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Snapshot of Guam – Guam is an unincorporated territory of the United States, whose official languages are English and Chamorro, though other Philippine languages are also spoken. The Roman Catholic church is the largest religion in Guam. Roman Catholic influence is prominent, with many villages having feast days to celebrate their patron saints. The Chamorro culture is influenced by indigenous culture and Spanish and Mexican practices. Two important aspects of the culture are chenchule’ (the idea of reciprocating the acts of others) and inafa’maolek (interdependence within a community). Many traditional aspects of the culture, such as canoe-making and weaving, are being lost as the society becomes increasingly modernized and more foreign immigrants enter Guam. Food in Guam is varied, with chicken, rice, and seafood dishes being especially popular. Other food items, such as tortillas and tamales reflect the historical Mexican influence that is also present. Fresh fruit, such as mango, is also popular.
Snapshot of the Northern Mariana Islands (part of the Micronesia Guam Mission)
The Northern Mariana Islands is a Commonwealth of the United States, whose official languages are English, Chamorro and Carolinean. There is also a significant Chinese immigrant group, making the area become more culturally diverse in recent years. The Roman Catholic church is the largest religion in the Northern Mariana Islands, and influences many aspects of daily life. Much of the population still makes a living through fishing and farming. Rice is a staple in many meals, generally served alongside vegetables and fish.
Snapshot of Palau (part of the Micronesia Guam Mission)
The official languages of Palau are English and Palauan, though Japanese is an official language on the island of Angaur, Sonsorolese in Sonsoral, and Tobian in Hatohobei. About 77% of Palau’s population is primarily Christian, with the Roman Catholic church being the largest denomination. About 8% belong to the indigenous religion Modekngei. Palauan society is matrilineal, meaning one’s descent is traced through the mother’s side. This influences the passing of traditional titles and inheritance, as well as other practices. Traditional governing practices based on chiefdoms continue today. A unique aspect of this system is that the king and queen are not married to each other, but rather are relatives with their own separate families. Modern music in Palau is influenced by Japanese pop and American country music. Baseball is the most popular sport in Palau, though soccer is also somewhat popular. Typical ingredients in Palauan meals include fish, chicken, pork, cassava, potato, and taro. Western food is also quite popular especially on the main island of Koror, where restaurants serving hamburgers, pizza, Korean and Chinese food, and pasta are common.
Snapshot of the Federated States of Micronesia (part of the Micronesia Guam Mission)
English is the national language of the Federated States of Micronesia, however Pohnpeian (spoken on the island of Pohnpei), Woleaian (spoken on the island of Woleai in the state of Yap), Yapese (spoken on the island of Yap), Kosraean (spoken in the state of Kosrae), and Chuukese (spoken in the state of Chuuk) are also official languages. The four states each have their own distinct cultures, traditions, and demographics. In Kosrae, about 95% of the population is Protestant, while in Chuuk and Yap, the Roman Catholic church is the largest denomination. In all areas of the country, extended family and clan systems are considered very important to society. Yap is unique in its use of “stone money,” large stone disks scattered across the island that are used in trading and sales. Many traditional dances are present on the islands, with stick dancing being the most widespread. Modern music, such as Eurpop, reggae, and country, are also popular. Breadfruit, taro, and cassava are found in many Micronesian meals, as well as fish and seafood such as shrimp and crabs. Pigs and chickens are generally used in larger feasts. Many types of sauces and spices are also commonly used, as well as coconut. Several types of tropical fruit such as mango, papaya, and banana can also be found on the islands.
The Micronesia, Guam mission is the largest mission in the world, spanning about 3,000 square miles. However, most of that area is under water. The mission itself is made up of several islands in the Pacific Ocean including Guam, Chuuk, Kosrae, Yap and Pohnpei. The islands have separate cultures and languages, which creates a challenge for missionaries to prepare themselves culturally beforehand.
Guam was originally inhabited by a group of people called the Chamorros. Evidence of this mysterious people can be found in the Latte Stones, a series of stones all over the island similar to the stone heads found in the Easter Islands. Magellan was the first known non-native to come in contact with the island. He and his crew were hungry and weakened from their long voyage from Portugal and hoped to restock supplies on the island but the Chamorros rowed out to the ship and stole everything they could.
The Chamorros inhabited Guam until it was colonized by the Spanish in the mid 1500’s, who introduced European culture and the Catholic religion. The native people clashed with the new Catholic culture, especially as the Catholic missionary efforts extended to several areas of the islands.
In the late 1800’s Guam was ceded to America as part of the treaty of Paris. It served as a telegraph line to the Philippines and as a strategic location for American forces during WWII.
There have been members of the Church in Guam since the 1940s but the first missionaries didn’t arrive until 1957. The first ward, The Guam Ward, was organized March 10, 1970 with the Micronesia Guam mission opening ten years later in 1980.
There is a palpable church presence on Guam, Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap. To date there are about 4,500 members of the church in Micronesia, divided into 21 congregations. There are also five family history centers. The first stake was organized in Guam in 2010, Elder L. Tom Perry traveled to the island for its organization.
Micronesians eat a diet heavy in rice and local foods like breadfruit (a 10 to 20 pound starchy tree fruit that can be prepared in variety of ways, including fermenting it underground for up to two years) and chicken leg quarters. In most places missionaries are invited to barbeques up to three times a week where they are expected to eat an alarming amount of chicken and rice. Seafood is eaten less than would be expected on a tropical island. Spam is also a popular food on the islands, especially among missionaries.
Most people drive in cars, including missionaries. While there are some walking and biking areas these are uncommon. Since changing areas sometimes includes changing islands, missionaries travel in planes in Micronesia more than most other missionaries.
Apart from the usual safety rules stated in the Mission Handbook, in some areas missionaries were required to be inside before dark and in all areas missionaries had to be careful with their drinking water.
It’s considered rude to walk in between two people while they are talking to each other, locals have been known to climb through windows to get out of a building when two people were talking on the front porch. Apart from a few similarities though each island has its own entire culture, set of laws and language. Customs are vastly different from island to island.
Since Guam is a U.S. province the same rules and regulations apply as if you were sending mail to any other U.S. state. Because the islands are so far spread apart missionaries on islands apart from Guam will receive mail when the mail boat comes. Plan on mail taking longer than you expect to arrive at its destination.
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“My father and I helped build the first “real” chapel on the island. Today that building is used as the mission offices. It was dedicated on March 10, 1970. We were also made a ward that day and our branch president was sustained and ordained as out new bishop. It was also his birthday, if I remember right. We were too big for the building the day we moved in.”
“I do remember how I felt when I walked into the house and the Elders were there with the sailor that they had been teaching. They told me that Charlie wanted to be baptized. I congratulated him on that and they then told me that he wanted me to perform the baptism. I was floored. Today, 40 years later, I still remember his name. I have forgotten most of the names of others I have baptized, but not Charlie’s” – Randy (member involved in the missionary work in Guam)