A church in the park! It conjures up great images, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want to worship there? But what if the majority of the “church members” were homeless, unemployed and unkempt street people? Would you still want to be like Jesus and mix and mingle with them?
Welcome to Sukuna Park podium in the heart of the city of Suva, Fiji. Church members from Suva’s southern district started building relationships with people in the park in 2015. In addition to a regular feeding program, picnics, social events, sports, free hair cuts and many more family-based events were organised. Now, Bible study, worship and singing happens every Sabbath morning at the podium in the park.
God is really doing the changing. We are just instruments in His hands.
Seven people have been baptised after coming into contact with Adventists through the initiative. Other people’s lives have been changed in different ways, like Ledua who has now said goodbye to his life on the streets for good and returned to his village on the island of Ovalau. Then there’s Pita Tupou, one of Suva’s “shoeshine boys”. Pita first arrived in Suva from Lautoka with a knife in his backpack. He was on a mission to kill. His wife had left him for another man and moved to Suva, leaving Pita heartbroken, raging mad and wanting to go to prison. He waited on the streets day and night with his murder weapon.
One Sabbath morning a friend invited Pita for free food at the park. He rocked up for the food and heard the Bible read and explained. His anger subsided. He left for the streets, changed. Each Sabbath he came, he ate and gradually he forgave his wife. That was 2015. He was baptised at the Uduya Seventh-day Adventist Church on June 18.
Suva City Council recognises the value of what the Adventists are doing and allows the church group to use the Sukuna Park podium free of charge. The council likes that the church is changing lives. “God is really doing the changing,” says Pastor Epeli Saukuru, who is involved in the project. “We are just instruments in His hands.”
Originally published in the Fiji Mission’s Na Kaci newsletter