End of 1st very long day in Fiji. 10 hr. 45 min. plane trip. Uneventful but virtually no sleep. Lots of preparatory shopping today in Savusavu town helped keep me awake so I should sleep quite well tonight. No access directly to the internet yet due to modem issues I plan to resolve tomorrow. In the morning will drive to Labasa town near where the outreach will happen. Already checked in with our dentist who arrives in Labasa tomorrow a.m. Am hit & peck 1 finger typing this on a very small phone screen. Appreciate your prayers. Greatest blessing.
I was in Fiji for the last two weeks in June doing relief work among some of the victims of Typhoon Winston,
the strongest storm ever to hit land in the South Pacific. Winston had sustained winds of 186 mph with gusts up
to 230 mph. It was 200 miles across. Tidal surges reached up to 60’ with minimum surges of 10’. Almost all
inhabited islands of the nation were affected in some way, especially the three largest islands—Viti Levu,
Vanua Levu and Taveuni.
Folks on most islands lost virtually all of their staple food crops and many of their small livestock. All root crops were destroyed in most areas hit by the storm. Root crops take from 9 months to a year to grow to edible size. The problem is there are very few cuttings for farmers to plant. I was able to buy seed for a church men’s group. They will plant them in their 100 acre plot to grow food for consumption and sale. If all
goes well, they can begin harvest in about 3 months. Fruit trees like papayas, mangoes, bananas, guavas, noni and
coconuts were destroyed or severely damaged. There are tens of thousands of coconut trees that have no nuts. This affects the production of copra, coconut oil and milk, and the sale of raw coconuts, causing great financial loss to thousands of families. Many trees will never produce again. It will take from one to two years to see how many come back into production.
I saw no tropical fruits of any kind in any home, market or road side stall during my entire time on the three
islands I visited. The main farmers market in the capitol city of Suva which normally has hundreds of people
selling various items, had no tropical fruits of any kind on display. Incomes are significantly reduced by this
shortage and dietary needs are not met.
I focused our resources helping members of 5 small isolated rural churches on Vanua Levu and Taveuni Islands
that had been overlooked by prior aid efforts. We were able to provide significant food relief to 37 families,
consisting of about 475 individuals. I provided 63 water purification filter systems to these families so they can
have clean drinking water. In some areas typhoid has become a problem. Dirty water kills more infants and
children around the world than any other factor, including malaria.
TUtP also assisted fishermen on the small island of Kiou just off Vanua Levu. Provision of fishing gear helps the
400 people who live there. Fishing is their main source of food and funds, though they do some farming as
Kiou Island has a severe potable water shortage. Their main spring, source of all water for the village has dried
up. They open their water taps for ½ hour every morning. That’s all the supply of fresh water available for all
needs during the remainder of the day.
There is a spring on the opposite side of the island away from the village that has an abundant, constant supply
of fresh water. I am now trying to raise money to provide pipes that can connect that spring to the main village
distribution tank. The villagers will soon provide me details regarding the distance from the spring to the tank
so we know how much pipe to purchase. We also must know the height of the hill the water must traverse so
we know what kind of pump we need to buy. Villagers can do all the work required to set up the system. Once
the pipe is in place and the water begins to flow, gravity will siphon water continuously, so the pump only
needs to be available to fill the pipes again should they ever break.
Thanks to all of you who provided the funds necessary for this project. Thanks for all of you who prayed that
we would be able to reach these folks with this help. They thank you for what you have done for them.
This morning involved a bit of last minute shopping. I bought a large fishing net and a spear gun to help one of our fishermen feed his family and possibly make a bit of money selling the fish he catches. This involved some comparison shopping since prices on such items vary quite a bit from shop to shop. I had already looked at spear guns on Vanua Levu Island. Prices there were outrageous. I felt I could do much better on the main island of Viti Levu. That turned out to be the case.
Many shop keepers don’t post their prices, but determine what they think they can sell an item for depending upon how much they feel their customer can pay. I must say my years of bargaining all over the world is a big help in negotiations.
I had hoped to meet Vuniani Nakauyaca sometime during my trip. Vuni is the founder of the Healing of the Land team I have written so much about in the past. I’ve known him since 2003 when I first came to Fiji. He’s an incredible man of prayer. I’d tried to call him Sunday when I got to Suva but couldn’t reach him. Finally I got a return call from him this afternoon and arranged to stop by the H of L Center located on the way to the airport. We had about 45 minutes to catch up with what God has been doing in our ministries before checking in for my flight.
It turned out to be a good thing that I arrived early at the Nausori Airport. I was told when I bought my ticket that I could check in for my international flight at that airport and go directly through customs when I arrived in Nadi. Not true. I had to collect my bags, wait in line and then clear customs. My original flight schedule would not have allowed enough time for my connection. Fortunately there was an earlier flight leaving within a few minutes of when I got to the counter in Nausori. By taking that flight, I had more than enough time for everything including sending this last report before I board my flight to LAX.
Thanks again for all of your prayers. You are an essential part of everything the Lord accomplished during this trip.
This morning Aisake and I went into town and purchased the seeds the church men’s group need to begin planting their 100 acre farm plot in Savusavu. We also bought the screen and other materials needed to build a greenhouse. I am awaiting a call tomorrow morning from Chuck, the manager of our beekeeping project, to see how we can best leverage that program to position us to be able as quickly as possible to increase aid those who can benefit from help in that area.
Since we already have the quotes for necessary fencing to keep animals away from crops and trees, it will be possible to wrap up TUtP relief efforts before I leave for home tomorrow night.
I had lunch with John Samisoni, the Christian businessman who has been a close friend and partner with us in all our outreaches since 2003. It was good to touch bases and catch up in a number of areas. John will continue to play an important role together with us as we go into the future.
I Skyped my wife, Judy both in the morning and just before she went to bed. She’s been able to eat a limited amount of solid food today, which is encouraging. We both appreciate your prayers for her.
Thanks and Blessings!
Aisake and I spent most of the day going around Suva getting estimates and quotes for greenhouse and fencing materials for our efforts to rehab his garden area after Typhoon Winston. It is remarkable how widely prices can vary among vendors for the very same items. By mid-afternoon we had determined who to buy from and we made the purchase. He’ll be able to pick up the screening, etc. before the end of the week. He’ll have to leave the items with a friend in Suva until he can arrange for transport via ferry to Vanua Levu Island where he lives.
Once the greenhouse and fencing are in place, he can begin to grow veggies again. Now anything he tries to plant is eaten by goats, pigs and the few cows that his neighbors have. That is a great frustration when virtually every food crop was destroyed by the storm and it is really important to get new crops planted and growing.
I came into town by bus ahead of Aisake and had opportunity to walk through the central farmers market in this capitol city. There was not a single piece of tropical fruit to be seen anywhere in this usually thriving market. I mentioned previously that I had not seen any fruit on Vanua Levu or Kiou Island except for one small mangosteen. I had expected to see at least a few papayas and bananas in this major city. The stark extent of the loss to this storm could not have been more adequately displayed than by what I did not see today.
It will be several months before the surviving trees begin to produce again. A huge number of trees have been totally destroyed. Getting new planting stock is almost impossible. Tomorrow we will see what seeds we can find for Aisake to take back to Vanua Levu for the church men’s coop group to plant in their 100 acre plot.
My wife, Judy says she still can’t eat solid food, but she is beginning to at least feel hungry which we think is a good sign. She has been able to drink water, some juice and some broth. The pain in her hip was fairly severe last night because she didn’t take any pain medication in case that was contributing to her nausea. This evening she had already taken some Tylenol in hopes of being more comfortable. So appreciate your prayers. I’ll be home on Wednesday.
I was able to meet with my pastor friend this morning after service and give him the Journey materials he requested. The men in his congregation approached him last year and asked if he would meet regularly with them and help them become better disciples of Jesus. They realize they need a stronger relationship with the Lord. They also know they need to live out their faith in better ways towards their wives and families. Wife beating and child abuse are big problems in Fiji. There are far too few good role models of Christian marriage and child-rearing.
The Journey materials provide a 9-month guide to address core issues. I pray we are able to see these materials used effectively all over the nation within the church.
I made phone contact with a key business associate, John Samisoni, who has been a close friend and ministry partner since 2003 when I first began to minister here. Aisake is on the overnight ferry from Vanua Levu Island to Viti Levu Island. He arrives in Suva about 5 a.m. Monday morning. Aisake and I will have lunch with John Tuesday afternoon to discuss a variety of ideas for future ministry.
Later tonight I’m supposed to meet with Pastor Reggie Kumar and his wife. Their son, Reggie Jr. is now a dentist. I’ve known him since he was a teenager. He’s indicated a desire to become more actively involved in our medical outreaches.
I Skyped Judy twice today to see how she’s doing. She still can’t keep solids down. She’s eating rehydration popsicles and drinking broth. She even has problems with the broth. She’s made an appointment with her PCP so we can hopefully determine what is going on. Thanks for holding her up before the Lord. I’m glad I’ll be home on Wednesday.
I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop in Nadi town after meeting with one of the three people I’d hope to meet with during my brief visit to this lovely town. One person I’d hoped to make contact with is in New Zealand and won’t return until tomorrow whey I will be in Suva. The other, a pastor friend, has moved and I don’t know his new location. Still, meeting with Gabe and Cuvu was worth the stop over. They are long-term ministry partners and fantastic friends. We discussed some things we hopefully will see develop over the next few months.
Tried to Skype Judy again, but the internet here wasn’t working right. When that was finally resolved, our home in the States was without electricity. I was able to phone, though. Judy is still not as healthy as we would like, but she did want me to proceed to Suva rather than coming home tonight. She has been able to eat a very little solid food. We definitely need to get to the bottom of what is causing this nausea.
Shortly I’ll eat my evening meal and make my way back to the Nadi airport for my 1/2 hour flight to Nausori and my 1/2 hour drive into Suva.
Appreciate your prayers. Blessings!
This morning Aisake and I drove over to Dreketi to meet with the pastor of the church where TUtP held our last medical outreach. It was a pleasant drive over the mountain spine of Vanua Levu Island. There are some incredible views, including a rain forest overlook.
While we were having lunch with Pastor Henry, we discussed a 240 acre plot of land the church trust owns. The property has a lake at the top of a small hill, has already been planted in pasture and has very good beekeeping and farming potential. It is possible that after the first of the year it will come up for long-term lease with an option to buy. This would be a fantastic place to base TUtP work on the island. Lease terms would only run about $550 U.S. per year. We will definitely keep an eye on this.
I gave the pastor copies of the materials Band of Brothers Journey Group uses in the States for discipling men over a nine-month period. I’ve asked him to review the manuals and books to see if he believes, as I do, that the church in Fiji can use them. I’ll give another two sets to one of my pastor contacts in Suva on Sunday with the same request. The pastor in Suva already has men pleading with him to disciple them. He has been meeting with groups from his church for the past year, but doesn’t yet have a well developed program to use. Journey Group materials have proved very effective around the States and in Tanzania and Uganda. I hope they will make a positive impact in Fiji.
We were planning our medical outreach for the first two weeks of December, when our beekeeper can most likely join us for the many training opportunities we have. Even the government is pleading with us to provide more training like we have done over the past few years. Looks like a go on all levels.
Early tomorrow morning, Saturday here, I fly to Nadi where I will spend the day making contact with a number of people we work with in Fiji. That evening I’ll continue on to Suva for meetings over the next four days prior to returning home.
Earlier today I sent out a request for prayer for my wife Judy. When I Skyped her this evening, she was doing better, so for now I will not revise my schedule for the next few days to return home earlier than planned. Will keep you updated. If things change, I will not hesitate to come home early.
Thanks and Blessings!
Today Aisake and I drove over the mountain range that divides Vanua Levu Island. Savusavu where I’m staying is on the rainy side of the island and suffered worst from Typhoon Winston. Labasa where we drove to today is on the dry, northern side of the island in the rain shadow of the mountains. Although people in the Labasa area did suffer quite extensively from the storm, there are still some fruit trees standing, albeit without fruit, and some of their crops survived.
We made the two hour trip in order to visit the farm where Teach Us to Pray is now centering our bee project. All of our equipment for making hives was just delivered to the farm from Viti Levu Island where our project was previously located. Chuck hasn’t yet had time to set everything up, though he has completed a new shed to house bee box building activities. There’s enough room in the building to conduct training classes as well. There’s a huge demand right now for all the training we can provide.
I’d originally heard we didn’t lose any hives, though two had been blown off their stands during the high winds. As it turns out, one hive was destroyed. However the rest of our bees are doing fine. Chuck recently harvested honey. There was a group of university students from the States doing a project in the area. Chuck and his wife hosted these students during part of their stay. The kids left a couple of days ago and they bought all of the honey except for the one bottle Chuck saved for me. Really tasty honey, too.
We made plans for our next outreach tentatively scheduled for the first two weeks of December. By then Chuck should do another honey extraction and our hives should be ready to split. Our goal is to build our number of hives to 50. When we reach that number in three or four years, we should be able to begin to provide hives to those we train. We especially want to give hives to pastors and to churches as a source of income for ministry. Many pastors in Fiji have extremely minimal salaries and must earn income from other sources.
I also arranged for Chuck to come to Aisake’s place soon and build two mud ovens for Aisake’s wife, Lisa. Lisa just started baking bread which she will sell in nearby villages. Chuck’s wife will teach her to make wood-fired pizzas. Lisa can sell these at a fairly good profit, providing further income for their family. We are also doubling the size of Aisake’s chicken shed, which we built during our last outreach. Currently he has 16 laying hens and 25 meat birds. He sells eggs to neighbors and can’t keep up with the demand. These activities provide their only source of income at present. Like so many, they also lost all their crops during the Typhoon.
Just a few weeks before I arrived on this visit, Aisake and his family took in one of the orphan girls who attended our last camp. She’s turning 18 and can no longer stay at the home where she was raised. She had nowhere else to go.
Tomorrow we once more make our way across the island to visit the church where we held our last medical outreach in 2015. We’ll have lunch with the pastor and discuss our plans for December.
I Skyped with my wife Judy late this evening. Please be in prayer for her. She is experiencing nausea again. We don’t want a return of the illness that sent her to the hospital two weeks ago. She had been getting better, so this is a setback. I won’t be home until next Wednesday.
Thanks and Blessings!
This turned out to be one of the busiest days of the week. Aisake and I spent the night on Kiou Island after giving out the fishing gear. Yesterday the villagers were discussing their need for water. At present their water supply is available for ½ hour every morning. People must fill whatever buckets or tubs they have during that brief period. That’s all the fresh water they will have for a 24 hour period for any purpose.
The spring that previously supplied the village totally dried up over a year ago, so they are dependent upon rain runoff to fill their main reservoir tank. There has been a drought for the past several months, despite rain on the main island. There is a reliable spring on the side of the island opposite the village. That is the spring I walked over to see yesterday.
I mentioned it should not be too difficult to bring water by pipe from that spring to the reservoir tank. We need to know the distance of the water source from the tank and the height of the hill the pipes would have to come over. I said I would try to get funding for such a project since it is of such vital importance to the well-being of the villagers. My comments were taken to the chairman of the village committee who asked to meet with me this morning.
After breakfast, Aisake and I went to meet with this man. He surprised me by beginning his discussion saying, “Glory to God. He alone is worthy of all praise and honor.” He then went on to relay the story of the Good Samaritan in great detail, relating the plight of the Samaritan to the plight of Kiou. Their number one need is for water to reach the village. Any help we could provide would be extremely beneficial.
I replied with the tale of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. She had a desperate need and sought help from the one source who could provide for her. We need to seek that same source. That is what I will do when I get home.
This is definitely not the kind of discussion I would have with a government official in the States.
The village will measure the distance from the spring to the tank so we know the length of pipe we need. They will see if the government can tell them the elevation of the hill behind the village so we know how high the water must be pumped to begin an ongoing siphon effect to draw the water to the tank. Then we can determine the funds we need to raise. The villagers can lay the pipe and make all necessary connections.
We also discussed the medical outreach we plan to do in December. The village definitely wants to be included in that project as well. I hope we can bring an engineer with us who can help determine how best to do the water project, should we raise the necessary funds by then.
Immediately after that meeting, we had a very pleasant boat ride back to Vanua Levu Island. We drove to Aisake’s house and had a snack before heading into Savusavu to buy relief supplies for one more family. We delivered those supplies and picked up the remaining water filters which we then took to the two churches that had not yet received theirs. I put one together as a demonstration and we headed back to Aisake’s house for our evening meal.
Tomorrow we drive over to the north end of the Island where we will inspect our bee hives and meet with Chuck, the farmer who is taking care of them. We’ll discuss the December outreach and the training needs of the beekeepers around that area. This is where we did such extensive training last year.
Then we’ll drive over to Dreketi to meet with the pastor of the church where we did last year’s outreach. We’ll do some planning for next year and give out the very few lures which we kept back for the fishermen in that area.
Thanks again for your ongoing prayers. Jesus has been so present during these past days.