Cultural Connections From Kosrae
J-fiah Reeves came to Union from Texas in the fall of 2013, and will graduate in May 2018 with a bachelor's degree in Theology. J-fiah plans to be a an associate pastor after he graduates. In the year of 2015 - 2016, J-fiah spent time in Kosrae, an island in Micronesia, as a student missionary. He is willing to share his story to whomever will listen and encourages others to consider becoming a student missionary.
Melissa Ratter: Why did you decide to be a student missionary?
J-fiah Reeves: I wanted to take a year to get away from school and focus on serving others. I also wanted to work with kids and experience another culture.
MR: What was the best part of being there?
JR: The best part of being in Kosrae was getting to know the people there and experiencing life with them. My sixteen students changed my life and taught me so much about patience and love. I miss laughing with them at the dumbest things and singing the same song a billion times. I miss walking down the streets and playing random games with the local kids and practicing my Kosraean. I miss the ladies at the church always making me food because they said I was too skinny and would get sick if I didn’t eat. The people there were by far the best part of my experience.
MR: What was the biggest difference in the culture?
JR: Kosraeans were much more welcoming and family oriented; you could have 4 to 5 generations living in the same house or across the street from you. Whenever I would walk down the road by the school I would always get an invitation to eat at someone’s house or get a sample of what someone was cooking. People smiled and waved at you even if they didn’t know you. They also didn’t really have a concept of personal space, which at times could be a little annoying but also allowed us to feel closer to each other. You would share food from the same bowl or sit real close to a friend and that showed you were welcomed among them.
MR: What was the hardest part about being there?
JR: The language/cultural barrier was hard to deal with many times. The Islanders were extremely passive-aggressive and this made problem-solving really hard at times, especially in the church. The cultural barrier also made it hard for me to understand why my students did certain things or felt certain ways about my behavior. The language barrier made it difficult when people would talk in Kosraean around you so you wouldn’t understand and make no efforts to speak English.
MR: Tell me a story about your spring break there!
JR: We did some pretty cool stuff during Spring Break, like climbing the tallest mountain in Kosrae, but the thing I enjoyed the most was scuba diving. We got certified to scuba dive at the beginning of spring break and were able to do 4 dives. Every time we went we saw something beautiful in the ocean. There was Christmas coral on the rocks, eels, and bright colored fish. On our final dive we got to see some sharks and without realizing it I started floating towards them - our scuba instructor had to pull me back. It was such a cool experience that I would do again in a heartbeat.
MR: What life lessons did you learn through the experience?
JR: I learned that as Christians we love others, not so we can be loved in return but because we have been loved. I learned that the difficulties of life or an experience make the joys of the journey worth it. Lastly, when you decrease the distance between you and others, you increase the impact you can have in their lives.
MR: What advice would you give to future student missionaries?
JR: Be open to experiencing new people, places, foods, and moments wherever you go. Immerse yourself in the culture and pray for the strength to live outside of your own comforts.
Melissa Ratter is a senior studying language arts education.