UNOH Manurewa, Auckland, New Zealand
About 2 and a half months ago, as I am furiously scrubbing fly poop stains from our ceilings, I get a text message. It’s our neighbour Vili. It read: ‘Bro are you busy?’ to which I replied ‘I’m just scrubbing our ceiling at the moment, what’s up?’ Vili replied ‘Can you come over after?’ and I said ‘sure’.
Vili is our lovely Fijian Indian neighbour. He has a long family background in the Hindu faith. About a decade or so ago Vili’s parents had a conversion into Christianity, in which according to Vili they as kids followed suit. Vili’s parents are very lovely, warm, friendly people. They are very supportive of their son and his struggles and situation.
Vili has been struggling with narcotics and alcohol: a partying, pleasure-seeking, living for the moment kind of lifestyle. But he has had a few conversion moments that have been slowly awakening him to a change of course in his life. Every now and again you get a glimpse of a 30 year-old man who understands, a natural encourager who has some beautiful dreams to make his family proud and see himself closer to God. He loves animals and is very hospitable man, always offering a smile and giving respect to all.
As I finish up my scrubbing, I get bombarded by very strange texts from our neighbour: Vili bringing up some of his own past and his hate of certain neighbours and some family members etc. His final text echoes the struggles he is having in so many different levels: “The devil is in my house! Help me!’ Another minute later we get a knock at our door, and Vili is reeking of alcohol and is off his rocks on something else too. He fidgets, twitches and says that the devil is inside his house, in the electricity and kitchen pantry.
For the next few minutes I’m stunned, confused and overwhelmed by the bizarreness of what he’s saying. I ask questions and try to clarify what on earth is going on. But in a sudden change of mood, huffing and puffing, Vili storms off back to his place and I’m left by our door in limbo. I once again realise that I just don’t know what is going on with our neighbour and I am fumbling in the dark. Our differences
in upbringing, experiences, and values are so massive.
The weeks went by and we continued our weekly Thursday prayer with a couple of men from our neighbourhood, Vili being one of them. With my lack of experience, advice, remedies, or words, we just read from the bible and prayed. Sure we talked about Vili’s alcohol and drugs problems etc., but I think we both knew we were from different worlds.
But one day during the weekly prayer, Vili shared about his dream of being free from the controls of alcohol and drugs. This was a turning point: he knew for himself that this was a problem.
A lot has happened since then. Last week we had prayers with Vili using Psalm 131, and he was just sharing how ashamed he was of things he had done not too long ago. He shared how there are certain people he doesn’t want to see or talk to ever again because of the shame. There is a genuine change in his words, thoughts and demeanour. And he has been sober (from alcohol and narcotic abuse) for over a month! Vili has enrolled himself to alcohol, drugs counselling and help groups. Together with his family he has enlisted help from a health trust that specifically supports men. Vili has shown steps of faith in God. Since he knows God doesn’t want him to be steeped in harmful habits, he is moving towards a better self and future.
I realised I didn’t have all the answers and remedies, so pulled back and gave way to God, while Vili recognized his own situation and how very capable he was in stepping up into God and making changes for himself.
On Psalm 131, Vili offered a simple one-line commentary: “Never forget that we depend on God”. Doing God’s work/ mission/ ministry <insert your definition> can feel a lot like God left us to sort it out ourselves. We forget that it is primarily God’s work/ doings/ mission and He invites us to tag along. It is not until we are forced out of our depths, experience cognitive dissonances, in discomfort and lacking of a referencing point that we realise our need for God to show up. This is the point of mystery that reminds us that the Spirit works, intervenes, and moves.