An Experience I Will Never Forget

The EncouragerIn July this year, I went on a ministry trip to Fiji, which had a profound effect on me. Pastor James and Viv Anson from FaithPointe Church in Auckland led this amazing mission alongside Atawhai Morgan and myself. During our stay, we were hosted by Pastors Samu & Radini Susana who set up FaithPointe South Pacific in Nadi a number of years ago.

Pastors Samu & Radini Susana sitting within the village

Pastors Samu & Radini Susana

We travelled to Vatulele Island, where there was a Sevens rugby tournament in which our planted church had a team playing. There were no shops or resorts on the island, so we were billeted in the village community. No mobile coverage or WIFI was available to us while we were there, and so we had a truly unique “village experience”. There were only five foreigners on the island, ourselves and a lady from Australia who was helping to sponsor a village team from the mainland. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. They had a generator for the village that started at 6 pm and shut down at 1 am.

During our stay, we ministered to people at night, visited different village huts with our team, played worship songs, prayed and sought healing for many. During this time, I met Viti Dranica, a 65 year old, born again Christian lady, who shared her story with us. She had been unable to walk for five years due to knee issues. Living with her was a 13-year-old named Saimoni, who she had looked after since her sister died giving birth to him. My first impression was that I could see “the joy of the Lord” all over her. She was “shining” with God’s glory.

She had a powerful passion for all things about God. We had many conversations over the days I spent on Vatulele and often prayed together.

…My first impression was that I could see “the joy of the Lord” all over her”

Blair Woolley & Viti Dranica

Blair Woolley & Viti Dranica

We visited her house one evening with the ministry team, and many tears were shed as we worshipped and prayed together. Viti had a profound impact on me. The way she prayed and the joy she possessed was truly amazing. Pastor Samu told me she was a prayer warrior and an encourager to people who are lay preachers in the Village Church. She was actively involved in sharing the gospel and had a real passion for praying for people within the village community.

Viti had minimal furniture in her hut as she could not use it. She moved around the house crawling or sliding on the floor, which genuinely humbled me. She was unable to leave her hut due to her mobility issues. While on the island there were a number of large formal get togethers, and each time as I made my way to them I saw her dressed up and sitting in her doorway so she could take part in the activities and worship from afar. It broke my heart.

Tapa cloth made by Viti with a turtle design

Tapa cloth made by Viti

Pastor’s Samu & Radini Susana (from Vatulele originally) set her up to make tapa. Bark cloth, or tapa, is not a woven material but is made from bark that has been softened through soaking and beating. The inner bark is taken from several types of trees or shrubs, often mulberry and fig, and designs are applied with paints and vegetable dyes of light brown, red, and black. Viti has a floor bench and the tools she needs to beat the pulp into cloth within the confines of her home. This allows her access to work at her own pace.

The tapa is regularly collected and put on a ferry back to the mainland, where Pastors Samu & Radini Susana pick it up and bring it back to Nadi. It is sold online and makes its way to all over the world. This allows Viti (along with others on the island) to provide for herself and her sister’s orphaned son who she has looked after since he was born.

I hope to return to Fiji one day for further mission work. I would love to reconnect with Viti.

She was a genuinely inspiring soul; utilising her talents to make a living for herself and her nephew. In addition, she reached out to others to make a real difference for the glory of God. What a great example she is setting.

By Blair Woolley


Blair Woolley has been volunteering for Elevate for 10 years and is an Auckland CFFD committee member. He would like to acknowledge his daughter Nadine Rogers, who took time out from her busy job as a journalist, to write this article together.




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