Young Life University Southern California (USC) to Molokai, Hawaii. March 11-19, 2017.
Our Young Life Expeditions trip was three years in the making. In 2014 we didn’t have enough interest in a trip and it wasn’t until this spring that our team of 14 finally boarded a plane for Molokai, HI. It was everything I hoped that it would be and an even greater amount of what I never expected.
We traveled to this self-proclaimed “Friendly Island” and birthplace of the Hula with these preconceptions: it was a former leper colony, there were no stoplights, and there would be a high level of poverty. However, when we arrived the story had so many more facets. We were welcomed by a people in Molokai who were not only far from
impoverished, but rich in heritage and pride in their island culture. We were treated to a healthy dose of OHANA which means family. We were greeted as cousins, uncles, brothers, and sisters of our hosts. We were invited to worship with them, celebrate a birthday feast with them, assist in Young Life ministry with them, and take part in weekly sports activities with them as if we were fellow citizens of the Molokai community.
As opposed to serving them, we served alongside our friends in their endeavor to preserve their beautiful island and its resources. We did so by helping paint and beautify the grounds of the church and the adjoining pre-school. We also learned about the importance of keeping the beaches of Molokai clean in light of the constant debris that found its way to the shores of Moo’momi Beach as a result of the tsunami in Japan. We learned about the vital and integral farming resources that fill the small island and help feed and provide a living for the population of approximately 7,000 homesteaders. In the process we were each invited into the privilege of planting a tree and labeling each one with our names. This earned us an invitation to become honorary members of the Hawaiian Tropic Fruit Growers (HTFG). We were blessed to be able to clear overgrown foliage from the property of a single mother of two who had just acquired her property, but found it too daunting to clear it herself. We did so while she was teaching at school and left before she came home to the surprise of a slightly improved landscape.
There was much beauty to see in the sheer cliffs, breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, and unique beaches that are unlike any beaches we have seen in Southern California. In all of its quaintness, the small downtown area of Molokai bore a charming resemblance to Andy Griffith’s Mayberry and offered a warmth that was ever-present in the frequent gestures of its citizens who would never hesitate to wave “hello”. Exchanges like this and laughs shared with our new friends over games made it difficult to leave. When the time came many of us were not ready to go home, simply because we had been made to feel so at home. In the end, each participant expressed their desire to return to this friendly island full of culture, delicious fruit, and citizens so warm that they would truly give you all that they have if you express the need to have it. In so many ways, they were far richer than we could have ever imagined, and they shared that with us through their love, grace and “others-oriented” way of life. MAHALO Molokai for sharing your warm and wonderful wealth with us!
Until we meet again….
Written by: Ben Chambers, YL College Director USC/UCLA