Last week my wife, Brenda, and I served as international missionaries in Fiji, as participants and trainers in the Festival of the Laity for the Trans Pacific Union Mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Brenda and I have attended and led scores of conventions, but we found a unique energy in Fiji. No one had come “to a convention.” All had come, “following the call of the Holy Spirit.” They were eager, ready, like sponges prepared to soak in Living Water.
Church leaders in Fiji, Kiribati-Nauru, Niue, Samoas-Tokelau, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu were asked to select their strongest lay leaders to serve as delegates to the festival. Two hundred came, each with an eagerness to learn new and better methods of sharing Jesus with people who live near their church, and with voices tuned to sing praises.
The theme for the festival, “To Be BOLD With God,” was reflected in the workshops on Biblical preaching, church planting, whole-person healing, public evangelizing, and praying with power. At each meeting representatives from the islands shared how the Holy Spirit is performing miracles of love through the lives of God’s children in the islands of the Pacific. Then they sat in the front rows, “like chickens eager to be fed,” discovering ways to improve their service.
There is an eagerness to minister here. Though the skies poured more than 4” of rain on us during the Sabbath morning services, that did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd. They out-sang the rain, shouted “AMENs,” sang with power, and took notes on their phones, pads, and notebooks.
Dr. Charles Wesley Knight from Oakwood College and Atlanta, Georgia, is my favorite American preacher. On the closing evening of the festival, he and I had the privilege of lighting a large pillar candle, that symbolized the leading of the Holy Spirit in all of our work. We then lit two small candles from that candle and used those to light candles in the hands and hearts of every delegate.
“It was like a pentecost in the Pacific,” one delegate proclaimed to his friends that evening as the light of God filled the open-air pavilion. “The Spirit has come to light our lives so we can Be Bold With God together!”
Late Sabbath evening, Brenda, Dr. Knight, and I sat with a crowd of new friends, thinking back over the festival. Each person was returning home with inspiration for a new and deeper ministry. One women is eager to return to Christmas Island with new tools for teaching health. A family was asking scores of practical questions on how to start a new door-to-door prayer ministry on their island. Delegates from Tonga, terrified about what chaos Cyclone Gita might bring to their communities, were already planning simple ways to respond to everything from downed trees to destroyed buildings.
Everyone was praying. Praying for the gift of Love. For hope. For the ability to truly honor those who do not believe as we do. For open eyes and listening ears. And, mostly, praying for hearts that love as God loves –without limits.