'Basketball, Bonanza, & More' on tiny island in the Pacific
My Youth in Mission trip this summer is something I will never forget. I was able to do many things and meet so many people while in Saipan. Saipan is a tiny island; about 14 miles long and 6 wide, out in the Pacific Ocean. Roughly about 1500 miles south of Japan and 1,500 east of the Philippines if that helps at all. I have never seen a place so beautiful in my life. Yeah that’s right, a place lovelier than Bethany Oklahoma (if that’s conceivable for you).
There were four members on our Youth in Mission team: Laura, a graduate of OSU and Sarah who came from Trevecca, along with SNU’s own Dustin Beauchamp and myself. The four of us were able to do ministry in a number of ways during our six week Saipan stint.
The girls volunteered teaching at an elementary school near the Bucher’s house. Dave and Helen Ann Bucher are the missionaries in Saipan who allowed us to stay in their home while they were away for the summer. While Sara and Laura were off teaching Saipan’s youth, Dustin and I started a camp called “Basketball Bonanza & More.” We used these activities to reach out and try to get our foot in the door in the community.
Dustin and I had hoped that BB & M would be a big success but our attendance was generally low. However, we had a faithful family of 4 kids, and we were able to build some special friendships with them. These four kids made a huge impact on me, probably more so than I did on them. They didn’t care that I looked different than them and that my skin, lacking pigmentation severely, was nearly light enough to see through. All they cared about was that I was there and spending time with them. Aside from teaching and playing with these kids we did incorporate a little Bible schooling as well.
The mini Vacation Bible School that we held in the front yard of the house was the most enjoyable part of the trip for me. Many of the kids from school that the girls tutored and the faithful four from BB & M came for what we called “Fun in the Son.” Dustin and I performed puppet shows, and the girls gave the lesson and Bible verses. The VBS was the most rewarding because we were able to teach these kids who knew very little about God…something. As a team we helped plant seeds and then trusted that God will take it from there in one way or another.
I learned so many lessons this summer. The first being that living with girls can be tough, and sometimes you just need to keep your mouth shut. The next and more important is that our God is big. It was so encouraging that as far away as I went from my home and my family I was never out of the reach of God’s family. I even found out that God’s family includes more than just Nazarenes (go figure).
I must be honest though; not all of our time was spent there doing ministry. We had some free time, which we spent at the beach swimming and snorkeling. We went hiking and came across ammunition and grenades leftover from the fighting on the island during WWII. We went to a hula show one night, and Dustin and I were chosen to go on stage with these gorgeous girls and dance the hula with them. Dustin won the contest, but I think that night everyone was a winner.
It was a great trip and I would love to go back to Saipan someday. Youth in Mission helped me see a part of the world I would have never been able to, and allowed me to see God in a new way as well. It was the most rewarding thing I have ever done and would encourage anyone who has a desire to do it.
Posted on Tue, October 14, 2003
by Aaron Toler, ECHO guest writer