Greetings from Guam – where the sun first rises on American territory! Even with the rain today, the Lord answered so many prayers as 25 sold-out disciples-which included the 11 on the zealous Guam Mission Team, the 8 in the valiant Remnant Group, and the 7 visiting disciples – had 105 in attendance! God also blessed us with an incredible baptism – Devin, the nephew of Therese Untalan and Bernie Pereda! Guam became American territory in 1898 after the USA won the Spanish-American War! Most likely, the Chamorro people first arrived on the Island about 2,000 BC! Interestingly, Tony & Therese Untalan – the World Sector Leaders of Shepherding – were born in Guam, were converted here in 1997 by the ICOC, and are of Chamorro descent! The demographics for this gorgeous “Eden” of 180,000 lost souls are: Chamorro 37%, Filipinos 29%, Caucasian 7%, Chuukees 7%, and Others (mostly Asian and Pacific Islanders) 20%! Biblically, this island paradise is one of “the ends of the earth!” (Isaiah 42:10) Of special note, Therese was Miss Guam in 1985 and so knows almost everyone on the Island including the Governor!
On Tuesday, February 25th, Elena & I boarded a plane flight to San Francisco on our way to the Guam Inaugural Weekend to visit and to have dinner that night with our youngest son Eric! The following Wednesday morning, Elena & I had a special prayer for the Guam Inaugural and especially for the dynamic leaders of the Guam Mission Team – Sean & Krystal O’Connor! Later that morning, we continued our travels to Guam through Honolulu – with an extremely tight 58-minute layover – amazingly meeting Tony & Therese Untalan and Beto & Irene Legarda (Krystal’s parents) on the plane! Most likely because of cancelations due to fears of the coronavirus, all six of us were “bumped up” from economy to business class! Beto & Irene were traveling “incognito” as they did not tell Krystal that they were coming to support the Inaugural!
When we came through the baggage claim, we immediately received a glorious SoldOut Movement Welcome! Cheers went up as the Untalan’s went first, then us, and lagging a bit behind – to add to the surprise – were Beto & Irene! When Krystal saw her parents she wept tears of great joy and rushed to fall into her father’s and mother’s arms! At the airport were the Guam Mission Team: Sean & Krystal O’Connor (Los Angeles, CA), Nisha Danis (Portland, OR via Manila), Nichole Turner (Eugene, OR), Charis Skimpy (Portland, OR), Fredierick “Tito” Datiles (New York City, NY), Aihanuwa Okundaye (Los Angeles, CA), Francisco Tobon (Los Angeles, CA), Samantha Mower (Los Angeles, CA), Adrian Anzures (Los Angeles, CA), and Levi Pettigrew (Los Angeles, CA)! As well, equally fired up was the valiant Guam Remnant Group: The leaders – John & Bernie Pereda (Bernie is Therese Untalan’s sister), Patrick Marquez, Sydnee Bryan, John Escaño, Brittney Pereda and Nancy Mafnas! Therefore the Guam ICC is beginning with 18 sold-out disciples!
Friday was filled with various enjoyable appointments! So encouraging to be with Sean & Krystal as it is evident to all of that have known them just how much they have grown spiritually! Friday Night at 7:00 PM was the Devotional at John’s & Bernie’s home! Memories abounded for Elena & me as we met there exactly 10 years ago to initiate the Guam Remnant Group! Especially touching was seeing their beautiful daughters – Brittney and Juanny! We began with a feast made by all the brothers and sisters! Then came the singing and the opportunity for Elena & me to share GOOD NEWS FROM AROUND THE WORLD!
As I started, I shared about my memories from 10 years ago, especially when I was presented by John with a Chamorro Chieftain necklace carved from a giant clam by John’s brother Robert! Then I took it out of my pocket and Elena put it on me! I continued to share that I have carried it in my suitcase for 10 years taking very seriously that I was made the Chamorro Spiritual Leader! Some may say, “How do you have the right?” Well, when Elena & I first went to Portland in 2003, we met Tony & Therese and became the best of friends. They later asked us that if something were to happen to them, would we adopt their daughters – Coleen (now Challinor) and Tess (whom I will preside for her wedding in June.) We said “yes” and that night, we adopted two Chamorro daughters! So, I was already a spiritual “Chamorro stepdad” when John made me the Chamorro Spiritual Chief on that fateful Sunday 10 years ago! My opening words to the disciples at the Peredas’ home were, “No longer will the terms ‘Guam Remnant Group’ and ‘Guam Mission Team’ be used, but from here on out, you are the Guam International Christian Church!
After a short break, Ricky did a dynamite lesson from John 4 entitled, THE INAUGURATION OF NATION! His textual study was about how Jesus brought together Jews and Samaritans – and men and women – into God’s one true nation – His church universal! Indeed, Ricky & Co are doing an outstanding job overseeing not only Guam but all of Southeast Asia! Saturday, we enjoyed a light brunch with the Lagardas and Untalan’s and then headed to the Latte of Freedom where the Inaugural Service would be held the next day to set up everything! There I was asked two questions: 1) Does going to Inaugural Services ever get old? My answer, “Never! Each impacts new people and each has a unique ‘flare’ and quality about it! The second question: 2) There are so many people in the world, so how do you stay motivated since we are touching only a few lives at each Inaugural? My answer was to tell the story of the starfish! That night, the Untalan’s, the Challinors and us were graciously treated by the Guam ICC to an “all you can eat” BBQ Buffet Dinner and a Cultural Show, entitled “Tao Tao Tasi!” This event took place on Gun Beach in Tumon, with the beach as a gorgeous backdrop to the various cultural dances and performances that told the story of the Chamorro people!
Sunday morning, we arose at 5:00 AM only to find out that rain was predicted for the day! At my quiet time, I asked the Lord to let the “Son” shine – be it sunny or rainy! As we drove up to the Latte of Freedom – the site of the Inaugural – there were scattered showers, but the sky was clearing! Praise God! We started the service on “Island time” at 10:25 AM! We began church with three awesome songs, and then Elena & I were privileged to give the Welcome! Following came the International Prayer in five languages: Spanish, Chuukese, Tagalog, Chamorro, and English! John wept as he prayed in Chamorro, as the service meant so much to him after a 10-year wait! After a song, Krystal shared for Communion that she was very honored that her mom was Fijian – thus making her half “Pacific Islander!” She also shared that her dad was from Mexico, so her heritage – on both sides – valued family! She then shared how Jesus and the church – God’s family – has changed her life! Following her testimony, Krystal and Nisha sang, “We Need Love!”
For Contribution, Tony & Therese reminded the church that disciples in America had sacrificed so much financially so that the Guam ICC could be planted! Therefore, in turn, the Guam Church needs to imitate that faith and likewise give generously! During Therese’s sharing, she said that she prayed for God to bring her a surprise visitor! Therese then introduced Bernie’s and her oldest sister Dora! (Therese also introduced her sister Michelle, who had planned to come!) Interestingly, Dora was Miss Guam 10 years before Therese in 1975! Truly, Guam is all about family and evangelizing your most loved ones! After the break and singing “You’re The One,” Sean delivered the best sermon of his young ministry! He entitled the lesson, “GOD’S RICHES AT CHRIST’S EXPENSE!” During the lesson, he expressed his gratitude to Krystal’s parents, as well as to Coleen for baptizing Krystal in 2012 and to Ricky for baptizing him in 2015! His phenomenal lesson had two simple points: 1) Everyone Has A Chance, and 2) Don’t Miss Your Chance! There was rapt attention to the lesson even during the down-pouring rain, because most knew that God was speaking directly to them through the powerful Scriptures in Sean’s lesson!
Then came a very entertaining Raffle! Everyone was encouraged to write out a Response Card which in turn was placed into the Raffle Basket, so they had a chance to win! Three “enticing” baskets were prepared with “goodies” and each with a $50 Gift Card: The Movie Basket, The Stress Relief Basket, and the Grilling Basket! Each of the three winners gave a shout of joy when Krystal drew out their cards from the basket and announced their names! I tried to encourage Tony, as I could tell that he was a little disappointed that he did not win the Grilling Basket with all the grilling hardware! Then came another highlight of the service – the baptism of Devin Franquez! After Devin humbly shared about his heart to become a disciple and after his good confession of “Jesus is Lord” we had a prayer for Devin and the food! Thanks to modern technology, most of us were able to watch this miraculous baptism at the beach via livestream! During the amazing dinner, a whole pig was carved up by Tony! Then at the lunchtime fellowship, I learned from Nisha’s mom – Linda Marie – and Nisha’s two sisters – Almarie and Ophemialin – that their mom’s grandfather designed the Guamanian Island Logo that is on Guam Flag! Time passed by so quickly that by 2:00 PM when we had to begin cleaning up the Latte of Freedom Auditorium about 2/3 of the visitors were still enjoying the fellowship! What a day! There is so much fruit in Guam!
As I write this report, Elena & I are readying ourselves for the Celebration Dinner at 6:00 PM where we will share about today’s victories and go over all of the Response Cards! In closing, more good news from Africa: Today, a new remnant group church was initiated in French-speaking Bujumbura, Burundi! Just three short weeks ago, after contacting me on Facebook and then going to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Jojo Ndayizeye – a denominational preacher – and his wife Jaja were baptized! They returned home with the Sountouras of Abidjan to “teach the Word of God more accurately” to their congregation! Praise God, that today 76 were baptized in Lake Tanganyika in Burundi! So God’s New Movement is now in 44 nations! Please keep the Guam and Burundi Churches in your prayers! And to God be all the glory!
We are family… filled with visions and dreams,