54. Stepping Out in Faith

54.  Stepping Out in Faith

In her autobiography, In the Arena, the author shared that she was working in a village up the mountains when a runner from below came with the news that Japanese soldiers were coming.  They were burning, and killing many.  Her choices were poor; either wait for the soldiers, or go over the mountain.  The village guide told her that winter storms were starting on the mountain, so going up likely meant to die in the snow.  He would guide her, but expected to die.

After prayer, she decided to go over the mountain.  As they went, snow began to fall — behind them, covering their tracks.  They made it safely over the mountain out of China.  Her conclusion, and my encouragement, was that we have to go in faith as far as we can, and then God takes over.

We came to MIBS in faith, and certainly, as far as we could go.  Now the Lord had to take over to help us.

I came back from my little retreat in the woods, planning, in faith, to teach the course in communication, even thought my throat was still congested from the diesel smoke.  That night, they couldn’t start the generator, and, even with parts flown from Guam, they could not start it until after we left.  At last, no diesel smoke, and I could talk and begin interacting with the students!

I was advised that I should never be alone with a female student.  They had to wear ankle length dresses, even swimming.  The first class day, I sat down on the curb at the entrance to the classroom to greet the students.  They came in crawling on hands and knees.  I asked Lima, who spoke English, what was going on.  She told me that students are never to have their head above the teacher’s head, so they had to crawl because I was sitting down low.

There were 12 juniors and seniors in the class from Palau, Pohnpei, Yap, Truk, and the Marshall islands.  Lima, from Palau, and Paul, from Pohnpei, who also spoke English, helped translate when the other students couldn’t understand.

At last!  We could function and teach.  But apparently, that was not our main purpose there.  We were to learn about ourselves, and God.

For what we learned, check in next week.

53. Truk – MIBS

53.  Truk – Micronesian Institute of Biblical Studies

Finally, we got our flight to Truk, landing at Moen, the major island of Truk.  Truk Lagoon is a sheltered body of water in the central Pacific located mid-ocean.  The atoll consists of a protective reef 140 miles around.  The atoll consists of seven major islands, forty-six small ones inside the lagoon, and forty-one islands on the fringe of coral reefs.

We were met by a German couple with Liebenzell, who would be our hosts until we could take the weekly supply boat to Tol, the largest inner island, where MIBS, the Micronesian Institute of Biblical Studies was located.  The supply boat was a small power boat belonging to the school, and we had a high speed, rough damp ride 20 miles across the lagoon to Tol.

Tol is a high island about 3 miles long, and 1200 ft high at the central mountain.  MIBS was a 4 year college for church lay leaders.  Isolated at the base of the mountain, and set on a bay in palms and jungle, the terrain was rough, beautiful and quiet.  No cars, (no roads) no phone, no electricity during the day.  Down a path into the jungle, there was a small village of makeshift tin buildings.

The campus had a chapel and 3 main buildings: a monstrous cement men’s dorm; a two story multipurpose building with dining room downstairs, and a library, office, conference room, and faculty apartment upstairs.  Down a hill, there was another two story building with girls dorm and faculty apartment upstairs, and two classrooms downstairs.

Betty and I stayed in the apartment by the girls dorm with our hosts long time missionaries Wayne and Doris.  I slept on a single spring bed.  Betty slept on top of a big packing crate.  There was a two burner kerosene stove and kerosene refrigerator.  The school generator came on at night for two hours so students could study.  Daytime temperature was a humid 86 degrees, and plummeted at night to 84 degrees.

Water off the roof was caught for drinking and cooking.  I stepped into a shower stall, soaped up, and then Betty dumped a bucket of cold water on me to rinse.  A small stream gurgled close by the building, and the girls brought their clothes and pounded them clean with rocks from the stream.

The Lord provided plenty of good food…sometimes with delightful timing as we were sitting down to eat…. cooked taro and bananas, fish, sweet potatoes, fruit, papaya, and guavas; plus the dehydrated food we took with us.  We also sprouted some alfalfa for salads.

We experienced a fabulous up-lifting total Christian environment. Daily chapels, bible study, devotions and prayer together with the missionaries and students brought us more in touch with God than I can recall being in a long time.

Beautiful place.  Wonderful people.  But I was in trouble.  As soon as we got off the boat, I was wobbly, and had to be helped up the hill to the campus.  Our host got me a mop handle to maintain my balance.  My allergies started acting up.  Our accommodations were downwind from the nighttime generator, and my throat swelled from the diesel smoke until I couldn’t talk.

Because I wasn’t talking, the students were bewildered, and wondered if I was unfriendly.  I felt I was failing and defeated because I could not do what I thought I was there for.

I grabbed an old book from Wayne’s shelf and went up in the thick trees behind the men’s dorm to read and pray.  The book was In the Arena, the autobiography of a missionary with Inland China Mission at the beginning of WWII when Japan invaded China.  The story in her book taught me a lesson about how God works, and I felt encouraged.

I prayed to God for help, and asked “God, please protect me from the diesel smoke.”

There is the setting and the situation.

To learn how God answered my prayer, come back next week.

52. Nan Madol – 8th Wonder of the World

nan-madol-entry51.  Nan Madol – 8th Wonder of the World

Betty and I had a day more to wait on Pohnpei before our fight to Truk.  At breakfast, we discussed what to do that day.  The motel manager asked, “Would you like to see Nan Madol?”  “The boys will take you.” “What is Nan Madol?”  She told us that it was an ancient city built on canals in the swamp.  It is across the lagoon, so maybe you could stop to swim coming back.   Sounded interesting, so, sure, let’s go!

We grabbed our snorkeling gear, and climbed down the steep hill to get into a long rowboat with a motor.  The route went through a culvert under a road, and across the lagoon, where we could see a hut and a man sitting on the end of a pier.  The boys had told us that the man claimed to be the last decendent of the ancient tribe that lived at Nan Madol, and we were to pay him $2.00 admission.nan-madol-inside

We next passed through a wall of greenery, and emerged in a checkerboard labyrinth of canals that stretched away in to the swamp.  Each square piece of land, or platform, probably had a hut built on stilts.  Now they were just covered with leaves.

The boys pulled the boat up to rocks next to a breach in an eighteen foot high wall built of huge blocks of stone.  We climbed up the rocks and were in a huge walled fortress or temple that was about 50 yards long and 30 yards wide.  How the big stones got there is not known. What happened to the people who were gone is not known.

The main city of Nan Madol was on the shore at the eastern end of the island.  The great walls and network of canals stretched about a mile long and half a mile wide.  That is where the tour boats took the hotel guests from the town.  The fortress we saw was inland on the lagoon, so we had a special experience.

coral-reef-pohnpeiOn the way back, the boys stopped the boat at a small islet.  They pointed where to snorkel, and said they would go around the other side to fix something to eat.  When we slipped into the water we saw the most gorgeous virgin reef growth imaginable!  There were coral fans, and green plants waving to the small colorful fIsh that flashed in the growth.

On the other side of the islet, the boys had speared several small fish, and thrown them on a fire.  We just scraped the charcoaled skin and scales off, and picked the meat out with our fingers. Delicious!

A grey squall came at us, and suddenly we were heading full throttle in a blinding rain!  We could see only a boat length ahead, and the culvert I remembered seemed smaller and smaller as we sped across the lagoon.  Our boatman “nailed” it and we went through the culvert without any adjustment in direction.

Our wetsuits saved us from getting chilled in the cold rain.  We were glad to get back to the motel and have some warm rice.

Next, on to Truk!

51. Trip to Pohnpei

pohnpei-motel51.  Trip to Pohnpei

Our second try to Truk took us island-hopping westward across the Pacific.  We touched down at Johnston and Kwajalein military base islands; and at Majuro in the Marshall Islands.

Our first stop was Pohnpei, a beautiful high island where we stayed in a thatched roof hut motel high on a hill with a fantastic view over the lagoon.  Each motel unit was a wood floor with 1/2 walls, no windows, and thatched roof.

To shower, one stepped from the wood floor of the hut outside unto stones cemented in the ground.  At the top of a pipe from the ground was a shower head with a string attached.  Pulling the string produced a shower of cold water.  Remember, this is the tropics, and cold water was refreshing.

We met with a local minister supported by the Women’s Mission Board in Honolulu, so we had something to report to the Woman’s Board.

wall-hanging-pohnapeOne of the other guests had a car, and asked if Betty would like to ride to the Kapingamarangi village craft shop to look for a souvenir.  Kapingamarangi is an small isolated atoll in the tropic zone, and the villagers who had migrated to Pohnpeii had set up a craft shop to help make their living.

Betty took the offer, and was disappointed that a UN delegation had just about wiped out the store of anything nice.  A little girl saw Betty’s disappointment and disappeared, to return shortly with a large round rosette of native materials and shells that her grandma had just finished.  “You like?”  The rosette now adorns our living room wall, and is a treasure.

One day we took a walk up a steep road to have lunch at a local restaurant.  The special that day was coconut crab; named because it is big enough to climb palm trees and feed on coconuts.  Feeling adventurous, Betty ordered one.  It was served on a huge turkey-sized platter.  The crab shell was hard, and Betty murmured, “How do you get in this thing?”

The waitress overheard, and came to the rescue.  After a “May I help you,” the waitress grabbed a butter knife by the blade and attacked the crab vigorously with the handle, cracking the shell.  Betty tore it apart, and the meat was delicious.

Next, come with us on a wild trip to one of the wonders of the ancient world!