Ready for Takeoff in Kiribati!


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By Jessica Wilkinson

“When something goes completely askew in your day – some unexpected event knocks down your plans– burst into blessing, for life is teaching you a lesson. The very event you feel unwanted, you yourself called forth, so as to learn the lesson you might balk against were you not to bless it. Trials are blessings in disguise and hosts of angels follow in their path. – Pierre Pradervand

Pierre Pradervand is the author of “The Gentle Art of Blessing”, which Jeff McClellan was reading while on our screening trip to Kiribati. Curious, I asked him what it was about. He said you send out your blessings to everything around you, and you are blessed in return. Everything will work out as it should. This turned out to be the theme of our trip, with lots of unexpected turns that led to meeting all the right people!

Day 1 of screening: Aatie (pronounced Asi) and Nenea picked us up and served as our translators for our day of screening at three locations across the island.  We were overwhelmed with the number of kids that showed up! We screened over 120 kids in a few short hours. We were expecting about 50, but were glad to have such a great turn out. The mothers were so involved and wanted to see their child's growth plotted on the growth charts and asked a lot of questions. After entering in all the height and weight measurements, 28 kids were at risk of undernutrition (23%) 11 kids were undernourished (9%).

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The babies are always the cutest to hold, in between screening lots of kids.

We wrapped up our final screening of the day, but didn't have a ride back to our hotel which was about 30 minutes away by car. As we started walking, a man ran around the corner asking if anyone was a doctor. There was an American boy who had boils and needed help. Jeff said he had the exact antibiotics to help, but it was back at our hotel. Suddenly, we had a ride back!  As we waited in the office, we met the boy with boils. Turns out, his family was neighbors with Jeff back home in the States. "Trials are blessings in disguise and hosts of angels follow in their path."  We needed to meet up with him and he needed to meet up with us! 

Jeff and Sean in our transport for the day- the back of a pick up truck.

Jeff and Sean in our transport for the day- the back of a pick up truck.

Day 2: The next morning, we braced ourselves for another high turn out. After waiting over an hour and half, we realized no one was coming. There had been a miscommunication and the announcement for the screening wasn't made in this area. We were so disappointed! But, true to the quote, "Trials are blessings in disguise and hosts of angels follow in their path", the day turned out to be very productive.

First, we now had time to meet and build a relationship with the ministry of health. They offered to provide public health nurses for our future screenings, and our data management app will help them track undernutrition in all of Kiribati.  Biribo, their head pharmacist, agreed to pick up our supplements that were stuck at the port. They were very excited to work with us, which is key to long term success!

Sean signing the Memorandum of Understanding with Teani with the Ministry of Health

Sean signing the Memorandum of Understanding with Teani from the Ministry of Health

Later that day, we ran in to the stake president we had been looking everywhere for.  It was a miracle we found him and were in the same place at the same time. We discussed the work we hoped to do with him, and he saw the importance for the kids in his area and is now excited to work with us for our next screening in December.

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Finding the stake president in north Tarawa!


Days 3-5: 

Aatie (pronounced Asi) Tekanene agreed to be our coordinator! She was born and raised in Kiribati and served a mission in the Philippines. After spending some time training her, she handed out the supplements to qualifying kids. We feel so grateful she said yes to being our first official coordinator in Kiribati.  We also found a place with air conditioning to store the supplements, which was very hard to find!

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Our new coordinator Aatie

Although everything didn't turn out exactly how we had planned, it all happened as it needed to, and we are off to a great start in Kiribati!

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All smiles during our screening!


Follow us on Instagram @liahonachildren to learn more about Kiribati.