Sitting on that 747 jet at 23 years old, I stared at the monitor on the back of the seat in front of me. On the screen there was a little animated airplane going across the Pacific Ocean and in just a few short hours it would be crossing the equator. I had only been on an airplane for one other trip in my life and that was when I was two years old. I was scared to say the least. I’ve been on numerous flights since that time and this one time, at 23 years old, was the most turbulent flight I have ever been on. I developed a fear of flying on this trip that stuck with me for several years after and maybe even a little bit to this day.
My new husband Scott and I had only been married for 2 months when the Lord provided the money and opportunity for us to take a mission trip to Fiji. Scott had already taken two trips there and told me how it changed his life, and that it would change mine. After all, Scott had gone to preaching school in hopes to become a foreign missionary and I was the woman he had chosen to be his wife. We had been married no longer than a month when an eldership for a church in Georgia contacted us about becoming their missionaries to a small island that neither one of us had ever heard of. We went down to Georgia to discuss this with them and we all decided that I would take the trip to Fiji for starters to see how I liked mission work.
The pressure was on. I stepped foot onto a foreign island in the Tropic of Capricorn and suddenly the world became a much bigger and smaller place all at the same time. We were part of a small team working with the church in Nadi, Fiji. Most of the people with us were seasoned workers who all knew that this was my first trip and that it was a test for me. Towards the end of the trip my dear husband said to me that he realized that we probably wouldn’t be looking into the work for the other island. However, this, my first mission trip, to the island of Fiji, although maybe not “life-changing,” ignited something inside of me. It may of just been the realization that it was possible for me to do this. After all was said and done, we took a survey trip to that “other” island just a few months later.
We agreed to become full time workers to that “other” island in December of 2003, started raising our money full time shortly after and in the late summer of 2005, made the move to Pohnpei, in the beautiful Federated States of Micronesia. The FSM, as it’s called, consists of 4 island states. The capital is Pohnpei, our home. Then there is Yap, Chuuk, and Kosrae. We are also making trips in and out of Kosrae and Chuuk. This country has become our home. I don’t know for how long, but I know it will always be planted in my heart. One might wonder how a place like this can become home. The answer is time. My first mission trip was not “life-changing” for me in a good way. Our survey trip to Pohnpei went smoothly and was shared with two of our closest friends, but left me with much apprehension. The year that we spent raising money was one of the hardest in my short 30 years of life. Since we have lived on this island, there have been countless ups and downs, heartbreaks and moments when our hearts danced with joy. All of those things happening, the good and the bad, I believe are what made this place home.
Pohnpei and its sister islands are third world. Not quite as underdeveloped as many countries, but much less developed then the first place I went to, Nadi, Fiji. It’s a tropical rainforest with highs in the upper eighties most days. We sweat alot, but are so thankful for the air-conditioner in our bedroom. The way the Micronesians live varies, but for the most part they live in very poor conditions. The women wear long skirts most of the time and this is a custom that I have had to adopt. There are lots of things that I have gotten used to over time like: lice, bugs, parasites, local food (some good, some not so good) going into dirty conditions, shortages of goods in the stores, etc. These are all things that I was scared of in the beginning, and fought to avoid, but have come to realize that they really are not that big of a deal after all. But I won’t say that I never complain. Lets remember that foreign workers are still human.
There are 2 congregations of the church of Christ on the island. They are still very small and still very weak, even after 5 years. This field is hard, just like any other field. People don’t want to leave the religions that their families are a part of even if they believe that they are lost. Most of the faithful converts here are people that were not already going to another church, so they had nothing to lose. This island nation still needs the Gospel so badly and though it is a small country, my husband and I along with the Treats, who work nearby in Palau, feel the urgency and the pressure on a daily basis. The Lord is not done here and we are not either.
There are many stories to tell, but they are for another time. What I want other Christian women, and young girls to know is that I was not exactly “missionary material.” I had never been overseas before I got married. I was always a bit introverted and easily scared of taking chances. I still don’t feel like “missionary material.” Some days I wonder what good I am doing and have done here. I am still looking for the most effective way to help my husband and to teach the women here. I am still struggling with the local language. I still don’t feel adequate for this work. And that is the point. None of us are adequate. None of us are good enough. But God is. If God opens a door to you and you say, “God, I can’t do that!” He already knows that you can’t, but He can. I don’t know what the future holds for Pohnpei and for Scott and I, but God does and I hope that we will surrender to His will.
Sponsoring Congregation: http://www.mcdonoughcofc.org
Scott and Rebecca Shanahan
PO Box 2467
Kolonia PNI 96941
Federated States of Micronesia
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