Monday, April 9, 2012

From the Land of Lavalavas

(Note:  Now that we are back in CA and have time and consistent/fast Internet access, we will post some stories and corresponding pictures depicting our time in Micronesia.  This post was written from Colonia, Yap, on March 25.)
This is the lagoon in Colonia, Yap.  The building in the background but nearly on the water (the left building in the center of the picture) is the youth center where many of the church events are held.  Up on the hill and slightly to the left with the steep tin roof is the Yap Evangelical Church.  PIUs teaching facility is the lime green building directly behind the youth building but up on the hill.  The mission house, where we were staying, is parallel to the teaching facility and off to the left.
In background is a close-up of the Yap Evangelical Church, the red building off to the left but closer to the water is the mission house (where we were staying), and along the water, the light blue building is the youth building (on the right is the house where the Pacific Mission Aviation pilot and his family live).
Awakening to the thick air ubiquitous to Micronesia, I quickly rose from my bed in the mission house and donned my Chuukese skirt and the coolest shirt I could find.  Today I would have the privilege of worshiping with four different people groups in one day.  How cool is that?!  

Knowing that Micronesian church services essentially never start on time, I leisurely munched on a banana out on the porch that sits on a hill overlooking the lagoon and buildings below.  The first service I would attend would be a service for "Outer Islanders."  Yap still operates with a caste system, and the women from the outer islands, considered low-caste, are required to wear a particular type of skirt in public.  These skirts are hand-made on looms. They are woven with thread not much thicker than the common thread we use for sewing in the States; so, you can imagine how many hours it takes to hand-weave a whole skirt out of such thin thread!  The wrap-around skirts, known as lavalavas, have a solid background with stripes of various widths and colors, and are often worn with no shirts (as you can see in the final picture).  

From my perch on the hillside, I could see individuals, couples and families arriving at the church.  Like the diversity and yet coordinated theme found in a quilt, each woman with her beautifully woven skirt purposefully headed for the church.  Within half an hour of the designated start time, rich, melodic singing filled the ocean breezes, and I quickly scurried down the hill to join in the worship of Jesus Christ, our shared God.  

After the singing, Pastor Asael began to preach in his native tongue, Chuukese.  This is not the language of the Outer Islanders, but sadly, there is no pastor for these people.  Pastor Asael came to Yap as a missionary from Chuuk because there were no Yapese nationals willing/qualified to pastor.  Fortunately, the Outer Islanders understand about 60% of what Pastor Asael says since their languages overlap to this extent.  As Pastor Asael fervently delivered the Word of God, I discreetly exited and headed back up the hill, where the Yapese Evangelical Church is located.  I'll write about that experience on my next blog!