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Reaching out through coffee

Sailosi Batiratu
Sunday, January 27, 2013

AS churchgoing members of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma, one would expect them to be in bed at 4am-6am on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Ready for the morning devotion or service.

Not the 30 to 40 members of the Coffee Booth Ministry comprised of youths from the various circuits which make up the Suva Division, or the various circiut (tabacakacaka) of the Wasewase o Suva, of the Methodist Church. At that time, they are busy serving cups of coffee and sandwiches to those who have just left nightclubs in the city of Suva.

There are several teams. One is stationed at Epworth Arcade right just down the road from Centenary Church. Another can be found at the Vodafone Triangle or what some old hands of Suva still call vuni ivi. Some members of this ministry are stationed outside Pacific House. And Reverend Jeremaia Waqainabete who is charge of the congregation at Nasese, to whom one of the team members referred my questions to, said some members of a roving team last week reported back during their debriefing sessions they had reached the Dragon Nightclub.

A statement sent by Waqainabete read: "In our faith journey, Christians are challenged to manifest their love for God in doing good to others, and as young Christians, the youth of the Suva Division has taken this leap of faith as we continue to seek the will of God in our personal faith journey.

"The Methodist Youth Fellowship of the Suva Division comprises of these church circuits; Suva, Nadera, Raiwaqa, Raiwai, Nauluvatu, Tamavua, Navakavu, Burenitu and Muanikau. These young people in their quest for God have taken to this mission, as a spiritual exercise where their faith is tested through social interaction with the target group.

"This mission project was inspired by the fact that many of our young people who frequent our nightclubs are members of our families and church and are in a phase of life where they are disillusion to a state of uncertainty due to pressures beyond them and the inability to interpret their realities."

During a telephone conversation, the good reverend said debriefing sessions were imperative, a must, "because every interaction has a consequence, it has some effects". Waqainabete said this was especially true when the team came across partygoers who were not very welcoming of their initiative. Hence the need to discuss and offload whenever a team comes across what he termed a "negative reaction".

Waqainabete says the ministry started in August 2012. It was born from the consideration they had of the youths and not so young who frequented night spots in the Capital City. Part of this consideration he said stemmed from the fact that those who frequent these places, if they already aren't, will be the fathers and mothers of Fiji in the future.

He said: "This is an avenue for them to recoup and to help get them safely home." Waqainabete also made it clear this was no drive to entice church members who had lapsed in the practise of their faith back into the fold or to attract the young from other religions.

"O ira era na qai kauti ira ga ivalenilotu. (They will take themselves to church.) We are not trying to evangelise them whatsoever."

The statement said: "This ministry does not attempt to evangelise or convert people, but is a mission of concern and compassion on fellow youths who are often drawn into this behaviour by peer pressure, distorted self-image and identity confusion which may have been initiated by forces which are beyond their control."

It continued: "So the main thrust of this exercise is to create a safe or stabilising space where young people could recuperate before venturing in to the new day.

This space is where our free cup of coffee comes in, providing to all who enter a safe space. We will also provide counsellors if needed, therefore two counsellors should be available each morning as members of the Coffee Booth Ministry each day."

Apart from their reaching out, Waqainabete said being part of the Coffee Booth Ministry was also benefitting youths participating in it.

He mentioned his youngest child whom the reverend said before her participation in this initiative had been a reserved person. Waqainabete said he had noticed a change which he said wasn't surprising given the fact those youths had to engage with people who were in different stages of intoxication.

Waqainabete says that through this type of interaction these young people will among other things learn tolerance and understanding.

The statement he sent said: "We embrace this project wholeheartedly as it serves to enhance personal spiritual growth in to (John) Wesley's maxim on "means of grace".

He also mentioned the youths will from February begin to have training. This will be conducted at his Nasese residence.

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