She is the founder of The Esther’s of Now, a committee member of Marama Alliance UK (MAUK) and the organiser of the Fijian Women UK/Europe Arise Virtual Conference 2020. We are honored to share the story of Sereima Sugia Tawake, the determined woman whose drive and love for Christ has caused a ripple effect throughout the Fiji UK community.
By Miriama Suraki.
“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”Esther 4:14
Obedience is better than sacrifice.
On the 25th of March 2020; Ima, as we affectionately call her, started her first virtual bible class here in the UK. She says that she was just being obedient to the call of the God in her life. Obedience is a believers response to God’s initiative and it’s the same thing the three fishermen did when Jesus saw them by the Sea of Galilee and told them, “follow me.” (Matt 4:19)
The sister’s bible class, as we called ourselves, met every Wednesday at 8pm. Ima had not expected to get seven women so the first zoom session was the free basic session that lasted 40 minutes. But that was not enough for us. When Ima asked us if we didn’t mind logging back in for another session we all said, ‘YES!’ That evening we logged in thrice- everyone understood that we were part of something phenomenal.
Ima looks back on that first session and she recalls thinking that she would have been grateful if even only one person showed up, however, seven women answered. Seven is also known as the number of God and appears over 700 times throughout the bible. The use of the number seven in the bible has been linked to many things including the seven days of creation, the year of jubilee (7 x 7), the seven feasts in the Jewish calendar, and the seventieth week (10 X 7) that God will put an end to sin.
The bible study group started with the book of St James. Over the next few months each line of the book was read, cross referenced and dissected. The sisters then proceeded to the Book of Proverbs and did the same. Now the sisters are studying the Book of Ecclesiastes and a large group of us meet fortnightly at Ima’s safe space.
Ima’s obedience had led to the creation of a digital space where women from different regions and lived experiences come together to search deeper into the word of God. Each of the women who join have their different spheres of influence where they administer in and some of them have thriving ministries of their own. Towards the end of last year Ima successfully organised the Fijian Women UK/Europe Arise Virtual Conference which was viewed by thousands around the world and brought together Christian speakers onto one platform.
She had been obedient to the little, God would now take care of the rest.
Calling all you cup bearers.
‘When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of Heaven’. Nehemiah 1: 4
Nehemiah’s work in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days is well documented. However, an aspect of his life that is easy to overlook is his personal sacrifice. He had been serving in the inner court and had the ear of the King and his Queen, which showed the significant influence he had. Nehemiah could have used his influence to position himself within the wealthy Persian royalty but he didn’t- he cared more about the things of God. He cared about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
When Ima talks about her act of obedience I could not help thinking of Nehemiah. Ima to me is a Nehemiah. As an experienced Facilities Coordinator with the UK Defence Instructure Organisation (DIO)- she was the cupbearer in her organisation. Last year she could have chosen to focus on her career because Ima is no shrinking violet when it comes to work.
Don’t tell me it cannot be done, because I will find a way to do it
Sereima Sugia Tawake
She attended the University of the South Pacific and Leeds Beckett University and has worked as Project Assistant at UNDP and was a Sales Analyst at Nestle. An article about Ima which had been released by the Recruit for Spouses in 2018 highlighted her BIFM studies -British Institution of Facilities Management- and at that time it was significant because Ima became the visible representation of Fijian spouses holding their own in the various workforces and fields of study around the UK.
Ima’s work though is not limited to the normal nine-to-five. She volunteers as well and has been on the Board of Governors for Alanbrooke Community Primary, Ambassador for Recruit for Spouses, Committee member of Marama Alliance UK and the Faith & Belief Communications and Events volunteer with the DIO.She has a head for numbers and you can almost hear the cogs turning when she is calculating biblical timelines during bible study.
With her educational background, work experience and the influential position as committee member for MAUK, Ima could have used this to leverage any venture- business or otherwise. She chose the latter, dedicating her time and resources to do the work of God.
“Don’t tell me it cant be done.”
Nothing irks Ima more than naysayers. If you tell her it can’t be done, you can be sure that this petite lady will find a way to do it. And she’s been told this a few times and has probably been ridiculed too for her earnestness for God. At work her ability to carry out big roles has been questioned just like it has been within the church.
However, just as Nehemiah did when Sanballat and Co. tried to thwart his wall building efforts, Ima has found that where there is God’s will there is a way. This is what drives her. She knows that if God brings her to it, He will find a way for her to do it and the most beautiful thing about this mantra is the amount of determination that is needed to keep this mindset and not let the opposition win.
Nehemiah found a way to keep the work going on the wall. Even when he was ridiculed, threatened and told that the wall could not be rebuilt- he paid them no attention. Instead he told his men that some would work while, “half the men would be holding spears.” (Nehemiah 4: 21). Just as Nehemiah had to think of different ways of working, Ima found a way to get her women’s ministry up and running. She turned to a virtual solution. As churches around the UK were closing due to lockdown, Ima got on line and stood in the gap. She is now ministering to many on both the fortnightly bible study sessions and the bi- weekly live meditation segment in the Esther’s of Now page.
Exactly nine months after her first bible study, Ima launched the first ever Fijian Women UK/Europe Arise Virtual Conference 2020. The virtual conference was held over three days and there were couple of sessions during the day by various Christian groups including the Sunflower Sisters, Aroma of Grace and United as One Ministry. She opened the session with Pastor Manasa Kolivuso and the message was on the theme of the conference, ‘Women Arise and Pray’. In the midst of uncertainty, self isolation and restricted travel a mobilised wave of believers were standing together in the gap like never before.
But can you mobilise during a lockdown? Oh yes you can!!
Through the grace of God, this little lady had found a way to do it.
There is movement in the air.
Sisters are rising and like Isaiah said, “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?” (43:19) and Christians all around the world know this.
Early this year millions of us got together to stand in the gap by taking part in the 21-day Daniel fast organised by our respective churches. The need to pray continually has always been echoed in many Christian churches around the world but in 2021 there is now a greater sense of urgency.
Realising that the need now is more pressing than ever, Ima has gone on to launch the Esther’s of Now where she encourages women of the Fiji diaspora to, “Stand up and be counted knowing that you are the daughter of the Most High God and you have an army of witnesses ready to bring you forth…”
However, her bible study Ministry is not the only area of her life that’s thriving. Recently she has been part of the BAME into Leadership conference which helps individuals overcome barriers, build networks, and become greater Leaders. She has also just celebrated the birthday of her eldest daughter who is growing up to be another Christ fearing woman who will stand in the gap and repair broken walls like her mother has done.
Definition of Biblical movement: A dynamic advance of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit through multiple localities or peoples marked by prominent in-gathering of new believers, vibrant transforming faith, and multiplication of disciples, churches and leaders.
Those of us who have joined Ima in her mission are grateful for her act of obedience. We understand the cost of this to her family and loved ones so we can only say vinaka vakalevu. And to ladies out there who may not have joined any of the bible studies or the morning meditation sessions, we invite you to join us in Ima’s safe space.
This is a rally cry to all you cup bearers and Esther’s out there, you have been chosen for such a time as this!
Arise Women and Pray!
P.S On March 25th, 2020; I met the most positively uplifting woman I have come to know, Sereima Sugia Tawake. As I write this article I realise just how much her family has had to sacrifice too so that broken vessels like me can be made whole. Thank you to the Tawake Family for being obedient too. May you continue to be blessed.