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My Island Encounter

I went on a mission trip. I got on a plane, my passport was stamped, and I stepped foot on an island called Fiji. I wanted to expand my horizons, learn about the culture. But I didn’t expect to come home carrying a truth that would change my life.

I can still visualize my first impression of Fiji. We were just walking out of the airport, and the sun was rising slowly, casting a golden haze. Tropical flowers and palm trees were planted along the road. And as our team climbed into the mission’s van, I could see the dark mountains in the distance.  Paradise.

Within a few minutes on the road, however, the scene began to change. We passed shops and houses and began to see field after field of sugarcane plants. No more exotic palm trees or fuchsia tinted flowers. I knew that this—the miles of sugarcane fields dotted with small tin-paneled houses—was the real Fiji.

As we arrived on the mission’s farm, unpacked, shared a meal, went to church, and began a week of working in the fields and sharing Jesus with children from Fiji, I began to understand even more. This place wasn’t just a gorgeous tourist attraction. Fiji was sunshine, dirt roads, bare feet, deep laughter, good food. Fiji was getting up with the sunrise each morning and sharing the day with the people around you: the work, sweat, teasing, conversations, and life.

Life in Fiji meant being together, entering in, investing, empowering, challenging. It meant loving generously, sharing humbly. All thought for the next person with none for yourself. Diving in deeper than the surface and being as diligent and committed as every sunrise.

Experiencing this way of doing community was, for me, the dawn of a new way of doing life. I found a point of focus, realizing where my vision should have been all along: people. Running, not towards tasks or self-promoting accomplishments, but towards others. To relationships with God and people.

Isn’t that the kind of vision Jesus displayed when He walked the earth? Always hanging out and talking and healing and serving. People were always his mission. “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2a). He focused on the joy of being in a relationship of perfect unity with His people. And with that driving hope, He went through the mundane, and he went through hell.

Now here I am, back home in America. I thank God that He allowed me the opportunity to encounter Fiji and enter the lives of those dear brothers and sisters in Christ who live there. They live inspiringly caring and dedicated lives. I am changed. Already my life has a new meaning with a re-focused vision and altered priorities. This happens when you enter in and connect with people. It’s life-changing.

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