Suzie Finds a Home in Fiji

  • by Becky Hill

What's Fiji like?" Suzie Brenneman asked her husband in 1975.

"Sort of like Southern California," Wes replied, having just returned from the first Cru mission project to the island.

Many years later, Suzie laughs: "Wrong! I'm still looking for that part."

Suzie had never seen a Fijian before she and Wes agreed to start a Cru ministry in the South Pacific, moving to Fiji with their young children, Christy and Brad.

"My first 10 days were horrible," Suzie remembers. "It rained all 10 days." There were no Laundromats, so she washed clothes by hand, only to realize the clothesline was out in the rain. Mail came only once a week, and for two years the Brennemans lived without a telephone. Suzie thought, I'll never feel at home here.

But she started to adjust. Even with young children, Suzie made time to meet with students at the University of the South Pacific, sharing the gospel and helping them grow in their faith.

 "My mom is a real campus woman," says Christy, now 33. "She just loves students, and even now in her 50s she's really relevant and able to relate to them."

Christy followed her parents' footsteps by joining Cru full time; she and her husband, Bryce, direct the college ministry in Auckland, New Zealand.

When Christy started high school, her mother wanted to help on campus, so she volunteered to help with the small Christian group at the school. There Suzie met an American named Matt Anderson, and tried to persuade him to join the Bible study. But Matt tried to avoid her.

"I made sure that I was on the opposite side of campus every time she came looking for me," he remembers. Some students from the United States came to visit for a Cru short-term mission, so Suzie sent one of them, a football player, to find Matt. The young man recommitted his life to Christ and now serves as the deputy chief of staff for Cru in the United States. "Suzie," Matt explains, "is my spiritual mom."

After living in Fiji a few years, Suzie decided to learn tennis. "I was in my mid-30s, and it was a big step for me," she remembers. Eventually, she and a friend invited her fellow tennis players over to have coffee. Suzie invited 16 players, and 14 came. Soon afterward, she started a Bible study, and helped introduce several of them to Christ.

"God is so faithful, and I've seen that if you're available, He will use you," Suzie says.

Her husband confirms it. "Suzie is a wonderful model of what can happen when a normal, average person is willing to trust the Lord and do whatever He leads them to do," Wes says. "Her walk with the Lord and simple obedience to Him has a great impact on those around her."

Suzie fell in love with Fiji. In fact, it was hard for her to leave when she and Wes moved to New Zealand to start the campus ministry there. It may not have been Southern California, but Fiji had become home.