There are two phrases going round in my head at the moment.

The first is: oasis of thankfulness. The second is: island of hope.

The first refers to the classroom in which I teach. Never in all my years of teaching, both in schools and in church situations, have I been thanked so much for what I do. The men I am currently teaching are so eager to learn English or to improve their English language skills and are amazingly thankful for any time I spend teaching them, either individually or as a class. I am rarely been thanked for the message I bring at church, and then it is usually the same one or two people who respond and encourage me by their thanks. Almost never have I been thanked by a student I have taught in a classroom situation! So for me, and for the men in my classes, the small classroom on Nauru is an oasis of thankfulness; teacher and student alike are blessed.

I believe also that Nauru itself is an island of hope. On one of the buildings on the island, which is largely Christian (both Catholic and Pentecostal), are these words from Jeremiah 29:11 – “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” I believe that Nauru will prove to be an island of hope for the men who come here. God is bigger than any decisions that people make, either collectively or as individuals. I believe it is no accident that Nauru is the site for the processing of asylum seekers. It is an island of hope for a better future, a better future prepared by the God who loves all people regardless of race, faith or culture.

So these two phrases, oasis of thankfulness and island of hope have come out of my journey to a place that appears to be neither of these things. How often it is that what seems and what actually is, especially in God’s economy, are two quite completely different things!