September 10, 2008

Adventist Singles Do Mission

2008 1525 page12 capHEN PEOPLE HEAR THE TERM “Adventist Singles,” many think of socializing, dating, searching for a life partner. But Adventist Singles involves more than that. It’s also about mission.

In February 2008 I was one of four Adventist singles, along with a physician and his wife, who had volunteered for a Search for One (SFO) mission trip to the island of Abemama, a coral atoll in the Pacific Ocean and one of 21 inhabited islands that make up the Republic of Kiribati near the equator and international date line. SFO’s stated mission is “to provide medical, dental, educational and developmental help, at no charge, to the forgotten children and families of the world.” This type of mission work is an opening wedge to sharing the gospel message with the people of the island country of Kiribati. The team I was a part of was led by SFO president Gary Morgan.
Our adventure began with an 11-hour flight from Los Angeles to Fiji, followed by a three-hour plane ride to Tarawa. We then loaded our luggage onto the back of a truck-turned-taxi to travel to the Kiribati Mission. While we waited for the arrival of the “Super Cat,” the weekly boat to Abemama, we visited Red Beach, so named because during the World War II Battle of Tarawa, the beach was literally red with blood. A partially submerged American tank is still there as a reminder of the price of freedom.
The Super Cat was loaded not only with people but also luggage and 40-pound sacks of sugar, rice, flour, and other supplies, which filled all the aisles and between the rows of seats. We soon were delighted to see four dolphins “leading” our boat.
2008 1525 page12Fourteen hours later we arrived at base camp. By the light of the school truck’s headlights we were able to unload our luggage filled with food, tools, and medical and Vacation Bible School supplies into a small boat and go ashore.
Nearly 300 students are enrolled at Kauma (pronounced cow-ma) Adventist High School; 97 percent of them are non-Adventists. The students come from several islands and religious persuasions. Last year, in 2007, 100 Kauma students accepted Jesus as their Savior and were baptized!
The school is located beside an azure-blue lagoon surrounded by coconut palms and other tropical trees. The SFO camp was on the ocean side of the campus, about a third of a mile away from the lagoon. Wonderfully cool ocean breezes made sleeping in the grass houses comfortable and dried our clothes wrinkle-free on the line.
The region, however, had not had any significant rain for nine months, and the staff and students were boiling contaminated well water for drinking. They had been praying for help to deal with the lack-of-water situation when the SFO team arrived in February, but we did not know about the need for water until we arrived.
Drue Wagner, a physician, and his wife, Joy, a nurse, from Pennsylvania, were also part of the SFO team, and they held several medical clinics throughout the island.
“I estimate that about 40 percent of the sickness and disease on the island is caused by lack of water or by contaminated water,” Dr. Wagner said.
Tom Lovins, a retired contractor from Arkansas, whose task was to make repairs to the school facilities, tackled the water problem. Five large water tanks rested on top of a platform that needed reinforcing, but the single solar pump that was working was not able to pump sufficient water from the well. Tom flew to neighboring Tarawa and purchased an electric pump and fittings at his own expense and installed them. There was great rejoicing when four tanks filled to overflowing!
“This is the first time I’ve seen water in my bathtub for three months,” school principal Harold Panda said.
Agriculture work also could begin again. Some of the boys began planting banana trees because now they had water to use for gardening.
Tom, who first learned about SFO at the 2006 Adventist Singles Adult Ministries Retreat at Camp MiVoden, Idaho, endeared himself to the Kauma students by not only providing them with water but also working alongside them, telling them stories, and playing games with them.
Team member Sara Becker of Washington State held Vacation Bible Schools in the villages and learned from Dr. Wagner how to treat many of the illnesses on the island. She stayed there until July caring for people in the clinic and teaching the children, students, and adults good health principles.
“I just love these people,” Sarah said, “and I wish I could live here. It is magical.”
They seemed to truly love and appreciate her, as well.
The people of Abemama are friendly, happy, and fun-loving, and were appreciative of what the SFO teams were doing under the leadership of Morgan, a businessman from Moses Lake, Washington. And can the students ever sing! Listening to them praise the Lord with the song “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder” during Sabbath school brought tears to my eyes. Their average life span is only in the 50s, but we are hopeful that a reliable supply of good water, fruits, and vegetables will improve that statistic.
SFO is committed to providing not only more water for irrigation and washing but also pure drinking water for the school, the faculty, and the campus medical clinic.
“I want to return in the fall and install a new solar pump, strengthen the supports, and build a new platform for four more tanks—one for pure drinking water,” Lovins says. “They also need a heavy-duty mulcher to improve the crushed coral soil.”
2008 1525 page12Transportation on the island is by truck or motorbike. If we all were heading somewhere together at the same time, we bounced along in the back of the school truck. One or two could ride a Honda motorbike. The team is hoping someone will be inspired to replace the school’s truck. The principal and faculty would also like to add another classroom block.
I first heard about the needs of Abemama from Morgan at the North American Division Adventist Singles Adult Ministries Convention held in Orlando, Florida, in 2007. I accepted keynote speaker Dick Duerksen’s challenge to “pursue your passion” and “step into the water,” as the priests did at the Jordan River on the way to the land of Canaan. I volunteered to cook for the team as well as assist with office work and tell stories to the children.
Many Adventist singles are active in mission and devoted to helping others not only overseas but also closer to home, including in their own communities. The singles on the Abemama 
mission trip not only donated their time but paid their own way. Their dedication typifies Adventist Singles’ commitment to mission and reaching out to serve others.
I would encourage others to consider being part of a mission endeavor. Pursue your passion—step into the water! The experience will change your life.
For more information about Search for One and its projects, go to
Patti Hare is a retired secretary and academic advisor living in Daytona Beach Shores, Florida.