Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Monday, July 7, 2008

Seventy-nine years of the Gospel.

It was just my privilege to be in Palau for a little over a week. Yes, I did survive. In fact a week ago today I was enjoying a picnic on one of the lovely beaches in the Rock Islands of Palau. I understand it was one of the spots featured in the series. While I did enjoy the scenery, snorkeling, food, and the new experiences; that wasn't why I was there.

It is complicated as to how I got there, but I'm on the board of the Pacific Islands Bible College. The main part of our operation is on the Island of Guam--a USA territory, and the hub of the region called Micronesia. To get there go to Hawaii and keep going for another 4,000 miles, or head to Japan and head south for 1,500 miles or there-abouts. Overall the region is a big as the Continental United States, but all the land mass together is smaller than Rhode Island. As one would expect, because of the vast expanses of ocean that separate these Islands, there is a great deal of diversity among the people of this region. The following is not exhaustive; it represents my limited interface with this little-known (at least to most Americans) part of God's world.

Beginning in the 16th Century Portuguese and Spanish explorers made contact with the islands. The region was dominated by Spain until 1899.

For the next couple of decades Germany was the dominant influence.

In the World-War-One era the Japanese moved in. They developed many of the Islands militarily. On many of the Islands there were far more Japanese than natives. Their mark on the culture of the Islands can be heard in the languages, tasted in the food, and discerned in the phonebook by reading the names.

Most Americans are familiar with the War in the Pacific--part of World War II. Pelileu is part of Palau. The people of Guam celbrate not only the Fourth of July, but, also, July 21st--commemorating the American liberation of the Island from Japanese control. A friend of mine from Yap told me about how many of neighbors were made slave-labor for the Japanese military, and how he hid in a homemade bomb shelter during American bombings. The Chuuk lagoon is known as the Japanese Pearl Harbor. In Operation Hailstone many warships and transfer vessels were sunk. They remain until the present, making the lagoon a premier wreck diving site.

The United States was the controlling influence in the region following the war. That influence continues, even though the most of the Islands are now part of independent nations.

The Federated States of Micronesia is made up of Chuuk, Yap, Pohnpei, and Kosrae. There are nearly 110,ooo people who live there.

Guam is a US Territory, witch maintains a significant military presence there. The native Chomorro people are minority. You can shop at Kmart, eat at chain restaurants, and do other typical American things there. There are between 150, and 200 thousand people who live there. It is a horrible place to go bird-watching. The brown tree snake, accidently imported during WWII, has all but eliminated the avian population.

Palau is one of the smallest nations in the world. It has a population of 21,000. It appeared to me that all of them do nothing more than drive their cars up and down the main road in the Capital, Koror. : )

There are some other Islands involved, but since I haven't had much to do with them, I'll leave the research up to you.

PIBC is a college that functions in three different nations. The main campus is on Guam. We have a campus in Chuuk state and a teaching facilities in Chuuk state, and Yap state of the Federated States of Micronesia. We also have a teaching facility in Palau. That represents people whose primary language is Chuukese, Yapese, Palauan. The campus on Guam is also host to people who speak several other tongues. Instruction at the college is in English. Students have to pass a proficiency exam to enroll.

As I said, before I got into the geography lesson, I was in Palau because I serve on the board of PIBC. This year, so we could interface with a celebration of the Palauan Evangelical Church, our yearly meeting was held in Palau. Billy Kuartei, board member, pastor of Koror Evangelical Church, and Palauan president's chief of staff, was our host.

Meetings are meetings, so I won't bore you with the details. Bottom line, thanks to the dedicated, sacrificial ministry of the staff, the school is moving ahead with its mission to train servant leaders in this region.

Seventy-nine years ago missionaries from Liebenzell Mission (here is a link to the American division of the mission) Germany together with representatives from the Evangelical Church of Chuuk, brought the Gospel to the Islands of Palau.

Liebenzell published a book with an overview of the growth of the church in Palau. If you contact them at the address above, they'll help you get one. I don't know what they cost.

Today there are congregations in many of the communities.

As I sat in meetings celebrating the entrance of the Gospel to these Islands, and participated in a group discussion related to church issues, I was struck by several thoughts. Check back over the next several days, and I'll share some thoughts and questions for discussion.

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