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Marshall Islands convert comes a long way in first generation

LAIE, HAWAII

The gospel literally opened the world to Kaminaga Kaminaga.

Brother Kaminaga is a BYU-Hawaii pre-med student from Majuro, Marshall Islands, a Micronesian island nation with a population of about 63,000 located south of Wake Island, near the center of the vast South Pacific. It has about 4,400 Church members.

His parents, Kiyotaka and Libby Kaminaga, were among the early converts on the island. One of 12 children, Kaminaga was 8 when his parents were baptized in 1987.

"We were introduced to the gospel by the proselyting missionaries," he said. "I remember they talked to my parents, and they got them into the discussions."

However, things did not go smoothly. His father was an alcoholic and smoked, he said. "My parents would agree with the missionaries but when they would see them coming back to their appointments, (my parents) often closed the door, and would tell us kids to tell the missionaries that they were not at home, or they would go and hide."

But, somehow, they gained a testimony and were baptized in a nearby lagoon.

"Father gave up smoking and alcohol. He never went back. He was strong in the Church and he wanted all the children to come follow him. The first year they were in the Church, I was still going to a Protestant church with all the kids for Sunday School. I remember leaving all my friends ... when I was baptized in 1989.

"There was no chapel at that time. The missionaries rented a bar — a club — the only big place they could find on the island," he remembers. "It was in walking distance from where we lived. We always ended up cleaning it on Saturday to get it ready for Sunday."

He first attended Primary. "My mom always encouraged me to go and share my testimony."

After he was ordained a deacon, "I remember going out with my father, accompanying him because he had no companion," while home teaching. "We were in a small town and everything was within walking distance."

He served a mission in Japan and soon after returning was married. He wanted to attend BYU-Hawaii and expected a long wait. But when his wife, Lydia, was ready to give birth, her parents flew them to Hawaii. While there he dropped off his application and, within two weeks, the school invited them back, even though the application deadline for the fall semester had passed.

"I am planning to go back (to Majuro) and I will probably work at the hospital laboratory." From there he hopes to apply to a medical school.

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