Friday, March 7, 2014

A Little History

Dear Family and Friends,
I thought I would do a post on a  little history for you. 

The Republic of Kiribati straddles both the Equator and the 180th meridian.   It's 33 Atolls and islands all cluster about the Equator, 12 to the north and 21 to the south.

In 1788 Captain Thomas Gilbert of the British vessel Charlotte passed through what is today known as Kiribati,(where I am at)  accompanied by the HMS Scarborough under the command of Captain John Marshall. Thus the two group of Islands, " Gilbert Islands" and the " Marshall Islands"  Have been named after these two men. 
They were the first Europeans to see the islands that had previously been known as collectively by the indigenous name " Tungaru". The Gilbert Islands became part of the British Crown colony and in 1979 the Republic of Kiribati gained it's Independence.

All the Atolls and Island are low-lying, only about 4 or 5 meters above sea level. The only high ground can be found up a palm tree. (I haven't mastered that one yet but I will…)

The Kiribati people are Micronesians with links to other Micronesian peoples to the north, and also influenced by their Polynesian neighbors to the south. The language is Kiribati. Just within the last year they began teaching it at the MTC in Provo, Utah.

At the start of the Second World War the population on Tarawa was approximately 30,000. It now estimated that there are over 90,000 people living on this tiny Atoll. Bairiki is the capitol. This is where the President of Kiribati lives and most of the government offices are located.

Betio is a much larger town and can be reached by a man-made causeway.  Betio is where the Wharf is located and all the shipments and cargo come in to port. This is the most populated area of the island. At the other end of the Atoll is Bonriki this is where the airport is located. 

I live in the town of Eita on the Moroni High School Campus.This is a church owned school and everyone wants to attend school here. There are 45 girls and 45 boys that live in the dorms; most of them coming from outer islands. The rest of the students live here in Kiribati. There's over 600 students that attend and there could easily be over a couple of thousand if there was room. The education the students receive here is the best on the island and most everyone here wants a good education.


Two days after entering the war with their attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the Japanese captured the Gilbert Islands. The British had departed months earlier when it realized that Japanese occupation was imminent and thus began in 1941, the " Battle of Tarawa"  This was one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific war.  Many of the people suffered at the hands of the occupying forces, and the Japanese used the islanders as slave labor. Later the Americans recruited them and shipped them off to work on other islands in the Pacific.  

During the war some 750 Kiribati people lost their lives. 1900 Americans, 60 Tuvaluans, 5,670 Japanese and a handful of British, New Zealanders, Australians and other Europeans were killed. The estimated total reaches approximately 8,730.

There are still many remnants of war that can be seen and heard here. The large bomb shells are used as a bell for meal time. The locals will take a large metal spoon and pound on it. It can be heard from a long way off. But when the sound rings through the air you can see a lot of people and a whole lot of children go running. 

I have loved these people at first sight. I felt at home the minute I walked off the plane. They are so kind, loving and gentle. I am so humbled and honored to serve a mission for the Lord here in Kiribati. May we all hold on to peace and let go of any and all contention. I know firsthand just how difficult it is to surrender but as I have and will continue to repent and be refined, my heart is filled with the peace and the love of my Savior.

Love to all of you - my dearest family and friends,
Sister Cassita