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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Nunsgiving and a Man Named Bernard

All of my life I've had a fascination with nuns. It all started with Maria in The Sound of Music and continued from there. Whenever I see a nun, I have the urge to sit down with her at the nearest cafe and bombard her with questions - how did you join the convent? What order are you from? What work do you do? How do you pray? 

Lucky for me, I've had the chance to work alongside some of the sassiest, most hardworking, wise Sisters here in Micronesia. Nuns were present at all three of our Thanksgiving celebrations, so it was indeed a nunsgiving, and it was quite the event. It started a week and a half before Thanksgiving's calendar date with a Thanksgiving dinner at the Jesuit house with Father Dave, Father Ken, Sister Isabel, Sister Marlesa, Sister Toni, and Sister Dasko. Natalie, Nicole and I put ourselves in charge of preparing all the food as a thank you to the priests and nuns, who are always incredibly hospitable to us. Natalie, Head Chef, cooked an incredible turkey and Nicole and I helped with all of the side dishes. The nuns came over a few minutes before we were ready and thought it was so funny that we were using our computers to look up recipes online. We were glad to give them a good laugh, and grateful to Buzzfeed for the turkey recipe.

My heart was so full that night. The lazy susan was constantly spinning as people helped themselves to seconds and thirds. We were so happy to cook for this wonderful group of religious people who give so much to the church in Pohnpei.

Celebration #2 took place on Thanksgiving Day at Bernie's (the principal of my school) house. In true Pohnpei fashion, the power was off all afternoon that Bernie was planning on cooking. What do you do when the power is off and it's Thanksgiving? Eat chips and spinach dip until the power comes back on, tell stories and laugh and enjoy each other's company, that's what you do. Bernie made a wonderful spread after the power came back on for the three of us JVs, Sister Sophie, Sister Christina, and Sister Elerina. [There are two orders of Sisters on the island. The MMB Sisters live right next door to us (they were at our first celebration) and the MA Sisters live about 15 minutes away in Awak.] The MA Sisters are quite spirited - they have big laughs and bigger personalities. We had such a great time celebrating together!

Our third and final Thanksgiving took place next door at the MMB Sister's house. Our first Thanksgiving inspired Sister Dasko to try her hand a cooking a turkey, so we found ourselves sitting on their back porch with appetizers and wine on Friday night. The Deacon of the local parish was also there with his son and a man named Bernard.

Bernard is from Indonesia and has a crazy story. He is a fisherman and was out fishing in his boat one day when somehow he ran out of gas. No one was around, he couldn't get any help, and his boat started drifting. Bernard drifted at sea for 35 days. He only had uncooked rice to eat and rainwater to drink for 35 days. Finally, he was found drifting in Yap, the most western state of the Federated States of Micronesia.

I couldn't wrap my head around this story, this man who sat across the table from me. I just kept staring. Bernard. Bernard. You were stranded, drifting at sea, for 35 days. 35 days. And here you are! Alive! Breathing! Laughing! Drinking wine and miming because we lack a common language. Bernard!

I couldn't get over it. Through drinks and appetizers, a dinner plate full of turkey and all the fixings, and a plate of our now-famous JV gluten free apple crisp. I kept looking over at Bernard and I just wanted to give him a big hug. Bernard, you are here. Bernard, you are safe. Bernard, God provided for you. Most of Indonesia is Muslim, but Bernard is a Christian. With the few words of English that he knows, he told us that it was only thanks to God that he was rescued and is alive today.

Bernard finally has all of his documents in order and he flies back to Indonesia to be reunited with his family next week.

Bernard has so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving and Christmas season. And while none of us have been lost at sea for 35 days like Bernard, we too have so much to be thankful for. What has God blessed you with this year? Where have you seen His hand at work? Ask your friend or your sibling or your child what they are thankful for this year. Lets be a people who spend less money on gifts, more time with those we love, and more quiet moments whispering thank you, thank you, thank you for the blessings in our lives.