God's Great Gifts
Danger at Sea
“What do we do now?” I asked my Indian companions as our boat drifted out to sea. I had been invited by the four young men to go fi shing. We left at 5 p.m., leaving dinner until we would return. With no engine available, we rowed to the spot known for good fi shing. We were having a great catch when suddenly a strong wind blew up, and the sea became rough. We tried to head for land before the wind became stronger. Though straining at the oars we made no headway. We were actually drifting further out to sea.
All our efforts failed as the tide rose. The high tide was very deep, but we managed to anchor. My companions said that we would have to wait for low tide to get the boat moving to land. We waited and waited. We slept for a few hours in the open air boat. Lucky it wasn’t raining. When the tide got low enough we were able to get the boat moving towards land. We reached home at 5 a.m. exhausted and hungry. But having to face that danger was a wonderful experience. It brought home to me what might lie ahead of me as a priest on mission.
A Mission Exposure
I had been sent to the Indo-Fijian settlement of Karokaro for a two weeks exposure at the end of a year’s study in Pacifi c Regional Seminary in November 2018. Elia Poasa, another Columban seminarian, was sent to Naleba, about twelve miles from Labasa town. Karokaro is about three and a half miles further on. We were going to experience the everyday life and faith practice of rural Indo-Fijians by living with families and engaging in their lives.
Columban Fr. Paul Tierney took me to Karokaro. On the way, it suddenly hit me that I was being taken to an unknown place to stay with people I had never met. I realized that the door to missionary experience was starting to open. “So this is where God’s call to priesthood is leading me,” I thought. I was so thankful to Fr. Paul for his care in guiding me to the family and the new culture.
I stayed with the Prakasham family. My job was to lead the bakari (goat) and the gai (cow) to new grazing and to provide them enough water for drinking. Every night during the fi rst week around 11 p.m. my 17-yearold “brother” Dicky took me out to catch crabs (lairo in particular). I really enjoyed eating them especially as they were cooked by my Indo- Fijian “mother” with different kinds of spices. I also visited with the Prakasham family to their relatives.
God’s Guidance and Gifts
I attended the paraliturgy in Hindi at the Naleba Church on two Sundays. That put me in a mission atmosphere too. I got to meet Elia on both Sundays, and we shared stories from the different families we stayed with. We attended an Indo-Fijian Catholic wedding on our last weekend. It was an eye-opening experience for me, signalling what mission in a different culture would be like.
I am grateful for God’s guidance during my stay with the Prakasham family. Toward the end of my stay it felt like they were already a part of my life. I have moments from there I will always remember as some of God’s great gifts to me.
Navitalai Paulo is a Columban seminarian.