When Pastor Ted Wilson and his wife Nancy arrived at the Nadi International airport in Fiji, they faced an unexpected situation. The inauguration of a rebuilt church, one of 23 Seventh-day Adventist rebuilt churches in Fiji, scheduled for the afternoon of Thursday, November 29, was canceled. An unexpected storm had blocked plans for them to travel to the interior of the Island.
With the assurance of God’s leading, Pastor Wilson decided to visit a rebuilt church close to the Nadi airport. At the church, he unexpectedly met five young people who had developed a “bicycle ministry.” Early morning, on a daily basis, the five missionary bikers distribute tracts at the same time the local newspaper is delivered to the homes. When people get the secular news, they also receive the good news of salvation.
On Friday morning, another unexpected storm again frustrated the plans to go to the interior of the Island for the inauguration. With the assurance of God’s leading, Pastor Wilson visited the Headquarters of the Fiji Mission and shared hope with the leaders, pastors, and members.
The frustration of the locals for not having the president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church at the inauguration was substituted by encouraging assurance during the Sabbath message: “Jesus has provided a beautiful place for us to stay in Heaven. Even though Fiji is beautiful, Heaven will be more beautiful,” said Pastor Wilson to a crowd of over 12,000 people at the ANZ National Stadium in Suva.
Fiji is part of the Trans-Pacific Union, a region with six Missions and two attached Fields. Currently, the Seventh-day Adventist Year Book lists 159 Churches and 101 Church companies in Fiji and a membership of 25,458 with a country population of 844,000. They have 36 ordained ministers and 26 licensed ministers.
“Unexpected” and “assurance” are both parts of the mission history of Fiji. Located in the Pacific Ocean, Fiji has more than 330 Islands with its capital, Suva, located in Viti Levu, the largest of Fiji’s Islands.
Fulori Bola, a local historian, said “in 1890, John I. Tay made a business trip to the Pitcard Island”. Unexpectedly, he discovered that all the islanders were Sabbath keepers. “One of the locals had a Bible. Reading and obeying God’s Word they were transformed, and all the Island became Seventh-day Adventist” Bola explained.
On his way back to America, John I. Tay visited the island of Fiji. Impressed with what he saw, when he came back to the US, he challenged the Adventist church in California “to build a boat that was named Pitcairn,” said Joe Talemaitoga, Fiji Mission Secretary. “The Pitcairn brought John I. Tay back to Fiji as a missionary. He came with his wife and landed in Suva in 1891 and worked faithfully among the people” Talemaitoga concluded. Unfortunately, after five months Mr. Tay died and was buried in Suva.
Unexpectedly in February 2016, Category-5 Cyclone “Winston” destroyed Viti Levu, Fiji’s main Island. The Cyclone destroyed many Seventh-day Adventist churches. With the assurance of God’s leading, Peter Koolik, volunteer coordinator of the General Conference Development and Construction Consulting Service, developed a ministry to rebuild churches in Fiji (and in Vanuatu) that now can withstand Category-5 storms. The construction attracted the attention of the community because the rebuilt churches became known as secure places. “Locals are sure that if an unexpected hurricane comes, the safest place is a Seventh-day Adventist Church near to their homes” affirms Koolik.
It is meaningful that in Fiji, the Seventh-day Adventist buildings are an assurance in the midst of the unexpected. Despite not inaugurating the interior churches because of unexpected bad weather, Wilson’s statement gives assurance of the glorious future of God’s Church on Earth: “Don’t focus on unexpected circumstances. With gratitude look ahead, look above. Jesus is coming, and very soon we will be forever in our heavenly home. This is our faith; this is our hope; this is our assurance” said pastor Wilson.