"BE TRULY FIJIAN AND TRULY AUSTRALIAN" Rev Inoke Nabulivou, Chairperson of the Fiji National Conference REFLECTIONS FROM THE FIJI NATIONAL CONFERENCE: "HERE AM I SEND ME" - Singing the Lord's Song in a Foreign Land It was tiring, but wonderful. For three days and nights from 10- 13 January the Grose Valley UCA Conference Centre was transformed into a Fijian village atmosphere for the 4th meeting of the Biennial Fijian National Conference. It was a time of laughter and sharing, relaxation and celebration, eating, dancing, singing and lots of hard work too. While younger members enjoyed volley ball, swimming, table tennis, bible study or preparing items for the special closing, other members met to talk about some of the issues facing Fijian people in Australia and issues, joys and concerns of Fijian congregations in the Uniting Church. Representatives to the Conference came from Sydney, Griffith, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth as well as Fiji. Rev Inoke Nabulivou set the scene in the opening worship where his enacted sermon introduced the theme of the 4th National Conference- "Here am I send me". Holding two stoles, one given to him by the Fiji Methodist church with the Fiji church's logo and his Uniting Church stole, Rev Nabulivou asked "Who are we?" "We are truly Australian and truly Fijian; we are truly Fijian Methodist and truly Uniting. This is who we are. Don't hide who you are. We need to be true to the identity God has given us. For me this means laughing like a Fijian! And we need to be able to say "Here am I, send me. God sends us out to be Christ's witnesses". A special guest at the Conference was Rev Ame Tugaue, newly elected Vice General Secretary of the Methodist Church of Fiji. Each morning Rev Ame led Bible studies at 5 am in the morning! His studies focused people's thinking of God as a Sending God who has brought Fijian people to this new country to live in. God has been with us in our journey and God will help us to be witnesses, continuing the ministry and mission of Jesus where we are now. The purpose of biennial national gatherings if for each of the different communities within the Uniting Church to have a national forum where, in their community language, people can have the opportunity to establish a national network between congregations of the same culture nurturing fellowship between members of the Uniting Church from all around Australia speaking the same language. It is an opportunity for mutual sharing and co-operation in solving difficult issues arising in the life of their congregations, sharing common problems, joys and prayers. At the Fiji National Conference there was an all night vigil each night and people took some time to share the deep concerns of their hearts. The National Conference is also an opportunity to develop our understanding of the multicultural Uniting Church we are a part of and to encourage ways each community can be heard and make a distinctive contribution to its life. "This National Conference was special in that there was 60% children and young adults. It's clearly an indication to us adults (mostly first generation here in Australia) of the importance of looking after our younger generation in church and accomodating them in the 2 cultures that they're part of." said Viniana Ravetali, Secretary of the Conference. A number of important issues facing the Fijian community in Australia emerged in the sharing of reports from each congregation. A key concern was for young people- We want our young people flourish here but we are lacking trained youth leaders. There was a commitment to identify and encourage potenial youth leaders. Some delegates urges congregations to take up the challenge of earmarking 10% of money raised for youth and education programmes. Enhancing family life generally was another concern. When people migrate often survival issues take over and parents can be so busy trying to make their way in a new land or going to church related meetings that they can neglect to give the time needed to be with their children. Finding the right balance, giving the support their young people need and making opportunities for young people to learn Fijian culture and language were identified important issues. We must also bravely look at the sensitive issues of gender roles, child protection, helping people deal with stress and conflict and ensuring family harmony. Developing worship and educational resources in Fijian language was identified as important and there are a number of Immigration issues needing attention. There were many highlights including the times to relax and share, and the times of celebration and worship. Guests including Rev James Latu, Rev Helen Richmond sharing stories of growing a multicultural church; Rev Peter Davis, long time friend of the Fijian community and Rev Ian Stehbens who brought a challenge and vision of Christian leadership. The tremendous talent of the young people was displayed in organising the closing concert. (see photos) And the closing service was also a fitting thanksgiving and farewell ccasion when Fijian members of the UCA from the different Uniting Church congregations gathered to share and enjoy a feast. The message of the closing service was "Do you want to live?" (John 5: 1- 14) the famous question Jesus asked the man that was sick for 30 long years. Rev Tugaue reminded people that God sends us out to bring life to others not death. There are many people in our world needing to experience the life giving power of the one who brings Life in all its fullness. We can be very glad that Fijian congregations have found their home in the Uniting Church and Fijian people are bringing many wonderful gifts to the Uniting Church including gifts of vibrant faith, generosity, hospitality and commitment to evangelism, a deep commitment to prayer and spirituality permeates life. Written by Rev Helen Richmond National Director Multicultural and Cross-cultural Ministry.
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