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5-26-15 Sacramento Fijian Company First in North America
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by Julie Lorenz

 

 
NCC Executive Secretary Marc Woodson (far right) reads a plaque, which acknowledges the organization of the new company. From left to right: Pastor Joseph O’Connor, head elder Poate Matairavula, elder Ron Jonas, elder Jone Korovata and NCC Assistant to the President Ed Fargusson. (Photo: Joe Garza)

 
 

On Jan. 24, the Sacramento Fijian company became the first formally organized Fijian congregation in the North American Division. The service took place on a Sabbath evening at Sacramento Central church, followed by a celebratory Fijian meal.

During the program, Northern California Conference (NCC) Executive Secretary Marc Woodson encouraged the members to keep their “bula” spirit. (Bula is a Fijian word that connotes a feeling of affection and welcome.) He also reminded them: “Don’t forget the purpose of your congregation.”

The new company – which currently meets at Sacramento Adventist Academy – is the 157th congregation in the NCC. Conferences organize church groups into companies for the purpose of fellowship, worship and mission; the “company” status is a step on the way for a group to become organized as a church.

"Praise the Lord!" said one of the group’s long-time members, Olivia Wieland. "He has rewarded our hard work. Now we are ready to work toward an organized church."

More Fijians live in the Sacramento area than anywhere else in the United States, and more are coming to the area each year. Adventist immigrants from Fiji want to worship with the music and traditions of their own culture and in their own language. “The yearning to maintain the Fijian communal bond created the desire for the establishment of a Fijian church,” said Joseph O’Connor, who pastors the congregation.

O’Connor came to the United States about 15 years ago to earn his master’s degree in religious studies from La Sierra University. He did more postgraduate work at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, planning to return to Fiji, where he had served for five years as a pastor. A Fijian group that met at the Sacramento Central church asked him to stay in the United States, and he and his wife, Sotia, agreed to work with them.

 
  The Sacramento Fijian company choir sings during the organization service. (Photo: Joe Garza)
 
The new company is comprised of members from various small groups in Sacramento – most of whom came to the organization service. “Today we witness a coming together, for we Fijians have gone through experiences that hammer the truth home – united we stand, divided we fall,” said Jone Korovata, who serves as an elder.

The new company’s services are conducted in Fijian and English. “We plan to establish a multi-ethnic church which reflects our wider Fijian community, our young people that are being born and bred in the U.S., and the community at large that Fijians have married into,” said O’Connor.

The congregation is eager to grow. Plans are in the works for two evangelistic series this year, with the goal of baptizing 40 people. The company also wants to broadcast their services online. “All it takes is for us to cooperate with Jesus to reach more people faster than you ever thought possible,” said Poate Matairavula, head elder.

Along with his congregation, O’Connor looks forward to making a unique contribution in the conference territory. “I am forever grateful that the purpose of the Sacramento Fijian company is to further enrich the Northern California Conference with the unique, friendly island gospel spirit of Jesus Christ,” he said. “We look forward to finishing God's work among the rest of the Fijian community in Sacramento.”


 
North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904-6600 USA
Telephone: 301-680-6400
Fax: 301-680-6464
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