Sunday, August 31, 2008

First Seminary Class

Saturday was a historic day for me and for Pacific Islands Bible College as we taught the first class session of our new seminary program. (You can read more about it on the PIBC web site) It was also the first time I have taught a course on the seminary level. I have six students in my Basic Exegesis course including 1 Palauan, 1 Chuukese, 1 Korean, 1 Chinese, 1 Filipina and 1 American. Two of the students are graduates of PIBC, two are ordained pastors and all are involved in ministry. I can already tell that it is really going to be fun to work with this group. The class meets twice a week. On Saturday we meet from 8 to 11.30 AM to do the "hands on" exegesis training (next Saturday we will work on observing structure and book charting) and then one other time during the week for 60-90 minutes to discuss the reading for the week. Tuesday night the class will be coming over to my house for dinner and to discuss The Drama of Scripture and the basic biblical theology of the Old Testament. Please pray for John Jim, Hedrick, Mia, Christine, Peng Li and Kent as they dig in to the scriptures and for me to be a good guide.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Tarague Timeout"

We held our annual "start of the semester" Guam staff and faculty meeting on Monday afternoon. Normally I am not real excited about meetings, but this year we held our meeting at Tarague beach on Andersen AF Base, one of the most beautiful spots on Guam. Under the shade of the Norfolk pine and coconut trees we began the semester with a discussion of the school's culture, values, goals, mission and vision. As a multi-cultural, multi-denominational, multi-organizational institution it can sometimes be difficult to have clear communication and get everybody pulling in the same direction. There are also tremendous advantages to this diversity as many good ideas, that I never would have thought of in a million years, come from people with quite different perspectives. While there are challenges in this, I really enjoy working in an institution that looks a little like what the kingdom will look like.

Our discussion, of course after I did a little swimming in the warm ocean water and enjoyed the snacks, dealt with the foundational statements and beliefs of our ministry. We broke into several different, mix and match, groups and then came back together to discuss the issues as a unified faculty-staff. Part of this is in preparation for our self-study, but I think it is important to remind yourself periodically of what you are all about. God seems to be expanding the vision of PIBC both geographically and in its scope of programs and we need to make sure we stay grounded in His call. I am always amazed and excited by the high quality of people God brings our way to do the work here and am looking forward to another exciting semester. We value your prayers for us and for our students as the semester begins on Saturday.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Campus Is Almost Ready

Today was the the staff and faculty work day on the Guam campus to prepare for the official beginning of the new semester next Saturday. Several of the students that are already on campus worked hard today too. Several members of the Palauan Evangelical Church of Guam also helped. Now the flower beds are weeded (Above Left) and the summer growth is cleared away. Bill Wood and several of the students extended the walkway in front of the classroom to accommodate a handicapped accessible parking place (Upper right). The school provided coffee, donuts and sodas. I was not allowed into the construction projects or flower beds so I was the drink distributor and helped man a wheelbarrow and hauled away the weeds and other various forms of unwanted plants. At 10.00 our school team had a basketball game in the Guam church league. Most of our students are not here yet, but we scrounged together a team (I even played for about 12 minutes of game time to give the guys some rest). We came up short 85-64 but we had a lot of fun.

We are also working on preparing our classes and students. This year we instituted a pre-semester intensive study skills class for new students taught by Melody Plaxton. 8 students are taking advantage of this opportunity this year. We are also preparing our classes for the coming semester. I am almost finished with my syllabus for my Basic Exegesis and Interpretation class. Larry and Sharon Bock, new staff who are staying at our house are also busy. Below, Larry is pictured below hard at work preparing his two classes and Sharon is getting oriented in the office where she will be working. We are thankful for God's provision of new staff and we are still praying for more. Email me if you are interested to help us "build servant leaders" for the Pacific Islands!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

ARA Libertad

Yesterday afternoon a group of eight of our PIBC staff got out of the office and took a tour of the tall sailing ship Armada de la República Argentina Libertad. The ship is used for training and stopped into Guam on its way around the world. It has already sailed around Africa, Southern Asia, Japan and Australia and will head back "around the Horn" to Argentina when it leaves Guam. We saw several of the Argentine sailors coming back from shopping trips loaded down with bags from Guam stores obviously enjoying their shore leave. We, especially Joyce, had a good time getting to know them. They were a pretty friendly group (200 men and 20 women).It was nice to get out of the office for a while and feel the wind "blow through the hair." It would be fun to be out there under full sail on the open sea. Well maybe not since I tend to get sea sick.

Here are Joyce and Melody Plaxton under the Argentine flag. And of course Joyce managed to make some new friends!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Over The Weekend

One of our (fun) responsibilities is helping to orient new staff. Part of that responsibility is showing new staff the island, so this past weekend we gave the Bock's the island tour. Normally on this tour we make several stops at incredible cliff-top vistas, tropical pools full of fish, easy hikes without much sword grass, world war II battle sites and other scenic spots. Normally all of this is under a bright sun and blue sky. We were hoping for that Saturday as we headed out for the Bock's tour, but soon-to-be tropical storm Nuri changed our plans. There was so much rain the mission car almost became the mission boat. We were able to stop at the Inarajan pools for lunch for about an hour before the deluge hit. We drove around the southern end of the island and saw it through a curtain of water. The rain took a break long enough for us to get out of the car at the Asan Overlook (pictured - this is where the US troops reinvaded Guam in 1944). We were all set for a historical presentation by a friendly young park ranger dressed as a WWII marine but, as the drops started to pound our head, we made a quick dash for the car to escape the next dunking. We plan to try the trip again soon.

Sunday after church we went to the house of Mike and Judy Albin, the pastor of Bayview Baptist Church. Mike is a Dallas Seminary grad. So in the picture you can see Larry Bock (DTS 2008), Me (DTS 1992) and Mike (DTS 1971). As far as I know we are all the DTS alumni on Guam, or even in the Western Pacific. We enjoyed some good barbequed cheeseburgers, good fellowship and the incredible view from the Bayview parsonage. I plan to be at Dallas Seminary November 10-12 to try to recruit more faculty from there.

Friday, August 15, 2008

New School Year Preparation

We are working hard to get the campus ready for the new semester. Our orientation class for new students begins on August 19th and the semester begins for all the students on August 30th. My first graduate level class, Basics of Exegesis, will begin on Saturday morning of the 30th. Most of the faculty and staff are back from vacations and summer support raising so today was our first Guam campus faculty and staff meeting. You can see, it took two pictures to get everyone in, that our staff has continued to grow. We are hoping for about the same amount of students we had last year (65 in the dormitories and about 100 overall). We never know until they actually arrive. We had one student that we had no prior communication with show up this morning with a completed application packet. We had him through the admissions committee and accepted by the end of the day. It was good to get everyone together again and talk about the vision for the year and get things ready for start of the school year. It seems like there are about a 100 unexpected things that pop up as we get ready.

One of the big jobs is getting the dorms ready. Joyce has been working on the guys' dorm the last couple weeks along with some of the summer students and some volunteers. This week they have been working on the main women's dorm. It is amazing how much damage and wear a group of college students can produce on a building. Today was the day to air out the mattresses and set off the bug bombs. (Joyce is pictured with both here.) Every year it seems like we won't get things done on time but we always seem to be ready even if it is close. One year we were still putting beds together with the students waiting there holding their suitcases in the doorways of their dorm rooms. We will be having a big work day on the Guam campus August 23rd at 7 AM to make the final touches to have it ready. We would appreciate everyone who can come up and give us a hand to get the campus ready to go.

The Bocks Are Here!

Larry and Sharon Bock arrived on Guam at 2.00 AM on Wednesday. Joyce and I, and Brad Boydston were there to greet them. Larry is a new faculty member who will be teaching two Bible classes on our Guam campus and Sharon will be working "where ever I can be most help." Larry is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary (All right, another DTS alum on Guam!) and they have been living in Longview Texas, the last few years. The picture is of the Bocks and us in the Guam airport parking lot. They will be staying at our house the next few weeks so we will have room mates for a while. We will be giving them the island tour tomorrow and they are starting to get over the jet lag. We are excited to have them here as a part of the PIBC family and we would value your prayers for their good adjustment to the climate, culture and college (couldn't resist the three C's).

By the way, our trip to the airport to pick up the Bock's was our 67th airport trip of 2008.

Monday, August 11, 2008

An Enjoyable Monday Night

We had a wonderful time tonight. First the Plaxtons are back on Guam! We picked up Tim, Melody and Erin at the airport at 6 PM. They flew the LAX-Honolulu-Guam 18 hour marathon but they looked pretty good. The Boydston's and Rob Watt were also there to greet them when they got off the plane. Melody is our Guam academic dean and Tim is our maintenance director. Erin will be heading down to Palau in a few days where she is a teacher at Bethania Christian School for Girls. We go to the airport a lot to drop off and pick up and I can tell you, we enjoy saying hello a lot more than saying goodbye.

After getting the Plaxton's into their car so they could drive home and get some well needed rest, we went home to enjoy some barbeque with Rob Watt, our Palau teaching facility coordinator and Orichi Orichiro, our Chuuk campus dean of men, and his family. Orichi is here with his wife and 7 kids to take some summer classes to finish up his BA degree. We enjoyed the hot dogs, chicken, oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies and good fellowship. The highlight of the evening was an action song in Chuukese by 5 of the Orichiro children. Rob will be heading back to Palau tomorrow night and Orichi and his family will be heading back to Chuuk this week. It was nice to be able to just sit with no work agenda and just get to know each other better. There must be barbeques in the eternal kingdom right?

Missions Night on Guam

Last night we at PIBC, along with several churches and ministries on island celebrated "A Night of Missions." It was a get together of these ministries to report on summer mission trips and be challenged to reach those who have never heard the Gospel. Our PIBC contingent reported on our summer mission trips to Thailand and Palau, and sang a couple songs. Recent graduate Kalvin Assito, pictured here, was our team leader for the Thailand group. Kalvin shared how God has given him a heart for Thailand and he is committed to going back there in future summers to continue the summer evangelism work he has done there the last two years at two major Thai universities. Though he is serving right now as assistant dean of men on the Guam campus, his long term plan is to do mission work in Asia. Elilai Haruzi, who was part of the Palau team, also shared with the group. She talked about how God taught her to be "FAT," flexible, available and teachable. Both Elilai and Kalvin did a great job sharing what they had learned from these mission trips and how PIBC had prepared them.

Besides being proud of our students, the missions night was also great because so many churches of many different denominations were able to get together to celebrate missions. We were challenged to unite in order to go out to Asia to do mission work where many have never heard the name of Jesus. I believe that Guam and Micronesia can play an important in this effort. We were also able to celebrate the good work that God has done through many other churches and ministries on Guam. It was also fun to see so many people we had not seen for a while. Back in the mid-90's we had worked together with many of the same churches, ministries and people to run an AWANA club in Yigo. Now we are seeing the same people doing evangelism and relief work in Myanmar, youth evangelism in the Philippines, and other exciting ministries. It has been exciting for us to see the Micronesians move from being a missionary receiving church when we came in 1984 to now becoming a missionary sending body. Keep praying with us that the vision of the local churches will continue to rise to reach out to the rest of the world.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Today At Church

Joyce and I have been attending Bayview Baptist Church for a while now. The church had gone through some hard times recently with the church building being destroyed in Typhoon Pongsanwa in December 0f 2002 (they met at a hotel for 4 years - I preached there a few times) and now going through a pastoral transition. For the transition the church brought in a consulting group called Titus Ministries to evaluate the church and help them set up a pastoral search team. This will be about an 18 month process. The interim pastor sent out by Titus Ministries to do the evaluation and serve the congregation is Mike Albin. Mike is a Dallas Seminary graduate (it is nice to have a fellow alum out here!) with a lot of experience. Joyce and I have spent some time chatting with Mike and his wife Judy and we are excited about having him out here as a fellow kingdom worker and to hear his vision for ministry.

Mike has been preaching through the Lord's Prayer the last few weeks in the Sunday service. Today the message was on the petition "do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." All the sermons in the series have been good but I especially appreciated this one. Instead of focusing on the word "temptation," as usually is preached, Mike focused on the main verb "lead" (all my exegesis students take note: grammar matters!). Thus, the emphasis was that our goal is to become Christ followers rather than just "nice, good Christians." Christ followers take Jesus' side, listen to Jesus and are led by Jesus and thus avoid temptation, not the other way around. I appreciated the emphasis and the challenge to get into the battle and encourage others to follow Christ.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Planning Meetings

The just completed week has been full of planning meetings for the upcoming semester. It is amazing, with a school of about 200 students spread over 5 sites, how much administrative work is necessary to get ready. Compounding this, we have reorganized our structure, we have our self-study for accreditation due at the end of the semester, we are dealing with an acute staffing shortage in Chuuk, many of our staff are missionaries who are away for the whole summer trying to raise support (costs are going up!), we are forging a new partnership with Hawaii Seminary and trying to figure out what that means, and many of our students and applicants wait until the last minute to complete applications and transfer forms. We are very thankful for Skype and other internet communication programs that allow us to communicate cheaply with people from all over the world. Monday Joyce attended a meeting with the Student Services staff that was attended by people on both coasts of the US mainland along with those on the Guam campus. Our administrative cabinet met Tuesday and Wednesday. Yosta Lodge our Chuuk Campus Director flew in from Chuuk, but Steve Stinnette attended the meeting from his computer in New Jersey. Yesterday our executive board meeting took place with one member in the US, one in Germany and with me on Guam. We got a lot done in these meetings but we have a lot more to do. I would appreciate your prayers for wisdom in student admissions and for the many decisions that need to be made between now and August 19th when classes start. We have several teachers coming in this week and we will have our Guam campus 1st full staff meeting on Friday. I keep reminding myself, we do this for God's kingdom and for the students!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Blessing Guam

The last couple days Joyce and I, and PIBC, have been part of the Blessing Guam Celebration Festival. The celebration was sponsored by the Onnuri Church (Korean) of Guam with the purpose of bringing together churches and ministries with different ethnic backgrounds. As Pastor Lee of the Onnuri Church said, "the purpose is to let the immigrant churches know they are not alone." The participants included pastors and churches from Korea, China, Taiwan, Philippines, Japan, Guam, USA and of course our multi-cultural PIBC Guam campus. Here you see a picture of most of the 2nd night participants.

The first day was a celebration of the multi-ethnicity of the churches of Guam. Several musical and dance teams performed and the invited pastors gave brief challenges to the audience for unity among the churches of Guam. I preached a brief sermon on Ephesians 2.13-14. Here I am after I spoke between Pastor Lee and the translator. We enjoyed getting to meet Christians from other parts of the world that we had no idea were living on Guam. I especially enjoyed meeting Pastor Wu from the Chinese church who gave a very energetic and demonstrative sermon. He is planning to take some English classes at PIBC this Fall. To make things even better we finished off the evening with a fellowship dinner with plenty of kim chee and bulgogi.

The second night celebration was held at the Onnuri Church. They seated us at tables and provided sandwiches, fruit and drinks which made for a very friendly atmosphere. Each pastor gave a bit longer speech about how we could have unity among the churches on the island. The PIBC students sang (beautifully) a couple songs and I was able to preach a little on breaking down the barriers that keep us apart. The whole celebration was really an encouragement to me. I just wish more of the local Guam churches were involved. I believe that we will really begin to see reformation and revival in the Guam church when the local churches begin to love each other and truly work together. Hopefully this was a small first step toward that.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

PDN Article

The Pacific Daily News gave Pacific Islands Bible College some nice publicity in an article in the Sunday edition. Here is the internet version of the article. The PDN is the largest newspaper serving Guam and the Micronesian islands. We appreciate the help getting the word out on our new Masters program. I will be starting my class on August 30.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Who Does God Speak Through?

Thursday night Joyce and I went out for our almost weekly date night. We normally do this on Tuesday night, but that was the night she spent in the hospital and that hardly qualifies as a date. We had been wanting to see the new X-Files movie since it opened last week and decided to go see it. (We also went to the very upscale semi-Mexican restaurant Taco Bell). We needed to go soon after it opened because, in general on Guam, unless a movie is an action or blockbuster film, it doesn't stay here very long. (We were 2 of the 4 people in the theater for our showing) Both of us enjoyed the movie. It had all the same elements- suspense, plot twists, weirdness, science fiction standards, religious references and relationship issues- that we enjoyed in the TV series. Basically, if you liked the TV show you will like the movie. The characters, though looking a little older, are still the same. The movie kept you guessing right up to the end with a bit of a gruesome ending plot twist. Just like with the TV show, we were still left with questions as the credits rolled.

One question the movie asks is "what kind of person does God speak through?" One of the main characters in the story is a psychic pedophile ex-priest (I thought well-played by Billy Connolly) who is having visions about kidnap and murder victims (he is often seen in the story on his knees pleading for forgiveness from God). The FBI is hoping to use him to lead them to the criminals. The priest thinks the visions are from God while Scully thinks that God would not speak through a convicted pedophile, so he is either a scam artist or his visions are from the devil. In the end the viewer is left struggling with this question. As a Christian, of course we recognize that God speaks ultimately and authoritatively through Jesus as revealed in scripture and then secondarily through gifted people in the church. But could God speak through others, even outside His church? I think the stories of Balaam and Caiaphas (John 11.50-52) for example would answer that in the affirmative. I think the idea of the "image of God" in man, marred as it is by sin, would indicate that any artist, athlete (maybe even a televangelist, see Philippians 1.17-18) etc. could become a vehicle for God to express himself in beauty, rescue, order and goodness. Is God's mercy big enough to speak even through a repentant pedophile priest?