Who satisfies your desire with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalms 103:5 WEB)
During our years living on Guam we met many people just passing through. Some just visited friends for a day or two and others were stationed their with the military or their business for a couple of years. Their different reactions to the island were interesting.
Some folks, stationed on the military bases only left the familiar confines of their compound as a last resort. Church was often a last resort. Thus, some of these folks attended our church and we got to know them a little better.
Those who lived in a compound, on a military base, or secluded from the rest of the island, had few if any, good things to say about the island. They didn’t experienced the wonders of the island but remained safe and secure in their familiar surroundings. The folks who took the time and effort to venture out, explore the island, meet the people, and get involved, discovered a wealth of fun and many fascinating aspects about Guam and the people.
Not everything on Guam was good in those years. Telephone dialing seldom reached the intended person. I had a theory. Somewhere in the main telephone exchange was a random number generator. As a call would pass through the exchange the dialed number would be used as a seed to generate a random number to some unknown home where you would be connected. The most common phrase heard when answering the phone was, “Whose this?”
Power outages were the norm. Outages were expected following typhoons. Unfortunately the power company was beset by a heavy dose of nepotism. Workers were often assigned tasks because of their relationship to Uncle Joe and not based on their ability to maintain the massive generators. One summer the power went off just before the Liberation Day parade, that’s in July. We figured; go to the parade, return home and the power would be back. NOT! Of the eight generators, yes we knew how many, where they were, and what they were named, they forgot to put oil in six of them causing them to come to a screaming halt. For months we enjoyed the power being turned on occasionally, not off. Power would be turned on at the house two or three times a day for an hour or two at a time.
Water shortages were expected once or twice a year during the dry season. We would wait for the heavy rains, the reservoir would refill and life would return to normal. During one long power problem the need for electricity overtook the need for water. Residents stole the generators from the water pumps to power their homes and left much of the island without water. We also operated a small generator at our home so the children could complete their homework using a light bulb instead of a candle.
All of these experiences, water outages, power outages, typhoons, random telephone calls, made life unique, interesting and sometimes down right annoying. However, there were many things which were down right fun.
One year my father sent the children a pup tent. As a young boy I went camping many times with my father. Pup tents were the way to go when you were trekking through the Appalachian Mountains or paddling a canoe in Canada. Now it was time to camp with my children on a tropical island.
Several times we ventured to the northern tip of Guam to camp with friends. All of these were great experiences for the entire family. We discovered the night flights of fruit bats, what sea creatures came out in the dusk and how often the security guard roamed the beach looking for trouble.
The beach was a common meeting ground. Often we’d go to the beach, fire up the grill and enjoy steaks or burgers in the open air. The children, not to mention Beth and I, would snorkel, hide in the shade in the middle of the day and pick fresh fruit from the local trees for snacks. Friends from the mission and church would meet us at the beach for an afternoon of fun in the sun.
One afternoon on the beach the children were swimming and building sand castles. Beth and I were relaxed in a pair of beach chairs under the shade of an ironwood tree. Actually, Beth was just beyond the shade in the sun enjoying the rays and I was hiding from the ultraviolet menace. I looked up and down the beach, watching our children enjoying themselves and looked at my gorgeous wife. With a relaxed sigh I said to Beth, “Some days dear, it is tough suffering on the mission field for the Lord.” We both laughed then went to the shore to enjoy the water.
Cookouts with short ribs, burgers and chicken, camping on the beach, snorkeling and swimming were a delightful gift from the Lord on our small island. When the power failed there was usually a breeze on the shore. When the water ceased to flow in our home there was plenty available in the ocean. When the typhoons blew over the trees, God grew another forest.
Taking time to explore the island, meet the people and gawk at God’s beautiful creation was well worth the effort. Getting involved with the local schools was also a delight for the entire family.
Throughout the years we had children in five different schools. One year we had four children in four different schools. This was a logistical nightmare when it came to parent teacher night!
In Elementary school our children experienced the Guam culture including riding the ubiquitous Carabao, eating coconut candy and the many local fruits. By the time Ellice was in High School they were part of the local Chamorro culture. Through their involvement opportunities arose to share the Gospel.
Ellice discovered the wonder of bands and instruments. The Oceanview High School band was no match for many of the slick and polished bands I remember in the USA, but, they had a big heart. Ellice’s talent with a flute and piccolo earned her a spot on the all island Honor Band and a chance to play at the Governor’s Mansion
The mission was also a source of activities beyond the daily work of the ministry. As a staff we were a close knit family working toward the same goal of proclaiming the Gospel using our technical abilities. Not everything was work, work, work, sometimes there were opportunities for fun and fellowship.
More than once we held costume parties to celebrate anything from holidays to missionaries coming and going from the field. One evening we were seriously in search of a murderer in our midst. Clues were planted throughout the office building implicating one of the members of the staff in a dastardly deed. It took more than an hour for each team to find the bits and pieces and pin the blame on someone.
There was a heritage night, complete with costumes. Another costume night referenced favorite fictional characters. Beth and I chose Running Deer and Falling Rock, the famous pair of Indians often seen, as indicated by the signs, along so many U.S. highways.
Christmas on the beach, staff socials, cookouts, camping, typhoons, all were part of the interesting goodies on Guam. The work of the ministry required long, hard and tiring hours. Striving to bring the salvation message to people we never saw was difficult at times. Living far from family and friends added stress and sometimes a desire to be back on the mainland.
God knew these struggles and knew our needs. God provided an alternate family for fun, learning, fellowship, and encouragement. Our children were cared for, educated and, experienced events in their lives many people can never imagine. God cares for his people in ways we could never imagine.