By Frank Boyd
Gathered back at the Christian Camp from 1st to 6th September, it was again a refreshing retreat to commune and celebrate the love of our triune God through his son Jesus with the fitting 2023 theme, ‘Remember our First Love’. With over 70 members including children participating at this year’s Celebration, it was another beautiful addition to our 2023 box of memories. The Fiji congregation were very blessed to have Mrs Daphne Sidney, GCI Superintendent, Australasia as our visiting speaker join us for the duration of the Celebration. It was good to see some of the older members renew their acquaintance with Mrs Sidney and for the others, the opportunity to meet our Superintendent Australasia for the first time and get to know her by spending some quality time with her.
Mrs Sidney blended in so well with the Fiji members with her caring, humble, encouraging and loving personality. We will always be grateful to Mrs Sidney for her visit and the fond memories of time spent with all of us. We were also privileged to have Martin Bailey, a trained coach, very experienced and gifted presenter. Martin is a member of the GCI Moroolbark congregation in Melbourne. Martin certainly knows how to keep his audience engaged even with the children. We will always be grateful for all that he has shared with us, all the learnings that we have gained from his sessions. We have fond memories of Martin and look forward to seeing him again and hopefully together with his family. We received a surprise visit by Helen and Murray Sherwell who reside in Melbourne. They have been regular visitors to Fiji for many years now. Members were overjoyed to see them again after a lapse of a couple of years.
For the first time ever, we had a different programme in terms of our 4 days schedule in which for the first and third day we had Martin facilitate the morning and afternoon sessions with regards the 4E’s (Engage, Equip, Empower and Encourage). The 4 Es describe a process focused on developing people for ministry participation and leadership. From the adults to the children, everyone was able to participate. There was a lot of laughter, fun and learning during these sessions.
On Sunday we had a full worship service, including offering and communion and with Mrs Sidney giving an inspiring message. She briefly introduced herself by sharing some wonderful pictures of her family and moved on to her message which touched on the theme for this year and the importance of our relationship with God and one another and how it aligned with the characteristics and outcomes of a healthy church. Mrs Sidney participated again on Tuesday, the last day, which was slightly different in which she, prior to her message, sat in the front and read a short story on ‘Jesus walking on water’ with the children sitting on the mat in front of her. It was beautiful and so encouraging to see the young children listening intently and answering questions. Centering around the story of Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14: 22-33), the message was interactive with group activities where group-nominated members were asked to present back to the audience on what the story meant to them. With the different storms in life we go through, we will only overcome them if we set our eyes on Jesus and focus on him. Jesus is the centre of the centre.
It was a wonderful 4 days of inspiring worship, special music by the children, Youth, Young and older adults, together with interactive sessions on the 4Es led by such an inspiring Presenter, Martin Bailey. A highlight of the session was the song Isaiah 53:6 ‘Baa baa doo baa baa’ which the young and old extremely enjoyed. It quickly became the Celebration jingle and theme song where you would hear the children singing while playing or just passing through the corridors. The love for one another and fellowship with our Triune God was very evident during this time, even with the young children. Youth & Children’s Ministry:
This year, the youth and children’s activities were combined and held at the beach close to the camp. It was an afternoon filled with games, fun, laughter and great food to eat at the beach, ably organised by the Youth Leader, Tong Li Panuve and Children’s ministry leader, Takasa Panuve. Also organised by the youths, we had a film night and a games night for everyone to enjoy. As usual there was a lot of coffee catch up and gatherings around camp plus the children thoroughly enjoyed the facilities within camp. Meals were provided by the 4 separate groups and everyone met in the dining room to have meals together.
The last evening was an island night and a ‘lovo’ (food cooked underground) was organised. After dinner there were a couple of impromptu items with singing and dancing presented by the brave men and youth and as the night came to a close, the members sang the usual farewell song – ‘Isa Lei’ to our visitors.
The morning of our return was also a special moment because we welcomed five new baptised members. Harold Boyd and his three children; Frank N H Boyd Margaret Boyd and Olivia Boyd as well as Adi Vasiti Nakautoga Lennie. A total of approx. 28 children and 3 babies were part of this year’s Celebration as it was held during the school holidays.
On the Sunday worship service, there was approximately 110 people in attendance. The 2023 Celebration was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone especially the children staying at the camp site. Plans are already in place for the 2024 Celebration, with venue yet to be confirmed, however it is quite evident that there will be a new venue for 2024 Celebration. We take this time to give a big ‘vinaka vakalevu’ to everyone who participated at our Fiji Celebration this year.