Vol. 19, No. 1, Spring 2006
Tales from the South Pacific
Greg Oswald's Faith Led to a Life-Changing Experience
For as long as he can remember, Greg Oswald '03 knew that he would someday become a missionary. The where, the when and the how were still to be determined.
Greg against the blue water of the Pacific.
"I can't quite remember the exact moment," he says. "It had been something I would frequently think about. I knew that this type of work would be extremely rewarding, but also extremely demanding. So I knew I would have to bide my time and wait until I was older and more mature."
When the pieces finally came together after his graduation from Hofstra in December 2003, Greg was neither apprehensive nor sad to leave his family to live and work in the remote South Pacific Solomon Islands for a year. Elated, excited and full of hope would be better descriptors.
"At the beginning of my fall semester, junior year, I had started extensive research into different avenues I could take for missionary work." After briefly investigating the Peace Corps, Greg says he began to look into Catholic missions and mission organizations. "I quickly realized how many different options there were, things like places to go, types of work and lengths of term. There are a million things to consider when you are getting into it."
During the course of his research, Greg began communicating with a Jesuit priest in Kenya who operated an orphanage for children with AIDS. Greg was very interested in working with him, but plans fell through when ethnic strife in Kenya caused very dangerous conditions for foreigners. Disappointed but not discouraged, Greg came into contact with Bishop Chris Cardone, who heads a Catholic mission in the Solomon Islands. His diocese consists of more than 100 islands covering 800 square miles of water.
The two men met when the bishop was on Long Island visiting family. "Over the next couple of months I developed a dialogue with Bishop Chris through e-mail," says Greg. "By mid-summer  I made a verbal commitment to the bishop to dedicate a year to work in the Solomon Islands in any capacity he needed me."
Plans were in motion for Greg to enter a world very different from his life on Long Island and at Hofstra. He met the future with a great sense of optimism and no hesitation. "Because my decision to work in a mission was made up in my mind for years, it wasn't a question of whether I would go, but when and where. I was euphoric when my plans were finalized about going to the Solomon Islands.
"People don't believe me when I tell them, but I had no worries at all. I wasn't scared or nervous, but excited and eager. I was completely at peace with myself at that time. I had prepared myself mentally, physically and - most importantly - spiritually for this mission. So graduation came and went, and then in February I was on a plane to the South Pacific."
A scattered archipelago of about 1,000 mountainous islands and low-lying coral atolls, the Solomon Islands lie east of Papua New Guinea and northeast of Australia in the South Pacific. If the prospect of leaving home, family and job prospects behind in New York wouldn't be scary enough for most people, Greg also had to contend with the fact that he had no formal training for the work he was about to undertake. "But that was what made the experience even more exciting for me," he says. "Most people usually go through an extensive preparation period where they are introduced to the people and culture, language and political aspects of the country. I, on the other hand, went in an unorthodox way to the missions. All I knew was a date to come and that I would be working in one of three places: Moli, Mono or Nila. Nila was where I wound up."
The official language of the Solomon Islands is English, used commonly in business and politics. More widely used is Solomon Islands pidgin. A number of the islands also have their own indigenous language and for many residents, that is all they speak and understand... | more |