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The Mission of the Church on Fiji

and Cyclone Winston


on the Island Vanualevu in the town of Labasa
Life is best defined as a mystery; a wonderful mystery of God
In this mystery, when we arrived by plane from Nadi of Vitilevu to
Vanualevu, we had just spent four peaceful days at the mission
center of Saint Paraskevi in the village of Sabeto with Archbishop
Amphilochios, our Gheronda.
In His Eminence's presence one senses deeply the
patient, fatherly love of our Heavenly Father.
Naturally at the center vespers and
"apodypno" (sometimes referred to as "compline) are
said each evening and each morning orthros. We then
share our breakfast, mostly in serene silence accompanied only by the birds chirping and greeting
the morning! Depending, after breakfast Gheronda
might say an encouraging word to all or to each and then perhaps a reading. One morning he read to
us from St. Paul's letter to the Galatians; "...correct
one another in a spirit of gentleness," and on other
days he has shared readings from the
"Gherontikn" (Desert Fathers) about proper
behavior becoming of monks (respectful shyness and
avoiding vain curiosity) which he said applies to lay
people as well) and about greed versus grace (pride
versus humility).
Arriving in Labasa on Friday with hopeful and joyous anticipation
by plane, we were heartily received by our father Barnava,
formerly a Hindu. He and his family came into the Church at the

kind invitation of Gheronda on a providential meeting five years


ago. Father Barnava then felt Gheronda's holiness and Gheronda
felt fr Barnava's humility. It was meant to be. The Church is alive
and well now in Labasa and nearly 100 (men, women and
children) have been baptized - including the 23 that we baptized
on this trip. The baptized couples have also now been wed.
We were received into fr Barnava's home with true, embracing
philoxena. A sumptuous meal of curry and dal (like Greek faks
but spicy) with heaps of steamed white rice and a refreshing
cucumber salad was readily served us by Presvytera Maria. We
then said vespers and retired to clean quarters which they had
arranged for us. By the grace of God and with the Archbishop's
blessing, on Friday morning the first fourteen were baptized - Oh!
What joy!

Everyone took delight when little Eirini put up a bit of a fight!

Preceding the baptisms of course, is the Service of the


Catechumens - but actual catechism also was given: the meaning
of doing one's cross; God from heaven sent into the world His
Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ - and we have protection on all
sides by the Holy Spirit; the why of the three fingers together and
the meaning of other two; Christ's own example and His
commission that we baptize "all nations" ( ) and
the continuous prayers that we all have of the Theotokos, our
Pnagha. Together we also enjoyed learning a song about her
many names: "Pnagha Despoina" .
Saturday, the wonderful ecclesial climate of agape-love was not
overtaken by the intense heat and high humidity, as the feared
cyclone (named "Winston") was closing in, weaving in and out
among the islands. That evening businesses closed, a curfew was
imposed as the winds and rain raged! Everyone throughout the
islands was in a prayerful mood. Needless to say, the other
baptisms had to be postponed. It was said that this might be the
biggest cyclone in their recent history.
Saturday night the islands were hit. Intense prayer everywhere as the strong winds and rain increased. Except for a few
generators, all electricity was out. There was property and
landscape damage everywhere, certain parts of the Fijian Islands
were hit harder than others. Hundreds were injured. May our
good and eternal God grant rest to the 21 persons who perished.
On Sunday morning - true Resurrection! Labasa was hit less by
Cyclone Winston. As God allowed and though the police were
standing guard (keeping the curfew), we were allowed to drive to
our Saints Nicholas and Athanasios Church. The newly illumined
and many others who also were allowed out despite the curfew
were in attendance. And we celebrated one of the most very

thankful liturgies ever! After a light refreshment we then


celebrated another 9 baptisms and two more weddings! By the
patient and Apostolic work of Archbishop Amphilochios, the
Church is growing here on the Fiji Islands and the kingdom of
God is procuring more prospective members. Glory to God! !

Father Barnava leads the catechumens in the Symbol of Faith


~ Faithfully submitted with the blessings
of Archbishop Amphilochios of New
Zealand and Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, by
Archimandrite Christodoulos, Ierokyrix of
the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Atlanta