I arrived in Fiji as a Columban lay missionary in August 2017. Once in Fiji, I studied the language for three months. Studying a new language for the first time in my whole life was not an easy task for me! I’m so thankful that with Gods’ providence, I was able to manage and survive it!
After the language study came a family village exposure for two months. Living with my village family for two months was enjoyable and memorable in that I enjoyed my day-to-day experiences in the village. It was nice to accompany my family in their daily life activities. It was fun sharing our ideas in the way of cooking and learning how to make dishes palatable for everyone as well as sourcing ingredients in the family’s own yard and family farm in order to save money. I enjoyed washing the dishes, helping in cleaning the outside and inside the house, helping in preparing and serving the ibe ni kana and serving the food afterwards to my family members.
Not only did I enjoy all of that, but I also enjoyed accompanying my family members in witnessing, attending and being with them in the morning and evening prayer in the village, attending Masses and liturgy, celebrations, gatherings, meetings, going to the farm, and selling the farm products in the market of Korovou town. It was also enjoyable to go to the river to get fresh water mussels and shrimp. My family members, specifically my sister, my sister’s husband and my elder brother were my angels, because they taught me how to swim! I’m so thankful for their willingness to share their individual gifts of what the Lord bestowed unto them.
I also had enjoyable moments when I visited some houses of our neighbors in the village to be with them and have a conversation. Not only did I learn more about them personally but also how to establish rapport and friendship. During one of our conversations, we were talking about food, and then I shared my thoughts with them. They invited me to their homes, and I visited and shared my experience with sourcing foods from nature and how to save money.
Spending time and being with the women together in the village during community meetings, and village meetings was cherished time for me. There were community gatherings every Monday at lunchtime when all of the people in the village gather together in order to socialize with each bringing their own food. Everyone eats together and has a good time. I also joined them in the visitation to their loved ones in faraway places which I really enjoyed. I also made I made friends with the village children and joined them in playing, helping and also sharing with them my strategy for learning multiplication tables!
Three weeks into my family village exposure, the parish priest of Natovi Parish visited my family, and I was lucky to meet him and having a conversation with him. From that point forward, the parish priest asked me about my thoughts about the liturgy, because he wanted to do something with it. I told him what I saw in the other parish during the liturgy at Sunday Mass.
In March, 2018, Columban lay missionary Jennifer (Jake) Lunor and I were invited by the parish priest in Natovi Parish for a mission appeal and also to share our individual mission journeys as Columban lay missionaries during their morning Mass on Friday for the St. Vincent College students, Sisters from the Daughters of Charity congregation and Natovi parishioners.
Now, I’m currently in the family village exposure as an extension for another two months in Navunisole Village at Korovou, Tailevu, which I didn’t expect might happen. In this extension of another two months in my village exposure with the family, I feel a mixture of emotions, because I am not only enjoying all the moments in my day to day experiences with my family, neighbors, women and children but also it’s a big challenge for me to make religious modules, because I am not a religious teacher and this is not my forte as a teacher by profession.
Apart from making religious modules, another obstacle for me is teaching catechism to the children during Sunday Masses. Even though I had experience teaching in different levels from pre-school to elementary school, I had only six months of experience! I had taught at a university for four years which is much different! I admit that teaching children is the most challenging part of my life, because it demands a deeper patience, an imaginative creativity, and a prompt resourcefulness.
I’m thankful to the parish priest of Natovi Parish who is Fr. Filimoni Vosabalavu for his substantial support of me in making the modules for children’s catechism in the liturgy. The modules will be on hand to help the community.
In addition, the parish provided a teacher’s place where I could work and provided technical support like allowing me to borrow the priest’s own laptop when mine malfunctions. Each module took me two to three days to complete, and I spent that time in the parish. When I am not working on modules, I am back the village community where I’m staying with my family and accompanying the people in the village community.
Columban lay missionary Lily Faunillan is originally from the Philippines and is currently living and working in Fiji.