Freeing the Lord’s People
These days, Popiniu Waidranu dreams of twenty acres of crops and livestock raking in cash, freeing the Lord’s people from the burden of church levies they sometimes fail to meet.
The Lord’s people he dreams for are from Navolau Circuit Methodist Church in Rakiraki, Ra province in Fiji.
Popiniu is the Tuirara or chief steward of the church. Over the years, Popiniu watched the people struggle to earn enough to meet all of their financial burdens; bills, family meals, and church levies.
He understands their struggle, for it is also his. It bothered him!
“Sometimes, while in the church, the people don’t feel free to worship worried as they are about paying the church levy,” he said.
“If only there could be a way to raise that money using the assets we already own as a church,” he added.
We met Popiniu at the Leadership and Management Training recently organised by the Institute for Mission and Research in Suva, Fiji.
The four-week-long training had something exciting in store for the 54-year-old steward; project management.
“Like an answered prayer!” he exclaimed.
“As a church leader, I must listen to people’s problems and find solutions for them,” he asserted.
“I won’t be deaf to their cries anymore!”
Though he faced a steep learning curve because he struggled with English, he pushed forward to learn to write project proposals.
He stayed up into the wee hours of the morning with his peers. Some were church ministers, workers, and missionaries from other Christian denominations in Fiji.
At times, there was pure frustration as goals blurred into objectives and indicators.
‘How do we tell them apart?” he complained.
And other times, in outbursts of joy, his eyes glimmered with understanding. He had begun to grasp the concepts of project management.
“I’ve never had to focus so hard, but it’s for the people!” he exclaimed.
Popinu hopes his new skills will help him run a livestock and cash cropping project on 20 acres of the Navolau church land.
‘We’ve started with kava farming, but we will seek partnerships to expand into other things,” he said.
“And these are critical skills I’ve learned at L&M!”
The dream is that by 2036, villagers of Namuaimada, Navolau 1, Navolau 2, Nakorokula, and Draunivau will no longer have to pay for church levies. Income from church assets will pay for it.
“We want the people to focus on their family needs,” he explained.
“Many of our people live off the land,” he added.
“Income is not regular, and natural disasters can be devastating!”
“It’s been tough during the COVID19 pandemic lockdowns as many could not access markets to sell their crops,” he said.
At the end of the four weeks of training, Popiniu left the Jovili Meo Mission Center of the Pacific Theological College a happy man.
A man on a mission to ‘free the Lord’s people from church levy payments’! Like the good, hardworking servants whom Jesus applauded for multiplying their talents in the Book of Mathew. Good servanthood leadership that Popiniu hopes to emulate.
“Servanthood leadership is a great thing we learned – as Jesus did,” he explained.
“Jesus humbled himself, working, walking amongst the people. He didn’t disappear from their side but stayed with them and freed them with his words and healing touch!”
“That touched my heart!”
“If we multiply the earnings of these assets and pay the church levies, it will also be freeing the people to worship freely!”
“The L&M training has been life-changing, and I think all leaders in Fiji should go through it!”