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'A YOUTHFUL CHURCH'
In 1951, the Methodist mission in Fiji had a number of youth organizations in their school prior to when Rev. Tuilovoni return from his studies in the Drew University in Canada. He was appointed to Davuilevu which marks the beginning of the attempt to harmonize the methodology of youth ministry into a single form under the YPD. This was remarkable because after more than a century of untiring mission, the synod finally realized that the “HOPE OF METHODISM IN FIJI LAY IN THE UPBRINGING OF THE YOUNG PEOPLE IN CHRISTIAN FAITH”. It takes 110 years from 1835-1945 for the Methodist mission in Fiji to see that the hope of Methodism in Fiji lay in the lives of the younger generation.
The shift from aristocracy to the youths was a huge historical significance. The white missionaries began working in Fiji evangelize the chief first and they are the prize converts in the pioneering missionary period. In 1945, this ideology was changed when the young people became the prize converts. The development of this idea coincided with Tuilovoni return from studies. Small groups were functioning with different emphases and aims. The Synod created a department for the young people in 1945. In that time, William Green (the chairman of the Fiji District of the Methodist Church Conference of Australasia), initiated the move to form a single youth movement in Fiji. This initiative was the influence of four major factors that were domestic and international in features.
The first factor was the “POST- WORLD WAR II CHANGES IN THE FIJIAN WAY OF LIFE”. The participation of the Fijian soldiers in the Solomon Islands campaign boosted their struggle for identity and recognition at an international stage. When war heroes returned home, feasting and taralala dancing went until the early hours and youths became addicted to home-brewed liquor. They neglected as slept during the whole of Sunday and did not attend worship services while drunkenness demoralized young people. Another notable economic development when Bill Borthwick discover of gold in 1932 in Tavua back hills. That was significance in terms of industrialization. The minning company started in 1934 where Fijians brought in large numbers from their provinces to working in the mines. Urban drift began towards the gold industry but when return to their various village taking back with them the industrial mentality to their rural villages.
The second factor was the “INCREASING GOVERNMENT’S ROLE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION”. The Methodist mission was compelled to surrender most of its school under financial constraint and education system to the Colonial government. In 1931, the Methodist mission surrendered most of her village schools to the Government. the Davuilevu Technical Institutes was responsible for the vocational training for young men in Fiji. It is equipped the older youths of Fiji in their village life and it was closed in 1942. The policy of mission schools in Fiji was to naturalize the Christian Gospel and ethics in the mind and lives of her people. Even though the Mission schools in Fiji transferred to the Government, its policy remains in the Methodist mission and it must be reviewed. It provided a special opportunity for the YPD that Green initiated in 1945 to be reconsidered. The mission was well aware that the ministry towards the young people must be educationally oriented if ever it was to be effective. New field of ministry must be found. The mission had to probe more deeply into the life of youths to see what suited them. Miss Inez Hames at Richmond in Kadavu called it ‘post-primary education’ and she drew up a curriculum to train older girls in Kadavu to be better mothers.
The third factor was the “DISORGANIZED OF YOUTH ORGANIZATIONS IN METHODIST MISSION SCHOOLS”. Such organizations were the Christian Endeavour movement and the Band of Hope. They were confined mainly to the mission schools and did not provide any for the village youths. Pigeon confessed that the Christian Endeavour movement was ‘basically spiritual’. However, the nature of the organization made it hard for Christian Endeavour to survive in villages, where youths needed not only spiritual guidance but also a total development of their potential to cope with the changing environment in Fiji.
The fourth factor was a persistent one and that is the “DESIRE TO BUILD A FIJIAN METHODIST CHURCH”. No mission was ever blind to this aim. Wherever missionaries settled, their aim was to build up local churches. The Methodist in Fiji was no expedition. The task to stand with our own is not He created the name Mataveitokani in Fijian and he modified Pigeon’s aim to produce the Four Square Programme which spiritual activities, physical and crafts activities, intellectual activities and cultural and social activities. To fulfill his aim he went to provide guideline booklets for the leaders, visitation to remote islands, also visited the interior of Viti Levu, doing projects and organized youth camps. One of the most remarkable methods of youth work that Tuilovoni introduced into Fiji was the youth camps. This method brought about a youth movement in Fiji. The impact of these camps spread like fires in the villages as youth became attracted to the MYF.
Literature was an important part of Rev. Tuilovoni’s work. He knew that leaders without literature tools would not be fully effective in their work. Apart from his sermons, he written documents and produce study lesson and camp lesson in booklets. It can be affirmed that Tui’s method was the same in all camps. The 1959 Camp, the topic was sectarian movements, in 1963 Camp, the topic was Youth and Change and in 1963, the topic was Stewardship. The background of those lessons was a national church trying to establish itself through the development of good younger members. Tuilovoni’s idea to build in sound church in Fiji was shoed in the camp lessons. The younger generation had to be nurtured in sound Christian teachings. Also a distinct transition theme and emphasis in the camp lesson from a “mission field” context to a “church” context. That means that Tulovoni was working towards the consolidation of an independent.
To conclude, Rev. Tuilovoni saw the youths as a hidden power of the church. In his term as Director of the YPD, he utilized this youth power to develop the properties of the department. He eveloped their skills and employed it constructively in their local churches , villages and for the YPD projects. He developed the potential of the youths for being effective instruments of the YPD work. When he retired in 1967, he had produced a new generation of Fijians to be responsible for their autonomous church.
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"Holy Spirit Empowers our Youth for Evangelism & Services"
Young Peoples Department- 49 Youth Leaders from 7 Divisions within the Western sector gathered in Narewa Village, Nadi for two days of upskilling, knowledge sharing and enlightenment. The Youth Leaders Forum is an initiative of the Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) section of the Young Peoples Department (YPD) of the Methodist Church in Fiji in partnership with Transparency International Fiji with the intention to solicit the inputs of its members to develop its Business Plan and review its 1951 Constitution and to conduct some Leadership skills training.
This is the 2nd of the four forums that is planned for this year.
The theme of the forum ‘ARISE- Mo Yadra Mai’ was based from Isaiah 51: 1-3 that reflected on the rapid inevitable changes that is occurring in our world today including technologies, human rights, economic crisis, health epidemics, and natural disasters. It also signifies the ‘New Exodus’ a term that holistically refers to the reform within the Methodist Church in Fiji (including the Review of the Churches Constitution and Regulation, the work on the Churches’ Code of Conducts and the development of the Churches’ Connexional Plan) as the way forward in how the church is trying to keep abreast and relevant in this constantly changing environment to serve its purpose.
Reverend Jone Davule stated that ‘the leadership training was aimed at equipping MYF leaders with the competency skills to be effective in their mission fields. He added that it was also an opportunity to familiarize participants with the Key Strategic Areas of the YPD Connexional
Plan. Two of these key strategic areas touched on the salvation of souls and human resource development. He said that young MYF leaders needed to rethink their roles in a rapidly evolving environment so they could respond effectively to their mission work’.
In trying to stay aligned, the YPD will in 2015 be looking to its members to provide the needed input that would aid in the development of an implementation framework of the Connexional Plan or YPD business plan that is fresh and relevant to young people. At the same time, a review of the YPD/MYF 64 years constitution will also be commissioned.
The first day of the Forum was focused on the Connexional Plan and prominent in the Connexional plan deliberations were the imperative role of MYF within the Western division on environmental stewardships (KSA 3) due to the high risks of coastal erosion, flooding, tropical cyclones and droughts that are prone to some if not all of their communities. A Communication skills training and exercise also complemented Day 1 agenda.
The Constitutional Review technique training was the primary focus of the second day with the awareness on the principle of integrity and MYF Constitution in general. Governance gaps including unclear demarcation of roles and responsibilities among committee members and lack of proper handovers were some of the encouraging discussions among the leaders that would feed into the review process.
Participant and MYF Nadi Divisional Youth Leader Apisai Tora Malauqe said that the training helped him to understand how the values of accountability and transparency were important spiritual principles to help him carry out his MYF role in his community.
Chair of the TI Fiji Board Dr. Joseph Veramu remarked that the “The constitutional review is an important exercise as it links YPD to the proactive roles played by MYF leaders in their various divisions. It also links to the MCF and YPD Connexional Plan.”
In concluding the two days forum, Nadi Divisional Superintendent Reverend Ame Tugaue impressed upon MYF leaders that ‘you should learn from the excellent example of St Paul who talked about running the good race. You must do your best in the position you have been given in your MYF and be guided by Biblical principles.’
The collaboration between the Young People’s Department and Transparency International Fiji is based on the current Connexional Plan being implemented by the Methodist Church in Fiji particularly Pillar 7 on the constant in-service training of its church workers and Pillar 8 on the preparation of future leaders.