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!


Leann said...

Yet more awesome information & stories leaving me on the edge of my seat waiting to soak up more. Did Karyn ever find the lady that was looking for her? I know that has got
to be a miracle story waiting to happen & be heard! Bring it on..........

Patiently waiting, Leann

patrick_buw60 said...

pren is my mom first cousin that my uncle! AS LONG AS U HAVE GOD IN UR HEART!