Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Night at GMH

Last Sunday, on the way to church, Joyce made the remark that she wished we didn't need to have health insurance because it felt like we were throwing away hundreds of dollars every month for nothing. After our night at GMH (Guam Memorial Hospital) we are now thankful ($2250 the cost all paid by our medical insurance and supplemental Liebenzell Health account - thank you Lord!) that we have it. On Monday night Joyce started feeling numbness and pain on her left side. She was also feeling weak and dizzy. She had this before (about a week before which might explain why she fell off the ladder) but not this bad. We went in to see the doctor on Tuesday and he immediately wanted to check her into the hospital for a CT scan and other tests. At first, he told us that he thought she'd had a stroke. After all the tests (I got to watch the CT scan - yes she has a normal brain!) and 24 hours at GMH the determination was that this was a lupus issue. Her platelets had become too thick and were inhibiting blood flow causing the numbness and weakness. They put her on blood thinners and immediately she started feeling better. Wednesday evening they released her from the hospital and she is at home resting, but feeling much better. It was a little scary for a while but we are thankful that she came through it OK.

Joyce had not been in GMH since Missy was born in 1985. After all the time we spent in hospitals in Palau and the US in 1986-1993 it is an amazing miracle that she has never had to be checked in to the hospital on Guam until now. We had heard some horror stories about GMH but it wasn't as bad as we heard. It seems to me the nurses had too many patients to care for and we had to wait several hours for a bed to become available but the care seemed OK. The really odd thing was that the lady that Joyce shared a room with died in the night while she was there. A couple hours after I left all the bells and alarms went off. They wheeled Joyce out into the hall and the emergency teams and equipment went to work on this lady and she died around 2 AM. In the morning when I came back Joyce was in a different room. That all seemed a bit odd to us. We would appreciate your continued prayers for Joyce's health.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Some Random Things That Have Happenened Lately

Joyce decided that we needed to repaint the house. She started on the trim and painted it a real bright, kind of Shrek green. Then she decided to paint the doors the same color. Our colleague Brad Boydston liked it. You can see in the picture, with his green shirt, he almost disappears while standing in front of our door. Joyce is now trying to decide whether to keep the main color of our house green or change it to yellow. She painted both bathrooms too. Now the guest bathroom is purple (light shade). While she was painting our bathroom she fell off the ladder. It was a miracle that she was not injured. Joyce really likes to paint - she does most of it while I am teaching my summer class sessions - so she doesn't mind that the tropical weather necessitates putting on a new coat of paint a little more often than other places we have lived.

Last night when I was driving home from class there were a lot of frogs on the road. It is rainy season and the frogs tend to come out. We had to take Jens and Karin's dog to the vet a couple weeks ago because it had a seizure from licking and biting the frogs. Anyway I drove home trying to dodge the frogs (along with the holes and caverns in the road in front of my house). I think I avoided most of them, but there is a good reason that people buy T-shirts here that say, "Guam-Island of flat frogs."

I still like to drink carbonated soft drinks. I know they are not good for me but it is something I enjoy. I was overwhelmed with the soft drink choices in California when I was there. There are more choices now in the stores than there were a few years ago, but in most places it still boils down to Coke or Pepsi products. I am a Pepsi guy. I have switched to Pepsi Max from Diet Pepsi because I like it better. I think our campus is pretty evenly divided between Coke and Pepsi people.

Media and communications have improved greatly in our time on Guam. Joyce and I just replaced our 5 year old cell phones. We have a prepaid plan and we can use our minutes to call pretty much anywhere with a US area code. In fact, it is cheaper for us to call the US than locally. The cable TV is now digital and they have just started promoting high definition stations. I am not sure that I can justify paying an extra $20 per month for 4 or 5 extra stations, even when two of them are ESPN, with "crystal clarity." It would be nice to watch college football in high def but I think I will stick with the regular channels for my Sunday afternoon college football watching (This is when we get the live games on the other side of the date line).

In the meantime we spend most of our time getting ready for the upcoming semester!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Exegesis in Hebrews Class

Probably my favorite part of doing ministry here is the classes I teach. This is why I have been enjoying my summer class - Exegesis in Hebrews. Don Howell from Columbia International University taught the first half of the class in June and I have been finishing the class during the month of July. We have been meeting, during the month of July, twice a week for 2 1/2 hours to discuss Hebrews 8-13. Besides teaching the content of the epistle we are also working on the techniques of exegesis. One of my main goals is to strengthen the students' exegesis skills. For each class, the students exegete the evening's passage, put it in the context of the argument of the book, make observational questions, interpretive decisions and suggest practical applications of the passage. The 8 students in the class seem to really get into the discussion, so much so that we often forget to take a break in the middle of the long class time.

The last three weeks of class have been filled with student presentations in which the students lead the exegetical discussion. So far 3 of the 5 students taking the class for credit (the others are auditing) have made their presentations. All of them have done very well. In the pictures Orichi Orichiro is making his presentation on Hebrews 12.1-13. Orichi is a Chuukese pastor and Dean of Men on our Chuuk campus. He is finishing up his BA degree. Pictured there listening to him, is Saladier Ilai, a Pohnpeian pastor who will make his presentation next Monday. Ethel and Mayumi also did a great job on their presentations. It is exciting to me to hear Pacific Islanders preaching good expository sermons.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Owen’s End of Year Prayer Letter 2007-8

This is the end of the year prayer letter that we send out by email and snail mail. We have posted a lot of this information before but we thought it was a good summary anyway...

Greetings from Guam,

End of year prayer letter!? Either the Owen’s are six months early or 6 months late! No, you have to think like a teacher. Our year begins on July 1st as we finish wrapping up one school year and prepare for another. We are praising God for what He did here during the past school year and are looking forward to another good year as we prepare for the new group of students to get here in a few weeks.

We feel truly blessed to have so many prayer and financial partners who have been part of our ministry for these last 24 years. If God gives us strength and Jesus delays his return we hope for at least 24 more years of building servant leaders in the Pacific Islands. Working with college students keeps us young, I think, but as we get older it is great to be working as colleagues with so many of our former students who are pastoring, teaching, administrating and serving the kingdom of God in many other roles.

What We are Doing

Joyce continued in 2007-8 as a PIBC student and a kindergarten teacher at the Little Lambs pre-school. She figures to have about three more semesters before she completes her BA in Bible with a minor in teaching English as a second language. She also had enjoyed helping get the Little Lambs pre-school and the ministry she has had in the lives of the kids and their families. However, for this school year she has moved over to the local Japanese school to teach English to 1st through 9th graders. The move enables her to give more time to her PIBC studies and is a great opportunity to share her fellowship with Christ with people who do not yet know him. Although she occasionally scares me, her health has been good.

I (Dave) have just finished my 5th year as the President of PIBC. We have seen God working to grow the school in many ways during this time. This past year we have been approved to begin a Master of Arts in Religion program and so we will begin our first graduate program at PIBC this Fall. We have also been working on a distance education program. I taught three DE classes this past year with students, from all the islands we serve, interacting with each other on the internet. We are also working on the possible opening of a branch campus in Hawaii. Hawaii has more Micronesians than any other place in the world except Chuuk. We are seeking God’s leading on this as we begin teaching some extension classes there this semester. Though I have to spend a lot of time in the office I do enjoy my class time, getting into local churches to preach and share about PIBC and meeting people in the US as I travel to recruit teachers and raise support for the school’s program. I still try to get a little time on the basketball court with the students too.

Family News

Our big family news this year was the birth of our new grand-daughter Courage Eudaimonia Owen to Michael and Samantha on April 26th. She is a beautiful little girl and we had a chance to see her in California while we were on vacation in May. Michael and Samantha are at Talbot Theological Seminary preparing to come back to teach at PIBC. Our #1 grandson, Titus is also there. He will be two in September.

Matt graduated from his Masters degree program in Information science this past May. We enjoyed a family graduation celebration with him and his wife Kristin. Matt is on the faculty at San Diego Christian College as a librarian.

Missy is living in Dallas Texas and continues to run her own nanny and child care business.

Challenges and Prayer Requests for the 2008-9 School Year

1. Accreditation: PIBC is up for reaffirmation of our accreditation this year. We will need to complete our self-study by January and have our TRACS visit in April. Please pray that it goes well and that we receive our 10 year reaffirmation in November of 2009.

2. Master’s Program: We will be starting our Master program in August. I will be teaching Bible Study Methods. We hope to start small with about 10 students. We want the program to be highly relational, academically excellent and very practical.

3. Joyce will also be teaching in the ESL program at PIBC this semester. This will be a new experience for her to teach adults instead of kindergartners.

4. Please also pray that we will be an encouragement and help to the faculty-staff and students of PIBC. School administration is a job that is never done and we do not want to lose sight, while piled under the “in-box,” of the people we minister to.

5. Pray that we will live out the image of Christ in the power of the Spirit.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support. We would love to have you come out some time to visit us. We have a lot of things that a short-term team, family or individual could help us with. We pray for our supporters daily and would love to hear from you so that we could pray more specifically for you.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Chuuk Campus

I took a quick trip down to Chuuk this weekend with the Liebenzell regional director and PIBC board member Harald Gorges. The purpose of our trip was to meet with the Evangelical Church of Chuuk Board, including our ECC board member Switer Eter, and discuss the decisions of the latest board meeting which took place a couple weeks ago in Palau. The main issue that we needed to discuss was the crisis situation on our Chuuk campus. I have mentioned this situation in past posts and it has been discussed on the PIBC web site. Basically the biggest issue there is our inability to recruit either local or ex-pat teachers to teach on our Chuuk campus. The last few years we have had about 60 students on this very remote campus. (The campus is about 14 miles from the district center of Chuuk - about a 45 minute speed boat ride- and is on a beautiful tropical island. While there are plans to develop the area, right now we have to supply all our own services there including power, water, sewer, medical etc. On the positive side there are no roads or cars and we have internet and cell phone service.)
For the upcoming school year the situation has become even more acute. LMI missionaries Siegbert and Baerbel Betz have returned home to Germany leaving us without a business manager and an academic dean, who also taught several courses and could fix the generator. Another faculty member then had to go to Hawaii for medical reasons leaving us with only one full time teacher on the campus. Even with a volunteer teacher coming out this year to teach English we are far short of what we need to run this campus this Fall (and even more so in the long run). We have a business manager coming from the Philippines but her immigration status is delaying her arrival.
Lack of staff has been an ongoing problem on our Tol Chuuk campus, though it has never been this critical. With this in mind, (also because of the need for large investment in the infrastructure on the Tol campus and the uncertainty about just how much costs will go up with rising gas prices- diesel is $7 per gallon, rising and with uncertain future availability.) the PIBC board decided to phase out the Chuuk campus on Tol over the next two years with the 40 AA (20 2nd year and 20 new students) students already accepted for this year. We would cease offering our academic program there in May of 2010. PIBC would continue its Chuuk operation in the district center of Weno which currently has about 40 students. With enough staff that facility could accomodate about 100 students.
Of course it is not an easy thing to shut down a program that we have been operating throughout the history of the school. The campus does provide a good place for Chuukese students to begin their college studies, be discipled and prepare to handle college work and the multi-cultural experience of the Guam campus. Thus, Harald and I wanted to hear the response of the Chuukese church leadership to the board's decision. ECC leadership was against the decision but understood the nature of the crisis. They asked the board to reconsider the decision and give them time to look for the funds and the faculty needed to run the campus. I shared my concern that we may not even have the resources to run the campus this year. We also discussed some alternative ways to use the campus facility for leadership training.
I would ask for your prayers as we deal with this crisis. We are confident that the LORD is leading us into what He would have us do to prepare students to lead the churches and societies of Micronesia and the Pacific Islands in the 21st century.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Palau #6 - A Micronesian Mission Society?

One of the issues about which we encourage students regularly is the importance of the Micronesian churches sending missionaries outside of Micronesia. There are already some Micronesian missionaries serving as long term missionaries in other places, such as PIBC graduate Billy Edwin who is serving in Tanzania. There are several current PIBC students and alumni who think they are called to missionary service. However, up to now there has been no organized Micronesian missionary society to organize, train and send out Micronesians into the world. This is why I was so excited about the meeting that took place on our next to last day in Palau. After the PIBC board meeting, representatives of the three Micronesian evangelical churches in Chuuk, Palau and Yap and representatives from Liebenzell Mission USA and Germany and PIBC got together to explore how all these groups could cooperate to do ministry within and outside of Micronesia. I believe PIBC can be the catalyst, since we bring together people from all the Micronesian churches, for this kind of cooperation. One important outcome of the meeting was the commitment to pursue more cooperation by the various islands churches. The second was the idea to form a Liebenzell Mission Micronesia in which the three island evangelical churches would work with Liebenzell Mission International to become a missionary sending agency. What an appropriate way to celebrate the entrance of the Gospel into Palau - to resolve and make plans to take the Gospel to other places. Please pray for the organization and planning of this effort and for the Micronesian missionaries that God will raise up to take His Word to others who need it.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Palau #5 - Meeting Old and New Friends

One of our favorite things about going to Palau (even more than all the tasty and fresh sea food) is that we get to meet a lot of old friends. Many of them were our students from the days we taught at Emmaus High School and the Gospel Kindergarten (1984-8). Then of course my PIBC work has had me making a couple trips per year to Palau since 1993. In that time we have been able to get to know a lot of people. It seems like a week there is just not enough time to cram in all the people we want to see! As you can see from the pictures Joyce had more time than I did to meet with people on this trip. In this picture, Joyce is between (left) 2004 PIBC graduate Daisy Ulitich who is now the prinicipal of Bethania Girls High School and Josie Lukas, MIBS grad and our former PIBC Palau Teaching Facility office manager.

Every time I am in Palau I get to see a couple of our "Emmaus boys." Sometimes we are sad to hear what they are doing, but most often we are encouraged and proud of them. One former student we saw quite a bit on this trip was Kyonori Tellames. He has become a key worker in the church. It seemed to me that he was doing whatever needed to be done (from heavy lifting, to working with the sound, to organizing the food tables) to keep the Gospel Days going 24-7. He said that God has given him strength so he wants to use it for God. It is great to see one of our former students being such a great asset to the church.

When we first moved to Palau Joyce worked in the Gospel Kindergarten. One of the ladies she worked with was Melinda, pictured here. Joyce not only had fun there working with the kids but she also made several good friends. Over the many years since we left Palau in 1988, Joyce and Melinda have stayed in contact and always make it a point to see each other when we are down there. The picture to the right is of Joyce and Jorong who worked with us while we were teaching at Emmaus. While we were there her kids used to play Legos on the porch with ours. Later, Layla, her daughter became a PIBC student and graduated in 2003. She and her husband Jeff are now ministering in the Palauan church in Hawaii.

Of course we also see many PIBC alumni. Here is Jonathan and Momoe Tamag with their new little one. Jonathan and Momoe were married soon after Jonathan graduated in 2006. Often, we are a "Bridal" college as well as a Bible college. Jonathan and Momoe live in Yap, but were in Palau for Jonathan to receive training for his job. He works as a counselor in the Yap hospital. Jonathan would like to enter the Master of Arts in Religion program at PIBC in the Fall of 2009. Ministry is all about relationships with people and we have certainly been blessed with many good ones.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Palau #4 - Youth Ministry

One of the two PIBC missions teams for this summer was sent to Palau to do a month of youth ministry (the other team is doing university evangelism in Thailand) led by PIBC faculty member and Liebenzell missionary Ned Farnsworth. They have been working together with an "Impact Team" from Liebenzell Mission Germany. During the month of June they have been traveling around the villages of Palau leading children's and youth ministry. Groups have ranged from just a few kids to about 60. It has been a great cross-cultural experience for everyone as our PIBC students have an opportunity to work with the German team. The Impact Team also shared that they have learned a lot from the PIBC students. I think the future of missions will be based on this kind of Western-Nonwestern cooperation.

Joyce's main role in the Gospel Days was to work with these teams during the week-long Gospel Days in Koror and to do some training of children's workers. I heard that the leader of the German team told his people that they really needed to listen to this American lady because she knows a lot about kid's ministry (sorry, you have to permit me to brag a little about my wife!) and can teach them a lot. She has so much fun with the kids that it is pretty much impossible to drag her away. It is especially gratifying to do ministry with our current PIBC students and our former students from Palau. In the picture Joyce and Elilai (3rd year PIBC student) are teaching the motions to an action song.

A lot of ministry in Micronesia is done before and after the program (I think this is really true everywhere) as the leaders take time to talk and get to know the kids. We do a lot of ministry here by "hanging around" or as we ride the bus with the other workers as pictured below. As we go beyond the program and get to know the young people, not only do we get to share Christ with them but as Paul says "our very lives." Of course the other benefit is that we make new friends who contribute a lot to our lives. You know, overall, we really do enjoy living and ministering in Micronesia.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Palau #3 - Gospel Days Meetings

June 27-29 was the Gospel Days Celebration in Palau. Gospel Days celebrated the 79th (I know I said 80th in a previous post, but it was actually the 79th. As Pastor Billy Kuartei said, "we usually celebrate Gospel Days every 5 years, but we could not wait, so we celebrated only 4 years after the last one. Maybe we should have it every other year.") In 1929 a German missionary and a Chuukese Christian brought the Gospel to Palau. The celebration consists of many church services, kids programs, panel discussions, church meetings, lots of singing and an abundance of food and fellowship. As I mentioned yesterday, it culminated with the ordination service on Sunday.

The main speakers were Martin Auch and Bill Schuit, the Global Directors for Liebenzell Mission International and Liebenzell Mission USA. Both spoke on issues of leadership and the need to look ahead to plan to apply God's Word to the changing world of Palau. We also saw a wonderful slideshow on the history of the church in Palau. When we think of the sacrifices made by those early missionaries, it makes any sacrifices we make seem small in many ways. The church was also challenged to think beyond themselves and reach out to the needs in the world for people who will go out and announce and live out the Gospel in other cultures.

Joyce and I each participated in panel discussions. Joyce teamed up with PIBC graduate Daisy Ulitich for a women's discussion on family and church issues. I participated with a panel of pastors discussing church and family leadership issues. There were many good questions asked and a lively discussion. It was exciting for me to hear the vision that many young Palauans have for ministry.

One of the most fun parts of the celebration is hearing the many choirs from the different village churches. The outfits are colorful and the singing is incredible. There were also choirs from the youth groups, a Bethania girls high school alumni choir (it looked like the ages of the choir ranged from about 18 into the 60's), school choirs and even a choir made up of alumni from Micronesian Instiutute of Biblical studies (the precursor to PIBC) which sang songs in Chuukese. The songs ranged from traditional hymns sung in Palauan to contemporary Palauan (sort of Islandy country-western/cha-cha styles.