Saturday, March 11, 2017

Newsletter, 3/11/17

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Dear, Howard

Since January 6, Kathy and I have been here in Guam working at Pacific Islands University. I have been serving in the absence of President David Owen, who is in California being treated for cancer. I've been teaching a class, meeting with staff, serving in a pastoral role toward the staff, and helping out as I am able. I retained my position as chairman of the Board of Trustees. As you can see from the email copied below, that status changed as of today.

On behalf of the PIU Board of Trustees, we are pleased to announce the appointment of Rev. Howard Merrell as Interim President of the Pacific Islands University, effective March 10. This decision was approved at the Annual Board Meeting on March 7-9, 2017.

Rev. Merrell has previously served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of PIU. He was ordained by the Community Bible Church of Posen, Illinois. He served as Pastor of the Covington Bible Church, Virginia from 1973 until the present and held the title of "Pastor", "Senior Pastor", "Co-Pastor", "Associate Pastor" and now "Pastor Emeritus". 

He earned a Bachelor of Theology degree from Appalachian Bible College and Baptist Bible College in 1974 and finished his Master of Arts in Religion at Liberty Seminary, Lynchburg, Virginia in 1995.

Please join me in welcoming Rev. Howard Merrell. He will be an outstanding addition to our university community and a tremendous resource for our students. 

So far we haven't had much time to think about the changes this will bring for us.Tuesday - Thursday was the Annual Board Meeting. I was still the chairman, so, especially since Dave is away, it was a very busy time. Today I had to get ready for class, and several people stopped in the office. Tonight was the beginning of PIU Days, a student-led three days of fun, encouragement, and spiritual nourishment. So we haven't seen normal yet.
We are still planning to come home early in
May, but will have a fairly quick turn around. PIU has historically operated as an institution staffed largely by missionaries. For several reasons we are reemphasizing that distinctive. Kathy and I will not be drawing any salary from the school. Please pray with us. We will be looking for some more partners to join us in this ministry. Some of our expenses will increase because of this change. There likely will need to be some new arrangement made for transportation and there could even be some change in our housing.
We are confident that this is the right thing to do. Please join us in prayer for wisdom and stamina. Pray for PIU. We have several difficulties to work through, including budget and personnel needs.

From Kathy:
We have felt your prayers and thank you for praying.  Though it has been a hard time in many ways we have found our PIU Days theme verse very true-- “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NASB95)  There has been peace and unity on campus among the staff, faculty & students and we are so very thankful.
Monday, we will meet for an orientation time and will find out more of what lies ahead.  We will need your
prayers to continue.  We pray for you regularly at home and before Howard's class.  The students have been introduced to each of you!  Know that you are a part of the ministry here at PIU! 

By His Grace,
Howard & Kathy,

We will continue to post information about our mission venture at  
Our Prayer card is copied at the top of this email.  If you don't have one, and would like to, let us know.
We have a Guam cellphone number, 671 678 2877.  You can call us voice and video on Facebook or Skype. We also have a Skype number. You can use it to call us from a landline or cellphone. It is a Lexington VA number, so it is toll-free for most of you, 540 784 1195.
  We receive postal mail at the University address.
Howard and Kathy Merrell
c/o PIU
172 Kinney’s Road
Mangilao, GU 96913


Monday, February 27, 2017

In the Role of Recruiter/Fund-raiser:

Years ago, I read about pastors, that they are like generals leading their troops into battle, while at the same time caring for the wounded. In a lifetime of pastoring I definitely found that to be true. Now that I find myself in this temporary missionary role of leadership in a small university, I find this image to be even more true. The people I work with, work hard. No one is going to get rich doing this, and since missionary-types tend to be strong-willed folk (they wouldn't come or stay if they weren't) sometimes personnel are wounded by "friendly-fire" as well as the arrows of the enemy. And, make no mistake, we have not lacked the "firey darts of the wicked-one."
In bigger institutions the roles are divided among various people. I don't want to give you the impression that I'm in this alone. I'm not. I have fine colleages. I just spent half-an-hour talking with one. But I definitely can't afford myself the luxury of just doing one thing. To go back to the image with which I started, I'm not only leader and medic, I also need to serve as recruiter. (Thankfully, a capable volunteer is helping a great
deal in this task.)
It is in that third role that I write today. Actually, to be more accurate, I write as fund-raiser--yet another role. In this case the fund-raiser and recruiter are closely related. You'll see what I mean.

The young people we work with at PIU tend to come to us with a great many problems. Many come from families that don't really work the way God intends families to function. Most come from poor educational backgrounds. Some bring problems that I shouldn't and won't talk about here. Our Student Development Department is absolutely key in our goal of offering a transformative
educational experience. We don't want to only turn out smart capable graduates, we want them to be emotionally and spiritually healthy. We want to infect Micronesia, and whereever our students go, with vital, flourishing Christian lives and families. We are refining salt, to make it saltier.

Stay with me, I'm going to loop back around.
Let me introduce you to Meleah Faith Tavarez. As I write from this side of the world, little Meleah is in a hospital Columbia South Carolina. The short explanation is that she was born with cysts in one of her lungs. The surgeon just removed one lobe of one lung to deal with that. We have good reason to believe that little Meleah will soon be playing with her siblings and that she will live a healthy and long life. Obviously, we appreciate you praying for her.
Meleah's mom and dad, Danielle and Alex, want to be our new Student Development team leaders. I'll share a website in a moment where you can find out more about them, but let me simply say, right now, that we need the Tavarezes on our campus at PIU, as soon as possible. More than that, if you care about pushing back the barriers of darkness in this world, You want Alex and Dani, and their kids here, working with the students at PIU. Because of our size, PIU cannot afford to simply pay all of the personnel we need to accomplish our task. A number of our personnel, like Kathy and me, serve here with a team of supporters behind us. THANK YOU! I'm writing this to encourage you to become a part of the Tavarez's team. While we need and want the Tavarez family to be here until little Faith graduates and beyond, right now my focus is on the 2017-18 school year.
We want to get Alex and Dani here as soon the medical team gives them the go ahead. In order to do that we need to get their support package completed.  The Tavarez family is receiving part of their compensation as a salary/housing package from PIU. The rest will come from mission support through Liebenzell Mission, USA (the mission with which Kathy and I serve).
To complete their support package the Tavarezes need an additional $1000/month. That's 10 units of $100/each for 12 months, or 120 units for 2017-18 (Dani and Alex need to be here this summer).

If  Dani and Alex had all their support provided today, they still couldn't buy tickets for Guam. We have told them that their main focus needs to be Meleah's health. They can't leave until the Medical team gives them a thumbs up. What I want to do is to make sure that when they do get that go-ahead that they can go ahead.
Would you do this, go to the archive of the Tavarez's newsletters, and get to know them better? You will see a link at the bottom of their newsletters that will take you to a page where you can give to their account electronically. You will also find that information on the LMUSA "Give" page. You will also find informationt there about giving by check or automatic withdrawal from your bank account. The Tavarezes also have Facebook pages with lots of pictures, here & here.

If you feel so led, go ahead and send your support to the Tavarez's fund, but what I'm asking you to do is a modification of Paul's instructions to the saints in Corinth: "On whatever day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that the collection will already be made when the go ahead comes. When I give the word, send your gift through those already approved, LMUSA. We'll send them with letters of rejoicing accompanying  your gift to the ministry in Micronesia" (from 1 Cor. 16:2-3, with apologies to the Apostle Paul).

If you have a question, or just want to talk, you can reach me at, or via Skype at howard.merrell.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Announcing the February 17 Edition of The Tide's Currents:

One of the bigger tasks that came to me during my first weeks here at PIU was the publication of PIU's biggest regular communication, The Tide's Currents. I think this is only the third time we have published this 8-page magazine-like letter. We didn't want it to die. We are currently functioning without a person to lead our Advancement Department (part of advancement is what we used to call "public relations"), so the flow of the Tide's Currents was pretty well in my hands.
This most recent publication is definitely a team effort. Thanks to Billy Edwin for most of the pictures, and to Hartmut Scherer for taking on the task of trying to take a good picture of me. Joshua Combs, did some of the writing, and the bulk of the layout. Dot Houde assisted with editing. Scott Refilong helped with compiling information and gave valuable input all along the process. Finally (well not really, because I'm sure I have forgotten someone) Mary Lou Caruthers, our campus Computer Psychologist, digitized the thing so I could put it in this link.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Practical Word on Dealing with Sin:

This morning in Chapel, Director of Admissions Joshua Combs shared a very practical word on gaining the victory over sin. I appreciated the practical nature and transparent honesty of his presentation.
Joshua talked about his struggles to gain the victory over sin in his life, and he shared with us some strategies he has learned along the way.
He only had time to share 2 of the principles about Dealing with the problem, #1, & #3.
One of the chief practical points that Joshua shared has to do with being willing to simply flee, as Joseph did, when faced with temptation. It is one thing to handle a relatively harmless brown tree snake. I think we might know a

couple of these people. However putting yourself in harm's way with some other reptiles is just not wise.

The second strategy Joshua shared is to stay spiritually fit. We need to spend time in the word and prayer.
I'm hoping Joshua will have the opportunity to share the other 2 points. In the meantime I hope the alligator doesn't get hungry.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

So far, by God's grace, so good.

Kathy and I have been in Guam at Pacific Islands University for a bit over a week now. We have been busier than we have been for a long time. I am serving in a somewhat undefined role as substitute administrator/part time teacher/pastor-encourager/general utility person (I've even done some maintenance tasks). Kathy is involved in many of those activities. As she has all of her life, she is plugging into relationships around her. She has done, and is doing a marvelous job of getting us set up and keeping us comfortable in the guest apartment here on the PIU campus, and, extremely important for me, she is an encouragement and stabilizing influence for me. Big smile, I'm not kidding, as I was typing those words, she came over and poured me some more coffee. We are currently sharing the apartment with Dr. Jim Sawyer, who is here for five weeks teaching Theology in our Seminary program.
Part of what we have had to deal with is an emotional roller-coaster ride. We are here because my good friend, Dave Owen, President of PIU, is sick. He discovered his ailment, yet undiagnosed, when he landed in the mainland USA for Christmas break. He and his wife, Joyce, were not able to return to Guam. You can read Dave's report on his health here, and a previous report from me on how I got here, here. Our presence at PIU-Guam is because of bad news. What we are doing is trying to insure that the Good News goes forth more effectively in a needy part of the world. I know it sounds Seseme Street-ish, but since we are here, we are not there. In our case there at least two "there"s. We miss oour home in VA, though at for the past week, our hearts have more often turned to Palau, where we were scheduled to be until a couple of weeks ago.
In the kind of situation in which we find ourselves, survival is the first measure of success.
We have made it through the first week. I was able to get a syllabus adapted to the class I am teaching and actually teach two sessions. I have participated in many meetings, some ad hoc--grab a couple of key people, and take 5-10 minutes to make up our mind--and others planned. I spoke in chapel, and led a prayer meeting. Like a guy trying to swim in rough surf, I have read a lot in preparation for the class, Critical Thinking, that I'm teaching. For a time the more I read, the higher the water of what I need to rose. I have managed to keep my nose above the surface. It remains a challenge, but I see glimpses of daylight. We have attended one worship service and a small group meeting of our church, here on Guam.
Perhaps we are like the guy who jumped from the twenty story building and made an announcement as he passed the tenth floor, but we are doing OK. We went on a date last night. Dinner and a movie. It was nice.


  • We have been received here with great kindness.
  • All of the staff have been great to us, but in particular I praise the Lord for the great relationship I'm building with VP for Business Affairs, Nino Pate', and Administrative Assistant Scott Refilong, a 2016 graduate of PIU, and a former intern at our mission, Liebenzell USA.
  • We praise the Lord for good health. We have done a pretty good job of walking for exercise.
  • This is by far the best experience we have ever had in getting over jet lag. We attribute it to the prayers of many being answered.
  • The survival story, from above.
  • (Above the din of roosters from the "farm" next door--they raise roosters for the ring, not the the table--I hear the cooing of a dove. Nothing extraordinary back home in VA. Here in Guam, though, the accidental introduction of the brown tree snake during the World War 2 era all but eradicated the bird population. Hearing the dove just seems like an indicator of God's grace.
  • It seems almost profane to ask you to pray for our health, when our friend is so sick, but we do ask that. I'm not foolish enough to think that I'm essential. I'm not, but a lot of folk are depending on us right now. Pray for Dave first, then for us.
  • Pray that we'll continue to figure this out.
  • Pray for meaningful, life-changing connections with students and staff.
  • Pray for the staff of PIU.  We are not the only ones who are very busy. Everyone, here, is carrying an extra load.
  • Beyond the survival mode, which requires a lot of our attention right now, there are bigger, longer-term matters, some of my colleagues are working on things that could change PIU for the better for decades to come.
  • One of Jim's students was visiting him, here in the living room of our apartment. This guy is already a leader not only of a church, but of a network of ministries. What we are doing has potential downstream that is beyuond what we can imagine.  Pray for our students.
Kathy and I are very thankful for those of you who partner with us in this venture. As we start each class session we remind the students that there is a group of people who make it possible for us to be here. We pray for you.

By His Grace,
H. (for K. too)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Prayer Update, A Change of Assignment

Dear, Friend,

As I have aged, my body has become less flexible.  Kathy and I are trying to remain spiritually supple. My Pastor, who spent most of his
adult life in missionary service, has often said that one of the greatest
abilities missionaries need is flexibility. Kathy and I feel like we have been doing spiritual yoga.
I need to give you some background so you can understand what is going on in our lives.  As you know, our involvement in Palau is working in the Pacific Islands University extension there.  We were planning to return to this lovely nation next week.  Several events have alligned themselves to bring us to a change of plan.  Last semester PIU's main campus on Guam was full of challenge for students, faculty, and staff. The difficulties to overcome included the absence of a couple of instructors.  It is good that Michael and Samantha Owen are in the US mainland while Mike does his PhD work. Good, but it causes an extra load for others.  Toward the end of the semester a key administrator and teacher decided to resign.  He leaves as a friend, but his absence will be keenly felt as we begin the spring semester.  Then, just a short time ago, we received word that our good friend, Dave Owen, President of PIU has a potentially serious blood disorder.  He had come to the mainland after the semester was finished to visit family and attend a wedding.  His legs were swollen so he visited a physician.  He is being referred to a specialist, will undergo a battery of tests, and has been told that his return to Guam is delayed.
With all of this, several people asked  me to consider a change of plan, to go to Guam instead of Palau for this semester. After prayer and counsel we have decided to accept this emergency assignment.  With the low number of students in Palau, we have known that such a change was a possibility.  We certainly didn't expect it to come this way.
We have spent a lot of time on the phone, reading and sending emails, and getting things figured out for this change.  After I finish writing this email I'll be calling United. I need to make some changes in insurance. A friend from Guam is visiting Palau. She is willing to pick  up some stuff that is stored there and bring it to Guam. Some of our associates on Guam are working out housing and transportation.  Our focus of training leaders for the church in Micronesia remains unchanged.  We'll be doing it in a different place.
Just to clarify, I will not be President, or even Acting President.  As far as title, I'll probably be referred to as Chairman of the Board, a position I have held for the last couple of years.  My goal will be to work with. I'll pick up some tasks that would otherwise not get done.  Kathy and I hope to have a pastoral role on campus. I'll be teaching a class.

You can decipher some prayer requests from the above narrative.  Here are some in bullet-point form:

  • Pray for Dave Owen.  We are praying that he will be able to see a specialist soon. We praise the Lord that he and Joyce are at his parents' home.  Joyce has decisions to make about when to return to Guam, etc.  Wisdom and healing are high on the list of what they need.
  • The staff at PIU functions under a cloud--I didn't mention that school finances have been extremely tight (Thanks to partners like you, our personal needs are being well-cared for. Thank you.)--so pray for unity and a good spirit among those who work at PIU.  Pray that Kathy and I can be a good influence.
  • Pray that we will be able to get everything done to make this change as smooth as possible.  Pray that we will be able to quickly settle in, get over jetlag, and get to work.
  • I'll be teaching a class--one I have never taught before--and Kathy will be seeking opportunity to have input into the lives of the students, especially the women. I'll be working closely with Nino Pate', the only administrator still on site.  I'll be involved in various meetings and conversations to see how to help, assist, and encourage. I'm asking for wisdom.
  • Pray for the situation in Palau. We regret that we won't be with our friends and colleagues there.  We were looking forward to teaching both in a couple of formal classes and with some church workers in a nonacademic setting.  Both are sorely needed. Our program in Palau was already struggling. Pray that we can find a way to get traction there.
Guam is the largest island in Micronesia.  It is a US territory, with a
large military presence, Airforce and Navy.  The native people of
Guam are Chomorros, but it is currently home to people from all
over Micronesia, including Palau, many Asian countries, and "Haoles,"
White people like us.  PIU's campus is roughly in the middle of the Island.
As always we are thankful and humbled to be able to partner with you in these endeavors. We pray that you have a blessed New Year.

Howard for both K & H

We will continue to post information about our mission venture at  

Our Prayer card is copied at the top of this email.  If you don't have one, and would like to have one, let us know.
We'll likely have a Guam cellphone number.  We'll let you know, when we know.  We'll be able to receive postal mail at the University address.

Howard and Kathy Merrell
c/o PIU
172 Kinney’s Road
Mangilao, GU 96913

Our email and Skype remain the same.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Doing Missions on a cold winter's day

On the other end of my living room two TV-trays are set up as a temporary work area.  We are send me a note.
sending out Christmas letters, prayer letters, and thank you notes to those who partner with us in our ministry.  It's quite a pile of paper, envelopes and labels, with a couple computers thrown in for good measure.  I'm going to take a batch of letters to the post office this morning.  We also sent an email version of our Christmas letter and missionary update.  If you didn't get one and would like one,

I'm very much aware of what a team effort missions is.

For most of my life I was involved on the other end of the process.  From the end I'm on now, I'm gaining a new perspective.  It is good.


I'm about to break a cardinal rule of blogging.  A blog post should only have one topic.
I just read an interesting article about reaching out with the Gospel.  The article describes the kind of work one of my sons is in.  Some colleagues of mine are doing the same thing on a smaller scale.  I'd like to think that Kathy and I are part of the same process.  Training leaders who can carry the process forward.