"Noomi" Report by Rev. Jone Kata

NARIKOSO.

Ono, Kadavu, Fiji Islands.

 

Skipper Raimo Louhi.

After three consecutive attempts to reach Penrhyn in the Northern Cooks, SY Noomi returned to Fiji with torn sails, a damaged rudder and a battery charger that was not charging. Raimo needed rest also after a very challenging Pacific Ocean. While resting at Vuda Mariner, talks were underway for a local missionary journey and the Narikoso Mission was suggested.

Narikoso is a village on the south east corner of Ono Island in Kadavu, Fiji Islands. Maps were spread to locate the suggested destination. The village was not named in the map, so locating it became a little hassle, until confirmation through consultations assured us of our determination. A plan was made to get to Narikoso, Vunisea and Tavuki and as soon as the damages to the yacht were fixed a date was set, Monday, 26th September, 2006.

None of the three men on board the yacht, the skipper, Raimo Louhi, Rev. Jone Kata the Teacher and Inoke Bulivou, a native lad of Narikoso, checked the weather board at the mariner, before leaving, something we regretted later, and so we untied rope and looked forward to what we expected to be a very interesting episode. All sails were up as we crossed Nadi Bay, a two hour stretch between Vuda Mariner and Sheraton Denarau, and all seemed to go well as we began, it was a calm before the storm. We had already done four hours as Navula Passage at Momi was coming up. We changed direction and entered the passage riding irregular swells into a gaping ocean. Breakers on the reefs drew a definite continuous white line for as along as our eyes could see. The wind from the south west was obviously not going to be so kind to us. As the swells increased in sizes and momentum, dark storm clouds spread a blanket of uncertainty above and around the Sail Yacht Noomi, with the skipper owner becoming very alert and prepared.

At one point we seemed to be at a stand still, not moving forward and neither backward, with the constant pounding of the bow. It was getting dark quickly due to the weather and we were showing signs of concern and apprehension. After a four hour ordeal outside of Savusavu before Malomalo, I suggested that we return to Momi Bay or make for Likuri Bay a few miles ahead while it was still daylight. Fortunately we decided to return to safety.

 

A wall of clouds.

We later learnt, after hearing the weather news, that all of Fiji was being warned of very rough seas and high velocity winds ranging from twenty five to thirty knots at times. We enjoyed the embrace of Momi Bay as we anchored there for the next few days. Inoke the young man from Narikoso who wanted to accompany us on the yacht, had to return to Suva to his young family, for we could not exactly determine the time we had to spend at the bay in Momi. We spent a whole week and three days in waiting.

 

The heavens declare it.

Tired of waiting for the storm winds to subside, we lifted anchor on Thursday 6th October, 2006, and made our way out through the passage to the open seas again, this time it was just the two of us. Our lack of patience was duly rewarded. At dusk, before entering the passage between Vatulele and Yanuca and Beqa, we started confronting what began to be an endless roller coaster ride through the night. We took two hourly watches between the two of us. What a blessing it was for me to sail with a skipper who understood the elements and had full confidence in the capabilities of the vessel. He handled everything so well, and with the sails up and the strong supporting winds from the side, we were catapulted into a wild and furious ocean. All through the night our sails sang a monotonous tune, supported by twanging of ropes and hinges. I was beginning my introduction to sailing through the storm, and I had no choice but to abandon myself to the dictates of undaunted elements, but God, I realized, was in total control, and I felt safe in the shelter of His arms. I sat and watched during the night and allowed the next wave to lift us on to the next one and the next until I could not fear no more for my safety and life, assuming a more fatalistic stance I suppose.

All through the night all we heard was the constant beating of waves on both sides of the boat, and likewise the clik clak clang of anything that could move or twist as we were tossed about like a coconut adrift in the open seas. The wind was against us and also the waves. Cold gusts from the south, unfavourable to sailors, was our lot that night. There was no land to go to for the desired break, but we had a mission to accomplish, and as we rode the next high wave, the words of the Great Commission kept coming back, urging us on in spite of the opposition. The passage between Beqa and Vatulele, we sailed through at the height of the storm, is infamous for testing sailors and ships with its cruel turbulence. Cakau Lekaleka (Short Reef) behind Vatulele always presented a challenge to all ships that could not avoid the course. We stayed a good distance of seven miles away from it, but could still feel the unruly behaviour of our version of the Bemuda Triangle. I was on watch as we sailed through the passage, happy but feeling uncertain within, as I spotted Beqa Island nine o'clock on the portside. Beqa gave me the impression of an animal stalking its prey. It created an ill feeling within me, and at the top of my voice, to alleviate the fear that was overtaking me, I shouted, “BEQA !!”, and that woke up the skipper, who came and gave me company at my consolation for a while. I was happy when my watch time was up and then I crept into the cabin and lay on the sofa hoping that day would dawn soon. When morning arrived I was still in the cabin fast asleep like a man drugged.

A yacht in the storm is perhaps a necessary training ground for missionaries to the Pacific Basin. It is indeed a learning opportunity.

 

Ono Island.

The sight of Ono looming on the horizon was a great relief to an amateur seaman like me. I extended my hand to the skipper and thanked him and the Lord for our safe arrival.We approached the island with great caution, not wanting to go aground on any reef, seeing that beacons were for local navigations only. However we moved slowly up north on the leeward side of the island and came to a secluded bay and there dropped anchor for us to rest the day and night after a hectic night previously.

Dropping anchor was an experience but a calm ocean was another, and these we both had at Tuvu Bay, a future site for a resort, where dolphins and trevallies swam lazily in its calm pristine waters. With a soft breeze grazing our salted faces we were lullabied into sweet repose, thanking God from the depth of our souls, for the assured city of refuge.

The serenity and peace that was ours was extremely special. We ate dinner and talked for a while and later retired into our bunks and lay our bodies down like logs without life.Raimo liked the bay so much that I called it Raimo Bay just to satisfy our earnestness to own it. The next morning, after breakfast we lifted anchor and made our way back the way we came in search of Narikoso the unmarked village. Not seeing beacons on the map, we decided to stop at the village of Vabea and to seek the assistance of someone to pilot us to our destination. At Vabea, we were met by the local pastor who gave us a young man for our need.

As we sailed around the last point before the village of Narikoso, we spotted building roofs from that distance and with a sigh of satisfaction we looked at each other with smiles of assurance and congratulations for we knew we had now made the journey successfully.

 

Narikoso Village from the yacht.

Narikoso is the village of a very close friend of mine, Esala Saukitoga, who now lives with his family in Palo Alto, California, USA. This trip was especially made to show my friend that we wanted to be a blessing to his people. The village is situated at the foot of high hills and on a stretch of sand shaped like a baseball diamond and facing the ocean at two sides. The village looked neat and tidy and well kept. The shoreline was covered with lava rocks that filled the waters during the time of our arrival. With fresh water in abundance, the sea bounty with morsels and fish, they were self sufficient in terms of sea food and native delicacies.

As soon as they saw us anchoring, they prepared a boatload of elders and children to meet us at the yacht at bay. It was a real warm reception and our hearts were warmed by their gesture of friendliness and open-heartedness. They boarded the yacht and we offered them a cup of tea and we chatted away a bit. We gave them gifts, of fishing line and hooks and trawling lures, it was beyond their expectations, but very much to their delight. They left and we followed them to do our traditional protocol to the village elders. On Sunday we had a combined service at the Methodist church and they allowed me to speak to the congregations in a full church. It was a real blessing for everyone. We praised God for the opportunity to share God's word to a very friendly group of people.The singing was quite enlightening. Our hearts were refreshed by their sincerity and generosity. Ponipate, my friend's elder brother was quite expressive, he gave us a very warm reception on our arrival, making us feel at home immediately. After the traditional protocol that Saturday evening, he went out to fish with a friend. In spite of the rough seas, they caught enough fish to share and also to feed us with on Sunday. Being the eldest in the family, he organized the combined service on Sunday which went very well with everyone.

Farewell friends.

Thank You For Coming.

Please Come Back Again.

Thank You For Your Prayers.

Our brief sorjourn with God's precious people in Narikoso, was added impetus for missions to continue, particularly to people in the remote areas of the world. As we sailed away from new found friends, we kept looking back in their direction with some emotions. Every time we did that we saw them waving to us. Again we were reminded of the Macedonian Call in Paul's dream when he was waiting for transportation at Troas to reach the European Continent.

Christ, the Master of Missions, though at times ministered to the masses, was also mindful of the individual like the Samaritan woman, the blind Bartemeaus, the Centurion and others, who represented all classes of people including the down and out of society. While Missions Organizations with high powered machineries focus on global projects in the mega cities of the world, we should not belittle the need to reach in love the isolated few in far removed islands of the earth.

Before we disappeared from each other, our last hand waves went with our prayers, praying that God will always abide with them, and that one day we would return for their blessings on us. Both of us were in our sixties, Raimo at sixty six and me at sixty three, both should be at home twisting our thumbs and enjoying luxuries life could afford us, but here in the open seas, our commitment to God and the task before us was strengthened. There is no life worth holding back, when the prize before us is greater than anything imaginable. And Christ is the Prize of our high calling. “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain”, is a statement that represents the sentiments of our hearts, when the going is rough.

Next Stop, Vabea, Ono, Kadavu.

After a delicious lunch at Narikoso, we sailed to Vabea the chiefly village of the island of Ono.Our first assignment was to repair the pastor's generator which had not been working for a long time.Raimo with his knowledge and skills was able to fix it and we were asked to also check the village generator for the same problem. Raimo serviced it but parts were needed to be replaced. Next was the school generator and it also needed parts to be replaced. That opened up the village for a series of teaching sessions conducted at their community hall the next few days. We spoke to them from our hearts.

Talatala and wife, Silika, Raimo, Save and wife.

Raimo, Save, and smiling Talatala with the light on.

Each of these two villages benefited from groceries and clothes donated by our church in Nadi. The Sunday before we left for Nadi, we were told that girls and women dorned some of the clothes we gave them and it was a source of joy for our people to be part of the ministry that was directed to the well being of the people we could reach. With clothes on their backs and food on their tables, they opened their hearts to the gospel we preach. The exercise was quite meaningful to all, those who received and those who gave.

Raimo made one whole village happy.

Here is the problem Save.

No short of hands.

The difference is, knowing where to look.

They gladly received the Word.

Beginning of something good.

Save, Tukai, Tomu, Marika, Talatala.

Women of Vabea.

 

Jone Kata of ICFG - speaking in church.

 

                     Inter-denominational – a unity of the Spirit...               

They continued...praising God.

The church at Kavala Village, Kavala Bay.

Noomi, safe at Kavala Bay.

Vabea was directly hit by the strong south winds, known locally as “Bogiwalu” , and the whole of Fiji especially Kadavu was warned and traveling by boats in southern waters was prohibited. Our yacht using a bruce anchor proved itself strong under extremely strong winds and waves. Nevertheless, the skipper was very cautious and stayed in the boat while I continued with more teaching on land. Pressure by the people made us move the yacht to the safety of Kavala Bay. We exited but did not say farewell to the lovely folks of Ono who graciously served us the best they could, with the abundance of their island. Hospitality was exceptional.

 
 

Kavala is also a Finnish word meaning treacherous, and deceitful. It lived up to its name. As we approached the bay, a blanket of thick black clouds drifted across the sky and we were in total darkness. We slowed the engine down and proceeded very carefully into the harbour. With very poor visibility, we scanned the waters to locate the beacon. It was ten o'clock at port side and we proceeded with a lot of care. When the clouds cleared, we saw a yacht at the far end of the bay and we used its position to guide us through. As we were about to run the yacht aground on the reef right in front of us, an old man and a young man, our guardian angels, sped towards us in their speed boat and yelled and stopped us and pointed to another beacon on the starboard which we were not aware of. They then beckoned us to follow them. We motored around the beacon and into safety, with a sigh of relief.

We had a wonderful rest on the first night at Kavala Bay. The next day was Friday 13th. We decided to go to the shop to see one side of the bay. We left our dinghy there at the shop landing and walked the hills to go to the village of Solotavui. We took the wrong turn and ended up walking the muddy slippery and stony road for two hours. It was Friday 13th and all we could do was to just laugh it off.

At the end of the road, (trek), is the Government Station, where the hospital and postal agency are. At the hospital, after I explained the reason of my coming there, the doctor recognized me and treated me very special. She was the reason why went to the Government Station. We now have a contact person in the medical field on the island that could serve our purpose well for the planned visit by Venture West from New port, Oregon. Hopefully it will arrive early next year, 2007.

It was envisaged that a medical team from the US would come over and offer their services to people in the islands. With this kind of partnership victims of misfortune can be cared for.

 

Dr. Alanieta Vereivalu Ragogo   

Kavala Health Centre, Naleca, Kavala Bay.
 
 

In bed at the hospital was an only patient, a woman that was speared by a sting ray, and attended to by two nurses and also the woman's husband. We were very impressed with the neatness of the hospital, it reflected organization. The medical team on the island seemed to be doing a good job.

Medical Assistance.

Our Government with its limited resources cannot meet all medical needs of the people. The underlying truth is, whether people or government, it can only give what it has. Rural dwellers are disadvantaged always under our set of circumstances in the region. Anything to subsidize our lack would be greatly appreciated. Some people's groups are fortunate to receive help from sources outside Government, from non-governmental organizations, that has also become too bureaucratic and sometimes biased in their decisions and services. These NGO's in partnership with off shore agencies desire to contribute to the well being of people they are led to help. Their inclinations may have been influenced by a friend or organization and they go very well with those targeted for their offerings. Our International Missions Centre in Nadi, work with associate ministries to help address needs of people whenever resources are available for distributions. On this visit we found the many helps that could improve people's life styles and standards. Whether it be medicine or personnel, a little time and skill can alleviate the predicament of those disadvantaged by local settings and or situations. From Kavala Bay, for one tooth extraction at the main Hospital at Vunisea, would cost more than a hundred dollars. The economy of the people could not afford the treatment, so they have to endure the pain until it subsides. They pray for strength to go through a little teething storm.

 

Watch out for mosquitoes Raimo.

A fern for Elsie.

CLAIMING TERRITORY FOR THE KINGDOM.

SOLOTAVUI, NAKASALEKA, KADAVU.

Culture is a significant influence.

Subsistence – the way of life.

KAVALA PASSAGE.

OUR DEPARTURE.

We lifted anchor on the morning of Monday October 16th, at 10.00 am. The weatherman predicted a moderate seas and fifteen knots winds. We quietly stole away from the anchorage, and as we made our way out from Kavala Bay, a school of dolphins escorted us out royally. The parade of dolphins was quite heartening, and with mixed emotions we looked towards Ono island and also cast a final glance at the bay that gave us so much comfort during our time of turbulence. Our depth gauge showed, as we reached deep cold waters of the south that there was 300 meters between the boat and the ocean floor. As we stopped engine and rode each wave on the way to Nadi, a school of whales surfaced, as if to say,“ Welcome to the deep, we are with you all the way” . We smiled with a sense of acknowledgement, relief and satisfaction. We constantly glanced back at the tall rocky mountains of Kadavu, with vegetation lush and green, and marveled at the handiwork of God who created all things beautiful for all to enjoy.

With deep sense of appreciation for the lovely islands and its friendly people, we departed with grace knowing that on the Cross, over two thousand years ago, Christ hung on the cruel frame for people like us, that we may enjoy a simple and carefree life like those surrounded by rocks and hills in Ono, and Kavala Bay, and those on lovely white sandy beaches of the world.

And to the people of Kadavu, may He shed His Grace on thee. And may the 'moving cloud' tarry a little longer on your beautiful shores.

The Apostle Paul, in his last and final journey en route to Rome, representing the Church of Jesus Christ, sailed through a stormy sea, he could not help but be emboldened in the spirit, in faith and love for lost humanity, he faithfully carried with him an assignment which was so simple but yet so difficult, he counted not his life worthy of this world. Serving his generation in diligent love, like the countless many that had done the same for the Kingdom, he could definitely enjoy and appreciate the refrain from the epistle to the Hebrews, “ Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear”. (Hebrews 12:28).

 

The Great Commission is our Mission.

In every century, in Church history, the emphasis of our Mission has always been the Great Commission. It provides the only incentive, motivation and direction for our involvement in the primary task of the Church. As the Church marches on, influenced by modern sophistications surrounding it, the sentiments and methods of Mission remain the same. The urgency with which we received the Mandate has always been the same in every leg of its journey through time. Nothing has changed in the Mandate. If something has changed, it is the people who are planning, funding, and overseeing the work in mission fields. The philosophy of Mission instituted by Christ, and adopted in the early Church, contributed much to the evangelization of the world. There was no terrain too difficult to traverse, no ocean too wide and rough to cross, no mountain too high to climb, no forest too thick to penetrate and no people too dark to convert, that could avert the determination and will of missionaries. Money was not the negating issue, it was the willing sacrifice of people born again into the Kingdom, that transformed societies around the world. The mission that has become our preoccupation, resulting from Christ's vision, must be treated with utmost urgency and resilience.

The Book of Acts, where the Holy Spirit featured so graphically, offers encouragement to all mission agencies and missionaries, that to be in the will of God is to be in the right place. Mission is His will. As people in simple obedience go forth in His leading, they will enjoy enormous provisions and the back up support of heaven's unfailing resources. His yoke is easy and his burden light. Easy because we do not have to reinvent the wheel, that has already been put in place by the Lord of Harvest, Light, because we have volunteers and the Holy Spirit to lighten our load. There is no excuse for failing to carry out the Mandate. We are obligated and God expects the utmost best from missionaries, whether we be in the field or in the administration aspect of it. We have the resources of Heaven made available to back us up and we must not fear because God Himself is our constant friend.

If I am allowed, let me put it this way, the reason why we do not have more missionaries on the go, is because of the lack of support by sending agencies. Lack of prayer, lack of contact and lack of monetary backing. The enthusiasm level of many missionaries, wanes due to inconsistency. Missionaries get discouraged and do not perform well because their needs are not duly met. Job descriptions are either unrealistic or absent and tasks are beyond their ability to cope with. Requirements by sending bodies do not allow missionaries to follow their divine calling. Very little expression on their part turn them into managers of a machinery of governmental agendas. Mission is no longer meaningful and so they abandon themselves to a lack lustre performance. Specialization can be an evil tool if it does not allow for self expressions. They end up doing something that limits them and God also.

Timely support that is realized by both the missionary and the sending agency helps both to enjoy accomplishments. Personal goals, approved by the Mission Board, that auger well with organizations, can be the driving force behind missionary activity. Our task as mission organizations is to increase performance on the field by assisting missionaries to do what they feel to be God's assignment for themselves. That will make missions personal and enjoyable. Financial support arriving on time will help the missionary plan well and meaningfully for himself and the family if he has one. Irregular financial support will not be appreciated, not even by anyone working in secular employment and organizations.

Funding of projects will be a real incentive for prolonged missionary tenure. Certain ministry conditions must apply in the field of work and the missionary also, to keep him in focus to organizational goals and objectives. Everything, including missionary personnel must work together for the ultimate long term goal. We must not stop short at education or social services, to mention just two aspects of our mission, they all must contribute to the realization of one single unified goal, it is the salvation of souls. That is the end and that is the beginning of our mission. All else is secondary but vitally necessary. Communication and better coordination of activities should be seen as a means to an end. Training of more missionaries must continue. Placement is an added task for leaders. Train the kind of missionaries we want to see. We must not train to duplicate a program, and produce stereotyped workers, but train to produce a desired outcome. Let Mission be Christ centered, Bible based and People oriented.

Mission fields need real missionaries and not short term romanticized tourists who because they have money are able to pay their passages to exotic tourist destinations. Traveling is easy and cheap today, and many are caught in the web of travels, not to impact people's lives with the Gospel, but to enjoy a temporary pleasure for a season. Our earnest prayer is for God to produce missionaries that would carry their coffins with them when they leave for a mission field like David Livingstone of the Dark Continent of Africa and Thomas Baker of the cannibal islands of Fiji, and John G. Paton who labored, “Thirty Years Among the South Sea Cannibals”.

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