“Here are your favorite enemies,” someone said before the photo above was snapped. Right he was. The two are my favorite duelists: Tony DeBrum and Peter Christian. One of them is a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize for the work he has done on calling attention to climate change in this part of the world. The other is a former student who is now President of FSM. Both sharpened their debating skills at Xavier High School a few decades ago, and have practiced on me over the years.
This film opens with a man and his 20-year-old son out in a small boat fishing off Kosrae. It closes with the man fishing, this time alone. What has happened to the son? That’s the story behind this unusual visual tale filmed by Nathan Fitch, who served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kosrae not long ago.
I was sitting in the back of a village church waiting to say mass when a teenage girl asked how old I was. When I told her that I was 76, she scrunched her eyes in disbelief, looked at me again, and then said “I thought you were much older. You look at least 90.”
I really did feel like 90 a couple days earlier after three one-on-one games with a basketball buddy from the Philippines. I felt at least that old many times during this trip to Pohnpei as I tried to remember the names that wouldn’t come, as friends came up to offer their good wishes. But, whether 76 or 90, I couldn’t help but be rejuvenated by the return to my old stomping grounds. At times, I felt as if I were 24 again–my age when I first arrived here in 1963.
What is the mission of the church today, and how can we best carry it out in the islands today? Those were the driving questions behind the diocesan workshop that was held in Chuuk towards the end of July. Following their retreat, most of the local priests attended, but many others were also on hand–about 80 people in all. They didn’t sit silently and just listen, either. Joe Saimon from Pohnpei, Santi Asanuma from Palau, Deacon Joseph Albert from Chuuk, and Deacon Burdensio Andreas from Pohnpei were just some of the many who contributed to the active discussion in the workshop. At the end of the week, we did some minor editing on the old vision statement for the church in Micronesia before we adopted it. We can hope that it will help us focus on our task in the years ahead.
This photo posted on my Facebook needs a little explanation. So let me explain. I was in Washington for two days in response to a request to help find a way to bring together Pacific Island representatives in Washington to engage in a discussion of issues that are important to them. After all, Micronesia has three ambassadors in DC (FSM, Palau and the Marshalls) not to mention the other Pacific Island embassies within the Beltway. But there are also three members of US Congress from the islands–Guam, CNMI and American Samoa. Why not try to get them together to meet occasionally on Pacific matters?
Max Yarawamai’s story is that of an island boy who made good. Today he owns a landscaping company on the Big Island of Hawaii that employs over 200 people and has big projects underway all over the state. Despite his success, he has not lost contact with his own people. Max, born in Ulithi, has set up clinics on his own atoll and has built a park that provides basketball, volleyball and other freetime activities for other migrants.
The move to Honolulu didn’t come easily for Lukunor-born Innocenta Sound. She was uprooted suddenly to care for her father, the former lieutenant governor of Chuuk, when he went on dialysis in Hawaii. The former policewoman became a social activist even as she began full-time work with fellow migrants in a low-income neighborhood of the city. She lives out the ideal of islanders taking care of their own.
Lowery Lowery, born in Kosrae, had an interest in security from the outset. After graduating from PATS, he joined the US Marines and served in Iraq. Later he became a key figure in a local security company in Hawaii. Like so many other community leaders, he has been asked to play a key role in helping his fellow migrants. Besides serving as a lay leader in his church, he has been asked to preside at community events.