Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Blues

I was taken by surprise on Christmas Day. It was a wonderful low-key day, spent at home with our immediate family (minus our 19 year old son, Teyler,--still in the States). After opening gifts, I immediately started in on making homemade cinnamon rolls, I also made homemade rolls, and our traditional Christmas Chowder Soup. At about 3:00 p.m., the phone rang and it was Teyler. A lively conversation ensued between Teyler and his brother. I could hear the excitement in Christian's voice as he conversed with his brother. They were laughing and updating each other on the latest happenings in their lives. As I stood over the sink scrubbing potatoes, I was surprised that I began to cry. I had been perfectly fine up until that point. Christmas Eve had passed without incident, and two-thirds of Christmas Day had passed. But now, knowing my son was on the phone, the dam broke. The tears began to pour and my heart felt such pain. I wanted to see and hold my son. Not only was I shocked at my reaction, but so was my family. I left the kitchen and laid down on my daughters' bed and sobbed for about an hour. (The following picture shows two of my children coming in to "cuddle" with me to help me feel better!). During that hour, I cried out to God and told Him of my heartache. I searched for some profound spiritual insight into the pain but found none, only pain. Eventually there were no more tears to shed and I finished the rest of the day feeling rather melancholy--extremely rare for me. I looked forward to bedtime, the escape of consciousness/emotional pain.

The following morning (Christmas Day in California--remember, we're a day ahead in Guam), I slept late and was greeted by Eric with one of my cinnamon rolls and orange juice in bed. How kind of him to be sensitive to where I was emotionally. About an hour later, as I sat at the computer, Skype began to ring (our computer web camera system) . When I answered, who was on the screen? My son, my parents, and two of their foster children. I was so thrilled! That was the first time I had "seen" my son in nearly three months because of computer difficulties on his end. Eric, the kids and I all gathered around on our end as we talked to my family in California. We talked and laughed for two hours!! It was an incredibly special time for all of us.

That night, after everyone was in bed and I had tidied the house, I felt the need to write about the pain I had felt being separated from our son. Writing helps me process my feelings; it's very therapeutic for me. It was 12:30 a.m. and I had just typed the first sentence of this blog when the phone rang. Who would be calling us at this hour? I grabbed for the phone worrying that perhaps something was wrong with our family in the States. It was Jim, the gentleman I've been working with at Thomas Nelson Publishing (the largest publisher of Bibles). I had ordered one of the textbooks for the class I'm teaching through them. It was 8:30 a.m. in Tennessee and there was a problem with my order and he wanted to alert me as soon as possible. In the course of his conversation with me, Jim told me how he'd spent Christmas with a friend who had a 20 year old son in the military stationed in Afghanistan. Because his son is on the front lines he has had no contact with him for two weeks. Apparently, this man broke down crying on Christmas saying how hard it was to have NO contact whatsoever and to not know if his son was dead or alive. As Jim told me this story, it was such a reality check for me. My son is safe and, for that matter, is being spoiled and loved as he lives with his grandparents. I can talk to him on the phone at any moment. I was even able to "see" him on Christmas Day through modern technology. I felt such gratitude towards God for having my son where he is. I also had to smile at God. I don't think it was a coincidence that the phone call came RIGHT when I sat down to write about this topic. I also don't think it was a fluke that Jim "just happened" to tell me this story of his friend and his son. Here AGAIN is proof of how God consistently meets my needs emotionally and physically. He sent me a BIG message. "Karyn, I see you, I see your pain" and then very gently He reminded me, "Pray for this man's boy and all the other moms and dads who have NO contact with their children and whose children may be in VERY dangerous places physically and sometimes spiritually." Oh, how I love my dear Father, who ever so lovingly and gently moves me beyond my self-absorption to a place of gratitude and willingness to "bear another's burden."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Sunday

Here is a picture of Eric preaching at the Agana Heights Church where he has been guest preaching for the past few months. Because it is Christmas Sunday, Eric put on a long sleeve shirt--first time wearing one since being on Island. The local Chamorro people who attend this church are extremely friendly and warm, and they do such a nice job decorating the sanctuary for the various holidays. During their service, they have an extended time of greeting where the parishioners often greet one another in the traditional Chamorro style--a kiss on the cheek. With each Sunday that passes, more and more parishioners have begun to greet us in this manner. We think it is really sweet; although, Christian has a different opinion, "Oh great! Now they're starting to kiss me too. I got kissed by two grannies today!"On Christmas Sunday, I (Karyn) was greeted with a binder filled with five songs and asked if I would sing soprano with the choir that morning. Talking about "speed reading!" This DEFINITELY challenged my music-reading abilities in a way they had never been challenged before! Before we got up to sing, I scoured the music trying to note unusual timing, repeats, notes, etc. Other than coming in at the wrong time once, I somehow pulled it off. Eric said he wouldn't have known about my incorrect entrance except that I made a face, turned red, and started smiling! The children's choir (Katie and Noelle included) sang the first song with us.

The True Christmas Spirit

Some friends sent me an email asking me about Christmas here on Guam. It prompted this response which I then thought our “blog readers” might enjoy.

Imagine someone saying to you, “Since your birthday is in winter and we want to have a summer party, let’s just pretend your birthday is on some arbitrary date in the summer and we'll send out invitations and not say anything to any of the guests and no one will be the wiser. We'll have a wonderful birthday party.” Well, if you did this, you would know in your heart that it wasn't REALLY your birthday and it would somehow take away from how your birthday normally feels, right? Well, that's how I feel about Christmas. It seems like we are just "pretending" it is Christmas, that it's really not for another six months, when it will be winter and cold. I honestly feel like we are doing an "un-Christmas" (you know, an "un-birthday"--your birthday six months past your actual birthday). I try to play Christmas music and we have a Christmas tree decorated with lights and ornaments but still, I don’t feel like it is Christmas. (By the way, the photo shows us having just arrived home from buying our tree. It is 5:30 p.m., 91 degrees with humidity in the high 80’s.) It's kind of a bummer and I feel like, to some degree, I'm being bad spiritually because Christmas is about Jesus' birth not all the other stuff. But, it doesn't feel like Jesus' birth. I think it was probably kind of cold the night of his birth and it's NEVER cold here (except when someone has the air conditioner on too high). So, when you ask me about Christmas here, I would say I feel like a robot--"doing" Christmas things but not feeling Christmassy at all--ZERO! LITERALLY! Nothing is coming naturally. Without the Christmas feeling to guide me, I have to stop and say to myself, "Okay, what other things do people normally do at Christmas? Oh yeah, we need to make some cookies.” Or, “Oh yeah, I need to make sure I send Christmas cards--what is the date anyhow?" I'm not sad about this because I really feel no loss because it honestly doesn't feel like Christmas! It is bizarre. I think it's connected not just to the different weather but the different culture and conditions. Eric not pastoring a church also plays a big part. You figure the church has ALWAYS consumed a HUGE amount of our time and Christmas energy (e.g. choir rehearsals, celebrations, decorations, partying, parishioner crisis’s to deal with, etc.). Also, the buying frenzy and panic that is so pervasive around the holidays isn't nearly as pronounced here. That part I LOVE! I have always dreaded the present buying pressure of Christmas and it's GREAT not to have that for the first time EVER. But, on the flip side, it’s sad to say that that horrible pressure-feeling is very much tied into how Christmas has always FELT. So, here is another reason it does not FEEL like Christmas here.

On the practical side, we have bought the girls bicycles (we had to leave theirs in the States because they couldn't fit into the cargo container) and we bought Christian scuba diving lessons (fairly inexpensive here when you have connections!). The kids will be thrilled because they have very low expectations. Amazingly, they seem to really understand our new financial status and the limitations that presents for us. They NEVER ask to go to McDonalds, ice cream, etc., nor do they EVER ask for anything. I think they have accepted without resentment the way we need to live. The amazing thing is we are all more content materially than we have ever been. I'm not sure if it is that God has given us His contentment, or if it is because we live in a less materialistic place and so don't know what we're missing!!! (Or perhaps a combination of the two)

Guess what? Since I originally wrote this, I have felt the “Christmas spirit” on two occasions. Interestingly, both occasions were while singing Christmas carols during worship--once in church, and once at PIBC. As I sang, I was overcome with such a strong feeling of gratitude and praise. How grateful I am that our mighty and powerful Jesus humbled himself and came as a babe to give new life to me. How happy I am that He loves me and even knows the number of hairs on my head (or even cares about it!). As I reflected on these two “Christmas-feeling encounters,” I realized that no matter where I am in our big world, even if I don’t FEEL the “Christmas spirit,” I can always feel “Jesus’ Spirit.” That’s great news because, after all, isn’t that the true meaning of Christmas?

Merry Christmas and glory to God in the highest!

Karyn

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Student Christmas Party

Tonight was the student led Christmas party. We rushed out the door because we didn't want to be late since Eric was giving the devotional during the worship session preceding the gift exchange. Forgetting the fact that Micronesians are notoriously extremely late (up to two hours), we arrived at 6:00 and were the ONLY ones in the beautifully decorated meeting room. We were told the students were still cooking the meal and wrapping presents. However, this gave us time to take pictures of their decorations. Notice the front of the podium. It is decorated with hand-picked flora located around campus. The same is true with the tables. Micronesians are so creative using growing things to decorate. At about 7:15 p.m., the students began to wander in bringing their gifts, and within a few minutes a time of worship began. A prayer led us to the evening meal (lots of barbequed meat: brisket, pork, and chicken, a mountain of rice, kimchi, pancit, and goodies), and then the party began! Each student had drawn a fellow student's name. The gift giver was the "angel," and the recipient was the "mortal." Although the entire night was in English, it might as well have been in Chuukese, Yapese, or Palauan, because the humor was DEFINITELY Micronesian. The students were roaring with laughter over things we simply didn't get. I have NEVER seen a group of people laugh harder in my life! We think what was so funny to them was when an angel and mortal were of opposite sexes, as the gift was handed over, the recipient would often hug the giver. This is no-no in Chuukese culture (men don't EVER touch women in public). The students thought it was so funny to be breaking this rule. There were also a LOT of comments from the audience about getting married and proposing, not to mention frequent cat-calls. It was extremely entertaining just to watch the students in hysterics, even though we had no real understanding of WHAT was so funny.

On this night, our family made a presentation to the students of a new volleyball net. Their existing net is ridden with holes. I have to give you a little history here. There are two things about Micronesian culture: 1) Boys don't touch girls, 2) If you want to give praise (which I don't think happens much) you must praise the whole group--not the individual. Well, of course, me, the bumbling, loud, energetic, excitable American, comes onto the volleyball court and when I see a great spike, I run up to the spiker and to their horror (especially when it's a guy) I yell, "Great spike!" while putting my hands up for a high five. They look at my hands and have no idea what to do. Obviously this high-fiving must be an American tradition. Then, to be respectful of me (since I'm an "elder") they tentatively and uncomfortably touch their hands to mine. Then, I'll hear the students talking in Chuukese, probably saying how crazy I am. Once that happens, I'll remember, "Oh yeah, they don't do that here." But after some time has passed, there will be another great play, I'll forget and I'll run over yelling, "Great dig!" with a high ten. The students revert back and forth between being stunned that I "high-fived" them and looking at their comrades and busting out laughing and giggling and speaking in Chuukese. Okay, now that you have the background, I'll proceed with the story. During the presentation of the gift, I told the students how much fun our family has had playing volleyball with them (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights). I told them how AMAZING they are with our girls (8 and 11), ALWAYS including them and encouraging them, no matter how competitive a game is or how poorly our girls are playing. I thanked them for this and told them this would NEVER happen in the States. Then, as a joke, I told them there was one thing they didn't do very well and needed to work on. At that point, Eric and I gave each other a high ten followed by a low hand clap, we then turned and did the same thing with our girls. The students all burst out laughing. The students were UNBELIEVABLY grateful for the new net, and it obviously meant a LOT to them that we gave them this gift. Giving is of HUGE importance and significance in this culture.

Following the party, the students went out on the court to play volleyball. As I played with them that night, EVERY time, someone did anything (even an error), the ENTIRE team approached EACH person on the team giving high tens and then the low hand clap. It was obvious that they thought this was the most ridiculous thing, and yet they were determined to try to integrate this into their play. It touched me in a profound way. They didn't "get" the concept of high-fiving the individual who had just accomplished some great play for the team; for them all were to be congratulated. And yet, I think they didn't realize that when I gave them the gift of the net, I was just teasing them about not being good at "high-fiving!" And they were trying, as best they could in their culture, to "please me" by giving high fives even though they gave them at the wrong time and they gave them to the group not the individual. They were laughing so hard as they high fived each other and you could tell they thought it was the silliest thing in the world and yet, they were "loving me" in my "bizarre" American culture. How precious that they, in the best way they could, tried to "love me in my silly/weird culture!" I hope I will be able to love them half as much and thus show the love of Christ.

Men's Night at PIBC


I'm so excited that even though it is 1:00 a.m., I feel compelled to sit and write. We just spent two of the most amazing days we've had here thus far. First, our family had the privilege of being guests at PIBC's "Men's Night," which was held to honor the guys who are graduating this semester. It was so invigorating and refreshing to be a part of this event because it revealed Micronesian culture in a way that we seldom experience from a typical day on campus. The night was filled with Micronesian food and entertainment. After the guys took plates piled high with more food than Eric could eat in a day, the festivities began. One of the highlights was a group of Chuukese guys doing a traditional stick dance. It was loud and fast, and looked like a blow to the head could happen at any moment. We forgot our camera, but another missionary, Melissa, filmed the dance and we stole it and pasted it at the end of the article. Throughout the night, several of the men sang. The willingness of the Micronesians to get up and sing from their heart without all the hangups we American's have is so moving. They seem to be unconcerned with the "performance" aspect of things and simply offer their voices as a gift to God and the listeners. Also, their games and "crowd breakers" are wonderfully creative and often involve music (Micronesians, Chuukese in particular, are very musical). At one point, the key boarder, Tim, provided a tune and then six men (Eric being one of them) had to individually sing a song about themselves to that tune. It was hysterical. It was a fantastic night.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas and Boonie Dogs

On Saturday, December 9, the faculty and staff of PIBC (Pacific Islands Bible College) gathered on a beautiful beach at Andersen Air force Base for our annual Christmas party. Snorkeling, volleyball, and a game of “Sneaky Santa” (where you can “steal” a gift up to two times) were part of the activities. Proceeding across a small meadow, we made our way to a “hamburger” joint where we enjoyed some quintessential American food with “Guamish” nicknames, such as the Bamboo Burger, the Boonie Dog, etc. It was here that a cultural difference became interestingly apparent.

After ordering, Eric wandered over to a Chuukese staff member and asked, “What did you order?” The Chuukese guy casually responded, “I’d like to get the Boonie Dog but I’m not sure how they prepare it here. It might not be very good if they don’t cook it right. I think I’ll get the fish instead.”

At first, Eric was thrown by the response. After all, how difficult can it be to cook a hot dog? The menu was plain enough: “Boonie Dog: Served on a sesame bun with fries.” Then it hit: our colleague was thinking literally and understood boonie dog to refer to real dog (yes, as in ruff- ruff). Guam is loaded with “boonie dogs” (boonie = wild) and this guy was taking what was written on the menu at face value, “Boonie Dog.” This was a logical conclusion given the fact that dog is a normal part of the Chuukese diet.

Eric and this gentleman proceeded to have an interesting conversation about the eating of dog. Eric, knowing some nationalities prefer certain kinds of dogs, asked, “Do some dogs taste better than others?” The answer was, “No, they are all delicious.” “Does ANYONE have a dog for a pet?” Eric questioned. This was met with a hearty laugh, meaning, “What a preposterous idea, of course not!” Our Chuukese friend then relayed a story of a man who had come from Guam to visit friends in Chuuk. The man arrived with his pet dog (can you see where this is going?). His Chuukese hosts were probably assuming he was bringing the dog as a gift—for eating—kind of like a potluck or hostess gift. As the man and several of his Chuukese friends sat around visiting that evening, they had had a bit too much to drink, and perhaps, seeing the dog sitting next to his master, they began to salivate. Suddenly, to the master’s horror, one of the Chuukese men clobbered the dog with a rock, killing it, and the group of men proceeded to prepare the dog for “dinner.” Our friend explained how surprised the Chuukese were by their friend’s rather negative reaction to the meal preparation.

It’s amazing how many times these cultural differences are present, but we glide on by them in complete ignorance. One of the challenges of being a missionary is trying to detect cultural nuances while remaining sensitive to, and respectful of, those things that may seem trivial or even “gross” to us. Who knows, perhaps if we’d been raised on Chuuk we’d be dreaming about a delicious black lab steak for Christmas Eve dinner! : )


Monday, December 3, 2007

Weavings from Micronesia

When we were at the Spiritual Emphasis Retreat at Rios Beach (see article below: "Scorpions, Snakes, and Spiritual Emphasis Retreat"), one of the Chuukese guys pulled these branches from a coconut palm tree and within ten minutes had woven this incredible mat. He explained that in addition to using them as sleeping mats, they also use these "mats" as shingles on their island huts. They overlap the "shingles" creating a water-tight roof. Remember, Micronesia is a rain forest so there is a LOT of rain! That's pretty amazing! Not only are the roofs water-tight, but the "shingles" last for two years!!

During the retreat, this same man and his wife sat on the mat while we "haoles" sat on our lawn chairs. It is "the norm" for our students (and probably Micronesians in general) to sit on the floor/ground for hours and to show no signs of discomfort!! Recently, at a college women's night, Karyn had to sit on the tile floor (
not up against the wall where there is at least back support) with the other female students for about 2-1/2 hours. She was miserable. "I felt like the most squirmy kid in the world. I simply could not get comfortable!" she moaned. "On the other hand, at least we had an air cooler in the room," she continued with genuine thankfulness.

On many of the islands, parishioners sit in a non-air-conditioned wooden or cement-floored building for church services which can last hours. So, the next time you are sitting in church wishing you were on a cushy couch, give thanks that you are sitting, with back support, in an air-conditioned building. We have so much for which to be thankful. "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!"

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Altar


This is a picture taken of the altar in the church where Eric has been preaching for the past few months. All the fruits and vegetables on the altar are fresh and grown locally. It was truly a beautiful
Thanksgiving display!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Since catching a flight back to the Micronesian islands for Thanksgiving isn't an option for our students due to the cost, the staff brought the dishes for a huge Thanksgiving feast. About 100 of us gathered in the large teaching room at PIBC. Karyn and the girls had purchased Chuukese skirts for the event. These are the traditional skirts most of our female students wear at ALL times (playing basketball, football, swimming in the ocean, etc.). The new outfits were met with broad smiles of delight. Unfortunately, Katie (ten years old) had the flu and so she stayed on the floor of Eric's office watching DVD's on his laptop. All the traditional fare was represented at this feast; but interestingly, the students didn't seem too thrilled with what they saw. It was funny to watch them gravitate towards the HUGE dish of white rice and the platter of fish heads and tails. Perhaps this is how it was at the First Thanksgiving when the Indians and Pilgrims shared a meal. Perhaps each gravitated towards the food reminiscent of childhood and yet all gathered together in a spirit of thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Scorpians, Snakes, and Spiritual Emphasis Retreat

It was the Spiritual Emphasis Retreat for the students. PIBC rented a private campground on Rios Beach and the students and some staff spent all day Saturday and Sunday at the seashore. On Saturday morning there was a three hour time of silence and solitude. We wanted the students to experience this spiritual discipline because it is COMPLETELY foreign to them. You have to remember they come from tiny villages and sleep with up to forty people in two-bedroom huts or concrete “houses.” There is no such thing as privacy or solitude. The solitude was definitely an act of discipline for them. On the other hand, they were thrilled when told there was “plenty of spam” for the weekend. They were not so happy when told there would be no shower facilities. Our Micronesian students shower three times a day (yes, you read that correctly). This retreat was a time for staff to build relationships and have conversations that wouldn’t happen in the classroom. There were profound discussions that took place that we will write about another time. After the evening time of fellowship, the Sorenson clan had to head home because Eric had to preach Sunday morning and the girls had to sing.

Eric had left earlier in the evening to work on his sermon. As the kids and I headed home, we decided to stop at PIBC to pick up some boxes that had FINALLY arrived from the states (sent six weeks ago!). Unfortunately, because of the students being at the campground, the front gate to the college was locked. Fortunately, there was a guy who works at the college sitting in front of his house inside the grounds. I yelled, asking him if he would open the gate for us. The girls both got out of the car and were hanging on the gate and saying they could climb it for me. (I shudder as I think about this because there was a snake lying on the top of the gate!). The worker walked across a small field and let us in. Two minutes later we were leaving the campus with the boxes in our trunk. As we were about to drive out, I stopped the car and told Christian (sixteen years old) to hop out and lock the gate behind us. At that moment Noelle (seven years old) yelled, "Look! There's a snake!" We all looked and saw nothing. (A brown tree snake is skinny and this one was lying flush with the chain-link gate). I asked, "Are you sure?" "I'm positive," she retorted. With my headlights still on the gate, I hopped out and walked toward the gate and sure enough, there was a brown tree snake (a venomous menace to Guam which was accidentally brought in from the Solomon Islands--see article excerpt below). I shouted to the worker, "Hey, there's a brown snake here, do you want to kill it?" The worker jumped up so fast your head would spin! He was grabbing whatever was handy--which happened to be a flimsy plastic rake. In the meantime, the kids had all hopped out of the car and the snake was now nervous, so it started heading down the INSIDE of the chain-link pole of the gate. Fortunately, the thing was four feet long so it gave Christian and me time to think before it was going to COMPLETELY disappear inside that pole. And then, Christian exclaimed, "I'm going to grab it by the tail so it can't get away." Sure enough! He grabbed the serpent’s tail and held tight. Once the worker had reached us with the rake, Christian pulled the snake out of the pole and flung it to the ground. The worker began stabbing the snake with the flimsy plastic rake but this didn't stop the snake; it only ticked it off. The serpent was shaking its tail at us like a rattler! I ran for my camera, and at one point, as I was focusing on taking the picture, I noticed the dumb thing was heading straight for me (got to about 2 feet from my flip-flop clad feet!) and, of course, I started screaming which made Noelle promptly declare, "This is scary, I'm waiting in the car!" The guy again trapped the thing with the rake and instructed Christian to lift the snake up by its head, which Christian accomplished successfully (thus the somewhat cool picture I was able to take of him holding the live snake). Then the worker told Christian to hold the snake's head on the ground while the man proceeded to step on it with his foot (he too was wearing flip flops). This, of course, only managed to injure and annoy the snake, not kill it. Finally, Christian came up with the bright idea of running the snake over with the car (which was idling a few yards away). The man tried to stay the snake with the rake while I proceeded to go forwards and backwards over the snake. Still the snake would not die; it only got thinner!!! So, they instructed me to drive the car on top of the snake and LEAVE the tire on it for a while. That finally did the trick, and the vile viper was vanquished.

When I relayed our snake story to the staff the following day, they told me, “Two female students sleeping in two different tents, were bitten by scorpions during the night because they left their tent flaps open; but this is better than last year when a brown tree snake bit one of the female students during the night.” Sure hope next year, during the Spiritual Emphasis Retreat, Eric will be obligated to preach Sunday morning so we “can’t” spend the night!! By the way, don’t let this deter you from visiting us.

The Brown Tree Snake, Wildlife Services, November, 2001 (aphis.usda.gov)

The brown tree snake was accidentally introduced to Guam in the late 1940s or early 1950s, probably from the Solomon Islands. A native of Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands, the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) is a dangerous threat to the economy and ecology of Guam and is the subject of a cooperative program to control snake populations on Guam and prevent its spread throughout the Pacific Rim.

Biology

Brown tree snakes are about 15 inches at hatching and may reach 10 feet in length as adults. Most brown tree snakes are 3 to 4 feet long. This snake is a rear-fanged semiconstrictor and is mildly poisonous. Both constriction and venom are used to help immobilize prey.

The snake's venom trickles into a bite victim along grooves in the rear fangs. Because of the relatively small size and position of the fangs, a brown tree snake must chew to allow the fangs to penetrate the skin.

The brown tree snake is extremely abundant on Guam, with localized estimates sometimes reaching 20 or more snakes per acre of jungle. These population density estimates are among the highest snake densities ever recorded.

Damage

The brown tree snake has caused extensive economic and ecological damage to Guam. It is responsible for numerous power outages across the island each year. This species is an opportunistic feeder and has eradicated most of Guam's native forest birds.



Monday, November 12, 2007

Jungle Golfing

Our son, Christian (16 years old) LOVES to golf. Since we have been on Guam, he has not played because it does not fit in our budget. Poor Christian! Consistently he takes his golf clubs into the backyard and swings them to and fro. When he has saved enough money, he goes to the driving range. Unfortunately, although he’s been on Guam for three months, he has yet to golf.

To our delight, we discovered a “cheap” place to golf on Guam. $18.00 for 18 holes and a golf cart! Yippee! Now, on special occasions, perhaps Christian would have his golf game. Well, Veterans' Day came along and I (Mom) said, “Christian, how about we treat you to a game of golf to reward you for your 4.0 this quarter?”

With great excitement Christian packed our Hyundai not forgetting huge bottles of water filled to the brim with ice. Additionally, we did not forget the hand-held water mister, also filled to the brim with ice. This would be a great day for golfing—only 82 degrees with 82% humidity (cool for Guam). I should have realized I was in big trouble when, by the time we finished the first hole, all the ice had melted. Not to be deterred, we pressed on. The course was wide and fairly straight which made it “easy” (Golf easy? Sounds like an oxymoron, I know!). Let me tell you, though, if your ball veered outside the rough, there would be NO POSSIBLE WAY of EVER finding it. The edges of the rough were lined with jungle so thick a sane person would NEVER venture into them!

During the first three holes you could hear the occasional shouts as I yelled, “Aaahhh! I beat you on that drive!” Or, “Ohhh!!! Did you see that putt?!!!” (I have been told by some that I am rather competitive). By the fourth hole, I was concentrating so hard on keeping the golf club from flying out of my hands due to the sweat running down my arms that it was too difficult to talk. To my relief, God must have felt sorry for me because He sent a torrential rain storm that lasted about 15 minutes. Oh, did that feel good! (Guam averages about 100 inches of rain a year compared to San Francisco’s 20 inches, just to give you a visual).

Quickly, we headed for a cement “bunker” (a tiny building with cement overhangs on each side) where we had a “lovely” conversation with two Asian gentlemen who explained where I should buy fresh fish and how to fix tilapia. Furthermore, they kindly explained,

“If you ever get stung by a “rabbit fish,” be sure to urinate on yourself since the alkaline in the urine will counteract the acid in the sting. For that matter, you should do the same thing if ever you are stung by a centipede.”

“Excuse me?!” I asked as the mosquitoes munched away at me and huge banana spiders loomed overhead, “Are you talking about the little three-inch-long brown things that I find in my house all the time?”

“Oh yes”, they responded. “They have quite a sting and the ones that are larger than six inches have enough venom in them to kill you. You’d probably live through it, being an adult and all, but a
child would be killed. The big ones live in places like this,” they instructed pointing to the jungle bordering the rough. (You better believe we won’t be going after any stray balls!!!).

After this pleasant encounter I noticed the other ten golfers also huddled under the bunker. What were they wearing? No shirts (literally), tank tops and tee shirts. Immediately I snapped at Christian, “The
next time we go golfing, I’m wearing my bikini!!!” To which Christian promptly (and a little too loudly and with too much vehemence and with one of the most ghastly faces I’ve seen) replied “Ewwww!” (Don’t worry! I don’t even own a bikini—but I do own a tank top, which is what I’ll wear next time—IF there’s a next time!).

Now, we were somewhat cool and sopping wet as we continued on the back 9. “What kind of birds are those on the fairway?” we wondered. Nope, not birds but six-inch long frogs--not to be outdone by the large crab meandering by, and the wild chickens flitting here and there. Ten minutes later (no longer wet or cool), we were trying to maneuver around water puddles on the fairway. It rains so much on Guam that there is no way for the earth to absorb the rain quickly. It took us a couple of times of landing in the “sand” bunkers to realize that it wasn’t brown/red dirt in the bunker as we had thought, but sand completely packed down from all the water, making it like concrete. There were some 18-inch-deep open trenches around some of the bunkers to help the water drain. Every cart came equipped with a ball cleaner AND a club cleaner which we needed after EVERY stroke. There is no way you can imagine the mud and water all over the ground, the
clubs, the balls and our bodies!

By hole 14, Christian’s query of, “What d’ya get?” was met with, “Anything you want to give me—is there
ice anywhere?” By hole 16 I had only enough energy to swing the club and I could have cared less where the ball landed. As far as I was concerned, the balls flying outside the rough were my donation to the centipedes, banana spiders and brown tree snakes of the jungle. By hole 17, I was catatonic, no longer speaking or playing golf—only desperately seeking the meager shade of palm trees. Additionally, I have naturally curly hair and between the rain, my sweat, and the humidity, my hair looked like a rat’s nest and for that matter, I honestly looked like something the cat dragged in. Christian was grinning from ear to ear declaring, “That’s the best game of golf I’ve ever played! I scored a 96!” This was met by my catatonic stare.

I can hardly wait to go back and play again! (meant to be read with extreme sarcasm).

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Price of Freedom

A couple of Sundays ago, while Eric was still State-side working on his doctorate, the kids and I visited a local church that had a significant number of military families in attendance. Towards the end of the service, there was a time of open prayer. A mother with children approximately two, ten and 13 years old began to pray. She prayed that God would be with her husband (who apparently had been recently deployed). As she prayed she broke down in tears. Following the prayer, the congregation sang, "Faith of our Fathers" and we watched as this family clung to each other and cried. The 13 year old boy, in particular, was having a really hard time. It was a very painful and yet poignant reminder of the price that is paid for our freedom. Here, in flesh and blood, not on a television screen, was a real family--a Christian family, painfully separated by war. That picture has never left my mind. It was a disturbing picture; one that upset my own children and prompted a lot of discussion around the dinner table. I know I have seen pictures of families distraught because of having lost their "daddies." However, I had never witnessed (or pathetically, even thought about) the loss, fear, and loneliness these families face on a daily basis when a parent is deployed. I hope I never forget that disturbing and painful picture of that family's suffering. I hope that this will make me more grateful for my freedom and that I will pray more diligently for the military men and women AND their families.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

It's a Bird! No, It's a Plane! No, It's. . .

There we were on Andersen Air Force Base, 85 degrees, Halloween night, dressed in shorts, tank tops, and flip flops. Our memories of Halloween have always been bundling up in the warmest clothes possible because, without a doubt, we were going to be cold (and this was in California, mind you!). One of the greatest feats was trying to make sure the kids would be warm enough in their costumes. This Halloween, we had to try to figure out what costumes wouldn’t cause heat exhaustion! We had to be sure to bring water bottles with us, knowing how quickly one dehydrates in Guam’s heat no matter the time of day or night! And, this was definitely the first time we’d seen ice water offered at various points along the trick-or-treat trail!

The girls (seven and ten) were begging to trick-or-treat. How would this be possible on an island where there are no sidewalks, where boonie (wild) dogs are EVERYWHERE, where there are no fences to hold in the pervasive, dangerous domestic dogs freely roaming the streets, and where many live in houses made of tin and shared by four families? This picture definitely didn’t coincide with our idea of safety. How would we tell the girls they wouldn’t be able to trick-or-treat this year? Suddenly, we thought of a couple who volunteer a significant amount of time at PIBC. He is a pilot and they live on the base. After a quick phone call, arrangements were made to trick-or-treat at Andersen AFB. In military style, the cavorting for candy began promptly at 6:00 p.m. and ended promptly at 8:00 p.m. With palm trees, the ocean, and military police as a backdrop, the girls flitted from officer’s home to officer’s home summoning sweets. And, let me tell you, we have NEVER seen such organized trick-or-treating. “Trick-or treat, please!” were the required words or you could be certain no candy would be forth-coming! To our delight, suddenly, in the sky, it was a bird! No, it was a plane! No, it was a two billion dollar Stealth B-2 bomber that circled the base and then disappeared into the graying sky. It was an amazing sight! Guam is one of only three military bases in the world that can accommodate these impressive bats. By the end of the two regimented hours allotted for trick-or-treating, each girl proudly held seven pounds of candy!!!

Monday, October 15, 2007

DSL DOWN!

Our profound apologies to all of you who are wondering what has happened to us. We are alive and well! However, internet access is intermittent at this point, so we have been prohibited from taking much time to add to the blog.

Suffice it to say, Karyn and the girls arrived on Guam safe and sound September 30. All are well, the girls are in home school, and we're slowly moving into the house. A week after everyone's arrival, Eric had to make a whirlwind trip to southern California to complete the last installment of his doctoral work. He will return home to Guam on October 21st. Please pray for safe travel, and please don't forget to pray for continued financial funding. Thanks for the assurance of all your continued prayers. More later!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Almost There!

Thanks to the help of friends (especially some dear Crossroads Church friends), the cargo container was loaded and shipped out on 10/14/07. It will be traveling over the waves and sea and will arrive in Guam on 10/28/07. Our most recent email update provided the gory details of what an amazing feat it was to ultimately get 90% of our belongings inside! Karyn is now scrambling to figure out what to do with the 10% that didn't fit. (If you are not receiving our updates but would like to, email us at Sore4guam@gmail.com)
Katie (10), Noelle (7) and Karyn (34--just joking!!), will be catching a flight on the 28th to join Eric and Christian in Guam. After being apart for nearly two months, everyone is anxious to be reunited.

In the meantime, Eric and Christian wait. But they wait busily. Eric is teaching both freshmen and seniors this year. The picture is of a few of the freshmen girls from his Bible Introduction course. They are all bright and eager to learn. Apparently, Eric couldn't get too far away from preaching because he's agreed to preach at Agana Heights Baptist Church through the end of November. At least he's doing two things he loves: teaching and preaching. Christian's own homework keeps his schedule full, but it must be working out - he's pulling all A's again. Now it's off to a college staff potluck!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Blown Away by God's Love!

Wow! I have been blown away by "God's intervention into the affairs of man". (Unfortunately, I can't think of the reference for this quote--I'm sure my husband could tell you!)

First, as we stated in our latest update and blog entry, God miraculously provided a house and car within our price range. Everyone shakes their head when they see "our" house and hears the price we are paying. There is no logical explanation for these sweet deals!

Second, we had asked for prayer to find an affordable landscaper to replace the existing sprinkler system and lay sod in the front yard of our house. The renters were not very happy when the sprinkler system failed completely! The bids came in at over $5,000! A supporter, Dale Alvarez, contacted us with someone who bid the job at $4800. I explained to him that we were missionaries and there was no way we could afford that. "My 19 year old son and I will do ANYTHING to lower the cost. We'll work right along side you! We can haul the old grass to my parents' ranch and dump it to save money. We'll do anything!" I pleaded. The following day he contacted me and said he would do everything for half the cost! With tears of joy streaming down my face, I told him that I believed he was the answer to the prayers of over 200 people who were praying that God would supply our needs regarding our landscaping. "I will not be making money on this job," he responded, "I am doing it because you are missionaries." Victor attends a local Catholic church. I do not know where he stands with our Lord, but I do know that God chose to use him to meet our needs. Wow!

Last, I received a form email from a high school friend, Julie Sayre, saying she had moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area and had changed her email address. As I read her email, I noticed under her name that it said, "Creative Memories Consultant." Although I knew she was extremely creative, I had no idea she did photo scrapbooking! I was so excited because I had been feeling compelled to make a photo album for Teyler (our first born--19 years old) since he will have VERY little physical contact with us because he will be staying here in the States for college. I immediately emailed Julie and asked her advice about supplies. She not only answered my supply questions, but said she would like to make a digital scrapbook documenting in words and photos our journey from being a "normal" (at least somewhat normal) family to becoming a missionary family! She said if I would send her the words and photos, she would put it together! The end product would be a professionally bound book!

Now, this might not seem like a big deal to you, but IT IS A BIG DEAL! I think it shows God's desire to be involved in every aspect of our lives. Nothing is too little (or too big) for God. The timing on all these examples is not just coincidence. These examples speak of the character and very nature of God. He is a God who wants to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11). But, even more amazing, is how when I said "Yes" to missions, I was so fearful of all the "sacrifices" I would have to make. I see now that we can NEVER out give God. Truly, God has provided for all our needs and has thrown in personal touches to boot! What an AWESOME God we serve!

P.S. I went to the passport office in San Francisco last week and was told there would be NO PROBLEM getting a replacement passport within a week of my departure date (or 24 hours if I wanted to pay more.) So, I will continue to look for my passport until two weeks before my departure date--hopefully end of September! Please continue praying that I will find the missing passport!

P.P.S. It is a weird feeling to post a blog and then have NO idea if ANYONE is reading what we write. If you are reading our posts (even if we don't know you!), we'd love it if you click where it says comments and simply say, "Hi, from (your name)." Thanks so much!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Of Houses and Cars

With great delight, I (Eric) report that we now have both a car and a house! Once again, the Lord has been good to us. We had the privilege of using a loaner car for the first couple of weeks here on Guam while we busily looked for one of our own. For a variety of reasons, we focused on a Hyundai Santa Fe; a type of car we see buzzing all over the island. We looked, and looked. Someone then connected us to a guy on "Big Navy" (the main Navy base) who had a `03 Santa Fe. Turns out he wanted $1500 more than we had budgeted. Agreeing that it wouldn't work out, I went back to looking. That was a Tuesday. After trying more cars and under-bidding each one, only to be rejected, I got a call back from our Navy friend saying that by the time he traded in this car, bought a new one, and shipped it to his new post, it would cost him $7000. He offered it to me for my offering price which was $1500 less than the dealer offered him on trade-in!

On to the house. We looked and looked. We also made some interesting discoveries. While working with a real estate agent, we learned that the base amount given to the military for housing is $1720 a month. That could be why nothing was available in my $1300 range! That was also why the $1500 places were uninhabitable. We took a look at one $1500 place and nearly gagged upon entry. The dead cockroaches, the hot moldy smell, and the chunks of concrete fallen from the walls were more than Christian and I could take. Only one place seemed to be remotely possible. After noticing we were disappointed, our agent suggested we just drive through this decent neighborhood and see if there were any signs out that were not on her list. Can you tell where this story is going? We saw a very nice-looking house in a friendly neighborhood. Sure enough, the lock box was in place, so we got in to find a nice, clean home, that had indoor laundry (rare in Guam), a large enough kitchen, and room for a study! Our hearts sank as the agent made a call to find out the rent was $2500 a month, which shouldn't have surprised me. I then asked her to see if they would take $1700. She coughed, but asked anyway. I guess the listing agent also hiccuped, but said they may consider $1800.

To make a long story short, after lots of back and forth over details, I signed a lease for $1800 a month. Note, that's a $700 cut per month! We moved in last night. Much thanks to Dave and Joyce Owen for putting us up and putting up with us, but it was nice moving into our own digs, even though we still have precious few possessions. As you can see from the picture, the house features the traditional Guam "bunker look," but that means it will survive the typhoon they say we are due. We are so thankful to God for his wonderful provision, yet again.

That being said, $1800 is still about $800 per month more than budgeted. We had no idea what actual costs would be, so even when we're finding a deal over here, it's often still above budget. Your faithful giving to our ministry here is vital to its continuing.

School is just about to start, so we've been engaged in lots of meetings and preparations. Meanwhile, back in California, Karyn and the girls are readying themselves to load the shipping container, and then they will be free to come to Guam. Finalizing the shipping container is just a matter of details and pricing (another prayer request). Thanks so much for all of your support and continued prayers.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Growing Accustomed

  • Well, just as Christian is getting accustomed to wearing pants that are really too short (even after lengthening them as much as possible), Eric is also trying to adjust. First, lets talk about Christian. He admits to being a little overwhelmed by a new school where he doesn't know anyone and he sticks out like a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a vat of hot fudge (in the Guam heat, this image was appealing)! Being the only white kid in his junior class (and in the whole high school for that matter) makes life interesting. Standing a full foot higher than many of his classmates makes things very interesting. The little ones from the adjacent elementary school stare, point, and giggle like he's a circus attraction. By far the tallest in the school, people can't believe he's only a junior and are begging him to join the basketball team (not his favorite sport). He is a bit hesitant, however, for after playing a pick-up game at lunch, he claims he's never sweat like that in his life. After playing a brief couple of minutes at the end of the day, he walked to the car almost drenched and exhausted. He can't believe how hot he gets, and it doesn't help that his school requires long pants and full shoes.

    Eric is also trying to adjust. After dropping Christian off at school, Eric rushes home to hit the books (the second part of his doctoral disseration is due SOON) However, the little bit he has run around has made for interesting encounters. Here is a brief list of some of the things he's trying to grow used to:
  • Driving in the pouring rain with the a/c on (isn't it cold when it rains?)
  • Dodging meandering dogs in the road
  • Waiting, waiting, and waiting
  • "Local" grown bananas costing more than they do in the states
  • A yellow light means "speed up" and red means "proceed with caution"
  • Constantly being asked, "What base are you stationed on?"
  • People being so friendly it seems strange
  • Swimming laps in the warm ocean at 8am
Meanwhile, we are still waiting for a rental house we've made a low offer on, and are trying to be patient enough to find the right car (there is a limit to the choices). Nevertheless, we are thankful to Dave and Joyce Owen, president of PIBC, for their hospitality in letting us stay in their house and use their car. The real test comes when they arrive back on the island early next week!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Alpha Team Arrives!


Well, the long-awaited transition has happened for two of us, so "Haffa Adai," as the locals say! Christian and I arrived on the island of Guam August 2, after a long, grueling trip via Honolulu and Osaka, Japan. Contrary to the way it sounds, it was not a paradisial trip. Japan Airlines rejected our transfer in Hawaii and sent us back to United Airlines. After 4 hours in the airport (not the beach), we got on a Northwest flight to Japan. After finally locating our gate, we were told Christian had no ticket to Guam and that we'd have to buy one. It appears that someone back in paradise accidentally ripped out his ticket from Japan to Guam. Through broken English, I was told he couldn't go on. I thought Christian would do quite well in Japan, so I was about to leave when he talked me into trying to change things (not really). Finally, when I had just handed All Nippon Airways my credit card, they told me that Northwest confirmed his ticket via the phone! Close call.


We arrived here at 2am to humidity, clouds, and rain. I guess that makes sense because the Western Pacific just moved into its rainy season. Christian has been rather surprised by a few things: the island seems bigger than it is, there are acres of jungle, a large percentage of people living way below any of our standards (living in virtual shacks), there are loose "boonie" dogs roaming the streets everywhere, and people just dump their old rusted cars along the road. He's also been surprised by the scores of Japanese tourists on the west side of the island and the incredible water that "feels and looks like swimming in a tropical aquarium." We've spent about an hour each day snorkeling around different spots in between all the banking, shopping, and dissertation writing I have to finish. The picture above is of him at one of the many WW2 memorials - this one overlooking the navy base and the beach the Americans stormed in 1944.


Tomorrow we transition to looking for housing, which is my first prayer request. Because of the expenses of living here, good rentals are very expensive. We really need four bedrooms because my office will need to be at home, and there will be five of us. Secondly, tomorrow I try to secure a car. Fortunately, we've been able to borrow one from PIBC president Dave Owen, but they'll be back soon and needing their car. Of course, Karyn and the girls are still in California; please pray that all the business back home will get wrapped-up soon so that they will be able to join us. Alpha Team has arrived, but we are eagerly awaiting Beta Team! Finally, Christian settles into school on Wednesday morning - you know how to pray from there.


Thanks for all of your support. If you've made a pledge to support us, now would be a great time to start sending it in if you haven't already. God bless you all. The Alpha Team (Christian and Eric).

Friday, July 27, 2007

IN THE CHAOS, IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL!!!

You know, I've never been so out of control! One time, when I had three little ones and a newborn, was living in a house we were re-constructing, was homeschooling, working, and being a pastor's wife, I thought I was out of control. I guess I was wrong! For the past six weeks, because none of us can fit into the "little house" due to our belongings taking up the whole 700 square feet, all four of us are living in a 10' x 10' room in the upstairs of my parents' "big" house. I can't find my passport, I can't find a work file I need to write a report to the State of California, I can't find the metal frame of the trampoline (how do fifteen metal poles disappear?) I still don't have storage figured out for the items we can't take. I can't begin to fathom which of the myriad boxes jammed into the little house might hold my passport or how I'll even get to the boxes to check. The renters of our house are wanting the sprinkler system replaced pronto--how will I add this undertaking into my schedule? How will we pay for it? I need to order the books the girls will need for homeschooling now so I have them before we leave--it is far too expensive to have them delivered to Guam.

From a human perspective, the logical question is, "Why are you doing this?" But, you know, God is truly an amazing and personal God. This morning, as I was reading Psalm 16:5-11, David's words resounded within me. Yes, my circumstances may not be the best at the moment, but it is well with my soul!

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to [hell],
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Thanks be to God!

Karyn




Thursday, July 26, 2007

Six Day Countdown!

Eric and Christian will be at the airport at 7:00 a.m. Tuesday to catch a 16 hour flight to Guam. The environment around the house is pretty frenzied with last minute obligations to complete and lots of friends and family wanting to get together! This update is going to be short and sweet because of our time constraints.

Immediate Prayer Requests:
1. That Eric and Christian will be able to pack appropriately. It may be a couple of months before we'll all be together again so they must be sure to bring all they will need in the interim.
2. On August 6, Christian begins his junior year at a new high school with a VERY different culture. Please pray that God will give him peace and help him with this transition.
3. That our support will continue to come in and that we will get closer to our needed 100%.
4. The sprinklers in the front yard of our Clayton house have completely died. The renters aren't too thrilled with this! We need to put in a new sprinkler system and lay sod. Please pray that we will find someone reputable and affordable to take care of this. If you have any contacts, please let us know!
5. Karyn's passport is missing! It's not in the fire safe box with the other important papers. This means it could be anywhere among the myriad boxes jammed into the "little house". Please pray that this would be found!
6. PTL we have heard of an organization that provides inexpensive shipping for missionaries. Unfortunately, these services are only available on the East Coast, but we have a friend trying to see if we can make something work here, on the West Coast. Please pray that this will work. As it stands, the cost is over $8, 000.00 to ship one way to Guam!

7. While in Guam, Eric will be diligently searching for affordable housing (a difficult thing to find in Guam). Please pray that God will provide the right house for us.

God is good. Although it is very intense for us right now, we find rest in God. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble."

Praise be to God!

The Sorensons

D
on't forget our email address has changed to Sore4Guam@gmail.com

To contribute to this ministry, please make your check to:
"The Evangelical Covenant Church" with Support for Sorensons on the memo line and mail to:
Department of World Missions
The Evangelical Covenant Church
5101 North Francisco Avenue
Chicago, IL 60625-3676

Thanks so much for your support!