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A Stranger in a Strange Land

Mother's Day celebration

Finding a Home in Fiji

By Jennifer (Jake) Lunor

Being a stranger in a foreign land wasn’t always easy, in terms of learning and adopting not only the language and local dialect but also the culture. I was thinking about that even before I landed in Fiji.I came to Fiji to serve as a missionary, not knowing about the local lifestyle and not knowing what to expect. My first few weeks were a real struggle as I wasn’t able to speak the local dialect immediately. And due to this communication constraint, my struggle to understand the local culture and lifestyle worsened, since a few months after our arrival, we were sent to remote areas for an actual “family exposure” for two months.

Working on the plantation
Working on the plantation

I was assigned to stay with a family of six, composed of dad, mom, two daughters and two sons. Both of the daughters are currently working in Suva while both of the sons are living with the parents. At present I’m their new adopted daughter. My first few days with my family was quite another test of survival, as I described it, since everything was new for me. From the way they eat, the way they do their daily household chores and even the way they treat women among men, almost everything is new. At first, I felt a sudden regret, and I even came to the point of asking myself, “Why am I doing this?” I could choose another way of life rather than going through all these hardships. All these kinds of questions snuck into my mind. However, I kept on telling myself that I had a mission that I needed to fulfill. And that I kept calling on God for further guidance and enlightenment as I know He is the only one who can give me that great grace of perseverance. 

During the following days and weeks, everything started falling into place. I was able to get used to the food that they eat, 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 without eating rice), and almost every day they depend on canned goods just to make up a meal for a day. And we all take our meals on the floor without a dining table. And also, getting myself 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 they sell at Nausori Market.

I kept calling on God for further guidance and enlightenment as I know He is the only one who can give me the great grace of perseverance.

I loved joining my family in witnessing their faith by attending the morning and evening prayer in the village, Sunday’s Masses, liturgy and the Bible sharing weekly. And I had a wonderful time and amazing memory in joining the community’s meetings, gatherings, celebrations and spending time with the people to socialize during talanoa sessions.

Children's catechism class
Children's catechism class

I also made friends with the children, joined them in playing and swimming in the river and teaching catechism to them during Sunday Masses in the village and accompanying my adoptive father who is also a catechist to go to other two villages for a parallel liturgy.

I usually go with my adoptive mother every Tuesday to attend a charismatic function and also accompanying her to the bazaar with the women in the village every Friday afternoon. On Friday and Saturday nights, I sleep with them on the veranda outside of the market and was able to get to know them well by being with them in that way. And it’s a nice experience also in joining the youth for their meetings and accompanying 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. All of these new experiences have become my daily lifestyle, and of course it makes me appreciate life even better. I’m currently in the family village exposure as an extension for another two months at Delasui Village. While my few months of staying 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 need to continue.

Originally from the Philippines, Columban lay missionary Jennifer (Jake) Lunor lives and works in Fiji.