When our flight landed back in the States, Breanna and I were bombarded with the reality that the world had not stopped turning while we were in Fiji. In just two weeks being back stateside, the divisive events in Charlottesville rocked the news, and hurricane Harvey and Irma landed and wreaked havoc in the Southern States. The current events demand that we be present in prayer with our American brothers and sisters through these times. Admittedly, the continual stream of news and media make it a challenge to remain devoted emotionally and prayerfully to our newfound friends in Fiji.
Even so, we are making it a mission to remember, by name, to pray for those we met in the South Pacific. For just as Houston seeks recovery from Hurricane Harvey, and Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, Fiji is still recovering from Cyclone Winston of 2016. Cyclone Winston ripped through Fiji, headed north, and then doubled back on the islands for a two-fold destructive path. The storm roared through with the same force as Hurricane Katrina, but got little global attention. A year and a half later, we visited the ever-present wake of Winston, with the land only just recovering its vegetation. The natural disaster, coupled with already present poverty and political problems, are taking a toll on those doing ministry in Fiji.
It is not that the world does not care about the destructive Cyclone Winston, the abhorring poverty, or the increasing rate of human trafficking in Fiji. It is that we are inundated with news and we either miss things in the slue of it, or our compassion becomes fatigued by so much brokenness in our world. This is our reality as Americans, and it is not always bad, but we must guard ourselves from being distracted from the powerful tools of relationship and prayer.
Breanna and I learned so much about prayer, relationship, and trust in Fiji, particular-ly from our friends Tomasi and Sarina. Tomasi and Sarina hosted us in their home, cooked for us, and invited us into their local culture for a time. They live mostly off of the land, which they farm, and host visitors like us in their home with no electricity and limited running water. They bless those who visit, but they claim their main purpose is to be the light of Christ to their neighbors. Tomasi and Sarina moved to Rakiraki, a small township, that many in Fiji would consider the boonies. Where no one else wants to go, they went. When the destruction of Winston came through Rakiraki, the school, farmers, and village would have been low on the list for aid. However, because of Tomasi and Sarina’s presence in the community, they were able to bring help quickly from the outside. And though many would say they are well connected, they credit every bit of help to the power of prayer. Tomasi and Sarina spend several hours together each early morning and evening in prayer, praying for their friends and family by name. Every day. Twice a day. We know this because we witnessed them praying for the same people, consistently and sincerely, every day.
It is a comfort to Breanna and myself that we know without a doubt that we are being prayed for by name by Tomasi and Sarina. The challenge now is upon us, to in turn pray for them, and also for those in our lives. The lives of Tomasi and Sarina, lived in prayer and faith, is unparalleled to anything I have witnessed, and I am convicted by their trust in the Lord daily for their needs.
This summer has been etched into our hearts, and we remain convicted to not forget our friends, sharing Christ’s gospel to the poor and broken of Fiji. It is fitting then to end with a prayer, one that we invite you to join in, even though you may not know the names.
God, our Father, good and gracious Healer, be present with our brothers and sisters in Fiji. Thank you for creating them with a culture that values deep, intimate relationship. Let we who visit not be so proud as to not learn from their value of community. Show your restorative power to bring the economy back after the devastation of Cyclone Winston. Heal the enmity that has calloused the hearts between the native Fijians and the Indian-Fijians. Put your good news in their lives so it is irresistible. Keep our friends, Ray, Laura, Anthony, Liki, Tomasi, Sarena, Praveen, and their families, as they feel distant and unsupported in their Kingdom work. Be with Bunkoo, Bear, Nushrad, and Jamiesha, in their place of poverty, violence, and abuse. Work in the hearts of their parents. Convict them of their abuse and exploitation of their children that they may repent and know your love, even now. God, we confess to our neglect of missionaries. Though out of sight, may they never be out of our prayers, and keep them in our hearts. Bring us to places in our own hearts and minds where we can support them financially, emotionally, and prayerfully, partnering with them in their work, and they in ours.Show us your power of healing, restoration, and rescue in all your world Lord.Then we will praise your name forever. Amen. ∞
Anthony Vander Schaaf is a 3rd-year M.Div. student from Huntington Beach, California.