Page From A Diary
Life as a missionary in the Pacific can be
exciting. God always bring the best out of
us. Here is what happened recently.
“After a time in Guam off we went to Tarawa,
an atoll on the equator in the middle of
the Pacific. There we have three Neocatechumenal
communities that we needed to visit.
One unique experience was the three day convivence
that we did. It was one and only because
we had it on an isolated desert island just
off the main atoll of Tarawa. It is inhabited
only by two hogs, one dog, an infinite number
of mosquitoes and myriads of crawling creatures
of all types!
We were thirty and we had to carry everything
with us, including the beds (mats made of
pandanus) and even the Eucharistic table.
We boarded everything on a canoe and off
we went on Thursday afternoon. The boat left
us there. What an exploit! Showers … a pail
and a half-a-can of soda to pour water over
us, sleep on the ground (it was hard!), when
it rained we just got soaked. Night is dark
Yet, it was beautiful… An amazing stillness
around us. No distractions of any sort! Phones,
internet, TV... unheard of! Sky full of stars
(never seen anything like it). When the tide
went out, one could walk miles and miles
on sandy coral beaches. Sunrise and sunsets
We were scared because we did not know what
to expect. The surroundings were so unfamiliar
to us. But Jesus Christ did it again! The
brothers and sisters were so happy. Logistic
problems disappeared…and communion and joy
just flourished. The people speak Gilbertese
and so we had to use translation that made
everything even more precarious. But God
always works more when the instruments are
poor. Obviously an experience like this remains
etched in the memory for a long long time…
The Bishop also came for most of the convivence
and that was good.
The last night we were supposed to be in
Tarawa, he took us to a village and we were
entertained to local music and dances. The
villagers went out of their way to make us
feel at home. We had octopus for dinner!
Over sixty youth in their local costumes
entertained us with muscular dancing while
a choir of forty elderly women screamed their
wits out with some local songs. God treats
His children so well. Always gives them the
very best. I kept thinking how much I do
not deserve all this… And yet, and yet He
still gives and gives….
The next day we went to the airport to be
told that the plane is not coming because
it had a flat tire and by the time they repaired
the aircraft, it would not be able to land
because all the lights of the runway here
are broken and besides there is no fence
surrounding the airport! Next flight would
be in four days time!
I panicked because that would have made it
impossible for me to go to Israel, where
there was a convivence for Bishops of Asia
that I had to attend… A number of desperate
phone calls later, I found myself making
an enormous detour… flying to the island
of Nauru, then Solomon Islands, and then
Brisbane Australia to try to catch my flight
to Israel from Honolulu…. Have a look at
a map and you will understand the craziness
of it all…
All this whilst not having a single dollar
left, no contacts in Brisbane to host me
if I need to overnight, no travel agency
that could help us make the Brisbane-Honolulu
ticket. These islands are so basic!
But God provided again for all my needs.
A family in mission welcomed me in their
home (I had my first warm shower and ate
real food and slept on a real bed in three
weeks!). Next day I was in Honolulu for a
few hours, enough time to celebrate Eucharist
with communities who suffer a lot because
they rarely have Eucharist there.
After a long (another one!) flight, I found
myself in Tel Aviv. On to Galilee to participate
in the convivence of Bishops of Asia – one
cardinal, two patriarchs, eleven archbishops,
ninety Bishops! It was a very special convivence.
The Bishops even had Eucharist at the Cenacle
in Jerusalem. It was really touching to see
the hearts of a number of Bishops change...
How many graces!
And the adventure continues…
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
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