Pohnpei Part 3- The Church
by Dr. Dave Coryell, Executive Director
Thanks for continuing to allow me to share with you my journey and observations of my travel to Pohnpei! This blog looks at the church and what I experienced there. There are a few things that stood out to me during my time spent with the church in Pohnpei.
Pohnpei’s strong church culture propels many people toward ordained ministry. During my visit, more than thirty people gave their ordination vows. It took me back to my childhood as I observed pastors receive honor and respect. Any pastor could look at a young person, ask for something, and the young person would immediately go do whatever the pastor had asked. All the church pastors, assistant pastors and deacons volunteer their time. Churches with less than three hundred people may have five pastors and five assistant pastors. More than three hundred people allows them to have seven of each.
Once per year in July, the churches celebrate the gospel coming to Pohnpei in 1852. This week is called Rongamwahu. Four hours of worship take place each day with between nine hundred and twelve hundred people attending on most days. Since the church buildings only seat two hundred or less, there are people standing, looking through windows or sitting under tarps listening via a loudspeaker system. Each day begins with a morning service before a caravan of cars drives to the next host church. This continues throughout the week until Rongamwahu ends with a joint Sunday morning service. When Rongamwahu started, the road and cars did not exist. The caravan around the island occurred via a long line of canoes.
Each day at lunch, the host church and a few other churches assigned to assist, provide food. Between one hundred and one hundred forty-five pigs were pit roasted to feed all the people each day. Food trays were wrapped in plastic wrap to keep away the flies. These trays held heaping amounts of food including small bags of flour, containers of salt, bags of chips, cartons of cookies and styrofoam containers holding our cooked food. The idea behind giving away so much food is so that extra food can be given to neighbors and people in need on the way home. As I have read the Bible, this is probably the closest thing I have experienced that relates to the Israelite festivals. All Pastors, Assistant Pastors and Deacons, along with their family’s support, are expected to annually provide a pig for the Rongamwahu celebration. Service to Christ and His Church is both an honor and a sacrifice. Many church leaders save all year and ask family members on other islands for financial assistance in order to provide the pig. This allows the family name to receive honor instead of shame.
FOCUS ON THE FUTURE
Church reform is being heavily discussed. There is a strong need for deeper Bible study to equip pastors in order to teach their people. Additional youth ministry equipping is also desperately necessary. The last Christian Endeavor training occurred on Pohnpei in 1989 and little has happened since then to position the church with methods to reach people. Should God provide the needed finances, Christian Endeavor plans to give a two day training that will reconnect pastors and youth workers to how Christian Endeavor discipleship model works. It will also include basic youth ministry training on items such as how to plan events for life change, and effectively recruiting a volunteer team.
My next blog, the fourth and last one in this series, will focus on how C.E. can INSPIRE, EQUIP and ENCOURAGE the churches of Pohnpei!