Feb 12, 2008

Managaha 08: Glenn

Glenn delivers his final message Sunday morning, with the sun streaming over the horizon and the Son warming our hearts. He left us with a reminder of hope--of a day when there would be no more goodbyes, of a "place we call heaven and God calls home"--and a riff on the traditional Jewish blessing at the end of Passover: "Next year in the New Jerusalem."

"I'd like to build relationships with the kids," Glenn said in the first day or so after he arrived, "But I know that realistically, I probably won't be able to do that in such a short time. But I'll try."

Well, it turned out Pastor Glenn Aguirre was a much faster builder than he realized. The One who is the Builder and Maker of all good things, including and especially, relationships hastened the process, and in the short space of a week Pastor Glenn found a place in the hearts of our students. Likewise, our kids won his heart as well, and I know he'll carry treasured memories of his week in Saipan with him always.

Glenn is a young, charismatic pastor based in Miami, Florida. He's the pastor at the home church of our kindergarten teacher, Veroynka. She's the one who recruited him to come out here for a week of prayer in the days leading up to the campout and then to be our guest speaker for the weekend on Managaha. I suppose the decision to fly halfway around the world wasn't so daunting for him; after all he has a history in Micronesia. He was a student missionary in the Marshall Islands 8 years ago and his wife is Marshallese (in fact, he flew up to Saipan from the Marshalls where he and his wife were making their first visit back to her home in six years. She remained there while he came to Saipan.)

Pastor Glenn's got all the requisite hallmarks of a great speaker for kids--funny stories, unique illustrations, a talent for the guitar, and of course that all-important but undefinable "cool factor." But all of those gifts, as vital as they were, were not responsible for the difference Glenn made last week. After all, Friday night Glenn burned his fingers on a hot camp lantern and was unable to play guitar for awhile--his ability to wow the kids from the front was suddenly muted. But fortunately for him, his impact was rooted in something more substantial than a flashy, hyped-up worship show. What made the difference was his authentic passion--his passion for the kids and his passion for God. He genuinely cared, He truly believed. The kids picked up on that right away, and they responded with real affection of their own for Glenn and for the Savior he spoke of.

Some of our kids take a stand Sabbath morning. Glenn was never shy about asking for a decision. His appeal though always low-key and low-pressure, always without emotionalism and scare tactics was also always consistent and unapologetic. He told us of how his wife went to an Seventh-day Adventist School for 12 years in the Marshall Islands, how she was taught by missionaries all those years and yet never once was asked to make a decision. She'd wanted to make a stand for years, but no one ever asked her to, no one ever gave her the opportunity. So Glenn always put the opportunity out there and there were kids--some that I wouldn't have expected--who responded.

I think the kids won Glenn's heart as well, and to be honest I knew they would. There's a reason we've been out here for almost 10 years now, and it's not the beaches. These kids dig into your heart and won't let go. Working here with our students is the most rewarding work I can imagine. And that's hard to explain to people who haven't been here. I remember talking to a mutual friend of Glenn and mine last summer about coming out here for a week of prayer, and I remember feeling like I was hawking a network marketing opportunity with Amway. How do you tell someone that if you come out to Saipan you'll want to be a part of this community forever? It sounds ludicrous! Until you've been here. And Glenn's been here. He knows. And I'm certain he'll carry with him for a lifetime the names, faces, and friendships he formed in seven short days. I know we'll always remember him.

Thanks, Glenn, for sharing your heart with all of us. "Next year in the New Jerusalem. . ."

Pastor Glenn, the "shoeless pastor."


Vero in Saipan said...

He truly is a man of G-d. Those kids did win his heart. And its really true that there are no words to describe the hold that these kids have on our hearts.

Mai said...

God used Pastor Glenn in such an amazing way - it was so beautiful to watch those kids - our kids - taking a stand for God. It brought tears to my eyes on several occasions as I watched God actively at work. I'm so glad Glenn was able to come out.

John Dax said...

From the pictures and stories, it looks like MaƱagaha went well this year. Kudos to the kids, parents and staff! I am wondering if Pastor Glenn is related to Lani Aguirre (whose father incidentally was a pastor as well) who used to work at Guam SDA Clinic as an RN.

the Purpose said...

I'm glad that God brought the right speaker to you guys.