Arriving in Funafuti for the first time is unlike anything you will ever experience elsewhere. Perhaps it’s the rustic fire engine that roars along the length of the airstrip, clearing the soccer goals, the chickens and the dogs away. It might be the huge greeting party of bright eyes and smiling faces that hover around the airport building, standing in the tropical sun to greet the newcomers. Something about those first steps onto Tuvaluan ground still stirs something in me to this day. It’s the memory of a loyal culture that loves and lives so freely.
Preserving those precious memories of some of the most incredible days of my life has transformed them into cherished reflections. They remind me that this project represents something so much bigger than any one of us. It’s a commitment to serve and love an entire nation that is blissfully afloat from many of the pressures of modern society. This bond will allow us to accomplish more together than we ever could alone. After all, Tuvalu means “Eight Standing Together.” It emphasizes the unity and stability of the geology of its atolls and lagoons, but also of its own cultural identity. The national emblem is emblazoned with the caption “Tuvalu Mo Te Atua”, Tuvalu for the Almighty, affirming that faith in Divine Providence will sustain their people against a sea of change and uncertainty.
It is a unique and humbling experience, to walk in the midst of an ancient people that have not forgotten the ways of their fathers, the teachings of Christ, and the morality and sanity of a calmer, arguably more civilized world. They huddle on handmade mats in simple homes, some lit only by firelight and the radiant faces of their children, to read scripture, pray, sing a few of the myriad of songs that have been preserved and passed down, or recite stories and genealogies of the ones that sailed before them.
A culture so rich and so innately aware of its self-worth in the eyes of Heaven does not simply sail away to neighboring shores. Nor does it sink passively into the Pacific. It reaches out to anyone and everyone that will listen, that will learn, that will give. It catches your eye, takes your hand, and holds your heart- asking not to be forgotten.