Saturday, May 9, 2015

Romanum (Island of Chuuk) after Typhoon Maysak

April 14, 2015

President  Walter from Romanum came with his boat to take us to Romanum to visit shut-ins again.  The boat ride was really nice.  The water was smooth and I enjoyed looking at the beautiful clouds and didn’t even feel like I had to hang on for dear life.  I imagined that someday I will think back on this experience and actually miss Chuuk.  

When we got there he had a young man climb a coconut tree and get us some coconuts which he opened.  He asked me if I  brought my straw, because I have been bringing one to keep from spilling coconut water all down my shirt.  I must be getting a reputation with those straws!

We climbed the mountain behind the church and began visiting homes.  The devastation was really sobering.  There were trees down all over the place.  They had cut through the downed trees so the path could be used—at least where we went—but it was sad to see.  It was extremely hot partly because there was not much shade. 

When we reached the top of the mountain there was a beautiful open field with yellow flowers.

Many homes were damaged or destroyed.  Here is one that had several trees fall on it.

Following President Walter through the brush.

This little boy is learning to use a machete.  Look what his toys are:  (a piece of cardboard and a broken knife)

We saw a woman that had surgery on her foot and hasn’t walked since.  Now her legs are unable to straighten.  We encouraged her to work to straighten her legs and begin to walk again.  It will take work and pain, but it may be possible to walk again.

On we go through the woods.

The branch president introduced us to his mother:

These young people were cooking over a fire in their makeshift outdoor kitchen.  Close by was a woman living in a tent (a temporary shelter).

Next we saw a woman who was extremely thin, lying on the floor of a house (they all sleep on the floor here).  She had a fever and was extremely weak and had been sick several weeks.  She was in her 70’s.  They wanted to know if they should take her to the hospital.  Clair examined her and told them she would probably die if they didn’t take her to the hospital and she might die if they did.  There was nothing more that could be done outside the hospital.   We later learned that she died a few days later.

Our next stop was to see a man who had COPD from years of smoking.   He stopped 2 years ago, but could hardly talk without gasping for air.  There are no portable oxygen tanks here.  We recommended an inhaler which would help, if he can get one. 

It was laundry day at this house we passed.  The woman in the rear was boiling water over an outdoor fire on a day that was so hot we were dripping sweat.  Even Clair’s pants were soaked.  It is hotter without the shade the trees used to provide.

Here is another family gathered around a cooking fire.

Next we came to the Branch President’s house.  He told us he had been fortunate—a tree fell on his house, but it kept the roof from flying off!

This girl was drying fish on the roof her father caught when it started to rain.  It poored rain.  She is bringing the fish inside.  If they dry it and salt it it can last up to 3 weeks.  There is no refrigeration on most of these islands (or electricity).

Here is another young man that we have been helping with his health problems.  His mother is a Relief Society President and has 17 children!

I am sorry I can't get the next picture to display right side up.  It is not uncommon in Chuuk to see children playing in their “birthday suit” or playing with machetes.

The women in the background are doing laundry while the children are taking "showers."

We were really impressed with the branch president.  He is also a tribal chief (there are two tribes on Romanum) so he has many responsibilities.  As he guided us around the island you could tell he loved the people he serves and they respected him.  In spite of their difficulties, he laughs often.  Below is his new adopted daughter.

We love the people of Chuuk.  It is clear that they love their children.  They have little in the way of material things, but they understand the importance of family.  And they have faith in God and speak of it often.


  1. Thank you so much for posting this. My son (Elder Dann) is currently serving in Romanum so it was great to see so much of the island, although very sad to see the conditions the people live in there.

  2. They have survived similar disasters for many hundreds of years. For example, the practice of burying breadfruit to be consumed much later (awpwut). Although one suspects that the practice is less common now than in the past, due to reliance on Western culture and practices (eating Californian rice). Have heard stories of people in the Marshalls literally lashing themselves to coconut trees to survive typhoons where the see literally surges over the entire island. Chuuk has the advantage of elevation to get away from the surge as well as the fact that as a lagoon the central islands are more protected. But yeah, it does look like there are a lot less trees now than back when I was on Romalum in about 1994.

  3. I'm curious about the relief society presidents son. He was a young kid when I was out there in 2004. His mom is pretty awesome. She's definitely a woman of much faith!

  4. I'm curious about the relief society presidents son. He was a young kid when I was out there in 2004. His mom is pretty awesome. She's definitely a woman of much faith!