Living on an island and near-ish other islands, I’ve had the opportunity of experiencing five islands in Chuuk so far – Weno, Tonoas, Ramunam, Udot and Pisar…only 70 or so more to go in order to hit up all the islands that make up the State of Chuuk.
As each of us in our group have District callings, we have the opportunity of visiting other islands and their church meetings as District representatives. Other island visits come with their own adventures, especially when dealing with limited ways of communicating. Last Sunday, my District visit was to Udot. The few solid folks here sure play a lot of roles living on an island – multiple church callings in addition to other life responsibilities. Our District President was also our boat driver – President/Captain Wainis, what a champion!
After our Saturday auxiliary meeting while discussing the next day’s visits, I was told to catch the boat with a few other members going to Ramunam on Sunday, then to meet up with the Primary President/Institute teacher, Teresa at Ramunam, and the two of us would catch a different boat to Udot. Plans often change, and with little communication or ability to do so, and the only option you have is to roll with it. I’ve begun to familiarize myself with the routes to and look of some of the islands, and on Sunday, I realized as we pulled up to a new island, plans had changed. Jaymie and I were dropped off at Udot and the two of us were left with the instructions to follow the main road aka dirt path that required single-file walking, until we saw the Church aka group meeting outside.
My problem-solving mind quickly began racing from, how is Teresa going to get here? How can I let her know I’m already here? How will we get back to Ramunam to catch our boat home? How do we introduce ourselves as the District visitors rather than the random American girls that we seem to be, about to walk into their church meting, which we were going to be late for since our boat had left late! Somehow, things always seem to work out.
As the two of us walked down the path, it became obvious that the meeting had already begun, and we were approaching during the most reverent and important part of church, Sacrament Meeting. I let Jaymie know they had already begun, our conversation ended, and from a short distance, we could tell that all eyes were on us, as the meeting was taking place outside and under a tent. There’s something about being in a new place, feeling out of place, then seeing the missionaries and knowing you are exactly in the right place. The sight of those white shirts and black name tags sure bring a feeling of familiarity and safety. As we approached we took our seats on a bench in the back, and I immediately felt that we were in a very humbling place of worship.
The members are categorized as a group since they are not yet large enough to be a branch. They meet on a tarp, under a canvas tent, and on this day in the pouring rain. One of my favorite moments was when the group of about 15 adults and 40 children sang the closing hymn “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.” On what seemed to be a random and small island in the middle of the Pacific, it was obvious that this faithful crew knew God was very aware of where and who they were.
Thankfully, there was another District visitor there, who happened to be from Ramunam, so all boat ride mysteries were solved – even though he almost left without us – it all worked out! After arriving at Ramunam and realizing they had just begun their final hour, an hour late, due to wanting to wait for the District President and other visitors to arrive, we realized our island adventure was still going strong as we joined in on another hour of church before heading out.
The meetings ended, we said our goodbyes and loaded the boat and were handed large Tupperware containers of rice and potatoes, plates of fish and bags of coconuts. At this point, it was still pouring rain and I was now overly anxious to find a bathroom. Right when I was hoping the boat would speed up, to my surprise, we slowed down, the motor was turned off and it was announced we would be having a picnic, on the boat, in the pouring rain…naturally. When in Chuuk, you eat as the Chuukese – no need for individual plates and utensils – you just grab a handful of rice, pass the communal platter of fish, eating it right off the bone and throwing the bones over your shoulder and into the ocean, drinking from your own coconut, while using your rain-soaked lap as your own little table. It was one of those moments when you think, “what is my life right now – this is such a great adventure!”
Over the last few weeks, we had been looking forward to our holiday weekend with having Friday off from school. We planned a trip to Pisar, the most incredible little oasis of an island, and invited more teachers to join us. Friday morning, our group of 15 set off for an overnight stay on our own island.
Pisar is on the edge of where Chuuk Lagoon and the Pacific Ocean meet, so a few of us took the adventurous walk to the edge and were knocked over by waves.
The sunset was unreal!
Sleeping in a hammock under the stars, and being surrounded by palm trees and the sound of the ocean waves crashing, was a really neat experience and was topped off with an incredible 5:00 am sunrise! The overnight trip was a phenomenal getaway filled with great chats, swimming at any hour of the day and night, sand volleyball, ukulele tunes and fresh coconuts straight from the trees – a solid bonding time with friends.