Looking at what I’ve blogged about so far and the pictures that I’ve posted on Facebook, one could easily assume that we’re here on vacation. There have certainly been many vacation like moments during our first week as we’ve been easing gradually into our real reason for being here on the island of Saipan; missions.
We’re here to fill in for Dave and Helen Ann Bucher while they return to the mainland to spend their summer vacation visiting family and friends but they aren’t actually leaving us on our own until July 4th. In addition to pastoring Living Hope Church of the Nazarene, Dave and Helen Ann are both school teachers. We haven’t actually met Dave yet as he’s been in Nebraska this past week with a school group and will be back this evening. In his absence, we’ve been hanging out with Helen Ann and learning the ropes.
So, other than sightseeing, swimming and hiking, what else have we been doing? What does summer ministry coverage actually look like?
Taking care of the house and the property…
The house, which also doubles as the church, is located on a large property in the middle of the jungle where everything grows at an amazing rate. Richard has been busy mowing and mowing and mowing some more! The grass at the bottom of the drive, which hasn’t been cut since before Dave and Helen Ann moved in in February, is taller than me! I don’t know if Richard will try to tackle that but, in addition to keeping the field in front of the house groomed, he’s been working on reclaiming areas around the edge of the property where the grass was taking over. At the moment, he’s up on the roof with a power washer cleaning off algae, something else that grows rapidly in hot, humid places. I discovered how slippery it is when I took a rather ungraceful fall on the cement the other day. Fortunately, I wasn’t hurt and he has since cleaned that off too.
There isn’t much housework for me to do because the Filipino housekeeper comes once a week. What a luxury! I could easily do the work myself but that would rob her of much needed income so I won’t.
Taking care of the pets…
My day begins with a walk to the end of the driveway with Fiona, the resident dog. It’s about a quarter mile round trip down the very steep hill and back up again. I’d happily walk further with her but the jungle grows up to the edge of the road we’re on and there’s enough traffic that walking on the pavement wouldn’t be safe so we’re confined to the property. I walk her again in the evening. In addition to making sure Fiona has food and water, I put out food for the little cat that creeps out of the undergrowth to eat. We eat most of our meals on the patio and when the cat stole Helen Ann’s omelet at breakfast one morning, we learned not to leave food unguarded! At the end of the patio there’s an aviary that houses 15 to 20 colourful parakeets. Though I feed and water them each day, I haven’t been able to get an accurate count as they’re forever flitting about or hiding in their nesting boxes.
Loving the people…
Of course, our main purpose for being here isn’t housesitting or pet sitting. Dave and Helen Ann could easily hire locals to take care of those tasks. We’re primarily here to provide ministry coverage while they’re away. When we first read the assignment description, we were delighted to see that our #1 task would be loving the people! That we knew we could do!
When Dave and Helen Ann leave, we’ll be in charge on Sunday mornings. Richard will teach the adult Sunday School class and bring the morning message. I’ll teach the teen class and assist him with the service. There are also two children’s classes taught by locals, Amor and Malou.
Children are a very big part of the Living Hope ministry. The church has a large van that picks them up for Sunday School as well as mid-week Kids Club. Mr. Richard, as the children call him, has already learned the route and knows most of the children by name. We’ve both been busy the past couple of afternoons helping with a special pre-teen program and on Friday and Saturday, we’ll be involved in a similar program for the teens. Later in the summer, we’ll be doing a week long Vacation Bible School.
Part of all the children’s activities is providing a snack. Many of these children come from very poor homes where they may not get a lot to eat. During the school year, they’re fed breakfast and lunch at school so the Kids Club snack is just that, a snack, but during the summer we want to make sure that we feed them something more substantial. One of my tasks for the pre-teen program was preparing a meal for them. On Monday, we had tacos, rice and beans. Yesterday, we served corn dogs, macaroni and cheese, salad and then finished the day with root beer floats.
How could we not love them?