Where Two or Three are Gathered

It’s been a while since we posted, as we have been pretty busy working at the hospital & dental clinic. It’s crazy to think we’ve been in Kenya about 10 months now. Time definitely flew by especially after my family came to visit in December. We got to take them and the Archer family to Maasai Mara National Reserve where Maureen and I were featured at YES Network’s “Wear Brooklyn At?”

maasai-groupmaasai-group-funny

Maureen and I also got to celebrate our first Valentine’s Day in Kenya. Earlier this year, we even did a small outreach in Kiserian with Maxwell Adventist Academy teaching ~300 kids about nutrition and the importance of taking care of their teeth.

Sometime last year in December, Dr. Steve H. Chang from Monterey, CA (LLUSD c/o 1990) invited our dental team from Better Living Hospital in Nairobi to join an outreach at Kisii with Weimar Academy & Marantha. Our dental team of 2 dentists and 2 assistants were approved some days off so we could help the medical/dental team from the USA. The hospital gave us some funds for transport and we purchased anesthesia, gloves, masks, gauze and sterilization equipment we needed from our dental suppliers for the outreach. Maureen and I would later come to realize these outreach events would be the first our clinic has participated in for over 5 years.

Dr. Chang, Dr. Neil Nedley and his assistant Eryn Reklei arrived Nairobi on Thursday evening, March 28th. It’s a small world since I met Eryn last year when I was volunteering at Palau Adventist Wellness Center (PAWC). I later found out Eryn went to the Health Seminar at Weimar Academy and eventually stayed to assist Dr. Nedley. It was good to see her doing well and excited about being involved with the outreach in Kenya. After the travel agency took Dr. Nedley and Eryn to the East-Central Africa Division of the SDA Church (ECD) guesthouses, our van took us back to our apartment in town, where Maureen was waiting with some home cooked tofu & vegetable Schwann (adobo style) with garlic rice. We had a long chat with Dr. Chang about life in Kenya, showed him our proposal/wedding videos, and then updated him about the clinic he used to volunteer at ~29 years ago in the year 1990 while he was on his honeymoon and still a 4th year student at LLUSD.

CLINIC QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“30 years ago, the clinic was the best in all of East Africa. They need your support and prayers. The funds that can be reinvested (into the dental clinic) is used to support the hospital. The clinicians are just as good but the clinic needs modern equipment to better serve the people. We should do our best to help those who serve.” – Dr. Steve Chang

After taking Dr. Chang for a quick tour of the hospital, we left for Kisii around 1:30pm Friday, March 29th. Our bus arrived an hour later than expected (Kenyan time) but we were on our way. We finally arrived at Auntie Cecilia’s house about 2km away from Kisii town around 8:30pm. At around 9pm, it was time for supper! The whole table was filled with traditional Kenyan food such as ugali, sour milk, sukuma wiki (collared greens w/ spices), beans, fried chicken, chicken soup and watermelons. We were hosted and fed really well by Auntie Cecilia, the mom of Samson and Edwin Mogusu. It was through Samson, Cecilia’s son who goes to the same church in Monterey, CA with Dr. Chang, that they were able to coordinate our accommodation at Kisii. Later we found out Auntie Cecilia hired Daniel, a local chef to cook for us every day since she wrongly assumed we were staying for 2 weeks!

Immediately following breakfast, Cecilia dropped us off at Ufanisi Resort to catch up with the rest of the Weimar/Maranatha team. The 4 buses left and traveled about 1.5 hours to church. We arrived at just before 11AM at Poroko Maranatha SDA Church and were greeted by the local Maasai. Marantha built the church ~ 2 years ago along with a couple of wells. Their Maasai choir and Weimar choir did a couple of special items, which was pretty nice.

A Weimar Academy student, Rose led out children’s story and about 50 or so kids came to the front. They were so well behaved as not a single kid was running around or crying. Dr. Neil Nedley led out church with a short health message. Afterwards, we were welcomed and given shukas and wooden walking sticks by the local Maasai tribe as a Maasai song played in the background translated to “God first in everything”.

Our schedule for the next 3 days were breakfast around 6:30am, travel to Ufanisi Resort and leave on the Maranatha busses to travel by 7:30am. It took about 1.5 hours to get to the clinics where we would be treating patients. On Sunday we went to Riokindo SDA Health Centre. On Monday we were at Nyagichenche and on Tuesday we were at Riakworo Dispensary. We usually set up clinic upon around 9/9:30am and saw patients until 4pm. Since Dr. Julietta Lucas from the local Adventist clinic came to help us on Sunday, we set a limit to see 100 dental patients the first day and about 80 patients on 2nd and 3rd day.

Dr. Alan Mitchel led the Maranatha medical team of 7 physicians. I later found out Dr. Mitchel is the father of Rebecca, one of the dental student missionaries who helped assist me at PAWC last year. Small world indeed! Our dental team consisted of Dr. Steve Chang, Dr. Jeffery Fisher, Dr. Ham Kibuuka, our 2 assistants Helen and Paska, Maureen and myself. We had about 7 Weimar Academy students helping us set up trays, pass instruments and assist as well. Most of the students were able to extract multiple teeth with our supervision. Maureen extracted 3 teeth and was even able to help give local anesthesia to one of our patients! On mission trips, we can call her “Nursist” from now on.

A lot of the patients we saw had broken teeth, multiple cavities, molar or premolar root tips and really heavy calculus. We mostly just tried to treat their main complaint, extract, suture and gave them pain meds or antibiotics. Dr. Chang brought a portable unit and we were able to do some fillings, a couple of root canals and even a surgical wisdom tooth extraction #32 that took a couple hours since the young man’s bone was super dense. His crown fractured and came off as I tried to elevate the tooth. Later, Dr. Chang broke a couple of elevator tips trying to take it out! We eventually had to wait for a compressor and the unit to be functional so he could surgically take off the buccal and distal bone. We weren’t able to do a lot of cleanings as we only brought a few scalers, so we referred patients that wanted root canals or cleanings to the Nyanchwa Adventist Dental Clinic in Kisii, where Dr. Julietta Lucas works at.

FREE CLINIC OUTREACH QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Patient: All my teeth are moving! (Translated)

Dr. Chang: “All her teeth are moving? Where are they moving to?” 😛

Over 200 local people were seen each day by the medical and dental team at the various dispensary sites we went to from March 31st-April 2nd. We roughly did about 120 extractions and gave out over 350 toothbrushes and toothpaste over the 3 days of outreach. Some patients even traveled from far away just to come and be treated. Others have not had a check up in years! It was amazing to see God’s work at hand. Also, it was inspiring to see Weimar students interested and willing to help wherever there was a need, whether it was accompanying the patients to different stations, assisting in the dental or medical clinic or praying for the patients. What a joy it was to witness the youth serving all the way in Africa. Although we spent less than a week in Kisii, we were beyond blessed for the opportunity to be God’s hands and feet.

On our way back to Nairobi, we decided to stop by Lake Nakuru National Park to see some flamingos and rhinos! Early Wednesday morning we ate breakfast, said our goodbyes to our host and her neighbors, picked up Michael Chang from Ufanisi Resort, and drove to the park. Up at baboon cliff we saw some rock hyrax on the mountain cliffs come out to greet us as we took pictures overlooking the lake. They are super cute! The flamingos were a disappointment, as we did not see very many of them but seeing rhinos for the first time were pretty special.

By God’s grace and protection, we safely arrived back in Nairobi around 9pm. We returned to work the next day but thankfully the weekend was fast approaching. It was a blessing to hear the president of Weimar Academy, Dr. Neil Nedley speak a couple times during his series talk about “Optimizing your Brain”. Dr. Nedley is a practicing physician in Internal Medicine with emphases in Mental Health, Lifestyle Medicine, Gastroenterology and the difficult-to-diagnose patient. It was quite interesting but one point that stood out to us was the quote below.

SERMON QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“For every disappointment, God has an appointment” – Dr. Neil Nedley

Much like Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery, and ending up in Egypt, there will be many disappointments in our lives that may lead to low self-esteem, loneliness, depression, etc. But we serve a mighty God who can deliver us from darkness and do great things in our lives today despite the disappointments that come our way. We should never give up hope, have faith, and trust in Him regardless of our situation.

So far, it’s been such a privilege to share God’s love through our work to the people of Kenya. But there is still so much work that needs to be done. Maureen and I have come to realize that even though we may have opted to be here on the frontlines serving in Kenya, passionately doing or saying all the right things — we could also as easily opt out and think of this as just a regular gig where we get paid to do certain medical/dental services.

But we realize that we have to be better.

We should not feel satisfied simply with “progress”.

We know we have to be better. So we are trying to push ourselves further regardless of costs to help our clinic or various outreaches we are involved in. We try our best to pray for each patient we see and take the time to listen to his or her concerns and needs.

Everyday, we are all given a choice — we are all granted the same privilege — to be Christ’s hands and feet.

Either we do that, or we fade into the crowd.

We have to be active. I’ll say this again because it’s important. We have to be active.

The reality is, we can as easily fade into the crowd by being comfortable enough observing and listening to whatever may be going on around us, but not do anything about it. More often than not, Maureen and I feel we have more in common with the regular Christian or member at church than our pastors, spiritual mentors or people we have always looked up to. In times like these, we often ask questions such as…

What is it that I actually have to do?

How can I become part of the solution for this lack of activeness in my workplace?

In my church? In my community? In my city? In my country?

Now we don’t have the answers to these questions, but what we do know is this. When God calls, He’s not looking at your age, your gender, or your qualifications. He looks at the heart. Much like the case of the prophet Samuel anointing King David as a young boy (1st Samuel 16), we must realize that God can use both young and old to do improbable and mighty things for His Kingdom. I guess that is why we should not look up to people of the flesh or outward appearances, but more than anything, fix our eyes on Him.

As Seventh-Day Adventists, our mission is to make disciples, following the gospel commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and to “proclaim to all people the everlasting gospel of the Three Angels’ Messages in preparation for His soon return”.

But the real question we should be asking ourselves is — Are most of us merely satisfied and comfortable blending in with the crowd? Are we content with all our good works and various mission trips we’ve been involved in? Unfortunately, some of us may even feel a sense of pride or feel “privileged” being a part of the so-called “Remnant Church of end-time Bible prophecy”. But what can we change or what can realistically be done?

To close this blog entry, we remind you that it’s crucial that we each hold each other accountable. Regardless of your age, sex, color, culture, and religion — we all have to be accountable — period. Not just for our own actions but realize that our inaction can cause or create a “safe” space for contentment and satisfaction, which sadly, we often see even in our own institutions, hospitals, clinics, churches and congregations around the world. If you have not been made aware, hundreds of our hospitals and clinics, especially in Africa suffer due to lack of resources, funds or inadequate management. Simply giving back the 10% Tithe that rightly belongs to Him goes a really long way to helping further His work.

We have to be better.

Know that we believe this. We sincerely do.

Know that about us.

Know that we believe all this matters.

We can’t do it alone. But thankfully, we don’t really have to.

Matthew 18:20 states, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them”. Christ has already promised His presence will be with us no matter what. We simply just have to keep our eyes fixed on Him. Just as much as the Maranatha/Weimar Academy team has inspired and encouraged Maureen and I as missionaries here in Kenya to be better, we hope to do the same at the 76th NASDAD Convention at Lake Tahoe and the congregations/churches we speak at in Reno and Southern California during our annual leave later this year. Please continue to pray for us as we try to reach the unreachable and teach, heal, and preach the gospel to all. We encourage you as well to grow in your relationship with Christ, to never stop being a witness, until He comes again.

Thanks for reading. Blessings!
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Updates from Kenya

One of the highlights while living here in Kenya has been visiting the beautiful Maasai Mara. We had an awesome opportunity to join Mara Vision Outreach, Anita Jepson and Pastor Taj Pacleb from August 24th-September 3rd on their recent mission trip and were extremely blessed. After a long 6.5-7.5 hour drive from Nairobi, we finally arrived at our camp. Our group stayed at Olumara Tented Camp, with full board meals and lovely accommodation and an excellent staff who treated us really well. We were able to meet so many people from this trip, even people who worked in the same compound we worked in but never knew before. From what we were told, it was the first time the Samburu people of new believers had come to a camp meeting to join the Maasai. There were numerous people that were baptized and some powerful sermons preached. Be sure to check out this amazing video down below made by Pastor Jasper and Kuya VJ Matias if you have not already done so.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Jesus gave us parables so we can go around our excuses to spread the Gospel. Even though we are few in Maasai land, I believe whatever the challenges, through God’s help, we will make a difference in Maasai land. The door to mission work is not closed. My friends; see to it that you have not come to Africa in vain. By God’s Grace, He will give us the world. He will provide what we need. And one day, when the saints go marching in, from east, west, south and north, we pray we will all be there.” ~Robert Tinega

The following month, from October 10-14, we went on the Better Living Hospital retreat with some of the staff. It was our first time going to Ukunda, which is about 2 hours away from Kenya’s second largest city of Mombasa, found on the east coast of the country. It was a nice getaway after the exhausting, tiring, yet fulfilling days of hard work at the hospital. We shared an early Uber ride with Dr. Ham Kibuuka to the airport suspecting that there might be some traffic. When we arrived at Wilson Airport, we were early. In fact we were so early that there was no rush checking in, which was nice. We checked in our luggage and lined up to get our tickets. Then all of a sudden, something was amiss. Thinking we were going to Mombasa, our luggage was headed to the wrong destination!!! Without delay, we went back to the check-in counter and explained to the guy that we checked our baggage to the wrong place. He looked at our ticket and said something in Swahili to another guy who briskly walked away. Flustered and slightly stressed just thinking about the worst-case scenario, our luggage appeared in the guy’s hand. Filled with relief, we thanked the guys who retrieved our luggage. Everything got sorted out and we sat back down and looked forward to our flight.

The flight from Wilson Airport to Ukunda took less than 1 hour. When we landed, the humid heat welcomed us and we were just ready to go to the Kaskazi Beach Hotel. A big bus drove all of us to the hotel, which took less than 15 minutes as it was only about 2.6km away. We finally arrived somewhat tired but excited. One of the hotel workers handed a cool face towel and it felt so good!!! They served us coconuts and to our surprise it was not the usual coconuts you get in Hawaii, Palau or Philippines. It had a carbonated taste to it, which we did not really expect (or like to be honest).

Too exhausted, we decided to just chill in our room. The next few days were so relaxing and felt like paradise. We swam in the swimming pool, had 3 buffet meals a day, napped in an AC room, enjoyed the sound of the ocean (which was walking distance from the hotel), and enjoyed the company of our co-workers and friends.

The best part of the trip was going on the Pilli Pippa Dolphin Safari for snorkeling and scuba diving. We also saw some dolphins along the way, which was a very special treat. Since Maureen didn’t have her PADI scuba diving license yet, Mel decided to just go without her so he could experience the diving sites here in Kenya. But Maureen didn’t mind, she still enjoyed snorkeling and seeing a tortoise up close. It was breathtaking to see the sea creatures and the colorful life under the sea. What’s even more amazing is the Creator who created all these awesome animals and habitats.

After scuba diving and snorkeling at 2 different reefs at Kisite National Marine Park, it was time for lunch. We were brought to a nice secluded island where the workers welcomed us and directed us to our table. The food was delicious and the view of the ocean was beautiful! We will definitely come back and visit. As the short excursion came to a close, we bought some Kenyan candy called “mabuyu”, which are made from the seeds of the Baobab tree fruit. They usually sell these candies for 20-30 KES (20-30 cents) a piece but since they saw us as “mzungus” or foreigners, they charged extra :/ #kenyanshustling

On Sabbath morning, we took a “tuktuk”, a tricycle bike with seats at the back, heading toward the local SDA Church. The church service was outside since there was a lot of people and not enough space inside the church building. It was a special day because they were recognizing and appreciating the pastors there. It was a very, VERY long service… Let’s just say that Kenyans enjoy singing and 2-3 songs is clearly not enough.

Overall, we enjoyed our time there. It’s always nice to just take a break once in a while to relax and enjoy God’s creation. The more of God’s nature we come to know and experience, the more we may reflect Him to our surroundings.

Last month, we had an unexpected surprise visit by Dr. Doyle Nick. He was Mel’s professor at Loma Linda University School of Dentistry (LLUSD) and dental director for the Deferred Mission Appointee (DMA) program. Shortly after their Botswana service learning dental mission trip in 2016, Dr. Nick suggested we come serve in Kenya. He and his wife came to visit our clinic and even treated our dental staff to a late lunch at Sarova Panafric Hotel on Thursday, November 15th. We eventually caught up with them again on Sabbath at Maxwell Academy and had an amazing Ethiopian lunch at Dr. Fesaha’s place. Many thanks go out to NASDAD (National Association of Seventh-Day Adventist Dentists), Dr. Doyle Nick, Dr. Jongsung Kim, and Dr. James Trott for the dental equipment donations and the never-ending support and prayers.

It’s quite surprising to know that we’ve been here in Kenya for nearly 6 months now. After months of waiting, Maureen finally got her Kenyan nursing license and we also received our work permits and Alien Resident cards. In addition, our shipment of belongings is set to arrive sometime this month after landing in Mombasa a couple of days ago. We are expecting it to arrive just before Christmas. Oh and we get an early Christmas present this year as Mel’s parents, sister, grandma and auntie are coming to visit! Maasai Mara Round 2, here we come!

MAASAI QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“The Big Five… Here in Kenya you have the Big Six. The Big Six is the Maasai.” ~Anonymous

Karibu Kenya!

After about 28 long hours, we finally landed at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International airport. Our plane landed pretty late on Thursday night (June 7th, 2018) at about 10:30pm. It wasn’t an easy or perfect trip as we headed out from Victorville, CA to Ontario International airport on the early morning hours of June 6th, got on our flight, stopped for a couple of layovers at Salt Lake City and Amsterdam before heading to Nairobi, Kenya. We had a 2-hour delay coming from Amsterdam and some minor issues with our seats. Upon entering the plane and arriving at our assigned seats, we found out they were already occupied by a nursing mother and her other kids who mistakenly got their seat numbers wrong. Too tired to complain, we sat where they were supposed to sit on the opposite side of the plane but ended up with seats that were pretty cramped, stuffy and uncomfortable. Sure we had a couple hurdles when we arrived such waiting in line for our visas to be approved, finding all 7 of our luggage, getting through customs and then finding our assigned transportation arranged by the East-Central Africa Division (ECD). Kenya Customs had to stop us to open a couple of our luggage to check and make sure we were not bringing anything we weren’t supposed to bring. The guy almost charged us a tax fee due to all the dental equipment we brought for donation to the Better Living Hospital. However, since it was super late or close to midnight, the guy miraculously just let us through. We were picked up on a white mini-van and arrived at LMS Guest House inside the Better Living Hospital (BLH) compound around 1:00AM. Praise the Lord we arrived safely!

Friday morning, June 8th came and we were hungry! Titus, who works at the LMS Guest House Restaurant, greeted us with a smile as we walked in the restaurant downstairs and showed us the food options they were serving for their buffet breakfast. Little did we know that we’d spend the next 2 ½ weeks here. I must say, the lacto-vegetarian food at LMS is healthy… sometimes too healthy!

We spent the rest of the day checking out the campus and meeting people and co-workers from both the dental and medical side. The dental clinic downstairs has 5 fully functional operatory chairs. Mel joins the dental team of Dr. Christine Angwenyi, Dr. Radhia Okumu and Dr. Ham Kibuuka. Dr. Angwenyi, the clinic director usually works from 7AM-2PM while the rest schedule patients from 9AM-4PM Monday-Thursday and 9AM-1PM on Fridays. The dental clinic also opens on Sundays from 9AM-1PM where an assigned doctor and assistant rotate every month. After clinic, Dr. Ham Kibuuka took us around Nairobi to do a bit of sightseeing. I have to say, it’s pretty crazy seeing how people drive here and the traffic can be quite hectic. But for most of the pinoys we’ve met here, they simply say, “If you can drive in the Philippines, you can drive anywhere in the world.” *Sigh* Along the way, we were able to stop by a couple of the malls to get our Kenyan phone SIM cards so we can start calling and using data. Since M-Pesa or mobile money is pretty common here (kinda like Venmo), Dr. Ham suggested that one of us use Airtel while the other uses Safaricom. After getting our phones sorted, we tagged along and even got to see where Dr. Ham gets his car washed at Lenana Supershine. What a good day to see a glimpse of where we’ll be for the next few years.

Sabbath came and we joined Dr. Ham and headed to Maxwell Academy/Adventist University of Africa for church. It was graduation day so there wasn’t much of a service. Dr. Ham introduced us to a couple of his friends such as Kaumba, Alex, Brian, Fred and Virgil, who basically form the “For Him Ministries” singing group.

Pizza, french fries and soda were served for lunch after church at Kaumba’s house which was not so healthy… lol. We learned a couple of Nairobi survival tips about matatus, boda bodas (public transportation) & hustling from the guys. Our favorite would probably have to be Fred’s quote about food hustling. We headed back to Nairobi about 4pm that afternoon. Although it initially only took about 45 minutes to get to Maxwell Academy earlier in the morning, the drive back took a little over 2 hours due to the snail like traffic.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“A tip for surviving. If someone gives you food, first refuse… Then they will give you more. Then say, since you insist, then yes.” –Fred Kichari

We basically took the next couple of days or weeks adjusting our time clocks (there’s a 10 hour time difference between USA and Kenya), trying Kenyan comfort food (ugali, managu, githeri, and many more that I can’t remember the names of), understanding the procedures and protocols in the dental clinic and hospital, watching the most soccer we’ve ever watched due to the FIFA World Cup, exploring the city and visiting a number of malls/shopping areas such as The Hub, Sarit Centre, Yaya Centre and the Junction Mall.

There’s so much to do here and even though we don’t have a car yet, we’re able to safely get around using Uber, which is way cheaper than getting a taxi. Going on safaris is a must and we can’t wait to go on our first safari experience together to Maasai Mara on August 24th with Mara Vision Outreach and Pastor Taj Pacleb.

One of the many blessings we praise God for was moving into our new home, which is a 10-15 min walking distance from BLH. As we mentioned earlier, we were basically staying at LMS Guest House as the hospital decided on a suitable location for us to stay at. It was a huge blessing in disguise as the 4-bedroom house we were initially supposed to stay at was about a 15-minute drive to work, which probably meant about a 30-45 minute drive everyday with traffic. That other house also felt too isolated and needed a lot of repairs since it had deteriorated as no one had been living in it for over 4 years. Although our 2-bedroom apartment is a lot smaller, it’s the perfect home for us and very convenient as we get to basically walk to and from work everyday. God knew exactly what we needed and He provided. It brings to mind the verse found in Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

It was also a pleasant surprise and nice to catch up with Dr. Leng and Dr. Lee, who stopped by the dental clinic early July after finishing a mission trip at Maasai Mara. Later that month we even got to celebrate Mel & Fred’s birthday with the Archer family and some of our friends at Artcaffe on July 21st, then followed that up recently with a mini cake celebration with Dr. Ham Kibuuka at the dental clinic.

Looking back at it now, staying at LMS Guest House for over 2 weeks didn’t feel like “home” but more of a prolonged vacation/hotel stay. I guess if there’s one thing we realized, it’s that things can tend to move very slowly in Africa. Our initial visas had to get extended since there was an unexpected delay in getting our work permits as it was processed at a time when the immigration offices were transitioning approvals for all foreigners in Kenya. It’s also been quite an adjustment and challenge working with film X-rays and hand filing each endodontic case due to the lack of equipment (apex locators and rotary). Hopefully we can fundraise enough to get those instruments within the next couple of years to help the clinic run more efficiently. Please continue to pray for us as we patiently wait on the last bit of government documents we need so we can finally get a local bank account, a car and more importantly, a Kenyan Tax ID # so we can get our freight shipment/container of things to be shipped from LA to Nairobi. We anticipate getting them in 3-4 months or worst-case scenario by January next year.

Last but not least, I’ll end with a short testimony. As Maureen and I started to walk to and from work everyday, there was this middle-aged man who awkwardly approached us and asked for food. I guess you can say this is pretty common here, kind of like the streets of Manila, Philippines. The first time we saw him, I gave him 300ksh (~$3.00 USD). A couple of days later he did the same thing and asked for food, this time calling me, “My friend”. Sometimes he comes out of nowhere, behind a car or sometimes from behind a couple of trees or a bush. He usually hangs around outside the gates of the hospital compound cleaning people’s cars with the water he collects from the street gutter on the side of the road. On different occasions, we’ve given him cash, coins, mandazi (Swahili Buns) and even some extra avocados we were carrying on our way home. After one particular rough day at work, Maureen and I saw him crossing the opposite side of the street to meet us as we walked home. I let out a deep sigh since I was expecting the usual request and had no change to give at the time. He approached us and said, “My friend, are you a doctor? I have this tooth that’s very painful.” To cut the long story short, I was able to squeeze him in our schedule the next morning, escort him into clinic, pray for him and extract the tooth that was bothering him at no cost. I finally asked for his name as he sat there waiting to be treated. His name is Daniel, which in Hebrew means, “God is my Judge.” It was a nice way of Him basically reminding me why He brought me here in the first place. Daniel is doing fine now and always greets me the same way whenever I see him; the awkward approach which usually starts with, “My friend” followed with a huge smile on his face and often the usual request. No matter how awkward, God can find ways for us to build relationships with different people as long as we are open and willing to follow Him. #mygodisarighteousjudge

As we spend the next few years learning more about the culture here, it is our prayer that we may continue to seek Him and experience God’s work in our lives as we spend the next 5, maybe 6 years (God willing) in this beautiful country we now get to call home. While there have been times when we seriously missed home and the comfort level we once had with our family and friends, we understand that He is in control. Cheryl Doss’ son once said, “Home is where I am.” As for Maureen and I, we’d like to close by adding, “Home is wherever you feel God can use you to make this world a better place.” #seeyouontheseaofglassmyfriend #3rdculturekidproblems

Blessings,

MnM

 

Mission Training Complete

After the first week of Mission Institute training, which included introductions and multiple classes, it was time for a much-needed break. Thankfully we had the weekends off so a group of us decided to go to Delphi on Sunday (4/22), which was about 3 hours away from where we were staying. Out of all the places in Greece, why Delphi you might ask? Google it! Apparently, it’s one of the more important oracles of ancient Greece. It’s located on Mt. Parnassus near the Gulf of Corinth and the sanctuary erected there was home to the famous Greek god of Apollo. If you ever plan to visit this place, make sure you have at least 22 euros for the tolls. We ended up passing a total of 6 tollgates to and from Delphi. Nevertheless it was a must sight to see! And what an enjoyable experience it was with good company. Thanks Kuya Arjay and the Awungashi family for making this trip memorable! Special thanks to Pastor Akhan for taking these photos!

 

The following weekend (4/29), Mel and I flew out really early Saturday morning to Santorini, one of the most popular islands in Greece. It’s one of those really magical places we’ve been to and definitely worth visiting. Our chauffeur told us that April was actually the best time to visit since it’s not too hot and there aren’t many tourists. It was interesting to find out that the famous blue and white paint on the buildings were actually done to keep them cool and reflect the sun’s rays. Even though we only stayed in Santorini for one night, we tried to make the most of it. We walked around the area, did some sightseeing and enjoyed the amazing views especially from our room at Oia Mare Villas. There were many cute little shops and eateries. We ended our night by watching the sunset where Kuya Arjay was staying at Golden Sunset Villas. Many people all over watched in anticipation as the sun slowly came down. To our disappointment, the clouds covered the sun and we didn’t get a clear view of the sunset. Kuya Arjay, one of the missionaries who was with us, said that the sunset from the previous day was beautiful. It was so spectacular that everyone clapped in awe. Sad to say, we didn’t catch an amazing sunset but we’re thankful for the opportunity to even step foot in Santorini.

We woke up early the next morning to catch the sunrise to make up for missing the sunset the previous night. It was super cold but Mel got a pretty cool time lapse although he didn’t realize he captured a rock instead of the sea. We also ventured off to Fira twice by bus to eat some delicious gyros. It turned out that “Lucky’s Souvlakis” was a really popular place to go to, so we had lunch there on Sunday before our flight back to Athens that evening. Thank you Kuya Arjay for taking our second honeymoon photos. ^_^

The Sabbath before we left Greece, our group had a special dedication service at Athens SDA church. It was a heartfelt service especially since we had our own agape feast the night before to welcome the Sabbath. At the end of the church service, we were all asked to come to the front where we all accepted the Missionary charge below.

Missionary Charge:
Because you have known and received God’s unconditional love…
Because you have heard the call of God to the specialized ministry of cross-cultural service…
Do you now commit yourself to obey the divine command to “GO into all the world and make disciples of all nations”…
Do you commit yourself to the hard task of learning the language and the culture and of adapting your ways and your witness for the sake of the gospel…
Do you commit yourself to lead people to Christ and to nurture those you serve to understand and follow all of Jesus’ teachings…
Do you accept the sacred responsibility of protecting yourself and your family— physically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially—so that you may not “gain the whole world” but lose your own family…
Do you accept Jesus’ eternal promise that through the Holy Spirit, He will be with you always–to guide, to strengthen, to encourage, to enable, and to stay beside you…
Do you accept these challenges by the grace of God?

After a wonderful Greek potluck hosted by the church members, we walked around downtown Athens with Dr. Jon Kim and his family. A couple meters from the church we saw people injecting themselves with who knows what. It’s kind of sad especially knowing that the country of Greece as a whole and its economy is struggling. I guess everywhere you go, you’ll eventually find numerous people that really need help. As we kept walking we saw a lot of random graffiti on the walls and policemen stationed at certain blocks. At one point we felt lost. However, with the help of some people giving us directions along the way, we managed to make it back to familiar territory, which led us to the Ancient Agora, located pretty close to the Acropolis. Oh and we finally visited the Temple of Zeus! While we were admiring the structure, it started to rain and then it poured heavily. We found shelter under the trees and waited until it calmed down. The Kim family treated at this fancy restaurant called “OASIS Café” before we all headed back to take the Metro/bus to our hotel. #thankfulforthekims When we arrived back at Dolce Attica Riviera, it was already dinner. We said our farewells/see you laters to our Mission Institute friends that were present and our farewell to Greece.

We feel so blessed to have been given this opportunity to come to Greece for Institute of World Mission. We met some pretty incredible and amazing people from all over the world who share the same passion in serving God and sharing His love with others. During our 3 weeks there, we learned a lot through various lectures, area studies, journaling, the 600 page reading requirements and assignments which contributed to helping us understand and learn more about various cultures, transitioning, adapting and self-reflecting on how to approach missions. Our group table  “Chamorya” (a combination of countries where our group will be serving—Chad, Morocco, and Kenya) was awesome! We hope to catch up with the Archer family once they arrive in Kenya later this summer.

Saying our farewells to family and friends is never easy. A feeling of inadequacy also lingers as we make our final preparations to leave for Africa. At this time, we still don’t feel like we had enough time to prepare but maybe that’s how everyone feels right before they head out. There seems to be a lot left to do and take care of aside from the usual packing and farewells. Although there may be people that we may never see again, we pray that we see you all when He returns. But in the event that our paths do cross again, we hope you come visit us and expect to see you in Kenya! It’s never goodbye, merely just another till we meet again! #hakunamatata

Blessings,

MnM

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Success in mission does not depend upon our initiative, our fine organization, or our methods. The true missionary is not he who relies on his own strength, but he who offers his weakness to God. The mission work is God’s. He created it, and He always creates out of nothing. We must become nothing in order that God may create something.” -Gottfried Oosterwal [1]

  1. Gottfried Oosterwal (Feb 8, 1930-Nov 9, 2015) Former Director of Institute of World Mission & Author of “Mission: Possible: The Challenge of Mission Today” Southern Publishing Association, 1972

Hello Greece!

IMG_0066After a month and a half in the Republic of Palau, Mel safely arrived back at LAX around 7pm on Tuesday, April 10th 2018. A few days later, we both boarded an early flight at 6:00AM from Ontario airport for Athens, Greece to attend the 153rd Mission Institute hosted by the General Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. We had a couple of layovers in Seattle and Amsterdam before finally arriving Athens late Friday afternoon. Our hotel chauffer greeted us at the airport arrivals and escorted the Archer family and us to the hotel minivan parked just outside the airport entrance. We finally arrived at the Dolce Attica Riviera hotel just before sunset. The hotel itself is about a 15 min drive from the airport and located on the east coast in Greece. It’s pretty isolated and quiet, which is nice but it’s about a 40 minute drive away from the city of Athens.

After watching the sunrise and grabbing breakfast Sunday morning, we quickly headed to the bus stop around 8:20AM. The 304 bus actually arrived within 10 minutes of us getting there and 30 minutes later we were on the Metro Train headed to Acropolis. All in all it took us a little over an hour to get there. Our first stop after getting our tickets was the Acropolis, since Mel needed to get to the top to find the restroom. Visiting the Acropolis and the north and south slopes actually costs €20 per person, but we decided to get the special package ticket for €30 each which included a number of other sites such as the Roman Agara, Ancient Agora and the Olympieion (aka The Temple of Olympian Zeus) to name a few. We quickly took some shots of the Theatre of Dionysus & the Odeon of Herod Atticus before making our way up to the Propyla or entrance of the Acropolis, which was pretty majestic. The Parthenon was spectacular but it was very crowded since a lot of people wanted to take pictures next to this ancient ruin. Mel decided to go around each side and capture different angles, but in my opinion it all looked the same. He finally found a toilet, so I waited and watched some kids try to catch pigeons with their hands. It was quite amusing but their efforts were in vain. Moving on, we eventually made our way to the Areopagus hill, the Roman Agora and the Ancient Agora, which was pretty cool. The Areopagus hill (aka “Mars Hill”) is supposedly where Apostle Paul is said to have preached to the Athenians in Acts 17:24. It was unfortunate though that this place had a lot of graffiti and trash all over the place. By this time, we were famished and hangry so we stopped by “Hans & Gretel” and ordered a chimney cake with cookies ice cream. It was delicious!

Later, we decided to check out the Acropolis museum before eventually grabbing a late lunch. Like I said, we were so tired and hungry we decided to just skip the Olympieion and go find some food. We took the Metro and somehow found “The Greco’s Project” restaurant. We ordered the eggplant stuffing with greek cheese for our appetizer and the chicken gyro plate and a couple of kebabs for our main course. Greek food never tasted so good!

Parthenon MnmIt’s crazy because once Mission Institute started the following day; we found out that the Archer family will also be serving in Kenya starting this July. The goals of the Institute of World Mission is to better equip us in the transition to mission service, to help us gain a support system as well as help us share the gospel more efficiently to the people we may come into contact with. Aside from the 600 or so pages we are required to read, we were each given small blue journals to write on that we would have to submit every morning the following day. Before Cheryl Doss (Director of Mission Institute) gave us the journals she mentioned, “We don’t learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on our experiences.” Although Mission Institute just barely started, we hope we will be able to journal/blog often to reflect on how far God has taken us in our journey to Africa.

While Mel and I have struggled to stay patient and even wrestled with God about going to Nairobi, Kenya since Mel’s graduation from dental school, there’s an encouraging quote we recently read from the book “Passport to Mission” which we’d like to share. Hopefully it can sum up why we both decided to go serve in a country we barely know anything about. It states, “God calls us to Him, and then in love we respond and go where He sends us. He does not command results, but He does expect faithfulness. The results are in His hands, but the willingness to respond to His call to mission is ours.”[1]

To close this blog entry, recall that God once called Abraham out of his own country to make of him a great nation (Genesis 12). That great nation of Israel could not have happened without Sarah. God therefore does not just call one person in the family to be a missionary; He actually calls every member of that family. Being a missionary is not about our qualifications, but is about what kind of heart we have. Even though God does not specifically call every Christian to do long term cross-cultural mission work, He does call each of us to love people just as He loved us.

Despite the uncertainty, concerns or fears we ourselves or our family and friends may have, Ellen G. White states, “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”[2] He has indeed led us this far, and we truly believe He will continue to lead us safely through the difficult days before us. Just like Peter, James, John and the rest of the disciples and missionaries that have gone before us, we step out in faith and pray that in our trials that lie ahead, we may still be able to praise Him saying, “It is well with my soul” and that He uses us both mightily for His service until He returns.

~MnM

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“From the moment we heard about you, we have never stopped praying. If Jesus doesn’t come soon, then we pray your children will become missionaries. We never cease to serve, until our Jesus comes.” -Cheryl Doss

Reference:

  1. “Chapter 6/So Why Not?” Passport to Mission, by Cheryl Doss et al., Institute of World Mission / General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, 2017, p. 53.
  2. Life Sketches of Ellen G. White by EGW et al., Ellen G. White Estate, Chapter 31-Burden Bearers p. 196 (1902) -{LS 196.2}

Finishing The Race

When most people think of Palau, the Jellyfish Lake usually comes to mind. This unique lake was basically sealed off from the ocean many years ago causing the jellyfish there to lose their ability to sting, making them harmless. There are six or so of these jellyfish lakes in Palau, yet only one was open to the public as the others were preserved. Unfortunately, the lake closed down as the jellyfish population was nearly all wiped out due to the combination of a huge drought in 2016 and El Nino (effects of irregular warming causing an increase in salinity in the lake). After asking about the Jellyfish Lake, a local diver told me he went to visit the lake recently and that there were only a couple of jellyfish left out of the 20 million or so that used to be there. Although it was pretty sad to hear about the status of Jellyfish Lake, I was still able to visit the Rock Islands a number of times over the last couple of weeks; as well as go diving at some of the more popular dive spots such as the Ulong Channel, Blue Corner (my favorite), German Channel, Grasslands, Virgin Blue Hole, Jake Seaplane and the Iro Maru Wreck. Diving here has probably been one of the most beautiful and unique experiences I’ve ever had. Swimming alongside reef sharks, manta rays, stingrays, spotted eagle rays, moray eels, turtles and a number of fishes have made Palau one of my favorite countries to check out. Hopefully the YouTube video below shows a little glimpse of how incredible this place is. If you ever get a chance to visit Palau, diving should be at the top of your list of things to do.

It’s crazy how many tourists come to visit the beautiful islands of Palau. We even had Pastor John Bradshaw (Speaker/Director for It is Written) and his son Jacob arrive over 3 weeks ago. Dr. Jeff Schroeder and I were able to have dinner with them on Tuesday (3/6) at a local Indian restaurant called “Taj Cuisine”. It was pretty cool to meet a fellow kiwi as I got to talk to him about New Zealand and my fond memories there many years ago. The vegetarian Indian food was also super good as I probably had the best salad and eggplant curry I’ve ever tasted in my life. We then stopped by l’Amarena for some gelato before showing John and Jacob around the Palau Adventist Wellness Center (PAWC) and introduced them to Dr. Julio Narveas.

The following day, we went diving again at the German Channel, Blue Corner and the Iro Maru Wreck. We dropped Taj, Wati, Jeffrey and Julie to camp at the chief’s island, Ngemelis after noon before going on our last dive at the Iro Maru wreck. After the great wreck dive, we took a group selfie to end a pretty epic day of diving. That evening, we went to the Ngarachamayong Cultural Center where Pastor John Bradshaw started the Palau-Wide Camp Meeting from March 7-10. Taj and Wati Pacleb as well as Jeffrey and Julie Spady flew out via Guam back to the U.S. a couple of days later.

We were kindly treated out for lunch at “The Penthouse Hotel” (3/8) by Eric Whipps (Surangel’s owner & one of the board members at the PAWC), where I had my first real Palauan plate of Parrot Fish filet with taro. Our dental crew then headed to our local gelato spot, I’Amarena for dessert. It’s crazy how many times we’ve gone to this spot since I’ve got here. We blame Dr. Jeff since he always finds a way to sneak in his famous quote; “I’m feeling like gelato today” and we obviously can’t say no since he occasionally likes to treat us out. The owner actually told one of the customers, “Here come my regulars” as we were walking in which was pretty funny. I guess the goal is to try all their flavors before leaving Palau because it’s just super good.

That night, we started our MANdatory men’s night out at Shawarma Corner with Joshua and Dr. Jeff. We plan to have a regular guys night out at least once every week to talk about very important matters and decisions like if we should get gelato right after dinner or wait for the girls. We had another men’s night out Sunday with Joshua and Nassa, my new Kenyan friend at Carps Restaurant after soccer. Evet crashed our MANdatory men’s night out the following week though since word got out to the girls that we were sneaking out grabbing dinner at random restaurants around the island.

Due to the short clinic hours on Friday, Dr. Jeff and I finally got to drive around the entire island to visit the capital Melekeok, which is located on the central east coast of Babeldoab island and about 30-45 minutes drive from downtown Koror. There’s so much vegetation and the capital is pretty cool as it’s up on a hill and looks like the Taj Mahal from afar. It’s pretty interesting to see how big the building is, where the office of the president is and how the whole building is fully air conditioned and well maintained. Aside from visiting beaches and waterfalls north of Koror, there really isn’t much to do up there to be honest as you could pretty much drive around the whole island in a couple of hours.

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The Capital – Melekeok

After dropping off the Ophthalmology team and the Bradshaw’s to the airport early Monday morning (3/12), Joshua and I were able to move back in to the PAWC from Eric’s house. Thanks once again to Eric and Joy Whipps for letting us stay over and eat all your food and homemade cookies. They were delicious! We also had a basketball game later that night which was pretty epic as our team Surangel Kings barely won 98-91 against Topside On Fire.

Dr. Gabriel Ortega safely arrived late Friday night (3/16) from Manila, Philippines to serve for a year as the new missionary dentist at the Palau Adventist Wellness Center. We were able to bring him with us on Sunday (3/18) to visit the rock islands once again using the church boat to do some snorkeling/free diving at Clam City, Blue Corner, the Big Drop-off and Cemetery Reef. We were also able to stop by the chief’s island, Ngemelis and take our first clinic group video. It was super fun swimming with a bunch of fishes, sharks and a couple turtles with Pastor Tiago Cunha’s family as well as Dr. Neil Nedley (President of Weimar Institute) and his wife, who were visiting for the weekend.

For the following two days (March 19-20), our dental staff was at the Palau Pacific Resort for a Tuberculosis (TB) Clinical Intensive Training hosted by the Palau Ministry of Health. It was basically two full days of lectures with a small breakfast and buffet lunch provided. Dr. Ortega, Joshua, Rachelle, Evet and I mostly sat out the second day however to run some errands and open up the dental clinic for some treatments and to help a couple of walk-in patients.

Dr. Jeff was somehow able to get permission from the chief and get us special permits for us to camp at his island, Ngemelis on Saturday night (3/24). After a full day at church, potluck and prison ministry, we all packed up, went to the dock and arrived at the island a couple of hours or so before sunset during low tide. Although it rained for the most part and we had some real trouble getting the generator to work, we were still able to have a great time drinking fresh coconut juice, eating, making campfire s’mores, and playing “Heads Up!” for hours late into the night. We had an unexpected visitor (Mr. Crabs) Sunday morning as we were finishing up our breakfast & having worship. After packing up, we headed out to the Big Drop-off for some snorkeling where we saw a Spotted Eagle Ray gliding majestically on the ocean floor. We also stopped by this place called Nguchus for lunch, which really reminded me of El Nido, Palawan. It was so pretty and we felt super lucky since we had the whole spot to ourselves.IMG_E0135

Sadly, Dr. Jeff Schroeder had to leave about 2 weeks earlier than he initially planned so we grabbed some gelato, made dinner for him and decided to sing him some songs from “The Greatest Showman” on Monday night (3/26). We got some pictures together and printed them out and made him a thank you Palau Album with individual hand written notes from each of us. It’s been incredible learning dentistry from him and his presence will be sorely missed. He kind of had a huge role in bringing everyone together and became a father figure to us all. Hopefully we can one day plan to go diving again in South Africa to see “The Sardine Run.”

Since a lot of our teammates were not able to make it to our game this past Thursday due to the Creativity Fair at Palau SDA Elementary, Dr. Gabriel Ortega got his first bit of basketball action as he played point guard for our basketball team. We came close but Surangel Kings eventually took our first loss of the season, falling to Peched Raw 104-99. I hit a couple of three pointers but the most memorable was probably my first missed attempt that got the ball stuck between the rim and the backboard. A couple of players nearly injured themselves trying to poke it free as they jumped and landed back on the slippery, sweaty wooden floors of the Palau National Gym.

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With Joshua, Rebecca, Dr. Ortega & Eric Whipps after the game

After a pretty short clinic day on Friday, went all went to visit the Biota Palau Fish Hatchery. Tom Bowling and his team do some pretty cool stuff here such as collecting eggs of fish during spawning; to hopefully one day restock reefs in the pacific with fish, corals and clams. They were the first to produce the Coral Beauty Angelfish on a commercial level and they distribute mostly to pet shops/aquariums in the USA. We also saw a lot of juvenile Clown Triggerfish; a couple of seahorses, a bunch of Blue Lined Seabrim and the beautiful, colorful but very shy Mandarin Dragonet fish. If you have the time, be sure to check out the Biota promotional video below. After Tom gave us a brief tour and let us touch some of the corals/clams at Biota, we did some snorkeling/swimming at the Koror-Babeldoab Bridge before heading back to the PAWC just before sunset.IMG_E0173

This past Sunday, Joshua, Evet, Rachelle and I were able to join some of the student missionaries from Palau Mission Academy (PMA) diving around the rock islands. The waves were pretty rough so we were not able to go to the popular dive spots we usually go to and so the dive master from Palau Dive Adventure decided we should all go to Ngerchong Island instead. There’s a couple of dive sites there called Ngerchong Inside & Outside that we did which was pretty good but it wasn’t as great as Blue Corner and German Channel. We still got to see a couple of reef sharks, a lot of snapper, Napoleon and I spotted a couple of sea turtles even though they were pretty far away.

As I prepare to head back to Southern California and then to Athens, Greece for Mission Institute, I wish Dr. Ortega and the staff at PAWC all the best as they continue to serve the people of Palau. I was telling Dr. Jeff the other day that I really believe I was closest to God during my personal and academic struggles in dental school. During my time here in Palau however, I can honestly say that I’ve grown not only in my spiritual life, but also mentally and physically as well. It’s been a blessing to have met a number of amazing people, which include the men from our basketball team as well as the men I’ve gotten to know at the local prison. One of the prisoners, Justin generously decided to give me a couple Palauan wood-carved souvenirs’ to take back home. It’s very humbling to receive such amazing gifts as Justin has personally taken a lot of time, effort and resources to make these for merely joining some of the guys at prison ministry and visiting them every Wednesday morning and Sabbath afternoon. I am left in awe at times of how these men have opened up to God’s message and how cheerful and grateful they are when we come there to sing, minister and shake their hands. Seeing these men and their wide smiles was sort of God’s method of reminding me that despite the negative things that happens in our lives, He is always in control.

Although my time in Palau is almost up, I’d like to thank Dr. Steven Chang, Dr. Jeff Schroeder, Eric Whipps and the rest of the board members and staff at the PAWC for giving me an opportunity to serve some of the people on this island. I’ve definitely seen my fair share of betel nut/quid patients with a number of leukoplakia and erythroplakia cases from people that have been chewing for years. I’ll end this blog entry by sharing something I heard from one of Pastor Bradshaw’s sermons. He mentioned the story of a female 1500m runner from New Zealand named Sylvia Potts, who came so close to winning gold at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1970. Despite leading the race and mere seconds away from certain victory, she famously fell just 2m short of finishing and eventually finished in 9th place. Pastor Bradshaw then asked a question that sort of troubled me. His question was, “How many of us will be close to making it (to heaven), but not close enough?”

I’d like to think we shouldn’t worry about who wins or finishes the race first, but focus more on finishing. Finishing the race is all Christ asks us to do. He is fully committed to us, even if we turn and run the other way. Ellen G. White states, “The Christian life is a battle and a march. In this warfare there is no release; the effort must be continuous and persevering. It is by unceasing endeavor that we maintain the victory over the temptations of Satan. Christian integrity must be sought with resistless energy and maintained with a resolute fixedness of purpose.” ~MH 453

Understand that Christ will always run with us, but He won’t run or finish our race for us. Let us not look back at our journey and say there’s more we could have done or that we could have saved just one more soul in the short time that we were given. Your crown awaits you my friend, so run with certainty so that you may obtain it (1 Corinthians 9:24-26). Jesus is rooting for each and every one us to finish strong. Let us not keep Him waiting any longer.

~Mel

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Your best will never get the job done. But Jesus living His life in you is always good enough.” -John Bradshaw

The Call to Deeper Waters

IMG_9896.jpgA couple of weeks ago, Pastor Justin Kim asked a question that stuck with me during his sermon at the Riverside Korean SDA Church. His question was, “How does your job impact the gospel work?” At the time, I couldn’t honestly give a direct answer to this question, but hopefully this blog entry can do just that.

My experience in Palau so far has been pretty unique and incredible. Sunday’s and Monday’s are usually pretty chill days at the Palau Adventist Wellness Center (PAWC). After snorkeling and picking up some much needed groceries at the store on Sunday evening, our dental team prepared to have dinner with the Mormon missionaries the following evening. Joshua, Rachelle, Rebecca and Evette prepared vegetarian curry, chow mein, brown rice and coconut water while I cooked some potatoes on the side. Dr. Jeff pretty much did the finishing touches and baked the last few batches of Joshua’s famous chocolate chip cookies. Let me just leave some cookie quotes here for reference on how they turned out. Overall, I’d say it was a pretty successful get together and it was fun seeing everyone enjoy each other’s company through a good meal which included plenty of laughs and karaoke.

COOKIE QUOTES:

“These look like composite cookies. I think we should just light cure them.” -Dr. Jeff Schroeder

“They’re great. They can be weapons or cookies.” -Elder Furry

After doing some dentistry on Tuesday, I got a call from “Sam’s Tours” stating that there was a 3-4 day PADI Open Water Dive (OWD) class starting the following morning. I jumped at the opportunity and I’m really glad I did. I’ve been staying with Eric Whipps and his family for the past couple of days since there was a team from Taiwan Adventist Hospital who arrived to do a free medical clinic on Thursday. Right after they left, another ophthalmology team led out by Dr. Julio Narvaez from Stockton, CA came to help out and will be staying at the PAWC for about a week or so. Speaking of Eric’s place, it’s not everyday you get to wake up to a view such as this.

IMG_9929Eric’s family has been beyond amazing and I really thank them for their hospitality and the work they do here on the island. Pastor Taj Pacleb and his wife, Wati from “Revelation of Hope Ministries” are also in town staying upstairs and are one of the most down to earth people you can meet. They are also pretty adventurous and have gone on a lot of amazing and crazy dives around the world.

In the brief time that I’ve been here, I’ve been fortunate enough to have met some amazing people like Chief Officer Ollie from the UK and Kathy, our Taiwanese Open Water Dive instructor. In order to dive, you need a great buddy you can trust to go through a number of safety checks and to of course help you out especially when complications arise underwater. There were a number of skill challenges Ollie and I needed to complete 8-10m underwater which I was initially scared of; like pretending to run out of air and sharing your backup regulators, taking our BCD’s off and putting it back on as well as taking our masks off and blindly swimming by being guided by your buddy. Although Ollie and I both come from different continents, we both share a love for traveling and the ocean. He’s just a really funny and chill bloke to be around. We even had dinner and exchanged life stories late Thursday night and he gave me some good tips when traveling to Greece. That was the same night Q, the chief maintenance manager at Sam’s Tours gave us a quick Game of Thrones history lesson on the many chiefs in Palau and how it came to be due to countless wars about women and land. It was so hilarious I really wish I took a video of it.

After completing our 4 “Training” Open Water Dives and the Nitrox class, we were finally able to do our first real dive at “Half-day wreck” on Friday afternoon. I can really see how this diving stuff gets so addicting. After our awesome wreck dive, Ollie and I hit the showers after returning all our scuba rental equipment. While we were in the showers, I randomly bumped into a patient I treated the week before. I guess he saw me and really wanted to ask me about the status of his crowns which we had mailed out to the lab last Friday. Ollie thought it was hilarious and awkward at the same time. After getting out of the shower, Ollie came up to me and asked, “Do your patients usually talk to you while you’re trying to wash your balls?” Luckily, I still had my shorts on and didn’t have my junk sticking out.

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1st Open Water Dive Site

Let me end this entry with a short testimony to help me answer the question Pastor Kim asked in the first paragraph to hopefully inspire whoever is reading this. While our dental crew was buying supplies for our Monday dinner with the Mormons on Sunday, I happened to focus my attention on this old man pacing himself throughout the store. He finally got to the counter around the same time we were checking out on the adjacent aisle. The man held a beverage on his hand and after placing it on the shopping aisle; he immediately looked down at the floor and started squeezing or fiddling his fingers. It clearly seemed like he didn’t have any money on him as the poor lady at the checkout counter stared at him with a bewildered, disappointed and then somewhat frustrated expression on her face. I don’t know why, but I felt a sudden urge to step in to pay for the drink before she said anything. To be honest, I’d usually prefer to give people food instead of money so this was an entirely new feeling for me. I share this story not to boast in any way, but to merely remind myself to never take things for granted and to realize how fortunate I am to be in a profession where I can really help people regardless of where they come from. Perhaps loving one another and sharing what little we have to the least fortunate is all it takes to make an impact. Just imagine what our world would look like if Christians actually treated others as Christ did? It may not seem like much, but I was able to act on an opportunity to give a man who was thirsty a drink (Matthew 25:35). As Pastor Taj mentioned in his sermon earlier, “Everyone has an influence. Influence has the power to change the world.” Maybe one day my Father above will thank me for that small gesture at the grocery store. But even if He doesn’t; at the end of the day, the only approval I seek is His and His alone. It’s what pushes me to be a better friend, a better husband, a better Christian, and most importantly a better witness. I know I still have a long ways to go, but I can’t wait for the day I finally hear Him say, “Well done my child, well done” (Matthew 25:23).

~Mel

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Most people spend their entire lives on the surface, but God calls us to go deep. The deeper you go, the more you see the fingerprints of an intelligent design.” -Taj Pacleb