Seven teams of Baptist young people and leaders went on a DO Team mission to Fiji in 2017. This year another six teams are planned. Baptist Youth Ministries (BYM) National Project Manager Heather Ameye‑Bevers explains what happens on a DO Team and how it impacts those who participate.
If you thought the purpose of DO Teams was for young people to do ‘good works’ for Fijian communities and maybe experience some bonus R ‘n’ R in a tropical resort, well you’d be wrong. Apart from a cultural acclimatisation boot camp on arrival in Nandi and a brief wind-down at the end, teams are dispersed into mainly rural settings well away from the usual holiday hot spots. And, importantly, the DO in the name is not about doing as much as it is about discipleship overseas.
“The focus is no longer on running programmes but on being in the villages and seeing what God is already doing, and looking to serve in response to their known needs,” says Heather. “Occasionally a building project is undertaken but that is in response to a request and comes out of an already established relationship with a team that has gone on a DO Team trip for several years running.”
The other common misunderstanding is that DO Teams are exclusively for teens and young adults. While it is recommended that a young person is at least in Year 11 (15+ years old), there is no upper age limit. In fact, BYM encourages churches to make teams as intergenerational as possible so that different generations are serving together and praying for each other. That is why BYM suggests churches advertise DO Teams to a wider audience than just their youth groups.
Church teams have been as small as three and as large as 22 in the past, although eight to 11 members is considered a good size. But several teams travel at the same time, meaning there could be 70 or 100 people on one trip.
Fortunately, BYM handles all the travel arrangements, food, Fijian guides, and the all-important boot camps. This means churches don’t have to do much work beyond vision-casting to their church leadership, elders and congregation, plus potentially some fundraising to get people on their way. Each church team will also need to appoint a key leader, along with other leaders in support.
What happens on a DO Team trip?
Team members undertake an orientation programme prior to departure, and have a debriefing on return. Fiji‑based Pastor Eddy Molia organises the boot camps, which take place on the weekend of arrival. These include introductions to the Fijian team members, prayer walks, cultural education, language practice, and tips on how to share personal faith and engage strangers in spiritual discussions.
During their stay in the villages, teams are billeted in pairs with local families. While the itinerary is planned, participants are urged to ‘go with the flow’ since completely structured schedules are complex to plan in a different cultural environment. However, teams typically engage in activities such as school outreach visits, street witnessing, sports events, children’s programmes, manual labour, church services, and the daily life of the host villages.
The impact on DO Team members
“Village life is simple,” says Heather. “People share with others no matter how little they have, and families may stop several times a day to pray. Common personal challenges DO Team members face when immersed into this environment are their materialism, the way they view hospitality, and how much time they give to relationships and prayer. Lots of youth pastors say it is the most impactful experience for their youth—even more impactful than Easter Camp.”
Here are the comments of two Baptist youth pastors who went with their church teams to Fiji last year.
"We took a DO Team of 15 young people and five leaders. Our aim was to experience God at work in the Fijian culture and to join him in this work, as well as taking time away from all the distractions of our everyday lives to hear his voice more clearly. We spent our time in the small village of Nasomo and were absolutely blown away by the generosity and friendliness of the Fijian people who immediately embraced us as family. The highlights were the people, worship with the church, a 3am prayer meeting on a mountain overlooking the village, and so many opportunities to share our faith and grow in confidence. The hardest part of the entire trip was saying goodbye to our new Fijian families, and we are looking forward to taking our next team over!"
— Stephen McQuarrie, Youth Pastor, Rangiora Baptist Church.
"When we sat on the beach at the end of the trip to debrief we were stunned! So many prayers were answered. Each person on our team had individual testimonies to share back at church in New Zealand of how God challenged and changed them, how their fears were taken away and their faith blown open. We fell in love with our village; there were great connections with the host families, and in two weeks we had no conflicts.
Our awareness of our prayer life has changed. One of the guys was struggling with believing in God and as he prayed for children and villagers his heart and faith shifted. He pushed through his fears and met God, even getting baptised in the river in our village with another team member too. A life-changing trip for us all!"
— Jeff Jones, Youth Pastor, Northpoint Baptist Church.
Do you want to experience this for yourself and your church? The next Fiji trip will be held during the two weeks of the July 2018 school holidays.
To find out more, contact [email protected] or phone 021 615 717. Vanuatu is a future possibility too if people are interested.
Story: Heather Ameye-Bevers
BYM’s National Project Manager Heather Ameye-Bevers has led four mission trips to Vanuatu, and one each to Samoa and Fiji.