Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Case of the Poultry Pilferer

11:30 p.m., I just walked in the door from my "night at PIBC." I teach Introduction to Counseling from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. and then do some counseling with students after class. I usually am pretty pumped up when I get home and writing helps me unwind.

I've been a little frustrated trying to come up with counseling scenarios for my students to use for practice sessions. The plots I have provided haven't significantly engaged them. They have been classic American problems: divorce, death, affairs, etc. Well, t
onight, I think I hit the scenario jack pot!

Assignment: In groups of three, have one
person be the counselor, one the counselee, and one the observer. The counselor should use all the counseling skills learned thus far and should make a concerted effort to use the skill of immediacy (the skill in focus for the night).

Scenario: Someone has stolen one of your chickens AGAIN. You have figured out who the thief is. You are very angry and want to confront the thief. However, you are very conflicted about wh
at to do and how to handle this situation. (It did not need to be explained that the conflict is a result of needing to/wanting to confront in a culture where anger and confrontation are cultural "no-no's.")

Well, let me tell you, the classroom came alive in a way I'd not seen it come alive before. There were animated coun
seling sessions happening in the various corners of the room interspersed with giant guffaws. As I scrutinized these interactions, I began to laugh. Here I was, half-way around the world, teaching students how to counsel using the pilfering of poultry as my most successful counseling scenario to date. I guess this is what is meant by teaching cross-culturally!

One of many wild roosters cruises through our backyard

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Marbo Cave With Pleasant Surprise

Yikes! It has been too long since we have posted to our blog. It has been incredibly busy with PIBC Days (an action-packed three day event at the college which we'll write and post about soon-- hopefully) and then all the church activities leading up to and including Easter. But, for now, we'll tell you about our trip to Marbo Cave. We decided that since we were all on Easter break (our kids and us professors), that it would be fun to head to this underwater cave located down a remote road only about six minutes from our house. We piled into our car and as we parked at the isolated spot, within five seconds, two vans pulled up beside us. And what do you suppose was written on the sides of the vans? PIBC! Nearly thirty students crawled out of the two 15-passenger vans! What a wonderful surprise! I guess the women's dean, Melissa Heck, decided it would be fun to take the students on a day trip while they were on Easter break. Melissa is also credited with the pictures posted on this blog. (Thank you, Melissa!)

The cave had fresh water to swim in, rocks to jump off into the water, and had water as deep as thirty feet in places. Off the "main" swimming cave were some side caves also filled with water. Some of these areas were pitch dark. I was glad that Eric brought our underwater scuba flashlight to illuminate the areas where we were swimming; otherwise, I think I would have been a bit creeped out. I never saw any living creatures (besides the ever-present mosquitoes) in or near the water. Once illuminated, the water was crystal clear and it would have been fun with scuba tanks to explore what appeared to be underground tunnels leading to perhaps other water-filled caverns.

One of the cutest moments was when some PIBC students took out a HUGE Tupperware
container (like the kind you would use to hold a large cake) filled with rice and an entire LARGE can of spam and some uncooked hot dogs (in package) and a can of little wieners. This fare was VERY generously offered to any and all who were interested in partaking (classic Micronesian quality). Ultimately, the students happily gobbled their edibles without utensils as the Tupperware floated in front of them. It is worth going to this YouTube posting ( to get a sense of true Micronesian sharing when it comes to food. Trust me, as an American, you will discover more about Micronesian culture in watching 20 seconds of this video taken in the PIBC's men's dorm than you could learn by reading volumes!

This was a very fun family afternoon made especially sweet because of the company we were able to keep!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Out for Blood

My best volleyball buddy from California, Bill Sablan, just so happens to have been born and raised on Guam. And so, since he is here for a month to spend time with his extended family, I thought I'd take him to PIBC to introduce him to volleyball, Chuukese style! You see, every weekend, I play volleyball from 9:00-11:00 p.m. with primarily Chuukese students. (We don't play earlier in the day because it is too hot). And so, Bill and I enjoyed an hour and a half of fairly competitive volleyball. I say fairly competitive because of the nature of the play. This term has no bearing on the ability of the players. You see, they are all very talented. They pass, set and hit quite well, often extremely well; however, they are seldom American-style competitive. I was telling a friend how I sometimes want to shake them and say, "OK! I KNOW you guys can play--come on, let's play for blood!" My friend commented that this was quite the spiritual picture of a missionary! (Yes, I know, I do tend to be a bit competitive). But, it's true. The Chuukese just don't have that same love for the intensity of the competition that we have in the States. And this is the backdrop for this particular story.

As the night wore on, Bill and I went from playing six on six to five on five and then four on four. By 10:30 p.m., all the students had wandered off save two. "Come on!" With a wide grin I entreated those two students, "Let's play two-on-two. Bill and I will whoop you!" I'm not sure they knew exactly what "whoop" meant but, thank goodness, they were willing to stay and play. Bill and I were thrilled, of course, being the complete die-hards that we are. You have to remember, by this point we'd already played rigorously for 1-1/2 hours, we're over twice these young men's ages, we were sweating in the humidity and dehydrated (yes, perhaps my competitiveness is showing a
little). And so the game commenced. Bill and I were calling out the score after EVERY point earned (not the typical Chuukese way of doing things). It was neck and neck throughout the entire game. At one point, when Bill and I were leading by one point, our opposing player very sincerely proclaimed, "You guys are whooping us!" "No, not YET," I graciously replied. The game swung back and forth with us leading by one or two points and then our competitors leading by one or two points. Ultimately, those young, buffed, used to this hot weather, fully-hydrated students beat Bill and I by one point. But, not to be deterred by this, Bill and I challenged them to another game. They shrugged and accepted while Bill and I determined in our hearts to "whoop em" this time (instead we should have gotten a drink of water!). The second game was much like the first until near the end. Our rivals had gained a five point lead and Bill and I were losing steam quickly. Give up? Never! "Anything goes" we encouraged each other--this translates: "Get points by any means possible!" Our Chuukese opponents conferred with each other at this point also. It was their serve, the ball hit into the net. We scored a point AND got the ball. Yes! We served, they passed, set, and when it was time to hit, they spiked the ball into the net. It was then that I realized what was going on. Our contenders were too skilled to make that many errors. They were purposely losing! I'm not sure if they would have given the entire game to us or just made the score REALLY close. The Chuukese simply will not trounce a "friend." I have seen this consistently in their culture. They could not comprehend that Bill and I would have much preferred losing fairly and squarely (because we would just challenge them next weekend when we would be refreshed and then we'd whoop em!). For them, and their culture, it is not kind to "beat" a friend and so they don't. They have too much of a sense of "group." They are too aware of how their opponents may be feeling and would never want to shame them. Although, being an American, I prefer my "In the game, go for blood" mentality, there's something very beautiful about this Chuukese way of doing things. I think when it comes to my interaction with people (not sports), I need to become more Chuukese.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Romans 12:10

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Across Continents and Cultures

Even though PIBC was started with the specific aim of providing theological education for Micronesians, some of the most powerful testimonies come from our other international students who "happened upon" PIBC through varying circumstances. It's amazing to hear these stories and see the way God goes to great lengths to reach people.

We have a student at PIBC who is from China. She was part of a secular, intellectual Chinese party who have consistently, throughout the years, protested what happened at Tienanmen Square. It became unsafe for her to remain in China any longer, so she fled to Guam. Once here, she attended junior college but could not pass the English prerequisite class. Ultimately, a professor, who was a Christian, suggested she start attending church where she would get more exposure to English. He also suggested she take an English class at PIBC where she would get more individual attention. Eventually, Mae accepted Christ and her life was transformed. Mae is EXTREMELY intelligent and grapples with issues and questions that most people never even think to ask. She makes connections and compares and contrasts various Scriptures constantly. She will insist in class, "I WANT to understand this. How can such and such be true if. . .." She hungers for truth and has found her hope, not in political systems, but in Christ.

How amazing it is that God, in His sovereignty, arranged for Mae to know Him. How incredible that He cares enough to reach across continents and cultures to bring people to Himself. How thrilled we are to be a part of what He is accomplishing on this side of the globe. How blessed we are to know Him.