First Fiji Report August 2014

I’m writing this in my hotel room at about 8 p.m. I had just finished my email when my browser crashed for no discernible reason. So I must start all over.

Dr. Larry Rizzo, good friend and board member, drove me from my home to LAX last night to catch my flight. This was very helpful as I had a lot of luggage. I’d ask Air Fiji to grant two extra 23 KG check-in bags. I have almost 240 Bibles (which we are giving to the students at the camp) and other theology books and teaching materials as well as clothes, etc. for this month long trip. The airport shuttle drivers don’t like the trunks and try to make me pay an oversize fee and extra baggage charges as well. Having Larry take me took care of that hassle. The airline only granted a 7 KG “humanitarian baggage allowance” which meant I had to pay for one extra trunk. Dr. Tom, who arrives tomorrow night, will also have to pay for the extra trunk he’s bringing.

The flight boarded and took off exactly on time. It was an almost full flight, so no chance to lie down. I did get a bulk-head, aisle seat, however. No sleep during the 10 hour flight, as usual. We must have had a fairly strong tail wind, as we landed about 20 minutes early—around 4:15 a.m. Too early to begin meetings, etc.

Cuvu, Paramount Chief Ratu Osea’s daughter, and her husband Gabe were to meet me just outside customs and drive me to my hotel before we had breakfast together and began to shop for what we need for our mission. Turns out I was delayed over two hours clearing customs. They wanted to charge me for the reading glasses, and the currency forms were rather extensive as well. I didn‘t have my Fiji phone with me as I’d left it with Cuvu last trip to allow her to use it and keep it registered and charged. No way to inform them of the delay. Since they didn’t see me, they drove over to the hotel, then back to the airport, where I still was not out. In the end I bought another cheap phone and tried to call them. No connection.

Finally I took a cab to the hotel, checked in and was just getting into the room when they caught up with me. Fortunately their home, the hotel and the airport are all very close together. Still it was a bit of a hassle.

We had a rather long breakfast as we discussed a number of details regarding the camp, etc. Then I did currency exchange and began to shop for needed supplies. Cuvu had to leave me before noon. I continued shopping by myself and had lunch in Nadi before returning to the hotel to change clothes and have a shower. Then back into town for more shopping, etc.

I will not go to bed until around 10 p.m. I should sleep quite well and be on Fiji time by morning when Ratu Osea arrives from Suva for more meetings. We’ll likely drive out to the village where we will be stationed during the clinics. We’ll meet with principles, teachers and other leaders to discuss our schedule. Then we’ll drive back to Nadi to get more supplies based on what we learn from those meetings. We’ll move to the village sometime late Saturday night.

Dr. Tom will arrive tomorrow night around 9:30 p.m. We’ll stay at the same hotel that night and move to the village sometime Saturday morning to join the GIFT Fijian doctor’s team led by Aisake Emmanuel, a good friend who organizes our Fijian doctors, counselors, etc. They’ll arrive sometime around noon.

Everyone here is really excited about both the outreach and the camp. The students who are invited to camp have been contacting Cuvu and Gabe by phone, Skype, Facebook and email, expressing strong interest in what we’re going to be doing. This is really great.

Appreciate your prayers that all continues to go well.

Thanks and Blessings!

Fiji Camp 2014

Fiji CampI fly out to Fiji tonight for our regular Teach Us to Pray medical, dental and evangelistic outreach. We will be working in three Hindu schools and their surrounding communities.

A week after the outreach is over, we will conduct a camp for 150 hand-picked youth from all over the main island. These are young people who have been identified as leaders within their village churches. It will be an intense week of leadership and discipleship training as well as a time for these kids to get to know each other. Many of them rarely get out of their own villages and have never had the opportunity to be together with a large number of Christians their own age. I was influenced to become a missionary because of my experiences in camp as a young person. I know how much impact this type of activity can have in the lives of those who attend.

I appreciate your prayers that this will be a life transforming experience for these kids. Please continue to pray for my health as well.

Fiji 2014 February 27

Yesterday my host, Aisake (General Secretary for GIFT–the doctor’s group under whom we do our medical work in Fiji) and I drove from Savusavu village where he lives on Vanua Levu Island, to Lambasa town. Vanua Levu is the 2nd largest island in Fiji and also is 2nd in population size. We drove up and along the mountainous spine of the island as we traversed the newly tar sealed (read blacktop) main road. Though it was misting all of the way, there were still some spectacular views of an impressive rain forest, waterfalls and the ocean.

We were taking this 1 hr. 45 minute trip to pick up some louvered glass window panes for the house he is building, and to visit with long-term friends who have a small farm near Labasa. As it turned out, though Aisake had already paid for the window panes and was assured they would be there when he arrived, the store had sold them to another customer prior to our before-noon arrival. But they assured him most earnestly that they were bringing some by boat from another nearby island and those would be available to him in Savusavu on Monday morning. Customer service with a smile?

We had a great time visiting with Chuck and his wife Susan. They came to Fiji as missionaries from Australia about 14 years ago. They adopted a number of Fijian children, in addition to the two kids they have by birth and became citizens of Fiji when that was the only way they would be allowed to keep their first adopted Fijian daughter.

Chuck was the architect who designed and helped build our TUtP women and youth center in the Namadi slum area of Viti Levu near Suva, capital of Fiji. He also drew up plans for Aisake’s house and is helping construct it. He and his wife are a remarkable, gifted couple. They need some help in obtaining seeds for their farm and in their ongoing beekeeping activities. In addition, Chuck’s 12 year old computer is finally giving up the ghost. I will provide what assistance I can once I return home tomorrow.

Last evening, after our evening meal, I was asked if I could teach on some aspect of prayer to the church group that meets at the camp where I’m staying. It was a real delight to teach in a very informal living room setting. Afterwards there were some questions as well as comments of appreciation for our time together. This is a fairly legalistic group that has some real issues with the accepted role of women in church. The same issues I’ve encountered in more places around the globe than I would like to think about. My prayer is that they will begin to realize the true nature of God and His relationship to the church and the true relationship men and women are to have within families as well as within the worshiping community. Extreme legalism can really put the brakes on faith and do a lot of harm to family relationships.

The first thing I heard this morning when I came to breakfast was that the radio announced that all domestic flights around the nation had been cancelled for today due to probable tropical storm conditions over the next 48 hours. It rained very heavily all night, but by morning the sky was fairly clear and there was very little wind. We drove to the airport on our way to town and were told the alert had been cancelled and all fights would take place as scheduled. In fact, one flight landed shortly after we left.

It is pretty much socked in at the moment, with light but steady rain and moderate wind. Hopefully my 4 p.m. flight will go as scheduled and I’ll be in Nadi by early evening so I can be at scheduled meetings in the morning and leave for home in the evening.

Thanks again for all your prayers.

Ken

Fiji 2014 February 26 2014

What an interesting night and day.

Thanks, I believe, to those who prayed for me, I recovered quickly from my morning slump yesterday, finished packing, checked out of my hotel, delivered a few items to Ratu Osea and spent the late morning and afternoon sitting in a air conditioned food court overlooking Suva Bay, catching up on emails, etc.

It began to pour down rain in a way only tropical rain storms achieve. Great to watch through a massive glass window while eating pizza and catching up on emails. Not so great when it continued to the time I had to go catch the ferry. Fortunately a cab had just let off a passenger as I emerged from the shelter of the building and I was able to get in without getting too drenched. Off to the ferry terminal where there is no cover of any kind from the rain while waiting to board the ferry. Fortunately the cab driver is from Vanua Levu, the island I was heading to and was able and willing to drive up the ramp into the ferry to let me out. I gave him a nice tip for his kindness and ingenuity.

So, quite dry, I made my way up the ramp inside the ship to present my boarding pass. Had my forearm stamped (reason unknown) and made my way to the 1st class lounge where I would be for the 11 hour trip from Suva to Savusavu. Would the storm prevent the boat from leaving? Fortunately not, though we delayed for almost 2 hours (reason again unknown) before we finally departed.

Met and chatted with fellow passengers, two of whom were keenly interested in what TUtP was doing around Fiji, as they have been engaged in somewhat similar activities, albeit not from a Christian perspective. Still, we may assist each other in some ways in the future.

I did get a fairly good night of sleep as the boat wended its way through the rainy, blustery night. The sea was surprisingly calm and almost soothing. The food in the lounge was greasy and starchy, so I stuck to the yogurt and juice I’d brought aboard. I quickly exhausted my computer battery, but by then it was time to sleep.

Arrived at the jetty on Vanua Levu around 7:30 a.m. And waited and waited and waited to be let off. About an hour after our arrival, my host, Aisake, rang me and said a piece of heavy equipment was stuck on the ferry ramp and therefore no one was being allowed to leave. By then it was almost 8:45 and he planned to head into town to do some shopping. I should call him when we could finally disembark. Just as he hung up, the loudspeaker announced we were to leave the boat by an alternate exit that bypassed the stuck equipment. Quick call to Aisake to ask him to wait. We were in his truck less than 5 minutes later.

We had breakfast at the house where his family is living until they can complete building their new home. After breakfast we were off to the building site. Both the place where the family is now staying (7 acres) and the place where he is building (over 100 acres) can become major bee keeping and bee box building centers in the future. The town and surrounding areas look like great potential places to hold future outreaches.

We visited a number of surrounding locations throughout the day and will travel to another small village about 1 ½ hours away tomorrow. A good friend of ours, the man who designed and helped build the TUtP women’s and youth center in Namadi runs a small farm there. He also designed and is helping Aisake’s house.

Appreciate your ongoing prayers. This has been a very rewarding and satisfactory trip.

Blessings!

Ken

Fiji 2014: Laying the Groundwork

Yesterday was a kind of catch up day. Lots of emails and a few phone conversations. Still, it was fairly restful, which was good as I had not slept well the night before due to stomach problems. As often happens, when I do not sleep well on a given night, the next day I’m fine, but the 2nd day I’m dealing with the after effects.

Though I got to bed fairly early last night and had a fairly good breakfast this morning, I am really dragging at present. I had a period of an hour or so right after breakfast when I suddenly felt quite weak–almost like a major blood sugar drop, something I very rarely experience. I had to check out of my hotel by 11 a.m. and still had quite a bit of packing to do to prepare for my overnight trip this evening by ferry to Somasoma village on Vanua Levu Island.

Cuvu, Ratu Osea’s daughter, called to let me know the one sewing machine at the Lomawai Center is now fully repaired and the other will be fixed tomorrow. That is great news as students can begin to make bee suits for the project. She and others will be praying for my health and for my trip.

After checking out of the hotel, I took a taxi to Ratu Osea’s house to drop off a few last minute items. He and others there also prayed for me before I set off for town. On the way into Suva center I stopped to pick up my ferry ticket. Now I can go to the wharf at 4 p.m. rather than 2 p.m. Thus I can stay in an air conditioned building for a longer period. That’s good as it remains extremely hot and humid today.

Our main focus is still to bring people, especially Hindus, into the Kingdom. This trip is laying the groundwork for our next outreach which will focus on schools that have almost entirely Hindu and Muslim student bodies. Plans for that are now fairly well in place. The trip to Savusavu allows me to check out another area that is potentially ripe for the ministry God has called us to do here in Fiji.

I so value your prayers. Thanks for being part of the team as we spread the love of Christ in this part of the world.

Blessings!

Fiji 2014 February 22

Yesterday, Sunday here in Fiji, I began the morning by attending church. I arrived about 5 minutes before the service was scheduled to start. People were scattered throughout the sanctuary including a few already seated in the section I selected just inside the main entrance. I quickly moved to the end of a vacant pew on the center aisle and settled down. No signs reserved that particular section and no one already sitting there said anything to me as I took my seat, just a few nods and polite welcoming smiles.

About three minutes after I sat down, just as the service was ready to begin, a fairly large group of folk arrived and filed into the section beside and around me. Thus I wound up sitting in the tenor section of the choir.

I probably wouldn’t have known it was the choir because in Fiji, most congregations sing better than most choirs in most churches in the States. However as the congregation stood for the opening hymn, the choir director took his place in front and to the side of the area I was sitting in, a woman in the row in front of the tenors sang out the first few bars of the hymn to establish the key for the choir, and we began to sing acapella. Fortunately I knew all the tenor and bass parts to the selections we sang that morning. I’d never heard the tune they used for the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, but knew the words and could easily follow the tenor behind me. It was kind of fun.

After church I walked about a mile uphill back to my hotel, changed onto more comfortable clothes and walked back down to a restaurant to eat lunch. Not many places are open on Sunday afternoons, which I think is a good thing. Those that are open, including my hotel, play Christian music on their sound systems throughout the day. A nice touch.

After I’d eaten, I went into the center of town to pick up a few essential items at one of the few places that were open, took a cab back to the hotel to drop off what I’d bought, picked up my almost empty trunk, and took a cab to a meeting with Ratu Osea Gavidi and another key member of the Viti Resource Landowner’s Association. Ratu had remained in the Nadi area when I came up to Suva and so we were meeting with different groups of people on a variety of different concerns. We needed to share our experiences and bring each other up to date.

I took the trunk so that over the next few days, the woman who is making and buying craft items for the students at Azusa Pacific University would have some place to store the items until I return to Viti Levu the end of the week. It also saves me from having to cart the trunk around for the next stage of my trip.

When the meeting ended, I returned to my hotel for the evening meal. I’d decided to eat in my room. I fixed some boiled eggs, cheese, fruit and yogurt. A simple meal. For whatever reason, what I ate did not agree with me and I had stomach issues most of the night. No idea why. I’ve been so careful that I even use bottled water for my tea. By morning, I was feeling fairly well again, but restricted myself to tea, fruit and yogurt for breakfast. I’ll also eat a mild lunch, most likely soup.

This morning I’ve arranged for tomorrow’s trip by ferry to Vanua Levu Island. I’ve been instructed to be at the wharf around 2 p.m. even though the ferry doesn’t leave for an overnight trip until almost 6 p.m. I remember similar requirements when I took the ferry a few years back. Wound up wasting an enormous amount of time just strolling around the dirty, restricted area around the gangplank to the boat. Since I don’t have to check anything into the hold, I don’t plan to come quite so early this time.

Thank you for your continued prayers. Your prayers have been evident as things have gone so smoothly and I’ve been able to accomplish everything that needs to be done so far.

Blessings!

Fiji February 21 2014

Yesterday was another busy, profitable day of meetings. I began the day by taking a taxi to a business in Suva that repairs power saws and similar equipment. I was trying to arrange for the rehabilitation and repair of a heavy duty mechanical planer that is at the Lomawai Center where our beekeeping workshop is located. There are complications. The machine is over 20 years old and is no longer manufactured. In fact the company that built it is out of business. We would have to transport it to Suva for inspection. If the variable gear is still sound, the machine can probably be used for another 20 years. If it is not, we will have wasted over $500F in transport and diagnostic costs. If it is still functional, it could cost up to $700F to refurbish it.

The owner of the business encouraged me to have the Lomawai Secondary School write a proposal to the Department of Education to enroll in a program where the school provides 1/3 of the cost of a new machine and the Department provides the remaining 2/3. He has provided a large number of machines to schools under this program. That would be an outlay of $1,000F on our part and we would have a totally new machine. I’ll have to meet with school officials again at the end of next week to determine how to go forward on this.

As I was leaving the saw place, I was surprised and delighted to receive a call from Youngna, one of the individuals I thought I would have to meet on Vanua Levu Island next week. She is in Suva getting ready for a trip back to South Korea. We were able to get together at the Holiday Inn. It was fantastic to see her again.

I first met her about four years ago when we discussed what TUtP was doing in Fiji. She is a friend of one of my business contacts in Suva, my good friend John Samisoni. She and her family are very strong Christians from Korea who have been living in Fiji for many years. They own property in Vanua Levu and are building a world-class eco-resort that will also serve as a model farm. Many of their goals are consistent with what TUtP hopes to accomplish through our beekeeping and farming initiatives.

We talked for over two hours. She is excited to catch up with developments in our projects and is interested in how our mutual concerns might overlap in coming years. At the very least, when they begin their beekeeping, they can buy all their equipment from our center in Lomawai. But there are many areas of congruence we can pursue. As she request, I’ve just completed a summary report of our conversation which I will email her. I’ll attach a report from our Fijian partner, the Viti Landowner’s Resource Association (VRLA), to help her family understand the how our various partnerships work together.

After that meeting, I had to rush to a meeting with Dr. Joe and Dr. Eric who are the Permanent Secretary of Social Services and the Permanent Secretary of Health for Fiji. Both are close personal friends who have served in our many medical outreaches over the years. Dr. Joe is the head of GIFT, the Fijian doctors group under whom we conduct our medical activities. It was great to catch up with what they have been doing. GIFT has recently acquired a plot of land in Suva where they will build a center from which they can continue their work. Dr Joe wants me to help him get around 100 theological works for a library on the center. They also need help in securing the medicines they use for their two monthly outreaches.

As I arrived back at my hotel, which has a wonderful view of Suva Harbor, I could see it was pouring rain across the bay. The storm was fast approaching the city. It turned into a thunderstorm with frequent lightening strikes. Quite a sight from my 4th floor window.

After a good night of sleep, I’m back in the city. No meetings today, just catching up on emails. I’m writing this in a food court that also has a great view of the harbor. Will catch a bite to eat soon.

I will travel by ferry to Vanua Levu on Tuesday. This is an overnight trip. After my meetings there, I’ll fly back to Nadi on Friday and then back home on Saturday, March 1.

Thanks again for all of your prayers and encouragement.

Fiji February 20, 2014

Yesterday I was able to have lunch with two of the men TUtP has been partnering with from 2003, the very beginning of our work in Fiji. I hadn’t seen Pastor Reggie for about 2 years since our outreach activity over that period has been in western Fiji and he lives on the other side of the island. It was great to catch up with what each of us has been doing and to plan for our August outreach. I gave the Mikita table saw motor to John for his electrician to fix it so we can get the table saw back in action at our Lomawai center. They need to make about 30 bee boxes before our arrival next August just to meet our own needs.

Cuvu, Ratu Osea’s daughter was able to get all of the biographical data and take photos of 20 students at Lomawai center. She will e mail that data to the students at Azusa Pacific University with whom we are working. The Lomawai students will be partnered with APU students in a pen pal relationship for long distance mentoring and encouragement. This is just the pilot project. We hope to link more than 200 students together in long-term discipling relationships.

After the dinner meeting, I met with Seniloli, a very talented woman who is widely respected in Fiji as a premier artisan. We visited with a number of crafts people she works with to determine what items I will buy and take back with me to APU for fund raising for the APU students who will join TUtP during our outreach next August.

Pastor Reggie picked me up at the hotel around 7:30 p.m. and together with his wife, we drove to the home of some church members who were facing some very challenging situations and had asked for encouragement and prayer. It was like old times being together with him and visiting and ministering to God’s hurting kids In past years we made several such visits together. We ate a very late evening meal with this family and had a great time of discussion and prayer together. Made some new friends. PTL!

I managed to reach the Permanent Secretary for Social Services, a good friend who heads the GIFT doctor’s ministry here in Fiji. This afternoon I will meet for lunch with him, the Permanent Secretary of Health and other GIFT board members. God is arranging to have everyone available at just the right time. This is a real answer to prayer.
Then I need to arrange for my ferry ride to Vanua Levu Island and my air ticket back to Nadi for next week.

So appreciate the prayers of those who love what the Lord is doing here in Fiji.

Blessings!

Fiji February 19, 2014

The five hour bus ride to Suva was very restful. I read most of the way. Actually received a phone call from my wife while we were on the road. Though it was a bit noisy, the connection did not drop—a marvel—and we had a nice, if somewhat disjointed, conversation. All remains O.K. on the home front. Continue to pray that things stay on even keel there. The enemy likes to bring all sorts of distractions.

I reached three of those I need to meet with and have arranged lunch with two of them in a couple of hours today. Then will meet the third person immediately afterwards. The students at Azusa Pacific University who will be coming on the August outreach need to do fundraising at their university. In fact they’ve already started. I’m arranging to buy a number of craft items here at wholesale cost through the network of an artisan friend here. She will show me some of what her folks can provide and I’ll place an order with her. The really neat thing is that she will get everything and have it for me when I return to Nadi next week after my trip to Savu Savu on Vanua Levu island. I can simply pick things up, load them into my suitcase and head home. This is a fantastic timesaver. Plus she will ensure we get the highest quality items.

I’ll know after my lunch meeting when I’ll head to Vanua Levu and whether I’ll be able to meet with everyone there I hope to connect with. That will determine when I leave next week, whether I take the ferry (13 hour trip), or fly, and whether I return to Suva or go straight to Nadi.

My wrist is almost pain free this morning. What an answer to all your prayers. Thank you so much for your partnership in this work.

Fiji 2014: February 18

I am back in Fiji preparing for this year’s medical and evangelic outreach. The flight from LAX to Fiji was totally full. In fact it was actually overbooked and the airlines had to get two volunteers to remain behind an extra day. Though it was a full flight, I found the new plane much more comfortable than the old 747 they used to use. I don’t sleep on planes, so found reading and the in flight entertainment a peaceful diversion. Arrived in Nadi on time with no complications, the kind of flight I like. Had to wait almost two hours at the airport for my pickup. The paramount chief we work with is rarely on time. Well he is on “Fiji time” which meant we were at least two hours late to every meeting that had been set up.

At breakfast, I tripped over something on the floor in the dining room. I sprained my right wrist quite painfully. I was afraid I might have broken it, it was so painful. I broke that wrist many years ago in a fall, so know what it feels like. Prayed about it and though it remained quite tender throughout the day, and into the night, this morning, it is only slightly tender, so God was faithful to hear my prayers and resolve whatever damage was done.

Despite being behind schedule all day, we managed a good week of achievements accomplished during the first day. Everyone we needed to see was waiting for us, even though some of them were a bit put out with the chief for our tardiness. They have very polite ways of making this known, even though they can’t exactly tell him off. It is quite interesting to observe.

We have firm commitments for our August outreach. Clinics and evangelism will be August 11-15 in the Hindu schools in the area where we were last year. Great opportunities to bring people to Christ. This is the very last week of the school term, which just started. Then we will conduct a camp from August 18-22. We can anticipate over 200 children. We’ll do a day camp for the primary age students and a resident camp for the middle and high school children. Again, great chance for evangelism as well as string discipleship. Students from Azusa Pacific University will assist in the camp as well, possibly, as with the clinics.

I head to Suva by bus this afternoon to begin meetings with our friends and partners there. I was able to take the broken motor off the table saw at our bee box building workshop at the Lomawai center and hope to have it repaired while in Suva so it can be replaced and the saw working before I leave Fiji on the 1st. Also inspected the planer blades, but could not remove them due to too much rust. Might actually have to arrange for someone to come and service the machine to get it working. Slept quite well last night after being awake for almost 39 hours. I really enjoyed the shower in the hotel room. It is almost like a sauna outside this time of year here. Those of you who have been to Florida or Louisiana will know what I’m talking about.

So appreciate your prayers. Pray that I’ll be able to have as much success meeting with everyone in Suva before I head to Vanua Levu Island early next week.

Thanks and Blessings!