Loving God by Serving Others

Pictured above are: (left to right) Matt, Ian throwing double shakas, Mr. McGivern, Justin and Jake. Also participating in the 2010 Majuro Mission were Cyndi, Danielle, Jan and Quinn. 

This post is dedicated to Ian’s Maryknoll School 2010 Mission Trip compadres and the good people of Majuro.

YOKWEH YOKWEH! Hhaha i was going to try not to use internet on the FIRST DAY up here but since ou wanted me to mom, I will:) The trip was good everything went well and im typing this on an old very laggy computer in the school so sorry about the mistyping hhaa. Anyway its pretty trippy how different it is up here…its super hot and hard to stay not sticky for more than a minute. The room we stayed in the school last night had rats running around and roaches jumping and flying into big holes in the tile, but other than that it was pretty good fun! Haha…plus brushing my teeth and washing my face off this morning was a challenge without any running water and using only my bottle for water hah but it’s a good wake up call to use less water when im at home in the mornings! I’m staying with Matt at the principal’s house for the majority of the time…but one of us might get another host later in the trip. Well hope things are good at home and I miss all of you guys! Ill try to catch up on sleep tonight, despite the stray dogs running around barking at each other all night around here haha bye love you guys! Talk again soon -Ian

It was Ian’s senior-year mission trip to a tiny island in the Marshall Islands called Majuro, where eight Maryknoll School students taught summer classes at the local high school. The living conditions were rough by anyone’s standards. Icy rain water catchment showers, stray dogs and, as Ian described them, radio-active sized critters crawling around his head at night.

When Ian applied for the privilege to participate that year, he had to address his ability to adapt to unfamiliar and potentially difficult situations. He didn’t lie when he said that he believed he was up to whatever situation arose, but I don’t think any of them could have been completely prepared for the reality of life on this tiny atoll. And, while they did a lot of preparations to be ready for the trip, there was a fair amount of culture shock upon their arrival there.

My PC broke a few months ago and it forced me to use web-based emails for about a week. While in the system, and while trying to find another email among my thousands of emails, I ran across an email chain between me and Ian during his mission trip in 2010. Gift of God! Really, the chance of me ever running across these emails was beyond slim-to-none.

While each email was brief, the correspondence went back and forth nearly daily for the three-week period. The conversation was – well, just awesome. Ian’s enthusiasm for life came shining through with each line I read. It felt as though I was having a real-time conversation with him … again, as he filled me in more and more about the happenings on Majuro, and as his heart quickly grew to love the place and people. I asked a million questions to be sure he was eating enough, sleeping at all, and having a good time. Of course, he was:

…Almost right after I sent the message I was told I was going to get switched to a family by myself!! I offered to go with this family and Matt is staying with the principal. The family is awesome though, you would like them a lot. The lot we live in is at the end of the island, in a town called Rita, and I catch a cab for 50 cents to and from school. Teaching is going well. I’ve been mainly teaching geography and science with Matt, and Mr. Mcgivern said we’re doing well.

…I’ve been getting a lot to eat. The dinners are the bomb. They eat a lot of rice, so Ive definitely been loading the carbos. We usually eat as a group for lunch. Just yesterday I ate chicken Pancit for lunch. It was delicious.

…Outside of the school there are definite waves. Everyday pretty good size windswells pound the reef shelf out there but its super shallow. In fact today theres a super low tide and there are rocks sticking out everywhere! So that break is out of the question. Haha. I got my hands on a little mini water bullet board, and tomorw (Saturday) we will be going to the bridge where there is a surf break. Justin drives by it everyday and says theres small waves to catch. Don’t worry I will be safe haha. Love you guys…

            …Don’t worry I have been saying many prayers and keeping up in my Bible. In fact, I was reading Ruth last night, and I found it really interesting how similar her situation was to ours. She did what God called her to do with Boaz and was greatly blessed for it and her offspring eventually led to the birth of Christ!

If my memory serves, there was a phone call or two in between the emails. On one of those calls, I gave Ian great news. His SAT scores were in and they were awesome. He was thrilled, but with each passing day, Ian’s mind and heart were getting further and further away from things like college preparation plans.

It was while reading this email when I wondered if Ian didn’t catch a glimpse of heaven while on this mission trip:

          THIS WEEKEND WAS SO MUCH FUN! We went to the bridge and it was super cool. All the boys jumped off and it was super fun. The drop is like Waimea Bays rock, but the water is super deep so we didn’t even have to worry about hitting the bottom. But yesterday (Sunday) was da bomb. We went to a catholic church in the morning, and afterwards we went on a boat out to a different island. It is seriously like a little paradise. Its so perfect there. It’s on the lagoon side of the island so the water is calm, we had jetskis, platform diving board, good food, good friends and it was so awesome.


He explained that it was one of the wealthier families on the island that hosted them on that day. I imagine that heaven will be so much like this island that Ian described, with its calm lagoon, vibrant activities, good food, and good people. I can only imagine how much Ian enjoyed this experience, a mere 6 years before he was snatched away to the ultimate paradise with Jesus.

Back in the original emails, in one instance, after Ian described a run-in with some giant spiders, I wrote back:

Geez…this trip is like a “rite of passage” into manhood for you guys! It’s like when those tribes send their young men into the wilderness and they have to survive among the wild (in your case – among the rats, roaches and spiders) and then you’ll come home all grown up. Haha.

The truth is that Ian did come home a changed person. He never forgot the experience and referenced it often over the years. He even remained in contact with some of the students that he met there.

In college, Ian wrote a paper about his mission trip to Majuro. It was titled, “Learning Big Things from Small Places.”

            The humbling experience made me count my blessings, and made me appreciate the things that are so easy to take for granted. However, despite the harsh living conditions, the Marshallese people were bound by love and moral values. Every day, rain or shine, my students showed up to class eager to learn; every night, my host family worked hard to feed and shelter me. Even with so little to live with, they continually showed me what is most important in life: love and family.

When I went through Ian’s belongings recently, I found that he had retained just a handful of things from high school when we made the move from Kaneohe to Makakilo. In a nondescript envelope I found handwritten notes from about 15 students who Ian had taught over that summer of 2010. The students expressed their appreciation in just that special way that high-schoolers can:

  • Wow! You are like the BEST-BEST teacher! Thank you for your kind and loving heart and for being so fun and caring! Thank you for making us laugh all day and especially for being so loveable.
  • All I gotta say is that you’re a nice guy man. Your class with Matt was the best class. Keep cool.
  • Well you are so funky chu know. You should keep teaching cuz your awesome.
  • Um gunna miss you big time…the way you joke around and make other people laugh is what I like most about you. You’re very kind, loving, and cute.
  • Have a safe trip when you leave the Marshall Island and always keep the Marshall Island in your heart. God be with you and throughout your life, too.
  • You’re a great teacher. Oh and also thank-Q for making me laugh all the time. You’re a funny and fun loving guy. Lastly, just want to say don’t 4get our best summer together.

Indeed, Ian never forgot the good people of the Marshall Islands and the life-changing time he spent there with his Maryknoll School compadres. After three weeks in Majuro, he had a paradigm shift. You see, the roaches, rats and spiders were just color commentary.  The true story is that Ian arrived prepared to serve others, and he left blessed with a depth of love for an unforgettable community of people.


6 thoughts on “Loving God by Serving Others

  1. I was one of Ians students back at Majuro. He sure was a GREAT teacher and Friend! Never will you be forgotten ❤


  2. My family were the host family for Ian. He was truly a great, loving, and caring son/brother/friend to my family. He will never be forgotten ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Alana, oh my how good it is to hear from you. Ian was so blessed to come to know your family in the way that he did. He talked about all of you often. I remember the day that he emailed me that he was staying with your family. I was immediately comfortable with all of you and so happy to be there. Ian spoke of your family’s kindness, love and generosity often. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. God bless you.


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