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Old 07-19-2006, 11:56 PM   #1
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Ask the Missionary on a Pacific Island

This is a lot of new posting for me. . .but I'm finally "caught up" with the threads and ready to put some posts out there that I've been thinking about.

So here's one more:

Ask the missionary in the Pacific Islands. I'll take all questions both technical and philosophical.

A little basic background. I've been a missionary on the island of Saipan in the Northern Marianas Islands for 8 going on 9 years. I teach at a mission school where the majority of my students are not of my denomination (they are, however, overwhelmingly Catholic, with a few Buddhists, Protestants, and people of no relgious faith thrown in for good measure). I don't really feel like much of a missionary these days though. I just feel like it's my job. Part of it is that Saipan is hardly a remote, jungle village. We've got most of the comforts of home right up to McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and a Blockbuster video. I've done mission work in more remote locations in the Pacific but where I am now is pretty comfortable.

So ask away, and I'll answer as best I can. (Anyone else who is or has been a missionary can feel free to answer as well).
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Old 07-20-2006, 12:19 AM   #2
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can't wait for this thread, I love reading your journal entries.

I just need to think of some good questions, I'm braindead tonight.
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Old 07-20-2006, 02:53 AM   #3
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I've heard that the McDonalds hamburgers in some other countries differ greatly from ours. Is this true, and if so, how do they differ?
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Old 07-20-2006, 08:40 AM   #4
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Why did you decide to become a missionary?
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Old 07-20-2006, 09:19 AM   #5
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In a nutshell, what is the point of being a missionary?

Also, do you find there's a sense of isolation in those regions, micronesia, polynesia, etc? People say Australia is isolated (beyond physically) and we live how the rest of the world did in the 80s, that it's like taking a small step back in time (though this is changing). Do you identify with that?
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Old 07-20-2006, 09:59 AM   #6
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What led you to become a missionary?

What denomination are you affiliated with, if any?

When you first became a missionary (like whenever was the first time you moved away), how did you handle the transition?

Do missionaries simply get paid through church affiliation, or do you have to have another job too?


Sorry, they are kind of specific. I'm thinking of going abroad through my denomination, but not necessarily as a missionary.
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Old 07-20-2006, 11:09 AM   #7
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Some great questions so far. I'd only ask for more specifics regarding your call to be a missionary.

Is this your first missionary trip?

Did you do short-term missions first?

Are there other areas you would like to visit, or avoid?

Are you working as part of a larger missionary team in Saipan?

Do you look forward or dread returning to the States?
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Old 07-20-2006, 03:47 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by shart1780
I've heard that the McDonalds hamburgers in some other countries differ greatly from ours. Is this true, and if so, how do they differ?
I don't know. I never go to McDonalds in the mainland. Only when I'm in Saipan. When I'm Stateside, I like to go to restaurants that we don't have in Saipan--like Taco Bell, Carl's Jr.,Olive Garden, LaRosas etc.

I'm actually pretty satisfied with the choice of restaurants in Saipan. My Favorite Restaurant In The Whole World is there: Coffee Care (Don't let the pedestrian name fool you. It is the perfect restaurant).
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Old 07-20-2006, 03:51 PM   #9
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Well, I'm glad to see you answered the most important question first!
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Old 07-20-2006, 04:04 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
Why did you decide to become a missionary?
To be honest, I can't really remember. Isn't that pathetic!

I don't know. It's ironic, but I guess when you grow up in a very religious environment becoming a missionary is something that you can do without necessarily having a Big Reason. It sounds exciting, it sounds challenging. If you have the mindset that sharing your faith is a given, then going somewhere overseas to do it can almost be considered a "lark", an exciting way to do what you'd be doing at home anyway.

I know I was NOT one of those kids who dreamed of becoming a missionary as a kid, enraptured by the mission stories at church and dreamng of going to 'darkest Africa' and all that.

But in high school I considered going on the short term (10 day) mission trips that that my church-based high school took every year. During spring break, they'd go to places like Mexico, the Domincan Republic, Jamaica. Pitch in with building a church or a school building and have a few days of fun and come back. In the end I always decided to spend my spring beak on other more appealing adventures. (Both years I made that decision, my spring breaks sucked! So, maybe God was trying to tell me something. . . hmmmm!)

Anyway, my first stint as a missionary was between my sophomore and junior year of college. I took a year off of school and my friend J and I headed out to the truly tiny and fairly remote islands of Chuuk. I went, again, because it sounded exciting, and since I always regretted missing those mission trips in high school, this seemed like a good way to "make up for it."

So that year was the hardest and best year of my life. . .I don't think I've ever felt so alive, and after that missions was "in my blood." I knew I wanted to go back overseas, and the sooner the better. Life outside America agreed with me. I liked doing something, that to me, really made a difference. When I was in Chuuk, I found it was possible to deeply love 35 people all at once (the students I taught). I edited the religion page of my college newspaper (my college was a church-affliated, so I actually was 'sent out' through my school), became the student missions director on my campus, helped my future wife (who had also been a student missionary in Palau) with planning a missions conference.

When we both finished our degrees (she her masters, me my bachelors, both in education), I was raring to get back out to the Pacific--Chuuk specifically. She was not so raring. She'd gone into a lot of debt to get her masters and was ready to live a "normal" life. We couldn't really afford to go to Chuuk since the pay there was like $450 a month. But then the principal of the school in Saipan heard about us and recruited us. We went there as a compromise. It gave me a little bit of the mission experience (it wasn't as remote as Chuuk was) but was "civilized" enough and the pay sufficient enough for my wife to happy with it.

So off we went, and there we've been for the past 8 years. (Now it's my wife who doesn't want to leave. She's principal of the school now and planning to build a new campus).
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Old 07-20-2006, 04:08 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by shart1780
Well, I'm glad to see you answered the most important question first!
Easy questions first.
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Old 07-20-2006, 04:45 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by Angela Harlem
In a nutshell, what is the point of being a missionary?

Also, do you find there's a sense of isolation in those regions, micronesia, polynesia, etc? People say Australia is isolated (beyond physically) and we live how the rest of the world did in the 80s, that it's like taking a small step back in time (though this is changing). Do you identify with that?
I think the point of being a missionary differs for different missionaries.

Some people believe they've got to because whole portions of the world are hanging on the very lip of hell, and if they don't do something about it, those people will burn forever.

I don't really buy into that, mainly because of what such a belief implies about God.

Some people go primarily for humanitarian purposes. To feed the hungry. Help the poor. Heal the sick. Or provide education (in my case).

For me, it's that, but a bit more than that.

Some people go because they believe that it's what God wants them to do (for either of the above reasons or perhaps others I haven't thought of). Christians often quote what's known as the Great Commission in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus tells his disciples to "go make to all nations making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded" (Strangely he failed to mention burning people at the stake, forced conversions, and importing Western culture as part and parcel of Christianity. . .all of which, as I'm sure you know are part of the checkered past of missions).

So that sense, of this is what God wants me to do, I think, is true for me.

Some people go because they feel like they have good news, something wonderful to share and they want to pass it on.

That's the "point" of it for me, I suppose. I don't feel like I have to force anyone to become a Christian or join my denomination. In my classes, I have worship with students every morning before class. I talk about God, about my relationship with Him, and what He means to me, and leave it to the kids to decide. I just want the people I come in contact with to know that God loves them (and I'm talking about people who already believe in God here. Far too many of us believe in God but aren't sure how He feels about us) and they can trust Him. The decisions they make from there are up to them. I've always believed that's not my job to convert anyone, just to share.

And of course I love working with kids. And I didn't want teach in denominational school in the States because mostly only Seventh-day Adventist (that's my denom) kids go there and they are all "been there, done that." And I didn't want to teach in the public schools because I wanted to be free to talk about my faith. I like encouraging them to think about their futures, to challenge to live out their dreams.

I guess for me the point of missions is to make a positive difference in the lives of people. The spiritual component is part of that larger picture, or at least IMHO encompasses all of that picture.

In Saipan, I don't think we're that far behind. Maybe six months to a year behind in terms of the cell phone styles! But we get new movies before anyone else in America (because of the time difference, premiere dates arrive in Saipan first). I wouldn't presume to judge about Australia since I've only been there once, but I'd guess that Australia is not really "behind." It's just the pop culture is different, and to the average American that "appears" to be be "stuck in the 80's." But i have no idea what i"m talking about.

One thing I will say is that people in overseas seem to be more aware of the wider world and while, American pop culture, has a strong influence, that's exactly what it is--just an "influence." Whereas in America, there is nothing else. American culture is not an influence, it's Life. In that sense, I often feel "outside" or "distanced" from American culture, but I like that.
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Old 07-20-2006, 04:47 PM   #13
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In a nutshell,
Sorry, I just realized that was hardly a nutshell. I know I'm long-winded. I hate it.
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Old 07-20-2006, 05:06 PM   #14
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Originally posted by LivLuvAndBootlegMusic


What denomination are you affiliated with, if any?

When you first became a missionary (like whenever was the first time you moved away), how did you handle the transition?

Do missionaries simply get paid through church affiliation, or do you have to have another job too?


I'm Seventh-day Adventist.

The transition was not as difficult as I expected it to be. The hardest part of being there the first time (this was in Chuuk when I was a student missionary) was adjusting to teaching. I had no idea what I was doing (I foolishly paid no attention during the crash course in teaching they gave us in Hawaii during our orientation). That, and I hated coconuts. (I got over that though).
The real culture shock was when I came back to the States after that year in Chuuk. I was a mess for about 4 months after I got back. I hated being back in America. It was too weird for me, and all I wanted was to go back to Chuuk.

I don't know what other denoms do (or non-denom organizations like Youth With a Mission) but in my denomination, there are several categories of missionary (excluding those who go on the 10 day short term trips). Student missionaries or "SMs" as we call them, are college students who go out for 10 months to a year. They usually receive a small stipend. The amount varies depending on where you go. Your housing, transportation, insurance etc is all paid for. All you need money for, really is food. I made about $180 a month as an SM. (However, if you go to teach English in Korea or Japan as an SM you make a LOT more). You have to fundraise for your own airfare out there.

The next category is an AVS (Adventist Volunteer Service) missionary, which is what I am. You go out for two years and are generally a trained professional (I'm a certified teacher). Your airfare out and back is paid and they provide you with a car, and a steep rent subsidy (usually you live in housing owned by the mission by still pay a small rent). The trade off is your salary is pretty low. (I make about $12,000 a year, gross). You can reup every two years (which is what I've been doing).

Finally, there are IDS (Inter-Division Service) missionaries which are your Standard Missionary. These people go out for six years, are trained professionals, and receive training at a churh run institute of missions before going out. These people are often doctors, dentists, administrators, and other "high level" professionals. They get a lot of perks--airfare out and back, paid two or three month "furloughs" every two years and a whole bunch of other stuff. Still salary is low (I'm not sure how much though).

In all cases, salary is paid by the organization (school, church, hospital) that hires you not the church back home or the chuch bureacracy. There are some missions organizations run by church members (not official church organizations) that raise funds from members in the States and live on funds provided by their "support team."

In general, most missionaries in my denom. do not have another job and are often discouraged from having another one. Most missionaries are comfortable enough financially that they don't feel they need one.
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Old 07-20-2006, 05:20 PM   #15
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Originally posted by nbcrusader


Are there other areas you would like to visit, or avoid?

Are you working as part of a larger missionary team in Saipan?

Do you look forward or dread returning to the States?
After my wife and I took our 8th graders to Seoul, South Korea we talked about how it might be fun to move there for two years and teach English. (But mainly because you can make a lot of money doing that. . .not very holy motives I'm afraid).

The Asian mainland appeals to me. I wouldn't mind going to South America.

There's nowhere really I'd want to avoid. I've often felt like a bit of imposter claiming to be a missionary since my life is so easy (I don't live in a hut, I have cable tv). And I've wondered how I'd handle living somewhere really remote where I DID live in a hut and battled malaria among people who've never heard the name of Jesus. (I read a missions magazine called Frontiers put out by Adventist Frontier Missions, a lay organization that sends people to places like that, and let me tell you--those people are the real deal). I think I'd be scared to go, but in the end I think I'd love it. At least that's how it was in Chuuk.

We are part of a larger team, in the sense that we have 15 teachers and staff working on the two campuses of our school. There is also a Seventh-day Adventist church on Saipan and a Seventh-day Adventist dental clinic which we work in cooperation with. Over all three entities is the Guam Micronesia Mission (based in Guam) which oversees all the SDA mission work (schools primarily, but also clinics and churches) in Micronesia. Next week my wife and I will fly to Hawaii to meet with the Guam Micronesia Mission leaders and all the principals of the SDA schools in Micronesia for annual meetings and the oreintation for all the new teachers going out to Micronesia (about 70 to 90 each year, most of which are student missionaries. Only Saipan and Guam hire strictly professional, certified educators).

Well, I'm in the states now. We're here every summer. And I always look forward to these visits. However, I dread moving back here to live. I love being a U.S. citizen, don't get me wrong, but sometimes the best way to appreciate being an American is to live outside the U.S. (Which technically, I only live out side the States culturally because the Marianas are a U.S. territory and everyone born there is a U.S. citizen. It's kinda like living on American Samoa, I suppose. I guess I get the best of both worlds).
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