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 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 were stunning.
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 is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.