Connecting the Chuukese Brethern

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV)

Chuuk is one of four states that comprise the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Chuuk is made up of 290 islands yet has a combined land area of about 50 square miles.1 Within the Chuukese lagoon is 823 square miles of ocean water, and only 40 of its small islands are inhabited.2 This distance is an essential factor when considering how to evangelize to unentered islands and how to connect existing believers across Chuuk. At this time, there is an Adventist presence on only four islands - Weno, Houk, Paata, and Ruo.

Weno is the main island of Chuuk, which is home to the capital city, as well as the Chuuk SDA School and the Weno SDA Church where I pastor. From here, I prepared for my pastoral trip to visit the western islands of Chuuk in September. It had been over two years since I had made the 12-hour trip to the island of Houk. I assured my wife Hattie Ifa - who is now the principal of our Chuuk SDA School - that she and the school would be in my prayers. I would return soon to assist her, as the school is in need of more teachers. I would also need prayers so our Father in heaven to bless and protect me during my visits. A couple of days prior to my trip, I participated in a one-week long exercise program coordinated by the Health Ministries Department at GMM. I felt my body had been strengthened for my trip.

View from the ship en route to Houk

With this spiritual and physical support, I boarded the MS Navigator - a national passenger ship that travels only once or twice a year to the beautiful, isolated island of Houk. It is about 200 miles away from the island of Weno. The work on Houk was started by Rufino Robert, Roger and Amy Krum, then followed by our Bible worker Candido Kinicho. While some have left to live in Guam and the USA, it remains home to about 40 of our members.

My last trip in 2018 concluded with the baptism of six precious souls, followed by a beautiful wedding of two of those baptized. During the ceremony at the beach, we had knelt by one short tree where I set my Bible down and blessed the couple's vows. A few months after their wedding, a typhoon hit Houk. The members told me that that tree was the only one left standing – a touching reminder of  God’s power to protect His children.

It was a blessing to reach Houk on the Sabbath day so we could spend those Sabbath hours together in Sabbath School and second service divine worship. Most of the people on the island are Catholic, including the chief of the island and his family. We learned he was sick and had the opportunity visit and pray with him. They were so happy and thankful for the prayers. It was a high Sabbath with the baptism of a precious soul named sister Rebecca Mikeas Likotu. She is the owner of the house that the members worship in. Land has been donated for our brethern to have a church one day, and we pray that day will come soon.

Pastor Ifa and the chief engineer Mr. Santiago

I returned to the cabin room which were my quarters on the ship. I was very thankful to God for providing a ship for me. There, I was also blessed to meet Mr. Santiago, the chief engineer of the ship. We had a brief Bible study and prayed together. I gave him a set of It Is Written Bible lessons along with a Bible and asked him to look for the SDA church when he returned to Pohnpei. He is very confident that the Sabbath is Saturday, set aside and blessed by God as the Lord's day of rest. He was very happy and is looking forward to worship on Sabbath with our Pohnpeian brethern. Please remember him and his family in your prayers.

I also met John, another engineer on the ship. He is the nephew of a late SDA member named Rita, whom I met while pastoring the Yap church. At that time, there were 12 precious refugees from Nepal and India who were baptized; four of them I am still engaged with. One is now attending seminary at Spicer University in India, one is working atone of our television stations, one is working in Norway, and one is the son of a predominant evangelical pastor in Nepal. Please pray for these brothers of ours.

Witnessing to new friends on the ship

I met many people on the ship -men, women, and children. I offered to pray with them. It is easy to make friends on a ship. I think of Jesus' best method to make friends by mingling with people. “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” (Matthew 4:23, NIV) Through our daily interactions with people, we can see their needs and engage with them.

This month, I plan to visit Paata church - only an hour boat ride away - and share in their Communion Service. Work began there with Kevin Costello, John and Teresa Krum's family, and the ministry of our Guam SDA Clinic. The brethren miss them all dearly. We built a church on a hill when I was much younger and stronger. Our school there is currently not operating due to a need for teachers. Families are eager for the necessary volunteers and staff to reopen the SDA school for their children. Pray for this ministry.

The precious church members of Houk

I last visited Ruo island in 2018 as part of my route to Houk. I plan to visit Ruo again in June 2021 and spend a few weeks constructing a building for Sabbath, Friday, and mid-week church services. Hattie and I, followed by 1000 Missionaries and local members, began the work on Ruo. We have about 35 members there and dream of building a new church on Hattie's family property. Pray for God to provide a good ship to get us there. The distance from Weno to Ruo is about 80 miles. I can travel there in the school’s small fiber boat in 4-5 hours if the weather is calm. Otherwise I must wait for the national ship to take the 8-hour trip. We pray that GMM continues to work on securing a boat for Chuuk so we can reach out to the many other unreached islands. Even just 10 minutes from Weno and within eyeshot of the Chuuk SDA school is the island of Fefan. The harvest of souls is plenty!

Remember the people of Chuuk in your prayers, as we need laborers to be teachers, missionaries, and Bible workers to go out to all the islands! “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14, NIV) Only then will we leave this battlefield we are living on and the great controversy will end. We pray for these things so the gospel of Jesus will go forward and He will return soon to take us all to the same wonderful home.



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