2003
02.01

I will never forget my first night in Fiji.  The day had been remarkable already.  We had been in Semo village since about 9am and it was just past nightfall.  We ate dinner in Joana’s house and she told us that she wanted us to attend the children’s church service next door.

The children were already seated in the room when we entered.  We were instructed to sit on the couch, but everyone else sat on the ground.  First, they thanked us for being there.  Then a large man dressed in a suit with a stern build and a gentle face began leading the children in reciting Bible verses.  As a group they spoke the verse first in Fijian, then repeated it in English.  The children uttered each syllable with pride and their faces glowed bright as they stared at the foreigners sitting on the couch before them.  Their eyes were bigger than golf balls, the whites shining bright against the darkness of their skin.  Their teeth sparkled a striking white as smiles stretched across their faces and precious dimples shown.  With twenty children seated in front of me, staring back at me with broad toothy grins, I couldn’t help but be moved in their presence.

Each child that sat before me seemed to exemplify beauty and grace in a way that was totally foreign to me.  There was a genuine happiness that permeated life in the village and in no place was it more most apparent than in the line of smiles before me.  There were no pouts, no tears, and no child seemed to be left out of the group.  There was a genuine respect amongst these children that even adults in my country lack.  Never had I seen a group of twenty children who could sit for more than hour and not misbehave.  There were an innocence and purity in these children which left me in awe.  They behaved with genuine respect for both the adults in the room and each other, working more as a social community than a gang of unruly kids.  We could only sit and smile in wonder and admiration as they giggled in nervous excitement through a Sunday school lesson which none of us would soon forget.

With a raised yet patient voice, the teacher fought to keep order in the room.  The children were supposed to be paying attention to him, but they could not take their eyes off the foreigners on the couch.  Finally, when the time came for them to sing, the children were overjoyed.  Those who could speak English began to excitedly tell us all the songs they knew.  Each time a new song came to their mind, the chorus of children would join together in song and in both English and Fijian.  They sang song after song for as long as anybody could think of new ones.  For nearly an hour we sat surrounded by bright and beautiful children and each song that passed brought new beauty to my soul while I struggled to hold back my tears.

 

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  1. Beautiful entry!