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  But through the course of two years, I learned a lot about a culture that is straining to break free of the past outdated traditions while holding onto their heritage as a people.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.

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Reaching Out

Earlier this year a friend of mine, Ashley Waddell had it on her heart to start a small ministry for the kids in her neighborhood.  So she, along with several other friends, began inviting the kids on her street to her house every Sunday afternoon and sharing the love of God with them.  I got in on it when I returned this summer from the islands and it has truly been a blessing.  We usually have ice cream or food to share, along with games and a ministry time.  The main goal is just to show the kids we love them and let them know that God loves them too.

This past Sunday was special because we were preparing backpacks full of school supplies to give out free  to the kids before the start of school.  We handed out over 40 supply packs to the children.

Ashley located the district’s supply lists for each grade and God supplied EVERYTHING!  We just made sure the word got out and people started to donate: UK Healthcare backpacks for each of the children, paper, folders, binders, glue, pencils, sharpeners, candy(extra!), rulers, erasers, etc.  Due to the response from people like YOU we were able to supply their need.

Everyone eating pizza, donated from Pizza Hut.

The kids gathered around to hear PJ as she talked about a special friend, Jesus, who is always with them and ready to help them with everything, including school :)

Taking a peek…

Thank you so much to everyone who donated and/or came by to help in the fun; we really can make a difference in people’s lives by  shining the light of Jesus and just Reaching Out.  As Marie put  it so simply, “Today we’re being the church”.

Ashley and Jeremiah.

It’s all about His love flowing through us and into the lives of others.  Whether people are in need, or are well-off…we are called to walk in love towards them, regardless of where they are in life.

When we reach out, God’s grace is there to meet us.  He works the desire in our hearts then He gives us the ability to complete that vision.  And this vision travels through our neighborhoods, far and wide, rooted in consistency and dedication, spanning continents and oceans.  We as individuals can do our part, but we can’t do it alone.

We need the five-fold ministry to raise up the body of Christ.  But in this hour, it won’t be enough to just have pastors, prophets, evangelists, apostles and teachers doing all the work. It’s going to take more than just a few men and women to get the job done that God has for us.  It’s going to take the whole body flowing together with one heart and one mind…

And that takes unity.

Conclusion: Forging Unity through the Power of Diversity

Shining Your Light for Him was a perfect theme for this year’s retreat.  You can be a Baptist, a Catholic, an Episcopalian or Charismatic and if you let it, Christ’s light will shine through you.  There is no partiality with the Lord.  I saw Seventh-Day Adventists Spirit-filled worshiping God, Baptists praying next to Lutherans, a Methodist singing while next to them a Charismatic worshiped God with hands raised…and this was in the local church on Kwajalein, not just the missions group!  This was the unity of the Body of Christ like I had never experienced before in my life – it was beautiful, humbling, anointed and I was awestruck at the beauty of Jesus.

There will be a Church, too large to contain in structural buildings, that is comprised of people in unity, reaching beyond denominational lines and it will be spread throughout all cultures, crossing over oceans with no more fear of each other or of not being accepted by one another. If we are in Christ, we are all accepted. His Church is comprised of His servants not mine. Some may say, ‘Ashley, this really is not practical, not possible, not rational’.  That’s good.  I like to hear that.  Because God never does what is possible.  Only what is impossible.

Some may also say, ‘but we already are the Church, there’s nothing else to attain to.’ But I’ve seen (and myself partaken in) too many disputes, too many derogatory remarks concerning different denominations’ beliefs, from all sides, to believe that we have attained to unity the way the Holy Spirit originally intended.  Or do we think when Paul urges unity and peace between the brethren that it was intended only for the members within one church building?  They didn’t even have church ‘buildings’ before ~ 230 A.D.

In Romans chapter 14, Paul tells us, and I paraphrase, let not the one who eats [moves freely in all the gifts of the Spirit] despise the one who abstains [is unable to accept everything God has for them at this time.]  And let not the one who cannot accept pass judgment on the one who moves freely.

We have yet to attain to this.

But I have resolved to change my perspective and my confession on this matter.  I will welcome those who are weak in faith and those who are strong in faith without passing judgment.

As for the one weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions…be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”

Romans14, 2Corth1