The theme for the trip came from Psalm 34:8 which states “taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” In the Easy to Read version – ERV – which is the translation the Prison Bible is in, it reads, “Give the Lord a chance to show you how good He is, great blessings belong to those who depend on Him.”
Pastor Tui, at the Thursday night Bible study shared that in life we are only ever reaping or sowing, and on some occasions, we are doing both. Our entire team felt that although we were successful in being a blessing and were able to sow into people’s lives, we were also blessed to be able to reap ourselves from the goodness that God shared with us. The Thursday night Bible study was such a powerful time. It started at 7:30pm and with worship and testimony and praise it was 9:30 before the pastor even was handed the microphone. After sharing God’s word with us and more praise and testimony it was after 11 pm when we went home. It was so good to see people not bound by time, but rather who were ready to leave the Holy Spirit the freedom to work in and amongst us all.
We visited two village schools during the week where we were able to distribute some resources of clothing, stationery and toys. At Nasautoka School we saw that although Cyclone Winston hit in February 2016, several rooms are still without a roof and so the Head Teacher was very emotional in her address to us and thanked the community of Parkes for the support they received in a very difficult time. The Fijian community in Parkes were able to send materials which re-roofed some classrooms, the only ones repaired so far with bureaucracy slowing progress in the overall rebuild.
We also visited St Christopher’s home where we met some beautiful children from 1 month of age up to 16. The eldest two girls, Unesia and Meliva wake themselves up at 4am each day to study, such is their desire for a brighter future. It was so refreshing to see people who do not let their circumstances get in the way of their dreams. We were privileged to be able to hand out a handmade quilt to each child and staff member in the home.
Possibly the most profound, powerful and touching experience of the trip was our visits to several prisons in Fiji. The first day we all went together to the medium security prison where we met many men and saw the excellent efforts by Fiji Corrections to rehabilitate rather than just incarcerate. The prison has a garment workshop, market garden and a timber joinery where the men are able to work and finish with a trade qualification and to feel better about themselves and what they can offer society.
The second day we split up with the women visiting the Women’s Prison at Korovou and the men visiting the Men’s Prison. It was a beautiful time in both locations as we shared and heard testimonies and encouragements as well as scripture and prayer. It is hard to do justice to the experience in this short article but I encourage you to speak to one of the team in more detail about the impact of the experiences and the testimonies, the power of God in reaching people in desperate times and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
The women went back the next day and were able to share with the entire prison population. Many were sharing with our team including Hindu and Muslim women who were touched and requested a copy of the Prison Bible. So powerful was the time that the women and the wardens requested we come back not in two years but next year and that we stay for a week not just a few days.
The men visited the Maximum Security Prison on the third day which was a moving and surreal experience. To be in such an environment, yet feel the peace and presence of the Holy Spirit was an amazing juxtaposition of feelings. To hear men who have been in prison for longer than our eldest students have been alive say “prison has been good for me” is amazing. To hear them say “though they have lost money, businesses, family, and all other things, yet to have found Jesus Christ whilst in prison, we have have gained the most valuable thing possible”, makes you check your own priorities. It is so encouraging to hear how they sing worship 3 times a day starting at 4:30am, how they share scriptures with each other and how the wardens have seen such changes in the men that they too request and read the Prison Bible and on night shift they sometimes even read it together with the inmates through the cells.
The team would like to thank those who prayed for us on our trip as well as those who gave generously on Fiji Friday, or who bought artworks, or who gave donations of clothing, toys and stationery. The experience was amazing and very beneficial for both the people and communities we visited and also for ourselves.
Pastor Tui (Mrs Naqau’s brother) is a dedicated and faithful Pastor committed to leading society’s most unloved to a brighter eternal future. He works six days per week without pay trusting that God will provide for his needs and for 17 years God has not let him down. It is no wonder he was awarded a President’s medal last year.
We continue to send more Prison Bibles over to the prison ministry and if you feel led to be a partner with us in this please speak to Mrs Naqau or Mr Drew.
The Fiji Mission Team