This past weekend we had the delightful privilege of living in a village among the beautiful Fijian people. The Nabila Village welcomed us not just with smiles and empty schedules, but by donating mattresses, opening their homes for us to use their toilets (the church doesn’t have any), and cooking the best food.
Let’s back up: the church is a humble, one room building that sits near the edge of the road in a village that borders the mangroves and beach. The land is not owned by the church (or even the pastor) but rather, it was donated by one of the families. When we arrived on Friday afternoon by bus, we walked into the church and found nearly 30 mattresses neatly lined and filling up the entire church. This can only mean one thing: team sleepover! We found both humor and adventure in the lack of privacy that came from sharing a room with married couples & singles, guys & gals, ten different cultures spanning forty years of age. It was so fun.
We had the afternoon to explore, so a small group of us found a few locals to lead us up to the top of a mountain. After over an hour of hiking through the most beautiful wheat field, we reached the top where we found a small building. We climbed on the roof and discovered that we could literally see everything. Islands in the far distance, mountains the opposite way, Nabila Village, and everything in between. The sky was teeming with the most perfect clouds and a delicious breeze cooled us off. We watched the start of the sunset before we had to begin our descent to make it home for dinner! Culturally, it is inappropriate for women to show their knees, so we had to hike in our long skirts… which, if I may say, is likely the most inconvenient thing I have ever done.
Friday night we had a service for youth from several churches. Several came from hours away just to hang out and worship with us. Our intern leader asked if I would be willing to recite a couple chapters from Philippians during the service, as several team members would be sharing a testimony. This was the first time I’ve shared something from memory overseas, and doing so challenged me incredibly. My instinct was to say no for fear of language barriers, nerves, and disbelief. It was sweet to acknowledge and remember that the Word of God is true for every person in every culture. It is living and active and the freedom that I have found in my mind because of the Word that is hidden there is not an American privilege.
I was so humbled by that opportunity, and was blown away at how many people shared with me that they were impacted. Not just members of my team, but Fijian youth. To think that fear almost kept me from being an encouragement and challenge to them is simply embarrassing. To think that I make things so much about me is equally so.
I was captured by the unassuming, simple life of the Nabila Village. From growing their own crops to raising the chickens and pigs that supply their food, village life is pure and organic. It is not uncommon for one to live in the same village for their entire life. They marry and raise families just around the corner. They break every morning and afternoon for tea and treats. They eat together, worship together, and grow together in every way. It was wildly unlike anything I’m used to, and yet everything I crave in community. To know, love, and live is such a blessing and my western culture misses the depth of people more often than I’m willing to admit.
I was laying on the beach during our free time on Saturday when I heard the oinking and squealing of a pig grow from a soft to loud like the siren of an emergency vehicle on the street. Next thing I know, sweet little Fijian boys are making their way onto the beach with a wheel barrow holding a pig, tied at the feet. Not far behind was a great crowd of onlookers and I quickly connected the pieces.
I jumped up from my towel and wandered over with the crowd. I’ll spare you the details, and will only say how fascinating of an experience this was for me! I have never known my food while it was alive. I’m certainly an eater of meat, but observing the process changes things! I think that now, having seen the process, I have a legitimate chance at survival should I ever find myself stranded on an island. We ate the poor little guy in the feast they served us after church on Sunday.
Monday was our first day off since we’ve been here, and we were delighted at the chance to explore the beautiful land we currently call home. Garrett, a fellow American intern, did some research and found a fantastic adventure for us to embark on! So, bright and early on Monday morning, Garrett, Sabrina, Olivia, Adina (from Romania), Nathan (from Australia) and I took a taxi into town, exchanged money, and caught the bus to Wailoko!
We arrived at Sabeto Springs and were greeted by wonderfully friendly Fijians. Two men with a machete led us up the mountain, called The Sleeping Giant, as there was no existing path from where we started. We hiked for almost two hours through lemon grass (which we took a handful of to make tea when we got home!) until we reached the top. Encountering barbed wire, incredible amounts of burrs, mud, and critters, we arrived at the bottom quite dirty.
Our guide led us over to the mud pool where we covered ourselves with the mud and took silly pictures. As instructed, we spread the mud was EVERYWHERE – making our hair thick, matted, and disgusting. After the sun dried it on our skin, we climbed into the pool and washed it off. This mud pool is essentially a natural pool filled from the ground with volcanic mud and hot water. In one corner we could feel the heat of the water coming from underground – pretty amazing.
After the mud, he we went to the hot springs – another pool of natural hot water flowing from beneath the earth. It comes up at over 140 degrees Fahrenheit and is filtered to a separate pool at just over 100 degrees. We climbed into this natural hot tub and rested until they led us to the bora for the massage. On our way home, we got off at the bus stop by McDonalds for ice cream cones and french fries. It was a truly delightful day of adventures and laughter spent with new friends and old. Today we were back in the training room preparing for the clinic we will lead next week. Church leaders from all around Fiji will be joining us in Lautoka to learn how to share the gospel, and train others to do the same. I was asked to teach the session on discipleship and to share a devotion with the group one morning. What a privilege! I can’t explain how refreshing the last several weeks have been for my heart, mind, and soul. This family we have created continues to surprise and encourage me through conversations, worship, laughter, and prayer. We are blessed.