Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Project to help PIU move into the future:

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October 4, 2017
Dear Friend,

Let me get a few preliminaries out of the way.
Kathy and I, thank the Lord, are well.
l had the privilege of preaching at the Lutheran Church of Guam, last Sunday, the first Sunday of a month-long recognition of Luther's part in the Reformation. I had to work on my sermon Saturday, but we took time to go to one of Guam's most beautiful places, Ritidian Beach.
The class I am teaching is going well.
Administration at PIU continues to be a challenge. By God's grace, we are doing well. I think we are making progress in several areas.
Dave Owen is, now, in the bone marrow transplant program at Stanford. His will be an autotransplant. (His own bone marrow, healthy after recent chemo, will be reintroduced after his present stem-cells are essentially killed. (It's more complicated than that, but that is the short version.) He and Joyce were able to go to San Diego to see their son's family. Grandkid time is a good prep for a strenuous medical campaign.
We enjoy our church, here. For the last two weeks of October Kathy and I led the singing. We are in a rotation. As I said I preached last Sunday at the Guam Lutheran Church, a thoroughly Evangelical group.
We are back to just the two of us being in the little apartment. A guest teacher had been our house guest for a month.

The main reason for this note:
Since you keep up with what we are doing, you know that finances at PIU have been and are a problem. In most college settings there is an advancement department, which oversees grant requests, fundraising, and public relations. At present these tasks land on my desk. I am able to call on whoever I can to be of help, but we don't have anyone who is doing this as their main task. It is easy to get into a dog-chasing-its-tail syndrome. We need money. The Advancement Department should do something. We don't have an Advancement Department. Why not? Because, we don't have money.

Notice the tongue hanging out?
Not good.

To keep the canine image going a bit longer, it is said, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." Well, unless this old dog is going to wear a donut-shaped groove in his office floor, he has to learn a new act.

I came up with the Coffee with the President campaign.
If you are interested I can tell you about the thought/ideas that went behind it. For now, just remember these points:
  • From the viewpoint of fundraising principles this campaign has to make meaningful contact with 10,000 people in order to work
  • It is set up, not to seek large gifts from a relatively small number of donors, but gifts of various sizes from a large (for us) number of donors.
  • Our goal is not to just seek one-time gifts that will get us through the current rough patch, but to build a far greater network of friends, who will support us in prayer, with their good will, and financial gifts.
I'm not asking our supporters to become givers in this campaign. You are already supporting PIU by supporting us. Thank you.

If you are not supporting us, I assume that you are on this mailing list because you are interested in what we are doing. You may choose to partner with us by joining the CwtP campaign.

Mainly the reason I am sending this letter to this group of friends is to ask you to help me reach out to that 10,000.
I don't know 10,000 people, but collectively we do.
Some of the people in your network are interested in helping people where opportunities are limited.
Please share the CwtP material with them.
I have tried to make that as easy to do as possible.
You could share the Coffee with the President video with them. It is less than 6 minutes long.

Or you can direct them to PIU.edu, and tell them to click on the "News" tab. Thefirst item is a brief announcement of the campaign (They'll need to click "more" at the end of the summary. The news item contains links to the video, as well as to some other web-based articles that explain the program. This link goes straight to the "News Release."

Knowing that some people want a lot of information about a campaign like this, while others take the "Just the facts." approach, I have chosen to break this campaign into a number of pieces. On the same YouTube channel that contains the above video, you will find some testimonies from PIU alumni that tell about the impact Pacific Islands University had in their lives. And the impact they are having as a result.
I also set up a blog that contains a description of the CwtP campaign. It will also serve as a place to post updates about how the campaign is going.
So a person can choose to read or watch, or both. They can look at a little or a lot. And if you/they don't find what you/they are looking for, you/they can write our Advancement Director--oh, wait, we don't have one, so--write me.

So, here is what I'm asking you to do:o
  • Please pray for the success of the Coffee with the President campaign. I'm praying for more than $60,000 over the next year, and at least 1,000 partners who will pray with us and support us in various ways.
  • Please share this opportunity to invest in PIU with those in your network who might be interested. Share a personal note, let them know that this is a ministry you support . . . I'll list the various links below, so it will be easier for you to copy and paste.
  • Continue to pray for Kathy and me. We appreciate your support.
Here is a list of the links that will take you to the various items related to the Coffee with the President: If someone starts on any of the URLs above there are links or prompts that will lead them to everything else.

Thank you for any help you can give PIU in expanding out base of friends/supporters.

Here is a follow-up on the wild things and threats mentioned in our previous prayer update:
We didn't see it, but we are quite sure that on a recent morning walk we heard a wild pig grunting. Bruce Porterfield has nothing on us.

The threats from North Korea continue to elicit yawns from my neighbors, however, the plight of the people of NK continues to be a matter of major concern. See here for more.

Thank you so much for standing with us.

By His Grace.

172 Kinney’s Road Mangilao, Guam 96913 / 671-483-0371 / 540-784-1195 / hmerrell@piu.edu / Skype, howard.merrell
Howard and Kathy Merrell
c/o PIU
172 Kinney’s Road
Mangilao, GU 96913

Monday, September 4, 2017

A Mission From God:

I was privileged to speak in Chapel at PIU this morning.
I really appreciate the students giving their attention as I shared.
We looked at Matthew 10 and noticed some parallels between the mission on which the Lord sent the Apostles and the one that we find ourselves on.

Really, I had less of an introduction than a ramping up to the main point of the message. I pointed out that PIU finds itself in a hole right now. The good news is I think we have stopped digging and are on our way out. We have a ways to go, though.

There is a lot of difference between Matthew 10 and our situation. The students I was speaking to aren't the Apostles and I'm not Jesus. They were leaving on a mission trip that was part of the Lord's ministry. We are beginning a new academic year. Still there are parallels and areas of overlap.

Jesus broadened His scope far beyond His earthly life and the immediate mission on which the disciples were embarking. He envisaged the prospect of future hostility from both Jews and Gentiles, both frustrated family members and officials in high places with legal authority to persecute and potentially condemn Christ’s followers. 
(Blomberg, C. L. (1998). Matthew. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 412). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

It is clear that when you get past v. 16, Jesus is talking about something and someone beyond the group that was going out that day. What Jesus predicted would happen is seen in the book of Acts, and in church history down to the present.

Clearly the overlap between what Jesus told the Apostles and us, is that like them we are being sent out to change the world. Some folk have the idea that what God’s people ought to do is to huddle together for protection, hoping that the devil won’t get us.
Listen, young people. I’m really glad that you are here, but you are not here just so you can be safe. We brought you here so you can learn to be dangerous, so you can go out like the Christians after the day of Pentecost and turn the world upside down for Christ.

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
“For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.
(Matthew 10:34–36, NASB95)

Like Jesus, I am asking you to go on a mission.

A Mission that Will Result in Radical Change: The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. V. 7

A Mission that is Marked by God's Power and Authority:  

A Mission that Requires Trust in God:

A Mission that Hard, but it Cannot Fail:

Here is the question you have to ask yourself.

What I am proposing is frightening. I'm convinced that these guys were afraid as well. I think this because 3 times Jesus specifically told them to not be afraid, 26, 28, & 31.

  • V. 26, It's hard to be brave when people you love are telling you that this business of following Jesus doesn't make sense. Jesus says, I've got your back. I won't let you down. You follow me and in the end it will be clear that you are right.
  • V. 28, Don't try to make this say what it isn't saying. What it is saying is something like this. Don't fear that gecko that is smaller than your finger. Fear that 2,000 lb. crocodile that is in the floor in front of you. I don't want to give you the idea that God is out to get you. He isn't, but he is to be feared, as in respected, and, therefore, He is to be obeyed.
  • V. 31, Don't be afraid. You are more valuable than anything on earth.

The mission these guys went on was hard and dangerous. 1800 years later the mission that brave women and men went on to bring the Good News to these islands was also dangerous. Aren't you glad they did, though?
I believe for us the big Mission, what we usually call the Great Commission, and the mission before us meet right here.
I could be wrong, but I believe what PIU is doing, and what is happening in your lives because you are here, is part of God's bigger vision in Micronesia and beyond. The mission I'm asking you to take is hard. For some it could cost you friends, or even come between you and loved one. Some helpers of mine are going to give you a piece of paper that will tell you specifically what this mission entails.


My Mission from God Commitment:
By God's grace, I'm committed to do my best to make 2017-18 the best academic year at PIU that it possibly can be. I'm making this commitment because I believe God is preparing me this year to do great things in His service. Here are some of the steps I'm committing myself to. I believe these will help us have an outstanding year.
  • ·       I'll take advantage of the opportunities for spiritual growth that are put before me. Things like:
                 Dorm devotions,
                 Prayer times, K2 and PIU Days,
                 Personal quiet time with God.
  • ·         I'll be an agent of peace, not discord, in class, the dorm, in sports, and whenever I am with others.
  • ·         When I have problems or concerns, I will bring them to the proper person. When others misrepresent my school, I will humbly and respectfully offer correction. Mostly, I will live and serve in such a way that their criticism will not stick.

·         I'll pray for PIU, and for all who are a part of it.

I'll do these things, because together with the others who step up to make this commitment,
We are on a mission from God.

If you want to have some fun, especially if you are of a "certain age," watch this.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

September Prayer Letter from the Merrells

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September 2, 2017
Dear, Friend,

I thought that in this report, I’d tell you about some of the dangers and hardships that we face as missionaries.
  • Like carrying water that collects in a bucket and taking a sponge bath.
  • Or having a yard is full of animals, and just a few yards away, creatures that live to kill.
  • Or beginning our day with a three mile
    trek through a nearly impenetrable jungle.
  • Or living under constant threat.
  • The other day there was a flood. Fortunately, though water was close to our door, our home was not flooded. I did have to remove my shoes and socks and wade water to get into my car.
  • In addition to all of that, I’m being persecuted by government bureaucrats.
All of those things are completely true, sort of.
I did take a bath out of a bucket, but it was only because Alex Tavarez, a missionary partner, and I were working on some plumbing. We needed to wait for the glue to cure before we turned the water back on, and I needed to get ready for a meeting.
There must be a million geckos in our yard. Dani Tavarez and I have spotted a monitor lizard. I’d say he’s about twenty inches long. It was obvious that he didn’t want anything to do with me.  We do walk about three miles most mornings. It’s our regular exercise. An abandoned road not far from here is a popular place to walk or jog (see herehttp://sttaspots.blogspot.com/2017/08/you-can-tell-lot-by-how-someone-walks.html, for some people-watching observations). The wild things are “boony-chickens,” just like the chickens your grandma keeps except these live on their own.  The killers next door are roosters raised for the fighting ring. It’s legal on Guam. The constant threat is seen by most as little more than a joke. I haven’t observed anyone change their routine because of Mr. Kim’s bluster. When it rains heavily, the low spot in our yard floods. The car was surrounded. Our apartment was never in danger. Persecution? I was helping a friend who needed a transcript sent to a Seminary in another nation. It had to be aposealed, and red-ribboned--half a day, two governments, four offices in two locations. It’s in the mail. I grew up on stories of missionaries in pith helmets who rode in dugout canoes, and ate things that caused those who heard their stories to go, “Yuck!” Me? The only problem with my diet is too much good food. Still, we do face difficulties.
  • We are trying to operate PIU with few resources and no clear way to expand that supply.
  • Many of our students come to us with poor educational backgrounds.
While our students come from families that are very close and supportive, they often do not see education as a high priority.
  • We are partnering with churches that are seeking to lead people through the transition from a pre-modern world, into the rapidly changing Twenty-first Century. That is hard enough in the West where we have had a gradual build-up to the way things are today. On the one hand, there is a sweetness and innocence about the young adults with whom we work. On the other hand that is accompanied by a vulnerability. We are aware that what happens in the lives of these Millennials may impact this region for the next hundred years. We want to help them get it right.
You don’t spot a missionary by their clothes, house, or car (By the way, ours is “island casual,” a nice little apartment, and a twelve year oldFord Focus that does quite well). 
Missionaries are folk who “have been called by God to a full-time ministry of the Word and prayer (Acts 6:4), and who have crossed geographical and/or cultural boundaries (Acts 22:21) to preach the gospel in those areas of the world where Jesus Christ is largely, if not entirely unknown (Rom. 15:20)” (Herbert Kane, missiologist).

Kevin DeYoung expands that definition. Looking at the missionaries who went out from Antioch (Acts 13), he sees a “three-legged stool” of missionary work, “New converts . . . (Acts14:21), new communities . . . (v. 23), and nurtured churches – ‘strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith’ (v. 22).” So:
A missionary is one who has been called by God to a full-time ministry of the Word and prayer, and who has crossed geographical and/or cultural boundaries to preach the gospel in those areas of the world where Jesus Christ is largely
, if not entirely unknown, and/or one who crosses those same boundaries to disciple converts and help provide the resources necessary for the gains achieved through evangelism to become a sustainable movement—
disciples who disciple others and churches that plant other churches.

It is within that addition to Kane’s definition that Kathy and I work.Specifically we are seeking to raise up capable workers and leaders who will lead the church into the future. Thank you for partnering with us.
  • We are well.
  • At work, at home, at our Guam church, and across the ocean, we are surrounded by people who love us, and encourage us.
  • It has been said that some teachers teach classes and others teach people. We go beyond that. We seek to change lives.
  • We took three days off to celebrate our 45th anniversary, August 12, Mr. Kim caused a minor interruption, but not bad(http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/cwn/2017/august/guams-christians-respond-to-north-koreas-threats-in-a-powerful-way).
  • We praise the Lord that we came through the recent financially difficult time. We aren’t out of the woods, yet. We currently have sixty-four students.
Please pray with us:
  • Student recruitment. Pray that we can get traction.
  • Our new LMUSA missionary partners, the Tavarezes, are a breath of fresh air. Pray that they don’t get over-committed.
  • Some of the students we work with have serious issues. If we don’t succeed with them, their options are very limited. Pray for wisdom.
  • In the small group that Kathy and I attend we have been working through “Becoming a Contagious Christian.” Pray that we will have evangelistic opportunities.
  • I (HM) just taught my first class session of Survey of Christian Doctrine. Pray for me and the other teachers.
  • Dave Owen just began a new round of chemo-therapy, following the recurrence of his T-cell Lymphoma. Dr.s are hoping to do a bone marrow harvest for a possible transplant, later on. He and his wife, Joyce, are still in California. Please pray for them.
  • Tuesday, I'm privileged to speak in Chapel. I'll talk about how we are on a mission from God. We'll have some fun along the way. After all, one of the chase scenes in The Blues Brotherswas filmed in a shopping center where Kathy and I shopped as teens. My main intent, though, is totally serious. Please pray that students and staff will accept the challenge. 
Speaking of challenge: Be watching for a communication about Coffee with the President (or some such title). I'll be looking for a group of people around the world who will join me, donating the price of a couple cups of coffee each month to help us move forward with our mission. I'm praying that 999 others will join me.  I'm looking to folk like you to help me reach out to a broader audience. Be praying.

Thank you for partnering with us. 
Drop us a line or call us. We always enjoy hearing from you.

By His Grace,
 Kathy and Howard Merrell,

172 Kinney’s Road Mangilao, Guam 96913 / 671-483-0371 / 540-784-1195 / hmerrell@piu.edu / Skype, howard.merrell
Howard and Kathy Merrell
c/o PIU
172 Kinney’s Road
Mangilao, GU 96913

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Threat and a Prayer:

We have been busy, so we haven't watched the news much. It is possible that Kim Jung Un's threat to fire a missile at Guam is bigger news where you are than here. Here, everything is pretty normal. It hasn't caused Kathy and I much concern. 

I am disappointed that I wasn't aware that Mr. Kim was watching us. If
I had known he was I would have waved. I don't want to be unfriendly.
Mr. Kim, if you see this blog post, I hope this will correct my oversight.Hello.
Have a good, missile & bomb free day.
read article here)

Kathy, with her usual ability to plan better than I, just asked, "What would we take with us in case of an emergency evacuation?" A few papers, computers, passports, wallets.
So, we are trying to think sensibly. We are praying for the people of North, and South Korea. We have friends in South Korea. Pray that the threat will not unduly frighten people. At this point, there are students scheduled to fly to Guam for the beginning of the new school year. I see no reason for them not to. I don't even know if it is a consideration. Micronesians tend to deal with what is going on, not what is threatened to or looks like what might happen. In that way, they do a much better job than we Westerners of not being worried about tomorrow.
We just want to let you know we are fine. Please pray for those who must live under cruel leaders.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people.
Ask God to help them;
intercede on their behalf,
and give thanks for them.
Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority
so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives
marked by godliness and dignity.
This is good and pleases God our Savior,
who wants everyone to be saved
and to understand the truth.
(1 Tim. 2:1–4, NLT)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Tide's Currents around earth's tallest mountain:

The people of Guam like to say that Mt. Lam Lam is the tallest mountain in the world, if you start at the bottom, which is way under the Pacific in the Marianas Trench.

I don't know about, though one of the things we plan to do while we are here is to hike to the top of Guam's highest point. I do know that we immersing ourselves deeper in the lives of the students and staff here at Pacific Islands University. One of my tasks is communication. Here is the latest version the Tide's Currents, a quarterly newsletter that we send to partners around the world.
I hope you will enjoy it.

We continue . . .
By His Grace,

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.