Gift of Diversity
Conversation | | 14th May 2021
“The future is looking more and more diverse. Let’s not miss what’s coming towards it. Let’s embrace it. Let us be on the front lines of change.”
These last couple of months, I have been reflecting on my life journey. My entire life I have struggled with my identity. I am from Sawana, Vanuabalavu, Lau and vasu (mother’s village) Nailaga, Ba, born at Suva Hospital in 1995.
Moving from Fiji to Australia at the age of 5, I only knew how to speak and understand Fijian. Even at such a young age I knew I was different from others around me, and I just wanted to just fit in. So, soon enough, I absorbed as much as I could and began to only speak English, in the process losing my mother tongue.
From that point on I have constantly lived between 2 worlds. During school hours I was surround by diverse kids that all spoke English, at home mum and dad would speak both English and Fijian however I would only respond in English, and on the weekend’s we would have gatherings and church with the Fijian community, that mostly spoke in Fijian. Besides switching between the 2 languages, my church community was seeped in Fijian culture while outside of church I was surrounded by the Western world, it’s television, music and fashion. As a result of this, I learnt how to be part of both worlds. I learnt how to walk and talk to fit into the Western world, and I learnt how to laga sere (sing) and meke (dance) in my cultural world.
As much as I tried to blend in though, I felt like I stood out like a sore thumb in both spaces. Not being Western or Australian enough on one hand and not being Fijian enough on the other hand.
Through my experiences of balancing between these worlds and my journey of faith, I have learnt that we are all loved by God.
God has gifted each and every one of us with our different cultures and identities and we should embrace that more, especially as a church. I am constantly grateful for the space the Uniting Church provides for all people, of different cultures, ages, genders, sexualities, theologies. It allows people to explore their faith through different paths, and allows us to learn from each other, witness God through each other.
Where we are at as a church should not stop here. There are obvious spaces that we can continue to explore and grow in. Particularly for me, I would love for the church to keep navigating through the Emerging Generations and Multicultural spaces, especially where they intersect.
This video from Fuller Youth Institute speaks amazingly into this space:
We should continue to be guided by the Spirit in how to move forward, as a community of Christ, as the world around us changes.
We need continue to be open to the different ways we proclaim the Gospel and interact with others in the Kingdom of God who don’t look or sound like us.
Be on the front lines of change.
Ofa Foiakau is the Field Officer (Central/West), and Youth/High School ministry leader as a part of the PULSE team.