After a 3-year hiatus there was a palpable sense of excitement about getting back to a country that Word of Life has a long history with, and to pick up the task again of establishing strong foundations for the Christian life in young people. We were excited to take a team of 37 to Fiji during July on Youth Reachout 2023. Youth Reachout is a mission trip for youth aged 16 and above. The trip focuses on two aspects: practical ministry and personal spiritual growth. The three weeks are made up of training and equipping the team for evangelism, through relationships, conversation, and programmes, then putting these things into practice in various communities and contexts on the islands. There is a strong focus on personal spiritual growth and discipleship, through seminars on Christian living, small group discussion, leader mentoring and worship. The heart behind Youth Reachout in Fiji is also to partner with the Fiji team and aid in the ministry they are already doing over there. We had Charles, Akuila and three interns from the Fiji team join us for the duration of the trip.
The first week which is traditionally our training week, was held at Coral Coast Christian Camp. That week was filled with seminars (17 throughout the three week trip), testimony writing, drama practice and relational evangelism which was the main focus for our ministry opportunities. We also had the opportunity to run two children’s programs with the local village.
"On the trip, I had the privilege to mentor two of the youth boys, both who showed growth. One of them in particular was very shy at the start, and found it hard to make conversation. But as the two weeks progressed I saw him change so much! He became more comfortable with the rest of the team, was leading small groups with the kids all by himself and was even bold enough to start a conversation with someone on the street to try and have a gospel conversation! But the greatest part was that he told me about a new desire that he had, of wanting to share the gospel with people back in New Zealand!"
The second week started with a fully immersed village experience over the weekend with 100 teens from various churches associated with the WOL Fiji team. This was a new experience with many challenges; however, it was well worth the effort as we saw the teens get to engage in conversations during the weekend. Strategically this was also a good support for Charles and the team who were seeking an opportunity to run a camp during the year. The second week included programs at local schools, youth groups, community and street witnessing and ministry at four different churches.
"On Youth Reachout, I mentored a young 16 year old girl and it was so amazing to have her open up to me so quickly. I feel like we got deep early on which meant it was so much easier to be able to help her in her spiritual journey. She was really nervous before coming on the trip as she can be quite shy but I saw amazing growth in her as she really stepped out of her comfort zone and engaged in the ministry on the trip. She had a real desire to grow on the trip and made great goals for when she came back to NZ. I was so encouraged to be able to journey with her during Youth Reachout."
- Aimee Clemow
The final few days were held back in Nadi where the focus was back on the mentoring relationships, continuing to challenge the students about their convictions, learnings and revelations. This part of the trip allows space for mentors to help encourage their students as to how they will continue to implement the habits and growth they have had on the trip back into their everyday lives.
There were many, many highlights of Youth Reachout 2023, from the interactions with the local children and youth, to the amazing food and hospitality shown by our hosts, but by far the most satisfying aspect of the trip was just as you would hope - watching our young people grow in their faith and their ability to share Christ with others. I saw some of our youth getting challenged in the seminars, noticed others building strong relationships with their mentors, and others excelling at building cross-cultural connections. By the end of the trip, all had pushed themselves out of their comfort zone, and all had a testimony of how they had seen God revealed through their experiences in a way that is not easily forgotten.
Overall, we had the opportunity to share the Gospel with about 2500 people over the three week period. The plan is to return next year to build on our partnership with the Fiji team and further enhance how we do relational evangelism with our students so they in turn feel equipped to continue being relational in sharing their faith back in New Zealand.
Thank you to everyone supported this trip through prayer, service, and finances, you had a huge part to play in the growth and change we saw in these students lives. Praise be to our Almighty God for faiths being strengthened and encouraged and ears hearing the truth of the Gospel.