Friday, December 26, 2008

No Tears!!

Well, I'm pleased to say that I made it through Christmas without "breaking down" due to missing our eldest son, Teyler, who is in California going to college. I think, in huge part, the reason it wasn't as hard this Christmas is because we had Eric's parents with us. It's been so much fun showing them where we live and work; watching them experience first-hand Micronesian culture, eating local cuisine, and introducing them to our friends, students, and colleagues. Here are a few pictures showing our activities. Starting with picking them up at the airport after being apart for nearly 1-1/2 years.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Comfort My People

This morning, as I was reading my devotions, the words, "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to [them]" jumped out at me. As I re-read the verses (Isaiah 40: 1-2a) a few times wondering why God seemed to want me to hear those particular words, I concluded He was simply reminding me of the importance of using our words to comfort others. After this, I "chatted" with my mom on-line and mentioned that I hoped I wouldn't get REALLY sad like I did last year on Christmas Day because of not having our son or my parents with me. Ultimately, I terminated the chat because my parent's-in-law are here for their first Guam visit, and I decided they simply HAD to munch on banana donuts while on Guam. Lola Sablan, knowing I had visitors, was kind enough to bring to church a large branch of the delicious cooking bananas. With my tummy satiated with the calorie-free (LOL) fried banana donuts, I hopped into the shower. I have a tradition of praying for my friend, September, and her family whenever I shower. You see, in May, their family sent us an INCREDIBLE care package with many toiletry items. Shockingly, within days of receiving the care package, we received word that the Vaudrey's vivacious 19 year-old daughter had died (See Blog June 2, 2008). Ever since then, whenever I shower, I pray that God would comfort their family as they grieve the loss of their precious child. So, as usual, as I showered, I prayed. I thought about how sad I was that our son, who is 20, wouldn't be with us this Christmas and yet, I will be able to hold him this summer when we're home on furlough. What must it be like for September, knowing that she will never again hold Kate while on this earth? My heart hurt for her, and I prayed that God would be near and dear to her family during this holy season. Suddenly, as clear as day, the words, "Comfort my people" came to mind. Wow! I knew I needed to get to the computer and send September a "comforting" email. The Bible says that our God is "the God who sees." He knows the pain of losing a child through a tragic death. He sees September and her family and knows every nuance of their sorrow. I hope that regardless of the pain you may be bearing this Christmas, you will know the true character of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ--the God who sees, the God of all comfort. The God who, in love, became flesh on Christmas Day.

Merry Christmas,


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Strange Bed Fellows!

Guam makes for strange bed fellows! Because Guam is so small, there is no Jewish synagogue. As a result, my friend, Heather, ended up attending our Protestant church because she heard we were studying the book of Genesis in Sunday school, and that Eric was preaching through the book of Nehemiah. Since these were both "Old" Testament books, she knew she would share that in common with us Christians. I am sad that my friend does not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, but I'm glad God has crossed our paths. I don't believe in coincidences and trust that God is working out His perfect plan through this unusual pairing. Heather is amazingly organized. Her organization was clearly reflected in the party she threw on Saturday for a few ladies at our church. The invitation said to come to a "Wrap Party." It was a wonderful party wherein we were to bring all the gifts we needed to wrap and Heather would provide dinner and all the wrapping paper, scissors, and ribbons we would need. What a fabulous idea! It was a nice time of fellowship while simultaneously accomplishing a big task! And, how kind of Heather to provide this service for a holiday not her own.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Put Your Doctrine to the Test!

So Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat and all that stuff; but, work in the classroom continues. I (Eric) thought I'd let you in a little closer to what goes on in a Bible college class in Micronesia. I think you'll see that even though we are in a pretty kick-back part of the world, we still take our college classes pretty seriously.

For instance, I've taken a liking to the case study approach to pedagogy. I teach doctrine, which in some minds is not very applicable to real life; it's too theoretical, some argue. One of my challenges then, is to help my students get from theory to reality, to help them move beyond concepts to real life. Could they really detect bad doctrine if it stared them in the face? To find out, I created some bad doctrine and had it "stare them in the face!" I created a fictitious letter from a young couple who had begun attending a new church. This new church was teaching things the couple had never heard before. I assigned the students to pick apart the doctrines presented in the letter and write a letter back to the young couple articulating specific concerns with the church's teaching. A portion of the imaginary letter follows:

Imaginary letter:
Our new church is such an exciting place to be. It’s full of great worship and fellowship, and the pastor is a very good teacher. He says things we never heard at PIBC! Some things are so new to us, we’re wondering what you think about them. Our first Sunday, the pastor preached about the mysteries of God that are not revealed in Scripture. Our pastor takes the Bible literally about Jesus being begotten like it says in John 3.16 (King James), and he taught us that Jesus was an ordinary man like the rest of us, but he was so near perfect that God chose him to become his Son to die on the cross (Hebrews 5.8, 9). When God the Father chose Jesus, that’s when he was “begotten.” God the Father didn’t really know who the Messiah would be before Jesus came along and earned the right to be declared God’s Son. I have never heard of this, what do you think? I would like to know what you think since you have been a Christian much longer than me. It sure seems to make sense though!

My students did really well. How would you fare if you took this test? Take some time this Christmas to find out, and then let me know what you think (but don't expect a grade!)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving Day

Well, even though you wouldn't know it's winter here, just like in the States, it is the flu season. The flu has managed to hit everyone in our family except Eric. I got hit with it two days ago and I feel like death. But, "The blog must go on!" So, I'm pushing myself to get these pictures posted and then I'm taking my fever, sore
throat, and congestion, and laying down.

These pictures were all taken Thanksgiving Day. At noon, we began celebrating at PIBC. All the staff brought the fare to provide a traditional Thanksgiving meal for the students. This event was preceded by a time of worship. With bellies bloated, at 6:00 p.m., the Sorensons proceeded to the next celebration, a Chamorro fiesta/Thanksgiving celebration at a
local home. Chamorro celebrations are huge events because of their tightly-woven extended family systems. So, at the event we attended, there were probably about a hundred people coming and going. And, at the Chamorro "Thanksgiving" celebration, there was just as much local cuisine as traditional Thanksgiving edibles. An example of this is seen in the picture of Katie and Noelle standing in front of the large pan of DELICIOUS lumpia. Throughout the evening, there were announcements made on an elaborate sound system and intermittent dancing and Karaoke.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


We just returned from a Thanksgiving Eve service at our church. By the time I got home, I was so filled with thankfulness that I decided I would try to get a quick blog posted before preparing my turkey for roasting. I feel so blessed to be a part of the beautiful cultures around me. Experiencing these cultures reveals a side of God and of humanity I had not heretofore been blessed with knowing and experiencing.

It's difficult explaining to people that although our college is on Guam, almost all of our students are from remote islands surrounding Guam. These islands represent very distinct cultures, cultures very different from Guam's culture; although, there are definitely some cultural similarities. Our church is primarily a Chamorro church, the indigenous people of Guam. It has been such a joy to be a part of this church family. Tonight at church, one of the ladies gave me a Tahitian Ginger Torch (see pictures on this post). It was an amazing flower that has no odor and looks completely fake! It even felt like plastic! I marveled at another treasure that someone was kind enough to share. Throughout the night, I laughed thinking of the days I used to be awe-struck when hearing about someone entertaining twenty people for Thanksgiving. Here on Guam, twenty people is a puny, unheard of gathering. There will be at LEAST that many at a family gathering and often closer to or exceeding a hundred. The event is NEVER held IN someone's house because no one's home is big enough to house that many people. There will be HUGE heavy-duty canopies set up and everyone will eat outside in the 86+ degree weather accompanied with high humidity. And there will always be more than enough food. But, the food, even on Thanksgiving, will be more "fiesta" type food than traditional Thanksgiving fare. Afterall, how can you have a Chamorro gathering without red rice and ribs? And, how can you celebrate Thanksgiving with Micronesians without fish? And so, tomorrow at noon, we, the staff at PIBC will bring the fixings and will gather with our students for a Thanksgiving meal. Then, at 5:00 p.m. our immediate family will head to a friend's house to share a Chamorro Thanksgiving dinner. I can hardly wait to see what cultural gems I will encounter tomorrow. And I can only inadequately express the thankfulness I feel to be working here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Who's on Your Calendar?

Scheduling a time just to hang out seems rather odd, but busyness is a reality here just as it is elsewhere. Before we moved here, we used to say, "If you don't put it on the calendar, it won't happen!" Well, we say the same thing here. Thus, even though all of our staff wants to spend quality time with the students, it doesn't seem to happen unless we're intentional. From this realization came our formally organized fellowship groups; several students "assigned" to a few teachers and/or staff to build relationships. So, as formal as it felt, we literally sat down with our "assigned" students and scheduled times just to hang out.

It is such a great learning experience just to hang out. When we hang out, the students are themselves, not pupils fixated on taking notes. And, I'm sure, they see us as real people, not just teachers fixated on lecturing till their hands get cramped. But hanging out also has a way of revealing our differences. The other night we had four of our group members over to play a game and watch a movie. After playing spoons, which was met with screams and laughter, we watched the newer version of "Freaky Friday." Karyn and I both agree that the students were way more entertaining than the movie. It's difficult to explain, but when westerners watch movies, we are somewhat removed from what's going on on the screen. We are so
used to movies, that we watch them critically, if not a little analytically (we're all movie critics). Sure, we laugh, and we are moved, but with some reservation. Not so these students! The movie was punctuated with ooo's and ahh's, laughter, and delight. Even physically they reacted. Hiding their faces in embarassment, eyes opened wide in wonder, hands over their mouths in shock, they felt every bit of the movie. It was actually quite refreshing. Here were these (young) adults fully opening themselves to the gamat of emotions elicitted by the movie , and they loved it. And we loved it.

So we learned something: even if it requires being intentional, it's worth hanging out. Who's on your calendar?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Costume Trouble

For years our girls have asked to be flapper girls for Halloween. Because of the very cold California nights in October, we always told them this was an impractical costume as they would spend the evening freezing AND no one would end up seeing their costume due to the coat they would be forced to wear! Well, Guam is the PERFECT place for a flapper costume; and so this year, when the girls made this costume request again, the answer was an exuberant, "Yes!" But, how to get the costume . . . . Buying this costume was out of the question based on our budget, and so Karyn bit the bullet and declared she'd simply have to sew the costumes. Karyn and the girls excitedly entered the fabric store but, to their dismay, discovered that buying yards of fringe (as traditionally found on flapper dresses) exceeded the budget as well. Not to be discouraged, Karyn suggested some sequined fabric and the trim would be limited to the bottom of the dress. That decided, they then asked to see the patterns. To Karyn's horror, she was told there were no patterns and patterns were sold no where on the entire island! Yikes! Karyn can sew, but sewing without a pattern is an entirely different story! With the girls' soulful eyes asking what would happen now, Karyn gulped and declared they would just have to create a costume without a pattern. The first feat was trying to calculate how much fabric would be needed. Then, feeling like a pioneer or a missionary "really out in the bush," Karyn proceeded to timorously cut the needed pieces. And then, to her chagrin, she discovered that her sewing machine wouldn't sew the fine, sequined, fabric. And so, feeling like a true bush-missionary, Karyn plunged in, hand-sewing the flapper costumes. Whew! With dresses completed, she realized she would have to figure out how to find feathers for the flapper headbands. This would be an inconsequential concern in the States, with craft stores loaded with stock in nearly every town. But, finding colored-feathers on Guam probably wasn't going to happen. And so, with her pioneer spirit in gear, Karyn scavenged the toy box. To her delight, she found an Indian feather headband (from a home school unit study on American Indians), and a pink boa. She pulled out one long white Indian feather and cut it to the appropriate size and hot-glued it to a headband. She took a pink drinking straw and hot-glued a few plucked pink boa feathers to the straw to make it look like one long, full, feather. Voila! Two feathered flapper headbands, two flapper dresses, and a sigh of relief from Mom!

P.S. A fun and safe night trick-or-treating was spent with friends on Guam's navy base. EACH girl returned with nearly seven pounds of candy! Interestingly, everyone immediately knew the girls' had dressed as flapper girls except the military families in their twenties. Many of them asked, "What are you supposed to be?" And, even when told, they clearly had never heard of flapper girls!!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Developing Relationships

Friday night marked the third gathering of our fellowship group. All students and staff at PIBC were placed in fellowship groups and this has created wonderful opportunities for building deeper relationships. For our third gathering, we decided to join with another fellowship
group for a night of singing, praying, eating, a devotional, and volleyball. The event was scheduled to begin at 6:30, but the staff knew this would probably mean that students would come trickling in around 7:30. A cardinal rule for missionaries is: Be flexible. I think it's easier for American's to be flexible around this issue of Micronesian time than it is for our German co-workers! By the time we actually commenced with singing, it was probably about 8:00 p.m.! Karyn gave the devotional talking about living life with no regrets. Each staff member of our fellowship group brought dessert. (Another thing about working with Micronesians: there is no such thing as too much food!)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Original Winter White

We've discovered it's possible to retain pure pasty white skin in the middle of the sunny tropics. Since Karyn's mom and our son left in July, we haven't once been to the beach during daylight. Besides, this is the "really wet" season (Being a rain forest, Guam doesn't have a dry season--just wet and "really wet.") and, as you can see from the inset picture, I'm jamming trying to complete the first full-draft of my dissertation. Neither does it help when one of the cars is broken down and we find ourselves stuck at home more often than not. Indeed, we have discovered that it is possible to have all the color slowly drain from the skin, leaving one in the state of original winter-white. We attempted to supplement our vitamin D depletion on Saturday, but running this way and that with only one car prevented us. Of course, later in the day, we were greeted by typical torrential rains, the kind that soak you to the skin after running five feet to the car. Oh well, as someone once noted, it's funny how the brown-skinned natives around here try to tuck under any available shade to hide their faces from the sun, and the white folk migrate to any available sunny spot. I guess the "sunny side" of the situation is that I've had fewer distractions from dissertation-writing, a project that is due as a first-draft on November 1. More later. Right now the sun is peaking through, so I've gotta go . . . .

Thursday, September 25, 2008

True Acculturation

For a number of reasons, our girls and I arrived on Guam a couple of months after Eric and Christian. We left California on September 30, 2007. I realize we are fast approaching our one year anniversary. As I considered this, I stumbled upon the following school assignment and I had to chuckle. First let me say that "professionals" had told us, before we left for the mission field, that the younger the child, the quicker the child will adapt to a new culture. In no time, we were told, the child would naturally integrate the new culture as their own. As most of you know, I have home schooled all four of our children at least through the fifth grade. Presently, I am home schooling our two youngest children (8 and 11). It is the younger who is in focus here. The assignment was: "Imagine that all of your relatives have gathered for a family reunion in a park. Some of the moms have set the food out on picnic tables. Name five things you would taste." Noelle's answers were as follows: macaroni, rice, beef, ribs, and licorice. Here's where it gets funny. The same book contained the answers our oldest had put down ten or so years ago while still in California. His answers: hamburgers, hot dogs, beans, apple pie, and bread. Do you notice a difference in the answers? Noelle's answers are an almost complete description of Guam barbecue cuisine! (We don't know where the licorice came from). I can only imagine how appalled my extended family would be if I showed up to a family reunion with rice. I can also only imagine how appalled a family on Guam would be if they showed up and there was no rice! I guess one could conclude that Noelle has truly acculturated!

Monday, September 22, 2008

More Palau Pictures

We just realized that we forgot to mention that if anyone wants to see the 136 underwater pictures or the 59 pictures of people, places, and things in Palau, you can do so via Costco's website. Just send us a request and we'll send you an invitation to view the full album of pictures that we have stored on Costco's photo website.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Some Shots from Palau

Some of our greatest memories are sure to be from our trip to Palau in July when Eric spoke at a conference of the Palau Evangelical Church. It was one of those trips that "words cannot describe." To prove how true that is, just check out the slideshow!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bittersweet Start of School

The air at orientation buzzed with grand expectations, nervousness, and triumph; triumph over the hurdles that had been successfully jumped, allowing admittance into PIBC. For many of our students, the greatest hurdle had been achieving the minimum 450 points on the TOEFL exam (test for English fluency). And, of course, college admittance represents a major milestone, the opening of a door that will change one's life forever; ergo the grand expectations and nervousness. The awareness that we, the faculty at PIBC, will play such a huge part in this milestone, was sobering, but also inspiring. What a privilege to be a part of the lives of these students during this critical, life-altering time.

As I reflected on this, it hit me; at that
very moment, 6000 miles away, our son was attending his orientation at Westmont College. At that very moment in California, Westmont was having the student/parent welcome meal. And we were not to be there. Our son, with his eyes filled with his hopes and dreams, his grand expectations, nervousness and triumph, would not have his parents there to share in it with him. This was a sad reality. I could vividly imagine our son's expression as he saw his dorm room for the first time, as he entered the dining hall, and as he would sit enraptured listening to the welcome address. My heart ached to squeeze his hand, and when his nervousness would flare, I would encourage him with my eyes, "Yes! You CAN do this, Teyler." I would want to meet his roommate and to feel assured he was rooming with someone of good character. I would want to see where he would lay his head each night. My heart would sing as I would observe the joy and triumph in his countenance at having, by the grace of God, vaulted the hurdles of a learning disability and astronomical college expenses with little financial aid. These were all things I would forgo because of God's call to invest in the lives of students in Micronesia.

Ironically, I would give anything to be at Westmont with our son; and yet, I would give anything to be here, where God has called me. How strange to have two opposite desires both equally potent. It's like my heart is divided exactly in half. And the result is the feeling, or perhaps the reality, of a broken heart. And this makes sense to me. Sometimes there is a dichotomy between God's will and our human ways. We live in the world of flesh and family, and yet we have chosen to follow a God whose ways are higher than our ways; whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts. And so, I take the two pieces of my heart, and lay them on the altar of our God, and I offer up the sacrifice of praise. Yes, I said praise. You see, despite the pain of a broken heart, there is no joy, and no peace, like that found where God leads. And so I say with the hymn writer, Edwin Hatch (1835-1889):
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

Upon seeing his dorm room, Teyler gives us the hang loose sign (on left); but upon purchasing all the books he would need for his classes, his expression changes to one of a deer caught in the headlights!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Guam's Real Beauty

As a tropical island just 13 degrees north of the equator, Guam has its share of beauty, although it was blasted down to a raw rock in 1944 and still shows signs from human wear and tear (not to mention the devastation left behind from several wicked typhoons). However, having been here for a year now, we've come to the firm conclusion that Guam's real beauty is its people. Just yesterday, for some random reason, we had three encounters with Guam's most beautiful asset.

Yesterday marked our 23rd anniversary, so I decided to take Kar
yn to a hotel buffet for their lunch special and leave the kids in the dust. Christian drove off with the girls one way, and we headed the other. I was pretty certain I knew where to turn, but was wrong. Contrary to what you've heard about men and directions, I don't mind asking, so at a stop sign, we rolled down the window and asked the gal next to us if she could direct us to Leo Palace. She obviously felt the pressure of the light about to change, so she said, "Let me just pull over and give you directions." Instead of asking us to follow her straight, where she was headed, she swung left down a side-road and led us to the nearest pull-off. There she leisurely explained how to get to Leo Palace. It was certainly out of her way to do so; she would now have to turn around and wait at a light to get back onto the road she was traveling, but she didn't seem to mind. Karyn and I looked at each other, laughed, and said, "Can you imagine someone doing that in California?"

After t
he buffet at the hotel, we wedged our bloated bodies from the chairs and headed to the car. Strolling along, we noticed what the locals call "sleeping grass," which retracts when touched. Up alongside us came a golf cart driven by a local employee. He made a smooth stop and began carrying on a leisurely conversation with us about sleeping grass, explaining what it is and why the locals like to extract it (it has tiny hidden barbs). With the nicest attitude and willingness to chat, he sat there and smiled, and finally motored off. The people here love to stop and tell us about their island and culture.

We spent the end of the day lying on the beach and reading, an activity we could so easily enjoy more frequently, but rarely have the time. Strolling to our destination, we bumped into Lola (our friend from church who gives us bananas), and the typical small-talk ensued. We mentioned how many net fishermen we'd seen working the shoreline that day. Lola explained they were after a particular one-inch-long local fish that is fried and eaten whole. (Apparently they taste like corn chips once fried!) She went on to say she had just eaten some. It turned out that she and her friends saw some local guys net fishing these tiny creatures and frying them. They went over to the fisherman and asked if they could buy some, but were told they weren't for sale. However, a few minutes later, in true Guam fashion, the fishermen showed up to give them a plate full of the delicacies. "Do you know them?" we asked; although we should have known the answer. Of course not. That's just the way the people are.

Over and over we've experienced this hospitality here on Guam. There's nothing quite like it anywhere we've been. Whether it's someone next to us at a park having a picnic and giving us all the leftovers or the scores of people camped around a parade sincerely asking us to come and share in their food and drink, we are convinced that Guam's greatest beauty is its people.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Prayer, Island Style

As I mentioned in an earlier post, during the summer, many (most?) of the faculty at PIBC travel to th
e States to raise support and visit family. This allows a unique period of time when the remaining faculty and staff at PIBC is small enough to fit into a colleague's home for our bi-weekly prayer meeting. (During the school year the prayer meetings are held in the large classroom on campus.) Karyn and I had the Privilege of hosting the last prayer meeting and I had to chuckle when I observed all the shoes lining the path leading to our door. True island style!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Repeating Junior High

I’ve attempted to write about this on several occasions but have deleted my writings several times because some things seem to be so deep they are difficult to express. Besides, I didn’t want to bore anybody or appear to be whining. But, perhaps tonight I will get onto this screen what is in my heart. We’ll see….

Think back to junior high (what they call middle school now days). For some of you, myself included, you get butterflies in your stomach even at the mention of the word. I remember in junior high simply not understanding the unspoken rules enough to figure out how to be accepted. Of course, I DESPERATELY wanted to fit in, but I simply never could. It was a terrifying predicament to be in. The ONLY way to be accepted was to expose oneself, and yet this held the greatest risk of emotional and social annihilation. There were so many hidden land mines: the possibility of using the wrong tone, the wrong word, the wrong timing, having the wrong shoes, socks or hair style; all were possible mines primed to explode in one’s face, shattering one’s meager and precarious self-esteem.

Well, for me, playing volleyball on Guam has felt similar to re-doing junior high. Pathetically, I don’t think I’m going through it much better than I did in junior high. There is only one place on Guam for women to play volleyball, and that only twice a week. So, like junior high, I am forced to attend—if I want to play (which if you know me, you know I do). The women are very talented and are very serious about the game; unfortunately, the WAY they play is different from how we play in California in MANY subtle ways. All these subtleties make me a DEFINITE outsider. As I drive the twenty minutes to the gym, my heart pounds and my hands sweat. If only I could figure out how to do it their way! If only I could know their unspoken rules and avoid the land mines. The subtle looks they give each other when I step on a land mine makes me want to crawl in a hole and cry. At other times, I want to scream at them and tell them what I think about their “dumb” rules. The humiliation is sometimes almost unbearable. It is this feeling of mortification that has been the impetus to many discussions with God.

As painful as this situation has been, there is something very powerful and positively life-altering about it. The last time I felt like an outcast was junior high. My birthday was yesterday and so I am reminded of how long ago it was that I last felt these feelings. The desire to feel accepted and to belong is incredibly strong. I had forgotten how strong. I had taken for granted my ability to walk into seemingly any situation and nearly effortlessly fit in. And now, I am the “foreigner,” the “outcast.” I have found that the best way for me to successfully navigate a night of volleyball with these women is to spend the twenty minutes driving to the gym praying. My prayer is, “God, help me be humble. Help me be teachable. Help me love these women more than I love myself.” It’s amazing and pitiful how difficult this is for me. It has caused me to see a side of myself that is disappointing; and yet, an aspect of my life that would otherwise go unchallenged is being conformed into the likeness of Christ. It has also been a poignant reminder of the painful isolation and rejection that so many people feel on a daily and even hourly basis and their desperate need for our Savior, who was despised and rejected. What an incredible forum volleyball provides to share the hope found in our God who will never leave us or forsake us.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Slumber Party

I haven't been to a slumber party since I was a child, but I attended one last night. Although similar to my childhood slumber parties in the giggling and frolicking and the number of bodies squished together in a room, this slumber party was markedly different in that it was all family members attending, and there was a marked undertone of impending loss. Like sand eking its way through an hour glass, the air was thick with the knowledge that there would soon be an end. By about 2:00 a.m. most of us had fallen asleep--a pleasant diversion from the pain of saying goodbye. Searing pain imploded when, at 4:15 a.m., the alarm clock shoved the reality of day and time in our faces. The hour glass was empty; we would be torn from each other for another year.

As I watched our daughters (8 and 11) cling to their brother (20) and beg him not to leav
e them, I hurt not only for our girls, but for the agonizing pain this plea caused our son. I watched as my mom displayed a calm and lightness that I knew belied her shattered heart--a parallel of my own feelings and my own external behavior. I wondered, "Will this saying goodbye ever get any easier?"

After the door closed and Eric headed for the airport with my mom and Teyler, I climbed back in bed and was talking to God, telling him of my pain and my trust in Him to comfort me. And then I heard Noelle's (8) soft whimpering. There she was, curled beside Katie (11), both of them clearly distressed. I sighed, I guess I would have to put my own feelings on the back burner and tend to theirs. It ended up being a good teaching moment to discuss how there is NOTHING that would ever cause us to make this decision to be separated from our family except our desire to follow Jesus. It was interesting to see their ability to grasp this, and surprising, the comfort this knowledge provided. So, today, we all feel a bit raw and a profound painful absence.

Noelle (8 years old), with her loss glistening in her tear-filled eyes, just requested, "Mommy, let's go to the beach today." I think that's a good idea. The solitude and beauty of the ocean is a healing place. It reminds us of the shelter we have in Jesus' arms.

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer.
From the ends
of the
earth I call to you,
I call as my h
eart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than
For you have b
een my refuge,
a strong tower aga
inst the foe.
I long to dw
ell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your w
alm 61:1-4

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Our entire family and Karyn's mother just returned yesterday from ten days on Palau where Eric was the speaker at a conference. This was a WONDERFUL time of experiencing first-hand the island from which many of our students come, as well as their culture, and their places of worship. We were also able to take a few days to do some SCUBA diving, kayaking, and hiking. We will write more later because this is our last day with our son and Karyn's mother as we have to take them to the airport at 4:30 a.m.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Viva Guam!

You simply cannot imagine Liberation Day. I suppose it epitomizes Chamorro culture. But first, let's set the stage.

Imagine 9:30 a.m. and what FEELS like 110 degrees because of the 83% humidity. Here, in Guam, they rate weather according to a comfort scale of 1-10. Liberation Day was rated with a 1--miserable! Unless you've actually experienced these conditions, it is probably impossible to comprehend. Factor into this that being so close to the equator, we are actually closer to the sun. There is something about the sun here that I have never experienced outside close proximity to the equator. In ten minutes, I actua
lly feel like I am literally being burned--like having someone hold a magnifying glass to your arm out in the sun; I'm talking sizzling hot. Not the kind of hot that makes you want to snuggle into the sand and snooze; no, the kind of hot that makes you want to run for cover. The kind of hot that makes you want to be certain you REALLY remembered to put on #30 sunblock protection.

Next, imagine hundreds of canopies. Here comes the quintessential Chamorro culture. Under these canopies you will find primarily extended family groups. Chamorros are so serious about their families, that many of these canopies actually have professional banners draped ac
ross the front touting their family name. Like chimneys on houses, seemingly EVERY canopy had a barbecue billowing the savory smoke of roasting meat. The Chamorros are VERY serious about their food. It is the cornerstone of every gathering--formal and informal. Tables are laden with vittles--never just hamburgers and hot dogs. Oh no! Ribs, chicken, steak, fish, pasta, salads, and desserts monopolize several large tables beneath each canopy.

And, the parade. Wow! We're talking four hours worth of parading in staggering heat. A significant number of the ent
ries were military connected. There were units from branches of the military I had never even heard of. But, the best part was the response of the crowd to the military. They were cheered and applauded. Eric and I joked that we should try this same parade in Berkeley (near our home towns). Sadly, for sure the reception would be quite different. At one point, Eric and I left the shelter of our friends' canopy and walked the parade route to get to the bandstand where a friend's daughter was to perform with the Guam Territorial Band. The heat was stifling and a fire truck was spraying water on the by-standers as it made its way down the parade route. As water shot out of the fire hose, no sooner did it splatter on the asphalt and the bodies of delighted bystanders than it evaporated. Speaking from personal experience, the water was a cruel disappointment. It was no match for the fury of the sun. As we plodded along, nearly fainting with heat exhaustion, several friends and acquaintances rushed out from under canopies to greet us. ALWAYS the interaction was the same, "Come! You must have something to eat with us!" Often these were people we didn't really know but "since we were friends with their cousin, we were friends with them!" This is classic Guam. A land where the hospitality and warmth (both human and solar) is nearly surreal.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Christmas, Easter, and Halloween in July?!!

As mentioned on a prior post, my mom and our son are here visiting for the first time. Since we have been apart for nearly a year, we decided we had a lot of catching up to do. Tonight we celebrated Christmas. We sang Christmas carols, played Christmas music, and exchanged gifts. It's funny, because the celebration seemed more "authentic" than when we actually celebrated Christmas on Christmas Day (See earlier blog entry entitled, "The True Christmas Spirit.") We have also celebrated Easter, Halloween, and Teyler and Chris
tian's birthdays (which really are in July), Independence Day, and on Monday we will be celebrating Guam's Liberation Day. We have five more birthdays to go. . .

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Storming Wasps, Fire Ants, Centipedes, Caribao, and Cockroaches

For those of you who know my mother, she is the sweetest thing you could ever hope to meet. But . . . as I told her recently, she’d make a terrible missionary!!! Here’s the story.

While Eric, the boys, and I used our mostly free boat dive coupons, Grandma (aka my mom), stayed with Katie and Noelle. As Noelle (8 years old) meandered by a tree that she often climbs, she shook a branch. Suddenly, she felt a sharp pain on her back and she realized she was being attacked by a horde of angry wasps. Shrieking, she bolted into the house, bringing two of the infuriated insects with her. Grandma quickly pieced together what was happening and decimated the evil adversaries. Poor Noelle had eight wasp bites, some actually having penetrated her tee-shirt! Grandma did what she could for the pain; thankfully, there was some Benedryl in the house which helped with the swelling.

A few hours later, Eric and I returned from our scuba trip to hear the distressing tale. As Noelle relayed the story, she informed Grandma that the wasps hurt worse than the fire ants that manage to attack her little flip-flop clad feet on a fairly regular basis. In response to this, my mother raised wide-eyes to me and queried, “Those aren’t fire ants on the kitchen counter are they?”

“Oh no,” I replied. “Those are some kind of carnivore ants. They don’t eat anything sweet—only meat. I don’t think they’d bite you unless they got squished between, for instance, your waist and your waistband. It’s the “boonie” ants you have to watch out for. They are forever biting me as I sit at the computer and type.” (I had explained earlier that what I call “boonie” (wild) ants are little larger than a speck of dust and they’re not in our kitchen but in the room where we keep the computer.)

My poor mom, I could see she was a bit uptight. Throughout the ensuing couple of hours, I noticed her scanning her arms and legs. As she finished making some chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen, she yowled, “Ouch! One of those ants bit me!”

Oh, dear! Maybe they do occasionally bite; but, I guess I’m so used to it that I don’t pay much attention. From that moment, my mom’s eyes roamed over all surfaces she passed—both human and furniture. After a time she inquired, “Do any of those ants go in your bed?”

“No, I’ve never seen any in our sleeping areas,” I assured her.

Soon my mom disappeared into her bedroom only to excitedly reappear a few minutes later proclaiming, “There! There WAS one in my bed!!! I’m telling you, there was an ant in my bed!!”

“Mom, I really don’t think it was an ant,” I reassured. “I’ve never seen one in our beds.”

I think she was just beginning to feel safe when there came a screech from Noelle, who had decided to take a soothing shower to relieve her wasp bites. As we all rushed to Noelle, there, on the shower floor, was a poisonous centipede. I thought my mom would expire on the spot. I tried to comfort her with the advice to always wear flip flops if you have to get up in the night so that you won’t accidentally step on one. I think I should have kept this helpful advice to myself because it didn’t seem to have a soothing effect on my mother, who, at this point, was running her fingers through her hair, certain she’d discover vermin.

The following morning, Mom looking a bit sleep-deprived, we headed out for the beautiful southern end of the island. This side of the island is a patchwork quilt of lush jungle and cerulean sea. The kids wanted to stop and swim at Inarajan, a fun place to jump off rocks into pools of 86 degree Pacific Ocean. After an hour of watching our kids frolic, Eric and I decided to take my mom to Umatac to see the spectacular vista and hopefully a domesticated caribao. There is a gentleman who brings his caribao to this location for tourists to ride (note our picture on the top of our blog.) Sure enough, there was the man pulling his caribao with a rope through its nose-ring as a thrilled tourist clung tightly for the bumpy ride. We were surprised when we spotted another caribao picketed near the edge of a steep hill dropping off into the ocean. What a perfect shot for a picture! Mom meandered over to the caribao as Eric readied the camera. Once Mom was within nice picture range, the beast, with head down, charged her! If not for the rope, Grandma might be presently lost at sea. We’d never had problems with caribao until that moment! Needless to say, my mom was NOT taken with caribao.

Rushing back home, we all changed quickly and sped off to PIBC where we were to have a fiesta with about ten students who were living and working at the college over the summer. We had given them money to buy the ingredients to make whatever they wanted for the feast. Not surprisingly, ribs, chicken, rice (ALWAYS rice), crab salad, and potato salad made up the fare. As we walked across the outdoor basketball court to greet the students, a two-inch-long cockroach scurried to get out of our way. Being as dumb as dirt, the bug kept scrambling in the same direction that our daughter, Katie, was strolling. Katie’s flip-flop clad feet were right in the path of the dim-wit’s frenetic escape route. My mother, convinced the cockroach had sinister intentions, frantically grabbed Katie and made a bee-line for the closest shelter. She hunkered down in that structure warning all of us of assailing cockroaches and barraging mosquitoes (the second part being true). As the students and the rest of our family feasted outside with a multitude of insects serenading us, Mom was hunkered down in her sanctuary. Finally, I approached the shelter and told her she REALLY needed to come out and join us. She gulped, and with pupils fully dilated, headed toward the door leading to “enemy territory.” It was at this point that I sighed, “You’d make a terrible missionary!” Taking no offense, she wholeheartedly agreed and tremulously plodded closer toward the door, her last barrier between safety and the certain onslaught of insect bombardments. I kindly handed her a bottle of mosquito repellant stating, “I’ve got your back, Mom. I promise we’ll get out of here alive.”

Monday, July 7, 2008

Finally Family Arrives!

On Wednesday night, after a 15-1/2 hour flight from
California, my mom, and our son, Teyler (19 years old) arrived on Island.
The fan club of our immediate family joyfully and loudly met them at the airport. Tears flooded my eyes as I greeted my mom with a kiss and a lei of Plumeria (made by Katie and Noelle). Our son was so big I hardly recognized him!

Grabbing the 200 pounds of luggage plus carry-ons, (I had my mom bring MANY supplies from Costco, e.g. toilet paper, salami, chocolate chips, etc.) we rushed to the college where I needed to teach the last session of my summer counseling class. My students warmly welcomed my mother and son who sat in on part of the class. The following day, they told me they were quite impressed with my Power Point slides, to which I flashed Eric a triumphant smile, broadly grinned, and gave Eric the “humph” look. (Eric has informed me that I am ridiculously compulsive about my slides. Me? Compulsive? Never!!!)

From that moment forward, it has been one big rush of activities. We will write more about those on a later post. For now, I’ve got to get to sleep because tomorrow will be another day of non-stop motion.