Happy New Year!
Many years ago, the high school I attended had a programme where students would spend time at a “boot camp”. I guess the aim was to turn the “little boys” into “young men”. There were obstacle courses to be run every morning before breakfast, trekking, target practice, abseiling, survival training (including learning how to build your own shelter in the forest – and sleeping in it) and other individual “confidence building” and team-building exercises. One of these exercises was a day-long cross-country hike with full gear. On arrival we had to pitch our tents and cook our food etc. All we were given to find our way was a map of the area and a compass.
It was a team activity. One person had the map, another the compass, while one other carried the tent in his backpack and the fourth in our group carried the food in his. We had to move together and we could only move as fast as the slowest member of the group. There were some disagreements on the way between the one with the compass and the one with the map as to who was the leader. The two with the tent and food sometimes felt they were doing the hard work with the burden they had to bear on the journey. Eventually we reached our rest site at the end of a very long day. We were not the first, but we were not the last.
Later that night, as we lay in our tent, digesting the food we had cooked, resting after the long walk, we began to reflect on the journey itself. One of my teammates’ only contribution to the sharing was that he was glad that the next day we would be picked up and return to the base camp by bus rather than having to walk back. Another was critical of how we performed, who did their part properly etc. Another was mindful of the next set of tasks and exercises that awaited us at the base camp. My contribution was appreciation that we had actually made it to the campsite before it was dark and the rain had come and that we did not have to hunt and forage for food or build a shelter, after the long trek.
2014 will be a significant year for Fiji. On a national level, this year we mark the 140 years since Fiji became a British colony, 44 years of Independence, 8 years since our last election. We begin this year with a new constitution and the expectation of elections within the next 9 months – a map to lead Fiji to what has been termed a “true democracy”.
In this process it has always been assumed by those reading the map that their compass points true north. At times both the map and the compass has been the source of dispute. At times, there has been grumblings by those carrying the burden of the journey.
There are also those who are looking beyond the map to the longer term, the future beyond 2014. Those for whom the national map must be read in the light of the global map.
A few nights ago a friendly discussion focused on climate change. One friend pointed out that we need not look only to Kiribati and Tuvalu to see the impact of sea-level rise, but only at Nubukalou Creek which is now significantly higher than “back in our younger days”, or the streams at creeks along the Coral Coast that once fed into the sea but now carry the sea inland a lot further. The story of Bau Island’s sea wall and other stories of local relocation due to sea-level rise.
One friend made a comment about the danger of open pit mining such as is taking place in Namosi and the possibility of contamination of the Namosi River and the nearby coastal area. Another reflection that evening was on the increase in violence against women.
It would seem that the map to a peaceful and prosperous Fiji is larger than one may think. It is one we are all called to navigate. It is one in which not just our minds, but our hearts, our souls will be the compass that guides along the path. We will need to discern the signs of the times and interpret the sacred and secular texts we consult in a way that ensures that they are indeed a light for our path to a better society.
The Methodist Church in Fiji will this year mark 50 years of being an independent conference. While often the focus on a “Golden Jubilee” is more towards the “Golden,” the church has chosen to reflect on the “Jubilee,” which according to a Christian theological understanding means liberation of the slaves and oppressed, a return to one’s home, freedom of prisoners, healing of the land, forgiveness and reconciliation – a restoration of relationship between people and between humankind and creation. The church’s Connexional Plan which will be launched later this year has been developed with much prayer and reflection on this theme. It will be the map to guide the church forward for the years to come.
As 2013 drew to a close and as I reflected on the significance of 2014 for me as a Christian, a husband and father, son and brother, as a Fijian and as a Methodist minister in Fiji, the theme of jubilee – of empowerment and liberation; of restoration of relationships – has resonated strongly. Perhaps we could all benefit from reflecting on this theme.
If you a willing to reflect on this theme, perhaps you may also wish to reflect on these questions:
· What can I do to help reduce violence against women and children in my home and community?
· How can I be part of the healing of the environment?
· What positive contribution can I make in my family, my community, my country?
· How can my being a better person make me a better Fijian?
· What broken or damaged relationships can I restore?
· What is getting in the way of my doing these things?
I suggest that before we get busy with the “business” of 2014, we take a moment (however long we may need) to deeply think about our own maps and compasses. It may mean that we have to “hang up our hang-ups” (to quote my favourite musician Herbie Hancock). It certainly means that we need to use our common senses and, for those who are willing and able, our spiritual senses to ensure our compasses point true north.
It means, in the words of my best friend, Sevanaia Laua Tora, to “Let your heart navigate you”.
May your year be filled with love, light and peace.