Wednesday, January 31, 2007

New Country, Same Issues

Today, I would like to proudly announce, I cut my remaining course load down from three down to two. I am now one full course further towards getting my BA, which I’m hoping to attain by April. There is a lot of work to be done between then and now, but what else am I going to do in Fiji? (don’t answer that question!)

Today was my first ‘official’ day off. The reality is that I’ve just been observing over the past 6 days, so I haven’t been doing a whole lot, but it was an interesting change of pace nonetheless. Ken and myself went into town this morning to check on another missionaries SUV. He’s currently in Australia travelling around, and his battery was shot, so we took the old one out and picked up a new one. Not quite enough to make Paul proud, but I got grease on my hands!

I spent the rest of my day reading. I had 50 pages to finish in the book The Spirit of the Disciplines so that I could finish my course (yay!) and it was time I hunkered down and got it done. Let’s just say I’ve done more interesting things in my life, but now it’s done. I mixed that in with a little bit of video gaming, meaning freecell and a 2D space game, and reading Time/Popular Mechanics.

Supper was where all the fireworks were at. Mary had asked a question about why North American churches were having such a problem getting people out for prayer meetings, which sparked a lengthy conversation about methods in church ministry, generational differences, and lead to how many pastors are really needed in a church. I shared a very different philosophy of ministry from both Ken and Mary, but I can’t say that it surprised me a lot. That is also part of the generational difference.

The reality is that we cannot blame lay people for not coming to church when we as pastors have allowed the foundations that create a passion for prayer to erode to a negligible level. What surprises me is how many pastors are asking the questions relating to why this is happening... the church is behind the times! Frankly, there has been many times when I’ve sat through a service and been bored... so how can I expect anyone else to be interested? If we are paid to carry out full-time ministry, it should be our goal to be relevant and... INTERESTING! God’s word isn’t boring... why are so many preachers?

In Case You Were Wondering...

I'm writing these posts every night after the day is long and past, but I don't have access to the internet where I'm staying. Which means that whenever I get online with my laptop, I'm going to post a whole slew of them. So keep checking back, and you'll get a pretty detailed account of what is going on in my life here in Fiji.

Tomorrow... I'll update, and I'll give you the link for a bunch of my pictures! YAY!

By the way... It's really hot!!!!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Discover Your Priorities

It always shocks me when I hear of people who come to foreign cultures and expect to see immediate fruit of their labours. I’m reminded of missionaries who spend ten plus years works with Muslims only to see one convert. Most of the time, working with other cultures is the result of long, hard work.

Today, I spent the morning in town. What an experience that is! I’ll have to get some pictures (I still don’t have any!) to give you a sense of what a town in Fiji is like. Nadi (pronounced Nandee) was bustling with life, as native Fijians and (East) Indians mingled and went about their business. It only took a few minutes until one Fijian began to tell me about his village and how he wanted my contact information so we could be friends. Naturally, he got nothing out of me, but it took me getting his name and number on a sheet of paper before he would go away. Quite an adventure when people only see you because your skin is whit and you are an opportunity!

The rest of the two hours involved me drifting in and out of various shops and avoiding the shop owners like a plague! They would say hello to you, and then guide you to their shop where they probably wanted me to buy some grossly overpriced item because they had spent time with me. One guy ‘only wanted to give me a card’ which then turned into wanting me to sit down for an ‘authentic Fijian welcome ceremony’ – he already had 3 other white guys sitting around a bowl; Suckers. I said my goodbyes and moved on. Who knows what was in that bowl!

The evening involved me going to a pasta party with Sebastian and Miriam and a bunch of pilots. It was a blast, and the food was excellent. As the night wound down, I got into an interesting discussion with a Native Fijian woman who had married a British fellow. They were back in Fiji visiting her family for a few months. She was going on about her theology, etc. and because most of you know me well enough, I was in there like a dirty shirt!

The conversation led to her explaining how ‘God’ is a woman, who had a son out of the right part of her womb from a lotus. And the entire world unfolded from her womb, and then sin came in and corrupted everything. There is mankind and humankind. Mankind is the offspring of evil, and will all be destroyed. Humankind is the offspring of her, and is good. Only 3 million 800 thousand, etc. will be saved in the end. Everyone else will die. Lucky for me, my bloodlines are pure, and I’m a part of humankind, she told me. You think that’s hokey, it’s only the half of the theology she laid out for me, and that’s the part that made sense and didn’t contradict itself. It’s sad that a woman who really seemed so intelligent is so deceived.

But thus is life in a world like this. People are deceived. There was a point in the conversation where I brought Jesus into it. It was a very interesting encounter… she was immediately in my face, telling me that Jesus had nothing to do with it, and went on to explain some of her theology. As I looked into her eyes, God gave me a very interesting picture of what was going on behind the scenes. Evil was looking back at me through her eyes.

God is great!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Church in a Different Culture is…

The end of my second day draws to a close; a strangely comfortably cool close. You’d think that being in a foreign climate would make you sweat bullets and wish for a bath of cold ice water. I’m really not finding that the case. To be completely honest, I’ve been hotter in the middle of summer in Saskatchewan. Perhaps Saskatchewan really is the closest place on earth to Hell! (that one is for all my cousins in Sask!)

While all of my friends and family were busy enjoying their Saturday, I got up around 9:30 this morning to get ready for my first Fijian church service. Naturally, I was completely unsure of what to expect, as so many of these things are new to me. You know what I discovered? This church is a lot like home, with a lot less white representation! It was neat to see them mix in their own culture with the familiar boundaries of faith.

I spent most of the afternoon reading and relaxing.

This evening, we went back to church for the evening service, which was a time of sharing. I was privileged to lead of with my own personal testimony, and I even managed to keep it under seven minutes. I’m not sure when I got so wordy; I remember the times when I had to force myself to keep talking so I could get to five minutes. Funny what a pulpit does to a person, eh? Look out!

And in the evening, I went out with Jong, Mimi and Sebastian for dinner. Three other people that are about my age, two of whom are married (Mimi and Sebastian, obviously!). Again, it is amazing how refreshing it is to talk to people my own age and just enjoy each others company. Friendships are so important!

I’m also getting a little more perspective on the Fijian people, and I think I have a little more hope than what I’ve been told for whom they are and what can be done. Time will tell if my hopes and dreams are true, or merely being completely naive. I will continue to observe!

Always trust in God, He’s faithful!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Hello and welcome to the 3rd World

Today was my first day in Fiji. Wow, what a mixed bag of expectations and emotions. If I wasn’t sure what to expect before, I have no idea what is coming now.

I arrived at 5:30 AM this morning, after a long flight over the Pacific ocean. I sat with an American that was going to Australia to surf and travel with his buddies for six months. On the other side of me was a guy from Didsbury which is about an hour out of Three Hills. What a small world we live in, and how great is God? We had a good chat, and it was nice to talk to someone who not only shared the same knowledge of the local and people, but also the same faith.

Saturday was mostly spent travelling throughout Nadi (pronounced Nandee), seeing some of the sights and getting better acquainted with Ken and Mary. It was a long day, all in all, and through a lot of it, I was very discouraged. I was painted a very bleak picture of the Fijian people, and what I should be expecting from them. Large parts of me just don’t believe it.

God and I spent a lot of time conversing over that one. Why would He bring me to a place like this? Am I really cut out for a job like this? What does He want from me while I’m here? How can I make a difference in a culture that is so foreign to me? It felt like I would never get the hang of it! I felt hopeless. But God is a God of hope and refuge. So I clung to that, and in the end He reminded me of the hope that He gives and to wait it out and draw some of my own conclusions. That is an awesome plan.

Did I mention my bags didn’t make it past LA?
We met a guy by the name of Jong, who runs a local hotel here. Had dessert with him this evening, and had some good laughs. Really helped the whole discouragement thing to hang out with someone closer to my age and thought patterns… and maybe I can do this.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Last Day in Canada

It was almost 5 months ago that I found out that Fiji was a possibility, and here we are a moment that I never expected to really come. I'm in the midst of packing and getting everything ready to go, in two hours, I'll be leaving for the airport and crossing that point of no return.

There is a huge part of me that can't wait to get there and discover the unknown, to have a blast and make a difference in ways I never knew I could. I mean, really, I'm going to Fiji, so how bad can it really be? People there are extremely friendly, the environment is picturesque, and my mission is clear. This trip is something I've been craving for, to stretch me outside of my self-set boundaries and into the great unknown.

And there is another, smaller, part of me. It's sceptical, asking endless questions about my credentials, about leaving family and friends, about leaving my comfort zone. I'm going to a different country, a different culture that I am completely unfamiliar with. It's going to be hot, challenging and very, very scary. But this is a mountain that must be overcome.

1 Timothy 6:6-21 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time-- God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever. Amen.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Lean on ... who?

Three days separate me from a long journey to Fiji. Three days to make sure that I have everything together, make any last minute arrangements and prepare my heart and mind for the three months ahead. It's all a little overwhelming, and I have a strange feeling that come 6:00 PM Thursday, no amount of preparation will get me ready for that first step onto the plane.

I'm nervous. It's been quite some time since I've felt this way, my stomach is clenched, my arms are tingling and my feet feel like they never want to move. Normally, this is the feeling that accompanies me before a Soccer game that I know is very, very important. The difference this time is, my head doesn't feel in the game. It wants to agree with my feet and stay right where we are, firmly in my comfort zone. But God doesn't want me in my comfort zone.

My comfort zone involved family, friends, and my own culture. It means casual conversations that occasionally dip into the personal, but generally stay in the superficial. It means knowing what buttons to push in order to get a rise. Ultimately, it means depending on my own strength, and not God's. That just won't do.

I say stay. He says go.

I'm not enough. He is.

I can't do this on my own. That's the first lesson I have to learn. Suddenly I understand the line from SCC's "Dive" -- Sink or Swim, I'm diving in.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Not Long Now

It's been quite the wild ride in the past few weeks. From the copious amounts of travelling I did over Christmas, to the studying I've done over the past few weeks, to preparing for Fiji, there has been no stop to my activities. In the midst of it all, God is faithful in preparing me for what is ahead, and giving me peace in the interm.

Christmas involved times with family and friends. Jordan was coming up to see me and originally planned that we would spend a lot of our time together ahead of Christmas. Unfortunately, that would have displaced a lot of people from their schedules and just made things fairly difficult. Fortunately, God had his hand in the matter and she was able to fly home to Kelowna, and it worked out that we spent more time than she planned together.

I made two trips up to Edmonton over the Christmas holidays, because I wanted to be here in Three Hills for my final Sunday. It gave me the chance to say goodbye as a pastor, and also to see through my duties till the end. The Christmas Eve service was fantastic, and we had nearly 200 people out, which is double what we normally get.

Christmas was spent with my family. We played Xbox, Skipbo, Black Queen and just enjoyed each others company. It's nice to have a family where you can get together and merely enjoy each other, not having to worry about disagreements, but knowing that there is mutual respect and understanding for the history that is there. It was refreshing.

Afterwards, I left with Lorelei, Orlando, Paul and Carys and drove most of the way back to Vancouver with them. Paul and I drove together in my Golf, and had some really awesome conversation through those 8 hours. When we hit Kamloops, I ducked south to Peachland.

The next 4 or 5 days were spent with Jordan. We laughed, saw James Bond, played games with the family, saw friends and got to know each other all over again. It's amazing how much we change in the course of three months, and even though we talked regularly, talking over the phone and internet is very different from seeing one another face to face. It was a great boon to the relationship, and yet another refresher for me.

On the 31st, I drove back to Edmonton, and let's just say it was one of the longest drives I've ever done! Not because of length, but about 7 hours into it, I was just dead tired. When I showed up at my Dad's place, I was safe and sound, but thoroughly exhausted! I'm glad that my friends decided to forgo the sleep over this year and just have a party till just past midnight. My bed was welcome.

The last couple of weeks have been raising funds, talking to friends, and lots and lots of studying. I'm hoping to get one of my courses finished before I leave for Fiji, and while it will be lots of work this week, I believe it's doable. That will put me in good condition to be finished my coursework for an April graduation. Time, however will tell if this is a realistic expectation, or if I'm being flighty. I hope it's the former.

The coming weeks will include flying out to Vancouver for some family time before I leave for Fiji. I leave 10:30 PM on the 25th of January to leave on the biggest adventure of my life so far. It will be challenging and it will force me to grow, but it's exactly where God wants me to be. And if God wants me there, I want to be there!