Friday, November 18, 2011

Another Sample of the Palauan Singing

For whatever reason, I was unable to upload this to the prior post (which is where I wanted it).  It shows the congregation singing a hymn acapella. 

Sunday with the Palauans

John Aitaro
I awoke at 5:45 a.m., a metal crossbar from the futon "bed" jamming into a rib.  With gratitude, I reminded myself how I would take a too-hard bed over a too-soft bed any day!  I was also thankful to be able to awake so early and feel "good."  If you know me, you know I'm a night owl, and normally would avoid 5:45 a.m. like the plague!!  But, my inner clock (still on California time), was registering 11:45 a.m.!  :)  Gazing out of my colleague's apartment window, I viewed the crystalline sea only 200 yards away--a reminder of the splendor of God. This was Sunday on Guam, Saturday in the states.  I was especially excited about this Sunday because I would be worshiping with the Palauan Church.

Promptly at 8:45 a.m., the Pacific Islands University van, filled with some of our Palauan students, picked me up.  Again, I was filled with gratitude for the blessing of not only being reunited with these precious students, but also being able to worship with them.  Arriving at the Palauan Evangelical Church of Guam, I was met with an enormous smile from the church's greeter and a former student of mine who has since graduated from Pacific Islands University.  John informed me that he and his wife are prayerfully considering moving to Portland, OR where there is a great need for a Palauan pastor.  I was super excited to hear this, as I have no doubt that John would make a FANTASTIC minister.  

Soon the service started.  The Palauan church has services in English twice a month, and services entirely in Palauan twice a month.  (Oops!  This is not accurate!  Thanks, Julie, [Pastor Andrew's wife] for giving me the "real scoop" on the Palauan church.  Please see Julie's note at the end of this blog.)  This was an all-Palauan Sunday.  Immediately, I was enraptured by the beautiful music sung in three part harmony.  Since moving back to the states, I haven’t been able to put my finger on why I have been a bit disappointed in church music.  At first I thought it was because of the amplification of multiple instruments which results in a MUCH louder environment than what I was accustomed to.  Then I postulated that because the lead vocalists were amplified so loudly, I couldn’t really hear myself singing.  And, I love trying to add beauty to the music by harmonizing—a difficult task when you can’t hear your voice over the amplification.  Well, as I sat in that service, savoring the music, I figured out why I LOVE Micronesian worship so much . . . . . . .the congregational voices play an equal, if not more significant role, in the music.  Voices are PART of the “band.”  Several songs were sung acapella, and I didn’t even realize there was no instrumentation until I reflected back on the song.  The strong harmonic singing was so full, that there was little distinction between songs sung with accompaniment and those sung without.  I enthusiastically joined into the singing, thankful that I knew how to pronounce the Palauan words for God, Jesus, Savior, etc., and I relished the exquisite harmony, and the sense that my own harmony was contributing to the beauty of glorifying God.
Pastor Andrew
Another fascinating aspect of the Palauan worship service was the interaction between the pastor and the elderly parishioners.  Their pastor, Andrew Immanuel, was born and raised on Palau.  He has his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and his master’s degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (both U.S. schools).  As Pastor Andrew would read the Scripture, the elderly people in the congregation would correct his pronunciation.  There was no offense taken, and both the pastor and the congregation were clearly very comfortable with this format.  When, after the service, I asked our Palauan students why this was happening, they explained that the Palauan Bible is VERY difficult to read.  The Palauan language does not have enough words to communicate the many concepts of the Bible.  Therefore, many of the words are obscure or even borrowed from other languages (even Japanese).  The students explained that it is especially difficult for younger people to read the Bible because the language is “Old Palauan.”  I got the impression that this would be like having a young person read the Old English style of the King James Bible.  Because the pastor is fairly young, he needs the assistance of the elderly in the congregation to help him correctly read the Bible.  Interesting, huh?


Eating at a food court with the students after church 

That evening, I spent several hours playing volleyball with the the female students.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

First Day Back on Island

November 12 (First of the seventeen days I’ll be on Guam):  

Standing in front of the baggage claim, I diligently searched for my 50 pound black, nondescript suitcase containing 15 pounds of candy and chocolate (for my students), my lecture materials, and essentials.  I immediately realized my mistake.  I should have put something unique on my bag to make it stand out from the myriad other black suitcases.  After 20 hours of traveling, the last thing I wanted to do was lift each and every unmarked heavy, black suitcase searching for clues as to its identity.  Clearly, I wasn't the only one whose black bag was devoid of obvious clues of ownership.  On some bags, I actually had to unzip compartments to determine ownership by the contents!!  The elderly Chamorro man next to me noticed my predicament and immediately began hauling heavy, nondescript, black suitcases off the carousel and we entered into the easy banter I had so missed since leaving Guam.  Ahhhhhhhh.................  I felt myself relax as I once again entered into a culture that has become more comfortable than my own.  Soon the helpful man and his wife were kindly lecturing me on the importance of clearly marking my bag.  I noticed how naturally my speech had slowed and my vowels became more elongated--more in line with the accent of this region of the world.

Wayward bag found, I headed through customs and was greeted by the beautiful brown faces of several Pacific Islands University students and the women's dean.  Off we drove to the apartment I would be sharing with a young PIU English teacher.  In her sparsely furnished place, I was grateful for the futon "bed" (more metal than mattress) where I could lay my head.  Her generous hospitality would free up funds I would have otherwise had to spend on a hotel.  Plus, I would give her some money so she could run her air conditioner while I was at her place.  This was a luxury she rarely allowed herself because of the horribly high cost of electricity on Guam, coupled with her meager budget.  I was glad to bless her in this way, and happy myself that the air conditioning would allow me to sleep in the sweltering heat.  It was 11:00 p.m. Guam time (5:00 a.m. California time) when I finally dropped off to sleep, a prayer of thanksgiving on my lips.

Friday, September 30, 2011

25 Noted Differences--Uh, Make That 26

Having to constantly remind ourselves to speed UP so we won't get a ticket!! (Guam: 45 mph max, California: 75 mph max)

A Typical Market
Gazillion choices in food—especially fresh produce and affordable meat. 

Style in clothing is much more important (and intimidating!).

Shorts are MUCH shorter! (Katie has to wear those super short spandex shorts for her volleyball uniform on her high school team.)

You will most likely eat inside the house when invited to a home for a meal. On the island, eating most often takes place outside under a canopy.

Under the canopy

The incredible joy of fresh, cool air!  Wonderful being able to open the windows while driving or sitting in the house--way too hot to do this on Guam at any time--24/7, 365 days a year! 

On Guam, the older you are, the more respected you are. Here, it seems like the older you are, the more marginalized you are.  

“People aren’t as friendly in CA. Like, if you accidentally bump into them in the store and you say, ‘Sorry’ they barely acknowledge it, but on Guam, they’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s okay’ and they may continue to carry on a conversation with you.” (Noelle, 11 years old)

The beautiful sound of birds chirping and the great varieties all around us. Because of the invasive brown tree snake, the bird population on Guam has been nearly annihilated. (It is hysterical to watch the cat we brought with us from Guam. She has never seen birds hopping and flying all around and is clearly fascinated and perplexed!) 

Invasive brown tree snake
found near PIU's men's dorm

Lots of different colored people.  On Guam, it's essentially one color--brown.

On Guam, it is assumed that kids will be included in EVERY event.  It is the opposite in CA--assume kids are not invited unless otherwise stated.

Sales tax--yuck!

No boonie dogs to give household scraps to.  There are 40,000 boonie dogs on the island, yes, I said 40,000!  These are stray dogs:  20% belong to someone but run free, 40% are fed by someone even thought the dog is not their pet, and 40% just roam around. 

Boonie Dogs

LOTS of Spanish being spoken—especially in schools and in stores. We never heard Spanish on Guam, even though the Spanish ruled Guam for 300 years! 

The pleasure of sitting outside without being munched on by mosquitoes.

Being cold on the beach (and even colder in the water) compared to being too hot on the beach and barely cool enough in Guam's warm ocean (86 degrees).

It's no longer easy to spot our girls in a crowd--there are plenty of other blond "haoles."

It used to be easy . . .

 Having a million forms to fill out and liability waivers to sign in order to do anything (e.g. enter school, play a sport, transported in a vehicle, etc.). This is probably a result of the high liability risk in CA. Good luck suing an institution on Guam, therefore, little fear of being sued!

Seemingly everyone (from middle schoolers to adults) has a Smart Phone, and quite often not just a Smart phone but an Iphone.
Not “giving grace” before eating at ALL events. On Guam, even at government sponsored events and public sporting events, if a meal is served, a prayer will be offered. (This also connects back to the Spanish/Catholic influence.)
Having street lights and sidewalks!

Typical Island Street

Activities are EXPENSIVE in CA. Cost for high school volleyball on Guam: $0, Cost for high school volleyball in CA: $300 plus additional fees for transportation, sports banquet, coaches fees, etc. About $500 total. Cost for Club Volleyball on Guam: $25.00, in Santa Barbara: $4500-$6000


It hasn't rained since we've moved! Being a rain forest, Guam has rain nearly every day, and activities (e.g. soccer games) continue, rain (even monsoon rain!) or shine.

End of season soccer game and family party

 No balutan! In Guam, any time food is served, the leftovers are divvied up, and sent home with the guests.

Feeling like a VERY small fish in a VERY large pond!
Yipee!  No more monstrous, gargantuan, practically man-eating cockroaches!!

Need I say more?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Riding the Camel

“For I am doing a work in your days that you
would not believe if told.”
Habakkuk 1.5

The Parsonage
This is the sentence that began the letter we sent to our supporters, alerting them to the big changes coming soon. Well, soon did indeed come quickly, and we found ourselves rushing from our furlough in CA back to Guam to pack our possessions into a twenty-foot cargo container. That cargo container is presently on a ship being transported across the Pacific Ocean. We sincerely hope it will make it to us with no further delays (yes, they’ve already delayed delivery by a week). In the meantime, we are living in a beautiful 1800’s era parsonage that has been deemed a historical landmark in Santa Barbara County. We are grateful for the loaned air mattresses and table with chairs so we can sit down and sleep on something besides hardwood floors! We are anxious to have our school supplies, kitchen goods, books, bedding (and beds!), toiletries and furniture so we are ready for the pending school year. Our girls will be transitioning from being home schooled to attending the local public schools. I will be transitioning from being my kids’ teacher to formally teaching only students at Pacific Islands University! I am excited to more fully devote myself to this, and I’m currently preparing for the counseling class I will be teaching via Skype in a week. I am also excited to continue my role as mentor for PIU staff and to provide counseling via chat and Skype. I marvel at the amazing windows that modern technology opens. Too bad there isn’t a way to coach a volleyball team using technology! I am saddened that I will not be able to continue coaching weekly practices with the PIU women; I guess I’ll have to schedule intensive practices during the weeks I am at PIU each semester. In the meantime, I’m contacting some companies to see if I can get donated balls and equipment, and I’m hoping that a Guam friend may be willing to take my place as head coach.

Several people have expressed confusion as to what exactly this physical move means in regards to my work in Micronesia. I will continue to serve PIU and the people of Micronesia with the same commitment as when I was physically living in Guam. The difference will be in HOW I go about my work. To accomplish this, I will rely heavily on modern technology, travel, and I am now blessed to have access to resources that will enable me to do the research necessary to develop strategies to address the tragically high rates of sexual abuse, domestic violence, and suicide throughout Micronesia. Eric will be working full-time as the pastor for adult ministries at Community Covenant Church of Goleta (part of his job description is coordinating the North Park Seminary Extension classes that utilize the church’s classrooms, so it’s similar to what he’s been doing). As his schedule allows, he will continue to provide pastoral training to remote island pastors (currently, we are planning to be in Yap in February), and he looks forward to cultivating ministry among Micronesians who have relocated here to the states. He will also be providing the lectures for the fall class he was slotted to teach at PIU prior to us knowing we would be in a new location!

Certainly, we are surprised by many of the changes that have come our way, but we remain confident that God is directing our course. I had a dream just last night that I think symbolizes this concept well. I was riding a camel (no I have NEVER ridden a camel) and the camel didn’t even have a bridal in its mouth by which to control it! I knew I was supposed to keep the camel moving up a twisting and turning path with many caves and rock formations and hundreds of path tributaries. I wasn’t exactly sure which route to take to get to the top. Was one a short-cut? Was one riddled with danger? Add to this that my camel wasn’t particularly cooperative. The dromedary especially wanted to stop and eat any grass it saw and it often acted ornery. I had to be creative to keep it moving and I wished I had a clearly marked map. As I reflected on this dream, I realized that one thing was certain, I KNEW I was suppose to keep heading up the mountain. And so it is, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24).

Addendum: Since we wrote this, our cargo container arrived and all the contents were transferred into the parsonage where we are living. So, as we type this, there are unpacked boxes throughout the house, and a lot of chaos. We are extremely grateful to God that our belongings have arrived safely, and we'll be even more grateful when they are all put away so that we can devote ourselves more fully to our work.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In Case You Didn't Know . . . .

You may have noticed a lull in our communication recently. There's actually a good reason for this. Within about a month after arriving in California, we did a 180, went back to Guam for three weeks, and began a mad-cap adventure packing up our whole household to be shipped to Santa Barbara (besides trying to deal with two cats and two cars). That's right, after four years of incredible ministry living in Guam, we have now made the transition back stateside for a new adventure. Eric just began work on the staff of Community Covenant Church in Goleta, CA. It seems long ago and far away now, but before we left for Guam in 2007, Eric was serving as a regular pastor at a regular California church when the invitation came to begin a seminary at Pacific Islands University (PIU). After her initial reluctance, Karyn grew to welcome the challenge, and we signed on to a three-to-five year contract to work among Micronesians in Guam. The irony is that while Eric feels satisfied with the fulfilment of his obligation, Karyn feels like her work is on a roll. Thankfully, in an unprecedented move, the Evangelical Covenant Church granted Karyn permission to continue her work from 6000 miles away, our new home in Santa Barbara. So, while Eric strolls next door to his new office, Karyn parks in a chair at the parsonage and takes every advantage of the marvels of modern technology. Via Skype, phone, the Internet, and Continental Airlines, Karyn pursues her work as mentor, teacher, and counselor to students and staff at PIU. Of course, it's going to be a lot easier when our 20-foot long cargo container arrives with all of our earthly belongings! Stay tuned as within the next day or two we share more about the changes. For now, enjoy a few pictures from our crazy summer.

Inside the Cavernous Container

Mo, student with a servant's heart

"I get by with a little help from friends."

Shutting the door at last!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sparing the Sparrows

 In the quiet moments that punctuate the busyness of life on Karyn's parents' ranch, someone wandered out the front door only to become the hapless victim of a dive-bombing sparrow.  After the nearly successful Kamikaze attack, he took a glance at the wreath adorning the adjoined door and beheld a tiny nest, complete with eggs.  Some creative flying fiend had determined that this innocuous looking decoration would be a good hideout, but little did she know the earthquakes she would have to put up with as the door is continuously opened and shut.  Nevertheless, the little mama has persevered and her chicks have hatched.  There's no place like home!    

"Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young" (Psalm 84.3).  Of course, the nest is a metaphor:  The best home for us is in God's immediate presence.  The Psalm begins, "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!"  Like Mama Sparrow, who longs for her nest and protects it with her life, I hope we can each say, "My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord . . . .  Blessed are those who dwell in your house" (verse 4).  Despite the earthquakes of life, I hope the metaphor and following pictures remind you to nest in the Lord. 
The Ranch House

The Front Doors

The Wreath

No Place Like Home

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Catching up in California

I now remember the same scenario last year.  We got to California and got so caught up catching up with our sons and other family members, that we neglected our blog for a few weeks. Oops - our bad. So, in an attempt to make up for lost time, here is a summary and a few pictures. Just emerging from the fog of jetlag our first Sunday, we decided to pay a visit to a nearby church, East Bay Fellowship. When a friend told the pastor's wife we would be there, she proclaimed it quite a "God-incidence." Last year, we brought the Voices of Micronesia (VoM) to minister at the same church's childrens' day camp, and it turned out that this very morning they were showing video clips from last year, featuring VoM! We were introduced, and an immediate connection was made in peoples' minds due to the wildly popular VoM. 
After a couple of days laying low, we headed south to preach for the first time at Community Covenant Church of Goleta (Goleta is Santa Barbara's northerly neighbor). There we met some new friends, spent some quality time with Teyler and Christian, and relaxed a couple of days with Eric's brother and family. In the process, we took a hike to Santa Barbara's popular Seven Falls (see pictures), rode bikes to the beach, and tried to hear each other over the screams of four girl cousins running in and out of Eric's brother's house. On Thursday, we drove further south and gawked at the variety and amazingly low prices of the Camarillo outlet stores. If one even finds such items in Guam, they are four times the cost (at least we don't pay sales tax in Guam)! Fortunately escaping with only a few small bags of merchandise, we then reversed direction and camped out a couple of days at Eric's parents' place in San Luis Obispo where we mowed the lawn (okay, Noelle mowed the lawn), trimmed bushes, did some crafts, and watched a couple of DVDs.  Last night we headed back to our summer headquarters in Castro Valley. Enjoy the pictures; we'll try to keep in touch more consistently!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dance, Music, Volleyball--What's the Connection?

When I was a little girl, I would dreamily watch my brothers play sports. I would listen attentively as my father would instruct my brothers on the proper way to hold their bat, stand on the pitcher’s mound, slide into a base, etc. During batting practice, sometimes I was even given the privilege of throwing the ball to my brothers as my father patiently provided them with advanced batting instruction. Mesmerized, I would listen to the admonishments and advice my brothers received from their soccer and basketball coaches. But never once did I personally participate on a sport’s team. I, like all my other girl friends, participated in dance lessons: ballet, tap, and gymnastics. In middle school, my family moved to a new town which meant leaving the small school I knew and loved and attending a large, rather tough public school. It was here that I discovered such a thing as sports teams for girls. Unfortunately, if I thought the girls in this school were mean, they were nothing compared to the type of girls who played on the sports teams! No thanks. As much as the idea of playing sports appealed to me, the idea of surrounding myself with brutal Amazon girls appealed far less. Hearing that cheerleaders competed with other squads, I pursued cheerleading, where I erroneously assumed the girls would be less vicious. I stuck with cheerleading as my “sport” through my sophomore year in college. During that year, a friend convinced me to play intramural volleyball. I had never played volleyball before, but I definitely wasn’t going to turn down an opportunity to play a sport. I had a blast, and to my surprise, the women from the college volleyball team insisted I try-out for the college volleyball team. The rest is history. Although not an easy transition to go from a decade of dance to college-level volleyball, making the switch was, nonetheless, a highlight of my life. I LOVE volleyball! Additionally, almost as much as I relish playing volleyball, I love coaching volleyball. I love working in tandem with an individual and being part of the shaping process that helps them “to be all that they can be.”

Some of the PIU women's volleyball team players that I coach

And so it is that I chuckle as a type this blog. I look at the blessings I have received in my life: music lessons, voice lessons, dance lessons, sports instruction, drama/performance, and an incredible education, and I marvel at how each of those blessings has enabled me to invest in the lives of others. Whether it’s directing the Voices of Micronesia 2010 tour, providing counseling, teaching at the college, or developing and coaching a women’s volleyball team at Pacific Islands University, I so see God’s hand guiding and directing my life that I might invest in people “such as these.” I wonder what blessings you've received in your life? Don't underestimate your unique ability to make a lasting difference in the lives of others.

The PIU Women's Volleyball Team
*  These pictures and video were taken at the PIU Women's Volleyball Tournament held at the Agana Heights Gym.  PIU sponsored two ten-hour tournaments with up to ten island teams participating.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Yapese Dancers

The Internet was extremely slow on Yap, so while we were on the island, we were unable to upload this video, showing this beautiful Yapese dance.  If you go a few posts back (post dated 3/15/11), you can read about how we were able to attend this ceremony.  Also, I thought it was interesting that the men put a yellow-colored oil all over their bodies, giving them a yellow glow.  Furthermore, the light greenish/yellow "things" hanging from their arms and skirts, are fresh leaves.  Other than their red and blue "thus" (pronounced thooz), everything on their bodies is made with local flora.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

R & R Under the Sea

Yap:  March 16 & 17, 2011

Our working trip to Yap actually took place during Spring Break.  Since we were supposed to be off-work, we decided to take a couple of days to see just why this dot on the map is also one of the world's most sought after dive locations, a place that makes lots of people's "bucket list."  While it is true that 90% of dive tourists have no idea about the society beyond the walls of the dive resort, it is also true that 90% of the people living outside the dive resort have no idea exactly what lies underneath the water surrounding their island.  There is no way to describe it, so pictures will have to do.  By way of introduction, Yap is known for its Manta Rays, huge, graceful creatures flowing through the water without the slightest concern about the divers gawking at them as they glide by.  Spanning fourteen feet across in some cases, they stop in certain spots to let the little wrasse (fish) clean the accumulated plankton off their massive bodies.  Sometimes appearing in a line-up called a "Manta Train," they form an elaborate mating ritual as one-by-one, they float above diver's heads as if traveling through liquid space.  It is truly an amazing sight, but so was everything we share with you in the following slide show.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Yap: Making Connections

March 14, 2011
Tuesday was the day to put on my dive program coordinator's hat, and meet Yap's legendary Bill Acker. If it weren't for Bill, Yap would only be a tiny dot on an enlarged map of Micronesia (“tiny islands”). Bill came here in the seventies as a Peace Corps worker and couldn't get Yap about of his head. He returned here, and basically discovered the scuba industry, making Yap world famous for its manta rays (you also may have heard of Yap as the island of stone money, but that's another story). Bill was very open to our school's very unique dive-training program which is intended to certify dive masters who can get solid employment back in their home islands. We had a great chat. He introduced me to his dive shop manager, Jan, who along with everyone I've met among his 85 employees, is very interested in what we're doing. Bill would love to employ more Micronesian dive professionals.

Bill's Dive Resort

One doesn't always do things by appointment here, so after meeting Bill, we decided to try to find a woman who we heard was trying to find Karyn (few people seem to have phones). It seems that she dropped by the PIU teaching facility saying she heard there is a woman here who is a counselor and specializes in working with victims of sexual abuse. Her interest revolves around her work running a woman's center for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. In true island-style, no one seemed quite certain where the facility was located, until we were finally directed to a building that was surely the one. Surely it wasn't, but close! This was the building the women's center had originally planned on using but is now being used for a daycare. While Karyn was inside trying to get the location straightened out, she noticed an announcement instructing parents to make sure they get their kids immunized for mumps due to the recent outbreak (we forgot that mumps even existed!). A moment later, Karyn detected a little five-year-old Yapese boy watching her. He crept closer and closer and then gently put his little brown hand on her white leg as if overtaken by curiosity at how white skin must feel. Taking comfort from her mumps inoculation, Karyn reached out her hand so he could touch her; instead, he took her hand like they were going to take a walk together – too cute, just like the rest of the little ones staring at these strange white apparitions with wide brown eyes. By the way, later we finally found the woman's center . . . and it was closed. Not to worry, we've got a couple more days.

After a quick visit to the ESA restaurant to grab our once-a-day meal, I made my way back to the apartment, and Karyn went straight to the PIU teaching facility to use the internet.

For the next couple of hours I met with Liebenzell missionary and PIU board member Harold Gorges (PIU was originally founded by Liebenzell Germany). Harold is a wealth of information about Micronesia, where he has served since 1978, living in Yap the first 10 years. Like everywhere, I suppose, we are visiting a very unique culture, but I was stricken by how different it is from the other Micronesian islands. Westerners struggle to tell the difference between one Micronesian and another, thus falling prey to the assumption that they all share the same culture. Little could be further from the truth. Even here in tiny Yap, one group fails to understand another, exacerbated by the fact that they speak languages as different as English and Chinese. It is a culture that is private, patriarchal, and clan-driven, yet scarred by sky-rocketing substance abuse and suicide rates. To boot, this shame-based culture won't talk about its problems. Naturally, some of this characterizes the church, and therein dwells the problem. So, helping the church build the infrastructure I referred to in yesterday's entry is much easier said than done. Fortunately, as believers, we know there is hope!That evening we sat around a generous dinner table with Pastor Asael, his family (Chuukese), some leaders of the

Pastor Asael and Techimy

Yapese church, a German/Canadian couple volunteering in our teaching facility, Harold, and another visiting missionary from Liebenzell Germany. It was time to say goodbye to the latter, Armin, who had been with us at PIU, in Palau, and now in Yap. What a joy to later hear Pren, chairman of the Yapese Evangelical Church board, as he managed to balance sharing his testimony (in excellent English) with an ever-present wad of bright red betelnut in his mouth. He found Jesus (the other way around?) when he was told he might not make it through a serious surgery, so he had better make peace with his God. Pren had no God, but after reading a Gideon Bible and constantly bumping into Christians, he sneaked into church and discovered that God is named “Jesus.”


What wonderful fellowship we had that night across the cultural lines; another taste of heaven, where all God's people speaking languages from every people group, will join together in proclaiming Jesus as Lord.

One thing every missionary has the joy of experiencing: The presence of God's Spirit transcending every cultural divide!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Reality Check: The Need is Great

March 14, 2011

Eric reports: It was time to get to work right away on Monday, so I shifted from my role as PIU seminary dean to PIU dive program coordinator. With Charity as our driver, we zipped over to the famous Manta Ray Resort, home of Yap Diver’s. Owner Bill Acker had showed significant interest in our program and a desire to employ more trained Micronesian divers. A friendly welcome resulted in a meeting scheduled for the following day. Check tomorrow’s blog for the results.

Common Sight

When we got home, we had a surprise visit. Let me back up. On Sunday night, after I preached at the English service, we had the privilege of meeting another bright PIU grad, Jonathan Tamag. Jonathan runs the hospital’s community counseling program, and is a young leader in the Yapese church. Although Karyn had been busily preparing to present a seminar to Jonathan’s counseling staff, just before we left Guam, we were told they wouldn’t be able to pull it off (Flexibility is the key word when working in Micronesia). Now it became obvious Jonathan still really wanted something presented, but wasn’t sure when or how, and that’s how it was left. On Monday afternoon, we received a rap on our apartment door and a greeting from Jonathan announcing he had brought his counselor’s with him! It was a classic moment to watch Karyn go into the fight or flight mode, thinking she was on the spot for a spontaneous counseling seminar. I could almost hear her thoughts: “First thing, put on longer, more culturally appropriate, pants (as she flew into the bedroom to change out of her shorts). Second, grab all your material, your computer, and look relaxed.” Actually, Jonathan was not asking for a spur-of-the-moment formal counseling seminar as much as he was looking for some casual consulting in the hopes of setting up something more formal for later in the week. However, what began as nothing more than a little Q & A, resulted in two hours of intensive consulting on issues far deeper than any two-hour conversation could address. Here was Karyn with two of Jonathan’s woefully under-trained, but deeply caring workers, grasping for a helping hand while daily facing issues of epidemic suicide in the midst of a culture that will not talk about it, the very thing essential to resolving it. Serious substance abuse issues coupled with domestic violence and child abuse puts these poorly equipped “front-line” workers at high risk of burn-out. While begging Karyn to return in May and teach a multiple-week intensive counseling seminar, for now, it was settled that she will spend Friday afternoon consulting at the hospital in an attempt to offer a little help and a dose of hope.
Karyn meeting with hospital counselors

After that eye-opening session, Charity decided to drive us up along the other side of Yap proper, which was nothing less than a succession of National Geographic scenes.

Men's House

Picture lush tropical foliage abutting crystalline seas dotted with an occasional large open-air palm-thatched “men’s house,” one for every village. Pulling up to a small tin-walled building with a single gas pump, we were thrilled to be greeted by Lydia, another PIU grad taking the afternoon shift at her family’s gas station ($4.70 per gallon, and the cheapest on Yap). Her ministry is actually teaching in the morning kindergarten program run by the Colonia Church, but like all Micronesians, she is part of the family unit, and does her part pumping gas while killing the time in-between customers sitting out back under the shade of their palm-covered shack.

Rushing back to the lower building for a board meeting of the Yap Evangelical Church, I slipped in just in the nick of time. Asael Ruda, head pastor, and Pren, board chair (and member of the PIU board), had asked me to come to share any insights and news from PIU. Now it was my turn to consult. Though the gospel arrived on Yap in 1959, the church still needs basic infrastructure, and the leaders feel the pressing concern to establish proper ordination procedures. Since long-time missionary to Micronesia, Harold Gorges was also in the meeting, both of us chimed in, and it was immediately decided that a seminar was needed to work on these issues. Just like the counselors in the hospital longing for some fundamental guidelines, so too is the church in Yap. “When can you come back?” It is our hope, that if the funds are available, we will both come back in May, Karyn to work with hospital counselors, and I with church leadership. Then, we’ll be off to the states to reconnect with supporting churches.

Yap Evangelical Church Sanctuary

 Yes, the need here is tremendous, a need I feel our unique school can help meet. Fortunately the need was not so overwhelming as to keep me from enjoying the fresh sashimi (raw yellow-fin tuna) just brought in and sliced up an hour before our meeting, along with the homemade donuts. Yes, I brought some sashimi up to Karyn who was busy preparing the first installation of our Yap blog at the PIU teaching facility—the only place we can get Internet access (albeit, very slow access)! Speaking of which, there’s more to come, so stay tuned!

Yap PIU Teaching Facility

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The First 24 Hours on Yap

March 13, 2011(middle of the night): Landing on Yap

As the plane slammed down on the tarmac (to the point that I was surprised the wheels could bear it) and immediately braked to the point that passengers were whip lashed forward, we knew we had arrived on Yap. Apparently, the runway is so short that the 737 is forced to take this drastic approach. As we exited the plane to walk across the runway, we noticed the lights flashing on an emergency vehicle. I joked that they anticipated a crash when they saw our abrupt landing, but sadly, I was later informed it was because a child in the “outer islands” had died and was being returned to Yap. Apparently, the very small child was flown to the Philippines in an attempt to secure medical treatment, but it was too late. As we went through customs, there was a Yapese young woman in traditional dress (bright colored grass skirt, no shirt) greeting each passenger with a lei. We were in the very back of the line which was moving very slowly. There was one line that was for locals that was soon empty. The customs official motioned for the next person to move to the “local” line. A man and I simultaneously moved to the free line. He kindly motioned me to continue and he remained in the “visitor” line. As Eric and I quickly made it through the “local” line, I realized that the leis were only given to those in the visitor line. Drat! I should have allowed the man to go first! “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” Sigh . . . lesson learned! As we then waited for our luggage to be taken off the plane, I enviously eyed all the leis the guests were wearing, and tried not to stare at the men wearing “thus” (pronounced “thooz”, and
Thuw (thoo) and man's purse
 similar to what American Indians wore). Finally, luggage in tow, we meandered to the front of the air terminal, where we were greeted with beautiful flowered head leis by Pastor Ruda, his son, his daughter, and son-in-law (all graduates of PIU).

They kindly drove us the short distance to the apartment we were to stay in. I was surprised that once we arrived, even though it was about 1:00 a.m., Pastor Ruda didn’t quickly leave, though he had three church services to attend the following day. Instead, he sat down on the couch in our apartment and talked for about 30 minutes. It’s times like these that I am reminded of the stark differences between Micronesian and American culture. I’m sure Pastor Ruda was tired and concerned about all the tasks he needed to face in a matter of hours, but he was more concerned with “being” with us, people he didn’t even know. It took a while to fall asleep because of the heat, but as I eventually drifted off to sleep, I remembered I had forgotten my toothbrush……………..

March 13, 2011 (afternoon): In Search of a Toothbrush 
Once awake, I was on a mission to purchase a toothbrush and Eric recalled he had forgotten his contact lens solution. We began the short trek to a local market while I mumbled about the merits of topless dress given the extreme heat and humidity on Yap (Yes, unbelievable, it is hotter than Guam – we’re about 9 degrees north of the equator!). Searching the shelves I located a toothbrush, but certainly no contact lens solution. The proprietor had no idea what contact lenses were, let alone the solution. Eventually, we made our way to the ESA Hotel, which is owned by the parents of one of our students. We enjoyed delicious yellow fin tuna sandwiches, cabbage salad and papaya. We then dripped our way back to our accommodations and I checked to see if there was any way I could fit into the freezer. Just as we cooled off, it was time to head out and experience traditional Yap.

Yap has a cast system, and there are many social rules. One cannot simply enter a village on the island without permission from the chief or without an approved escort. Therefore, we were ecstatic when we were informed that a village on the south tip was going to present their local dance and Pastor Ruda offered to escort us. Upon our arrival, Pastor Ruda immediately tore a small limb off a tree to hold in his hand. It was then that I noticed that everyone who was not from the village was either holding a “men’s purse” (see picture) or a small leafy limb. Apparently, it is

Men's Purse
 rude to come into someone’s village without leaves or a special purse in your hand; in fact, visitors have to hold the little sapling with the broken-off part pointed forward. The dance was held in front of the men’s house (a place where village MEN gather), and was performed by the men of the

village. Interestingly, at one point, a large group of women bearing gifts circled the men multiple times, leaving gifts beside each performer. The most common gifts were beer and hard liquor. There were also gifts of candy, crackers, and homemade rolls. Some of the women even approached me and gave me a “lei” of homemade rolls and donuts. 

Notice the roll/donut lei
  Later Eric and I were both given leis for our heads and when I asked why us, it was suggested that because Pastor Ruda is considered high cast, the villagers were honoring his guests.

 March 13, 2011 (Evening): Preaching to Dogs

Sadly, Pastor Ruda is the only Protestant, full-time pastor on Yap. He pastors three churches and helps out in two others. Pastor Ruda, who is actually Chuukese, came to Yap as a missionary in 1989. He is from the outer islands of Chuuk, and his language is similar to the outer islanders of Yap—about 60% overlap. However, his language is COMPLETELY dissimilar to the main language of Yap, and he has no ability to speak the main language. Therefore, he preaches for four very distinct congregations: 1) Two Yapese congregations where someone translates his sermon into the main Yapese language. 2) An outer island Yapese congregation wherein he speaks Chuukese and the parishioners understand 60% of what he says. 3) A Palauan congregation where someone translates his sermon into Palauan. 4) A Yapese, English-speaking congregation. It is this fourth group to which Eric was asked to speak. As we gathered, mats were placed on the concrete floor for people to sit (as is traditional). To my relief, they also brought in some chairs. No sooner had the singing begun, than a stray dog entered and made itself comfortable on one of the mats. Apparently, the mongrel is a regular at this evening service! It was a joy to watch as PIU students led the singing, helped with the children, organized the service, etc. Then, as Charity drove us home, we passed a lit up building and we were surprised to see Mac, another PIU graduate, leading a Bible study. Charity informed us that Mac is the first missionary sent from Palau to work in Yap. As we lay down to sleep that night, Eric and I reflected on the joy that we both felt at being involved at PIU because we were witnessing, first-hand, the impact PIU is having throughout Micronesia.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving in February!

"Fascinating photos!" I mused as I poured over the pictures Charity had posted on Facebook. Charity, a graduate of Pacific Islands University, currently organizes the school's distance education site on the island of Yap. Actually, Charity's parents, who are Chuukese, left their island of Chuuk to go to Yap (an entirely different language and culture) as some of the first Micronesian missionaries. Every time Charity posts photographs, I am mesmerized. She does a fabulous job of visually capturing the essence of an event. This time was no exception; I was captivated by all the images of piles of fresh fruits

and vegetables. And, of course, my inquisitive brain was filled with questions. I began to post on her photos a succession of questions. She patiently answered each one. Ultimately, it hit me, "This would make a great blog! Our readers would love to hear about this!" When I explained my intention to Charity, she kindly obliged me by answering the following questions:

Karyn: What are you celebrating in these pictures?

Charity: We are celebrating Thanksgiving!

Karyn: In February?! How long has this been a tradition and how did it start?

Charity: This idea of Thanksgiving was being introduced by missionaries long time ago. Therefore the Churches then say that since February is when most of the crops are ready for harvest, they decided that Thanksgiving will fall on the month of February. Church leaders come up with the idea that every first Sunday of February is Thanksgiving Day.

Karyn: Does anyone celebrate Thanksgiving in November? And do all Yapese celebrate Thanksgiving in February?

Charity:  Thanksgiving in November is really only celebrated by foreigners. The February Thanksgiving is really only celebrated by those who attend one of the five evangelical churches on Yap.

Karyn: Can you describe how the church celebrates Thanksgiving?

Charity:  Our Thanksgiving celebration is more like Christmas and Easter to the Churches here. All five evangelical churches in Yap come together and share or celebrate Thanksgiving together bringing their crops or anything as
token of their thanksgiving to God. Some Americans, or people who are not from Yap, bring rice, bread or boxes of Ramen from the stores as their token of thanksgiving too. As Chuukese, living in Yap, we sew Chuukese skirts and also put them in front of the Church. The night before Thanksgiving Sunday, everyone comes and puts their crops or items in front, preparing it for the next day.

Taro back left, yams, tapioca, lemons, pumpkins, the big green oval things (front left) are
a white melon that are more like a squash, they have to be cooked in order to be eaten.

Thanksgiving Sunday is packed with people from all the five evangelical churches here in Yap.It's this day that

kids have their own Sunday school while members are enjoying special numbers, and a blessed message from a guest speaker. The service is concluded with a nice Kids program that is well planned by the pastor and all the five Sunday school teachers from all five Churches. They are to learn their program ahead of time, and in the end of the program, the kids program is being shown to the audience.

After the service, the celebration still continues with socializing fellowship as food is prepared for lunch.

When lunch is over, then the youth do the cleaning up and sweeping and then the old ladies again come in and divide the crops. People often choose first what they want from the crop display and then afterwards, the ladies would divide the crops to the old people, some goes to the people in jail, hospital, those who are sick and big amount of the crops goes also to the five churches.

Karyn: Why is that boat sitting on the table?

Charity: This was a gift for the guest speaker. This symbolizes that we are all in the same boat rowing toward our goal and that you see in the picture, what you call it?, Sail of the boat?? This represents the Holy Spirit in direct of each and every one of our lives. The ones who gave this gift must know the real meaning of the boat in relation to our spiritual walk together in Christ.

Eric and I have been to Chuuk and Palau, and we have found that being on the islands from which our students hail, adds a depth to our understanding of our students that is incomparable.  We are hoping to get to Yap over spring break and experience this beautiful culture first-hand!  I am very grateful to Charity who so openly shared her pictures and experience with us!