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17.02.19

Pumbah’s Digital Discipleship Experience



As he sat in the mostly empty train car late Friday evening after the first day of the 2017 Digital Discipleship Conference, Faitele “Pumbah” Fereti couldn’t shake a question he had been asking himself all day, “What’s in my hand, and what am I going to do with it?”

The Promise

Several years earlier, when he left his hometown of Wellington, New Zealand, Pumbah Fereti made his mum a promise to find a church.

When she asked, he easily agreed.  She was his soft spot, and he couldn’t say no to her.

Pumbah spent most of his life growing up in a Samoan Christian church that he attended each Sunday. Although he went to Bible studies, he moonlighted with his partying and drinking. He spent time with his youth group and found community, but he hadn’t experienced a relationship with God yet.

Arrival in Sydney

His mother’s advice was brushed aside for a little while after his arrival in Sydney until one day the reminder of her words rang in his ears.  He Googled and found a large, popular church in the area.

After attending, he felt he could tick the box and tell his mum he had found a place to worship.

However, something unexpected happened. Although well known for its music, it was the distinct call of God upon his heart that caught Pumbah’s attention.

Outside of his comfort zone, away from his friends, he realised he was submitting his life to God more and more each day.  One church service, he felt himself drawn to the front as the appeal was made.  He knew something very different was taking place in his life, and one of the first places that change showed up was on his Instagram account.

He calls that time in his life “the transition”.

“At that time, I started using spiritually inspired artwork as a mechanism to let the world know I am a Christian.

I began to attend church on a regular basis and discovered a passion for Jesus and everything about Him. I noticed the change in myself, and it impacted all areas in my life including my creativeness.

It was there in my journey where I realised that design was not just part of my life, it is part of my faith”

The Streets

On the streets, Pumbah was known for his graffiti.  When youth group was over, he would hang out and find places to tag his moniker.  He lived for the street cred and recognition he gained.

 

While his street life provided him an avenue to express himself creatively, he never felt that same opportunity at church.

Now that his life was transitioning, he started sharing spiritually inspired posts on his Instagram account despite his fear and self-doubt.

He wondered about the purpose of his art, but it wasn’t until he sat as a stranger at the 2017 Digital Discipleship Conference that he would begin to understand and catch glimpses of what God could do with it.

The Conference

Unlike many of the 2017 Digital Discipleship Conference attendees, Pumbah had to be convinced to attend by his girlfriend Janice.

Pumbah had attended a few Adventist events with her, but he was still unsure about Adventism.

He was worried he’d feel like an outsider in a room full of Sevvies. He vowed he would slip in, get what he could out of the event and leave.

 

Shortly after his arrival, he found an empty table and waited for the Conference to begin.  As he waited, a guy named Shane, from Melbourne, took a seat at his table and warned him that his rowdy crew would be joining them soon.  Those words would be pivotal in Pumbah’s journey to understanding that he wasn’t an outsider; he was right at home.

“I didn’t feel like I was different.  I felt like it was all about Jesus.  I was greeted with so much warmth at the table.  I felt like they all got me.  When I shared with them that I wanted to do design for God, they all encouraged me very early on.”

Two Conferences

A few weeks after attending the Digital Discipleship Conference, Pumbah attended another Adventist conference: the One Project.  The people he met at the two conferences and the moving of the Holy Spirit during the two events collectively persuaded him that he was finding his place in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Pumbah and Janice started doing Bible studies, which began to answer many of Pumbah’s questions. When his mind wandered beyond what the lessons could answer, he messaged Cheonneth Strickland, Youth Director of the Greater Sydney Conference for answers.

 

After searching for a church home, Janice and Pumbah landed at Church in the Fields. After attending and participating in youth group, Pumbah was asked to be the youth leader, a position he loves because of the fond memories he has from his days at his church’s youth group.  And now, Pumbah is incorporating elements of creativity and digital discipleship into the youth group activities.

The Challenge

During this time, not only was Pumbah’s spiritual life growing, his creativity was growing as well.  Three months after the Digital Discipleship Conference, Pumbah and Janice launched Reign Apparel as a way to cultivate faith through clothing. Reign Apparel aims to “present the gospel through design”.

 

In making the decision to launch Reign Apparel Pumbah began to feel like he was realising his purpose. He was starting spiritual conversations with his t-shirts with people at work and at the gym.

As Pumbah explores this new phase in his journey, he feels content saying, “I’m here and this is where God has put me.  The next step is baptism”.

The Phone Call

The phone rang.

The timing was off, but the voice was familiar. It was Pumbah’s mom.

She had witnessed Pumbah’s spiritual journey from the beginning.

She told her son, “I can’t help but smile.  I’m happy because you fulfilled my one condition for moving to Australia.  You found a church.”

Worried about their reaction, it took Pumbah three months to share that he’s becoming a Seventh-day Adventist with his parents. He’ll be the first from his family to leave the family’s church, however, he found it to be a non-issue.

Happy her son has found a meaningful relationship with God, his mother said, “as long as you’re reading from the same book”.

As Pumbah continues on his journey, he’s striving to continuing digging deeper into his calling and fully utilise what God’s put in his hands.

When the Digital Discipleship ministry recently faced financial challenges and was uncertain about its future going forward, Janice and Pumbah began to fast and pray each Friday on behalf of the ministry’s future.

Pumbah said, “If it did that for me then who else can it do that for?  I believe it’s going to do much more for someone else than what it did for me.”

The Digital Discipleship ministry’s funding has been renewed for three years and will be moved from the Greater Sydney Conference to the Australian Union Conference so that the church can benefit more broadly from this ministry.

Special thanks go to the Greater Sydney Conference for launching this ministry.

As printed in the Greater Sydney Conference IntraSyd March – April 2018