Saturday, February 27, 2010

PIU Annual Board Meeting Completed

The PIU Annual Board Meeting took place this last week, February 24-26. Our seven board members come from 4 different countries and represent several different organizations.On the back row L to R is me, Martin Auch, Harald Gorges, Bill Schuit and Howard Merrell. In the front row, Mary Johnson, Vincent Parren and Marcellus Ngiraingas. It was three long days of meetings but I think a lot was accomplished and the school took some significant steps forward. We did add a new member, David Mayer, to our board who will begin his term on July 1. We have several challenges ahead of us but I am excited and encouraged to be moving forward toward what God has for Pacific Islands University in the future.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

PIU Challenges for 2010 #6 - Finances

To meet the previous five challenges, especially the challenges of staffing and facilities, PIU will need to raise significant financial resources. In the beginning PIU was funded by three basic sources: Liebenzell Mission provided the starting capital to buy the property and build the original facilities; most of the staff and faculty were missionaries (Liebenzell or other organizations) who raised their own support or were financed by other organizations; and the remaining operational needs were funded by student tuition. All of these resources were a tremendous provision but, with these alone, the school was pretty much limited to covering its basic operational needs and there was very little for future growth. If PIU was to move forward to accomplish the vision that we believe God is calling us to do we needed to take steps to find the money that we believe God was raising up for us.

So last year we hired a fund raising consultant, Mickey Beckham who was recommended by TRACS, our accreditor. Mickey was excited about the potential of PIU to raise funds and he made the following recommendations which we have followed....

Private and Public Grants: PIU has hired a grant researcher and writer, Katherine Currie, to explore both private foundations and government grants for the school. Since our main constituency is Pacific islanders and over 90% of our students receive Title IV grants we are eligible for many other government grants. We have been able to finance our computer labs on the main campus and our various teaching sites with a public grant and are exploring others. We are also in the process of applying for several grants from private foundations to meet needs in our library, staffing and some smaller capital needs. Please be in prayer for us as we complete and submit  several applications on March 1st.

Rising Tide Annual Fund: Because one of our major goals at PIU is keeping tuition costs affordable for our islander students and providing them a way that they can complete their degrees without being saddled with debt, our tuition will never fully cover operational costs. In addition, as we expand to liberal arts and general education and attempt to increase local hires, we have many faculty and staff positions in the school that cannot be filled by missionaries. To provide the resources to bridge this gap we have begun the Rising Tide Annual Fund. The purpose of the Rising Tide fund is to provide the financial resources to fill essential faculty and staff positions, to enable us to provide scholarships for students, and to support student missions, academic and library  programs.Our goal is to raise $500,000 per year in annual pledged donations to this fund by finding 500 people or organizations that would be willing to donate an average of $1,000 per year (about $84 per month). We are excited that, since this program was launched in January of this year, we already have over $70,000 per year in pledges.

Capital Funds: The final phase of our fund raising program will be a capital fund to finance the expansion of the Guam campus detailed in my last post. The first phase of the capital program will be to raise enough funds to buy the adjoining 3.6 acres. We have an architect coming this summer to make a more detailed proposed building plan for development of the property. The property would then be developed in phases over the next 5 years or so as God provides the resources to build. We plan to finance this through a combination of grants and private donations.

We are confident that God will provide the money as it is needed to accomplish what He is calling us to do. If God is laying it on your heart to be part of the Rising Tide Fund or Capital Fund please send me an email at or call me at 671-734-1812 and we can get you details and information about it or answer any questions you might have. We will soon have all the information available on the school web site at We are now able to take payments and donations by credit card and very soon will have a donation button on the web site. 

In some ways it is hard for me to talk about money. But I believe very much that what we are doing here is part of God's kingdom purpose and that any investment in PIU is an investment in the lives of our students and in what God is doing here in the Pacific. I also know that is something that pays off forever.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

PIU Challenges for 2010 #5 - Facilities

When our current PIU property was acquired in 1997 the plan was to build for a total of 35 students. The 3.7 acre property had been previously used by a construction company to house H2 workers and consisted of one large concrete building and three smaller concrete building shells with metal roofs. Soon after we bought the property typhoon Paka devastated the larger building. With an SBA loan and significant investment by Liebenzell Mission the large building was turned into a library, men's dorm and faculty apartment. The three smaller buildings became the administration building, women's dorm and academic building. With accreditation in 1999 providing the students the ability to get federal tuition assistance, the campus filled up quickly and additions were needed. In the summer of 2000 the outdoor basketball court was poured and small rooms were added connecting the three smaller buildings providing another classroom and faculty offices, and turning the 3 buildings into the one E shaped building that you see in the Google earth picture. This google earth picture was taken in 2006 and is still the one they have up today.

After this picture was taken in 2006 PIU-Guam enrollment steadily increased from about 60 to over 130. This necessitated some scrambling to make a campus designed for 35 accommodate almost 70 on campus and over 60 commuter students. Two houses in the neighborhood were rented and are outlined in green in the updated picture. Two temporary buildings made from shipping containers, the Cannex houses 12 male students, and the Dinex which was originally slated to be a cafeteria was adapted to become the computer lab. Finally this last summer a pavilion was added to provide the students with a gathering place. (sorry my paste in of pictures of these new structures is not too professional)

It is clearly time to expand the campus. We believe that with an expanded land area and upgraded facilities we could be providing excellent Christian higher education to 300-400 students by the 2015-6 school year. The blue outlined area in the picture above is a 3.6 acre property adjoining our current site and is available for us to purchase. The drawing to the left here is a rough outline of what we would like to do with our current and the adjoining properties. The acquired property facing Route 15 would become the front of the campus with with the administration building, library complex, academic building and faculty housing unit all facing the entrance. The current property would become the student living area with a student center and cafeteria built in the current open area. We believe that such a facility would not only meet the educational needs of our students, but would also be a tremendous benefit to the local community.

With our current facilities strained to the breaking point and plans to expand our programs and diversify our student body, we need to expand our facilities soon. We know that God provides the means for what He calls us to do, so we are trusting him for them or to provide another direction to proceed.

Below are some recent pictures of our facilities....
Welcome to PIU. This sidewalk runs in front of the academic, women's dorm and administration building. 

This is the building that looks like an "E" from above. 

The pavilion serves as a gathering place for the students, a place to eat a meal or a shelter from the rain.

On the left you can see the C-Annex Men's dorm which houses up to 12 students.  The building on the right contains the library, main men's dorm and a faculty apartment. 

Here is a closer view of the Cannex. We will need to do some major repairs on this building this summer and in the long term would like to replace it with another concrete men's dorm. 

The computer lab. The wooden deck also provides bleachers for watching basketball or volleyball games. 

Another shot of the main classroom and admin buildings. One thing that we rarely lack on Guam is greenery and blue skies!

Monday, February 15, 2010

PIU Challenges for 2010 #4 - Staffing

For PIU to be what we believe God is calling us to be it is going to take a lot of people. As the school grows.. if we are going to continue to be a place where Student Development takes place as faculty and staff work closely in relationship with the students, we must keep the student to faculty ratio low; if we are going to continue meeting the challenges of accreditation, we need to continue to bring in quality faculty, administrators and staff; and for the school to grow to meet the challenge of diversifying our programs, student body and staff we will need to continue to recruit quality people from all over the world to join the PIU team. The key asset of any college or university is its faculty and staff, and God has already provided PIU with many outstanding people.

We are thankful that God has already assembled a great administrative team here at PIU. It seems like Steve Stinnette (VP of Advancement) and I have been here at PIU since before Magellan came through, but God has added a great group to our leadership team recently. Dr. Eric Sorenson became our Seminary Dean in 2008. Melody Plaxton has been on our faculty for 3+ years, but just this year moved up to the Academic VP position. In August, Rob Watt moved up from our facility in Palau to head up our Student Life team and Lisa Collins was hired as our Director of Libraries. Our most recent hire was Nino Pate who leads our assessment and planning efforts. Nino is working for us now from the Philippines as we wait for his US visa to come through. Our biggest need in administration is for a Chief Financial Officer. Harumi Eliason has done a great job for us as an interim CFO but is only available through the end of April. We are now looking for the person God has called to this position.

I am also thankful for the highly qualified Bible and general education faculty God has brought our way. All of our graduate faculty and 42% of our undergraduate faculty have doctoral degrees. But more importantly, all of our faculty are committed to sharing not only information, but their lives, to minister to and mentor the students. This is something we don't want to lose as the school grows. We want to have enough faculty so all the students are able to have real relationships with faculty members. We are thankful that we have new Bible, English and Counseling faculty committed to joining us for the 2010-11 school year. Our greatest need is to find an elementary education teacher who can help us start our new teaching program. As we expand to the liberal arts we will also need Christian teachers in several disciplines who want their teaching to be a ministry.

Finally, the staff are also a key component to the success of the mission of PIU. The Student Life and office staff are the ones who most often are dealing directly with the students. It so cool that our Office Manager, Celia Atoigue and our Financial Aid Director, Delight Suda, are able to, not only help the students navigate paying bills and getting federal grants, but are also able to minister to the personal and spiritual needs of the students.  As we grow we will need more staff like them who desire to share their lives with the students.

We are confident that God is going to bring us the additional people we need to make the vision he has given us happen, but we need to do our part to go out and find them.

PIU Challenges for 2010 #3 - Diversity

One of the most wonderful things about the Christian gospel is that it takes people who are far away from each other in culture, language and even geography and makes them no longer strangers and aliens... but instead they become fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. (from Ephesians 2.17, 19). Whenever the Spirit is really working we see people from very different backgrounds and with different approaches to life learning to love each other and to work together to build God's Kingdom. Our goal is that life at Pacific Islands University would reflect this kind of unity in diversity. We believe God placed us in a unique place to make that happen because Guam is one of the most diverse places in the world.  

So our third challenge is that PIU would be at least as diverse as the island of Guam....

One area in which we need to increase our diversity is our student body. Originally PIU (in the MIBS and PIBC days) was founded to train leaders for the Micronesian churches founded by Liebenzell Mission in Chuuk, Palau and Yap. Thus, last semester, though we have students from more than 10 countries and four continents, about 70% of our students are from these three island groups. Now we don't want to decrease the amount of students from Chuuk, Yap and Palau. In fact, we would like to increase the number of students we serve from there at both the Guam campus and in the teaching facilities that we run in all three places. But we would also like to see more students from the other Pacific islands and Asian students reflecting the Filipino, Korean, Chinese,and  Japanese communities of Guam. We would like to see more American and other Western students who would like to get an American accredited education in an island culture setting, as well as serving the military community on Guam. We would especially like to serve the needs of the local people of Guam so they would not need to leave the island to receive quality Christian higher education. My dream is that PIU would be a kaleidoscope of all the people groups of the Pacific. Not only will this move us toward fulfilling the Great Commission, but I believe the original Chuukese, Palauan and Yapese students and communities will have greater benefit from their PIU education. 

We also must widen the diversity of our faculty and staff. Originally, most of the teachers and staff were Liebenzell missionaries from the USA and Germany. Most of our staff is still from these two countries. In the last few years we have been recruiting staff and faculty from the islands and from Asia. This effort is hampered somewhat by the fact that about half of our staff has raised their own support to come to PIU and are not paid by the school. We are excited to see churches from Asia begin to get involved in PIU and to support faculty members from their own countries. As we raise funds to pay local staff and faculty, we hope to bring in more local members to the PIU staff and faculty team.   

Finally we need bring more diversity into our programs. Originally PIU was set up to train only leaders for church ministry. We quickly found that as we graduated students with their bachelors' degrees in Biblical Studies, most of them were being employed in schools, businesses and government. It was clear that we needed to train our students for service in the wider community, and we are responding by widening our scope. We began with service minors within the Bible program that provided a nucleus of training in a specific area such as Teaching English as a 2nd Language or elementary education along with our church ministry minors. Last year we added the Certificate in Basic English, which is a remedial program to prepare students for entrance into higher education or the job market (We will be running an intensive CBE program this summer on the Guam campus.) We are planning to add an education major in 2011 and a Liberal Arts major soon after that. As God brings us the people and resources, we are committed to being a leader in meeting the needs of the region to train its young people to serve out of a foundation of a biblical world view. 

There is a lot of variety in the Kingdom of God and I am excited to see PIU becoming a more diverse place too. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Voices of Micronesia

As I have mentioned in several previous posts, the Pacific Islands University traveling ministry team, now known as the Voices of Micronesia, is raising funds for a ministry trip to the US Mainland. Their support brochure can be read and downloaded here: (Sorry about the ads there. They are Google's not mine) We would appreciate your support and prayers for the Voices of Micronesia Team. If you would like to have the team appear at your church or have any questions about what they are doing please contact me at

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Goodbye Perry

This afternoon the staff and students gathered to say goodbye to Perry Webb. Perry joined us on the PIU campus from Oregon about 4 weeks ago as a volunteer to work with our maintenance director Tim Plaxton. Perry has completed several much needed projects and we have been thankful that he has been able to get to so many things that we just didn't have the manpower to do. In addition he has been a real encouragement to the students and staff as he worked, hiked and hung around with staff and students. Even with all the work he put in, Perry also got around the island quite a bit and was able to take in Guam's beauty above and beneath the water line. Thank you Perry! We hope you will be able to come back and see us again.

There are several opportunities for short or long term volunteers at PIU. We could use one or two office workers or bookkeepers and are always in need of people who can fix things that 120 students (and occasionally staff) break in the course of a semester. If you are interested to check out volunteer service at PIU send me an email at

Monday, February 08, 2010

PIU Super Bowl - Birthday Party

As is our annual custom we canceled our Monday morning administration meeting to meet at our house for the PIU super bowl party. In the Guam time zone, the live Super bowl broadcast began at 9 AM on Monday. Since the Super Bowl is usually the same weekend as my birthday we make it a combination Super Bowl and birthday party. Mr. 49er potato head pictured here was my birthday present. Since our assistant Dean of Women, Daisy Murdock, also has a birthday this week it was a birthday party for her too. Joyce made my favorite triple chocolate cake (with chocolate pudding, chocolate chips and chocolate icing) which she only makes once a year for this occasion. This year the addition of Rob Watt's chicken wing cooker brought much more variety to our wings for breakfast tradition. We were pretty much evenly split between Saints and Colts fans. Here are some pictures from the celebration...

Daisy and I pose for a picture before we open our presents. 

I love my 49er Mr. Potato Head. The 49ers are #1 and Joe Montana is the greatest quarterback of all time. 

Everyone had a great time and enjoyed another highly entertaining Super Bowl
Tim Plaxton enjoyed the game but is still disappointed that the Rams moved out of LA. Jo Romaniello was disappointed that Guam does not get the American commercials. 

Joyce's birthday was two weeks ago but she is still opening presents. 

Saturday, February 06, 2010

PIU Challenges for 2010 #2 - Accreditation Responsibilities

A few weeks ago I began a series of blog posts on the challenges we face at PIU in the year 2010 with a post on the challenge of student development. I promised future posts on other challenges, but challenge #2 - accreditation responsibilities- has been occupying so much of my time lately I have not had time to write the post. We began the accreditation process with the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) back in 1999 when we became a candidate for accreditation. Since then we received full accreditation in 2004 and were reaffirmed for accreditation as an  undergraduate and graduate degree granting institution in 2009. Last year we had an evaluation team from TRACS come out to Guam to thoroughly assess every aspect of our program. They left us with 39 "recommendations" for areas of deficiency that we needed to work on before we met with the accreditation commission in November. We completed our response to the recommendations and met with the commission where we received our reaffirmation. However, the condition that TRACS placed on our accreditation was that we continue to work on 33 of the 39 recommendations and send them a second response on February 15th.

So we have been working hard the last few weeks on revising Handbooks, Catalogs and other documents, working on long range plans, recruiting and hiring for positions that TRACS is asking us to fill and getting our written response ready for February 15th. I am happy to say that we are about 95% ready and should have no problem getting everything emailed with hard copies in the regular mail before the deadline. God has given us some great staff and administrators who have done great work to make this happen and I am thankful for their hard work.

A couple weeks ago I was talking with a Christian leader about what we are going through to get this accomplished and he questioned me about why we are doing it. He felt that accreditation was a waste of time. I thought about it a bit after he asked me. After all it is a lot of work. The easy answer is that it provides our students with eligibility for federal programs to finance their tuition and makes the school eligible for federal and foundation grants. This is a very important part of our strategy to make higher education accessible to the people of the Pacific islands. But there is a much more important reason that we maintain accreditation. Accreditation holds us accountable to provide EXCELLENT higher education to our students. We believe that our students are just as capable as those from any other part of the world and deserve an education that stretches and challenges them just as much as any school on the US mainland. We do not believe that "Christian" education should equal "second rate" academics. We have improvements to make in this area but I am amazed at how far God has brought us since 1999. I am also proud of our graduates who have gone on to advanced degree programs in the US and done well. Even though it is a lot of work, I believe that this is the best way to serve our students and the communities where they live.

Friday, February 05, 2010

An Average Day for a Birthday

So today was my birthday and of course everyone is asking me how it feels to be a year older and, of course I am saying that I don't feel any different. I guess when I think of the years in chunks of 10 I do feel different. (36 years passed between the times these 2 pictures were taken) 10 years ago I was playing basketball 3-4 times a week and pastoring a church, neither of which I do now. And even though I am still one year away from the senior citizen discount at the movies, 54 is not a bad age to be. Even though my knees hurt for days if I try to play basketball (it was 10 years ago when I tore up my knee) I am not really limited at all physically from what I want to do. I have a great job/ministry here at Pacific Islands University where I get to interact with young people every day and have co-workers and friends that are like family to me. It is such a blessing to know that what we do has eternal meaning and purpose, even when I am stuck in the office for a couple weeks like I have been getting handbooks and 5 year plans completed. Joyce and I have had a few years now without kids around to get to know each other all over again and are more in love than when we married 30+ years ago. We'll go out tomorrow night to celebrate both of our birthdays, have a steak and salad, and take a walk on the beach. So on my birthday I spent the morning in the office (budget meeting, board meeting preparation) went to the Guam minister's meeting for lunch, did some class prep in the afternoon and attending a student meeting in the evening. It was pretty much an average day for me. But an average day in a place you love doing what God made you to do is a pretty good day. So, I suppose, happy birthday to me!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

February Prayer Requests

We are already into our 3rd week, and already past our 5th or 6th barbecue I think, of the semester. As I shared with our staff last Sunday night at prayer meeting, I am very excited about how God has been working in our students and the new staff and faculty he has brought our way. There are a lot of exciting things happening on campus that I will be blogging about in the near future. We are thankful for your faithful prayers for us and I know that a lot of what we have already seen happening here is a result of that.

Here are a few of our urgent prayer needs for the next few days and weeks....

  • Students: We have several students who are struggling with their school bills. We are praying for God's provision. We are thankful that several of the students have seen God provide already.
  • PIU Traveling Team will be ministering on the US Mainland this summer. They are beginning the fund raising process and need to raise their airfare to the US (about $1800 each) by the end of March.
  • Immigration: We have one staff member for whom we are working to get a visa. We hoped to have him here already but it looks like we may have to wait at least 60 more days. We also have one student who is struggling with visa issues. They both want to be here and we would like to see both of them here.
  • Accreditation: Our response to our accreditation evaluation must be turned in by February 15th. We are about 90% ready to send it but we are still racing to get every paper in proper order. Pray for our staff who are still doing all the normal daily running/teaching/discipling and working on this on top of that. Our staff is doing great work but we all need an extra dose of Divine strength. 
  • Partners: We are looking at some opportunities to partner with other schools and organizations. We would appreciate prayer for wisdom as we discuss how we can partner for God's Kingdom with these groups. 
  • Board Meeting: Out PIU annual board meeting will be February 24-27. Please pray for our board as they make several important decisions for the future of the school and for the administration as we prepare for the meeting. 
We believe that God has called us to serve at PIU and we desire to be guided and empowered by the Spirit of God as we move forward.  Thank you to everyone who is praying for us. You are an important part of what God is doing here