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February 25, 2021

Christian Union's 2019 Fact-Finding Trip

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7: 13, 14

By Sarah Camp

One small hand slipped into mine. A second stealthy hand claimed my other hand. The young girls tugged me along the dirt path through the village, between small homes. Prayers, songs, drifted from doorways. Cell phones served as our flashlights, guiding my steps only; the girls were sure-footed as they pulled and nudged me along.

From the sky, heavy with darkness, stars erupted.

fiji 4They dangled so seemingly low amid the lengthwise haze of the Milky Way I wondered if I might disentangle a hand, reach up, and snatch one, just one, drop it my pocket, to remember a sacred night in Vunibao, Fiji.

That night, in the open green space between their homes, the villagers gathered to partake in a night of repentance. A time of worship transitioned to prayer, but first everyone seated on the grass came forward, young and old, to be led in prayers of repentance by a pastor in a mummering baritone of rapid-fire Fijian. Now I was being led to a joyful meal with Fijian brothers and sisters in Christ.

The night of repentance has been enacted throughout many of the 200 inhabited islands that comprise Fiji (there are 300 islands in total). This village, like dozens of others, had heard of the Lord’s gracious work of healing relationships and the land itself in other villages. They invited a native Fijian ministry, called Healing the Land, to bring the formal process to them; to walk them through steps of teaching, repentance, and reconciliation that have, over the years, softened hearts, melted hostilities between denominations and clans, and been accompanied by often miraculous restoration of the earth’s natural abundance, along with other blessings in economic and social conditions.

In Vunibao, I was seated behind the chief on the stage, along with my fellow travelers. Thirteen of us were ministry faculty or staff from Christian Union. We were joined by three new friends, representing Australia, Canada, and Singapore. Our two-week tour was led by George Otis, documentary filmmaker, and his wife, Karissa, as an extension of Otis’s decades of relationship building, interviewing, documenting, and witnessing community transformation around the world.

fiji 2Many have seen one or more of Otis’ “Transformations” videos. These are accounts from communities that were once spiritually, socially, and, often, economically, broken—desperate. The videos recount the process of deciding to seek God together, as well as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that resulted. In these accounts, the power of God restores the natural environment, ushers in widespread change to the social fabric of the community, and frequently sees economic prosperity increase.

On our tour around Fiji in late May, we entered villages that had experienced such transformation. Most were at some stage after going through the Healing the Land process. One village was in the middle of the ministry’s multi-stage process. It was here, in Vunibao, that we too would enter the sacred space of their night of communal repentance. Under the blazing stars of the southern hemisphere, the chief left the stage and stood with his people. The children formed the front row, adults scattered behind them, as expressions turned inward, villagers listening and responding in faith.

The Doorway
Repentance is one element of the protocol developed by Healing the Land. Since 2003, the native ministry has been sending teams out by car, bus, boat, and foot throughout Fiji, as well as abroad, to communities ready for change. They bring curriculum and a roadmap to be followed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The ministry team prepares itself with intensive prayer and fasting before entering the village.

As our tour progressed, we learned about the content of the teaching that the ministry brings: the stewardship role humanity is given by God, how that role is abused through sin—and how the land suffers as a result; the power of Jesus Christ’s atonement to cover this sin; and the power of the presence of Jesus Christ to bring transformation and healing. Healing the Land explains, “The Cross is the doorway to community transformation and healing.”

During and after this process, many villages have experienced extraordinary, sudden changes in the production of crops, availability of fish and other resources, and other phenomena associated with healing of the land and/or water sources.

Understanding Vanua
Fiji is a land of staggeringly vast, undeveloped natural beauty. In the villages, you enter a world of (in many cases) subsistence fishing, crabbing, gardening; you can see how meaningful it is to turn to God for daily needs and rejoice in His speedy provision for everything from clean water, to food, to education for your children.

fiji 5
Vanua is a word we heard early and often. In Fijian, vanua is more than the English word "land" or “self.” Simply put, the land and the people are inseparable concepts. You could call it Fiji’s strength and weakness in a single word; what God needs to heal and what He is graciously using to bring healing to this land and people. As a result, Fijians are highly responsive to the many elements of Scripture that lay environmental issues at the feet of our posture to God, our relationship with one another, and our stewardship role. Because of vanua “healing the land is healing the people” And vice versa. They are inseparable.

Healing the Land
Healing the Land ministry operates from a home church base in Nausori, Fiji. We had the opportunity to worship at the home church of this ministry; to commemorate the passing of their giant of a founder, pastor Ratu Vuniani Nakauyaca, and travel with his son, Pastor Savenaca Nakauyaca —a powerful, Joshua-like successor; and to sit at the feet of the ministry to learn from their process, and to be led into communities that have been transformed by God.

Transformation Process
Healing the Land spends a week teaching from the array of Scripture through which the Lord proclaims that the spiritual and relational condition of men and women have, because of their divinely given role as stewards of creation, a profound effect on the environment—for better or worse. But before this teaching can begin, the village must be desperate for God, and willing to come together in the process. In many cases, villages have heard the news about how God is blessing and changing a nearby village, and they want the presence and favor of the Lord, too.

The Healing the Land manual explains: “Community Transformation is a process of humility, repentance, forgiveness and healing which lead to reconciliation with God and with fellow men. It is marked by a significant invasion of the Kingdom of God in a community.”

During this process, typical village life is put on hold. When Healing the Land arrives, they spend a week teaching from Scripture, taking a comprehensive look at personal and communal needs before God.

During the second week, the ministry team visits every home in the village. They help people identify and uproot sin and facilitate the repentance/reconciliation process both between the family and the Lord and with one another.

The people in the village repent of specific sins, pray, and fast for three days. Some of the main issues being repented of were: idolatry (for instance, statues guarding the village that cast a pall of fear); witchcraft, which has often included cursing other villages; immorality; bloodshed; and fatherlessness.

The ministry process yields a new rhythm of community life. While denominations may continue to worship in their own ways on Sundays, deep affection and mutual support comes to mark their interactions. One additional day of the week (usually Wednesday) is considered “a second Sunday.” Joint prayer or ongoing prayer chains are maintained throughout the day. Worship, and a shared day of fasting, until 3 pm, also knits believers together.

Heaven Invades
There is a high degree of what we call supernatural events among the villages during and after the process. For visitors like us coming after these events, there remains a strong residual effect of the “invasion” of the Kingdom of Heaven. We met men and women experiencing life more abundantly, characterized by increased love, motivation, compassion, humility, and even innovation. The overflow of blessing seemed so natural the casual observer might not appreciate the great change that has taken place.

fiji 6
Christian Union sent more than a dozen of its employees to Fiji for two weeks because of the encouraging testimony and the practical lessons that our Fijian brothers and sisters can impart for all who are eager for God's presence and desire to see widespread transformation. What would it look like in our own culture for communities of people to unite and seek God together? What would we be led to specifically repent of and put away? What would impacts might result? These were just a few of the questions we took home with us to ponder as a result of our time listening and discovering, first hand, how God is graciously at work in Fiji.

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