Tuesday, April 29, 2008

End of April Updates

We are moving toward the end of the month and the end of the semester so I thought I should "tie together some of the loose ends" of things I have mentioned the last couple weeks on the blog.

Of course the most important is that our granddaughter officially has a name and it is a big one. Her name is Courage (the cardinal virtue) Eudaimonia (classical Greek word commonly translated as 'happiness.'. Etymologically, it consists of the word "eu" ("good" or "well being") and "daimon" ("spirit" or "minor deity", used by extension to mean one's lot or fortune) Owen. Her middle name actually has the same meaning as her brother's Palauan middle name. They are back home from the hospital and all are doing well.

I have finished my Micronesian traveling for this semester. I had a great meeting with the parents of the Tol students on Friday. I sensed a real renewed resolve there to get behind and support the school on the part of the parents. We still need a lot of prayer for faculty on both our campus and teaching facility in Chuuk. A lot of this is explained in the letter distributed on Tol to the parents which is now posted on the PIBC web site. My time in Palau was also productive. I got a chance to meet with the seniors at Emmaus and Bethania High Schools. We gave out about 20 applications to interested students, many of whom said that they have already made their decision to come to PIBC.

I am finishing up my classes and the students are getting in their work over the next couple weeks. Please pray for them as they work hard to get everything in and for me as I grade the onslaught of material. Graduation will be May 13 on the Guam campus. We are also preparing for the PIBC Board meeting in Palau in June. We have a lot of things to get done before the end of the semester and before we head to California on the 14th. Thank you for praying that we will have the strength to do it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Our New Granddaughter

Last night just as we got back home from the airport, we got the call from Michael that we have a new granddaughter. You can read the vital statistics on Mike and Samantha's family blog. We are still waiting to hear what her name will be. We can hardly wait to get over to SoCal to see them and see the new baby. We will be there on May 14th.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

PIBC Approved to Offer A Masters Degree

PIBC has received authorization from TRACS, our accrediting agency, to begin offering a master of arts in religion (MAR) degree. This is PIBC's first graduate-level seminary degree. You can read more details about the degree at the PIBC web site.

We are planning to have about 10 full time students in the program this Fall. Several graduates and other interested students have already contacted me about applications. Most of these students will be Micronesians. For many of them this will be a great financial "faith stretch" because federal programs will not be available for this degree. We are looking for churches, organizations or individuals to sponsor a Micronesian student in our seminary for about $5,000 per year. This will cover their tuition for the fall, winter and summer sessions. (Try to find that kind of a deal for a seminary education in the US - missionary support for our faculty makes it possible for us to offer this to our Micronesian and other needy students). We will encourage our students to also take part time jobs (some will work for PIBC with the undergrad students) so that they are prepared to do bi-vocational ministry. If you are interested to help please click on the email link to the right and we will discuss how you can help.

By the way, we have a need for a teacher with a doctoral degree in systematic theology short or long term.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

April Prayer Requests

Joyce and I just returned from the Guam campus prayer meeting. It was a great time of fellowship and of course we had lots of food. Here are some of the things we have been praying about. I would appreciate it if you would pray along with us on these issues...
  1. I am headed to Chuuk on Friday for the weekend to meet with the parents of the Tol campus students and the Evangelical Church of Chuuk pastors. Because of faculty and staff shortages we need to cut back the program from a 3-year to 2-year program and from 60 to 40 students. I need to explain this to them. Pray for clarity and good spirit for the meeting.
  2. On Tuesday we will meet with Jeff McCann from TRACS, our accrediting agency, in regard to our Masters program and proposed Hawaii expansion. We are praying that our masters program will be approved and that we will have wisdom regarding moving on to the next step of expansion into Hawaii.
  3. The Guam campus will have 24 graduates this semester. Pray that they will finish well and that they will listen as God guides them to the next phase of their lives. We are also praising God for the obvious deepening of the spiritual life and theology and the growth of these students.
  4. Pray for Michael, Samantha and Titus (with guitar here) as they wait for the addition to their family (which of course would be our granddaughter) who could arrive at any time now.
One of our Palauan staff members tonight praised God for all the people, that he did not even know, who give and pray to make it possible for our missionary staff and faculty to be here. We agree. You are a blessing to us.

Palau #3 - Distance Ed Classes

My main reason for going to Palau last week was to finish my Genesis Exegesis class. I have 30 students in the class. Three are in Palau (pictured), ten in Chuuk and the rest are on the Guam campus. The class consists of 8 two-hour lecture discussions (which I lead on all three sites) and the rest of the class, including homework, quizzes, discussions etc, is all done on line and by email. It is a new experience for some of the students to do a class on line but most of them adapt pretty well. Last week I finished the final three sessions in Palau and the final session on Guam. Now it is up to the students to get all the rest of their work in over the next three weeks.

It is a bit of a stretch for me to teach two classes (one traditional methodology class on the Guam campus too) with all the other things going on, but I would hate to give it up. The distance education format allows me to travel around and talk to students on all the sites and I get a little better understanding of the unique challenges they face in each of the islands. The on line format also allows students from different places to interact, which provides for interesting discussion and opens them up to new ideas and different ways of doing and thinking about things. I enjoy reading the students papers every Saturday (my set-aside day for grading). I learn from their exegesis of the passages and am always encouraged by how they are applying what they have learned. We are hoping to expand our DE program in the near future.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Palau #2

It is always great to see my former students (Emmaus from the 1980's and PIBC from the 1990's-present) when I am in Palau. Several of my former Emmaus students attended the deacons workshop and I was able to get caught up with them. I also had a chance to have lunch one day with Eddie Ngiratrang (Emmaus 1988) and Merong Hideoshi (PIBC 2007). Both of them are in active leadership roles in the Palau Evangelical Church. Eddie is an administrator at Palau High School and Merong plans to teach in the Palau public school system next Fall. I also listened a bit to Hedrick Kual's (PIBC 2005) teaching (pictured) in the Deacons workshop and heard him preach Sunday morning (in Palauan so I didn't get too much of it) in the Koror Church. Please pray for Hedrick as he is making some decisions about his continuing education. On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to talk with Daisy Ulitch (PIBC 2004) who is now the principal of Bethania girls' high school. (More on that in a later post)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Palau Day 1

I headed down to Palau last Friday night. The purpose of my trip was to check out what was happening at our Palau Teaching Facility, finish the last three sessions of my Genesis class, recruit students at Emmaus and Bethania high schools and work with Billy Kuartei (Palauan Evangelical Church pastor and PIBC Board member) to get ready for the upcoming PIBC Board meeting and Palau Gospel Days celebration coming up in June. More on these later...

Before all of the above I got to be the opening and closing speaker at the PEC deacon's workshop on Saturday morning. The purpose of the workshop was to provide more training for the deacon's to lead church activities. Our PIBC teaching facility coordinator, Rob Watt and Hedrick Kual, PEC pastor and PIBC graduate, have been coordinating these workshops over the last few months to help the church train its leaders. I was encouraged to see several pastors at the workshop in addition to the deacons. I tried to encourage the participants to think "outside the walls" of the church as the place of ministry and not to separate "sacred" from "secular." We talked about the church's commission to pass the Abrahamic blessing on to the society around them through "Gospel words and deeds." I enjoyed the good fellowship and renewed friendships with these Palauan church leaders.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Some Random Thoughts About My Time in Chuuk

It was a strange feeling to be sitting out under the stars next to the Tol classroom several miles away from what most Western people would consider necessary modern items (power, roads, stores, cars etc) and talking to my wife on Guam through a wireless internet connection. The students, who a couple years ago had no communication with the outside world are now regularly sending text messages all over the world and also had their laptops out, connected and were chatting with students on the Guam campus. The world is changing fast.

PIBC Chuuk bought a used Honda CRV which I drove around while I was on Weno. It came from Japan so it is a right side drive. We drove cars like that when we lived in Palau but I am not used to shifting with the left hand and signaling with the right. I don't know how many times I turned on the wipers when I was trying to signal. But the car was very nice.

I always enjoy the time to talk to people in Chuuk Every morning in Weno Iotaka Choram, our teaching facility coordinator, and I had breakfast together. I really enjoyed our daily theological and ministry strategy discussions. I also had great discussions on Tol over coffee or meals with the Betzes, Steve Bradley and the Lodge family as they all (over)fed me. It has been a while since I spent two straight hours sitting at the table in conversation.

There were a lot of tears and grief for the students (especially the female students) when I announced the decision to cut back our program on Tol for the next year. This meant that both the 2nd and 3rd year students would have to transfer out. They build such deep bonds with each other that the thought of parting sooner than expected effected them deeply. I was impressed though with how they came together to comfort one another and focused on God's leading in their lives.

There are still great needs and problems in Chuuk, but when I focus on the great potential I see there in our students and staff, there is also great hope.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

First Post From Tol

As far as I know this is a momentous occasion. I think I am the first person to post to a blog from Tol Island, Chuuk State, Federated States of Micronesia. About two years ago we asked FSM Telecom to provide us with wireless internet on our remote Tol campus. This past week it was completed and works great so far. The picture is of the antennae on the top of the library that sends out the wireless signal. The staff calls it the "snorkel." It was great to download my email here and chat with the people up on Guam. I am excited about the potential for better communication and research that this provides for us. I am not sure about the speed of the connection but I was able to play youtube videos last night.

Last night I met with the students to tell them that because of the teacher shortage here we will have to cut back to 40 students and two class levels on the Tol campus. We hope it is only a one year situation and next year we will be able to expand here and offer all the courses to get an AA degree. There was a lot of crying and sadness but the students understood the situation and handled it well. Many of them told me that they intend to transfer to the Guam campus to complete their degrees. Please pray for the staff and faculty we need for next year.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Day 2-3 In Chuuk

I have been enjoying my time in Chuuk. I have taught two of the three sessions of my Genesis Exegesis class and will teach the final session tonight. It is good to see the faces of the students in class that I have been interacting over the internet with the past 10 weeks. I also had the opportunity to sit with our Board member from the Evangelical Church of Chuuk, Switer Eter, to talk over the vision of the school and how that effects the changes we are making in our program and setup in Chuuk. Today I met with the Teaching Facility staff and faculty (pictured) for an informational meeting (of course it included lunch). Again, I was reminded of how blessed we are with our missionary and local staff here. Tomorrow I will head to our Tol campus to spend time with the staff and students there. It has been a good trip so far. Thank you for your prayers.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

I'm On Chuuk

It is exciting to be able to post to my blog from my hotel room in Chuuk. (I still pay $.08 per megabyte for the internet connection here). Last time we were here our hotel (Kurassa) did not have any internet. We are seeing more and more wireless hotspots on Chuuk. The exciting news here is that we have a wireless internet connection on our Tol campus. Tol is a 45 minute to one hour boat ride across the lagoon from the district center. So now the only utilities on Tol are cell phone and wireless internet but I am excited to go across the lagoon on Saturday and make my first blog post from Tol! In the meantime I will be at our teaching facility on Weno, the Chuuk district center. I am finishing up the lecture/discussion sessions on Genesis. Last night we discussed the Jacob-Rachel-Leah-Laban section. We will finish up with classes on Thursday and Friday night. The students do their homework by email and discussions and quizzes on the internet. I am also meeting with the Chuuk Department of Education leadership to finalize our agreement with them to help with providing training for their public school teachers. I also get to meet with our Chuuk staff and faculty. The picture is of our Chuuk campus director Yosta Lodge and teaching facility coordinator Iotaka Choram. I appreciate your prayers that I will be able to have a productive time here in Chuuk.