A mission trip to remember

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Coconut palms, plantains, papaya and breadfruit trees conceal the Vugalei settlement from the bustle of busy Suva. A single mongoose scuttles across the driveway and the village dog slinks nearby, ensuring everyone is safe and there are no unauthorised entries into the settlement.

Stepping onto the track, you get a sense that the village is nearby. You begin to hear the thwack of cement being thrown on walls, saws cutting through wood and sand being sifted through wire nets. 

When the village comes into view, the first thing you see is the church. The Vugalei church has a position in the village that encourages visitors, welcomes gatherers and tells everyone this is a village that knows Christ is at the centre of their lives.  

Our mission group arrived in Nadi, Fiji, on January 7, greeted by an excited Vugalei community who had travelled three hours for our arrival. We were a group of 33 church members and friends from Alstonville Seventh-day Adventist church: 17 teens, two children and 14 adults. The Fijian people welcomed us with song, gifts and warmth that was beyond any of our expectations. The brightly painted bus transporting us to Vugalei paled in comparison to the colour and energy of the occupants inside. The three-hour bus ride was spent getting to know our new friends and singing hymns and praise. The longer we travelled, the more enthusiastic and energised we became for the work ahead.  

The mission focus was to complete the rendering of the interior walls of the church, fund the resources needed to push the project forward, gain a closer connection with Jesus through His mission work, and coordinate a Vacation Bible School (VBS) for children as an extension of their Christian education and as an outreach to the broader communities.

The VBS team advertised the program through doorknocking and inviting families from other settlements to join. The week-long program taught and encouraged children to love and learn about Jesus, educating them about the fruit of the Spirit.

Inside the church, other members of the mission group cleared the space and prepared it for the work. We were not alone—the entire settlement came to help. For the Vugalei people, it is not an ordinary church, it is part of their family and the centre of their lives with God most certainly present there.

The work inside the church was undertaken by manual labour; there was no use of machinery. We sifted the river sand in large drums of water to remove any lumps and rocks, transported the sand to the second storey of the church and mixed the cement, accomplished through teamwork and a shared load. There was a lot of help and not a single resource was wasted. Leftover cement was made into large tiles to be used for footpaths, scrap timber was removed of its nails which were then separated into buckets and set aside for future projects, and tools were shared among everyone who helped.  

It had been 20 years since the groundbreaking ceremony, when prayers were to be answered and the Vugalei church would be built. Through the dedication and faith of the pioneering families, the church would become the instrument of a multi-generational, multi-national project, bringing people together just as God designed.

At the conclusion of the two weeks, not only was interior rendering completed but the outside of the church walls was rendered, door and window frames were set and fitted, and timber purchased and delivered for the ceiling batons. What the mission group had hoped to achieve, God had supplied and increased. It was clear that God blessed the work of everyone involved, leaving behind a sense of accomplishment. 

Elly Conduit in the church treasurer at Alstonville church in NSW.

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