2003
02.07

I learned of the tremendous faith of the Fijians when a young baby came down with a skin rash over her face, arms and chest.  I suspected the baby was suffering from chicken pox and I encouraged the family to take the child to a hospital.  The mother explained that they could not afford to see a doctor and instead she would take the child to see a local pastor.

Together we fetched a ride on a passing cargo truck which delivered us quickly to a small, roadside village.  The scattering of concrete homes was situated around the church and all the buildings were covered in vines draped in tropical flowers.  The sound of snare drums and bass guitar could he heard emanating from the inside of the church where I found small band assembled.  A man of nearly 70 years old sat playing guitar backed up by two younger members of the church.  He explained that they were the church band and they were just doing a little practicing.  Thrilled at my arrival, he enlightened me on his extensive knowledge of my home state of Louisiana, of jazz and blues and the history of rock and roll.  Excitedly, he spoke of his love for America, a sentiment I found most Fijians shared.

As we waited for Pastor Tevita to arrive, I joined a group of men basking in the shade of a tree.  The sight of men huddled away from the day’s oppressive heat was a familiar sight among the villages.  These men were working loading sand into trucks and between each load they managed a good deal of resting time.  The work was hard and they were paid only a few dollars a day so the men took full advantage of every opportunity to relax.

Fiji is compromised of native Fijians and a large Indian population who control the majority of business and some aspects of the government.  Needless to say, there’s a lot of tension between the two.  Therefore, I was surprised when a very elderly Indian woman and her great-granddaughter approached our group and offered us peanuts and other snacks.  The woman was tiny, covered in a long, black shawl, her frail body hunched over a cane and supported with the help of her companion.  The men bought several packages of nuts and the woman slowly disappeared behind the house.  They explained to me that she was over 100 years old and, along with many other Indians, she visits Pastor Tevita for prayer.  As people strongly separated by cultural and religious differences, this came as quite a shock.  For so many of the local Hindus to have placed confidence in the abilities of a Christian evangelist pastor was an exceptional circumstance.

I met Pastor Tevita in his home where he sat on the floor alongside his wife and two teenage children.  With great excitement he welcomed me into his home and offered tea, fruit and bread and butter.  Immediately I was impressed by his passion, his fervent energy and his animated manner of speaking.  An immense smile was plastered on his face as he spoke passionately of his new ministry.

As with many evangelists, Pastor Tevita had not always been a holy man.  During a low-point in his life, he had found God and also discovered that he was blessed with a healing touch.  Though my faith has wavered at times, I couldn’t help but be moved listening to the pastor talk of healing blindness, skin cancer, paralysis and even bringing a dead child back to life just using prayer and laying his hands on these people.

Pastor Tevita took the baby named Po into his arms and began to pray.  He spoke of God’s great miracles, prevailing faith and divine intervention.  He asked for God’s assistance and prayed that Po would be free of infection.  I listened conscientiously as the other people in the room muttered their “amens” and when the prayer was finished, we all rose together.  I embraced Pastor Tevita and his family and thanked them enthusiastically.  I am not a person of strong religious faith, but I left Pastor Tevita’s home feeling touched by the powerful devotion and unfaltering conviction of Fijians.  And two days later when I departed Fiji, Po had completely overcome her illness.

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  2. Enjoyed really your article.