An Island Emerging

Looking On

Generations.  That one word embodies a wealth of power.  One generation can change the way the world thinks, operates and advances forward into the future.  One generation can hold the key to a better life for all.  Some generations have been nearly swept away by disease and war – the civil war in America claimed almost an entire generation, leaving us with a void, taking with it any ideas, creations and leaders that it may have offered.  When I think about Ebeye, I think mostly about its children.  Half of the island population is comprised of children.  Precious generational changers.

I remember reading about Ebeye when I first decided to commit to a year of teaching there.  I  remember thinking that so many good things were happening in the way of communications and technology for a small island that was struggling under the weight of many economic, social and political problems.  But of all that I was reading, I wondered…what do the Marshallese people want? While so many technological advances were being made, what weighed on their hearts in importance?

Well, I didn’t take a formal poll or interview anyone, though it was something I had hoped to do.  It just didn’t materialize.  But through the course of two years, I learned a lot about a culture that is straining to break free of the past outdated traditions while holding onto their heritage as a people.  And where you have 17,000 people, you have just as many opinions, perspectives and solutions to the problems.  There are those who would not change, and those who desperately strain for it.  There is an old mindset and a new one – each with their own advantages and failures.  It is an island of people emerging.  And along with the people spring forth the ideas and….ideologies.

There are many on Ebeye who are left without hope.  And there are those who hold tightly to it.  Hope for a better future than the past has offered.  There are those who dream of being a self-sustaining island again, which is novel but by all practical purposes now impossible.  Developing small islands into towns is too expensive and time consuming to warrant the effort, much less maintain the upkeep of such developments.  And economically speaking there is not much in the way of exports to support the society.  You might think fishing, but there are no commercial seafaring vessels that belong to the Marshalls.  They instead lease out their waters to foreign fisheries who cultivate the profits instead.

Many put hope in their upcoming generation to exact a change and begin to turn things for good. I found that there is an energy among the youth that could set many good things into motion for the small island.  I hope to see it. I hope to see some of my own children rise up and be leaders, changing the scope of the future.  But they would have to decide if they want to advance or stay rooted in tradition.  Are they going to look backwards or forwards?  To new ideas or only historical redundancy? It is a delicate line to walk, but the course of time changes many things including turning over generations and their ideologies, allowing for the next generation to step up and be counted.

Practically speaking, the island is very fragile, in many aspects. There is no one answer that will solve all the difficulties they are now facing.  But the people are not as active or engaged politically as we are here – they have a history of King-People mentality which is only natural to them.  The forces that be are quite confusing, even for me to sort out how things should be done: there are kings, queens, governments, land owners (who have much power), national governments and many other rules and regulations.  But I believe this course will change as the children learn and grow into this mile-long world they call Ebeye. I believe in my heart change is coming. I have to believe it…

I believe in God and the plan He has for all the Marshallese and their islands.  I pray the very best for the Marshallese, my families in the islands and my friends. I will see you again by the grace of God.  And I will be watching to see what good things are happening in your part of the world, praying earnestly for you all.

An Interesting Cargo from Likiep

An interesting cargo hit the dock on Gem School’s campus this week.  The front loading hatch opened to reveal a company of outer island dwellers and their wares.  I unfortunately missed the mass exodus but caught the trailing remnants of handmade burlap sacks filled with coconuts, chickens tethered to string awaiting a glorious destiny with BBQ sauce and fire, friends greeting loved ones they haven’t seen for far too long, geese toted in bent cardboard, and loads of personal goods for sleeping and working.

There were rumors of giant sea turtles, pigs and ducks; precious cargo this boat did carry and there was an excitement in the air as kids perused the goods, played among the hubbub and exchanged laughter and smiles.

As quickly as it started, it trailed off, each person into the vast integral layout of Ebeye, melting into sixteen thousand others like a visitor in Manhattan on a spring day in April.  Not a trace that anyone had even been there.  No chickens, no coconuts, no laughter to speak of.

Yet somewhere, the grill is roasting, old friends are laughing, and secrets are carried on the salty ocean breezes. Adventure and life are being shared and perhaps someone will be whispering once again, “Goodnight old friend, see you in the morning”.

God’s Tapestry

It’s been a lazy Saturday with the rain drizzling softly on the roof.  I’ve been in a reflective mood concerning God’s hand moving in this season of my life.

It’s amazing how things accelerate in our lives when God steps in.  It’s been a time of seeing the end results on matters I have been seeking God for and it’s been a time of Him birthing whole new areas in my life, bringing them full-circle in just weeks.  It’s been a time of struggle and deep sorrow, as God worked out areas in my character that were of no use to Him or myself.  A time of letting go and learning new ways of approaching problems and relying on Him to offer support when I needed it most.

When we seek first the Kingdom of God, all things are added to us.  Like gifts that we’ve been waiting for and suddenly, we’re living in them.  It’s a wonderful and beautiful thing.

I’ve found that being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit has allowed Him to birth new avenues in my life that never existed beforehand.  One minute I’m single with no children – then next I’m part of a team with nearly 200 kids I can call my own.  One minute I’m working a typical office job –  the next I’m on a tiny island helping other people in this world.

An awakening is occurring.  I wish it had taken place in my twenties.  But thank God it’s taking place in my thirties.  Some people drudge through their entire life thinking one thing about themselves, only to realize their life hasn’t been all that fruitful afterall and they don’t really know who they are anymore, much less what might make them happy.  That would be me today had it not been for Jesus.

I told a friend once that our lives were like tapestries being created by God which represented the people, experiences and changes coming and going over a lifetime.  Various yarns and fabrics, colors and shapes He works together seamlessly to broaden, enhance and embellish our lives.  As God chooses the colors to weave in, it’s up to us to yield to His will for our lives; which at times can be scary, uncertain and possibly disappointing to us.  But God knows what is best for us.  He knows what colors to choose, where they should go and where they should end.  Some colors are weaved throughout the entire piece of work; with us from the beginning to the end.  Others are just accents, meant to leave a positive impression, a new hope or comfort when we need it most.  And still others may be worked in and out of our lives consistently.  Sometimes I can get in God’s way by weaving in things that I shouldn’t.  Gently, God will begin to take those threads out – that Ashley thought were so important but were beginning to take their toll on her well-being – and lovingly He replaces them with threads of joy, peace and blessings.

Life is change and we need to embrace it.  I’ll be closing a chapter that has defined a pivotal change of course in my own life shortly.  The people here have been some of the most beautiful colors that God has worked into my tapestry.  My experiences are likely to be shared by few others in this world.  I am thankful.  He has shown Himself to be faithful and merciful.  And I’m happy to let Him create the tapestry of my life as He so chooses.  I’m looking forward to these last few months here on what seems like the edge of the earth.  And I’m also looking forward to what lies ahead – what new colors, shapes and designs God will be working into my tapestry next.

Radioactive Red Snapper Part I

The Marshallese are avid fishermen.  Most of their diet consists of fish and rice.  And in the outer islands, you can add coconut to that.  Twyla was telling me that sometimes, when the small planes are delayed and unable to deliver food to the outer islands, the people have to eat shaved coconut until more supplies arrive.  It can be a stressful dilemma.  Sometimes the same anxiety happens to residents on Ebeye when they run short on rice.  I remember watching the documentary of how a movie (Pirates of the Caribbean maybe?) was made on an island and the crew and director kept talking about how difficult it was to feed everyone, provide water and shelter and sanitation for around 1000 people simply because everything had to be brought in on a boat…I was like, ‘Tell me about it…”

My friend ran into some workers who had gotten their hands on some Red Snapper which is pretty rare on this chain of islands.  They offered him some of their wares and he excitedly accepted.  Whether his joy was slightly tempered or not by what he knew was the reality of eating a Red Snapper caught in this portion of the reef, I do not know.  But regardless of certain consequences, he was going to eat good tonight…

One of the larger catches fished in these waters is the Marlin.  The fishermen can get a fairly good wage out of selling one of these big fish to the local fish market here on the island.  There are not many shell fish that come through here.  Every now-and-then you’ll see a crab for sale and sometimes little baby octopi.  They are served cold.  I’m not sure if they are cooked…they don’t cook their fish which generally reflects the Asian influence of the Japanese whose customs were intertwined with Marshallese culture.

Then probably the biggest would be shark.  I’ve not seen shark caught by fishermen yet but Nyasha did last year.  What did they use for bait, you ask?  Oh, you really don’t want to know, I promise.  But somehow, they lured the shark in and pulled it out of the blue waters about a hundred yards from my house.  The lagoon is infested with sharks.  If they could find a way to ship them to China efficiently, they could probably make some big bucks.  Or maybe that’s illegal…

But, back to the fish, namely, the Red Snapper.  My friend had secured a rather tasty meal for that night.  Happily he prepared it; then happily he ate it.  He knew he shouldn’t have.  He knew what was going to happen to his body in the hours to follow.  But the craving of good fish meat trumped his better judgment, and so he ate.

Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy,

Do not desire his delicacies,

For he is like one who is inwardly calculating.

“Eat and drink!” he says to you,

But his heart is not with you.

Prov 23.8.9

My Kids!

They make it all worth it.  When I saw all their smiling, happy faces greeting us and wanting us to come play, take pictures and give them hugs I felt a peace; they are  the reason I’m here.  It’s wonderful.

Anna, Titus and a friend hanging out on the steps in front of my house.

Jon getting a little exercise.

My girls, Anna, Harvest and Faith.  You can’t see it, but they are standing on the top of an upside-down boat, flying a kite.

The Majuro ship docked at night unloading supplies to Ebeye.

Awww, little Moia:)  She is sooooo cute!

They’ve been knocking on our door everyday…mainly to see Laura and her ‘cool hair’ :)  Too cute.  School starts soon and we’ll all be reading, writing and doing our homework.  And hopefully, changing a few lives for the better.

Welcome Home Celebration

Pastor Hone and his wife Mrs. Grace have been gone since the middle of January.  They attended a Believer’s Conference in Texas and from there visited several Marshallese churches in the U.S.  They spent over 2 months ministering to the people and traveling between churches until they arrived home the end of March.  Here are some accounts of lives touched and miracles experienced:

Oklahoma: 30 people were saved.

Arkansas and Texas: 50 people saved and individually ministered to, 5 couples married. 15 water baptisms. 7 children dedications. One ordination for Pastor & deacons. One man had a damaged kidney.  Pastor Hone and Mrs. Grace prayed over him and the next day he went back to the doctor and they told him the kidney was functioning properly with no signs of damage.  Many people came to the meetings and some even drove from other states to come and receive from God.

Honolulu/Maui:  Pastor Hone was preaching when Mrs. Grace received a long distance phone call from Oklahoma;  it was a deacon’s wife who said her husband was in the hospital in the ICU.  He had plugs and hoses running in and out of him and she desperately requested prayer because he had stopped breathing on his own.  Mrs. Grace began to pray and the wife put the phone up to her husband’s ear.  As she prayed, the Spirit of God moved over this man and he began to breathe again.  Halleluiah!

These are some of the events that were translated from Marshallese into English for me that took place over the 2 months they were ministering in the states.  God is good.

The school is currently on Spring Break for this week.  We have a Missionary Retreat coming up this Saturday which we are all looking forward too.  A hotel room with hot water!! I’ll be sure to blog about meeting all the other missionaries from the outer islands and their experiences in the field.

Who won the Spelling Bee, you ask?

On this island, Spelling Bee competitions are a really big deal.  That’s one of the ways Gem School got such a fast notoriety was through continually winning the public Spelling Bee competitions held on the island.  This year the public council decided not to hold a school-wide competition but individual schools did carry-on the tradition.

Guess who won his school’s Spelling Bee?  My faithful and hard-working recruit, Colin.  He came to his tutoring session yesterday and in the best English he can speak at this time, got across to me that he won his school’s Spelling Bee by correctly spelling the word i-n-f-o-r-m-a-t-i-o-n.  Is that not totally awesome!!  What God can do!!  I tell every single one of my kids: Don’t let ANYONE tell you that you can’t do something!  Don’t let ANYTHING (like money) tell you that you won’t go where you want to go!  With God, ALL things are possible. Hallelujah!!

From a quiet encounter early one morning with a child who looked sad and unable to relate, to a young fellow that kids now admire and want to be like, Colin has showed everybody that he’s not just your average could-care-less kid.  I’m very proud of Colin for his diligence and taking every advantage of this God-given opportunity to study and learn English.  Do you think studying English can do this for a person?  No way.  But it is the power of God that has changed his entire life.  It’s exciting to see the fruit of God’s love bearing out in other people’s lives.  What a blessing.