Interview with the New Pastor in Saipan

Edgar Lloren is the District Pastor in CNMI and Pastor of the Saipan Central SDA Church

We are so happy to have you and your wife Evelyn in Saipan as Pastor of the Saipan Central church and District Pastor of the region.  How long have you been in Saipan and what were some of your first impressions after arriving?

Evelyn and I are grateful for the warm welcome given us by the Guam Micronesia Mission officers, pastors, and members.  We are always reminded of God’s leading every step of the process of the call until it reached us.  And we are grateful to Him. We arrived in Saipan weeks after Super Typhoon Yutu hit Saipan and the island of Tinian.  This is our fourth month since we came.  We are impressed God is calling us to be here to participate in the great grand work of sharing hope and healing.

Please tell us about your family.

My wife and I are blessed with four grown up children and two cute grand children.  Our eldest, Kristi Mares is married to Ernst Eli Gonzales.  They have two boys—Quinton Eli, who will turn 4 years old in December and Dominic Kai will be 1 year old in May.  Jan Irene is studying towards PhD in Bio-Statistics at the University of Milwaukee, WI.  Andrew Paul is married to Danitza Meneses and they are on their honeymoon stage.  Arve Dale is working as an accountant at the Loma Linda Academy, Loma Linda, CA.  My wife retired as a pediatric nurse at the Loma Linda University, Children’s Hospital.  When our family was young, we desired to be in the mission field.  This call is an answer to our long time desire, although it came at a later stage of our life but God’s timing is perfect.

Saipan and Tinian were hit with a strong Typhoon this last year.  Did the storm affect the start of your ministry in CNMI in any way?  If so, how?

Yes.  Positively. Saipan and Tinian were badly hit. The typhoon opened a big window of opportunity in ministry.  The destruction of farmlands, ecosystem, business establishments, residences, and habitats displaced everyone.  Many inhabitants affected by the typhoon were removed from their homes.  They were evacuated to disaster centers and tents. Water supply is limited in the affected areas, and there is still a wide gap in delivering services such as lack of food supply, as well as electricity has not been restored yet in one third of the island.  These circumstances have opened for me to engage with volunteer organizations and visit high ranking officials in the island.   I met people in their homes. I establish friendship among them, and hand to them food, water bottles, and medicines.  But there are still more people calling for their basic needs.   I have prayed with many people I visited.  I felt compassion for those in need of moral support and emotional care.  I have reset my sermons to Gospel themes like restoration, healing, and hope.  Lately, volunteers from Adventist Community Service organized by NAD came to work with FEMA in order to help repair homes.  This has increased the level of ministry in Saipan.

Please share with us some of the ways you were involved in full time ministry before coming to Saipan.

Our God has equipped me with experience in literature ministry, as a student missionary and training in theology.  After graduating from college, as a ministerial intern, I had the opportunity to study in the seminary to fully prepare me for the ministry.  I became a hospital chaplain, church pastor, and bible teacher.  The organization sent me for the second time to study in the seminary in the area of biblical studies and religion to be able to teach higher bible courses in preparing students on their ministerial paths.  I became director for student services.  My love for mission continues to grow. During summer and semestral breaks, I led students in evangelistic programs and preparing candidates for baptism. It is a joy to met some of my students holding pastoral responsibilities in this mission.  Looking back, I am more convinced by the thought that whom God has called He will equip.

I am serving in pastoral ministry more years than in other areas of God’s work.  I have seen that discipleship is the most rewarding.  Nurturing church members through intentional bible study, prayer, and identification of mission is preparing them to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  While we are receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit now, its abundant outpouring, is the most awaited part among God’s people in order to push His work to the finish in these last days.  I engaged in evangelistic campaigns.  Many people are baptized.  But important as it is, this method, is only gathering souls for the kingdom.  Discipleship and nurturing should be given strong attention because they are integral parts of the evangelization process.  Having said that, I want to share what the pen of inspiration says-instructive for all pastors: “We are not to wait for souls to come to us; we must seek them out where they are.  When the Word has been preached in the pulpit, the work has just begun.  There are multitudes who will never be reached by the gospel unless it is carried to them” ChS 121 (COL, 229).

Now that you have been in Saipan for a few months, how do you see God working on the island and what are some of the plans you have for ministry there?

I am seeing that God is opening wonderful opportunities for the church to conduct missionary activities here.

My long term vision is to see local church members become leaders in the church, one person at a time.  Saipan and the rest of the Northern Marianas territory comprise complex challenges. Although there is a natural geographical divide among the island territory, each island is deeply rooted to their individual distinct cultures.  Particularly among the Chamorro tribe, Pacific Islands Report, an online newspaper, headlines “Ancient Chamorro Beliefs Rooted in Superstition.” Yet, in every island there is a conglomerate number of Carolingan, Marshallies, Chuukies, Palaoans, etc.  They have established themselves not only in Saipan but also in the island territories of the Northern Marianas.  These mixtures establish the complexities that pose a challenge in mission.  In order to meet this challenge, I would implement a nurturing and discipleship program through Natural Church Development. Health Education programs, Community services, and a non-intimidating strategy for evangelism have been observed engaging in this island.  A study has been on-going for a new project to establish a Center for Influence in Saipan. I am writing a proposal for grant HELPS (Health Education and Livelihood Program for Saipan).

Saipan in particular, according to recent statistics has 50,000 population. Majority of the immigrants are comprised of Filipinos, mostly overseas contract workers.  There are certain percentage of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. Recently, interpreneurs from India, Pakistan and the Middle East have been added to the growing city.  There is an increasing influx of diverse cultures. Business industry, technology, and mass media information in the internet highway are influences that will bring the island into a farther divide from ancient culture to modern society or into a new assimilated culture.  There are a variety of religious organizations that are sharing the challenges for mission.  For our church to establish in these areas, we should be sensitive to the cultures of people and the prevailing circumstances.  I am promoting JOY FM Radio which programs are gaining wider clientieleship.  I have joined in volunteer organizations like VOAD, and proposed for a regular dental outreach and regular community clean-up advocacy to increase Adventist awareness in the island.

God has been known tremendously among the three institutions (church, clinic, and school) working hand in hand.  There is still a greater opportunity opened in reaching out according to the needs of the community.  The dental clinic has gained a name for the church.  There is an increasing demand for Adventist Christian education at the Saipan elementary school and plans are underway to elevate the status into an academy.

Are there any challenges or opportunities you would like for the readers to pray for concerning the work in CNMI?

Besides the challenges I mentioned above, there are several opportunities for everyone to join us in prayer.  Mainly, healing and restoration for those affected by super typhoon Yutu; the implimentation of the plan to reconstruct a two-storey building which will house six apartments for Adventist Volunteer Service missionaries, and a place to worship for San Antonio Church members; completion of the church construction in Kagman.  Also pray for funds to finance a construction of an Auditorium for the Saipan SDA Elementary school and classrooms for the K9 up to K12.  Please continue praying for making these hope projects come to a reality.

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