Cleric's Column - Back From Fiji
By: Pastor Eric Smith
In the over one hundred year history of Davuileu there has never been a visiting mission team. The Methodist Church of Fiji is the owner and operator of the College. The college was originally in relationship with the Methodist Church of Australia (precisely the Methodist Church of Australasia), but the relationship became increasingly distant when the Australians formed a Uniting Church when several denominations joined together in 1977.
Their model for theological education is different than our own. In Fiji those who have a call to ministry and are recognised as possessing the gifts and graces are offered some training and sent to serve churches as lay pastors for at least three years. Each year a small group is selected to begin theological study at Davuilevu, which is where all (or nearly all) Methodist ministers in Fiji are trained. An entering class for the three year course of study is about 25 strong.
There is no cost to the theological students. They are given a small stipend and a residence at Davuilevu. While there they raise their own food on the 600 acre grounds. The entire village of students, their family members, faculty, and staff consists of 250 people.
Each weekday morning the students and staff gather for chapel at 8:00 am; the Foothills team attended as well. From morning chapel the students begin their classes which last until noon. In the afternoon there is time for study, working in the fields and gardens, and recreation. Evenings are sometimes designated for gatherings of many types or for rest and family time. On the weekends students are sent to various churches to preach.
When the Foothills team first arrived neither the Fijians nor the Foothillians knew what to expect of the other. We were received with open arms and generous hospitality. It started off well and our experience grew powerfully from there. You will hear from members of the team how we were embraced.
There were three primary expressions of the work team. There was a medical group with Dr. David Pollster and Dr. Sandra Jasmine with nurses Jay Carlson and Sandi Thomas. A Vacation Bible School team was headed up by Amy Kerrigan. Our work crew was led by Dave Henselmeier. A presentation from each of these areas will be made in worship on July 17.
There is so much to share from this experience. The bonds of our connected faith have been established.
I am so proud of our team, and so proud to be the pastor of Foothills.
Pastor Eric Smith