Friday, December 26, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
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
Friday, August 29, 2008
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):
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
Yesterday marked our 23rd anniversary, so I decided to take Karyn 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 the 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
As I mentioned in an earlier post, during the summer, many (most?) of the faculty at PIBC travel to the 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
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
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
As I watched our daughters (8 and 11) cling to their brother (20) and beg him not to leave 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 heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.
I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
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 actually 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 across 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 entries 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
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 Christian'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
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
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
On Wednesday night, after a 15-1/2 hour flight from
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.