A Lifelong Mission
Being a stranger in a foreign land wasn’t always easy, in terms of learning and adopting their respective culture and of course the same goes with the dialect that they speak. That was what came to my mind even before I landed in Fiji.
I came to Fiji to serve as a missionary, not knowing or expecting the actual life that locals have. My fi rst few weeks were a real struggle as I wasn’t able to speak the dialect immediately. And due to this communication constraint, my struggle to understand the local culture and lifestyle worsened when soon after our arrival we were sent to remote areas for “family exposure” for two months.
I was assigned to stay with a family of six, composed of both parents with two daughters and two sons. Both the daughters are currently working in Suva while both of the sons were living with the parents. And I was their newly adopted daughter.
My first few days of the home stay with my family was quite another test of survival since everything was new for me from the way they ate, the way they did their daily household chores and even the way they treated women among men. At first, I was filled with regret and was second-guessing myself to the point of asking myself, “Why am I doing this?,” when I could choose a better way of life than going through all these hardships. All these kinds of questions came into my mind, but I kept on telling myself that I have a mission that I need to fulfill. I kept calling on God for further guidance and enlightenment as I know that He is the only one who can give me that great grace of perseverance.
In the following weeks, everything started falling into place. I was able to get used to the food like eating cassava, dalo, vodi or uto as an alternative to rice (not to mention that all my life I never missed a single day eating rice). Almost every day they depended on canned goods to make up a meal, and we took our meals on the fl oor without a dining table. I also had to get used to helping my “village parents” to harvest kako (farm products like root crops for selling) from the farm for the bazaar every week that we sold at Nausori Market.
I loved joining my village family in witnessing their faith by attending the morning and evening prayer in the village every day, Sunday Masses, parallel liturgy and the weekly Bible sharing. I had a wonderful time joining the community’s meetings, gatherings, celebrations and spending time with the people to socialize.
I also made friends with the children and joined them in playing and swimming in the river and teaching catechism to them during Sunday Masses and parallel liturgy in the village. I also enjoyed accompanying my village father who is also a cathechist who goes to two other villages for a parallel liturgy.
I usually went with my village mother every Tuesday to attend a charistmatic service and accompaned her to the bazaar with the women in the village every Friday. On Saturday nights, I slept beside them on the veranda outside the market to get to know them and learn more about their lives. I also joined the youth for their meetings and went to the yaqonas plantation and went with them during the synod cross pilgrimage at Nailili village.
With God’s grace and with my constant prayers, I was able to embrace my situation and all these new experiences. Th ey became my daily lifestyle and of course it made me appreciate life even better. Although my stay with my village family is almost over, my mission to be an instrument of God and these people to be an inspiration for me to become an instrument for others is a lifelong mission that I will continue.
Originally from the Philippines, Columban lay missionary Jennifer “Jake” Lunor lives and works in Fiji.