After a few years’ hiatus, DO teams (Discipleship Overseas) have been reinvigorated through a partnership between Baptist Youth Ministries (BYM) and MISSION WORLD.
Organised in partnership with Pastor Eddie Molia at C3 Nadi, the latest DO-Team experience gave 83 people in seven teams the opportunity to spend the July school holidays in Fiji. The teams came from Auckland (Titirangi, Pakuranga, Laingholm and Franklin), Palmerston North Central, Invercargill Central, Papanui in Christchurch, and included some Carey Baptist College Youth Pastoral students.
After a couple of days for orientation and preparation, the teams were sent to different locations.
Titirangi was based in Nadi, engaging with Indian communities; Invercargill Central was in a village in Nadi, focusing on a building project to bless a family impacted by the floods early in 2012; Palmerston North Central and Franklin travelled seven hours by boat to Kadavu Island, south of Suva; Pakuranga and Laingholm were based in villages outside of Lautoka; and Papanui was based in a remote village in the northern interior.
With the exception of the specific work of the building team in Nadi, the emphasis for each team was not on ‘doing’ but on ‘being.’ The challenge was to go, live with the locals in their homes, ask questions, observe, share faith stories, be a part of daily activities, and join God in his work.
The typical task-orientated Kiwi struggled a little at first. Many wanted to do something and have days structured. They had to adjust to ‘Fiji time’ and grasp the concept of ‘going with the flow.’
Pakuranga (Matawalu Village)
Our time on mission on Fiji was tough, yet fertile for growth and transformation. We were inspired by the beauty of Fijian hospitality, community and generosity, and amidst the struggles of sickness, homesickness, heart-brokenness and weakness, threw ourselves onto our God in prayer and dependence like never before.
“In Matawalu village, everyone knows everyone and everyone learns, as they grow up, to love everyone unconditionally; whether it be the man who rides his noisy motorcycle down the road every morning, or the crippled man who comes around for tea and crackers, or the fifteenth cousin who lives across the street. Randini (the pastor’s wife) told us that in the village, when someone gives or lends you something, it’s yours to keep unless they ask for it back. This act of unconditional love and giving freely taught me that possessions may have a small monetary value but relationships are priceless.”
“I’ve noticed that when I take youth on camps, there’s the inevitable relational growth that occurs. I suspect this is borne out of the shared time together and the inability to continually wear masks (just consider being seen first thing in the morning, every day). I was anticipating a good environment to disciple and grow the team, not only as individuals, but as a unit. We were mutually strengthened, sharing our weaknesses and supporting one another in prayer and presence.
“Being in a different country and culture immediately opened the eyes of our team to the truth that the life we live in New Zealand is not necessarily normal, and while we may compare ourselves with the Joneses and come up short, to most of Fiji, we are the Joneses. We wrestled with the idea that we lived in poverty – spiritual poverty, relatively speaking.
“Lastly, I was reminded of the great value of need that drives us to depend on God (Matthew 5:3). May we continue to recognise our need for God and keep returning to the Giver of Life.”
– Gareth Davies, team leader
Laingholm (Naviago Village)
Through the new environment, through the Fijian people and through each other, our experience provided an opportunity to slow down and hear God’s voice. He challenged, encouraged, and opened our eyes. We were blown away by the generosity of the family we stayed with. Our household was made up of the parents and their four boys, the wife’s sister and her six children, and another four teenage cousins whose mother had died. Our two team members brought the number to 19 people who had to be fed each day! But the generosity continued.
Another mission team (in Fiji with a different organisation) spent a night in the village with us. The number of people to be fed was then 31. At the point where we may have said, we have no more to give, they kept giving generously! This challenged us to stop seeing the limitations on what we have, and to trust that God will provide all our needs.
“We’ve spent years as a small group talking; talking about Jesus, his mission in the world and what he’s asking of us. In Fiji we talked, but this time we were reflecting on what we were seeing, what we were doing, and what we heard God saying to us. No longer was our talking theoretical. It was linked to our everyday practical experiences. I know that the lessons learnt will stay with us far longer.”
– Nicola Burrows, team leader
“We had the opportunity to go pig hunting with the local men and decided it would be a new experience. The climb was treacherous and at some points we were up to our knees in mud but we persevered. Then, we heard the screaming of a pig. Using the latest Sawanivo technology – crazy dogs and large sticks – the pig fell! On our return we provided two pigs that fed the village and ourselves for the rest of our trip.”
– James Stewart, Year 13
“I learnt so many new things, how to ride in a billi billi (river boat) and how to eat curry with my hands, but three things really stuck out.
First, faith. Before coming to Fiji I was beginning to doubt God. I was feeling so distant that I was seriously considering whether I should even be going. On our second night in Sawanivo, we were told we were to be billeted individually with Fijian families. I was scared out of my mind! But God spoke to me, telling me not to worry. He told me that he knew exactly what he was doing and that all I needed to do was listen and obey him – and the strangers who I was billeted with ended up like a second family to me.
Second, unity. I think the whole team would agree about how close we’ve become. I learnt to trust and confide in the people around me, be that the amazing team from Papanui or the incredible community of Sawanivo. I learnt that it doesn’t matter what language you speak, or how long you’ve known someone, through God we’re united.
Third, love. Sawanivo is so full of love. Everyone is so caring, hospitable and friendly. A simple ‘Bula’ while passing or praying for one another means so much. And God is so evident here. My prayer is that we continue to radiate this love everywhere we go. We’re called to shine God’s light and to love one another, and I know we could change the face of Christchurch just by continuing to live out this incredible, everlasting love.”
– Kate Bennett, Year 11
“We were billeted out to different families. Initially I didn’t want to do this. I was scared of being apart from the group, but a girl I’d made friends with specifically asked for me to come and live with her family. I couldn’t say no and I’m so glad that I didn’t. The experience was amazing. Staying with individual families meant we were immersed in their daily lives. We experienced their culture first-hand and discovered the way they live as a complete and loving community. Their doors would be open all day and anyone walking by would be invited in for tea or a meal. They generously share the little that they have with each other and us. It made me realise how separate and disconnected we Westerners can be.”
– Hannah Britten, Year 12
Franklin (Lawaki Village, Kadavu Island)
“Our time in Fiji was a humbling experience as we participated in the homes of strangers who, overnight, became close friends. Their hospitality and generosity impacted and challenged our team, causing valuable reflection. We look forward to seeing our Fijian brothers and sisters again, and continuing our conversations about life and God in the presence of good friends.
“We were running an afternoon of children’s games. The locals were all out on their doorsteps watching. A man came up to me and said ‘dawning.’ ‘What do you mean?’ I asked. ‘A new day dawns,’ he replied before going on to explain that it was the first time all children had been included to play together as they usually just play with a friend or two. He said they had been shown a picture of what could be. To think a simple game captured the entire village and, as everyone watched a ‘new day dawned.’
“The DO Team trip challenged and encouraged our young people to see themselves as part of something far bigger than themselves. It gave a different worldview. The humility of the people remains with our young people, shaping the way they now wrestle with the exclusiveness of life in New Zealand, and in their quest for serving others with love, just as the people of Lawaki served us.
– Zane Brown, team leader
Invercargill Central (Nawaka village, Nadi)
The team developed a strong bond with Pastor Isaac (one of the Fijian support people) as they travelled around with him. They learnt to talk about their faith openly and confidently in public. Through stories and teaching, they developed a new respect for the Word and for prayer. The youth became aware of how the Word is alive and active in our lives. They would stop whatever they were doing to pray for each other and others in need. The team has bought this new confidence in God and his Word back with them to Invercargill.
This trip has:
- Encouraged greater reliance on God and to pray more confidently.
- Softened hearts and opened eyes to see how people with nothing give everything.
- Taught us how to be accepting and supportive of one another.
- Increased confidence by working on a project that was beyond anything that they thought they could do.
- Taught patience.
“How great is our God! We stood empty-handed but alive and willing before him, and he took our God-given, ordinary talents and multiplied them a hundredfold, in order that his plans could be carried out for the good of his much-loved Fijian children.
“On the first day we split our team in half. This was a real test for me. God challenged me to let him take responsibility for them.
“I looked down the barrel of a project that, humanly speaking, was neither physically nor financially achievable. Again God challenged me to let go of the human parameters and to have faith in his strength. It was only after we took the step and committed to the project that God revealed his provision, multiplying time and funds. He kept us safe and supplied the necessary equipment and materials. Time and again I saw young people rise way above their comfort zones in order that God’s purposes could be carried out.
“I was blown away by the relationships that have grown as our young people were loved and cared for, and as they loved and cared for the young people and families of our village in the Nawaka settlement. God has nurtured and grown the character and faith of our young people and team leaders through this incredible experience.”
– Dave McKenzie, team leader
DO teams give young people from Baptist churches an opportunity to:
- serve others
- engage cross culturally, living with local families
- share their faith and outwork the Christian understanding that has been learnt through youth ministries in their own contexts
- learn reliance on God
- learn what it means to be part of a team
- step out of comfort zones and be stretched
- partner with local believers and God in his work in his world, and
- work through the impact of the lessons learned on doing life ‘at home.’