As there are vast gaps between the pulpit and the mission fields beyond the church walls, there are significant differences in mission work in a country like New Zealand and Fiji.
Words of wisdom from experienced missionaries for a group of 11 Trainees in Mission (TIM) of the Council for World Mission welcomed to Fiji by the Pacific Theological College community on July 1.
They were accorded a traditional Fijian kava ceremony of welcome after which they presented their sevusevu seeking the blessings of the Vanua and the College elders to be with them during their stay in Fiji.
The trainees in mission come from member churches of CWM in 6 regions and countries like South Africa, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Korea, Taiwan, Samoa and Nigeria.
CWM Pacific Regional Secretary Reverend Nikotemo Sopepa said the trainee missionaries were completing a seven months intensive mission training for an internationally recognised Diploma in Mission Studies. They have already spent two months in New Zealand.
‘The TIM puts every participant outside of their own context,’ said Reverend Sopepa.
‘In the past, many participants found it difficult to adjust and relate to these new contexts but in the end they all made it through, becoming someone they were not before beginning this journey,’ he added.
‘New passions are discovered, new lenses are worn, new friends and new life commitments are made at the end of the TIM programme.’
One of those discoveries Reverend Sopepa hopes the TIM participants will make is that there is a vast gap between the pulpit and what is going on in the mission fields outside the boundaries of the church wall.
Another, identified by PTC Principal Reverend Dr. Upolu Va’ai is the uniqueness of various mission fields.
‘You will realize in the coming months that doing mission in the small islands of the Pacific that is mostly moana or ocean based is quite different from doing mission in contexts that are land based,’ remarked Rev. Dr. Vaai.
‘Climate change as you already know is the hottest topic in the world today but it’s very different when you discuss it in air-conditioned hotels and conference rooms than living and experiencing it yourself.’
‘The greatest learning is when you walk on water every day or when your house succumbs to the wrath of mighty winds almost every week.’
Rev. Dr. Vaai urged TIM participants to push the boundaries of their own thinking and traditional upbringing.
‘To think outside of the dominant narrative that is often a given, whether it is a cultural or gospel narrative not only to think with action but also to act with thinking for action,’ said Rev. Dr. Vaai.
The TIM participants will spend two and a half months in Fiji before completing their training term in Korea.