Bond in the USA

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday 18th November 2011

TULSA, Oklahoma was the meeting place, a place of destiny for four young men from different villages in Papua New Guinea to meet for the first time. 
Each had travelled over 10,000 miles to this place that was once just a dream in the young boys’ hearts, a dream that had become a reality. 
Each one arrived at a different year or time for a different reason, and last Saturday, they found in each other a kindred spirit and a unique bond. 
Clement Abai, Wilson Kalama, Moses Pagi, and Edwin Ako looked into each other’s faces and saw their home, family and friends. 
A strong will, a lot of courage, and some defining moments and key people brought them all together. 
This incredible meeting began when Wilson Kalama, whose love and passion for media and cameras seeded a dream and desire that wouldn’t be silenced.
He left his home in Rabaul, East New Britain province, to find his destiny in the State of Oklahoma this past September.
Kalama applied for an internship at a worldwide television ministry, LeSea Christian Broadcasting and was accepted.
Crystal Theriot, Passageway Ministries administrator, was a key player in connecting Kalama with LeSea Broadcasting for this internship.
Theriot and Dan Smith, general manager of LeSea Broadcasting, worked for many months to design a specific internship that would train him in every aspect of production, from the beginning of a show to editing and to finalising the production. 
“This type of training would normally take four to six years to learn, but is being accelerated for Kalama to learn in about six months to one year,” Theriot explains.
Pastor Ella Coley of Passageway Ministers of Bixby, Oklahoma, had an established friendship with him and became his sponsor for the duration of his internship with LeaSea…and everything fell into place for Kalama,
“He arrived in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Sept 30, 2011, after almost three days of non-stop flying,” Theriot adds.
“His stops included a 10-hour stay in Los Angeles, several hours in Salt Lake City and then flying into Atlanta for a few hours before finally arriving in Tulsa.
“Wilson is now actively involved in the Praise and Worship Team at Passageway Ministries, and is warmly received and already loved by the people. 
“Playing music is not strange to Wilson, who is versatile on drums, bass, guitar, and keyboard. 
“His father, William Kalama, is a pastor in East New Britain and works with more than 30 churches in PNG.
“A strong believer in God’s purpose and destiny for his life, Wilson is passionately engaged in his destiny in the States…a destiny that seems to be unfolding each and every day before his very eyes.
“Upon completion of his training, Wilson hopes to take his experiences, his knowledge, and his training someday back to his homeland to assist ministries in broadcasting on television.”
In July, Theriot found out about Clement Abai, a former athlete from PNG who was living in Oklahoma, just a short distance from where she lives.
She stuck up a friendship with Abai in hopes that when Kalama arrived, he would have a friend from home to connect with. 
Soon after his arrival in Tulsa, Kalama and Abai began corresponding through Facebook and texting.  
Clement Abai came to the USA in January 2000 on a full athletics track and field scholarship offered by Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
At Tulane, he studied and competed for the university throughout his college career until 2004.
As part of the team, Abai travelled to different places in the US to compete, which gave him the opportunity to see new places, meet new friends from all over the US and the world, and learn new cultures.
However, being a student athlete without the family support was tough physically and mentally at times.
 He had to do everything on his own such as doing laundry, cooking, etc, after practising six hours a day (three hours in the morning, three hours in the afternoon) during the season, working three hours a day on campus for extra cash and going to classes at night,
Graduating with a computer science degree in 2004, Abai was hired to work for his alma mater (Tulane University) for a year and also decided to stop doing the sport of track and field that he enjoyed doing.
After working for a year and his temporary work permit expiring in 2005, he changed his status to a dependant status under his wife’s student status to be legally here in the US. He stayed two years at home taking care of his newly-born son while his wife continued with her PhD programme.
 In August 2005, as a result of Hurricane Katrina, he and his family moved from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Stillwater, Oklahoma for Mrs Abai to pursue her doctorate degree at Oklahoma State University.
In August 2007, Abai was hired by Oklahoma State University as the assistive technology specialist and was granted a six years work permit.
 As the assistive technology specialist, 80% of his time is spent on managing the assistive technology software; help develop accessible websites for the four campuses of Oklahoma State University in the state of Oklahoma and ensuring the university is in compliance with the state and federal disability laws in regards to technology.
They plan on working here for few more years until their work permits expire and then will pursue opportunities in other countries, mainly Australia or New Zealand to be closer to home (PNG) or Kenya in Africa where his wife is from.
The whole experience taught Abai how to commit and dedicate himself to doing sports and school, scheduling his time correctly, make realistic life decisions, controlling his emotions physically and mentally, etc.
He says none of this would not have been possible without the support from family and friends, his coaches, especially Naomi Polum in Port Moresby, the PNG Athletic Union, his alma mater (Tulane University) and most of all God for blessing him with his talent, education and a beautiful wife and two children.
It was shortly after Kalama arrived and began talking with Abai when another young man from Papua New Guinea appeared on the scene. 
Friends of Passageway who had also visited Papua New Guinea (Ben and Andi Stephens) were having coffee at a local coffee shop in Tulsa after service and struck up a conversation with Edwin Ako, and learned he was from Tambul Village, near Mt Hagen.  They quickly invited him to Passageway Ministries Bible Study and he accepted. 
Ako shared how he came to the States in 2006 to attend a Pensacola Christian College in Florida, for four years. 
Destiny again unfolded to Ako when he moved to Tulsa just two months ago to attend Victory Bible Institute.
He readily acknowledges his dependence on God and attributes his success to his faith in Christ.
His plans are to continue to study here in the States and continue his journey of Faith as God directs. 
Ako found friends with warm hearts and outstretched hands in the Stephens’ and at Passageway Ministries.
Excited about meeting his new found friend from his homeland, Ako then brought another young man to Passageway, Moses Pagi, of Lae. 
At the tender young age of 16, Pagi came to the States to stay with extended family in the State of Ohio.
He left his parents and family behind in his village of Erave district, Southern Highlands province, to pursue a dream that was bigger than the young boy dreaming it. 
Fighting loneliness, he courageously pursued the course that was set in motion by his parents who wanted only for him to have a better life and a greater future.
 Upon graduating high school, he moved to Florida to attend the same Bible School that Edwin was attending. 
It was there they became friends. 
Pagi plans to finish school here and gain some good experiences that he can take back later to his home and family in PNG.
He hasn’t been home since he came to the States and he really misses his family.
Pagi has been in Tulsa for about a year and is also attending Victory Bible Institute.
“Wanting to connect with these friends from home, Clement drove to Tulsa on Saturday to meet and spend time with the guys from his beloved homeland,” Theriot recalls.
“Laughing, sharing memories and unique stories, Wilson, Clement, Moses, and Edwin have an amazing story to tell … simply put it is this … God is a God of Divine Purpose and Destiny, and when we submit and surrender our plans to His, anything, yes, anything is quite possible!
“For how else could four young men from different villages and different lives in Papua New Guinea end up together 10,000 miles away from home in a place called Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA, if God had not ordained it to be so?”
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