Sunday, February 23, 2014

Elder Johnson and Saipan

In mid January 2014, Elder Gubler was released from his assignment as an AP and is finishing his mission just really focusing on serving the people. Eric enjoyed his time with him. Elder Johnson, originally from Colorado and serving on Chuuk, was called to be an AP and Eric's companion. They work hard and but still take time to have fun too, as the picture below shows:

Elder Johnson and Eric in Saipan
 They were scheduled to make their first trip together to Yap, but at the last minute the flight was cancelled, so they went to Saipan. 

Brief History:

Saipan is the largest island of the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean. It is the second largest island in the Mariana Islands, after Guam. It is only 12 miles by 5.6 miles wide consisting of 44.55 square feet. In 2010, Saipan’s population was 48,220. The western side of the island is lined with sandy beaches and an offshore coral reef which creates a large lagoon. The eastern shore is composed primarily of rugged rocky cliffs and a reef. Coconuts, papayas, and Thai hot peppers are among the fruits that grow wild. Local families and farmers cultivate mango, taro root and bananas. The island used to have a large population of giant African land snails, introduced either deliberately as a food source, or accidentally by shipping, which became an agricultural pest. In the last few decades, its numbers have been substantially controlled by an introduced  flatworm that unfortunately also wiped out the native tree-snails.

Traces of human settlements on Saipan have been found by archaeologists ranging over 4,000 years. Saipan was discovered in 1521 by the Spanish, who originally named the island San Jose. The native population shrank dramatically due to European-introduced diseases and conflicts over land and the survivors were forcibly relocated to Guam in 1720 for better control and assimilation. After the Spanish-American War of 1898, Saipan was occupied by the US, but it was sold by Spain to the German Empire in 1899. During World War I, the island was captured by the Empire of Japan and was awarded formal control in 1918 by the League of Nations as part of the South Pacific Mandate.  During World War II, Japan considered Saipan as part of the last line of defenses for the Japanese homeland, and thus had strongly committed to defending it. The Battle of Saipan from 15 June to 9 July 1944 was one of the major campaigns of World War II. Some 20,000 Japanese civilians perished during the battle, including over 1,000 who committed suicide by jumping from "Suicide Cliff" and "Banzai Cliff" rather than be taken prisoner. 

Banzai Cliff

 The local population mostly fought on the Japanese side. With the capture of Saipan, the US was only 1300 miles from Japan and brought Japan within striking distance of the B-29 bombers.

After the end of World War II, Saipan became part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands  administered by the United States. The island continued to be dominated by the United States military. The military presence began to be replaced by tourism in the 1990s, but still plays an important role in the local economy.

There are 12 missionaries on Saipan: 8 Elders and 4 Sisters. Eric mentioned that he has noticed these cultural differences: In Palau the people are really open, in Guam not so much, and even less so on Saipan. But he really enjoyed the beautiful island and people.