I apologize for not sending out a newsletter for the last 3 months. I have been in America "strengthening our nets" by hiring an accountant, shifting to a new donation system, and creating vision with our leaders.
And now it's time to hit the ground running.
I hope you find inspiration and joy in these stories as we seek to serve the native villages together.
"A Trail through Darkness."
My chest is heavy and emotions still raw as I reflect on the past few months. Even as I write, I feel like I am swimming in a sea of emotions - lifting me up and dropping me down.
Does anyone else ever feel like they are crawling through the dark?
One morning in March I was at a coffee shop in Utah and a message popped up on my Facebook from Fiji. It was Pastor Dan in the village.
"Mika dead last night." Those three words sent a shock through my body. I re-read the message four or five times, checking for spelling errors or some kind of mistake.
"Vava (daddy) Mika." He repeated.
Mika was our lead carpenter and one of our most influential native leaders for Mission Fiji. He was a mentor to myself, and so many young men in the village. He was pastor Dan's best friend.
When I saw this message I felt like when I was a kid and ran full speed into an unseen metal pole. Crack! My vision sent spinning and the background noise in the coffee shop fell almost silent. My senses in shock. Traumatic news can feel like an unrecognizable stranger in your living room - a forceful intruding presence that should not be here!
Mika drowned while spear fishing. He died at the lighthouse, just outside the village where we would go spearfishing together all the time. Mika was the best diver out of all of us! How could this happen? I started thinking about Mika's wife and two young sons Enoke and Nakita. It broke my heart and didn't make sense.
I didn't have the finances to get to the village in time for the funeral, but when the village elders heard I might be coming, they changed the date of the funeral so I could participate in the service.
I didn't know how to process all this; the ache of losing Mika mixed with the honor expressed by the village leaders to wait for me to come was overwhelming. How was I going to pay for a ticket? I felt like the situation was gaining scary momentum like an avalanche tearing down a mountainside. What if they waited for me and I couldn't make it?
I thought about all my best friends in the village - The young men that I worked with and fished with almost every day... We were all mentored and taught by Mika.
Mika was one of the only Adults in the village that believed in this rough and scraggly group of men that we worked with every day. These guys - all in their late 20's were known in the village as thieves, drunkards, and aimless men who had a past of causing problems. But when Mika looked at these men he recognized himself in them, and believed they could be transformed by God.
Every morning this group of "village thugs" would meet up at my hut. It sounds strange but we would sing together. It was the kind of singing that made me feel strong. A kind of singing that was rooted in ancient tribal tradition, but now the harmonies were directed toward God. I learned there is power released in our souls when men let their voices ring out to God.
We would read the ancient stories of the Bible and study the way Jesus lived, "overflowing with joy and full of power."
After singing and prayer we would grab our hammers and handsaws and get to work. We built homes in the village, bathrooms, and shops. We built a big hut where we have a vision to have a school where we will invite Fijian leaders and University Professors.
This was our crew of dudes and Mika was the glue. Now the glue was gone and I was far away in America. It felt like everything was moving so well... then all the sudden the worst happened. We all felt lost and confused.
"I'll buy the ticket Seth! It doesn't matter the price, you need to be there." I was trying to hold back the tears after I heard that one of our own Mission Fiji Board members (who spent significant time with me in Fiji) felt inspired to meet the financial need. Moments before this I didn't see a way to make it back, and now it was happening... I was headed back to Fiji.
When I showed up in the village for the funeral, there was no way I could have anticipated how much it meant to the guys and Mika's family. I saw their tears and when they embraced me I cried with them.
I reached into my backpack and grabbed the photos I had printed of our days working together with Mika. We looked at the photos one by one; crying, laughing, telling stories, and just sitting in silence. They were the only photos the family had. The men examined them and passed them around so carefully, as if they were were dropped out of the sky from Mika himself.
Somehow my arrival symbolized for them that "they were not alone." The fact that I flew from the other side of the world, just to be with them, gave them strength, and renewed faith in God.I felt like I was carrying a power so much greater than myself. I knew God was with me.
Reflecting on this experience has reminded me of a strange paradox. On one hand, the loss hurts intensely. Death feels like getting kicked in the stomach. Mika was such a significant part of the village and such a redeeming force in the community then without any warning he was gone. My first thought was to run from the pain or numb it because it felt like it was going to crush me...
But as I moved toward the pain and joined others in it, something unexpected began to happen.
Our bond and connection was growing even deeper. Remembering Mika with my Fijian brothers gave us all a deep sense of love and brotherhood: The things Mika said to us, the projects we did together, the bond we had. It was real.
Mika helped me believe when I couldn't see. There was power in his eyes. He had a trust that all obstacles would crumble if we stayed faithful to the work God had given us. Mika's belief seemed to spread into us.
And even now I can almost hear his gentle voice whispering to me and saying, "Seth... we can do it. We will do it."
One of my favorite quotes on traveling through grief is from the catholic writer Henry Nouwen. He says, "Suffering digs our cup, so joy can fill it."
It's a mysterious paradox... the same path that leads through the dark, is the same path that can lead to incredible light... if I keep traveling forward.
To everyone who fought through the difficult obstacles in our old donation system, I want to say a huge "Thank You."
Sometimes a glitch in the security wall blocked donations. Regardless, many of you persisted and kept trying four or five times until finally the donation went through. It was a battle.
Now we have a new system and it's running smoothly! I believe so strongly in the power and impact of this ministry and in order to continue being effective, we need a team of people willing to sacrifice for the cause.
Thank you so much for your influence and sacrifice as we make a difference together.
Fiji Moms Project
We created 2 construction teams with Mika and the Fijian men. It was our last project together before Mika's passing. His joy and passion to serve God is so clearly seen on the film. It's a passion I strive for and I hope it inspires you as well.
Thank you to everyone who donated!
1. Mika's family. $150(per month.)
We are raising support to help Mika's wife and three kids (daughter 13, and two sons 8 and 10).
Mika was an incredible and faithful servant of God and served with Mission Fiji for the last three years. Now is our chance to be there for his family. He was my most loyal friend and I pray I can return his loyalty by helping his kids and wife in this time of tragedy and need.
I extend this opportunity to you as well, to be a part of helping Mika's family.
(photo: Mika's two sons and me before the funeral.)
2. Relief Crate. $1,000
Lifeline Community Church in Salt Lake City helped donate supplies for the families who lost their homes in a hurricane last year. All the clothes, first aid-kids, and home supplies were packed up are currently being shipped. However we had to pull from other budget items to pay for everything.
Also we need to raise money to receive the items from customs and then transport the crate to the villages. Thank you to all who helped get it this far... now lets bring her home!
3. Electricity. $250
Pastor Dan called me last week and told me the series of extension chords that brought power from a church, to our ministry base had worn out.
We need to replace the extension chords ($250) but they are not cheap. Eventually we have been approved to set up a legitimate electricity line but it will cost around $1,000 to put up the poles and set up the box. Either way, we are praying for provision.
1. Mission Fiji "Senders".
Now that we are starting fresh with our New Donation System, I'm praying we can form a solid team of "senders" who will help fuel the mission financially. It's amazing how a contribution of $15 per month is very significant.
I would be honored to be a part of a team of many givers, rather than relying on sporadic larger donations.