NADI WESTERN DIVISION, FIJI – When you close your eyes and imagine an island encounter in the South Pacific, say in Fiji, what do you see in your mind’s eye? Let me guess. You see sun-splashed water, a quiet beach, and swaying palm trees. You can thank travel brochures for that.
Let me ask you another question. Why didn’t you think about the people – the Fijians and the Indo-Fijians for whom Fiji is home?
Ray and Laura Pittman visited Fiji in 2001. The Lord stirred their hearts for the poor and the lost. Shortly thereafter, Ray and Laura founded Island Encounters, moved to Fiji, acquired 14 acres of land, and established Oasis Farm.
The Oasis Farm has been home for the Pittmans and their three daughters ever since. In fact, all of their daughters were born in Fiji.
The Oasis Farm is the hub of the Island Encounters ministry. Through the farm, Island Encounters has been able to build close relationships with locals to teach them about farming techniques and reach them for Jesus Christ. The farm is also helping to sustain the evangelistic endeavors for which Island Encounters was established.
Mission internships have become an integral part of the ministry as well. Participants in the internship program must be between 18 and 24 years olds wanting to grow in faith, and willing to devote a gap semester doing so. The internship program is a serious indoctrination to hands-on missions training, working on the farm, developing relationships with locals, and discipleship.
For the entire hour following breakfast, interns do their daily chores, tending crops and caring for the needs of the animals. Evening chores resume at 7:00 Monday through Friday. A typical weekday includes an hour of group Bible study, 90 minutes of discipleship training, an hour of leadership training, two hours of independent study, and three hours of “Life-On-Life” ministry.
Saturdays are available for interns to explore the island. Sundays are reserved for church and rest.
“Life-On-Life” focuses on the application of Scripture through personal relationships. Interns learn the relational ways that Christ ministered to His disciples. Then they put those principles into action on the island. The internship program provides real-time opportunities in which the participants begin to understand what it will take to be on a mission field full-time.
The Island Encounters website includes stories from former interns. Those stories reflect the impact their experience had on their lives. One intern remarked that
“God is working in unique ways all around the world, and my time in Fiji revealed the reality of His presence in the little, daily moments as well as the exotic, breath-taking ones. Life in Fiji changed the way I view relationships, culture, missions, work, and personal connection to God. It was a journey that left me with precious memories I will never forget.”
“My time in Fiji revealed the reality of His presence in the little, daily moments as well as the exotic, breath-taking ones. Life in Fiji changed the way I view relationships, culture, missions, work, and personal connection to God.”
Five families live and work on the Oasis Farm, two of whom are native to Fiji. Whether it is tending the farm, reaching out to the community on behalf of Christ, or equipping interns for the journey on which the Lord leads them, it would be fair to say that Island Encounters and the Oasis Farm are opportunities for growth.
If you are the least bit intrigued about this unusual place, watch this three-minute video to learn even more.