You may be familiar with the Bible story about Cain and Abel (Genesis 4). While it taught us the dangers of jealousy and disobedience, a recent trip made me look at this story a little differently. Cain gave what he wanted, while Abel gave what God wanted – the best of his flock. These lessons lingered in my mind as I silently cried on the plane waving goodbye to Majkin.
Fourteen Ebeye Seventh-day Adventist School students and teachers visited the island of Majkin in the Namu Atoll for our Student Council trip. I wish I could say that we had always dreamt of going there, but really, we wanted to go somewhere other than Majuro, where the Seniors had their class trip.
Despite our initial reluctance, we discovered that Majkin is a beautiful island where one cannot visit without leaving changed. I never would have believed one week could have so drastically changed my life.
Upon landing, we were met with warm smiles and an unexpected welcoming party. We were given the red-carpet treatment as they greeted us with fresh chicken, fresh fish, coconuts, breadfruit – an island heaven! I couldn’t help but think of the prodigal son returning home to a party in his honor. Yet, while they celebrated the return of a lost child, these people treated us like family before even knowing us. It was an amazing way to kick off our spring break.
The following day, we stepped onto a boat for Namu Namu. It was high tide season and our tiny boat felt every single wave. Despite the potential motion sickness, it was worth it. Arriving in Namu was unlike anything I have ever seen or felt. The entire island was waiting by the water with flower leis and singing beautiful Marshallese songs. They had even canceled their classes so the children could come greet us – all to ensure that we felt welcomed! It was yet another welcoming party in our honor. The blessing we felt was indescribable as they fed us their best chickens then showed us around the island. One amazing, hard-working bubu (grandma) invited us into her home where she taught us how she makes coconut shavings to sell for coconut oil. I had never eaten so many coconuts in my life; up to that point, I didn’t even know I liked them.
Namu is gorgeous, with green stretches, clear water, and white beaches everywhere. However, the most beautiful part of Namu is the people of the island. Unfortunately, regardless of how wonderful, all good things must come to an end, and we had to return to Majkin before it got too dark. While it might be hard to believe for an island that has so little, another party was thrown in our honor to bid us goodbye. All the women and children presented us with goodbye gifts, including handicrafts and coconut oil. I wondered where it had all come from! We sat and laughed with them one last time as the women danced around us and sang beautiful Marshallese songs. Having made friends with the adults and the children made our stay so much better– I wish I could have brought one back with me.
The adventure continued as we explored other outer islands, swam and snorkeled in the ocean, and ate amazing food. Prior to being a missionary, I was a little scared of the ocean. Although I still struggle with that fear, I didn’t think twice before jumping off the boat with my snorkel to follow a rainbow fish. No other place I’ve snorkeled compared to those coral reefs so intensely saturated with color and outer island fishes that had limited human interaction. It was like a scene plucked right of the movie Finding Nemo. I swam in awe not believing what I saw right in front of me. All my fears were drowned by my excitement for the hundreds of fish species I had only seen on television. I had never seen such bright, rich colors and doubt I will ever see them again.It was impossible not to see what a dramatic impact we have on the earth after observing what the world could look like without human interference.
Sabbath on Majkin was amazing. The church didn’t have any technology like air conditioning or microphones. Just an open space filled with people who desired to be closer to God, and it was beautiful. My heart was filled in a way it had never been before, and I could feel God’s presence everywhere around me. Sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in our weekly chores and worries that we forget God made Sabbath for mankind to rest. On this island, we had no worries; we rested in the way God intended. The very first day, our students were having social media and A/C withdrawals, but by the last day, they didn’t want to leave. Watching my students truly enjoy nature without outside interference showed me how much of a blessing the Earth is; I am so thankful that I was able to learn how a Sabbath should truly be rested on. While I believe that home is like a piece of heaven on earth, I also believe that this island is as well.
The last night was bittersweet – our final farewell party. Our plates were mountains of delicious food, the juiciest fish and chicken, breadfruit, and honestly, other stuff I have no idea what it was but it was so good. Everyone on the island gathered around and, as they sang songs, thanked us for coming. As we each gave a speech, I could barely speak without tears rushing down like rain in a drought. Words could never fully depict my experience there or describe how much it truly affected me. My speech was short and sweet as I couldn’t formulate words to express my gratitude without my voice cracking. After lots and lots of food and more speeches came the gifts. They showered us with even more handicrafts and food to bring back to Ebeye. There was a table overflowing with sentiments for each and every one of us, with cookies and candies thrown everywhere. These goodbyes were so difficult. In such little time, these people had planted themselves so deeply into our hearts. With tears streaming down our cheeks, we waved our final goodbye as the plane took us away from a place we would most likely never return to.
My biggest regret is that I did not have more than just our clothes to give them that last night. But how could I ever repay their kindness? How could these people give everything they had without expecting anything in return? Jesus’s character truly shined through them and I could finally see the person God wanted me to be. You see, the people of Namu Atoll offered us the best of everything they had, just like Abel’s offering to God. We weren’t offered what they believed we may have wanted, but everything that they had. They have us their best chickens and new handmade fans representing hours of work – holding nothing back and expecting nothing in return. In the same way, I want God to be pleased with my offering. I don't want to offer what I think God would want, like Cain. I want to always give what God asks. In everything I do, I want to offer my best to God and others. He wants your first and best part of your thoughts, the first and best part of your time, talents and resources.
I thought these people would teach me how to survive on an outer island, but what I learned was much greater than I could have ever expected. Not only was I able to get a much-needed social media break, but in just seven days, I learned to be more like Jesus: generous, kind, hospitable. Namu has undoubtedly changed my life and had such a positive impact on it. This tiny piece of land now holds such a huge place in my heart and my biggest desire is to one day return and give them the best of my everything – just as they did for me.