Hello again from the cool, windy plains of Southern Alberta! I returned to Lethbridge about a week ago and just wanted to update you all on the last few weeks of my time in Saipan. It is a bit crazy when you try to put it all into coherent sentences because it involves things such as
“Atomic Bomb Pits and Runways” / “Secret Lion & Tiger Evacuations” / “Cargo Boat transfers at night with only flashlights to guide into Port” / Etc..
However, even with all the excitement of those headline type of stories the most important story line that is woven into all of them at the same time is the story of a loving God who has not forgotten His hurting people!
When I last wrote, we had just begun distributions of tarps, solar lights and water filters to the regions that were hit the hardest on Saipan. After doing some door to door distributions and then getting a network of active churches in the area, we began doing mass distributions from the local churches. We also were able to bring the Pastors of the churches of Saipan together to encourage and build them up. What a great experience it was!
Our DC8 Cargo plane was able to drop off 2 more loads of supplies during our time there. The first load was half full of generators for the island of Tinian which is just 3 miles to the south of Saipan and not expected to get power restored for another 6-8 months. The north end of the island is uninhabited as it is still leased by the US Military, it is the location of the North Field airbase that the Enola Gay and the Bockscar planes took off from with the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The atomic bomb pits, where they were loaded onto the planes, are still there.
I was part of a team of 5 that were tasked with distributing the 300 generators to the households with the most vulnerable people in the population, such as elderly; disabled; young children; etc… This distribution was done door to door where we were able to meet with the people, pray and encourage them. During one of my visits to a household with an elderly woman that was receiving the generator I had a chance to share with her that God had not forgotten her and He loves her very much. She broke down and wept on her cane as she was sitting in her chair outside in the heat. It was a very positive impact on the community to receive something that was not being given out to Saipan as they always seemed to be the ones forgotten about.
Greta Van Sustern also was accompanying the cargo and visited with the rest of the team back on Saipan while we conducted the distribution on Tinian. The second half of that DC8 cargo load was more tarps and solar lights that were offloaded at Saipan. A video of our work and a story of Greta’s visit can be viewed here…
We then received our 3rd and final load of supplies from the DC8 the last week we were there. It contained 550 more generators for the island of Tinian… which would allow us to get a generator to every household on the island! I led the team that conducted the distributions the second time around. For those distributions we had a shorter window and almost twice the amount of generators to hand out so we worked with a team from the community and conducted mass distributions from the community gym. This time we had to offload the cargo in Saipan, get it trucked to the wharf to be loaded onto a cargo boat that I rode along with to the island of Tinian. We arrived at the wharf in Tinian after dark and, because they have no power, we had to use my personal flashlight to help guide us into the dock safely!
The “Top Secret” mission that was in the works for the return trip home of that last DC8 flight had to do with rescuing Lambert the Lion and Tasha the Tiger that needed relocating to a reserve in Colorado due to the inability of the Saipan Zoo to continue to look after them properly after the storms. We affectionately called the mission “Saving Private Lions”. You can view an article and video of that here…
Also, and most importantly, the other cargo that was on that last flight into Saipan was a load of bibles of a variety of languages for the people of Saipan and Tinian. After we finished distributing the generators in Tinian, we returned to Saipan to begin follow up visits to our beneficiaries with bibles and more words of encouragement. Then, a couple of churches from Saipan joined up to do an outreach of bible distributions on the island of Tinian after we had left!
It was such a great privilege to be a part of empowering the churches to reach out to their communities!