Saturday, September 27, 2008

Links to Bryan College Chapel Messages

While Steve was at Bryan College two weeks ago, he spoke in their chapel services, once on September 8 and once on September 10. If you would like to listen to those messages, just click on either of the above highlighted dates, and you will be directed to the Bryan College website where you can then download the message to your computer, or click the play button to begin listening.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What's Steve Been Doing #3

My most recent trip was to Bryan College, in Dayton, Tennessee. This was one of my most favorite ministry activities of my entire time here in the States. I simply love visiting the Bryan College campus. I was invited down by long-time friend Matt Benson, the Director for Spiritual Formation there. Bryan College has sent out two mission teams to Micronesia in the past years. We even have a Bryan College student doing a 4-month ministry internship with our PIBC missionary in Palau, Rob Watt (see below in "What's Steve Been Doing #1"). This is also the school Amy first attended before she was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The campus is beautiful, nestled among mountains, and is itself located on a mountain. I always enjoy my time here.

Here is Matt (left), along with two of his three staff, Bryan graduates Danielle Rebman and Jessica Hundley. Jessica's boyfriend Joel, also a Bryan grad, is at the right.This is the third staff, another Bryan grad, Ben Norquist, with his expecting wife Ariel. Ben and our Amy were classmates several years ago, and met on a mission trip to Spain and Morocco. Ben invited me to speak in one of the classes he teaches, a Worldview class, which compares and contrasts differing worldviews with the biblical worldview. My stories from Micronesia provided a real life context for many of the concepts there were learning. Together, Matt's team is responsible for creating an atmosphere for spiritual formation in the lives of the Bryan students, mainly through chapel programs, student-led ministries (local and international), and student-led small groups with incoming Freshman. They train student leaders to assist other students in growing spiritually. One of the reasons Matt invited me down was to speak in a couple of their chapel services.

My theme was "The Power and Beauty of the Gospel" as lived out in the context of my life and ministry in Micronesia. I taught on 2 Timothy 2:15 illustrated with lots of stories about life and ministry in Micronesia. Real-life story lines, especially from the mission field, grab attention and provide the context for memorable application of biblical truths against the backdrop of post-modernism.

The auditorium was filled with 750 students and faculty. The second day was a great challenge for me because I had an enormous headache that kept competing with my concentration and focus. But the Lord proved He was the dominant power. My favorite part of the whole trip was interacting with students and faculty alike afterwards in the dining room as we ate lunch and discussed spiritual issues together.

Some of you will recognize Pam Davis at the left. She was one of the Bryan students who came to Micronesia on its first mission trip in 2004. She returned to Bryan, graduated, and came back to teach English at PIBC in Guam and on our Tol island campus for one year. She's currently pursuing her Master's degree and is teaching at Bryan's writing center. Here she is seated with three other Bryan faculty. One of the other things I enjoyed was interacting with Bryan's President, Steven Livesay, Academic VP, Cal White, and the Development Director, Jim Barth. They provided great fellowship and insight into improving our operations at PIBC. One of the things we talked about was inviting Bryan faculty to take a sabbatical and come teach at PIBC for a semester or a year.

I can't tell you how blessed and excited I was to see Emily Cook, a 2007 Bryan grad who also came to Micronesia on the 2004 mission trip. A Freshman at the time, Emily shared with me about her spiritual journey since that time of discovering God's goodness. She has since graduated, has spent 6 months in Peru teaching missionary children, and is back in the Dayton community following hard after God's heart and teaching English as a Second Language in a local school. I stayed with Matt and his wife, Melody (and their two sons, Jonathan and Joshua, and as of yet a third child, an unborn daughter!) in their home. My last evening there found me on their back, screened-in porch, amongst 15 or so student ministry leaders. I was asked to share with them a little bit about how they could develop leaders under them to take responsibility for their ministries after they graduate next year, since they are mostly seniors. Again, I cannot possibly communicate with you all the excitement and joy I experienced sharing what I have been learning in the mission field with the Bryan community, and all that I learned from them.

When my time was done, I boarded a plane and headed once again to Winston-Salem and Clemmons, North Carolina. My main purpose was to meet with a fund raising consultant to discuss a plan for private funding for PIBC. Then I met Walter and Teresa Falardeau for lunch at Salem Village. It was Walter's birthday. No age given!

And helped celebrate Anna Mayer's 13th birthday (she's in the green jacket next to me) with her family.

And Sonia Talato's birthday with her family and friend, Jeanne Runyun. Again, no age given!

What's Steve Been Doing #2?

One of the things I also did was attend a Fund Raising Conference sponsored by PIBC's accrediting agency, TRACCS, in Lynchburg, VA. PIBC needs to expand it's base of private funding and this conference provided some training on how to begin thinking about this.

We had another visitor from Guam - this time our daughter Evelyn came. She was here to take her final comprehensive exams for her Master's degree at Liberty University in Lynchburg. She studies and prayed and studied and prayed some more...and passed! We're proud of her. While she was here, we took her to New York City...

The skyline from a boat on our way to Staten Island.
After our arrival at Penn Station, Evelyn stands in front of her favorite store (way in the background) - Macy's!
At McDonald's inside Macy's.
Anne and Evelyn in front of a small waterfall in the plaza at Rockefeller Center.
Now I don't want to lose you here. It gets little complicated, but here goes. Even though the eye doctor has released me from seeing her and has given me clearance to return to Guam (as long as I can come back to see her once a year, and can see an eye doctor on Guam 4 times a year), and since I've finished my degree, the only thing that remains is raising a little more financial support. Maybe you "picked up" on that from some of my previous posts. Only the Lord knows when the support will come in. Until it does, I will be working for PIBC full-time, only from here in the States. How do I do that?
From a distance! I have meetings with the leaders on site in Guam via the Internet, conference calls via a program called Skype, via long distance phone calls, and emails. I have been given responsibility for two major areas - everything related to the students at PIBC (including equipping them, mobilizing them, and placing then in other countries on short-term and long-term mission trips), and everything related to the staff (a Human Resources function). In addition, I've been given the responsibility of helping develop PIBC's Fund Raising strategy. One of the things I did was travel to California, not only to visit with Matt and Amy, but to interview a man for the Fund Raising position, and to meet with my assistant, Hollie Schaub, who will do things on the ground on Guam while I help coordinate things with her from here in the States. Make sense?

So, here I am with Amy and her husband, Matt, in Sacramento. They also helped me try to raise some financial support. They arranged for me to speak in the church where they work, Matt as a Youth Pastor, and Amy as a young women's discipler. Here we are at a wedding ceremony in Redding that Matt performed. For those of you who are familiar with it, notice the "David Crowder" look.Maybe it's more apparent here. Matt is becoming a good worship leader as well as a youth pastor. His preferred instrument is the bass guitar, but he's also teaching himself to play the guitar. When I was there with them, I got to play the drums. Amy took me around to a few new places. Here we are in Old Sacramento.

This is Hollie, my "right-hand-man" I referred to above. One of the staff for PIBC, Hollie Schaub, has been working on her Master's degree from BIOLA in Los Angeles this summer. After her classes, she drove up to Sacramento and stayed with Matt and Amy for a few days so she and I could meet together. Her husband is a helicopter pilot in the Navy, on deployment somewhere in the world. They've stationed on Guam for the past almost 3 years.

One of the cool things that Amy did for me while I was in California was take me to my first ever professional sports event - an Oakland Raiders football game.

I had told her that one thing I'd like to do before I die was go to an NFL game. It didn't matter which one. Well, the Oakland Raiders were playing a pre-season game with the Arizona Cardinals that weekend, so we went. It was great!

I know it doesn't mean anything in light of eternity, but the fact that my daughter and I got to do something like this was priceless. As you can see, I'm also speechless!

What Has Steve Been Doing #1?

You mean, besides working 30+ hours per week trying to finish my degree (see post below - I finished!)? Well, let's see...

One of the things I've been doing to is leading devotions for the staff here every week (when I've been here) which includes worship (here with my 12-string guitar) and a short Bible study. Depending on what's going on here, there may be anywhere from 6 or 8 staff to as many as 12 or 15.

Sometimes we host staff, visitors and volunteers in our little apartment for a meal and some fellowship. Here is Timo, Anika and baby Sylvie, from Germany, who took a three month vacation from their jobs in Germany to come and volunteer here in the U.S. at the Liebenzell Mission headquarters.
A couple of times, one of our missionary staff in Micronesia who was on furlough in the States would come by the Mission headquarters and see us. Here Anne and I are pictured with Schooley's Mountain regulars Mike and Jane Galley as we have a nice lunch with one such Liebenzeller, as we are called. Rob Watt is the coordinator of our PIBC Teaching Facility on the island of Palau. He came by for a day, and we had a refreshing time of fellowship. Another Liebenzeller, Melissa Heck, was also in the States this summer. She is our PIBC Dean of Women at our Guam campus. She also came by to see us a couple of times actually, but alas! the picture we took turneth not out!

We have taken several "support raising" trips down south, mainly to North Carolina. We have become very close to two different families in Clemmons, and friends with many, many others. These two families have hosted desserts and introduced Anne and I to may of their friends to try and help us raise more support. Teresa and Walter Falardeau and their family have been a haven of friendship, dependability and fellowship for us. We had a picnic in the nearby town of Lewisville this summer and watched one of their daughters in an outdoor production of Oklahoma!

David and Jill Mayer, with daughters Anna and Christen, have hosted us the last several times we've visited. Their family has also been a haven of fellowship, support and friendship, all contained in a fun-filled family environment. Here the Mayers are pictured inside the unfinished new house they are building, and they let me help sometimes!

OK, so what's this? This a picture of the broken ankle of one of our new missionaries who lives in North Carolina and is currently raising her financial support to come to Guam to work at PIBC. Her name is Stephanie Cooper. I've stopped by several times this summer to train her in raising support, and encourage her when "things broke down!"

And of course you can't forget about family. Every time I go south, I visit with the Talatos, this time to help celebrate Krystal's birthday.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Anne's Guest House Ministry

Liebezell, USA's head quarters at Schooley's Mountain houses not only the Global Ministries offices that care so well for all us missionaries, but also a Retreat Center Ministry comprised of 2 facilities - a Guest House and a Camp on 150 acres of "perserved farmland" here in the beautiful mountains of northern New Jersey.

One of the privileges I have had here at Schooley's Mountain is to assist the wonderful Retreat Center staff as hostess for the Guest House. This involves greeting guests, get them settled, interacting with the kitchen staff and helping them by setting up the dinning hall and cleaning it after each meal, fixing salads or deserts, serving meals, assisting guests with needs they might have, and interacting with the guests.

One of the most exciting things about being at the Guest House is the opportunity to touch the whole world right here from this small NJ mountain top. Each weekend groups come from all over the Northeast (and sometime from around the country) to use the rustic facilities and quiet grounds for their church's or group's retreat. What's so exciting is that most of these groups are comprised of peoples from all over the world. One week we may be serving a group from Ghana, Africa and the next week, a group from the Philippines or Korea, and the next week one from various South American countries. Some groups are here just to worship and pray, some have restorative ministries, some are youth orientented, some are just for men or just for women, some are whole churches. But whatever the purpose or wherever they are from they have one thing in common. They want to help their people know and serve Jesus Christ better. What a privilege it is to get to know them and to serve them!!!

Most people coming to Schooley's Mountain think that Liebenzell is just a retreat facility with a strange sounding name. So during one of their meals here, I will share that Liebenzell is first and foremost a mission agency with a rich heritage dating back to the late 1800's. I will then share how God provided this farm that they are enjoying during World War II. I will then extort them to join with us in carrying out the worldwide ministry of Liebenzell, by taking what they are learning during the weekend and sharing it with the people around them.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Major Accomplishment - FINALLY!!!

Well, it was hard to imagine that I would ever be able to announce this, but now I can. I am finally finished with my Master's Degree! I mailed in the last assignment this morning. It was a comprehensive type of final exam covering all of my courses. I even mailed in my graduation fee. It's hard to believe. The last year and a half I've been working on it in the middle of dealing with the keratoconus in my left eye, which simply means my face was "glued" to the screen of my laptop computer almost the entire time. Literally, though, my face was about 8 inches away most of the time, even while reading the books. But rejoice with me! The Lord is good! He gave me grace and power. Many, many times I prayed, "Lord, would You please just give me some insight here? Would You please give me perseverance? I can't go on in my own strength!" And somehow, He always answered. It never felt miraculous, but as I look back over the years it took to get this thing done, it definitely was something where God took pleasure in being in the middle of.