Friday, June 16, 2017

I wish I could remember or find the exact wording. I'm sure it is better than mine. Warren Wiersbe once said something like, "Living by faith is trusting without scheming." I know all of us are tempted to scheme--to figure out ways of doing it on our own, but it seems to me that missionary work provides a particularly fertile patch for Machiavellian plotting. When I can't sleep I come up with some doozies.
Lately, I have been reminded, again and again, of my inadequacy. I heard another preacher, one time, talking about the first Beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3). He pointed out that the word for poor in this passage describes a particularly abject condition, "a zero with the rim kicked off." An honest evaluation of my situation brings me to that conclusion. My pockets are empty. 
In that situation, I can go one of two directions:
I can scheme. I concoct scenarios in my mind that would make Charles Ponzi blush. My mental blueprint would make Rube Goldberg proud (wait til later to watch this example). The problem is my convoluted scenarios have no basis in reality and are often just a bit on the wrong side of what is right,
Or I can trust God. One of the things that makes trusting so hard, is trust begins with an admission of my own lack of power, ability, and control. Children naturally trust because they know they can't. For we adults to trust, we have to get past the illusion of our own capability. The Apostle Paul wrestled with that in places like Romans 6 & 7, especially 7:18, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.” (Romans 7:18, NASB95), and Philippians 3, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,” (Philippians 3:7–8, NASB95)
I ask for prayer to this end, and I offer this Yoda-like exhortation:
Scheme not. Trust.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Latter May Update:

I write from my son, Chris's apartment in College Station, Texas. We arrived back in Covington the night of May 1. I'll be back in Guam on June 2. Kathy will follow about a month later.
After caring for some home-owner stuff in Covington, and working on IRS forms, FUN, and preaching at our home church, Covington Bible Church, we traveled to Louisiana to see Chad & his family, and then made our way, here. It's a full time, but good. thanks to the internet, I've been able to stay in touch with what's going on at PIU, and I've worked a couple of hours most days. We worshiped at the "First West, Fairbanks," where Chad pastors and were able to hear him preach on Mother's Day. Then yesterday we heard Christ preach at Grace Bible, College Station, where he and his family attend. That's pretty special.
Over at the "The View Through My Keyhole" I posted some thoughts about the church and a class I'll be teaching later this summer.
We appreciate your prayers for us.

Friday, April 14, 2017

April News/Prayer Letter

Dear, Howard

Yesterday, we worshiped with our "Guam church," Faith Presbyterian Christian Reformed Church, at our Good Friday gathering. It is good to be reminded of the great sacrifice made to secure our salvation. In the morning Howard will be speaking at an outreach service that Calvary Baptist Church is having on Ypao ("ee-pow") Beach. It will be a different Easter morning, but we are looking forward to it. We pray for you, as you celebrate the victory over sin and death.

We thank the Lord that we are healthy. Other than one day that Howard had with some kind of bug, we haven't been sick. Kathy is convinced that just after sunrise is the best time to walk. Howard is not so sure, but he has been getting up to go walk with her most mornings. Our lives have become more routine. Howard goes to the office at least five days a week and teaches class twice a week. Kathy is involved in a variety of activities. Lately, we have been involved in a remodeling project. A missionary family will be moving on campus in June. Together with maintenance director, Jonathan Heimbach, we are doing some upgrades on the apartment where the Tavarez family will live. Kathy should start some painting after Easter.

Some things about what we are doing:
We are privileged to work with a great group of staff and students. All our staff, whether missionary, like us, or hired by PIU, serve sacrificially. Please pray for them. Our students represent several people groups, and nations. For almost all of them, English is a second, or even third, language. One way or another, all of them will function in a world where English is necessary. It is a struggle. Our goal is to give our students a Biblical worldview. In the next fifty years, the world where these students will live, work, and serve the Lord will change in ways we can only imagine. What we know for sure is that there will be a need in that world for people who are grounded in God's word, and able to minister effectively in church, at work, and in their communities.
That's what we are up to.

Praise and Prayer:

  • We praise the Lord for good health.
  • We are very thankful for an excellent spirit among the staff.
  • We thank the Lord for partners like you.
  • Howard is preaching on the beach, Easter Sunday.
  • End of school year crunch for both students and staff.
  • Dave Owen, PIU President on medical leave, continues to be treated for cancer. Pray for progress.
  • Kathy and I will head to VA on May 1. I'll be returning to Guam about June 1. Kathy a week, or several, later. She'll be attending a 90th Birthday celebration for her Aunt Bernice in Alaska. During May we'll visit Chad & Chris, and some other relatives. Please pray for a travel packed time back in the states.
  • The needs of PIU continue to be great. We have key staff positions to fill, financial needs, and we want to reach out to the potential students with whom God wants us to work.
  • Pray for the class of 2017.
  • Several PIU students will be going to Schooley's Mountain NJ for a summer internship with Liebenzell Mission, USA. Pray that this will be a great experience (If you would like to help make this possible for some sharp youngsters, please get in touch with me. The students need to raise the funds for their airfare to NJ.)
With our change from part-time to temporary full-time status, we need to raise some additional support. Our Pastor, Doug Williams would be glad to discuss this with you. You can reach him at  or 540 965 4256.

We trust that you have a great Easter full of worship of our Glorious Lord and time with loved ones. You have probably seen the video below, but it serves as a good reminder of just Who our King is.

By His Grace,
Kathy & Howard

We will continue to post information about our mission venture at  
We receive postal mail at the University address:
Howard and Kathy Merrell
c/o PIU
172 Kinney’s Road
Mangilao, GU 96913


Friday, April 7, 2017

It Takes A Team

Kathy and I are in our fourth month of this round of ministry. More than the other opportunities we have had to serve in what we used to call the "mission field," this tour of duty has involved a great deal of teamwork. In fact one could almost say that we, Kathy and I, aren't doing much of anything. We are helping others do a lot.
Some days I'll spend a couple of hours writing a fairly simple letter. I don't think it's because I'm getting old. It's because the "team" with which I work is far-flung and varied. Some who partner with us, or are potential partners, are, for one reason or another, on the fringe of our circle. A wrong word could move them out of the circle, a well-chosen word might pull them toward the center. Sometimes the letter goes to more than one person; each of them has their own set of sensitivities, their own history, and concern. I can be the "tie that binds"--as in "Blessed be . . ."--or I can be wind that scatters.
I spend a good bit of time in meetings. Collaboration, consensus, and working-together is the order of most days.
Even the things I do on my own, often have the goal of encouraging, motivating, or equipping others. One person cannot do this by him or herself. Even a bunch of people all working side by side, but disconnected, won't get the task accomplished.
Providing education to the underserved communities in Micronesia requires a variety of skills. Those skills are packaged in a multitude of different personalities, and each of us changes from day to day as our life-circumstances, and those of the people around us evolve from one thing to the next.
I just read a blog post about how many churches in their strategies only want to support a particular kind of ministry, and missionary. The author, a missionary herself, working with TCKs (third culture kids) clearly and skillfully points out that those ministries that church mission committees often consider to be front-line, where the work really gets done, and worthy of support, can't function without a whole bunch of other servants who serve in less glamorous (by mission-strategy standards) roles.
I praise the Lord for those 21st Century Livingstones, Taylors, and Slussors, who plunge in alone and get the job done. But I am thankful to be part of a team, that is making a difference in this part of the world. In a few weeks, we'll turn a batch of graduates lose. They'll do God's work in various ways. Some of them will do so with distinction. At some point, someone may ask one of them, "How is it that you are able to that? Who taught you?"
Likely they will reply with the name of some favorite teacher who had particular impact, but the true answer is, "We did." We working as a team, from the guy who mows the grass on campus to the administrators who make decisions. Pacific Islands University is a team.
I think most mission work is that--a team.
Some of you who read this are an important part of Kathy and my team. You pray for us and support us. Thank you very much. We are proud to have you on our team.

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.