The Marshalls Provide ‘Mission’ Experience

Marshall Islands

ROOF ASSEMBLY–Team members attach sheet metal roof to the new chapel.

by Lt. Colonel Mervyn L. Morelock – 

The Western Territory’s Mission Service Team has just returned from Jaluit Atoll, Marshall Islands, after braving 200 miles of open sea to reach the atoll and build a corps chapel. The Army began its work as an outpost on Jaluit 13 months ago under the leadership of Envoys Ongra Abwe and Hemrina Hanerc, and has grown to a corps with 120 people attending, with an outpost of more than 100. Jaluit is about 185 miles southwest of Majuro.

The team was composed of officers and laymen from nearly every division in the territory. Major Richard Green, Fairbanks, Alaska, Lloyd Mathison, Puyallup, Wash., Major Barbara Blix, DHQ Portland, Ore., Lt. Brian Hoover, Petaluma, Calif., Major Ron Strickland, DHQ San Francisco, Calif., Captain Sam Southard, San Francisco ARC, A/Captain Hector Orellana, Salt Lake City, Utah, Kevin Pontsler, Torrance, Calif. and Major William Mulch, Sun City, Ariz. were led by team leaders Lt. Colonels Mervyn and Shirley Morelock’

The purpose of the Mission Service team is twofold: To do service in a missionary area and, upon return, to tell the story of the needs in at least five corps to encourage increased understanding and support of World Service/ Self Denial needs.

Commissioner Edwards, who was in Hawaii for the divisional review, gave his greetings and offered prayer for the team before departure.

An advance team, made up of Clarence Ing, Rob Noland, and Eldridge Park, led by Captain John Chamness, had just returned from Jaluit where they did preliminary work on the site, including pouring the foundation and columns, and the installation of support beams and the first three trusses.

Due to several delays in leaving Majuro for Jaluit, the team worked on the Rita Corps building, where they painted the interior, re-nailed the tin roof which had been damaged by high winds, did plumbing, electrical, and exterior door repairs for Captains Randy and Jonnette Mulch, corps officers and islands coordinator.

The team spent Sunday participating in the Rita Corps meetings, where Strickland organized the bandsmen in the group and found just enough instruments in a corps closet to form a brass ensemble. The crowd was delighted and their enthusiastic singing was an inspiration. Major Bill Mulch, Randy’s father, gave the Bible message. In the evening, a video was shown of the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus.

Due to another airplane cancellation, the team was forced to board the 45 foot cargo boat which had been hired to carry the bags of cement, hundreds of concrete blocks, lumber, boxes of food, 200 gallons of fresh water, tools and luggage, along with about 10 hitchhiking Marshallese who also wanted to get to Jaluit. They set off at sunset for what proved to be an l8 hour and 15 minute voyage across 200 miles of open sea to Jaluit. The little boat, hot, humid air, droning engine, diesel fumes, no food, a gross latrine, rolling high seas, no land in sight for hours, was not a Princess Cruise!

Envoys Abwe and Hanerc, along with Marshallese comrades, were a welcome sight when the team landed on Jaluit!

The enormity of the drought in the South Pacific is evident in both Majuro and Jaluit. Adults and children line up day and night hoping to fill their jugs at emergency desalinization machines. Abwe had to make several two hour round trip journeys to obtain water from a nearby atoll for their people and for the team.

The team began each day at 6 a.m. and worked till 7 or 8 p.m. to finish in four and a half days what they had planned to accomplish in nine. They fabricated the 15 trusses the first day. The second day, since there was no heavy equipment working, they hoisted each heavy truss assembly with rope and manpower. The third day was spent in nailing cross members and starting the sheet metal installation. The fourth day they nailed the sheet metal roof in place.

On Sunday, a strict day of rest in the Marshall Islands, the team readied the new building for the dedication and then set out for the dedication of an outpost building. The envoys, who have been in Jaluit for only a little over a year, had already opened an outpost at Jaluit-Jaluit, nine miles away (but a 45-minute ride down a narrow, bumpy road) where the Men’s Fellowship had built a beautiful hand-crafted Marshallese corps chapel from natural materials.

There were nearly 100 inside and 60-80 outside. Major Don Mowery, who had arrived with Major Jan Mowery and Captain Mulch on Friday, presented the envoys with their own Salvation Army flag.

On Sunday evening, the team held a dedication service in the new corps building. It was a very moving experience as the Mowerys and Morelock presented the Jaluit Corps flag. Under the light of the full moon, and with the sound of lapping waves, this “cathedral” was dedicated to God with a prayer that boys and girls, men and women, would come to know him as Lord and Savior, and that he would be uplifted and honored as the people worship in this holy place.

The real “miracle of Jaluit” was not only in seeing how quickly the team was able to erect one of the largest buildings in Jaluit, but to see how quickly the people have come to embrace The Salvation Army and its sharing the love of Christ in practical life-changing ministries.

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