Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Marshall Islands and Our Man in the Marshalls

It snowed in the Pacific Ocean on March 1, 1954, or so it seemed to the fishermen casting their nets for tuna near the Marshall Islands on that early Monday morning.

Big, white flakes were falling from the sky.

The men on the Lucky Dragon #5 fishing boat marveled at the falling flakes. One fisherman palmed a snowflake and put it in his mouth. It didn't melt, nor did it have any taste. The fisherman quickly spat out the gritty flake.

It wasn't snow.

Pulverized, radioactive coral was falling from the sky as in a winter snowstorm. The men on the boat concentrated on their tuna fishing while the white ash continued to cover them like icing on a wedding cake. After a few hours, the white stuff stopped falling. The fishermen believed the ash a nuisance, but none thought it deadly.

The red dot is the location of the Marshall Islands
But they had become dead men walking.

The white stuff, later called "death ash" by these same fishermen, was the radioactive fallout from a hydrogen bomb the United States military had detonated in the Marshall Islands of the Pacific.

Those who came in contact with this radioactive substance would suffer from life-long illnesses or die a premature, painful death. Their moving stories are told in the book The Day the Sun Rose in the West.

What had happened? From where had the nuclear ash originated?

At 6:45 am on that Monday morning, March 1, 1952, the United States military detonated in the Marshall Islands the largest thermonuclear (hydrogen) bomb ever created. The U.S. government called the bomb Castle Bravo.

From 1946, the year after World War II ended, til 1958, the U.S. military conducted nuclear testing operations in the Marshall Islands, detonating 67 nuclear and thermonuclear bombs. The bomb dropped that Monday morning, March 1, 1954, was the largest of the 67 bombs. The snowflakes that fell on the fisherman 70 miles away were pieces of coral from the island that had been pulverized, radiated, and blown into the stratosphere, only to fall back to earth like snow. The men on the boat had seen and heard the explosion, which seemed like “the sun rising in the west,” but it was the ash that fell during the late morning and afternoon which killed them.

According to nuclear physicist Robert A. Naballa, the combined explosive yield of the sixty-seven nuclear bombs detonated in the Marshall Islands during those twelve years was equivalent to one Hiroshima-sized bomb detonated daily for nineteen years. 

The 29 atolls and islands that are the Marshall Islands
Pacific Islanders who originate from the Marshall Islands are called Marshallese. Because of the American government's testing of nuclear weapons on their islands, the Marshallese found their fish had become contaminated, their coconut trees gave them poisoned milk, and their radiated land grew radioactive vegetables.

The Marshallese people were doomed.

Many Marshallese women began giving birth to children with deformities. Marshallese men died at a young age from cancer. Many Marshallese starved for lack of quality food. The Marshallese needed help.

In 1986 the United States Congress signed into law the Compact of Free Association which allowed Marshallese people to come to America without visas, work at American jobs, and start new lives in America.

Thousands of Marshallese people have come to Enid, Oklahoma.

Enid, Oklahoma has the largest "percentage to population" of Pacific Islanders than any other city in America. Most of the over 5,000 Pacific Islanders in Enid, Oklahoma (Pop. 51,000) are Marshallese.

They need our help.

Though the Marshallese pay taxes, and though the Marshallese are allowed to join the United States military, the Marshallese do not qualify for Medicaid or other government benefit programs.

They are the forgotten people of the Pacific.

The Story of Yohanes Tetuko Arwakon

The jungles of Papua
The little boy had been tied to a tree all night.

The East Java villagers of the Pacific Islands called him "the devil child." His mom had gone to local witch doctors for blood rituals. She had given birth to three girls, but no boy. After the sixth witchdoctor performed a unique fertility blood rite, she became pregnant. The boy was born on March 31, 1979. They named him Yohanes.

The boy's first memories were nights spent tied to a tree in front of the family home. His father refused him to sleep in the family house "lest the devil enter."

The villagers, afraid of the boy, told his traditional tribal parents that they would either have to sacrifice a daughter to the gods to break the curse or give the boy away.

The boy's parents chose the latter option.

The people of Papua, where Yohanes Arwkon lived as a boy 
When the boy was five, an auntie who lived far away came to the boy's village to take him away.  He still remembers the image of his mother in the yellow dress, crying on the porch as her little boy stretched out his hands, screaming to his momma,
 "No, momma. Please, don't let me go." His father stood on the porch with his arms crossed.

The boy would never return to his parents' home. He'd see his mother only once more, shortly before her death.

That's how life began for Yohanes Arwakon, Emmanuel Enid's Pastor to Pacific Islanders.

But the painful memories became the seeds for God's purpose in Yohanes' life.

The auntie who took Yohanes as her own was the only Christian in Yohanes' extended family. She and her native Papuan husband had been unable to bear children. So they adopted Yohanes and gave him their last name, Arwakon. It was under their influence that Yohanes Arwakon received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior as a young boy in the swamplands of Papua.

Yohanes Arwakon, Emmanuel Enid's Pastor to Pacific Islanders

Yohanes and Yenni in Indonesia (2018)
Yohanes Arwakon's adoptive parents were Christian missionaries to the cannibal tribes of Papua, Indonesia. They worked among the Asmat tribe in the early 1960's. Yohanes' adoptive father, Yunus Arwakon, was a fellow missionary with Don Richardson, author of The Peace Child. Don worked among the Sawi tribe, while Yunus Arwakon worked among the Asmat people, the rival tribe to the Sawi.

In 1962, Michael Rockefeller, son of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, disappeared among the Asmat cannibal tribe of Papua. Missionaries serving alongside Don Richardson and Yunus Arwakon reported seeing "a white man" among the cannibal tribes of the swampland of Papua (e.g., the Sawi and the Asmat), but the mystery of what happened to Michael Rockefeller has never been solved.

Paul Young, Pastor Wade Burleson's friend and author of #1 worldwide bestselling novel The Shack, also grew up in the highlands of Papua with his missionary parents during the early 1960's. The Arwakons served with the Youngs, the Richardsons, and were close friends with Finn Torjesen, the TEAM leader in Indonesia, and later China.

Yohanes Arwakon
Born in Java, adopted by Christian missionaries and raised in Papua, Yohanes grew to manhood among the tribes of Papua. His parents sacrificed to send him to the University of Manokwari. Growing up, Yohanes read many missionary biographies such as John Wesley, Charles Wesley, John Newton, William Carey, David Livingstone, Martin Luther, Hudson Taylor in China, DL Moody, Polycarpus in Martyr Rome, Adoniram Judson, Robert Moffat,  and Charles Spurgeon,. He was deeply impressed with their life stories. Yohanes surrendered his life to evangelical Christian missionary service.

But fulfilling his call as a missionary would have to wait for a few years as Yohanes was trained for his ultimate calling. Yohanes' education was in Community Planning. After receiving his college degree, Yohanes Arwakon went to work for the large American company Freeport-McMoran in their Indonesian division. Yohanes worked as the Deputy of the Executive Secretary for the Seven-Tribes Economic Bureau of LPMAK. His high-level position in Freeport-McMoran involved oversight of a billion dollar endowment to assist in Community Planning among some of the same Papua tribes with whom his father had ministered as a Christian missionary - the.Amungme, Kamoro, Moni, Mee, Damal, Dani, Nduga. 

Yohanes' job was to develop free medical clinics for the Papua tribes, expand the educational opportunities among tribal children, and provide job opportunities and training for tribal adults. Yohanes was in charge of the annual disbursements of the billion-dollar endowment that Freeport-McMoran established to "improve the tribal communities" around the world's largest mine, the one owned and operated in Indonesia by Freeport-McMoran.

 2017 Marshallese Children's Christmas Party at Emmanuel
Yohanes was a successful businessman, recognized for his work around the world. The United States Department of State selected Yohanes in 2013 to attend their prestigious International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), a school which names David Cameron, Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela, and a host of other world leaders as its graduates. Yohanes completed the school, which focused on community planning in 2013, and to this day, remains the only Indonesian ever chosen by the United States government to attend. 

After working for 12 years as a community planner, Yohanes Arwakon and his wife Yenni and their three boys came to Enid, Oklahoma and we interviewed him for the job of Pastor to Pacific Islanders. Our Leadership Team, after hearing Yohanes' Christian testimony, receiving the highest recommendations from his former bosses at Freeport McMoran, and visiting with pastors and missionaries in Papua, voted unanimously to license Yohanes as our Pastor to Pacific Islanders. Unlike Indonesian churches, our church in American recognizes gifted men and women and empowers them to serve according to their giftedness. We see "Pastor" as a "verb" of service and not a "noun" of status.

The 5,000 Marshallese in our community are in need of professional community planning assistance. The United States government has abandoned the Marshallese when it comes to their medical care, the educational opportunities for their children, and providing a host of financial and job training seminars. Emmanuel Enid believes that Yohanes Arwakon is the perfect man to help the Marshallese in Enid assimilate into American culture and to benefit from all that America has to offer.

Our Man in the Marshalls

The United States Department of Homeland Security and the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) gave Emmanuel Enid approval for the Religious Worker (R-1) Visa which allows Yohanes to work in community planning among the Marshallese in Enid as the Pastor to Pacific Islanders.

Yohanes and Yenni and the Marshallese in their home in Enid
Yohanes began his at Emmanuel Enid on August 1, 2017. For the past year, Yohanes has begun connecting social services in our community for the assistance of the Marshallese. He heads our English as a Second Language Program and has been heavily involved in Enid Public Schools, assisting our educators with the fast-growing population of Marshallese children. Emmanuel Enid and Yohanes were beginning to work with state government to apply for better health care for the Marshallese, and it was our goal to develop free medical clinics for the specific needs Marshallese people have.

Yohanes work among the Marshallese came to an abrupt end on March 8, 2018, when the American Consulate in Jakarta, Indonesia refused Yohanes and Yenni to return to America. They'd gone to Indonesia to visit Yenni's ailing father, and when it came time to come back to Enid, the American Consulate said "No."

Yohanes, Yenni, Wade, and the Arwakon Boys in Enid

The American Consulate says Yohanes needs an E-4 PERMANENT Immigrant Visa, not an R-1 Temporary Immigrant Visa. The E-4 requires a much longer application process, as well as two years of employment at Emmanuel Enid.

So, Emmanuel Enid, the most generous evangelical church in the state of Oklahoma, is not only going to continue to pay Yohanes salary and benefits until the E-4 is approved (August 1, 2019), but the church is also paying to relocate Yohanes, Yenni, and their three boys to the capital of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the city of Majuro.

For the next 18 months, Emmanuel Enid will have "Our Man in the Marshalls"

Yohanes will learn the Marshallese language, work with the RMI government, connect with families of loved ones who live in Enid and do community planning in the city of Majuro. When Yohanes comes back to Enid in 2019, he will be even better and more qualified to serve the Pacific Islanders.

Christ's Love in Us Becomes Christ's Love from Us

Yohanes, Yenni at the 2017 Marshallese Thanksgiving Dinner
Why would a church go to such great expense for our ministry to the Marshallese people?

Why would Emmanuel Enid move a man and his family to the Marshall Islands to be better prepared to minister to the Marshallese people?

Why would people like Yohanes and Yenni and their three boys (Jonathan, Paul, and Noel) risk everything to fly to Majuro, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, to spend a year or more learning the culture and the language of the Marshallese people with whom they minister in Enid, Oklahoma? The Arwakons could live comfortably in Indonesia with the resources Yohanes has earned from his executive position with Freeport-McMoran. So why be a missionary to the Marshallese, focusing on Community Planning, living and working among people with so many needs?

I'll tell you why.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  (Matthew 25:31-40)
I keep thinking about that fisherman in the Marshall Islands who tasted the white ash in 1954 and died. His grandkids could be living among us in Enid. I want them to know that there are some American Christians who truly care about them as people. We want to love the Marshallese not just with our words but we shall declare our love for the least of these by our actions.

Godspeed, Yohanes Arwakon. The people of Enid, Oklahoma look forward to your return among us.

Majuro, Capital of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and home for the Arwakon family until August 2019


Christiane said...

What an interesting account to read during this special week. Thank you, Wade, for sharing this with us. Hope all goes well for this special young man. Thank God for the good people of Enid Emmanuel Church who are supporting him now.

May he long and honorably serve 'the God Who knew the way out of the grave'.

Rex Ray said...


Your post is such a powerful story it makes my off topic seem small, but I believe the true story of the assassination of Robert Kennedy needs to be told.

Kennedy’s Campaign Team became worried there wasn’t enough bodyguards and hired Thane Eugene Cesar from Ace Guard Service.

Cesar was a 26-year-old plumber who worked part time as a guard. He was a strong supporter of George Wallace who was running for President as the candidate for the American Independent Party. Cesar was outspoken in his hatred of the Kennedys which I believe endured him to LBJ who at the time was President of the U.S.

It looked like Robert Kennedy would easily become President the way he was winning primaries. He still had proof that Johnson had a thousand-dollar kickback from a Fort Worth Aircraft firm. Also schemes that paid Johnson millions with Billy Sol Estes and Bobby Baker.

Cesar had Kennedy by the arm. I don’t believe he planned to kill Kennedy, but when a stranger (Sirhan) started shooting, Cesar saw an opportunity to improve the chance of Wallace becoming President by removing a man he hated. Cesar held Kennedy in front of him. In that position no one could see him fire his gun and everyone would think the stranger killed Kennedy.

The autopsy revealed Kennedy was shot from behind at an upward angle three times that left powder burns behind his ear and powder burns on his clothing caused by a gun held against his back.

Paul Schrade was walking behind Kennedy. Sirhan shot twice toward Kennedy with his gun level. His first shot wounded Schrade. His next shot passed through Kennedy’s shoulder pad without hurting him. After that Sirhan’s arm was held down on a table by two very large men, but Sirhan kept pulling the trigger until his gun was empty which wounded five people. This would indicate Sirhan’s mind was not rational but was hypnotized to keep firing his gun at what he thought were balloons.

Daniel Brown, a professor in psychology at Harvard Medical School interviewed Sirhan for 60 hours over a three-year period. Sirhan does not remember the assassination, but only being at a gun range and shooting at circular targets. Brown believes Sirhan was programmed to shoot by being hypnotized and was lured to the hotel by a young woman in a polka dot dress. https://www.cnn.com/2012/04/28/justice/california-rfk-second-gun/index.html

Rex Ray said...

Rhodes-Hughes was a television actress who worked as a volunteer fundraiser of Kennedy. She told CNN in 2012 that she saw Sirhan shooting from her left and heard gunshots from her right that were near Kennedy. The FBI interview her at her home, and she told them she heard 12 to 14 shots. Their report said she only heard 8. She told the FBI she would be glad to testify but they never called her.

At the time, Edgar Hoover was head of the FBI. The day after JFK was killed, he sent a secret internal memo: “The Bureau must convince the public Oswald is the real Assassin.” It’s easy to see the FBI didn’t want the truth how the two brothers were murdered. Did the FBI or maybe President LBJ influence the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to destroy their photographs of many bullet holes in the ceiling and door frame? Years later, the hotel was demolished.

Stanislaw Pruszynski had his cassette recorder going. All the shooting was in less than six seconds. The recorder revealed eight gunshots had the same sound and were the 1st, 2nd,4th, 6th,7th,9th,11th, and 13th. These shots would be Sirhan’s since he was the first to shoot. Louder gunshots were the 3rd,5th,8th,10th, and 12th shots. Days before, Sirhan had been shooting on a practice range and would have been using regular 22 bullets while Cesar’s, a body guard, would be using larger long-rifle 22 bullets that made a louder noise. Since Kennedy was hit 3 times, why did Cesar shoot 5 times? I can imagine with the first two bullets in his back, Kennedy jerked away causing shots 8th and 10th to miss. The fatal head shot would be 12th. Some gunshots were so close together it would be impossible to pull a trigger that fast.

Cesar said he drew his gun but never fired it. The LAPD took him at his word without testing it. Records show that Cesar’s gun was a 22 caliber-pistol with serial number H-18602. He said he sold it to someone and then it was stolen, but 25 years later a gun with serial number H-18602 was found in a small pond. Bullets from Kennedy proved to be fired from that gun. Shortly after the shooting Cesar went to the Philippines and has never been found.

Why did Sirhan’s trial find him guilty?

1.The trial never revealed the autopsy.
2.Bullets from Kennedy and other victims were different, but only substitute
bullets that looked the same were shown.
3.Only FBI approved people testified.
4.Pruszynski recorder was not available.
5.Sirhan’s lawyers tricked Sirhan to plead guilty, but later he denied being
guilty. Wonder if LBJ furnished Sirhan free lawyers?

Sirhan is still in prison today.

Wade Burleson said...


Fascinating story about Sirhan Sirhan and hypnotization. I read the book you suggested, and I'm convinced Oswald did not act alone. One of these days, I think all cloudy things will become clear and it could be very interesting what we all discover.

Johnny D. said...

Amazing stuff, Wade. What a great read!

Rex Ray said...


Robert Kennedy must have struggled with Thane Eugene Cesar as he was being shot because when Robert fell to the floor he had Cesar’s tie in his hand.

Sirhan was born in Jerusalem in 1944 and is a Christian.

Christiane said...

Holy Saturday: a meditation on Jesus in the tomb . . .


Rex Ray said...


Christiane said...


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