Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Boonie Stomp'n Expedition #1

Occasionally you need to have an adventure, right? Well just this past weekend Ryan and I went on a hunt to find a school where I had a meeting, whole different story, but as we ventured down the crumbling pot hole filled disaster of a thing they call a road here in Guam we passed a familiar site. For those who share with me the love of the mountains you too will find it familiar to see a slew of cars pulled off the side of the road with no one in sight. Yes, its a trail head! I about jumped for joy as I have heard there are multiple places to go hiking but 'you must go with a local or you WILL get lost'. 

So Sunday we enjoyed breakfast and then decided to embark in our first adventure of a local favorite past time, Boonie Stomp'n! With a backpack stocked with snacks, water, a flashlight, goggles and camera, we head off to the recently discovered trail head. 

Pagat Caves was our destination. The trail was pretty well marked. As I explained it to a friend from camp "If you thought coming down from the Rappel Trail with the new fence with no gate that the BGTC put up was difficult, then you should come try to follow the neon pink tree flags on Pagat Trail. I'm pretty sure I walked in circles the entire way down." Tree flags were tied everywhere to mark the trail, I would look to the right and see tape leading up that rock, Ryan would look to the left and see tape leading across a few low limbs. One might say "Emily, just walk straight." Well that falls into a cave that is too dark to see the bottom. And who in their right mind would think that I would go into a cave that I know nothing about. Come on people, there could be bats in there. 

Keep in mind Guam is just a big piece of coral. With the slightest bit of moisture the algae comes out and the trails become treacherous. We gracefully slid down the muddy parts, climbed between low hanging branches, used our Spiderman skills to get up and over rocks and opted to skip out on the few incredibly scary looking caves we passed. But finally, "I hear it, oh wait, I see it... the PACIFIC OCEAN! Ryan you owe me ice cream for seeing the ocean first" (I'm still waiting on my ice cream.)

The view was beautiful. The ocean was a deep blue. The sky just above us was nothing but a gorgeous Carolina blue. In the distance there was a storm brewing. Looking down the coast line reveals no signs of civilization. The coral cliffs offered a place to explore and relax as we watched the waves crash on the rocks below. The cliffs are a favorite place to jump off into the deep pools below, but with the storm the ocean was as rough as I have ever seen. No better way to spend a Sunday than out on the coast with no one else in sight. A peaceful escape from life.

We enjoyed about half a hour out on the cliffs. I was certain that the storm out in the distance was coming towards us. Ryan assured me it was not. Only when out of no where the wind picked up to a flat out cold 45 mph  did we turn around to see the other storm coming over the mountain behind us. At that point Ryan agreed we needed to head back. We made it just under the tree cover before the Heavens opened up and the rain poured down. 

Needless to say we made it back safe and sound. The hike back was somewhat like trying hike up Sliding Rock. Every step we took forward we must have slid back 3. By the end, we were drenched, muddy, pretty stinky (see picture on the left) and thrilled with the completion of our first 'Boonie Stomp'.

There will be many more Boonie Stomps in our future. Some are easy enough to navigate yourself, others need to be led by a local who knows which tree to turn by, all are guaranteed to provide wonderful stories for us to share with you. Until next time, we will try not to slip down a mountain, be blown of a cliff, or end up covered in mud on our rock in the middle of the Pacific.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Seeking out God and His people in Guam

Well hello faithful followers. It's been a while. I apologize. So as I've been talking with different friends back in the states the same question is asked over and over. "Have you guys found a church to get plugged into?" I always have the same response. Let me tell you about our hunt for a church.

I am not going to mention the names of the churches. They will simply be church 1, church 2 etc. No need to name names. Just enjoy the adventure. 

So going all the way back till the first week we were on the island. I spent many hours on the computer while Ryan was at work, seeking for a place to learn, grow, and serve. At first it seemed nearly impossible to find anything online. Once I found a list of Churches, I realized it included any "house of faith" you could think of. Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Seventh Day Adventists, Baha'i, Islamic... should I continue. With this being an island nation with a long history of Catholicism, the 'protestant' churches tend to be more 'non-denominational' and a little more difficult to find. 

The first church I was able to find some solid theological information on happens to be a Baptist church. We examined their website and opted they would be Church 1 to visit. The website was promising. They have a 'contemporary' service, a school, a Bible college, and a radio station. The first Sunday on the island we ventured off to find Church 1. We made our way into the building. By all appearances it looked very 'American'. As we sat there in the pew, taking everything in, Ryan leaned over to me and whispered, 'they have an organ'. Not at all that there is anything wrong with an organ, but it is not quite what we would be looking for. By the end of the service we agreed it was not the place for us. Basically the only 'contemporary' thing is they project the hymns they sing onto a screen. 

Back to square one. I decided to email Manna Church (were we attended in Fayetteville). I explained we had recently moved away from the area with the military and asked if they, by chance, had any suggestions about a church in Guam. You know the military has to network for everything. The youth minister from Manna emailed me back and suggested church 2, which happened to be planted by the same couple who introduced him to the lead pastor at Manna. We decided to check it out.  As we walked into Church 2 it was full of people in the island attire and certainly seemed to be a celebration atmosphere. The music was hoppin', the people were jumpin'. However, they don't have a child care system for children over 2. I know it sounds petty, but as Ryan said, 'I stayed distracted by the kids'. 

Church 2 is part of a church planting ministry who happened to plant Church 3. We went there for Easter. It was very similar to Church 2 plus a children's ministry. We were told several times that they service was different because of Easter. So the following Sunday we ventured back to Church 3 with hopes of hearing the lead pastor preach. Unfortunately, it was a guest speaker. We agreed it was the best option, thus far. However, there were several places I had seen signs for that might be worth checking out. 

That week I looked up what would be Church 4 and Church 5. What I found stopped me dead in my tracks. Church 4 is a denomination that does not match our beliefs. Bummer, because I was very hopeful that it might work out. Church 5 was advertised as a 'coffee shop' or 'warehouse' church. I thought for sure it would be reaching the non-traditional and diverse population of the island. Unfortunately in my research I found it is actually a cult. Thank God for his protection and provision. 

Feeling totally discouraged we decided to spend Mother's day at the beach on base. I don't normally encourage people to skip church, but this worked out well for us. While we were soaking in the rays, people began to gather down by the water. Okay, not unusual. But what if I told you they were all fully dressed. Not really what you want to wear to the beach when its 90 degrees outside. I became intrigued, put my book aside and watched. Soon I saw 2 men in white robes come down through the sand. It didn't take long to figure out that the group congregating were there to witness their friends walk through the waters of baptism. I sat there, smiling to myself, watching new believers follow their savior in a symbolic representation of their faith. As the baptisms ended people were just standing around talking. I walked to the waters edge and asked 2 ladies, about my age, where they went to church. They explained that everyone there went to 1 of 3 services at the base chapel. These two ladies go to a service at the Lighthouse. It is a coffee house church, originally designed to reach the single and unaccompanied airmen. Over the past year it has grown and now is home to single, unaccompanied, newly married, young families, and anyone else who would like to join. We were invited to join the following Sunday at 6:00 pm. 

So what did we do? We went. It is an intimate settings, focused on community, designed to introduce people to, teach about and grow in Christ. So far we have really enjoyed it. It's not traditional church, but it is a place where we can develop relationships and help new believers grow in their faith. 

Through the Lighthouse, I met a few women involved in the PWOCPYOC (protestant youth of the chapel), on base. Do I really need to tell you how excited I was? They meet a 7 pm on Thursday night. Awesome! I found a place I can get plugged in. 

Just to show you how awesome God is, that very first Thursday Ryan and I had planned to check out the youth group, I was called to substitute. I walk into the assigned class and met Jacob Dowdell. He went over the days lessons and left me in charge. At lunch I was talking to another teacher who I met at PWOC and she informed me that Jacob is the youth pastor. Crazy small world! When Ryan and I arrived at youth, we ran into another couple who recently moved here from Pope AFB and were eager to get plugged in. As the 4 of us walked in the front door there stood Jacob. He looked at me with a confused expression and I explained we are all new to the island and are here to help. He explained how the couple who usually helps is off the island and he was just standing there praying to God for help to get through the evening. He had no idea how he could set up, pick up food, lead worship and teach, and clean up by his self. By the end of the time, Jacob and I decided to meet Friday after school to talk a bit about the youth group and about me. No youth minister wants some random person working with his kids. While we talked Jacob shared he is not only a 3rd grade teacher and youth minister, but also the drama club sponsor, middle school girls soccer coach, and high school football coach. I think I found a way to get connected to everything I love. 

Since then Ryan and I have been spending our Thursday evenings with the youth group. They are teens struggling with the same issues as every other teen, but they also face the stresses of military life. I have had the chance to teach twice. The girls are eager to learn how to fit in while still living a life for Christ. Hopefully this weekend will be a great learning experience about that as I am walking out the door to a girls retreat hosted by the PWOC for the youth group girls. 

As always we covet you prayers as we seek God's will for us on our rock in the middle of the Pacific.