- Caleb Byerly
Journey to Kuma, Kiribati
On October 4, 2011, Erietera and I left Tarawa by ship to travel to an island in the Northern part of the Gilbert Islands, called Butaritari. We wanted to go there because we knew that there are believers who have wanted to grow in the Lord but have no leader. We were able to provide a plane ticket for two of them to come to the conference that we held in July this year on Tarawa (the conference that Grace Church from NC helped me with).
Erietera and I traveled with a small ship to Butaritari. I got quite sick on the ship after the large waves were crashing against it all day and night. I couldn’t eat anything the whole time I was on the boat. We finally arrived on the island Butaritari and it was late in the night. Erietera and I had nowhere to stay so we just believed God would provide for our needs. He surely did. We went to the village nurse to try to get some direction on where we should go. As soon as she saw that we were travelers she opened her house to us, even though it was so late at night. The sleep was wonderful after the horrible ship journey.
The next morning the word got out that Erietera and I were traveling so a distant relative of Erietera came to see us. She was also a nurse in another village. She brought us to her home for us to eat and rest. We told her that we are trying to travel to Kuma because there are believers there that we will minister to for a few weeks. Kuma is another island that is connected to Butaritari by a land bridge. She gave us everything we needed for our trip, a motorbike, food and fuel for our journey. The next day we loaded up our things and headed off to Kuma.
Kuma is a small island with only two small villages on it. The believers didn’t even know that we were coming to see them and we didn’t even know where they lived exactly. We just knew that they lived somewhere in Kuma. When we finally stopped to ask where the house of the person we were trying to find was, we were surprised to find out that we were directly beside the house already! The believers came toward us with much joy in their eyes. We were happy to see them as well. The first thing they said was the Hebrew word “Shalom” which we taught one of them during our conference in July this year. They provided a hut for us and fed us every day that we were there.
The second day, the locals wanted to take us to an outer islet named Naatata. We set the sail for a local canoe and sailed out to the islet. While we were on our way there, the locals started telling us about the evil spirits that dwell among the islets. They told us some of the stories of how everyone is afraid of the spirits. Even the believers are afraid! I’ve found in my ministry to the indigenous that to be able to respect ancient beliefs in gods and spirits is valuable because it can be a way of introducing the gospel since they are aware of the Spiritual realm. The reason is because Truth always trumps False. Truth will always win no matter what. And if someone turns his or her heart to Jesus, then His Spirit will begin to lead that person
to Truth. That’s the Gospel! But when these types of beliefs lead them to be have a fear of the gods, that’s when it’s unhealthy. The locals of Kuma are really scared of their “Ghost”. When we arrived on the islet, the first thing they did is offer a sacrifice to the ghost of the islet (a local cigarette). They called out to him and said, “Greetings in this afternoon... We just arrived on your islet to show our two visitors your land here. One of the visitors is from Tarawa, named Erietera, and the other is from America, name Caleb. We will show them your islet and then go back to our place. Please receive our gift to you on this day.” Then he bent down and set the cigarette on an alter made of large clamshells. Erietera and I stood there baffled at how afraid they were of this thing that they can’t even see.
When we arrived back to Kuma, Erietera and I talked about what we should do with our ministry. We decided that we should provide a service with the word of God every night for anyone who wants to come. Once we started it, we saw that there are many people who were interested in the Gospel and Word from the Bible. We had 3 families that would consistently come every night. We would teach real basic foundational things from the scriptures then open it up for question and answer. This became effective because we would teach every night. It allowed them to really think about the word in the day time, then at night they would come with many questions. We decided that this would be a good place to set up a church for them to grow. We have pastors from the main island, Tarawa, would are willing to come and live there for 2 years or more to help these believers to grow in the Lord. So we decided that we should build a meeting place for the believers as well as a home for the pastor. The locals gave us land for it.
We started collecting all the lumber that is needed for the huts. We would venture out into the forested area and cut trees down. The funny thing is that we only had one small hatchet and an old rusted hand saw that was probably at least 10 years old and never has been sharpened. It made our work be really slow. We would work all day in the hot sun and then at night do our teachings in the scriptures and by revelation from the Holy Spirit. So we finally finished collecting all of the lumber that we needed for the building.
On October 23, I left Kuma for my journey back to Tarawa and Erietera stayed in Kuma to continue to the work. I arranged for another pastor from Tarawa to travel to Kuma to be with Erietera and the believers to continue the work of the Lord there. He arrived on Kuma the day that I left. They will finish building the meeting place and the home for the pastor as well.
When I arrived on Tarawa, I went to the church headquarters and all of the believers were waiting anxiously for my report. I came back with a good report that the people in Kuma are excited to grow in the Lord. The Pastors at the headquarters were filled with joy after telling them many stories. I saw that they were ready and willing to go and live in Kuma to help these new believers grow in Jesus!
On the last night of my stay in Kuma, I laid back in the hammock and watched the multitude of stars that were spread across the sky. The Lord asked me, “Will you serve me your whole life?” I thought about it and then told him, “Surely I will, but only if Your Spirit is always with me.” Then the Lord said, “Ask me for a sign and I will give it to you.” I hesitated and then said, “Show me that your Spirit will always be with me by shooting a star across the sky and I will know that you are with me always.” Not even 5 seconds later a shooting star flew across the sky.
I was filled with an amazement and fear that I’ve never felt before. I felt like jumping with joy but also felt paralyzed in fear because of the power of His presence. I haven’t seen a shooting star in all of the months that I’ve been here but at that one moment I saw it. All I have to say is God is real and He is with me and you.