Dear GCI Family and Friends,
I don’t always enjoy surprises, but I do appreciate good surprises. This is exactly what Susan and I experienced when we visited the island nation of Fiji. When you hear Fiji mentioned in a conversation, your mind goes to wonderful artesian drinking water, gorgeous flowers of all types, exotic birds, and breath-taking sunsets. These are all true, but my mind was mostly captured by the beautiful people – especially the GCI people.
Three years ago, James and Alisi Panuve extended a formal invitation for Susan and me to visit the church in Fiji. Upon the heels of the Australian conference in August, we were at last able to join Regional Director Dennis Richards and his wife, Sue, for an extended weekend visit.
The church gathered on Saturday morning for a formal Fijian welcoming ceremony called Veiqaravi Vakavanua. It is a solemn event performed and observed with dignity. The presentation of ceremonial items acknowledged how far the visitors have come. The ceremony signifies the respect for the honored guest in the spirit of welcoming a chief or a state dignitary. It also symbolized the joy and submission of the group in receiving me as their President of GCI. I was humbled and highly honored.
Susan and I were greeted by all the members in attendance, and we enjoyed a wonderful social gathering in the British tradition called “Tea.” After the food and fellowship, Susan and Sue Richards met with the ladies and shared testimonies, life stories, and prayer for one another. Dennis and I were turned over to the care of the Young Adult group, a most lively and fun group ranging in ages of 17 to 35. We did an icebreaker exercise where we learned interesting facts about one another, and then one of the leaders facilitated a short lesson from Philippians 4:8. The energy and mutual love the group demonstrated was exceptional.
To further the relationship building, and to simply have some good clean fun, I invited the youth group back to the ice cream shop at my hotel. It was quite a spectacle of 30 of us walking down the city streets across the pitch (sports field) to the hotel, and then lining up to order our cups of ice cream. The hotel was kind enough to allow us to gather poolside and enjoy a beautiful afternoon in a delightful setting.
The youth group and a children’s choir played a significant role in the Sunday worship service. Their musical gifts were on display, especially the harmonies of their blended voices. I gave a sermon entitled, “Jesus Our True Foundation.” I have been giving this message in many places around the world for the purpose of showing that our model of Team-Based Pastor-Led ministry, accompanied by the ministry avenues of Faith, Hope and Love, are fully based in Jesus and better align us as we seek to participate with him under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Many commented how this message helped provide clear direction about where we are going as a church family, and many expressed how this feels like a restart for our church. I sense that too.
One of the highlights of the day and a main purpose for the trip was to ordain Frank Boyd, alongside his wife, Emily, as the new lead pastor for Grace Communion Fiji. Frank and Emily are deeply committed leaders who love the Lord and his church. They have the respect of the people and move with wonderful ease and grace as they interact and flow among the members. I am confident that this church has an able under shepherd who will flourish as he is led by the Great Shepherd.
Fiji was a happy surprise to Susan and me, and we enjoyed being in the company of one of GCI’s healthy churches in the middle of the Pacific. On their behalf let me say a hearty, “Bula!” This word embodies the deep joy in greeting another person. You certainly feel the joy of the Lord when you are with our dear brothers and sisters in Fiji.
Honored to be the GCI President,
P.S. Don’t miss more about the Fiji gathering in this issue by Epeli Nakautoga.