The Glass Church, Part 1
When Pastor Joe Talemaitoga arrived at the Fiji Mission office in Suva as the new chaplain for Adventist young people, he was told that his top priority was to establish a church/evangelistic center to serve the many students attending the University.
Fiji lies in the center of the South Pacific islands. The capital city, Suva, is home to several international institutions of higher learning, including a university, a medical school, and a technical school. These schools attract the brightest students from throughout the South Pacific.
Some 500 Adventist students are enrolled at these schools. They have come to prepare for leadership roles in their own countries. But until recently there was no Adventist church nearby, no place where these youths could come to worship and bring their friends to fellowship or study in a welcoming atmosphere. For a while the group rented a hall at the university in which to worship, but increasingly the university needed all of its larger halls on Sabbath morning for lectures, leaving the Adventist students with no place to worship. For some, it became too much trouble to find a church, so they stopped attending.
But thanks to your generous support of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering, that scenario has changed. This is the miraculous story of how the Pacific Tertiary Evangelistic Center (PTEC) came to be.
When Pastor Joe Talemaitoga arrived at the Fiji Mission office in Suva as the new chaplain for Adventist young people, he was told that his top priority was to establish a church/evangelistic center to serve the many students attending the University of the South Pacific and surrounding educational institutions. The funds were available, but on an island where land is at a premium—especially in the capital city of Suva—church leaders had not yet been able to find anything suitable (and affordable) near the university.
One evening Pastor Joe and other mission leaders, along with several Adventist student representatives, met in a classroom on the university campus to consider a short list of available properties. None of the properties were ideal, but the group voted to purchase a steep block of land located about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the main university.
It was after 10 p.m. when everyone left. As a group of students from the Solomon Islands walked along the street, they noticed a car stop in front of them. A man jumped out, ran up to a fence surrounding a large house sitting on a prime piece of property, quickly posted a “For Sale” sign, and left. “We should tell our chaplain about this,” they said.
The Ideal Property
At 7:30 the next morning Pastor Joe’s phone rang. He listened as an eager student described the property and its prime location. Thanking the student, Pastor Joe phoned the number on the sign at 8:00 a.m.
“Are you selling the property on Grantham Road? Near the university?”
“Yes. It’s the green house, with the green fence.”
Right after the call, Pastor Joe went to see the property. It was perfect. Located on a gentle rise just two blocks from the university and directly across the street from the largest cinema and shopping mall in Fiji, the pastor couldn’t imagine a more visible and accessible location. He immediately called the real estate company again and told them he was coming in to discuss purchasing the property.
“I met the gentleman who had hung up the sign—a Fijian,” recalls Pastor Joe. “I introduced myself as a chaplain and told him of our need. We were a nomadic group, I explained, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church wants to ground these young people in a permanent place. We could remodel the house into a church.”
As the pastor spoke, he noticed tears beginning to stream down the man’s face. “You know,” said the man, “as you were talking I remembered the things that I learned at the Suva Adventist Primary School. My mum sent me there for three years. I remember the Bible stories and the singing.”
Clearly, the man’s life had been positively impacted by his experience at an Adventist primary school. “I’m going to call the owner of our company now,” he said.
Before long, an Indian man walked in, looked at Pastor Joe and exclaimed, “Oh, it’s you! I know you! Some years ago an Adventist girl whom I work with invited me to come to the Tamavua Adventist Church during a visitor’s Sabbath. I came and you were the one speaking from the front!”
The pastor was silently grateful to the girl who had invited this man to church.
Another Kind of Investment
“So, why do you want to buy this property? For what purpose?” the owner asked.
“For a church for young people,” Pastor Joe replied.
“Not for an investment?” probed the owner.
“Not for your kind of investment,” said Pastor Joe. “But an investment in young people!”
The man smiled. “As Indians, we are delighted to sell property to a church or religious organization.” Then pausing, he added, “I need 10 percent in 48 hours.”
No problem, thought Pastor Joe. We have the money from the mission offering sitting in the bank.
To be continued.