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.

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)