The Navosa wars and the year of increase

Where there was once bloodshed in Navosa, Fiji, there are now baptisms.

Baptismal candidates in Navosa, Fiji.

Navosa is a large province in Fiji, extending from the mouth of the Sigatoka River to its source, but our story lies in the upper part of the Sigatoka Valley, which has lately been dragged into a drug war, prompting negativity, lawlessness and national condemnation.

This disturbing episode is nothing new to Navosa. In 1867, an Australian Wesleyan missionary, originally from Britain, Reverend Thomas Baker, was brutally killed in cold blood, with seven native Fijians from his entourage.

The missionary was eaten and even his shoes were boiled and tasted, so the story goes. The then Fijian government’s constabulary force were rebuffed in an all out reprisal campaign to punish the killers.

Navosa was once a a place of violence.

In 1876 a brutal war named the “Little War” broke out because the upper part of the Sigatoka Valley not only refused to accept Christianity but started killing and burning villagers in the coastal area who had accepted Christianity. With about 1400 volunteer armed native police and British soldiers, they were finally overcome. This was the end of all the wars against Christianity in Fiji.

Even after such a gloomy history, the Lord stepped in, transforming the hearts of our church members from a warring mindset to soul winning. Thirsty to participate in evangelistic outreach, they entered bordering villages that had long been very suspicious of Adventism.

Three months ago, church members from Nelson Palmer Adventist Primary School formed the first “brigade” under their “captain”, Pastor Apisai Matea, to run an evangelistic campaign at Edrau (Keiyasi) for one month, concluding in 22 baptisms.

The second brigade, from Draiba church, took over under the same captain and went to the next village, Wauosi. After a month at Wauosi, 40 people were baptised. Immediately after the baptism, the third brigade—Vatubalavu church—took over, still under the same captain, and moved to the next village, Nawairabe, for yet another month, culminating in the baptism of 15 souls on November 5, ending a three-month evangelistic campaign.

It is not the number that counts but the unprecedented desire by the church members to fulfil the gospel commission. There were 25 souls baptised in Balenabelo Village thanks to brother Simi, a minibus driver from Lautoka. Three villages up the river, at the village of Nasauvarua, more than 20 women were baptised as men left the village rather than go against a directive of the chief, who happens to be an Adventist and great-grandson of the notorious Nawawabalavu, who was responsible for the death of the missionary Thomas Baker in 1867.

We hope that this resurgence and the optimism observed in this part of the country will continue to illuminate this island so that Jesus will come to take his faithful people home. 

It is not the number that counts but the unprecedented desire by the church members to fulfil the gospel commission.

Nanoko church has made a breakthrough by starting a church company at the approximately 500 household village of Navala. There are no Adventists in the village.

We praise God for the opportunity, like Private Desmond Doss from the recent Hacksaw Ridge movie—let’s pray for one more person, one more home and one more village as we focus on Total Membership Involvement (TMI).

Peni Dakua is president of the Adventist Association For Retired Church Workers.