Dec 15, 2007

Taking Care of Business: The 2007 GMM Triennial Session

The Bored. . .ahem, the Board Members. . .

Two weeks ago, from December 4 thru December 8, Babs and I were in Guam for Guam Micronesia Mission of Seventh-day Adventists Triennial Session. Every three years, delegates from all the Adventist churches in Micronesia gather together in Guam for several days to elect new church officers, make amendments to mission policy, and generally chart the future of the Adventist church in this part of the world. Think of a church board meeting that stretches out over eight hours a day for three days with hundreds of board members and over a hundred agenda items and you’ve got a pretty accurate picture of what the Triennial Session is like.

It’s not always very exciting.

The Agenda

Here's somebody making a report of some kind.

There were moments where I struggled to stay awake, moments where I rolled my eyes as someone especially in love the sound of their own voice insisted on questioning the simplest agenda item. There were also moments where things got heated—especially when the agenda had anything to do with money. But there were inspiring moments too, such as when the delegates spontaneously raised thousands of dollars in about an hour to help a beleaguered church in the Marshall Islands buy a new boat engine so the pastor there could reach his far-flung parishioners.

Most of us tend to be dismissive of this type of church business—I know I am. We think it’s somehow un-spiritual to dirty our hands with the humdrum business of budgets and financial statements and filling the gaps in the church bureaucracy. And Lord knows, it’s pretty boring work. How much more exciting to be “loving people for Jesus” and “reaching out” and having uplifiting worship services! That seems like real spirituality.

But the thing is, someone’s got to pay the bills. Just as marriage isn’t all hearts and flower petal-strewn bedrooms, the bride of Christ—the church has mundane business to attend to. In a relationship someone has to do the dishes, clean the toilet, balance the checkbook—and the love will be sorely tried if those things aren’t done. Likewise the church must talk about budgets, and wage packages, and retirement plans in addition to the feel-good praise and worship stuff. And in the church too, the neglect of these things can also try our relationship with God.

And really, when you think about it--feeding 5000 hungry people is kind of humdrum task. Jesus could have dropped the whole "man shall not live by bread alone" scripture on his audience and continued to focus on the "higher things." But instead he made sure everyone got taken care of, and He was even organized enough to make sure the leftovers got picked up!

Babs reads off the names of the nominating committee (chosen by the Committee to Nominate the Nominating Committee, which we were both on) with Southern Asia Pacific Division officer Gary Rustad. Thank goodness I wasn't nominated to the nominating committee! They met after the regular session was over in the evenings to choose the myriad mission workers. It's all very democratic though, as we all vote on all the names the committee chooses. Our church is very much a representative democracy.

The Palauan Delegates sing a special song during one of the devotionals.

My Official Nametag.

We live in an entertainment oriented culture where everything has to be FUN! That attitude often seeps into our spiritual lives. We think if we’re not utterly stimulated by every spiritual activity, if we’re not having fun, then it must not be of any value. But the reality, not everything is—or should be--a barrel of fun. The work accomplished in Guam was important, and I’m glad I could contribute in some small way to the functioning of our church in Micronesia.

Plus I got to see a lot of friendly faces, some old some new, and that was a lot of fun.

Some pictures:

Babs and I with Arlene and Daniel Lacayan. The Lacayan's were in Chuuk the year I was a student missionary there--way back in 1994. Daniel is now the principal of the SDA School in Chuuk. They were sooo excited to see us and there enthusiastic love for us really touched my heart. Daniel was a real mentor to me in Chuuk--he literally saved me in the classroom with his ideas in suggestions in the early days when I didn't know what I was doing.

The Taitigues. Pastor Bill Taitigue, his wife Bernie and his three daughters (one of which is pictured here--the others are now in college) were in Saipan when we first moved here. Pastor Taitigue was the pastor at our church and our neighbor on our compound. They live on their home island of Guam now and they took us out for dinner and ice cream Wednesday night. It was great to catch up with them.

The Spivas. Jim is principal of the SDA School in Majuro and Chrystal teaches there. They're a fun couple. We hadn't seen them since the teacher orientation in Honolulu.

Barbara with the father of one her former 2nd grade students from when she was a student missionary in Palau 15 years ago.

One of Virle's friends, Ryan Ibanez, the principal of the SDA School in Ebye says hello! I met him for the first time when he was working as an accountant at Chuuk SDA School when I took our drama team REAL Christian Theater on tour to Chuuk and Pohnpei in 2003.

Babs with another familar face from her student missionary days, Mrs. Tua Mtule. Mrs Mtule is one of the leading ladies of the church in Palau, and she is just a wonderfully kind and sweet soul. It shows in her smile doesn't it.

The Martins. Pastor Doug Martin is the pastor of the largest Adventist church in Palau. He and Barbara go way back as he used to be her religion teacher in high school. I also remember him from my own high school years because he conducted a few weeks of prayer at Forest Lake Academy. He is without question the funniest man I have ever met in my life! He makes Robin Williams look like an undertaker. His wife Geri is the principal of the school in Palau. We went out to eat with them Thursday night and the four of us laughed and laughed all night long!

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