Paradise. That word may make you think of a lush tropical island, bright blue skies, palm trees swaying in a soft breeze, white sandy beaches, clear ocean waters and colorful fish, a spectacular sunset. Micronesia fits that image of paradise. Its beauty is breathtaking.
But there are also things here that you would never associate with paradise. These islands were badly scarred by brutal battles during World War II, and today people of Micronesia battle economic problems, crime, and disease. An ever-growing number are realizing that the deep-seated problems of humankind must be solved before this can ever really be paradise.
Variety, the Spice of Micronesian Life
There are various island groups within Micronesia, each different in its appeal and culture. Surprisingly, each has its own distinct language, unintelligible even to people of nearby island groups.
There is no such thing as a typical Micronesian island. Some are rich, others poor. Rugged volcanic islands such as Pohnpei ascend to over 3,000 feet [900 m], while some slender atolls are so flat that they rise no more than a few feet [a meter] above sea level. Majuro of the Marshall Islands is such an atoll. During stormy weather, waves sometimes wash across entire sections of the atoll.
Micronesians are friendly and attractive people. Many of them live off the land and the sea. They harvest food staples from their family property, perhaps raise a few chickens or pigs, and catch fish from the ocean.
It is believed that these isolated islands were originally settled by people sailing east from Asia and west from Melanesia, but Spanish explorers of the 1500’s were the first Westerners to reach Micronesia. They brought their religion with them. Today the Roman Catholic Church is deeply entrenched on most of the islands, along with a generic form of the Protestant faith that was established by Christendom’s missionaries of the late 1800’s.
GUAM: Hub of Island Activity
Micronesia, which means “little islands,” includes some 2,000 scattered islands, about 125 of which are inhabited. These are spread out over a portion of the globe that is roughly the size of the continental United States. Yet the islands are so tiny that their combined landmass is only about 1,200 square miles [3,100 sq km]—not much larger than that of Rhode Island, the smallest state in the United States.
The gateway to Micronesia is Guam, where airline flights to many of the other islands originate. Of the 470,000 inhabitants of Micronesia, 150,000 are found on Guam. With a length of 32 miles, [51 km] Guam is the largest of the Micronesian islands. It is also the most developed. Congested highways and a hectic life-style set this island apart from the other islands, with their more leisurely pace.
Long prized by military powers for its strategic position in the Pacific, Guam is at present an American stronghold. More than a third of the land is controlled by the U.S. military. However, Guam is also a strategic location for spreading the good news of God’s Kingdom. At the Watch Tower Society’s branch office, material used for Bible education is printed in 11 languages for distribution throughout Micronesia.
Kingdom Truth Reaches a ‘Last Frontier’
During his dedication talk for the Guam branch facility in April 1980, Milton Henschel, of the Governing Body, described Micronesia as “one of the last frontiers” in the work of Kingdom preaching. Because Micronesia is made up of many secluded islands and such a wide array of native languages are spoken here, this tropical ‘last frontier’ has proved to be most challenging.
For 40 years faithful missionaries have met that challenge with hard work and ingenuity. During those years, at least 175 missionaries have served in Micronesia, and this has been an important factor in developing the 26 congregations and about 1,300 Witnesses now active on the islands.
Only a handful of the 63 missionaries currently serving in Micronesia attended the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. Most are pioneers from the Philippines and Hawaii who were invited to undertake missionary service. For many this meant exchanging the comforts of home for a more primitive life-style. On some islands, there are few decent roads, no electricity, and no running water. The missionaries are exposed to much sickness and disease; they must withstand weather that is hot, humid, and sometimes violent. Destructive typhoons are a threat almost year-round. But the missionaries have seen satisfying fruitage for their labors.
Bible truth has found a firm foothold on each of the major islands. Among those who embraced the Kingdom message first were influential islanders. In Pohnpei, for instance, there was Carl Dannis, a member of the Pohnpei legislature. In Kosrae one of the first Witnesses was Fredy Edwin, who spoke seven languages and was related to the king. Augustine Castro, who had once studied for the priesthood, helped start a congregation in Saipan. And on Guam, former boxer Tony Salcedo used his popularity to give people a message that could help them enjoy a peace that lovely island surroundings had never given them.
How the Good News Reached Guam
Tony Salcedo was not the first Witness to come to Micronesia. In fact, he was not a Witness when he arrived. He came to Guam from the Philippines in 1948 as a contract worker on postwar reconstruction. Several of his fellow workers were Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they began to teach Tony the Bible.
These zealous brothers organized the first congregation in Micronesia in December 1951, but in 1954 all of them except Tony were forced to leave Guam when their company folded. Tony, who had given up boxing, was permitted to stay because he had married a Guamanian girl.
In the mid-1950’s, meetings were held in the Salcedo home, and the congregation grew to 12. Their preaching territory was the entire island. “Every Saturday, we would go in field service all day long, and soon people in all the villages knew who we were,” Tony said.
Rugged Conditions Awaited Them
Back then Guam did not even remotely resemble the bustling island resort it is today. Sam and Virginia Wiger, the first missionaries assigned to Guam, well remember their arrival in 1954.
“At that time Guam was strictly a military base,” Sam said. “The island was devastated from the war; live bombs and ammunition were everywhere, war equipment was rusting away, and Japanese snipers were still being found and apprehended. My wife and I rented a Quonset hut that had no refrigerator, air conditioner, bed, or other furniture. We slept on cloth army cots covered by mosquito nets.”
The Wigers’ preaching efforts were so successful that soon a larger meeting place was needed, so the congregation rented a vacant military mess hall and gave it a thorough cleaning. The building was located across the road from a Catholic church. When our brothers erected a Kingdom Hall sign, the Catholic priest protested.
Then lightning struck. During a rare electrical storm, a bolt of lightning toppled the church steeple and shattered several idols. “The priest told his parishioners that God had meant to strike the Kingdom Hall but missed,” Wiger said. “When the people did not believe that explanation, the priest made up another story. He said that God destroyed the church because they needed a bigger and better one.”
Getting Into the Trust Territory
When the Wigers were assigned to Japan as missionaries, added responsibility went to Merle Lowmaster, a tall brother who was often smiling but was always serious about the truth. The Watch Tower Society asked Merle to make an exploratory trip through Micronesia in 1960. Because the islands were a U.S. trust territory, he needed a travel permit from the high commissioner, a surly and uncooperative man who told Lowmaster: “Over my dead body will you get into the trust territory.”
His death proved unnecessary, however. Just three months later, a new high commissioner was appointed, and Merle received his travel permit. Thus he came to be the first person to speak the Kingdom message on the islands of Saipan, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Belau, and Yap.
Personal Help From the Society’s President
Tragedy struck Guam in November 1962, when Typhoon Karen roared across the island with winds of nearly 200 miles per hour [320 km/hr], killing nine people and causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage. Happily, none of the brothers lost their lives, but they did lose their Kingdom Hall. When prospects for a new building looked bleak, a recently baptized sister came to the rescue with a generous donation of land. There, a larger Kingdom Hall was constructed, which was completed in time for a 1964 zone visit by N. H. Knorr, then president of the Watch Tower Society.
With a view to having a thorough witness given in this part of the inhabited earth, Brother Knorr assigned six newly arrived missionaries to work in various parts of Micronesia. He told them: “While these areas may seem foreign, remember that you are always at home on planet Earth. The only really foreign missionary was Christ, because he left the heavens to serve here. Stick to your assignment until the work is done!”
During the few years prior to this, traveling overseers had been making a journey through the islands once a year by cargo boat. They visited the very few Witnesses who were on the islands, did witnessing themselves wherever the boat stopped, and gave further encouragement to any who had shown interest on earlier visits. Brother Knorr suggested that the circuit trip be made twice each year by airplane.
Traveling Overseers Contribute to Growth
Beginning in 1968, this aerial tour of Micronesia was made by Nathaniel Miller, a traveling overseer from Hawaii. Since many older Micronesians spoke Japanese and Miller had been a missionary in Japan, he was a logical choice for the strenuous assignment. Why strenuous? “Travel from Honolulu round trip through these islands by air was more than 9,000 miles [14,000 km],” Miller recalls.
Upon arrival in Guam, he found a discouraged congregation. There was a lack of growth, and territory was not being covered regularly. Miller recommended that four more missionaries be sent to Guam, with a second missionary home on the south end of the island.
In 1969, Guam and the territories of Micronesia were assigned to the Hawaii branch. Starting with 1970, Robert K. Kawasaki, Sr., Hawaii Branch Committee coordinator, also made visits to Micronesia, serving circuit assemblies, district conventions, and missionary homes once a year.
Results of this personal attention by spiritual shepherds were soon evident. Guam’s “Men of Goodwill” District Assembly in 1970 drew a peak attendance of 291, with newspapers, radio, and television all providing daily publicity. Yet, there was certainly room for more workers in this part of the field. From where would they come?
Robert and Mildred Fujiwara were regular pioneers who operated a grocery in Hawaii, but they longed to serve where the need was greater. They fulfilled that dream in 1970 by moving to Guam with three children ranging in age from 8 to 16. Was such a move good for them and their children? All their children are now grown and married, and they are all zealous servants of Jehovah. Two of the children are serving at the Guam branch, and another is a pioneer. There was just one congregation on Guam when the Fujiwaras arrived. They have had the joy of sharing in the work as the number of congregations has grown to nine, with one other group. These are organized to care for people who speak six languages. Several other families also came to help in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Branch Address Easy to Remember
In 1976 the Guam Kingdom Hall, built in 1964 and expanded in 1969, was demolished by Typhoon Pamela. “Guam looked as if a steamroller had flattened the island,” a brother said.
Instead of rebuilding the modest-sized meeting place, a new L-shaped branch facility was constructed, consisting of an office, a printery, six bedrooms, and a spacious 400-seat Kingdom Hall that could also accommodate assemblies. To withstand typhoons, it was built with steel-reinforced, 8-inch [20 cm]-thick concrete walls. A brother who had moved over from Hawaii commented: “It was so big, we thought we would never fill it. There were only 120 Witnesses on the entire island, and we bounced around in that place like marbles in a shoe box.” Just a few years later, that enormous Kingdom Hall was straining to contain assembly audiences.
Brother Miller, noted for his vigorous handshake and distinctive laugh, became the first Guam Branch Committee coordinator. Two experienced brothers joined him on the committee—Robert Savage, who had been branch overseer in Vietnam, and Hideo Sumida, who had served on the Hawaii Branch Committee.
When the branch was first built, mail was picked up at a post office box. A government worker came by one day, however, and explained that he was assigning street addresses so that mail could be delivered. As he was spraying number “143” on the building, Miller asked him what their street would be named. The man said: “I don’t know. Why don’t we look on the map and find out.” To Miller’s surprise the government had named it Jehovah Street.
Do-It-Yourself Building Projects
Other building work also needed to be done. Early in the 1980’s, Jim Persinger, in the United States, decided that his cement plant was taking up too much of his time, so he and his wife, Jene, chose to simplify their lives. They built a 50-foot [15 m] concrete sailboat, named it Petra, and set sail for Guam. The Persingers’ boat proved invaluable on construction projects.
Between 1982 and 1991, missionary homes and Kingdom Halls were built on six of the Micronesian islands. Lack of materials made construction a challenge. On some building projects, the brothers had to make their own concrete blocks by hand. They would pour cement into a small mold and let it set. They made their own gravel by smashing coral, and they had to provide their own sand. To transport supplies and workers from one island to another, the Petra was often used. “When we were building the Kingdom Hall in Chuuk, you couldn’t buy sand on the island,” Jim Persinger explains, “so we would sail out to a small island where nobody lived, and we would shovel sand from the beach into bags. Then we would load it onto the boat and sail back to the construction site.”
Ray Scholze, who had military engineering experience, was overseer for most of the Micronesian construction projects. At the core of his work crew were Calvin Arii, Avery Teeple, and Miles Inouye, who had come from Hawaii to help build the new branch and then made Guam their home. Together, they often improvised to get a job done.
More Growth Under New Oversight
Brother Miller left Guam in 1987 when he learned that his wife was terminally ill. Replacing him as coordinator was tall, energetic Arthur White, who had served on the Hawaii and the Guam Branch Committees and had also been traveling through Micronesia as a district overseer since 1981. Under his oversight the Guam branch has undergone many changes. Two Kingdom Halls have been added at the branch complex, and a construction project completed in 1995 provided badly needed office and factory space plus new residence rooms.
Serving with him on the Branch Committee are Julian Aki and Salvador Soriano, longtime missionaries in Micronesia. Sadly, Hideo Sumida, one of the original committee members, died after contributing several years to establishing the branch in Guam.
Speaking in Foreign Tongues
As the island of Guam has developed, its foreign population has increased. Missionaries have been added to cultivate the Tagalog, Iloko, Korean, and Chinese fields.
For 14 years Ernesto and Gloria Gabriel have been witnessing to the Filipino community, which accounts for one fourth of Guam’s population. Together, the Tagalog and Iloko congregations are larger than any of the island’s five English congregations.
Korean missionary Jung-Sung Chung arrived in 1985. “The climate was so hot and humid,” he recalls, “that my wife and I would take several showers a day to rinse off our perspiration.” They preached long hours in the heat, however, and their example of determination helped to establish a small, but strong, congregation.
An intensive witness is being given to the inhabitants of Guam. There is, on an average, one Witness for every 262 of the population.
KIRIBATI: They Know Us as Te Koaua
Though Kingdom truth had first reached Guam from the Philippines, it was taken to Kiribati (then known as the Gilbert Islands) from New Zealand. The islands were a British colony, and our preaching was restricted, but Huia Paxton gained entry in 1959 as a pharmacist and remained until 1967. He found a group of beautiful atolls—often quite narrow, always hot and humid—straddling the equator.
Huia’s work took him to all the Gilbert Islands where he, his wife Beryl, and their two young sons looked for opportunities to speak about the Bible. At a picnic a woman asked their five-year-old boy, Stephen, if his God had a name. “Yes. His name is Jehovah,” Stephen replied. His answer led others to ask questions. Before long, the Paxtons were conducting a large group Bible study every Sunday.
Before they returned to New Zealand, the Paxtons arranged for a special meeting on an uninhabited atoll. A baptism talk was given that day, and five Gilbertese symbolized their dedication to Jehovah by water immersion in the lagoon. Unfortunately, the zeal that those islanders displayed at first slowly diminished.
Later, a Gilbertese man named Nariki Kautu went to Australia to attend school to learn accounting. While there, he also studied the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and was baptized. “When I returned in 1978 with my family, we began to ask if there were any others of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kiribati,” Brother Kautu recalls. He soon realized that Jehovah’s Witnesses were practically unknown in his home islands. “We found one older couple and another man and his children, but there were no organized meetings, and none of the Society’s literature was available in the Gilbertese language,” he says. “We began to meet each Sunday. We would pray, read from the Bible, and since I was the only one who could read English, I would explain something from the Society’s publications.”
Kingdom Hall—More Than a Building
In 1982 the little group in Kiribati was reinforced with the arrival of Paul and Marina Tabunigao, missionaries who had been assigned there. Meetings were held at the missionary home and later were moved to a schoolroom, but Jehovah’s Witnesses were not regarded as a “proper religion” until their Kingdom Hall was built in 1991. International volunteers did most of the work, and local people marveled that “strangers” would offer their time and money to help with the construction. Thus the Kingdom Hall became tangible evidence of the loving unity among Jehovah’s people.
Many were attracted to the truth as a result. One sister who was baptized shortly after the construction project said: “I was deeply impressed by the fact that this small congregation was being assisted by visitors from overseas.” That “small” congregation has swelled from 28 publishers in 1990 to about 70 today, making it one of the fastest-growing congregations in Micronesia.
Society’s Books Highly Esteemed
Although some tracts and brochures were available, not until You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth arrived in 1994 could local people read one of the Society’s books in their own language. “There are only a few publications of any kind available in the Gilbertese language,” says Edi Possamai, a missionary serving faithfully with his wife, “and certainly nothing approaching the quality of this book.”
The Live Forever book has now been published in six Micronesian languages, and the Gilbertese edition has had a great impact. That book has moved many islanders to study the Bible. Some have even been seen taking their Live Forever book to church.
The people in Kiribati have affectionately coined nicknames to describe the religions represented on their islands. Because Protestants close their eyes while praying, they are known as Kamatu, which means “To Make Sleep.” Seventh-Day Adventists are called Itibongs, or “Seven Days.” What do they call Jehovah’s Witnesses? Te Koaua, which simply means “The Truth.”
MARSHALL ISLANDS: An Opening for Service
There had been Witnesses on Guam for a dozen years before an adventurous American couple took the good news to the Marshall Islands, some 2,000 miles [3,200 km] to the southeast of Guam. Powell Mikkelsen and his wife, Nyoma, had intended to go to the Bahamas to serve where there was a greater need, and with that in view, they purchased a 34-foot [10 m] yawl, which they named Integrity. Before they could set sail, however, Powell was offered a job overseeing the construction of a large electric power plant in the Marshall Islands. The Watch Tower Society urged him to take the position. At the time, because of legal restrictions on the entry of foreigners, there were no Witnesses in the Marshall Islands.
While Brother Mikkelsen cared for his responsibilities in connection with construction of the power plant, he and his wife made the most of their opportunity to help the islanders spiritually. They arrived at Kwajalein Atoll in 1960 and later dropped anchor at Majuro Atoll, where they taught themselves to speak Marshallese. When they witnessed, the amiable islanders seldom refused to listen, and by 1964 Powell and Nyoma were conducting 12 Bible studies, including one with the Iroij Lap Lap (High King) of Majuro.
Julian Aki and Melvin Ah You, both of them missionaries, joined the Mikkelsens there in 1965, and in just a few months, these enthusiastic brothers had learned enough Marshallese to present a simple sermon and had also constructed an A-frame missionary home.
To provide a place for meetings, a makeshift Kingdom Hall was erected by stretching the mainsail from Integrity over several pandanus poles that were set in the ground. “As our crowds got larger, we just added more sail,” Brother Mikkelsen said. “Next came the mizzen sail; a little later, on went the jib sail. When we had no more sails left, the time had come to build a ‘proper’ Kingdom Hall.”
Islanders Impressed by New Missionaries
To begin the 1966 service year, Aki and Ah You decided it was time to become better acquainted with their territory, so they booked passage on an iron-hulled cargo ship that stopped at the outer atolls of the Marshall Islands. Also aboard for this 24-day field trip was a newly married Protestant minister who had been in the islands for three years. Radio announcements alerted each atoll that “the reverend” and his bride would soon be arriving. How disappointed the islanders were when this minister spoke through an interpreter! He had never bothered to learn Marshallese.
When this minister warned his listeners to avoid the “two false shepherds” on board, people became even more curious to see the missionaries of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were speaking their Marshallese language and relating marvelous things from the Bible. Time and again they would beg: “Stay here and teach us the Bible. We will care for your needs. Just stay with us until the next ship!”
Culture Shock for the Circuit Overseer
When Nathaniel Miller flew out of Hawaii on his first circuit trip through Micronesia in 1968, the initial leg of his journey landed him in Majuro. “I remember my first sight of the tiny atolls of the Marshall Islands,” he recalls. “The DC-9 descended to make a landing but, instead, went up again and circled the airport. Looking down, I could see men running pigs off the airstrip to clear it for landing. Another obstacle was a car parked on the runway. A group of men picked the car up and walked it off!”
For someone coming from Honolulu, this was culture shock. The Majuro airport had an open-air “terminal” constructed of coconut fronds and a runway made of coral. “I was not used to the idea of coral stones hitting the fuselage of planes when landing,” Miller said. Once on the ground, he and his luggage were deposited in the back of a pickup truck and driven to the missionary home over a bumpy, unpaved road.
The Kingdom Hall at that time had a tin roof, no walls, and only the hard ground for a floor. “I spoke, through a translator, to a small group of 20 on my first visit,” Miller recounts. “The talk was interrupted by a large hog wandering into the Kingdom Hall!”
Where Are the Dead—Really?
Marshallese churches foster some very unusual beliefs. One day William Maddison, a Protestant deacon, tested Julian Aki: “In Philippians, Paul wrote that ‘every knee would bend to Christ, those in heaven, on the earth, and under the ground.’ My question is, ‘Who are those under the ground?’” (Phil. 2:10) When Brother Aki explained that they were the dead who would be resurrected, William was elated. He had been bothered by his church’s teaching that those “under the ground” were the ri menanui, “little people” who, according to Marshallese legend, came above ground only in the dead of night.
William immediately arranged for his family to study the Bible with Brother Aki, and he and his wife, Almina, were baptized together in 1966. He has served as an elder since 1983, and she has been a regular pioneer for 28 years, longer than anyone else in Micronesia.
Marshallese churches also teach that hell is a large iron pot in heaven where sinners are scalded in boiling water. Sailass Andrike, like many, believed this “death in heaven” doctrine. When he was shown from the Bible, however, that the dead return to dust, Sailass accepted the truth and was baptized in 1969. (Gen. 3:19) He was instrumental in obtaining land for a new Kingdom Hall, and he also became the first Marshallese translator. A congregation was formed in Majuro in 1967. With such local brothers as William and Sailass assuming responsibility, Julian Aki and Donald Burgess, a newly arrived missionary, were able to move on to Ebeye, a tiny atoll in the western Marshall Islands.
About the size of four city blocks, Ebeye was home to just a few hundred Marshall Islanders until lucrative U.S. military jobs on nearby Kwajalein Atoll pushed the population to more than 8,000. Each day, the islanders commute by ferryboat to work at the large Kwajalein military base.
Radio Broadcasts to the Marshallese
The radio has been used as a preaching tool throughout Micronesia, but most effectively in the Marshall Islands. Radio station WSZO, known as The Golden Voice of the Marshalls, offers listeners something even more valuable than gold. Since 1970, elders in the Majuro Congregation have produced a weekly 15-minute radio talk in the Marshallese language, designed especially to reach people on the outer atolls. Missionaries cannot help smiling when they hear people of other denominations whistle the radio show’s opening theme song, “We Are Jehovah’s Witnesses!”
The Few Have Become Many
The Marshallese brothers are an outstanding example of love and zeal. Robert Savage, who visited the Marshalls as a traveling overseer in the late 1970’s, remembers the greeting he and his wife would receive at the Kingdom Hall. He says: “More than a hundred brothers and sisters would be lined up in a circle and each one would shake hands and welcome us. And their singing of Kingdom songs was absolutely beautiful! Without any musical accompaniment, brothers and sisters would harmonize, resulting in a wonderful melody.”
Clemente and Eunice Areniego, missionaries for 28 years, have served in the Marshall Islands since 1977 and have seen amazing growth during that time. When Julian and Lorraine Kanamu arrived in Majuro as missionaries in 1982, attendance at public meetings averaged 85. Now there are two congregations, and average attendance is about 320. Why has the work blossomed? “These islands are far from being a paradise,” Brother Kanamu explains. “Heart problems, syphilis, and diabetes are common, and infant mortality has plagued the islands. AIDS has already affected some too. People are dissatisfied, and they are turning to the truth.”
SAIPAN: Meeting the Challenge
The truth is flourishing in Saipan too, but that was not always the case. Early missionaries dodged rocks by day and occupied a “haunted” house by night. In the end it took a typhoon to blow the Kingdom message into this tough territory.
When Ernest and Kay Manion went to Saipan in 1962, they found an island controlled by the Catholic Church. This was the only religion the local people had ever known, and to keep it that way, the head priest reportedly destroyed the few Bibles that his church members owned. As a result, people in general did not believe the Bible, and sadly, few had ever seen one.
The territory was so difficult that when the Manions found it necessary to leave Saipan in 1966, they had only one promising call. But Robert and Sharon Livingstone took up where the Manions left off.
“Frequently as we approached a street, all the doors and shutters would close, so we might work a whole morning with no one answering the door,” Brother Livingstone recalls. “Young boys threw rocks at us from a distance, and Sharon was often the object of their lewd expressions and gestures. Some people sicced their dogs on us, and older women made the sign of the cross when we passed by, evidently to protect themselves from evil.”
Should Missionaries Abandon the Island?
Spiritism is prevalent throughout Micronesia, and in Saipan the missionary home, a rented house, was situated in a secluded spot where unexplained things would happen at night. The missionaries moved, and today the missionary home is ideally situated near the ocean, close to a main road.
After the good news had been preached in Saipan for five years, there was a public showing of one of the Society’s films. Only one person attended—a woman who had studied off and on for four years yet would still occasionally hide from the missionaries. They had spent two years in their assignment and had seldom even talked with anyone. Should they ‘shake the dust off their feet’ and leave Saipan?—Matt. 10:14.
Typhoon Persuades Public to Listen
Just when it appeared to the missionaries that no one would ever listen, a hard-hitting typhoon in 1968 convinced people to take notice of what Jehovah’s Witnesses were saying. Typhoon Jean smashed into Saipan with winds up to 200 miles per hour [320 km/hr] and destroyed 90 percent of the buildings on the island. “I thought it was Armageddon,” the off-and-on Bible student said.
“I vividly remember being huddled under the kitchen table,” Brother Livingstone said. “We watched amazed as the ceiling and walls bulged out and bent in under the stress of the wind. The sound was like a jet plane powered for takeoff combined with the rumbling of a freight train. I prayed that Jehovah would place his tent of protection over us. In order for Sharon to hear my prayer, however, I had to shout at the top of my voice, my mouth right next to her ear.”
Was the prayer answered? Though a nearby Catholic school and convent were completely destroyed, the Witnesses’ old wooden missionary home was left standing. The typhoon passed in the morning, and the annual commemoration of the Lord’s Evening Meal, the Memorial, was held that evening. The whole island was in turmoil, but in the missionary home, four persons met by kerosene light in peace. Many people on Saipan began to wonder whether God had brought the storm to punish them.
Persistence Is Rewarded
The woman who had studied for four years finally took her stand for the truth and was baptized on July 4, 1970. Also baptized that day were Augustine (Gus) and Taeko Castro. At one time Gus had studied to become a Catholic priest, but Taeko was the one who searched for the truth. When she found it, she immediately began to attend meetings.
Gus, a quiet and distinguished-looking Chamorro, was not so readily convinced. “Every Sunday, I was invited to the meeting, but I refused because of fear of man,” he said. “I did not want to be seen at the meetings. I was very close to the priests, and my parents were devout Catholics. They would think I had lost my senses.”
Gus’ predicament was solved, he thought, when he was sent to Hawaii for six months of job training. One day, however, he found a note under his door asking him to call a local pioneer brother. The Saipan missionaries had written friends in Hawaii, requesting that someone contact him. Gus rejected several offers to study the Bible, but the pioneer brother was persistent. He said that if one hour a week was too much, they could study for 30 minutes.
“I finally agreed to study for 15 minutes a week,” Gus recalls. “But not because I wanted to learn the Bible. My purpose was to find just one mistake and call it the end.” His plan backfired. The study proved so interesting that soon Gus requested hour-long sessions twice a week.
Brother Castro has served as an elder in the Saipan Congregation for many years. His first son spent three years at Brooklyn Bethel and his eldest daughter graduated from Gilead School in 1990 to become a missionary. Another son is an elder today, and another daughter is a pioneer.
Church Hypocrisy Turns Some Toward Truth
Several factors have caused the Saipan territory to soften. For one thing the tenacity of Jehovah’s Witnesses has come to be admired. Years ago a trust territory official remarked that the Witnesses’ preaching work was causing quite an uproar in the community, and he asked a brother how many were in the congregation. When the brother told him there were 12, the official responded: “Twelve! The way the people on Saipan talked, I thought there must have been a hundred of you!”
Hypocrisy in the Catholic Church has also caused people to pay attention to the Kingdom message. At one time the priests taught people that “Protestants are as bad as the Devil.” Later the priests told their parishioners that Jehovah’s Witnesses were “worse than Protestants,” prompting honesthearted people to ask, “How could anything be worse than the Devil?”
People’s attitude toward the truth has changed so drastically that today Saipan has one of the best ratios of publishers to population in Micronesia—1 to 276. A 350-seat concrete Kingdom Hall was completed in 1991, and now there are two large congregations meeting there, one English and one Tagalog.
Good News Exploding on Tinian
From Saipan, the good news reached Tinian, a small island less than five miles [8 km] away. Those familiar with World War II history know that it was from Tinian, in 1945, that the Enola Gay, a U.S. B-29 bomber, took off to drop an atom bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Starting in 1970, Witnesses from Saipan periodically spent their weekends distributing Watchtower and Awake! magazines on Tinian. These showed that, according to Jehovah’s determination, the time had come for lovers of righteousness out of all nations to beat their swords into plowshares and to learn war no more.—Isa. 2:4.
However, up until the time when Robert and Lee Moreaux, who had previously served in Ireland, arrived in April 1992, there were no Witnesses living on Tinian. But seeds had been sown.
The mayor’s son, Joseph Manglona, whose politically powerful family included several other lawmakers on Tinian, appreciated the value of what he was reading in The Watchtower and Awake!, decided he had found the truth, and was telling others about it. To discourage him from getting baptized, his relatives offered him a high-paying political position that would comfortably support his wife and two children. But Joseph replied: “Your government is soon to be destroyed by Jehovah God. Why would I want any part of it?” His bold stand has since caused several of his relatives to join him in serving Jehovah.
After consistent personal help was given to interested ones, it took only two years to establish a flourishing congregation of 24 publishers. Today there is a missionary home and a Kingdom Hall on Tinian.
CHUUK: Starting in a Quonset Hut
After Saipan, the next to benefit from regular service by Watch Tower missionaries were the Chuuk (formerly Truk) Islands. Merle Lowmaster had visited here briefly in 1961, but in 1965 Paul and Lillian Williams took up residence in Chuuk—the first of more than 30 missionaries who have adapted to the primitive conditions here.
When they arrived on the main island of Moen in 1965, religious intolerance made securing missionary quarters difficult. A store manager finally offered to rent half of his Quonset hut to them. This angered Catholic priests so much that they went straight to the village chief and demanded that Jehovah’s Witnesses be expelled from the islands. The chief replied: “You came here years ago telling us to love one another, so why are you now telling us to hate?” The priests had no answer. The missionaries stayed.
Interest was quickly found, and soon 30 Bible studies were being conducted in these islands, which once served as Japan’s major World War II naval base. American bombers destroyed a large portion of the Japanese fleet here, and today snorkelers and scuba divers from all over the world travel to Chuuk Lagoon to explore an underwater graveyard of sunken ships and airplanes. Those who take the time to get to know the people find fascination of another sort. They may be amused by the colorful names. They might meet someone called Beer, Whisper, Padlock, or Snow White. One man named his three sons Sardine, Tuna, and Spam.
One of the first Chuuk Islanders to study with the Williamses was the store manager’s wife, Kiyomi Shirai, a devout Protestant and an officer of the YWCA. Her husband did not want her to change her religion, and he separated from her when she was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Kiyomi’s baptism was the talk of the island, partly because she was baptized in the ocean where everyone could see. To this day, baptisms on some of the Micronesian islands are still performed in the ocean.
With her husband gone, Kiyomi moved to Dublon, a nearby island in the Chuuk group. She witnessed zealously and soon had covered the entire island except for one house located high on a hill. She skipped that one because its occupant, an old woman, was known to be a spirit medium. One day, however, something impelled Kiyomi to make that steep climb. To her surprise the old woman, Amiko Kata, welcomed the Bible’s message, and in time she too became a zealous pioneer.
Plenty of Sisters but Few Brothers
There is a special challenge that confronts Witnesses in Chuuk. Brothers, especially single ones, are extremely scarce! There are only two baptized Trukese brothers—both of them married. These islands have a matriarchal society, and most men have a reputation for drinking, fighting, and immorality. That explains why today five missionary brothers serve as the only elders in small congregations on three separate islands—Moen, Dublon, and Tol. In fact, before missionary help arrived, the Moen Congregation temporarily consisted of 23 women.
“This can be a real test for our sisters,” says David Pfister, one of the missionaries. “Young girls grow up with the idea of raising many children, but at this time there are no young men in our congregations whom they can marry. Some of our sisters have a deep love for Jehovah, and they respect the Bible counsel to ‘marry only in the Lord.’ (1 Cor. 7:39) For others, this prevents them from serving Jehovah.”
Salvador Soriano, now a member of the Guam Branch Committee, spent 14 years as a missionary in Dublon, where he was the only brother. He says: “It reminded me of Psalm 68:11, which says that the women telling the good news are a large army.”
Unusual Ride to the Kingdom Hall
Missionaries throughout Micronesia routinely use their cars or pickup trucks to help people get to meetings, but there is a form of transportation that perhaps only Barak Bowman has tried. When the failing health of a heavyset 70-year-old sister prevented her from walking the two miles [3 km] to the Kingdom Hall, Barak tried to figure out a way to help her. “I would like to pick you up for the meeting,” he said, “but I only have a wheelbarrow that I can use.” To his surprise, she replied, “OK, I don’t mind.”
You can imagine the sight as they rolled along the trail en route to the meeting—also the effort that was required on Barak’s part. He would leave home at 7:00 a.m. with an empty wheelbarrow and arrive back at the hall with our sister aboard just in time for the 9:30 a.m. program.
The zeal of Jehovah’s Witnesses for the ministry and their appreciation for the meetings have yielded good results. In fact, the 1995 Memorial attendance was more than ten times as great as the number of Witnesses in Chuuk!
POHNPEI: Cultivating Spiritual Fruitage
William and Adela Yap were not the first Witnesses to set foot on Ponape (now Pohnpei), one of the largest islands in the central Pacific. Merle Lowmaster had done a little witnessing here in 1961, and early in 1965 he had visited long enough to rent an abandoned store that could be used as a missionary home. However, when the Yaps arrived, they found that they had to use machetes to get inside the building. “It took us several days to cut away six years’ worth of overgrowth,” William says. “No one had kept up the place, so this building had become the haunt of every sort of vermin and creeping thing imaginable.”
The Yaps were an energetic couple who quickly won respect as bold and tireless preachers. Among those to whom they witnessed was the island’s governor. They supplied him with a copy of the New World Translation. He liked the clarity of the translation, but he was somewhat inclined to judge the Good Book by its cover. As he put it, the green cover was not “Bible-looking”; so the Yaps exchanged his green Bible for a deluxe edition, complete with black cover and gilt edges. This so pleased the governor that he used his new Bible when administering oaths and performing marriages.
From “Kitchen Church” to Kingdom Hall
In 1966, Carl Dannis, a former legislator of Pohnpei, donated half of his land to provide a site for the first Kingdom Hall on Pohnpei. Carl was an intelligent and admired leader, a short man with a light-brown complexion and friendly deep-blue eyes. His wife, Rihka, was the daughter of the last king of Mokil Island. This Ponapean couple studied the Bible several evenings a week by the light of kerosene lanterns and progressed quickly to baptism.
Until the Kingdom Hall could be built, all five congregation meetings, conducted in English, were held in the Dannis’ cook house, prompting some members of the community to refer to this small group of Witnesses as the “Kitchen Church.” Fewer than ten would attend the meetings. When they would sing the song “From House to House,” which they had translated into Ponapean, neighbors would mockingly say, “We hear the sound of ants singing, do we not?”
The missionaries got a fresh view of their territory’s potential when the mayor permitted them to use the village baseball park to show a film about the 1958 international assembly in New York City. For several weeks radio announcements publicized the movie, and when the time arrived, people crowded into the small stadium. A starched sheet stretched between poles served as a screen, and people were able to view the film from both sides of the sheet. How many attended? About 2,000—one sixth of the island’s population!
Since then the “sound of ants” has increased, and now more than 130 meet every Sunday in a comfortable Kingdom Hall.
BELAU: Its Many Islands
Yet another of the island groups visited by Merle Lowmaster on the exploratory trip that he began in 1961 was Palau (now the Republic of Belau). In 1967, Amos and Jeri Daniels, graduates of Gilead School, were sent there as missionaries. They felt as if they had been sent to the most distant part of the earth. “When the plane reached Palau,” Amos recalled, “it had to turn around and go back to Guam. It didn’t go beyond Palau to points more distant.”
Belau, they found, consists of some 300 eye-pleasing islands, including one unique group called the Rock Islands, a favorite tourist attraction. Top-heavy with thick tropical foliage, these islets look like green mushrooms sprouting from the sea.
Villagers Go From Door to Door
While struggling to learn Palauan, Brother and Sister Daniels began preaching from house to house. To their surprise, inquisitive villagers followed them and listened to the conversations they were having with the neighbors.
One of their first studies was with the son of a chief, who lived in the distant outer-island village of Ngiwal. Whenever he could, he would travel to Koror, the island on which the missionaries lived. But he kept urging them to visit his village and talk to people there. Brother and Sister Daniels were reluctant to make the trip. “The only way to get there was through crocodile-infested waters,” Amos relates. “But when the circuit overseer visited, we were finally able to make the trip because another person with whom we studied agreed to navigate the boat.” They went from house to house to witness to the villagers, and when they held a public talk, 114 were in attendance.
Deaconess Boldly Declares Jehovah’s Name
Obasang Mad, a devout deaconess with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Belau, was contacted by Witness missionaries in 1968. Despite opposition from her husband and from church leaders, Obasang quickly grasped the truth about God’s name, the Trinity, and the resurrection.
“One day I was called on in church to lead the congregation in prayer,” Obasang said. “Knowing I would be greatly criticized by fellow Adventists, I nonetheless prayed to Jehovah. Soon I left the church and joined the missionaries in the preaching work.”
Now nearly 70 years old, Obasang has pioneered for 21 years despite suffering physical ailments and the loss of her husband and two children in death. Kind, and quick with a smile, she has been a pillar of spiritual strength.
Preaching by Boat Can Be an Adventure
Amos and Jeri Daniels wanted to witness on the nearby island of Babelthuap (locally known as Babeldaop), but there were no roads connecting the island’s oceanfront villages, which are accessible only by water. A local brother kindly built them a boat, but they had no motor. About that time Amos and Jeri attended an assembly in Guam. There they met a brother from the United States who was acquainted with the chairman of the board of a manufacturer of boat motors. Soon they had a brand-new outboard motor. “Jehovah always provides,” Amos observed.
Throughout Micronesia, witnessing by boat in the outer islands is a day-long excursion. Careful preparation is required. Tides must be calculated. “We always depart two hours before high tide and return two hours after the next high tide (about 14 hours later) to avoid damaging the propeller or getting stuck,” one missionary says. Food, along with sufficient literature and a change of clothing, is packed in advance, and everything is protected in plastic bags. On islands where there are no docks, missionaries must wade into the ocean to board their boat. And if they are not wet already, they will likely be sprinkled by ocean spray or splashed by a wave during the trip. A prayer is always said before they push off, and when the ocean is rough, sometimes many silent prayers are said on the boat.
Over the years, missionaries serving in Micronesia have learned to navigate lagoon waters in all sorts of weather conditions and have become proficient at building boats and repairing outboard motors.
Plenty of Walking—Warm Hospitality
Since some villages are not accessible by car or boat, missionaries may spend hours walking along beautiful coconut-lined jungle paths to reach the humble people. Because the weather is hot and humid, brothers here do not wear ties in field service, and rubber slippers (called zori) often serve as footwear.
Harry Denny, who has been a missionary on Belau for 21 years, said: “We always find ears receptive to the truth. Oftentimes, to show their hospitality, these isolated people will climb a coconut tree, pick a fresh coconut, cut its top off with a machete, and offer you a drink right out of the original ‘carton.’”
Harry and his wife, Rene, share their missionary home with Janet Senas and Roger Konno, single missionaries who have been in their assignment for 24 years each. Together these four faithful missionaries have helped the Belau Congregation grow to 60 publishers, and congregation book studies are now being conducted in three languages—Palauan, Tagalog, and English.
YAP: Jehovah’s Eyes Are Upon It
The year after Gilead-trained missionaries began to serve on Belau, Jack and Aurelia Watson arrived at Yap. Two more missionaries came the following year. Though Yap is small—unknown to most of mankind—Jehovah knows these islands and shows loving concern for their inhabitants. These are four tightly clustered islands connected by bridges, and the islands are linked just as surely by ancient tradition. Yap has a language spoken nowhere else in the world, money that is cut out of stone, and people who are largely unimpressed by Western culture. Even today among Yap’s 10,500 residents, one can see men wearing brightly colored loincloths and women wearing grass skirts, at times with no clothing on their upper bodies.
Merle Lowmaster had done some witnessing here in 1964, but Jack and Aurelia Watson hoped to be able to stay. However, it was not easy for them to learn the Yapese language. The only written material to be found consisted of a few government-regulation booklets and a Catholic catechism. The Watsons would listen to the people and try to imitate what they heard. By the following year, a young Yapese man who was showing interest in the truth also proved willing to give language lessons. The missionaries spent the first month trying to help him understand the English that they spoke so that he could tell them how to speak Yapese.
Meetings at the “Bank”
The local Catholic priest and the Lutheran minister, former enemies, joined forces to circulate a brochure condemning the Witnesses. The priest also used his influence to get the missionaries evicted from their home, and finding a new home seemed impossible. The priest had already warned landowners not to rent to the missionaries, so the brothers moved their wives into the hotel temporarily while they stayed in a shack that was 12 by 14 feet [3.5 x 4 m] and that had a collapsed floor.
Yap is best known for its centuries-old stone money, massive wheels of limestone called rai, which range in size from 2 to 12 feet [0.6 to 3.5 m] in diameter. Though no longer used to purchase land or settle debts, stone money is highly valued for its historical significance. And the brothers found that it was valuable in other ways as well. When they lost their missionary home, meetings were held for a while under a large tree where stone money was displayed. Since pieces of stone money at this village “bank” stood in an upright position, these made convenient backrests for the people in the audience, while a nearby 50-gallon [190 L] drum served as lectern.
Still, they had not found a place to live. “It looked as if the work would come to an end,” Watson notes. “But Jehovah came to our rescue.” The night before the missionaries were to leave to attend an assembly in Guam, a man asked if they would like to rent a house. It was perhaps the most ideal structure on Yap—a typhoon-proof concrete building with sufficient space both for meetings and for living accommodations.
Giving Evidence of Their Faith
Two more missionaries from Hawaii, Placido and Marsha Ballesteros, arrived in 1970. Progress was slow. “There were many times when just the four of us missionaries attended the meetings, held in our living room,” Placido recalled.
Eventually growth did come as local brothers made spiritual progress. One of them, John Ralad, faced a difficult situation. When John began to study the Bible, his construction company was in the process of building a church. Despite pressure from all sides, John determined that his conscience would not allow him to complete the church. He serves the congregation as an elder today.
Yow Nifmed also had a serious choice to make. When first contacted by the Witnesses in 1970, he had two wives. In order to conform to Jehovah’s requirements, he had to rearrange his entire life. Today Brother Nifmed and his one wife are both happily serving Jehovah. He is an elder. When he goes to the meetings, he drives his pickup truck, loaded with 15 relatives.
Jehovah’s People Are Truly Everywhere
“From a human standpoint, Yap is just a speck of land on the globe, and the few thousand people who live here are insignificant compared with the billions of mankind,” Placido Ballesteros once said. “And yet Jehovah has these people in mind. When I first arrived, I did not dream that there would be a day when a monthly issue of The Watchtower would be published in Yapese and that we would be distributing books from door to door in the Yapese language.”
An amusing experience illustrates how thoroughly Jehovah’s name is being made known. One day, Placido met a tourist sitting by a river, miles from the nearest tourist spots and even a long walk from where the road ended. Asked if he was lost, the man replied: “No, I just wanted to get as far away as I could to find a peaceful place to think.” When the tourist asked why he was there, Placido explained that he was a missionary, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Oh, no!” the tourist cried. “I’m from Brooklyn, not too far from your headquarters. I can’t get away from you people!”
KOSRAE: Here Too Jehovah’s Name Is Known
After attending the 1969 “Peace on Earth” International Assembly in Hawaii, one zealous family from Pohnpei realized that they could be the first to proclaim on the beautiful island of Kosrae the peace that only God’s Kingdom can bring. Inspired by the assembly, Fredy Edwin moved his family 360 miles [580 km] to this isolated dot in the ocean that was a well-known whaling port during the 19th century. It was a natural move for the Edwins, since Fredy’s wife, Lillian, was the daughter of the king of Kosrae, and Kosraean was one of seven languages that Fredy was able to speak.
Before becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Fredy Edwin was a member of the Protestant committee that translated the Bible into the Ponapean language. After he moved to Kosrae, his translating skills helped to make Watch Tower publications available in the Kosraean language. Others of his family have also been busy proclaiming the Kingdom message. His daughter Desina declined a college scholarship in order to become a special pioneer, the first in Micronesia. Another daughter, Mildred, served as a regular pioneer, and Fredy’s wife has often served as an auxiliary pioneer.
Help Arrives to Construct Kingdom Hall
Zecharias Polly, originally from Chuuk, was the first Micronesian to become a missionary. He had a part in forming the congregation on Kosrae, and in 1977 he also helped with the building of the Kingdom Hall and missionary home there.
The Kingdom Hall was not built over a weekend. The fact is that every Sunday this Protestant-dominated island becomes deathly quiet because a “Sabbath” law prohibits buying, selling, drinking, fishing, working, and even playing. Nonetheless, the Kingdom Hall was put up fast enough to amaze the local people. Brothers used whatever was on hand locally to prefabricate as much as possible. Other materials were purchased in Pohnpei and sent by ship. When the final shipments reached Kosrae, accompanied by volunteer workers from Pohnpei, the building rapidly took shape. That Kingdom Hall continues to be used today—not only for weekly meetings but for assemblies as well.
Remote Congregation Praises Jehovah
When the congregation was established on Kosrae in 1976, it was so far away from the branch that monthly field service reports were relayed to Pohnpei by ham radio. Commercial airline service to Kosrae did not begin until 1979. While ships carried mail between the islands, delivery would sometimes take up to six months.
Today all the airports in Micronesia have asphalt runways that can handle jetliners, but during the early 1980’s, flying to Kosrae meant an adventurous ride in a seven-seat airplane. “On one flight that my wife and I made to Kosrae, we ran into a bad storm, and it appeared as if we were lost,” recalls Arthur White. “The pilot was flying the plane about 100 feet [30 m] above the ocean and was searching for the island. The woman in the seat behind us was praying out loud. We knew that if the pilot could not find Kosrae, we would probably be lost at sea; but the island finally came into sight, and we were able to land—on a narrow gravel road they used as a runway.”
James Tamura spent 17 years as a missionary in Pohnpei and Kosrae. He summed up the feelings of many when he said: “I find joy in seeing the work grow and in seeing Jehovah’s name being made known in these remote islands of the Pacific.”
ROTA: A Record of Endurance
On the small island of Rota, which is barely visible from Guam, announcements are sometimes made over a public-address system. One day in 1970, the mayor’s voice came through those loudspeakers informing Rota’s residents that Jehovah’s Witnesses were on the island and would be coming to their homes. “Please open your doors to them,” the mayor declared, “and welcome their visit.”
Augustine Castro was one of the three brothers who preached on Rota that day. He placed several books with the mayor of Rota, whom he knew through his government job on Saipan. That is what prompted the mayor to make his announcement to the public. Within two hours the visiting brothers had placed all the literature they had in their book bags. But at the same time, clergy opposition was taking shape.
Clergy Interfere With Preaching Work
“Someone must have informed the Catholic priest about us,” Gus relates. “We were at a service station. A young man was about to accept the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life when he looked up and saw the priest. He hesitated and nervously told us, ‘I would like to show the book to the priest to see whether it is all right.’ We were watching the priest as he was flipping the pages. He knew me very well, for I had once studied to become a priest. He finally told the young man, ‘It is all right to accept the book . . . as long as you do not change your religion.’”
Opposition intensified after Juan and Mary Taitano were assigned as special pioneers to this Catholic-dominated island in 1981. “The local priest would follow us from door to door and would tell people that Jehovah is another name for Satan,” Juan recalls. “He posted a sign on almost all the homes, which read: ‘This is a Catholic house. Please respect our religion.’ He would also send boys to confiscate and burn any literature we left with people.”
Hatred and Fear Grip Householders
The Taitanos were of the same Chamorro background as the people of Rota and both were able to speak the Chamorro language, but still they were subjected to much hatred.
“One time, a householder threatened me, saying he would ‘get a baseball bat and break every bone in my body,’” Juan said. “The next day, that man was in an automobile accident, and he broke his legs and an arm. The villagers said God was punishing the man for what he had said, and it made them afraid of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Positive Attitude Despite Negative Results
During the past quarter of a century, missionaries have spent untold hours preaching to the people of Rota. After all this effort, there are just eight Kingdom proclaimers among a population of 2,500, and that number includes a special pioneer couple. Despite this, faithful Witnesses continue to build a fine record of endurance, refusing to become discouraged.
“Rota is difficult, no question about it,” said missionary Gary Anderson. “But even a situation at its worst will not last forever. Rota will change. Nothing is impossible with Jehovah’s backing.”
NAURU: Finding True Riches
The Republic of Nauru, with a population of about 7,000, was once considered one of the richest countries in the world, but people there too need the Kingdom message. Much of their wealth came as a result of ravaging a large portion of their small island by strip-mining for phosphate. It is far from being a real paradise. And now this island too has serious financial problems.
Yet, the first efforts to take the Kingdom message to Nauru were repulsed. When a visiting missionary from the Marshall Islands scattered seeds of truth in Nauru in 1979, he was deported, three police officers escorting him to the airplane.
Before he was deported, however, he studied the Bible with Humphrey Tatum. Humphrey continued to study on his own, and when Nat Miller, as a traveling overseer, stopped on Nauru, Humphrey asked to be baptized. “Since our work was considered illegal, we waited till dark,” Miller recalls. “We walked together about 100 feet [30 m] into the Pacific Ocean, and he was immersed unobserved by the local people.”
Prior to 1995, door-to-door preaching activity was prohibited in Nauru. Outsiders are still not permitted to engage in the house-to-house ministry, but the government now allows native Nauruans the freedom to preach, making it possible for the small group of baptized Witnesses there to speak openly about the Bible.
Until his death in 1995, Brother Tatum served as an elder in Nauru’s tiny congregation. He also served as Nauruan translator, making tracts and Memorial invitations available to his fellow Witnesses. Though they are few in number, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nauru are endeavoring to direct the attention of their neighbors to the value of spiritual riches, the kind that lead to eternal life.—Prov. 3:1, 2, 13-18.
The islands of the Pacific have a reputation of being an earthly paradise, but beneath that romantic image lies the harsh reality—many Micronesians are struggling to survive. Their once simple life-style has been corrupted by the perils of civilization—television, crime, drugs, and contagious disease, to name a few. More and more, people are realizing that the Kingdom message being preached by Jehovah’s Witnesses is the only solution to their mounting problems.
The Guam branch, which directs the preaching effort in Micronesia, oversees fewer publishers than do most of the Society’s 103 other branches, yet its territory is one of the largest in the world. Even though our brothers and sisters on these remote islands are separated by vast stretches of ocean, they still experience the closeness of Jehovah’s organization. Bible literature regularly provided in their own languages, periodic assemblies, and regular spiritual visits from traveling overseers make them keenly aware that they are part of an international brotherhood.
The missionaries who serve in such isolated assignments also receive reminders of the love that exists among Jehovah’s people. Each summer, arrangements are made for them to travel to Guam to attend a district convention, which has often been held in conjunction with the zone overseer’s visit. Rodney Ajimine, a missionary for more than 20 years who also served as a traveling overseer in Micronesia, once explained the importance of that yearly trip to Guam. “It draws all the missionaries in the different islands together,” he said. “It helps all of us to endure.”
There are other provisions that help our brothers on these far-flung islands. Under the direction of the Governing Body, Hospital Information Services was established at the Guam branch in 1993 and has since organized Hospital Liaison Committees for each of the island groups in Micronesia. Each year, a Pioneer Service School is conducted for those in the full-time ministry, and Kingdom Ministry Schools are held periodically to train congregation overseers. Also, in 1994 the Guam branch formed a Construction Department to coordinate the planning and building of Kingdom Halls and missionary homes in Micronesia.
The unceasing efforts of missionaries and publishers during the past four decades have helped many islanders to know and love Jehovah. Now some of those islanders are taking the lead in the local congregations and are working hard to proclaim God’s purpose that all the earth be made a paradise.
There is still much work to be done in Micronesia, but thanks to the loving protection and guidance from Jehovah’s organization, the prophecy at Isaiah 51:5 is coming true: “In me [Jehovah] the islands themselves will hope, and for my arm they will wait.”
[Map on page 210]
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[Full-page picture on page 208]
[Picture on page 213]
Sam and Virginia Wiger in front of Guam’s first Kingdom Hall
[Pictures on page 215]
Top: Merle and Fern Lowmaster, missionaries
Nathaniel Miller (with his wife Allene, now deceased), first Guam Branch Committee coordinator
[Pictures on page 216]
Guam branch office, with Branch Committee (left to right: Julian Aki, Salvador Soriano, Arthur White)
[Picture on page 218]
Missionaries who gathered for meeting during visit of zone overseer in 1994
[Pictures on page 223]
1, 2. Kingdom Hall/missionary home in Kiribati, built with international cooperation
3. Nariki Kautu and wife, Teniti
4. Bible study in session in Kiribati
[Picture on page 227]
Publishers at Ebeye Kingdom Hall
[Picture on page 228]
Augustine Castro, a zealous local elder
[Picture on page 229]
Robert and Sharon Livingstone
[Picture on page 234]
Warm welcome for new missionaries
[Picture on page 236]
When witnessing by boat, be ready to get wet
[Picture on page 237]
Kingdom Hall instead of the cook house for meetings
[Picture on page 237]
Carl and Rihka Dannis, first local Witnesses on Pohnpei
[Picture on page 238]
Missionary Neal Maki is also a translator
[Pictures on page 241]
Obasang Mad, a longtime pioneer, ready for service
Left: Group field service in a pickup truck
[Pictures on page 243]
Witnessing in Yap
Right: Merle Lowmaster and Yapese coins at the village “bank”
[Picture on page 246]
Crossing bridges in Kosrae requires surefootedness
[Picture on page 246]
Fredy Edwin, left, with his wife, children, and grandchildren
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Witnesses who meet the challenge on Rota