Saturday, February 23, 2008

Colossal Arachnid Annihilated!

I had home schooled the girls late into the day and I had sent the girls outside to get some exercise before dinner was served. I was just finishing up the final touches on our dinner when eight year-old Noelle came tearing into the house completely hysterical. You need to understand that Noelle only cries when she needs stitches or has broken a bone. She was unable to speak she was so freaked out. My first thought was that she was critically injured, so I frantically scanned all her limbs as she stammered, unable to speak. Seeing that everything was still attached, my next thought was that Katie, her eleven year old sister, must be seriously injured.

As I headed for the front door to locate Katie, I noticed the door was standing wide open. This alerted me again to the serious nature of the problem. We NEVER leave the door open because of the mosquitoes and the heat. I screamed at Noelle, "Where is Katie? Is she okay?" Instead of answering, as Noelle saw that I intended on exiting out the door, she became all the more hysterical. "Don't go out there!" she screeched back in a wobbly voice.

Upon hearing all the commotion, Eric rushed out of the study and reached us just as I, ignoring Noelle's pleas, passed through the front doorway. To my great confusion, Katie was a few yards in front of the door with a couple of friends, all of them smiling and clearly oblivious to any problems. At that moment, Eric, who was standing on the INSIDE of the doorway, very calmly, but very gravely instructed me, "Don't move. There is a HUGE spider." I immediately had visions of having passed through a low hanging spider web and I just knew that the mother of all spiders was on top of my head and would shortly be lowering itself down my face or thrusting it's mammoth teeth into the tender flesh of my neck. With every ounce of control I could muster, I VERY slowly started backing into the house as I calmly asked, "Where is it? and hissing, "Get it off!" As if talking too loudly or too excitedly might trigger an attack, Eric, stated, "Look down, it's on your left." As I looked to my left, I saw the biggest spider I have ever seen or even read about. Although the size of the arachnid was shocking, I was so relieved that it wasn't on my person.

"We have got to get a picture of this for our blog!" I exclaimed, only to find Eric already with camera in hand. As we snapped pictures of the six-inch-long legged spider, we realized it would be impossible to tell its gargantuan size without something to give it perspective. I thought of the swell idea of putting some sticky tack on the back of a quarter and placing the quarter near the spider on the wall. I tried to get the quarter as close to the arachnid as I dared. Well, I guess I got too close for the spider's comfort and that spider jumped so far that it would make scenes in a horror movie look like a cartoon! I let out the loudest, most blood-curdling scream you have ever heard. Between the arachnid's humongous hurdle and my scream, Katie and her friends began screaming bloody murder and Noelle, completely lost it, running into the house crying and trying to find a safe place to hide. At that point, Eric, a bit agitated, warned that the neighbors were going to call the police! He'd had enough of the unruly arachnid and annihilated it with a nearby flipflop.

For the rest of the evening, the kids (and Eric), thought it was great fun to softly touch my hair, arms, legs, etc. and watch me jump in fear that the spouse of the deceased Arachnid was coming to seek revenge for the bludgeoning death of its mate. While they found great humor in this, I reflected on our "Creepy Encounters" to date: brown tree snakes, poisonous centipedes, Lion Fish (one of the most toxic fish in the world), scorpions, and herculean spiders. Had we uncovered all the horrors yet? Oughtn't they give missionaries a book with warnings and pictures of these horrible creatures ahead of time?!!!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Sweet Sacrifice of Praise

Things I love about my church:

1) The poor sound system! It does not in
terfere with people worshiping God. The parishioners have a smile on their faces and I've never seen anyone with a bad attitude over its lack of quality. The parishioners make the most of what they have and worship God regardless of circumstances.

2) Song books copyrighted 1993 from Maranatha Music. Clearly, there is no obsession with "Keeping up with the Joneses" when it comes to music! A joyful noise is made to the Lord with no regard for the songs being sung at Willow Creek or Saddleback!

3) Four prayers in one service--some lasting ten minutes! I had forgotten what it was like to actually spend time in prayer during a church service! If you think I'm joking, pay attention to how many prayers are prayed during YOUR Sunday morning service AND time the length of the prayers. In the States, we are so consumed with ending the service by a certain time that there is "no time to pray."

4) Kids are HIGHLY involved in the service. They are in the front holding microphones helping to lead the singing, they are greeters, and they do special music. The concern seems not to be "How professionally can you do this but can you do this?"

5) In addition to our Maranatha praise music, we also sing four hymns--as written!! I have sung hymns that I haven't sung since I was in high school! We even sang "Onward Christian Soldiers" a couple of Sundays back. The timelessness of the words and the truth found in the hymns are like comfort food. Despite time and place, the words ring out true.

6) The special music is not polished and rehearsed to perfection. It is not found in the latest releases of Christian music. It may date back to 1945, 1965, or 1810 but it is sung from the heart and is chosen with the intent to encourage someone else in their faith.

7) And, last, but DEFINITELY not least, the potlucks (which, are called pot "faiths" at my church), are amazing. These quarterly potfaiths are anticipated with great expectations and much energy is put into them. They are also referred to as "fiestas." You cannot imagine the array of delicious food that is presented. Much pride is taken on the spread. The potfaith is proceeded by two hours (yes, you read that correctly) of singing. Several other churches are invited to join in the potfaith/fiesta as well. During the two hours of singing, in addition to special requests and sing-alongs, various individuals will get up and offer a song to God and the congregation. Sometimes they are sung in Chamorro but usually they are sung in English. Sometimes someone treats us to a number sung to the ukulele or the harmonica. Tragically, probably none of these musical offerings would pass muster in the States and, I am certain, we are the losers for it. There is something very beautiful and spiritually powerful in watching someone singing FOR the glory of God with FAR more emphasis placed on worshiping and sharing than on performing and perfection.

This last point, I especially resonate with. I am a "victim" of this Stateside mentality of performance and perfection. Although God has given me the gift of music, I feel immobilized to share it with an open heart because I am terrified that it will not be good enough. That it will be ridiculed or seen as insufficient. I wonder if I had been raised on Guam, if I too would be able to stand up, singing from my heart, singing freely with my thoughts solely on bringing glory to our precious Savior? Now, I watch with incredible longing those who stand before three and four congregations singing without knees knocking or hands shaking, oblivious to the performance aspect, but offering Jesus the sweet sacrifice of praise.

P.S. I also think it would be pretty difficult to beat this location. This is the view from the church's patio overlooking the built-up section of Guam where all the hotels are situated.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Brutus Comes to Class

We had a fun time in my counseling class last night. As a guest speaker, I invited Brutus, a puppet (aka Eric), to attend. After lecturing on some of the important skills and attitudes one must have when counseling (e.g. eye contact, attentiveness, serious listening skills, appropriate and limited self-disclosure), Brutus was introduced to the class as a professional counselor. We asked for a volunteer to allow Brutus the opportunity to demonstrate his "fine" therapeutic skills. Mohammad (our one and only student from Bangladesh) readily volunteered. Mohammad was a great sport in this counseling interaction. The puppet interrupts him, is distracted, almost falls asleep, and at one point says, "You think you've got problems. . .." It was a fun way to teach what NOT to do and to underscore the importance of learning effective counseling skills. (We apologize for the wobbly videoing and poor sound quality--Katie (11 years old) was gracious enough to offer to video for us).

P.S. Apparently our video is followed up with links that were put there by YouTube. We take no responsibility for the content of these links.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Chuukese in Chapel

This past Friday, our Chuukese students led chapel. The Friday chapels trade from group-to-group, so the Yapese, the Palauans, and even the Americans will host a chapel. When the Chuukese led, they blessed us with some special music, and an excellent message from Revelation 5 by Happiness Lodge, one of our seniors. To get a feel for the chapel service, click on the play button below.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Happy to be Alive

The longer I'm here on Guam, and the more I rub shoulders with our students, the greater insight I get into their lives and their hearts. It is also true that the more I hang around our students the more
they realize that the goofy white guy from the States is OK, and better yet, he's safe. Thus, they are now more comfortable with leading in prayer at the beginning of class, which affords me the unique vantage point of really getting to hear their hearts. Incidentally, "hear" often requires great effort since our students tend to pray very quietly out of respect to God! Nevertheless, what I have heard has burned into my mind how different my world is from the realities that others live with on a daily basis. Two times now I've heard different students pray something like this: "Thank you Lord that we're alive today." At first that struck me as odd, so I dismissed it; until I heard another student, on another day, say essentially the same thing. Why would someone pray that he's glad he's alive? On the one hand, I figured that the prayer could be a way of attempting to say, "Thank you Lord, that you created us." That wouldn't strike me as especially odd. On the other hand, I wondered if the poor student had just missed getting hit by a car on the way to school (not unlikely around here). Upon further reflection, however, I'm sure that's not what was being implied. Plain and simply, those prayers are literal, heart-felt thanksgivings, that "Today I'm alive and haven't died yet."

How many times have I prayed that? What about you? For me, I never think of praying that way
because death seems such a distant reality to me. The fact is, however, for most of the rest of the world, death is not the distant reality it seems to be for most Westerners. For instance, our PIBC student missions trip to Yap over Christmas took a different turn than planned when a 30ish year-old man suddenly died, followed by the death of his younger wife the next day! Accidents, disease, and illness are much more apt to claim lives in the island homes of our students than they are for us. The assurance most of us have that our newborn will survive to adulthood is not quite taken for granted on the islands as it is for us. And so I ask, which world is better? The one where long-term health and survivability is assumed, or the one where death is much closer? The one where you take everything for granted, or the one where you realize daily how deeply indebted to the grace of God you are? Food for thought.

Monday, February 4, 2008

From the Teacher's Desk

Regarding my counseling class . . . for starters, I have 24 students. The therapist part of me resists this large class size. I pushed all the tables together instead of having them surrounding the outskirts of the room with the students sitting behind them. Even with this change, there were just too many students to be able to track what was happening with each one and to be able to connect with each one. This made me want to send half the class away and to offer two classes covering the same material so the class size would be twelve. It will be difficult for me, over the course of the semester, to put out information without knowing how it is being received and processed by EACH student. Another challenge is the cultural break-down of my class. I have 7-Palauans, 13-Chuukese, 3-Filipinos, 1-Bangladeshi, and 1-Yapese. Each student brings a unique way of viewing the world, a set of cultural rules and expectations, and a different native language. Just learning their beautiful but unique (from an American perspective) names will be a challenge! Here are the names of some of my students: Smilen, Elilai, Mohammad, Happiness, Mayumi, and Inca.

Trying to get through the syllabus took 1-1/2 hours!! I'm not sure if it was so difficult for the students because of a language barrier or if it's just because we come from such different worlds that to understand my expectations took quite a bit of explaining. Regardless, after half an hour of introductions, an hour and a half of explaining the syllabus, I was left with half an hour for lecture. The lecture seemed to be successful. I spoke about how, when God created the world, it was perfect--no sin, no dysfunction. I went through and talked about some of the specific issues of pain that we now deal with as a result of sin. The students seemed to be especially attentive when I discussed the pain of fatherlessness. There is a high incidence of this on the Islands just like in the States. Unlike the States, however, outside of the church, there really is no place for the students to go to receive support/counseling. I hope that my class will give these precious children of God at least one opportunity to have someone stand with them and validate for them the hurt they feel as a result of living in a sinful and thus dysfunctional world.