As many of you are already aware, Richard and I have been prayerfully seeking direction concerning short term missions work for some time. After much consideration, we decided that the best way to do this would be through our church. Our journey began back in the early spring when we began the application process by filling out a series of online forms and questionnaires as well as submitting five references each. In mid July, we attended a Cross-Cultural Orientation weekend in Olathe, Kansas and now we have an assignment! We will be providing summer ministry coverage for Living Hope Church of the Nazarene on the tropical island of Saipan!
When we share the news, the first thing most people ask is “Where in the world is Saipan?” I had to ask the same question! I soon discovered that it’s a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean. Located about 15 degrees north of the equator, it’s north of Guam & due east of the Philippines. At just 12.5 miles long and 5.5 miles wide, it’s the largest and most populated of the 14 islands that make up the US territory known as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands or CNMI.
Americans Dave and Helen Ann Bucher went to Saipan 9 years ago to plant a church. They are “tent maker” missionaries, supporting themselves as teachers in the local school system. The church meets in their home and averages 25 to 30 people each Sunday. It’s a multi-cultural congregation with various native islander groups, Micronesians, Filipinos and other nationalities represented. Local people are involved in leading the weekly kids club & teaching some of the Sunday School classes (there are 2 kids classes, a teen class & an adult class) but they don’t yet have anyone who is ready to carry the ministry through the summer while they return to the mainland US to spend time with their family. That’s where we come in! We don’t have exact dates yet but we’ll probably be there for most of June & July.
This is a giant step for us but one we’re very excited about taking! In many ways, it seems to be a perfect fit. When I read the description of the position, I was thrilled to see that our first responsibility would be to love the people! More and more, I’ve come to believe that that’s what life is all about! Though many languages are spoken on Saipan, English is the common one and the language of the church giving us an opportunity to minister in ways that we wouldn’t be able to in most parts of the world. Even the timing is perfect fitting neatly between spring seeding and harvest time!
I truly believe that God has directed us to this opportunity. It may seem silly to some but I think that even the name of the church is a sign! During our year in Japan, we attended Hope Church and it had a tremendous impact on our lives. While we were there, our pastor’s brother and his wife were preparing to move to Osaka to plant a church there. Life Church is now into its second year. So… Living Hope Church… just a coincidence? I don’t think so!