Friday, November 18, 2011

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.


1 comment:

ImmanuelsGuam said...

Karyn, Thank you so much for visiting our church. We were very glad that you came. Just to clarify, since that Sunday we only briefly discussed the details of Andy's schooling. The college he attend was Columbia International University for his B.A. I also wanted to explain that our church actually does not have an English service. It is in Palauan most every Sunday. Every once in a while we will have a Palauan speaker like John Aitaro whose preference is to speak in English during most of his sermons. Andy always speaks in Palauan and the other Palauan speakers do also. Occasionally we will have an American guest speaker from time to time. We are starting an English service to meet the needs of the younger Palauans and those married to non-Palauans. It hopefully will begin in January. Again we were so happy that you came and worshiped Jesus with us. You are a blessing to so many people on this Island! Love you!