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.