Survivor Kiribati – The First Weeks

Week 1

In the MTC everyone will tell you, “Just make it to Sunday.” Well, that’s also true for the field. Just make it to Sunday. I have learnt so many things since being here in Kiribati. But what has really stood out to me has been how real the enabling power of Christ’s Atonement is. Something from the MTC I remember is this: “When you think you can’t, you’re right. But with Christ’s help you can.” (Also see Philippians 4:13). Everyday is a struggle. The environment in which we work is completely different to anything I’ve ever experienced. Nothing could have prepared me for this and yet everything in my life has. The key to survival and especially enjoyment here in Kiribati is to think positively. It’s so easy to allow yourself to drown in the undesirable living and teaching conditions but if you stay positive, relying always on Jesus Christ and the enabling power of His Atonement you can do all things. I have been able to do more than I had ever imagined, and I’m sure more than my family and friends could have imagined, because I have relied on Christ. He has strengthened me beyond my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical capacities.

It’s hot. Like so hot that there is a constant sheet of sweat all over my body. We’re so blessed however because our house has air conditioning. It’s so good that I have to wear a jersey, pants and socks at night. I get so cold that I wake up multiple times during the night. I only have a sheet to sleep with because that’s all we were told to bring haha. #Struggle. Despite the heat, the sun is so good to me and is giving me a nice tan so hopefully soon all the little kids will stop saying “Tia bo ematang!” Ematang is what they call anyone and everyone who isn’t from Kiribati. I do actually love it. They, the little kids, get so shy sometimes to say hello to me and when I Hi-5 them they run away giggling because they touched my skin.

The food is so good! The people are amazingly kind to us. We’ve had dinner appointments every night since I’ve come. Even a breakfast appointment! We have rice and chicken mainly but there has even be a few donuts! Like keke donuts! They’re so yummy. I don’t know if I’m losing or gaining weight haha.

I think I was bitten by some red ants and my skin is allergic to it so I’ve got these massive rashes on the bottoms of my legs. They’re only itchy when we walk in the sun. The heat aggravates them. I’ve prayed more fervently than I’ve ever prayed before. I don’t want the itchiness to affect my ability to concentrate during lessons or to work and I’ve been able to see how the Lord has answered my prayers. When we pray with real intent and petition Him for blessings for a purpose He will grant them unto us which is what I have witnessed since being on my mission (not just in Kiribati but in the MTC as well).

What I love most about the field is that when you teach people, you can literally see how God is working in their lives. You can see how the doctrines of the Gospel are helping to change them and comfort them and how much more blessed their lives are because of it. That is the greatest miracle I have witnessed thus far! From babes to the elderly, everyone needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessings that come from living it.

Week 2

The Reality of Serving a Mission in Kiribati
I thought it would be beneficial for those serving in Kiribati to get an idea of what it’s like serving a mission here and also for those who are just interested too. A typical day goes like this:
Set the alarm for 6:15am and keep snoozing it until 6:30am. Get up, get changed and get out of the house. Our house is on the chapel grounds so it takes us about 2 seconds to go to our gym (aka the basketball court outside). By this stage it’s probably around 6:40am so we run laps for about 15 minutes. Some days we walk laps because the struggle is real and we feel lazy. Some days the YSA will come and play volleyball or half court basketball. Bear in mind it’s so hot outside already that you’ll probably start sweating even if you’re just standing there doing nothing much productive. 7am hits and we hit the house to shower. From 7am to 8am we prepare ourselves. Sometimes we have breakfast, sometimes we don’t. It just depends on personal preference and whether or not you actually have food to eat. Some days it’s Weetbix or crackers in milk (when I say milk what I really mean is milk made with water and milk powder) and others it’s rice, donuts (aka keke), noodles or a combination of all three.
From 8am-12noon we have personal study, companion study, language study, 12 Weeks Training (for new missionaries.. and it’s for 12 weeks #SaveMe). Some days we will only have enough time to study for about 30 minutes each section and some days we don’t even have that. It all really depends on the day (for example, Wednesday we have District Meeting and on Sunday church is at 9am). By this stage all we really want to do is sleep so we do. We use our hour lunch break to nap and then when 1pm hits we go out in the blistering heat and teach.
Teaching in Kiribati isn’t like anything you would have thought it would be. Homes usually aren’t enclosed buildings. They’re more like “shacks”. We teach sitting on the floor, crossed legged. Most times after sitting there for 15-20 minutes our legs get numb and tingley and people laugh at us because we’re walking funny but trying not to. While we teach there are pigs squealing, roosters making noise (you know I always thought that roosters only crow at about 6am in the morning… total LIE! They crow all day everyday), chickens flying all around, flea infested and diseased looking cats and dogs walking around, music blasting from the neighbour’s house, people walking through the house, past the house and all around the house, children running to the side staring at us and trying to get our attention. In all this, somehow the Spirit is able to testify to those we teach that our message is true and is from God.
We go from one appointment to another walking through small paths, under hammocks, past people and children who are half naked if not full. We walk through dust which sticks to the sweat on our skin and once dry, becomes itchy. We walk along roads where the dust is unsettled and we breathe in, resulting in coughs and croaky voices. We smell all kinds of things – food, faeces, sweat, urine. We are called out to by many people, some friendly and welcoming and others more teasing and unsettling by the opposite sex. We see people who are so drunk that they are urinating in public spaces everywhere. Children everywhere will come up to us and hug us and touch our skin and try to hold our hands. They’ll say “ematang” or “Saina” (to me especially, it means China) and some of the cheeky ones will start imitating the Mandarin language. We eat food that sometimes gives us diarrhea and then take pills to stop it, only to then become constipated. We drink water, most times with sugar or some form of sweetener with little bugs or dirt in it.
By the time 7pm rolls around I am so grateful. We usually have dinner appointments at this time with members. They are so wonderful and so kind and are a true blessing after a long, hot and sweaty day. We laugh and talk. But really, most of the time I sit there wondering and trying to figure out what it is being said. Sister Tui will often translate for me.
We go home, plan and prepare for the next day. We take turns showering. Some days there is no running water so we take two big buckets and fetch water from the rain tank behind the chapel. We write in our journals and then it’s our favourite time of the day – sleep! We sleep on mattresses so worn that we can feel the springs popping through. Sometimes power will be out so our AC doesn’t work and if that happens it is so hard to sleep. But then your testimony grows because you’ll wake up in the middle of the night so freezing because power is back on and so is the AC.
And then you wake up and it’s another day, another dollar.
Why? Why do we endure all this and for 18-24 months of our lives? Because there is one, named Jesus Christ, yea even the Son of God who left His throne high in the heavens to descend below all things so that we could rise above all things. He endured more than we can comprehend and why? Because he loves us. So we can endure this and we can endure it well, eventually growing to love it.
“I’ve always believed that you can look amazing no matter where you serve. It’s all up to you! As representatives of Jesus Christ we are to look our best. Of course depending on where we serve will determine to what extent we look our best and what is appropriate but just because we are serving in Kiribati is no excuse to let ourselves go or lower the Lord’s standard as outlined in the White Handbook.”
“We went to a funeral the other day and ate some bad food which gave us diarrhea. Luckily we took some pills to stop it only to find that two days later we had constipation from the pills.”
“Taarea getting baptised!”
“Look at his face! He’s just glowing! He said that when he was baptised he could feel that Heavenly Father had forgiven him for all of the things that he had done wrong.”
“Me just looking amazing. But what you can’t see is the sweat from walking around all day or my dirty feet from the dust.”

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