Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and in teaching. (1 Timothy 5:17 WEB)
As a teacher at the Summer Institute for Pastors held on the island of Pohnpei, I was considered an honored guest by the islanders and the students at the seminars. Sometimes it can be a lot of fun to discover new traditions in new cultures. Discovering I was in a position of honor was unique. I didn’t know how unique until the last day of the seminary. The day a teacher departed was a day of celebration with gifts given and honor shown to the departing teacher.
There were many “Thank you” and “Please come back” comments. During my two weeks of teaching we developed a bond between cultures founded on the Word of God and our faith. A number of island crafts were given to remind me of my time in their midst. One gentle servant of God presented me with a hand carved wooden fish. The surface was carefully smoothed by brush strokes from a palm branch. Still others presented necklaces of sea shells and other items they valued in their homes.
One woman soaked a fragile handmade headdress of flowers in perfume all night to place on my head and show honor to her teacher. The wave of perfume rolling down my face was almost suffocating but I dare not remove such a show of distinction. Another loving student created similarly fragranced lei from the luscious island flowers.
After all the goodbyes, thanks and a time of food and fellowship I was placed in the back of a pickup truck. I leaned into the wind as they drove around the city and surrounding village. I was on display so all could see the teacher who came to help them learn more about God and how to serve him. Needless to say I was a touch and embarrassed by all the attention. I only came to the island to serve God with the gifts He gave me. This demonstration I wasn’t expecting.
The pickup trip ended at the airport where all the students, friends and other curious islanders, watched until I climbed the stairs of the airplane and it took off toward my home on Guam. I watched them gathered at the runway fence smiling and waving until we were out of sight. As I sat back I was thankful for the overpowering fragrance of the flowers. A number of passengers, all from a tropical island, added to the airplane’s internal smell and it wasn’t good. Here was a small blessing in the form of fragrant flowers.
As I climbed off the plane Beth had the most unusual look on her face. I forgot about the leis and crown of flowers on my head during the flight. I think seeing her husband with a flower wreath on his head and shell necklaces was more than she expected. It was something new to remember.
I went to fulfill God’s call to teach and train others in the Word of God. I received a training course in cultural integration and cooperation. It wasn’t what I expected but exactly what God knew I needed. It’s nice when we can look back on obedience and see God’s hand in the results complete with flowers and fish.