Being a stranger in a foreign land isn’t always easy, in terms of learning and adapting to the culture, as well as the language. This was what came to my mind even before I started my assignment to Fiji. I came to Fiji to serve as a missionary, not knowing the way of life of the locals. My first few weeks were a real struggle as I wasn’t able to speak the language. And because of this, I also struggled to understand their culture and lifestyle.
A few months after we arrived, my fellow lay missionaries and I were sent to remote areas to live with host families for two months in Delasui Village in the province Tailevu. I stayed with a family of six, a couple with their two daughters and two sons. Their daughters work in Suva while their sons lived at home. They “adopted” me like a new daughter. I observed their ways, from how they eat, how they do their daily household chores and even how men treat women. Almost everything was new to me, and my first few days with them seemed to be a test for survival. At first, I felt regret and thought of changing my mind. It even came to a point when I asked myself, “Why am I doing this? Why am I going through these hardships when I can choose a better way of life?”
As I asked myself these questions, I also told myself that I’m here for mission, and I need to fulfil my part in it. I also continued to call on God for guidance and enlightenment for I knew He is the only one who can give me the grace to persevere. In the weeks that followed, everything eventually started falling into place for me. I learned to adjust to the food they eat, like cassava, bananas, dalo (taro) and uto (breadfruit). As these are the staple food in Fiji, it became an alternative to rice for me. In the Philippines, I never missed a single day eating rice. Almost every day, our meals consist of canned goods. And we all eat on the floor without a dining table. I also got used to helping my host parents to harvest their farm produce like root crops to be sold every week at the market.
I’ve come to love joining my host family in witnessing their faith whenever they attend the morning and evening prayers in the village daily, the Sunday Masses, and the Para-liturgies. I also enjoy going with my host mother to join her in her activities. I also had wonderful times of joining community meetings, gatherings, celebrations, or spending time with the people to be with them and get to know them. I was also able to make friends with the children. We would play and swim in the river together, and I taught catechism to them during Sunday Masses or Para-liturgies in the village.
With God’s grace and my constant prayers, I was able to embrace my situation. All these new experiences then became my daily way of life which made me appreciate life even more. Soon my time with my host family will be almost over, but my journey in mission continues. I will bring with me amazing memories of the people I’ve encountered for they have become my inspiration to continue being an instrument of God for others.
Columban lay missionary Jennifer “Jake” Lunor provided this reflection.