God’s East Wind: Tsunami 2011

The more I began hearing about the details of the tsunami caused by the 8.9 magnitude  earthquake in Japan, the more I have thanked God every day.

I had set my alarm to get up at 2 a.m. to make a phone call to the states.  I got on the internet and was greeted with emails from friends and family urging me to contact them and let them know I was alive.  I was honestly in shock.  Earthquakes? Tsunami? Marshall Islands?  It was all surreal and I remember turning my head for a moment to listen for the rush, or the calm or whatever you listen for when a tsunami is barreling down on you.

I quickly began emailing to diffuse their anxieties about my well-being.  We were all sleeping, except me and my phone call, and we hadn’t heard a word about the danger.

As the days passed, the story began unfolding and my heart rejoiced more and more in our God.  The initial warning went out just a short time after the earthquake that all of Ebeye was to be evacuated.  The school administration did not inform us but were waiting, I suppose, until they absolutely had to; all the while hoping, praying and believing in God.  The police were canvassing the streets and people were preparing to evacuate. How was this going to happen?  There are sixteen thousand people on this island.  Twyla said she turned to Nobel that night, just hours before the tsunami was scheduled to hit and said, “Where are they going to take all of us?”

I doubt there are enough boats, even using those from Kwajalein, to hold all the people here.  And you need a lot more time than a few hours to transport that large of a number of people and children.  And what about family’s homes and possessions? Even if they took us out to sea, which would likely be the safest place, what would we come back to? Where would we sleep?  And all the food would be washed away. I was thinking about all these things as they were telling me how close we came to disaster.  But God was watching…

An hour before impact, the warning was lifted.  We were all still soundly sleeping.  By the time I had awakened, the danger had passed.  Nobel said the scientists had all their data and charts in front of them and they charted that the winds had shifted, which in turn, stopped the energy of the wave.  He said, “…the scientist have all their data and numbers about the East winds changing direction, and all that scientific stuff but…all I know is that God saves His people!”

I know.  I know that East wind.  They can call it whatever they like. Put a number on it and chart it in their little books. But His eyes are on the righteous and not a sparrow falls to the ground without Him knowing about it…much less sixteen thousand of the most precious people I know, the apples of His eyes.  Closer to peril than I would otherwise ever want to be, I know God and I believe in miracles.  Thank God I’m here writing this blog post to you today.  Thank God for that.  Thank God for His infinite mercy and steadfast love which never ceases.  And thank God for the friends and family and all the people who got down on their knees and prayed, because God answered them.

I just Thank God that I belong to Him.

(Edit) Update 3.14.11

I was talking to Annalise who lives on Kwajalein, about the circumstances involving the evacuation of the islands in this area. We were exchanging information and one of the interesting points she mentioned was the geography of this area.  The islands are part of the largest atoll in the world; we live on the rim of a sunken volcano.

So unlike most beaches in the world that have a slow grade rise up to sea level, we have a 100+ foot drop to the ocean floor.  Tsunamis gain their power and height as the ocean bed ‘pushes’ the mass of water up before hitting land.  But here, when the energy of the wave reached us, its power struck the 100 foot wall and dispelled around the atoll and consequently all the islands were relatively untouched.

She said the scientist and forecasters still aren’t sure what happened (funny that she mentioned that).  The tsunami did come onshore, but it was also perfect timing; low tide.  The majority of the shock was absorbed by the drop off and no damaged occurred.  Thank God!

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”.

Putting On The Roof

The church which the school is associated with (B&J Church) is building a new church on the school campus grounds.  I’ve seen it rise these past 20 months and things are going good.

One problem with undergoing construction of anything here is the issue of supply.  That really is true for anything an island nation needs – it all has to be shipped in which in turn, can delay things.  Currently, they are waiting on bolts to be made on Majuro – apparently these are backordered.

These huge wooden trusses will be lifted into place once they are all constructed and then the roof will be laid.  Until then, they are protecting them against the elements until they can be put in place and the church completed. Under the platform is a 100 gallon water catchment to be used for future school operations on the campus.  There are trailers for the teachers next year which have been purchased but not yet brought to Ebeye. Once here, they will be situated at the end of the church next to the catchment, and consequently, right on the lagoon.  It’s a good location.

A Little Art Inspiration

I love children’s art!  I always have.   When I give the kids time to create I get inspired by their work; so free, vibrant and whimsical.  Children’s art is pure.  They inspire me to create more myself and so, here is a small collection of my kids art and my own rough sketches.

And the work they’ve inspired in me:

Hooray for Crayola and copy paper!  Not much to choose from in terms of variety but the inspiration is what counts.  Thanks 4th Grade :)

Here Comes the Ocean

The ocean decided to make her way over the flood wall, past our doorstep and beyond to flood the campus.  I’ve never seen it rise so high and roll so far inland.  When I mentioned it to Noble, he said the same thing.  It was about 2-3 inches deep in places and around 25 yards onto our campus.  The school’s boat looks like it could float right up to the door.

It made for an interesting picture though :)

Some updates: Memorial Day went great and the kids had lots of fun.  It was hot and sunny so all of us got quite the burn.  Laura and Jon both ran in the adult teacher’s race and Laura won 3rd place!  She got some pretty good mullah for that too.  Way to go Laura!

We are busy prepping for Educational Week next week.  Spelling B’s, parades, games at Beach Park and we will be dedicating one of our morning assemblies to a creative game of life-size ‘educational concentration’.  Our school was chosen to lead the morning festivities at the Ebeye gym where all the schools on the island will be convening.  We are going to do a banner dance and sing For God So Loved the World.

I’ll be in touch…wrapping up February and heading into March…only good things in store!

Chocolaty Creamy Goodness

It was hot.  Our electricity was out and the temperature in my room was a stifling 89.8 degrees.  I had purposefully exited at around 86.4 because anything beyond that is a hazard to my emotional health.

Sitting comfortably on the couch in the library, I opened all the doors and windows to the school allowing the breeze to blow where it may.  Wasn’t much of a breeze. But I had my handy battery-operated fan and it was doing the trick.  I opened the pages of my Bonhoeffer book and feeling content, lost myself in the story for awhile.

Then it came to me…the cold, rich and creamy goodness of that chocolaty confection known as Dean’s Chocolate Milk.  I remembered.  I had left a half-quart of it on the door of the refrigerator the night before I departed for the islands.  I stared at it thinking, I should drink all of this. It will be my last for 10 months… but I could not drink another drop – it was eleven o’clock in the evening and I had already filled my belly to sheer fullness-of-joy.

Now I’m remembering it.  Like that long, haunting melody I Am Calling You, from the quirky film Bagdad Cafe…its a-calling…

I wonder if my friend Amy drank it, or tossed it out?  Dairy products are one item scarcely found on an island. It’s way too hot and too far to travel by boat that the whole delicate freshness of it is not lost somewhere after day 3 of transit.  But I miss it the most it seems.

I looked up over the rim of my book and glanced through the glass blinds to the lagoon.  I imagined what I would be doing if I were still in my old life, before God broke in and stole me away to this marvelous island and its people.  I’d be doing the boring, meticulous daily routines of that deadline oriented, high-stress job.   Here, I may be hot, hungry (only in appetite), and without certain comforts of my American Heritage, but I’m free.

So free.

I can think, move and breathe within myself with ease and joy.  It’s truly indescribable.

And I will be all the more enriched, happy and full from my experiences here when I return home.  Content knowing that just around the corner there’s pizza available, departments stores waiting and of course, Dean’s Chocolate Milk ready to be twisted open and gulped down; one chocolaty, creaming goodness at a time.  And next time, they’ll be no half-quarts left on the door of the fridge.

That is, until God calls again…

February!

Where has January gone?  It snuck by me in a flurry of after-holidays-acclamations, tests, report cards and parent conferences. February is teeming up to be a quite busy month.  We have Kwajalein Memorial Day week next week in which the kids will be racing at Beach Park and conferences will take place on Wednesday.  We have a PTA meeting tomorrow night about all the particulars of the daily routines.  And Jon is helping to make the float for the parade.

At the end of February is Education Week and an island-wide spelling-b for the kids.  Last year they were not able to put the event together and so Education Week entailed one outdoors meeting in the afternoon and it was over.  So we will also be busily planning for activities that week.  I’m sure I am about  to turn my head and it will be March.

The rains are back and consistent. I love it, really, because rain affords us showers and the convenience of faucet water.  Praise God for the rain!  Not to mention it conceals that burning equator sun.

Time for sleep.  We’ve got a big day tomorrow planning for the week and keeping our regular class schedules.  I’ll let you know how everything goes!

The young fellow on the right caught himself an octopus. As he was passing by, I asked for a quick snapshot, totally amazed at what I was seeing.

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.

The Twelve Hour Year: High Noon

I indeed stood still these past few hours.  The sun rose and did increasingly scorch the earth beneath my feet.  But He is the shade at my right hand, my keeper.  The sun shall not strike me by day nor the moon by night…and it has been a lonely night…not in company as I am surrounded by those who love me.  But somewhere deep He placed His finger upon my heart and I have had to face myself in the mirror of His pureness, righteousness and goodness.  In yielding I have made more progress than I thought.  But now, He is moving and beckoning me on.  I am refreshed, rejuvenated.  It is noon, and God makes a promise as the noonday:

Commit your way to the Lord;

Trust in him, and he will act.

He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,

And your justice as the noonday.

Psalm 37.5.6

I tuck my journal fearlessly under my arm and peer out over the land.  Time to get moving……my day is half gone.