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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Yokwe Online, Dec. 31) - One need not to be in the Marshall Islands at this time to enjoy our traditional Christmas activities.

Marshallese who gathered at the First Assembly of God, in Cleburne, Texas, celebrated Christmas in a big way.

"If you plan to relocate, consider Texas," said community leader Hamm Anitok. "Our Marshallese tradition and custom live on here."

The Marshallese community began to form in Texas during the 1980's as students arrived from the Marshall Islands to attend Southwestern Adventist University in Keene. Other Marshallese, encouraged by the students who resided and worked in the area, began to arrive in the 1990's.

In 1995, the first Assembly of God church was established in Cleburne. Keene is five miles northeast of Cleburne.

According to the last count, there are over 400 Marshallese in the area. Anitok estimates that there are over 60 residences with five or more persons per house.

Most of the Marshallese live in the city of Keene.

The Marshallese have their own local community organization and officers.

Keene has a population of about 5,000 and is located in Johnson County, North Central Texas. Along with employment at the Adventist University, area residents work in agriculture and light manufacturing.

Cleburne, located 29 miles south of Fort Worth, is the larger city with almost 30,000 residents.

January 1, 2003

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