This post was written by Kimberly Ward, one of the Leaders of the outreach on Lib Island. There is no place to anchor at Lib so we dropped the team of and sailed on to Lae Atoll.
I hope this finds you all doing well! I just wanted to do a little update in regards to the Lib Outreach.
As soon as we climb off the ship we were welcomed by the entire island population - 166 people. Lots of hand shaking going on as we passed down the line of men, women and children singing a delightful song. Speeches of welcoming, more songs and food, lots and lots of food!
Once the official welcoming was complete Mela, Loreta, Boneta, and I began the process of the immunization clinic from house to house. The crowd seemed to move with us through the village to watch each person get poked with at least one needle.
Now, it’s not uncommon to find me, in villages such as these, holding the babies. Reality check for Kimberly. They all screamed when I made eye contact, except for a little one month old who was too small to know the difference. The bigger kids could not wait to touch one of the Rubelle, or white, but literally meaning clothed one.
After about 24 hours the nurses and I had completed the task of administering vaccines so we went for a walk to the lake in the center of the island. Our guide took us around the quicksand, but we did end up falling into the marsh up to mid calf in order to make it into the interior of the island. The beauty and peace of the place was amazing! (Photo 4)
The next day a little speed boat came in to drop off items and pick up the nurses. Watching the Hawaii Aloha sail away from shore was easy, but watching that boat sail away my heart sank knowing there would be an entire week before we could get off the island. My angst was short lived as Sunday turned into a day of celebration!
Mother’s Day arrived, as did the song, “Happy, happy Mama’s Day...” We attended church and realized no one brought money for the offering. It would not have been problem except, everyone participates in giving and dancing for all 5 offerings... OOPS!
Food, always in abundance for us could have fed everyone at the Port and still had enough leftovers for another partial meal. We no sooner had finished the Mama’s Day celebration when we were invited us to a baby “sour”. Not being certain what this was we agreed to participate, as any good missionary would. The team found ourselves at a house down the street sitting on the floor and praying over Melinda, the little one month old baby. No sooner had we finished then the mother hands us a “snack” - a palm leaf plate filled to overflowing with another meal. Attempting to eat more food less than 1.5 hours after a VERY full meal was overwhelming, but we continued to watch the baby “sour” unfold before us. Gifts, candy, Laundry detergent were placed in front of the mother holding the little one... and... then it clicked Baby Shower! Jessica went running back to our place for a gift to give. But the day was not finished. If you could have seen our faces when our host announced dinner!
Throughout the week days we all worked in the various classrooms teaching Bible, English, Math, Science, etc. In the afternoons each of us befriended different Marshalleese families. We would learn about Masrhsalleese customs like how to wash clothes (Photo 1) or teach guitar, play with the kids, or have heart-to heart conversations on topics such as purity or why a 38 year old woman is not married (this became cause for real concern among the Marshalleese people).
One afternoon the pastor’s wife called me over to chat. I sat down and the discussion once more turned to why I was not married. Evidently, she was not getting the answers she was seeking. She turned around and pulled out a dress and said, “For you.” “Thank you” I responded. Her husband saw what I had in my hand and left. Not thinking anything of it I quickly took control of the conversation preventing it from going back to... “and why are you not married?” We were laughing when her husband returned. “Here,” he said, “this is a gift for your special friend”. Puzzled, I took the gift and unfolded it. “Oh!” I exclaimed, eyes wide and mouth round in shock. I held up the matching man’s shirt to my dress and the Marshalleese around burst into laughter. (Photo 2)
With outreach drawing to a close we began to hear: “We are going to miss you,” “I shall cry for days when you leave.” “We have not had so much fun for such a long time.” “Can I go with you?” “We will be so boring when you gone”. My heart began to feel the isolation of how they live. To just drop by is not possible. Internet is hit or miss with the Satilitte and if one person is online there is no way anyone else can access the signal. No cellular network and treacherous shore line add to the isolation.
It’s now the night before we are to depart, another ceremony every person in the village comes bearing a gift - men, women, children. They walk through the line shaking our hands, singing a blessing over us, each leaving a gift on the table of handmade items. Many of the children had gone shell hunting and filled our laps with beautiful, exotic shells.
While giving a speech that night I shared from my heart. “I have been to 32 Nations around the world and left a piece of my heart in each, but here, on Lib Island I leave behind a large piece of my heart.”
We tried to out serve them and failed! We tried to out give them and failed! We were embraced by the community and made a part of the family.