Canvas | Issue 88: People of Prayer
TSCF Staff Workers Chris Hay and Michael Bresler took six students on a Global Reach Journey to Suva, Fiji, in November last year. Bex Allen spoke to them about their experience and how prayer was a vital thread woven into their journey.
What was the purpose of your trip?
We went to Suva to connect with Pacific Students For Christ (PSFC), our IFES equivalent in Fiji, to support the staff and campus group at Fiji National University. Our goal was to increase partnership in the gospel – within our New Zealand team, between TSCF and PSFC, and between the Fijian staff/campus groups and the local church.
We were reflecting on Philippians in preparation for the trip, and we were striving for the Philippian model of partnership (with Paul). Our key scripture was: “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.” (Philippians 1:3–5)
What did you do during your time in Fiji?
We were invited to the Fiji National University “Derrick Campus” to speak and pray with the acting dean (a former PSFC graduate). Also, some Fijian PSFC students took us for a tour of the University of the South Pacific “Laucala” campus, and we spent time looking around Suva, to experience the culture. We spent a day in practical service doing farm work for Homes of Hope (an organisation offering care and support to girls and women who have experienced sexual abuse). We also helped staff worker “Aunty Ateca” with renovations at her house.
To help facilitate partnership between the Fijian staff and their local churches, we were also involved with two churches – Namadi Baptist Church and Unity Baptist Church. We split our team between the two, attending their home groups and church services. I (Chris) had the opportunity to preach at Unity Baptist Church. Also, our students worked together with the local Fijian students to lead the youth group for this church. It was super encouraging seeing our team take ownership of that; they did a fantastic job.
What were some highlights of your time there?
Due to a change in plans, some Fijian students ended up staying with us, which meant we could more easily build relationships with them. At the start of each day, we read the Word together, with the Kiwi and Fijian students taking turns at leading. It was great to see our Kiwi students and the Fijian students becoming friends. They got to build really solid friendships and still keep in touch now.
It was a highlight to see how PSFC has grown as an organisation and seeing a lot of young people on the board who are passionate about it. Also, seeing our students in leadership – there’s something special about that. Even though we had a team devotion each morning, it was really encouraging to see every one of our team get up early every morning, or find a time in the evening to do an extra devotion. One student got really passionate about what he was doing over there, and about reading his Bible.
What role did prayer have during your preparation and time in Fiji?
One of the main things we were praying for was partnership. Before the trip, the two of us were meeting regularly to pray and praying via Skype with “Uncle Dan” from Fiji (PSFC National Director, Taniela Qeleni). We were building our Kiwi team before we went by sharing testimonies and praying together. We were also praying with the Nepal team (as a larger Global Reach group) for an attitude of humility and learning. In Fiji we did a lot of praying for each other – Kiwis and Fijians together. We prayed personally, but also for each of our groups and campuses.
How was prayer important for the trip?
Prayer is so underutilised. I (Michael) was challenged by the idea of self-centredness. I think most of the time it’s not that we don’t want to, or we don’t recognise the importance – we sort of forget, because we’re just focusing on ourselves, and we’re so used to doing things ourselves. I’ve been thinking about that trip and our dependence on prayer. I have a quote from Tim Keller on my wall: “The best thing a man can do is pray; sometimes, it’s the only thing he can do.” There were certain things with this trip that I couldn’t control. I definitely recognise the importance of prayer in that.
Prayer is kind of the engine that drives it, but you don’t recognise it. I (Chris) think prayer does significant work, whether it’s internally, logistically, growth, team synergy. Prayer does a lot of work, but unless we’re looking, we won’t see it.
What did you learn about prayer from the Fijians?
They often prayed, “Thank you for the breath of life.” A lot of us were struck by the realisation that this day is a gift, and this breath in my body is a gift. It was normal for them to pray, and pray often, and pray about lots of things. It was very much a part of their ethos, their culture.
How did you see God at work?
God provided financially for the trip. Everyone got funded, and one of the students got funded early on, which was exciting for her. Also, we felt that God answered our prayers to build partnership. We saw the Kiwi students coming away passionate about international student ministry; you could see them becoming excited each day and afterwards. But also the Fijian students, who like us can feel isolated, they were encouraged and excited – here are these people who care about us and are excited for what we do, and are praying and supporting what we do. And the staff and student leaders of their Christian groups were encouraged.
Find out more about PSFC on their website: www.psfcfiji.org
Bex Allen, Communications Manager