A Tale of Two SIM Cards, A Coincidental Meeting, & The Grey Ghost

Today I was able to meet with Vuniani Nakauyaca, prayer warrior and founder of the Healing of the Land Teams in Fiji.  I have known Vuni since 2003, have taught at his center and travelled with his team.

First the tale:

When I arrived in Fiji I was told I would have to get a new SIM card for my Fiji phone since VodaPhone, my service provider, was upgrading their system.  Late yesterday afternoon I finally had time to stand in the very long line at the VodaPhone center to make the exchange.  I immediately returned to my hotel, took a quick shower (have I mentioned how hot and muggy it is here this time of year) and headed back into town for an early dinner.  When I got back to the hotel, I made my report to my prayer partners, turned off my computer and phone and went to bed around 11 p.m.

This morning when I turned my phone back on I immediately started to get phone calls from people I did not know and who did not know me.  Then I noticed that I only had a few pennies left in my prepaid account.  I had had close to $100F available before swapping out my SIM card.  After breakfast I headed up town to the VodaPhone center to see what was going on.  Two lines this time, both thankfully rather short.  I explained my situation and the agent at the counter took my phone, poked around for a few seconds and said, “Mike, what’s wrong?”  Could that be a clue?

Seems the agent the day before had switched SIM cards and inserted someone else’s into my phone.  Wrong SIM card removed, right card inserted, contact information and prepaid amount retrieved, I walked out with a much more useful instrument.

I attempted to call Vuni, but got no reply.  Then almost immediately I got a call from Ratu Osea who had been trying to reach me all morning.  Turns out after we parted yesterday, he was at a gas station when who should pull in but Vuni (the coincidence).  They hadn’t seen each other since two years before when I had gotten them together at Vuni’s house.  Vuni had since moved and he had changed phone numbers.  Ratu told Vuni I needed to see him.  Vuni took my number and had been trying to call me all morning as well, with no result until I had my phone fixed.

A 40 minute cab ride later, I was sitting down and talking with “the Grey Ghost” as his friends call him.  He is always traveling, never at home or available, hence the doubts of his existence in this earthly plain and his nickname.  We had a great time catching up.  He had just overseen a very significant identificational repentance event and had only just returned home the day before when he spotted Ratu and stopped to talk.

I told Vuni about our beekeeping projects and the need to locate another center for this aspect of our work.  The HTL team has a model farm not too far from Suva that might serve this need.  My meeting on Monday at the Lomawai Center will determine what assets we might wish to move.  The government agricultural department had done beekeeping training for Vuni’s team some months ago with the promise of supplying several beehives to them “in the near future”.  That near future has never happened, nor is it likely to.

We then talked about the TUtP outreach scheduled for August in Dreketi Settlement on Vanua Levu Island.  Turns out that in 2010, Vuni’s HTL team led a healing of the land process in three of the seven villages that comprise this settlement.  There are two HTL pastors in Labasa who know the area quite well and should be able to serve as counselors and do follow-up for our project.  Is God good, or what?

Another 30 minute cab ride brought me to the TUtP Women’s and Youth Center in the Namadi settlement where I met with Pastor Paula Sotia, who directs this project.  About 60 women are registered with the center and served by our ministry.  Funding is a major issue.  On the way to the center, I was again on the phone with Dr. Joe Koriovuata, Permanent Secretary for Social Services, helping him resolve an issue with the computer I’d given him yesterday for GIFT (the Fijian Christian doctor’s group we work with in Fiji).  After discussing the financial situation with Pastor Paula, I called Dr. Joe and he and Paula talked.  They will meet in Dr Joe’s office at 8:30 a.m. to talk about project proposals and funding

Another cab ride back to my hotel, another shower, a quick evening meal in my room, and the end of a very rewarding day.  Thanks again for all of your prayers.

Blessings!

Fiji February 27, 2015

Elizabeth Clayton and Ratu Osea meetingMy main meeting today was with Ratu Osea and Elizabeth Clayton.  I’ve known Elizabeth from my first years in Fiji.  Her main ministry involves rescuing street children, providing them with a safe home and an education and hopefully helping their families come to a place where they can truly care for them in their own homes again.  Today she is overseeing the well-being of around fifty kids.

She is also the legal guardian of Sujit Kumar, previously known worldwide as the Chicken Boy of Fiji.  Sujit is one of a handful of so-called feral children—individuals who were raised by animals, almost devoid of human contact.  Almost from birth, Sujit was kept in a chicken coop under his parent’s home.  Eventually he was “rescued” by the Fijian police and chained to a wall in an insane asylum.  For many years he was kept in the most filthy, inhumane conditions imaginable.  His caretakers would throw food to him, always keeping their distance.  Occasionally they would hose him down as his only means of sanitation.

Elizabeth has a degree in behavioral science.  When she learned about how Sujit was being treated she got permission to take him into her home.  She began to work with him one-on-one to try to bring him to his full potential given all of the mistreatment he had suffered since he was born.  She took him to specialists in many countries who had an interest in the development of the human brain.  Her concern has always been to determine Sujit’s potential and to do everything possible to help him lead the fullest possible life.  She formed the Sujit foundation, pouring much of her own money into funding Sujit’s many needs.

Around three years ago she and I talked about what would happen to Sujit when she died.  The foundation would presumably have enough funds to provide for his care, but who would care for him and where could he live/  His scope of life and his potential is still much curtailed due to physical issues that will never be completely resolved.  For instance he cannot learn to speak since the segments of his brain that control speech are severely underdeveloped.  His social skills have vastly improved under Elizabeth’s care, but he still requires intense individual supervision every waking hour.

I suggested it might be best to set him up in a Fijian village.  The foundation could cover the costs for his care, provide adequate housing, etc.  Being in a village would give him much more freedom than living in a city.  There would be more opportunity for growth as he interacted with a rural environment.  Rural Fijian people are generally very considerate and are kind to those who are developmentally challenged.  Elizabeth liked the idea but did not take it any further than the discussion phase.

Today I finally got her together with Ratu Osea, the paramount chief I’ve mentioned previously.  Ratu will be moving from Suva back to his home village of Cuvu the end of March.  This village is right on the beach, not too far off the main road, but is definitely rural.  Immediately adjacent to his main house Ratu owns another smaller house that no one has lived in for many years.  The house is still structurally sound, but is in need of renovation.  It could be a very suitable place for Sujit.

Monday morning Elizabeth will drive Ratu and me to Cuvu to look at the village and to inspect the house.  If she thinks the situation is suitable, the foundation will renovate the house and she, Sujit and a caretaker will move to the village and live together there for a period of months until Sujit is comfortable and well accepted into village life.  During that time, selected villagers will be trained as caretakers.  Since Ratu will be back in the village, he can assure that everything goes according to plan.

Elizabeth will eventually move back to Suva and visit Sujit periodically to assure herself regarding his ongoing well being.  Everyone will benefit and Elizabeth will know she has done her best for this person she loves so well.  And she will be able to devote more time to the kids she is rescuing.

Very often I serve as a bridge between individuals who have a need and those who have the resources to meet that need.  It is such a blessing to be able to make a difference in the lives of so many over the years.  Thanks for your prayers and for partnering in this ministry.

Fiji February 25, 2105

This morning, Thursday, I had an appointment with Dr. Joe Koriovuata, Permanent Secretary for Social Services in Fiji. Dr. Joe is one of the founders of GIFT, the Christian doctor’s group we partner with here to do our medical outreaches. He has been a personal friend for many years. He was kind enough to send his car and driver to pick me up and take me to government house.

GIFT is building a new center just outside Suva where they will coordinate their ministry around the nation. Dr. Joe and his wife will live at this center after he most likely retires from government service later this year, though he has been asked by the Prime Minister to become Permanent Secretary for Health, an office he held prior to taking over Social Services.

GIFT wants to set up an in-house training and resource center on Biblical studies and evangelism to help their doctors become more proficient in the spiritual side of their ministry to the people we serve. I loaded WordSearch from my TUtP office computer onto my laptop so I could show Dr. Joe how that program could meet their requirements for reference resources more effectively than building an extensive library of hard-copy reference materials. I have dozens of sets of commentaries, over 30 translations of the Bible, and literally hundreds of other key books, all of which can be accessed in minutes and cross referenced in a number of interactive ways. Multiple thousands of dollars worth of materials are available at a keyboard stroke at far less cost than books. It is also a lot easier to carry a laptop with all these material available on-site during an outreach.

I have a contact at WordSearch who gives me tremendous discounts on whatever I buy for ministry purposes. In addition to the cash savings per product, he also has gifted me with dozens of titles at no cost. As a result, TUtP can provide GIFT with an extensive set of materials without worrying about how to transport everything into the country and through customs. Initially we hope to provide at least two desk top and two laptop computers loaded with WordSearch and ready for GIFT doctors to use.
I did, however, on this trip bring with me a complete set of N.T. Wright’s translation of the New Testament with notes in book form. I already have those in WordSearch, so don’t need them. I gave him one laptop, though we don’t yet have any reference sets to load until after my return to the States next month. Once I make the purchase, he can load everything onto that computer for immediate use.

While I was with Dr. Joe, I also discussed possible funding for programs at our TUtP women’s center in Namadi settlement just outside Suva. Dr. Joe immediately got on his phone and called Pastor Sotia, the director of the center, to arrange preliminary discussions regarding what kinds of programs Social Services might fund. Funds might also be available for the women’s center on Tuvacau Island where TUtP has set up a beekeeping project. Dr. Joe can assist Pastor Sotia to write up proposals that meet required government standards.

From Social Services I walked over the Anglican Cathedral in the center of town to meet with the Dean, Fthr. Claude Fong. I first met Fthr. Fong two or three years ago during one of my prior visits. He is a conservative, evangelical pastor who has a strong desire to see the Anglican seminary in Fiji return to strong, orthodox Biblical faith. He has asked me to help in that process. This seminary trains all their clergy for their churches scattered around the So. Pacific. We’re still working on what TUtP can offer by way of training. My son, Kevin, who is just completing his MA in theology from Regent University in Van Couver would like to come to Fiji and teach theology and philosophy for a couple of years prior to completing his doctorate. So he might be able to help.

After this meeting, my scant continental breakfast was rapidly leaving me wobbly and famished in the wilting heat of the late morning. So I hailed a cab and ate a hearty lunch before going on to my next meeting which was with Ratu Osea Gavidi, the Paramount Chief I have known since 2003. He has provided a great deal of wisdom and guidance during my many ministry trips into this great island nation.

Ratu will move from Suva back to his home village of Cuvu in Nadroga Province the end of March to take up a number of new responsibilities that relate to his leadership role as Paramount Chief. He had planned to retire soon. He is 72. Instead, he will be taking on increased responsibilities for the welfare of his people. He has a great servant heart.

Just as I was getting ready to return to downtown Suva to catch up on emails and eat my evening meal, a torrential downpour, replete with thunder and lightning erupted. It only lasted for about 30 minutes, but it was quite the show.

Now I’m back in my hotel room getting ready for tomorrow. I so appreciate your prayers. My stamina has held up. I continue to enjoy good sleep. It seems I will be able to meet with everyone I need to see before heading down to Nadi City next Monday.

Blessings!

Fiji February 24, 2015

Chuck and Sue MCkay at their farm near Labasa town

Chuck and Sue MCkay at their farm near Labasa town

This morning I was in Labasa with Aisake, general secretary for GIFT, the Fijian doctor’s group with whom TUtP does our medical outreaches. We had traveled to this city yesterday to meet with Dr. Mike Mua, the medical director of the northern part of Vanua Levu Island. Dr. Mua heads up the 250 bed hospital in Labasa and is in charge of all medical outreaches in this part of Fiji. We needed his blessing, advice and cooperation for our project next August.

Dr. Mua is a believer and was one of the original founders of GIFT ministries. He helped staff one of our earlier outreaches in the slum areas of Suva. He fully supports our efforts and had some very wise counsel regarding the best place for us to locate our August outreach. There is a rather large Indian settlement, Dreketi, which is on the opposite side of the island about 2 hours away from Labasa that is virtually never visited by medical teams. This is where we can make the biggest impact and be of most assistance to him in his efforts to meet the medical needs of those for whom he has responsibility.

After our discussions with Dr. Mua, Aisake and I walked over to the offices of the Commissioner of the Northern District of Fiji. This very important official, Mr. Alipate Bola, is a long-time friend of Aisake’s. We need his permission to do any work within his district. Aisake explained to him the work we do and I showed a PowerPoint presentation from one of our previous outreaches.

He became very enthusiastic when he learned of our beekeeping initiatives. He has responsibility for agricultural activities throughout all of Northern Fiji (dozens of islands) and was instrumental in funding beekeeping among the farmers in Dreketi. There are more than 200 hives in that settlement and they have not been doing as well as they should. He feels the farmers need further training, especially in the areas of re-queening and splitting hives.

Yesterday we met with Chuck McKay, a Labasa farmer who heads two farmers groups including local beekeepers. They need exactly the same kinds of training. Mr. Bola is eager to cooperate with us as we provide the training and support these beekeepers need. Through his efforts, we will be able to secure government training facilities in the Dreketi settlement. That would prove immensely helpful for housing our entire team.

Aisake was able to meet with one of the local pastors who will help us secure spiritual counselors and prayer teams as well as those who will do the critical follow up after the outreach with those who accept Christ as a result of our ministry.

We completed all these discussions in time to catch the bus that got us back to Savusavu in time for a late lunch and in time for me to purchase my ticket on the overnight ferry to Suva. I am sitting on the ferry typing this report at 10 p.m. The ferry was supposed to embark at 8 p.m. Looks like it will be closer to 11:30 before they get all the trucks loaded prior to departure. I don’t mind the delay as it means a more sensible morning arrival in Suva. I can’t check into my hotel room until around 2 p.m. So the later we arrive in the morning, the less time I have to keep track of my baggage.

God has certainly been watching over all our various meetings and giving us favor with those we are working with.

I’ve been sleeping well at night and have had more than adequate energy throughout each day. I have a sleeping bag spread out on the floor in the lounge and should sleep well on the passage to Suva

Continue to pray that those I need to meet with in Suva will be available. I’ve already received phone calls from two people stating they are eager to meet with me during the next couple of days.

Thanks and Blessings!

Fiji February 22, 2015

The folks I needed to see during my layover at the Nadi airport did arrive and I was able to discuss a number of issues with them prior to when I actually meet with them and others in Nadi town week after next. Did get my Fiji phone and was able to add time to it as well as top up my computer dongle so I can use internet when access is available.

The flight to Vanua Levu Island, Somasoma town was uneventful, though there were lots of rain clouds to fly over and into. Really a lovely view with the tricks of sunlight on clouds and ocean. Aisake, GIFT general secretary and good friend met me at the airport. Chris Perrin, who oversees Community Bible Study International for all of Fiji also was at the airport with her husband. They live in Fiji about 4 months out of every year.

Enjoyed a great night of sleep and was ready for church on Sunday. Chris and Aisake were with me. Afterwards we had an early lunch to discuss CBSI and TUtP involvement. Our camp next August will be a joint effort with this group. We are still trying to get their Bible study program into the schools here, as well as into as many villages as we can. There is a lack of quality Bible study around the country and this well-developed system can be of great value to so many. Many challenges remain, but Aisake and his wife are willing to take on some of those challenges and turn them into opportunities.

This morning, Monday, Aisake and I took the 7 a.m. bus from his home just outside the town, into Savusavu. We are sitting on a bus platform waiting for the 9:30 bus to Labasa. This is a 4-hour trip I have made before by car. Is a most lovely journey across the mountain spin of the island. We will meet with pastors and a doctor in Labasa to plan for the August outreach in that largely Hindu, Indian town. We will stop by to visit a farming family I’ve known for many years. Chuck, the owner of the farm, designed and helped build the women’s center TUtP built outside of Suva some years back. I’ve provided some seeds, etc. for the farm. Chuck also keeps bees. I want to see about getting some hives for Aisake, so we can expand TUtP beekeeping onto this island so that can become an integral part of what we do here.

It is the rainy season, hot and muggy, but with a very comfortable breeze. I’ve slept very well my two nights here, which I very much appreciate.
Will spend the night in Labasa, return to Somasoma Tues afternoon and most likely take the overnight ferry to Suva Tues p.m., arriving early Weds. a.m. to begin meetings there with other GIFT staff and other TUtP partners.

Thank you so much for your prayers. I did not have internet access all Sunday, but the signal is strong here at the bus platform, so I’m taking advantage of catching up with emails, etc. Not sure how things will be in Labasa town, but should be O.K.

Blessings!

Fiji February 20, 2015

My good friend and TUtP board member, Jim Whitney, picked my up at my house Thursday evening the 19th at 6 p.m. and drove me to LAX. There was virtually no traffic on the way to the airport (though I know it was different on Jim’s way back to his house). The Fiji Airlines check-in was already quite busy when I got in line. By the time I was checked in, it was 8 p.m before I got to Panda Express for my evening meal. The airlines has instituted draconian check in requirements for carry-ons, My regulation carry on bag no longer meets their stringent requirements, though it should based on their advertised size limitations. They finally allowed me to carry it on. It’s the same bag I’ve taken on several trips here in the past. Oh well. The flight was quite full, the trip uneventful–as is best. As usual, I did not sleep during the 10 1/2 hour duration. Got a lot of reading done. Love my Samsung Tablet. The battery lasted all night.

Since the flight takeoff was delayed 1 1/2 hours (for no discernible reason)after we boarded the plane, we arrived late this side of the pond. The person who was to meet me and bring me my Fiji phone and some things I need to take with me to Savusavu city this afternoon has not yet met me. After waiting over an hour, I took a cab to town to exchange currency and then returned to the airport to eat breakfast. SKYPED with my wife, caught up with emails, and still have 2 hours before my flight to Savusavu leaves.

Appreciate your prayers that I will meet everyone I need to see while here. I’ll be in on Vanau Levu Island for about 3-4 days. Will be planning for the medical/evangelistic outreach in Labasa town, one of the largest Indian towns in the country. Lots of opportunity to reach our target group, the Hindus and Muslims. While I’m on Vanua Levu Island, I may not always have internet access. In fact I needed to update my software upon arrival to get the net working here. When I’m done on Vanua Levu, I will take the overnight ferry to Suva where I will remain most likely until next Monday before taking the bus to Nadi. Have several people to meet and negotiate with during all legs of my trip. From Nadi I hope to travel by car to several towns and villages to meet with the youth leaders who attended our 1st friendship camp last year They will help in the planning for the next camp set for next August. Will also meet with key leaders regarding our beekeeping center. That involves a lot of driving.

Appreciate your prayers for stamina and that everyone I need to meet with will be available. There is much to get done during this trip.
Thanks and Blessings!

Ken

Heb. 13:20-21