brown delivers a sermon and Rev Liza says the closing prayer. There follows a visit to the Library and ceremonial planting of a hardwood tree, which is blessed by the Bishop.
We next walk up the hill to the dining hall for “morning tea.” (In this blog morning tea, afternoon tea or any tea should be understood to mean far far more than tea, both in abundance and variety of the offering – e.g. three or four kinds of fruit, cakes, juice, coconut milk right out of the shell, sandwiches, roti and/or samosas, assorted concoctions make of taro and other starches, tea, coffee – and in care and love.) Some may note the potential humor, at a theological college, of walking up the hill from Church to the dining hall. Your suspicions are confirmed: the dining hall is one of the original campus buildings (perhaps the chapel itself) and the sanctuary is newer.
This is a lay leadership school on the Davuilevu campus, offering young adults a course of training that can lead to becoming a vakatawa. Most of the students are on field assignments this week, so the group that is gathered today is only 30~40. There is opening prayer and a talk about the Methodist Youth Fellowship program here and throughout the country. Bishop Brown offers words of support and blessing, speaking of the fishermen who came to Christ after he told them to take their nets and cast them on the other side. Additional words of welcome and thanks are offered by our hosts, then Rev Te says that we must move on after a brief tour of the facility. Coconut juice is served.
1 pm – Lelean Memorial School
Lelean is a high school run by the Church and located adjacent to the Davuilevu campus.
The poor Lelean students, they had expected us at 1030 and have been sitting in the hot sun, most of them, since (about) then! They are gathered in a paved area between two wings of the shoal. Fans are fanning furiously. We are garlanded with shell necklaces. The school Choir sings from Handel’s Messiah (The Glory of the Lord, and with extreme competence, Thank You!). The Chaplain delivers a Devotion. There are words of welcome from the Principal and more choral music. Bishop Brown delivers his fisherman homily for young people but only after introductory remarks that include an allusion to how late we have arrived (monstrous laughter from the assembly). The Vice Principal delivers a Vote of Thanks. Rev Linda L-Z delivers a Benediction and Choir closes with Handel’s Hallelujia Chorus (you needn’t wonder: beautiful and mastered!).
Rev Liza, Chris and Alena had looked forward to seeing Vinnie’s daughter Melina at Lelean, having met her in 2010 on several occasions. In the confusion and crowd after the assembly, Melina finds Alena at least, but sadly Chris and Rev Liza miss her.
2 pm – Baker Hall presentation
The Revd Thomas Baker Memorial Hall, on the Davuilevu campus was constructed during 1910-13 on the site of Baker Memorial College (now Davuilevu) and at the time was one of the grandest assembly halls in Fiji, designed for services but also divisible into three large classroom areas. Thomas Baker was a well-known missionary who lost his life under circumstances that are not well understood, although they involved some amount of conflict, during a trip into the mountainous interior of Viti Levu in 1867. In its heyday, Baker Hall was heavily used but it is now in severe disrepair and remodeling the building is a goal of the Church. Engineering and cost studies have been made and the scope of the project is well-developed, but funds are not yet available. All of this is explained by our hosts using a computer slide presentation and handouts.
3 pm – Lunch at Lay Training Center
The Lelean student Choir entertains with lively song (mostly in Fijian but some English secular music) as we are served a buffet lunch, Pastor Greg having offered the blessing of the meal.
4 pm – Dilkusha Home
Dilkusha is an orphanage for Indian children that was founded by the Methodist Church many years ago using money donated from the Indian community. There are 27 – 30 kids here now, although the capacity is 50 to 60; the decline is due to an increase of orphanage facilities in the country. The youngest is 1 year old. There are two 3 yr-olds and the oldest are in high school (three are students at Lalean). We are meeting in a new social hall that was donated three years ago, but the rest of the facility is much older.
After a tour of the facility (mostly old but very clean and maintained) we are take up a steep flight of stairs to the top of the hill on which Dilkusha is located. At the top is The Sister’s House, with a beautiful view, a nice breeze, and afternoon tea waiting for us on the covered front veranda.
545 pm – Arriving back at our hotel …
the Clergy among us
waddle up ride the elevator to the fourth floor for a meeting with Rev Linda C.
630 pm – Pastors and their associates depart to visit portions of the church communities where they preached on Sunday.
Pastor Liza, Alena, Julie and Chris visit with the “Raiwaqa Mature Youth.” In the 1970s, Alena and her husband Tomu (the late founder to the Fijian congregation at San Rafael) lived in the Raiwaqa neighborhood and worked with youth. In those days, Raiwaqa was a neighborhood with severe juvenile delinquency and a high crime rate. It was a community of low cost public housing and many families who had moved to Suva from rural areas. The community has since stabilized and has a low crime rate. The “Youth” visited by us are many of the same individuals with whom Alena had worked, plus new friends. We engage in casual conversation about church, while enjoying snacks. Later, we are visited by a Police Inspector who has recently made comparative studies of Suva neighborhoods. The change at Raiwaqa compared to 30 years ago has caught his attention and he is in dialog with neighborhoods about these issues and the possibilities of change. Saki, who is one of the group’s informal spokesmen, says that the church was a main player in turning things around for them. But it didn’t just start with attending the main church. Instead, a group of them would meet in a smaller space and invite in people to preach to and guide them. Some understood quickly. Others slept or stayed away, but gradually, those who understood were able to bring in the others and they started attending the main church. Another member notes that Pastor Liza’s words on Sunday, about how John Wesley came down to the level of those afflicted, was very meaningful for them. Further dialog and reflection follows. Sake comments that the kind of gathering of adults here tonight is common among them, but in many urban neighborhoods, people have not formed community such as this.
1100 pm – Back at the hotel
Tomorrow will be another big day. We depart by bus at 7 am to go the the chiefly island of Bau and meet the Chief of all the Chiefs of Fiji. Bau was the center of political and military power of Fiji at the time of arrival of the first missionaries and remains a site of considerable importance.
PS: it would be wonderful if others were to write up a few words about the communities that they visited, and either post them as replies to this blog, or send them to Chris as an email for posting (email@example.com).