Saturday, December 4, 2010

Finger-Lickin' Good Time!

When we decided to leave California and everything familiar (location, jobs, family and friends), raise our own support, and move to Guam, we were informed that we needed to start a blog.  Pathetically, at that point, we hadn't even heard of blogging!  We were also instructed that we should never let more than two weeks pass between posts.  Apparently, longer breaks between posts result in readers losing interest and no longer checking the blog.  Well, sadly, we have become remiss in keeping up with this two-week standard.  Mind you, this is NOT because we don't have adequate writing material. On the contrary; but with each passing day, we find ourselves investing further in the college, our church, and the community, and our time seems to evaporate like the ubiquitous rain on the sizzling Guam asphalt.  Furthermore, since this blog is public domain, we try to be sensitive about what we post.  This can be quite frustrating when we are dealing with something all-consuming but inappropriate for sharing due to confidentiality.  This has been our situation for the past three weeks.  So, although it would not be appropriate to use this forum to describe that monopolizing matter, you can believe that it was with great joy that our family accepted the offer to spend a half-day kayaking and snorkeling with "Uncle Francis," an amazing outdoor enthusiast and a member of our church.


Meeting at "Piti Bomb Holes" with our snorkeling equipment in hand, Uncle Francis already had two kayaks ready to launch into the cerulean Philippine Sea.  We paddled toward the reef near Camel Rock.  Efficiently, Uncle Francis tied the two kayaks together and hooked them to himself with rope, and we all donned our snorkeling equipment and jumped into the tropical water (approximately 82 degrees F).  Immediately, upon hitting the water, the current began pushing us along.  This was definitely what you'd call "drift snorkeling."  We observed the usual incredible underwater sea life as we drifted south.  At one point, it became overcast and we experienced a heavy rain.  I had to chuckle that I now live in a place where, three weeks before Christmas, in the middle of a storm,  
Our daughter in the storm with Fish Eye "Tower" in background
I could be warmly swimming in the ocean!  Eventually, our drift snorkeling brought us to the underwater tower at Fish Eye, a popular place for tourists to catch a glimpse of the exquisite underwater world without getting wet. (Notice Fish Eye tower in the background of storm picture.)  Excitedly, eagle-eyed Uncle Francis motioned us to his location.  As we scanned about 20 feet beneath us, to our delight, we observed a beautiful spotted eagle ray.  This majestic creature was in no hurry to get to another destination.  Instead, it gracefully glided back and forth in the same area for more than 15 minutes.  I marvelled at how much it looked like a flying bat moving in slow motion.  The clarity of the water added to the illusion of flying.  I did a Google search on the spotted eagle ray and I have copied and pasted the following comments from: 

‎"Generally a shy species, spotted eagle rays are wary of divers and are difficult to approach. However, it is considered potentially dangerous to humans due to the venomous tail spines that can inflict serious wounds."

Picture from:

"The spotted eagle ray reaches a maximum length of 8.2 feet (2.5 m) not including the tail, with the total length including an unbroken tail reaching close to 16.4 feet (5 m). The maximum disc width is 9.8 feet (3 m) and maximum published weight is 507 pounds (230 kg)." (I was shocked by how long its tail was!)

Apparently, people rarely eat spotted eagle rays because their flesh is of poor quality; however, the shark, its primary predator, appears not to be so picky!

Reluctantly, we left the spotted eagle ray and drift snorkeled back to shore.  Dragging the kayaks onto the land, we were met with the succulent aroma of barbecuing meat.  Groaning with hunger, I jokingly asked Uncle Francis if he always faced this torture when he washed down his equipment at the spigots located next to the barbecue pit.  Soon, we were loading everything back into our vehicles to head for home.  As we packed the last of our belongings, a couple of the Chamorro men from the barbecue pit approached us with a huge plastic storage tub filled with freshly barbecued chicken.  "Here," they warmly declared, "we want to share with you.  That's the way we do things around here."  Once again, our family was deeply impressed with this beautiful aspect of Chamorro culture.  And, let me tell you, that chicken was finger-lickin' good! :-)

Thanks to God for the wonder of His creation, and to Uncle Francis who gave of himself to provide us with a spectacular and refreshing time.  :-) 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Seminary Christmas Shopping

    Some of you moaned when you read the phrase, "Christmas Shopping," because, truth be told, you're nowhere near being ready.  I hate to pop your bubble, but as I write, the big event is only 57 days away.  Wait!  You still have time to read this blog before you rush out the door in a state of complete panic.  In fact, this article will help you.  After you're done with it, you need only follow a few simple directions and you can click things right off your list.  You don't even have to leave the comfort of your chair, much less the comfort of your home.  So nestle down and listen to my Christmas tale.
     Our part-time theology professor, Jim Sawyer, has made some arrangements that will allow you to add Pacific Islands Evangelical Seminary (PIES) to your Christmas list.  Through Jim's ministry, Sacred Saga (, he put on his Santa suit and created an Amazon wish list with scores of books we need to add to the library of Pacific Islands University (PIU), our home institution.  PIES was begun under PIU in 2008 with Eric as its founding dean.  It is now one of the most unique seminaries in the world, and the only one of its kind in the Western Pacific.  Our students come from all over Micronesia, the Pacific Rim, and the US.  We even have a student from Bangledesh and another from mainland China.  It is truly an amazing and diverse community of students pursuing the Master of Arts degree.  However, since we are new and small, and all of our students barely scrape by, we always face a set of challenges.  For instance, we share a library with PIU that was designed to serve undergraduates only.  We really need more master's level books.  So, when Dr. Sawyer came up with the idea, Dr. Sorenson created the wish list, and it's now posted on Amazon (  With a few simple clicks of your mouse button, you can send our seminary a gift book (or CD Rom) ranging in price from $14.95 to $500.  It will be shipped directly to our school, and we will add it to the collection with a great big spirit of Christmas joy! 
    It really is simple:  Click on and find "wish list" in gold letters toward the top at the right side of your screen.  It will take you to another screen with an option called, "find someone's list."  All you need to do is type in Pacific Islands Evangelical Seminary, and our list will pop up before your wondering eyes.  Then, shop till you drop . . . a gift in the mail, that is.  All that's required is your credit card and the Amazon elves happily fire it our direction.  Anything you can do will be greatly appreciated by our students, and add more joy to the season!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lessons for Coaching in Micronesia

Pacific Islands University has a men's basketball league, but no leagues for women. Observing how much the women at PIU enjoy playing volleyball, I decided to put together and coach a PIU women's volleyball team, and I am currently organizing a league. I have coached several different volleyball teams over the years, but coaching this Micronesian college team has been quite a challenge! Here are some lessons I have learned along the way:

1) Gently substitute the players' cherished island skirts with men's basketball shorts. Be sure the shorts are long enough to cover the players knees so that you don't offend cultural sensibilities.

2) Search high and low for enough athletic shoes for each player to borrow since flip flops are worn for all occasions, including volleyball games (yes, with the skirts).

3) Convince the players to keep their athletic shoes on. Wearing athletic shoes is a requirement in most gyms and certainly in schools, so save yourself the embarrassment of looking out and finding that a quarter of the players have discreetly removed their shoes at some point during the game! Stubbornly resist the repeated request, "Can't we just go bare foot or wear our zorries (flip flops)?"

4) Be prepared for the ensuing shock, horror, and perhaps mutiny, when you announce that actual physical exercise will be required.

5) Maintain absolute control as complete hysteria breaks out amongst players at the spectacle of their fellow teammates actually doing the required conditioning exercises, such as high knee sprints, side shuffles, blocking at the net, etc. From a coach's perspective, because Micronesian women have no prior exercise experience, the execution of the conditioning requirements is rather entertaining.

Note: At all costs, do not even crack a smile when a player asks to turn off the court lights so she can run her laps in the dark without being seen! (actual incident)

6) Convince the players to really take the game seriously and be competitive.

Do not come unglued when during an intense game, an exhausted player queries, "Can't we just play for fun?" (another actual incident)

7 Don't give up just because your players are shouting encouragement to the opposing team's server during the most critical points of the game. (another actual incident). Continue to promote the concept of taking the game seriously and being competitive. (Did I already mention this?)

Despite the challenges of coaching this team, I (Karyn) am excited to use volleyball as an avenue to bring about healthy growth in PIU students. Our team is in desperate need of volleyballs, a ball cart, and some other supplies. If you are interested in helping us meet this need, please contact me. Thank you!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles--Well, Not Exactly!

The island of Kuttu in the distance

On the shores of the Mortlocks

 I recently stumbled upon some pictures one of our students had posted on Facebook and was immediately captivated. The pictures begin at a going-away party that friends threw for two of our students from Pacific Islands University who were leaving their home island to return to PIU for the fall semester. You need to know that these students are from a very small island of about 300 people located in the Mortlocks out on the distant fringes of Micronesia. The pictures chronicle the going-away party and then the student's departure. I went to this particular student and asked for more information, and here is what I learned:

For the going away party, a cousin gave them two dogs to serve as the main course. The dead dogs were wrapped in a banana leaf and placed in a shallow fire pit to cook. After many hours, the partially cooked dogs were removed from the fire and gutted. Apparently, it is easier to gut the dogs after they have been partially cooked. The dogs were then returned to the fire pit until they were completely cooked through.

Friends then gathered to eat the special food. Notice the house in which these women are eating. I was informed that this house is the home of at least seven family members.

Taro Field
 Taro is grown throughout the island and is one of the main food staples. The bowl shows taro served with coconut milk.


 Here are some of the beautiful inhabitants of the island of Kuttu in the Mortlocks.

The day after the going-away party, the two PIU students were taken by motor boat to a spot where a large boat was moored. The large boat cannot get very close to Kuttu because the water is so shallow they risk ripping a hole in the hull from the treacherous coral. It takes about ten minutes by motor boat to get from Kuttu to where the large boat is moored. The students must attempt to catch the large passenger boat which will take them to Weno, the capital of Chuuk, and the island where the air strip is located. They attempt to catch the large boat approximately one week prior to their scheduled airline departure because often the passenger boat is full. It will be several days before another passenger boat comes to their island, and there is no guarantee that it too will not be full. If there is room on the large boat, the students are charged about $15.00 per person, plus fees for each additional item they have with them. All told, they usually end up paying about $30.00. From that point, it is a two-day journey to the capital island of Weno. No food is served, so passengers must pack their own food if they want to eat. The passenger boat will be stuffed to overflowing with about 70 people, and it will make stops at multiple islands in route to Weno. There are no life boats or life vests on the boat, and the boat definitely would not pass any safety inspections or meet any safety regulations! To make matters worse, the boat is so loaded down with passengers and belongings, there is not enough space for anyone to fully lie down to sleep. Picture a craft, jammed with people attempting to sleep in a semi-sitting position.

When the students finally arrive in Weno, they will have arrived approximately one week prior to their plane's departure date. Knowing they will need housing and food for this week of waiting, the students will have radioed ahead to a relative to make these arrangements (there are no phones or electricity on Kuttu). Once they are finally aboard their flight, the students will fly 630 miles to the island of Guam arriving at awful hours in the morning (e.g. 3:00 a.m.). No problem, our vigilant Dean of Women will forfeit her sleep to pick them up and make sure they arrive safely on the campus. All told, this trip will cost them approximately $400.00 and will take approximately nine days from start to finish. They could swim here faster than that!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Students Dive In!

Chasing a wild idea that is truly outside the box, PIU has begun a recreational scuba diving program to assist students in finding employment after graduation. Although our graduates earn a highly marketable degree from PIU, some students don’t want to teach or work in the government when they get back home. Even those who are called to ministry don’t really have a “voice” until they are nearly forty, and teachers could use the extra income, anyway. As a result, there has been an unfortunate “brain drain” out of Micronesia as locals migrate to Hawaii and the states for better employment. Since it is a stated desire of PIU to send quality Christian graduates back to their islands, staff have been dreaming up ideas to enable them. Out of the dreams comes the new dive program, featuring Eric as program coordinator (yes, he’s still Seminary Dean). Theoretically, by the end of the program (6 units), a student will be certified as a dive master, which qualifies him or her to become a professional dive guide in the world-famous waters of Micronesia. In fact, by spring, we should begin offering our new 18-unit minor degree in Outdoor Ministry with an emphasis in water recreation. Although our students grow up surrounded by the ocean and from it forage their food, they have never actually tried scuba diving (it’s usually for tourists). By the pictures you can see that now they have tried it! Guided by Fred Schmidt, our professional instructor, twelve students experienced breathing air underwater for the very first time. From this fledgling group, we hope to have our first certified scuba divers by mid October. Eric is especially excited by the enthusiasm for our program that Micronesian dive resort owners have shown. Nearly to the last one, they are thrilled to have a pool of real-life Micronesian dive guides, not the variety imported from Europe for a hefty fee. Some ideas are simply outside the box; this one is so far outside, it’s in the water!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Back on Island

Bright-eyed and bushy tailed, I (Karyn) have been waking between 3 and 4 a.m. for the last few days because my inner time clock is still on Pacific Standard Time. Outside of wanting to hit the hay by 5:00 p.m. Guam time, and being surprised by the dreadful heat (you'd think I'd remember after three years!), I'm thrilled to be back on Guam.

My first morning back, our family went to Pacific Islands University to join the students and staff for chapel. What a joy to see returning students and meet new ones. After chapel, we rushed back home so I could continue home schooling our girls. Saturday morning we headed for the soccer field for a tournament hosted by FIFA. The two-hour kids' tournament was free and included lunch. This is one thing we particularly like about Guam. MANY events are free or very low-cost. It's a nice reprieve from the never-ending financial demands we're accustomed to in the San Francisco Bay Area. At the soccer field, I immediately jumped in to help at the registration table. I love that we have established relationships with the community and therefore we are trusted and our help is readily accepted. It may seem trivial, but I was so happy to be able to show the love of Christ even in this small way. By the time the tournament was over, I was feeling sick from the heat. I guess I'll need to readjust not only my inner time clock, but my body's thermostat.

This morning we were back worshipping with our precious island church. I kept forgetting to greet our Chamorro friends with the proper custom of a kiss-sound on the cheek, and instead, kept giving American-style hugs; otherwise, it was great to be back.
Noelle with some teammates

It is definitely not an understatement to say that we are excited about this coming 2010/2011 school year. Eric will be teaching undergraduate Church History, as well as Church History and Theological Research Methods for the seminary, which he continues to lead as Seminary Dean. During the fall semester, I will be focusing on providing counseling, coaching the PIU women's volleyball team, and, of course, home schooling our two middle-school-age children.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

9-1/2 Weeks Later

Sorry for the long delay in posting.  Following a whirlwind 9-1/2 week ministry tour, we were taken by surprise by how wiped out we were when it ended!  The last two weeks of the tour were especially harried as we spent so much time on the road having driven as far as Salado, Texas.  One day we spent 17 actual hours on the road (this included being stopped by border patrol).  After sending the students off at the LA airport on the 17th of July, Karyn and I crashed!  We spent a lot of time sleeping and have since then made a concerted effort to spend as much time as possible with our precious families who we see so seldom.  

Besides the amazing ministry we experienced in those 9-1/2 weeks, the relationships that were formed between staff and students was a highlight not only for us, but was overwhelmingly stated as a highlight by the students when they wrote their end-of-the-trip evaluations.  

Another never-to-be-forgotten highlight was the day the students spent at Disneyland.  What an amazing gift this was for our students and all because several people decided they wanted to contribute financially to make this a possibility.  The "Smilebox" below captures a smidgen of the profound joy this brought to the Voices of Micronesia.   

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook
Create your own scrapbook - Powered by Smilebox

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Closer to the Finish Line

Nine-and-a-half weeks is pretty long for a "choir" tour. I say that at just over six weeks. We're still in California, still pushing forward, getting a bit fatigued, but still looking at a really hot drive across to Texas early next week. So many things have happened that I can't possibly recount them. God continues to provide our funds, our safety, our health, and our sanity (seriously). We cherish your prayers! We spent the better part of June in the San Francisco Bay Area, with a brief trip up the Foothills and a stop in Fresno on our way to San Diego. It's gloomy here, but a relief from the 104 in Fresno and something we'll long for again as we drive through Arizona and into Texas. Some pictorial highlights from our last few venues.
 After receiving continual requests for a CD, we recorded one, thanks to a friend, but have a very limited supply.
Perhaps our most unique venue was performing for street people in San Francisco's Tenderloin district.  Though a little hesitant at first, the students presented the gospel with characteristic energy and were very well received.  
All on his own, Charles stepped up to the plate and prayed for the needy under the prayer tent.  The experience for our students may have been as transformative as it was for the visitors.
Pick up basketball on the "streets of San Francisco."  Yes, our guys won.
A kayak break in Placerville.  Thanks to our friend, Bob Emrich, for supplying some fun for the day!
Meyou discovers that the north fork of the American River isn't quite as warm as the waters of Micronesia.  She has second thoughts about taking a swim.
Back in San Francisco, singing for some college students at a bonfire along Ocean Beach.  Yes, this is the way it feels on the other side of the Pacific!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Fun Continues

Here is a pictorial journal of some of the fun we've been having with our students. Our delay in blogging has come from having only intermittent email access. When we finally get to it, we've got so many emails coming in from churches we are heading to, that we don't get to our blog. So, here's what's been going on:
Having a jam session with a bluegrass band in Susanville.  They'd never seen a slide guitar before, but loved it!

Karyn teaching some of the girls to dive while in Santa Cruz.

On TV in Santa Cruz!

A successful pig hunt in Castro Valley.  Our students love pork, but their pigs live in pens, not up in the hills.  They hadn't counted on hauling out a 250 pound animal  from a ravine!  Congratulations Keiny and Leeman!

Still singing strong with about four weeks to go.  We appreciate all of your prayers and support. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Journey Continues

Since we last left off, we've hit the road hard.  The trip has been awesome, even though it took four hours to get from one end of LA county to the other, and eight to get from Castro Valley to Susanville (road work and snow all over Donner Pass).  We were blessed to share in the main service of Ocean Hills Covenant Church in Santa Barbara, and then to the spend the afternoon at the beautiful home of Russ and June Michaelson.  We were off next to San Luis Obispo for a special presentation at a community center, hosted by Eric's parents.  There was really no way to predict the turnout, but 75 people showed up from a couple of local churches and lots of people from the neighborhood.  The response has always been the same:  "If we had known how good this would be we would have invited everyone we know."  Following those comments there is usually an inquiry into the rest of our itinerary so they can encourage all of their friends and family to show up.  The pictures show the rest of the story:
Performing for a small group out by a backyard pool in La Mirada.  Commenting on LA's constantly overlapping and intersecting freeways, one student very seriously said it feels like riding on a roller coaster.
Eric is learning the traditional Chuukese stick dance because one of our guys has to leave mid-way through the tour!  Protective lenses required . . . .
Even though it's pretty cold (from a Micronesian perspective), our students always plant themselves under a tree in the shade.  One of our students very seriously expressed concern that her "lips are falling off" in the cold.  She had never before experienced chapped lips and dry skin.
We took a detour to the colder side of the Pacific at Montana de Oro on the central California coast.  They had never before seen seals.  One student, after I explained that seals spend their day sleeping then eating fish, sleeping, then eating fish, etc., opined that seals must be Micronesian.
Hanging out at the tide pools of Montana de Oro.
Unbelievably, though this is Memorial Day weekend, we took the students up to Lassen Volcanic Park and played in eight feet of fresh snow as it continued to fall on our heads.  This must have been specially arranged by Someone who knew our students had never before seen snow!
Fortunately, Ceci was outfitted . . . .