On Friday 26 May Dennis and I flew to Suva to visit our brothers and sisters in Fiji. The weather was fine on Saturday, with some rain arriving on Sunday, and temperatures ranged from around 23º at night to 28º in the daytime.
Saturday was largely devoted to meetings. The Fiji Pastoral Team met at 9 am, the Board of Trustees at 11 am, and there was a meeting at 3 pm for members interested in ACCM studies.
The Pastoral Team is comprised of Frank and Emily Boyd, Jope Uqeuqe, Teisa Mataika and Eugene Panuve. Discussion centred around how the church is progressing and serving the members’ needs. Jope reported on some of his recent phone calls and visits to the local members.
Eugene presented an update on the youth ministry. The Fiji church is well endowed with youth, making up about 30% of the congregation. There was discussion of the online program “Sermons4kids”, and other resources that may be of help in working with the younger generation.
The Church Board includes Dennis, Emily Boyd, James Panuve and Jope Uqeuqe. This was the first board meeting I have attended and as the Treasurer I took this opportunity to go through the accounts and financial statements in some detail, and presented to the Board our first annual financial report.
I noted that the Fiji Church is in a sound financial position, thanks to the generous contributions of many faithful members over the years. Our thanks go out to the members for their dedication to the Lord, and their loyal support of the work God is doing in the Pacific. We discussed the church’s investments – we have some funds in the Unit Trusts of Fiji, and some in Westpac.
Dennis tabled his Regional Director’s report, updating the board on the strategic directions being implemented as we pursue the vision of “Healthy Church” in the region.
He concluded the 4-page report saying, “Again, thanks for your ongoing help and support. Our challenges are continually moving and at times seem steep, but God is good (all the time), and it is marvelous to watch how he so often intervenes. I find this encouraging and empowering, reassuring me that we are on the right track and have his blessing, regardless that patience seems to always be asked of us.”
The board discussed the Policy Manual being established for the Fiji Church. James Panuve has prepared the manual, modelling it on the one used in New Zealand. The trustees worked through some fine-tuning of the policies to meet the situation in Fiji, and James will revise the manual in the light of some amendments that were agreed on. Frank Boyd delivered a wide-ranging “State of GCI in Fiji” report.
There was discussion on the upcoming annual retreat at Pacific Harbour, scheduled for September 1-6. Dennis announced that Daphne Sidney is planning to attend this event, and will be bringing Martin Bailey from the Mooroolbark congregation to make some presentations on “The 4 E’s”.
The board also discussed the future sending of more personnel from Fiji as an outreach to help serve and guide the church in Vanuatu. There is also a plan for Marius and Elvise Taren to visit Fiji soon for ministerial training.
The regular meeting was followed by the first-ever AGM of the Fiji Board. The annual financial report was accepted. Dennis gave a Chairman’s report, speaking to the key accomplishments of the past year. He acknowledged the work of compiling the constitution and other relevant documents so that GCI could be accredited as an official religious body in Fiji. He noted the visit of Greg and Susan Williams and the installation of Frank Boyd as Fiji senior pastor in August. Dennis announced that he was stepping down as chairman, and James Panuve was appointed as the first local board chairman. Jope was reappointed secretary and I was reappointed treasurer.
After lunch Epeli Nakautoga, Jason Raki and Joanna Wainibuli joined the group for the ACCM meeting, where Dennis encouraged the attendees to make the most of the ACCM opportunities. He explained the importance and value of continued learning together in community, using the ACCM courses as a forum for coming alongside one another and growing together in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.
Dennis is currently tutoring six students, five from Fiji and one from the USA, for the Doctrines course. He mentioned that the board had agreed to offer all ACCM students an annual allotment to purchase books to assist with their courses. A book allowance is also being offered to ministers and board members, as education is so important in leadership and teaching positions.
On Sunday, Dennis and I were thrilled to be able to join our Fiji family for their Day of Pentecost service.
Members had boarded a minibus at Lautoka in the West at around 6 am for the three hour trip to Suva, and another minibus came from Rakiraki, about 2½ hours away. There were 83 in attendance in the hall, plus 17 participating on Zoom, a total of exactly 100.
After several delightful items of special music and a “Speaking of Life” video, Dennis gave an inspiring sermon based on the 1 Corinthians 12 passage about spiritual gifts, and I led a Communion service.
After the service, the hall was quickly transformed into a dining room and the members enjoyed lively fellowship over a bounteous potluck lunch, the tables laden with a huge variety of local dishes. All too soon, it was time for the minibuses to take the members from the other side of the island home again, everyone buzzing with memories of a wonderful spirit-filled celebration of this very special day. It was quite evident that the same Holy Spirit who came at Pentecost 2,000 years ago is still filling and guiding the body of Christ in the islands of Fiji.
--By Rex Morgan