Days of the Coup
The streets were filled with police. The shops and businesses were rapidly downing their shutters. There was tension in the air and people were leaving the streets and quickly trying to get home to their families. It was May 14 in the year 1987 and the first Fijian coup was unfolding before the eyes of a nation that was reeling under a major political crisis.
As a young man who had accustomed himself to life on the streets of Suva, Ledua knew that the panic that he was witnessing in front of him was something that he could exploit for another bout of unlawful gain. So together with his friends, they ransacked a business that belonged to an old Chinese trader who was in the process of nervously trying to close his shop that eventful afternoon. Crime was more important than politics to Ledua and, therefore, he always saw community unrest because of politics as situations that could easily be taken advantage of.
Time and time again, crime would take him to prison and he couldn’t care less about it. Although conditions inside the prison were terrible, such as sharing a tiny cell and a dirty commode inside it with two or three other thugs, he was so hardened that the thought of staying away from crime to avoid being arrested was something that did not really bother him. He knew that he would steal and mug and fight in the streets again after jail time was done.
After about fifteen years of living life this way, a door remarkably opened for him to work as a landscaper in a tourist resort. Despite his background of spending most of his time on the streets, he slowly grew accustomed to the job and even started to enjoy it. Life was slowly stabilising for him but deep inside, there was a loneliness, a profound emptiness as well as that familiar ache that simply would not go away. One way that he imagined would help fill the hole in his soul was indulging in sexual relationships with multiple women. He was wrong.
The Unusual Week
One day in early 2006, in the resort where he was working, Ledua started to feel very ill. He did not understand what was happening to his body but with each passing day, his strength seemed to rapidly decrease. His lover, a woman who was sleeping with him during that time, also noticed that he was not doing well. After struggling for a week, he realised that his body had also become very cold. As he laid on his bed, he realised that he was growing weaker by the minute and that his life was somehow slipping away.
A few seconds had passed until everything seemed to come to a standstill. Suddenly, unexpectedly, the ceiling above him seemed to part and he started to experience what he later described as a vision. As he watched the ceiling part, a cemetery suddenly appeared with a strange and powerful presence of death. Immediately, Ledua exclaimed: “I don’t want to die!”
A second picture then appeared in his vision: a prison. Right then and there, Ledua shouted, “No, I don’t want to go to prison again!” As soon as he said that, the picture disappeared but was quickly followed by the presence of someone, a person he could not see, coming very close to him, surrounding him, entering him and going right through him in the most mysterious way. As that happened, he felt the person touching him at the very core of who he was as a human being and simultaneously imparting to him a feeling that was a combination of unfathomable love, profound compassion, acceptance, mercy and peace that was way beyond his comprehension. The experience immediately caused him to exclaim one more time: “This is what I have been searching for! From the day I was born, throughout my life, until this moment, this is what I have been searching for!”
After this, he then heard a voice speaking to him, calling his name, saying: “Ledua, leave those two pictures behind. I am Jesus. Follow me.” Although what was happening was blowing his mind, shocking him, it did not end there. Jesus then gave him a mobile phone number and told him to call the person having the number. Ledua had no idea whose number it was. Somehow, he found strength to get up from his bed and went to the reception desk of the resort to dial the number. As the person on the other end of the line answered his call, he was surprised to hear his elder brother’s voice, someone whom he had been estranged from, and had had not been in communication with, for over six months.
As the two brothers talked over the phone, with Ledua half expecting his older sibling to think that he had gone crazy, he was further astonished to hear the latter inviting him to come and do a six-month residential discipleship training program at a Christian training centre that he was leading then. His heart sank though when he heard that the cost for the training was 2000 Fijian dollars, the equivalent of USD 1000. The next day, however, his brother called again and asked him to come, not to worry about the fee and to trust God for provision. Then and there, Ledua decided to go.
End of Part 2. Please read Part 3 for the conclusion to this story.