As we descended into Nadi airport I glanced out the window and saw tiny green islands with perfect borders of sand nestled amongst beautiful bluey-green water. From high up in the air it is impossible to work out what lies below. From the plane one thing is clear however. Fiji looks like absolute paradise.
As we stepped out of the plane we felt as though we had just been wrapped in an electric blanket on high. What a strange feeling for us Victorians in mid-September! As we took a few more steps we were greeted by four Fijian's singing and playing for us. Guitars in hand, big smiles on their faces, voices loud and confident singing to us a 'Bula' welcome song.
Many tourists walk right on by this welcome committee, without even a sidewards glance.
These four musicians depict the beauty of Fiji that runs deep through the people. And is something that in my recent trip to Fiji that I experienced time and time again. I could not walk on by without a glance. I had to stop to appreciate their joyous welcome and it surely set the tone for the rest of our visit. I didn't want to be too busy and too focused on what we were doing only to miss something precious that I could take home with me.
Fiji is a touch of paradise. Not only because of the beautiful surroundings but also because the people are just beautiful, brimming over with love, friendliness and hospitality that is truly genuine.
We visited Fiji for 16 days with a group of people from our church. We had so many experiences and opportunities to learn and to be challenged while we were there. We constantly encouraged by the desperation of the Fijian people to see God move and to pray. Often in our churches in Australia we just do the same old week in week out.
Sometimes we forget our need for a Saviour. We may throw up a small prayer and hope for the best. We try and work things out on our own and make up plan a, b and c. What we experienced in Fiji was a desperate hunger for God and a faith that says this mountain can be moved. There is no back-up plan.
Walking into the Lautoka hospital was extremely confronting. Many of these people have no options and were simply crying out for prayer. Bed after bed people were lying in terrible conditions with horrific physical ailments. Sick babies and children with mothers keeping a 24 hour bedside vigil. I felt medically helpless. What could I do? I wanted to do something. God said, "Just love them and see them as I do".
God's heart upon us
As we began to lay hands on people and to pray for them I was moved by God's heart for them. He loves them right where they are and He wanted us to share His love for them. We prayed for a lady awaiting results regarding the degree of the spread of cancer in her body. Days later we farewelled her as she was being discharged.
Praise God her results were clear. God loves her so much. We prayed for a very sick 15 year old Hindu girl, while her mother sat by and wept. They had been in the hospital for 25 days and the load was becoming too much for her mother to bear. God loves them so much.
We prayed for a tiny 6 week old baby who had fallen while she was asleep. Her mother looked at me with eyes of despair and guilt. God loves them both so much.
The beautiful thing was that we were welcomed with open arms into airport, into the hospital and many other places we visited. People may have just wanted to say hello. Or just to shake hands. Many just gave a smile as we walked by. If we offered to pray we never once had the offer thrown back in our face.
As we touched a bit of paradise in this beautiful nation of Fiji I may have prayed for, shared the Gospel and encouraged numerous people over our visit. But what I have brought home with me is far more than I ever contributed and I only hope that what I have brought home with me are treasures that will make a difference for eternity.
Laura Veloso is wife to John and the mother of 3 young boys. She is trained in child welfare and primary school teaching and has experience in overseas missions and youth leadership.
Laura Veloso's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/laura-veloso.html