Monday, May 24, 2010

Indonesia Part 1

INDONESIA 2010 - Part 1

A little background:
Number of islands: 17,508
Number of spoken languages: >700
Muslim Population: ~203,000,000 (Estimated 2009 U.S. Population: 307 million)
Percent of Population that is Muslim: 88%
Percentage of World Muslim Population: 13%

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population. At an approximate 6.25% crude death rate that means 12,687,500 people will die every year and most likely never had heard the gospel of Jesus Christ as Saviour of a lost world.

This May I was able to make a two week trip with some friends from church to visit field workers for some projects and to help spread the gospel. We left on a Thursday morning, flew from Chicago to Hong Kong, then to Singapore where we spent the night (in what has to be one of the nicest airports in the world), and finally on to Indo the following day, a Saturday on local time. We spent the first full day just doing orientation stuff and preparing for the days to come. The next day was Sunday and we had the pleasure of attending a local church in Medan. It was like stepping back in time. No air conditioning and old SB hymnal music. The people were very friendly even though for the most part we didn't speak the same language. There were a few who spoke very good English and we spent about an hour after the service just talking to them about our different cultures. That evening we attended a house church that left me longing for worship back home to be equally as pure each and every day of my life.

We spent the next week in a coastal village called Percut (pur-choot). The first impression when stepping out of the nicely cooled SUV was being knocked back by the humid heat and the stench of garbage combined with tidal sewage. Sweet faced children immediately ran up to us calling out "bule'! bule'!" (foreigner) and the only other word they universally knew "photo! photo!". Monday we spent the day walking around meeting the locals and familiarizing ourselves with the lay of the land. Several times in the correspondence before our arrival we were told that we would come across people with a spirit of peace. What an amazing thing to see as plain as day those whom were receptive to friendly conversation and eventually to talk of the gospel. Not a day went by where we were not able to meet new people to share with, I'll expound on that in the second post.

(Friendly Fishermen)

(First house in the village)


The area school has about 200 children in it. Amongst other potential projects, the school turned out to be where we prayerfully felt led to try to do the most good in our short time there. The school has a bathroom for the teachers but none for the children. Also, most homes do not have a bathroom/squatty potty either so the kids and parents end up going wherever they can. Being a coastal village, wherever they can ends up being dispersed wherever the tides may flow... The next several days were spent talking with local leaders, government officials, the school vice principal, and whoever else it took to get the project going. By the time we left a plan was in place, monies transferred, and a contractor was starting work.

(The area "bathroom")

(The New School Bathroom)

(Almost Complete)

The other project that we were able to work out was a playground area. The current area is below the flood level and turns into a mud filled cesspool as the tides come and go. The village leaders and teachers wanted a better playground for the kids and with some of our support plan to put in a retaining wall and fill it in with fill dirt. It will be some time before it's actually done, but at least the ball is rolling. During all of this we were able to continue to meet with the locals, witness, and help build the long term relationships the local leaders need.

(The Playground)

In the next post I'll go into more of the really important things, the glorying of God that we were able to be some small part in. What I want to finish this first post on is this:

In Indonesian large cities the average worker may earn $5 or $6 dollars a day. In Percut it's down to about $2 a day. Even with the adjustment in scale for how much cheaper some items are, $2 is not a lot to feed or provide for a family or even oneself. Rich or poor, by and large man seems to find a way to be satiated with the little bit of earthly sustenance provided him. I find it difficult to find fault in this, the fault and sin as I am convicted comes in this, being so satisfied with what is given to us that we do not seek He that has provided all things, most importantly redemption. On the opposite side of the world, In the midst of this impoverished region, I could not get past the striking resemblance to my own life and what I perceive to be the general consensus of American culture. Apathy. A lack of concern or heartfelt and sincere interest toward God. I, our country, Indonesia, and I fear most of the world at large is far too easily pleased in material, emotional, and spiritual things apart from the glory of God.

Piper would say "The problem is being satisfied too easily. We believe that everyone who longs for satisfaction should no longer seek it from money or power or lust, but should come glut their soul-hunger on the grace of God."

Piper's quote is rooted in C.S. Lewis who said "Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

I would say I have been far too easily satisfied with not desperately longing for the joy found in seeking and doing God's will, in not sharing His Word, His Glory, His Gift, in not turning my eyes (and heart) from things of this world that are eternally useless.

God would say

  • Zephaniah 1:12-13: "At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts,'The LORD will not do good, nor will he do ill.' "
  • 2 Tim. 4:3-4: "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. "
  • Matthew 16:26: "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?"

But praise God that He also says this:

  • Philippians 3:8: "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ"
  • 1 Tim. 6:6: "Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment"
  • Psalm 16:11: "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
  • and Psalm 42:1-2: "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God."

God help me to seek you daily as deeply as I sought you while in Indonesia. God forgive me for my apathy. God help me to not grow further apathetic toward serving and desiring you. God help me to be the kind of man, father, and husband that glorifies you first and me last. Lord please daily help me to pant for you, to thirst for you, to hunger for you with a desire to glorify you and to not be so easily satisfied.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Hear the Secrets that you Keep....

All of the boys at our house talk in their sleep. Maybe it's not all that unusual, but the things that they say are sometimes strange and have been responsible for frequent cases of the silly giggles at three o'clock in the morning.

It all started when Rod and I first got married. We took Japanese in college together and Rod retained an amazing amount of the language. When he worked at Sony, his boss was Japanese and he also had to go to Japan. So, he actually used the language and at one point was quite fluent (he might disagree, but seriously, who speaks and understands Japanese?) One night, he all of a sudden started talking in his sleep- in Japanese. I don't remember what he said, but I remember having to get out of the bed and go in a different room because I was laughing so hard.
Briggs, too has always talked in his sleep, although I can't remember anything he has said recently.
Following in their footsteps, Max has recently started talking in his sleep. While Rod was gone and the boys were sleeping with me, he blurted out, "Briggs is not sharing with me!" He even elaborated when I asked him about it (while still asleep).
Then, the night before last, I was about to go to bed and I heard him say something about a bad guy. I decided to go upstairs to check on him and as I was about to leave, he started panting. I turned around and he barked. Like a dog. Twice. I laughed so hard I woke Briggs up for a moment.
They may not all look alike, but they are......
Like Father, Like Son.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pining Away No More

I just heard from Rod and he is back in the USA! He still has a few more hours until he boards the final plane for home.

I have missed him so much. This is the longest we have ever been apart and for some reason I started thinking about the night we met. He was about to get on a plane to go to his grandfather's funeral. We literally met for a few seconds, but that's all it took because we were already head over heels for each other. He gave me his letter man jacket and a hug. It seemed like he was gone forever and we talked on the phone every minute we could. Wow, that was a long time ago-1989. I was 15 but I knew he was the one for me. A LOT has changed in our lives since then, but the one thing that hasn't changed is that we are still head over heels.

Maybe it was that Peter Cetera song I heard on the way home from taking him to the airport and then the one I heard again today that made me think about when we first met. Funny how you don't hear a song for years and then hear two from the same era that take you right back to a time and place you had not been in a while.

Max has his end of the year program tonight and I can't wait to hear him sing his songs. He gave us a preview in the car of Jesus Loves Me. So sweet.

Briggs has field day tomorrow at school. I am not sure if he will make it or not. I wonder if the school would excuse an absence like this:

"Please excuse Briggs from school on Friday. He was not feeling his best." Hmm. I kinda doubt it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Don't Mess With Texas and Other Conversations With a Three Year Old

photo by Lily White Photography

From the time Max woke up this morning until I dropped him off at MDO, we had a running conversation that went something like this:

He sat up in the bed and shoved a stuffed monkey in my face; "Mom, you be the mama monkey and I'll be the baby monkey."

Then in the kitchen, "Mom, can I have a muffin in a bowl?" As I stood him up on the counter he said, "look mom, I growed up! I am bigger than you," as he looked down at me smiling. I asked, "Will you still hug and kiss mommy when you are this tall?" He just giggled.

"Okay Max, it's time to go to school."
"Mom, can I just have 5 more minutes to play?"
"Okay, but then we have to go brush your teeth."
"But mom, I brushed my teeth last night."
"Yes, but we have to brush them again this morning."
"Mom, can I take all my pet monkeys in the car? Mom, can I have a pet?"
"Max, you already have so many pet monkeys that we can hardly carry them all!"
"No mom, I need a puppy. And I need him to be a-wiiiiiive."
"If we had a puppy, he might not be alive for very long."

While driving to school, looking out the window, "Do cars scare the birds away?"
"Yes they do."
"Do cars scare dogs away?"
"Do cars scare cats away?"
"Do they scare cows away?"
"Uhh, no."
"Well I think they do."

"Is that daddy's farm?" Looking at a pasture full of horses and cows.
"No honey, daddy doesn't have a farm. His daddy has a farm in Texas. We are going to go there in a few weeks."
"Don't mess with Texas, mom."
"I would never."

On Mother's Day, Briggs brought me breakfast in bed: Fruit Loops in milk. He so sweetly had stirred them up for me. He also had made a scavenger hunt for me to find my Mother's Day cards. One of my hints was taped to the milk carton. That boy loves a good scavenger hunt.

Rod comes home in two days! I have had so much help and company, it really has not been hard in that sense. I am so grateful to my family for all their help, love, and care. Aside from a couple of isolated incidents, the boys behavior has been phenomenal. We are talking about two weeks worth of misbehavior opportunities that have just not happened much.

The hard part has been Rod just not being here, sharing the little moments, being able to call him when something funny happens, coming home at night. His sweet, happy, fun loving presence has been deeply missed. And the oven thinks I have forgotten how to use it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Homerun and the First Win

It was the day before Mother's Day. Two weeks left in the season. They had been down by as many as 10 runs. Most fans had quietly given up hope for a first win on that warm Saturday morning. He approached the plate with confidence, a runner on second and a runner on third. The first pitch was not the one he wanted, so he watched it go by. He swung at the next one and took a cut, but the ball went foul. The third pitch was the charm and he smacked it right down the first base line. It went past the first baseman's glove and by the time the ball was fielded, he was headed to third. As the opponent threw the ball to third to get him out, he turned and ran back to second base. But the ball was overthrown and he was again headed to third. This time he didn't slow down as he rounded third base headed for home. As the ball sped its way to home plate, he slid and was declared safe. Congratulations and high fives were in order.

And over the roar of the crowd, you could hear his mother screaming like a crazy woman.

Final Score: 21-17.

Her Mother's Day Gift: Priceless

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mommy & Max Tea, A Meltdown, and Career Day Part II

Thursday morning Max's school had a "Mommy and Me Tea" for Mother's Day. He gave me a small plant with his picture stuck on a Popsicle stick in the soil. We had a great lunch and listened to words of encouragement about the fleeting moments of mothering small children.

Afterward, I attempted to get Max to take a nap, but to no avail. He had T ball practice at 6 and I knew he was tired. After about 20 minutes, he was distracting other kids, throwing his hat and glove and walking all over the field. When I walked onto the field to redirect him back to his spot, it made him mad and he swatted at me. I picked him up and he really got mad and grabbed my hair! Totally embarrassed, I marched the long walk of shame to the parking lot and enacted some significant corporal punishment. Then I waited and waited for him to stop crying and apologize before attempting to return to practice. It seemed like it took forever, but he finally went back out on the field for the last few minutes of practice. His coach has to be the most patient person ever to put up with crazy people who put a 3 1/2 year old in T ball! Actually, he has done fairly well considering his maturity, up until last night.

Mom and Dad came last night and Dad spoke at Career Week this morning. When we pulled up to the school, there was a man showing his dump truck to a class and letting the kids honk the horn. Then we saw a pilot dressed in uniform walking into the school. Dad jokingly said he didn't know if he could compete with all that. He brought his paint guns, airbrush, and some samples of his work, including Briggs and Max's baseball helmets. He told them about repairing wrecked cars and about how Briggs helps him when we are home. The kids loved it and asked lots of questions. As we were trying to leave, one asked for Dad's autograph and then they were all bringing papers to be autographed! I guess he didn't have anything to worry about after all, and now he is a celebrity!

I just spoke with Rod a few minutes ago. He said that in the last four years of mission work in the area he is in, they have had about 10 people become Christians. Within the last four months, they have seen over 50 become Christ followers! God is doing an awesome work there.

They attended a monthly "small group" meeting that consisted mostly of prayer time. He said they literally spent hours in prayer and it was an amazing experience. I can't wait for him to tell me all the details!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Seven days to go....

Wednesday, when I picked Max up from school, he showed me a picture he had colored. I read the words on the picture to him: "Thank you God for my mouth." It was a picture of a child eating ice cream. Max quickly corrected me, "Mom, it doesn't say that. It says God likes ice cream!" Hmm. Maybe he does. I asked him for a strong hug and a kiss and after obliging, he said, "dad needs one of these too. He hasn't had one today." No, I guess he hasn't.

Max decided he wanted Yogurt Mountain for supper. When I told him that he could not have it for supper, he protested that we could because Yogurt Mountain lives in Birmingham. I think we've created a yogurt monster. He eventually settled for chicken and rice.

Briggs has been very loving and affectionate. He usually has one big boundary test when Rod goes out of town, but this time he has just been great! He is very excited that his Granny and Papa are coming to visit and can't wait for Papa to go to Career Day at school and show the kids all the things he paints.

I am officially ready for Rod to come home. This is the longest we have ever been away from each other. I can feel my resolve weakening. My prayer for the last two days has been,

Lord, help me to want your glory to be made known among the nations more than I want my husband home with me. Help me to be fully satisfied in you. You are superior to anything and anyone in this world.

In the Radical book, David says that when we pray for comfort, God does not give us comfort. He gives us the Comforter. He gives us Himself, His Spirit. So humbling. So perspective-altering.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Monday and Tuesday

.....were just a blur. But I'll try to come up with some highlights.

After a spur of the moment trip to Target (without the usual and effective talk to Max about looking without buying), we left without buying anything, including a new container of got-to-have royal blue play dough. This launched us into a 30 minute crying fit featuring the phrase "but I want it" over and over until my eye began to twitch. His crying jag resulted in falling sound asleep in the car. Amazingly he woke up an hour later crying and repeating the same phrase. I have to hand it to him: he has perseverance. See, I am choosing to focus on his strengths like a good social worker and know he will need this later on in life.

Briggs had yet another baseball game and has found his sweet spot, so to speak, for batting. He shows marked improvement and I am really proud of him. Before the game, he apologized to his coach for the way he had acted. I called the parents of the little boy and set up for us to go to their house and apologize to him. It was such a relief; the mother was very kind and welcomed our efforts to restore the friendship.

Speaking of being a good social worker, I went to Career Day at Briggs' school to speak to his class about my job. Last year, Rod showed his mad engineering skills and lit up a light bulb with potatoes. I had no idea if I should even try to follow that, but Briggs wanted me to. Social worker is not an easy role to explain to first graders without quickly getting into trouble, so I decided to go with "happy helper." It went something like:

"Hi, boys and girls. I am a happy helper (just kidding, I said counselor, less questions that way). I help people with their problems."

That was about the extent of my job description.

I like experiential things so I made a game of cards with feelings and corresponding facial expressions on them. I had the kids sit in a circle, pick up a card and either act out the feeling or describe a situation in which they had felt that feeling before. Some of the feelings they drew were confident, embarrassed, enraged, bored, ashamed, and surprised. All of the kids participated and did such a great job! They really seemed to enjoy it and all wrote thank you notes for me. As I was patting myself on the back, Briggs informed me that a Fox 6 weatherman came after me to tell about his job, on TV. Well, who can compete with being on the 10 O'clock news every night? Seriously though, it was fun and Briggs was happy as a clam that I came. That's more than good enough for me.

After school, Briggs and I met with the family to apologize and then play together at the park. We talked about how good it felt to be forgiven. They played for over an hour and I think will be good friends after today.

It was a good day, and since it is almost tomorrow, I will now go to bed.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me Lucille.......

Rod's gonna kill me for that title, but today is one where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. One that I would rather forget. One that I needed to be over with for sanity's sake, so the kids are in bed and it's not even 7:30. And most certainly one I do not wish to blog about, but I'm already committed.

Okay, from the beginning.

Worship was amazing today, as always. The sermon was on the 23rd Psalm and I don't think I'll ever look at it the same way again. So thankful for a intensely personal Shepherd who never stops giving to us. Even when he takes away. Sustains and satisfies. His grace, resulting in His glory. I knew He was speaking directly to my soul this morning.

Oh, and we got the book! The Radical book: Taking back your faith from the American Dream. Ouch. I need these words so much, I got two copies. This is not new for us, at our church, but something we struggle with, have been struggling with for some time. I am grateful for the struggle. There was a time when I never gave it a second thought.

Baseball pictures were this afternoon. I thought the hardest part would be getting everyone there on time, dressed, and picture ready. As Briggs was getting his picture made, his coach asked me if he could talk to me about something. He said that Briggs and some others had been telling another boy on their team that he was a bad player, making them lose, or something to that effect. The little boy was so hurt, he quit the team and never wants to come to the ballpark again. I was shocked at what I was hearing. I think there is a part of me that thinks we are somehow immune to having problems like this because we try to do all the things we are suppose to do. Of course this makes no sense, we are all sinners. We don't just make bad choices, our depravity reaches to our core.

All I could think was, "This is something Rod needs to handle. These kind of life lessons are just the thing dads are there for." Only Rod is half a world away and I had no idea when he would call again. Soooo, I put on my B.G.P's and began to think about how to handle it.

After a torturous wait, poor Briggs was more than ready to face the music. I prayed about what to say, to help him understand the weight of his sin, the hurt he had caused, but also the forgiveness of our Shepherd. We both shed tears. We read Scripture about the tongue (Prov. 18:21), about the kind of person he wants to be (Prov. 20:11), about forgiveness, and salvation (Romans 10:9 and I John 1:9; 2:1-6). Just as we were finishing, Daddy called. Perfect timing. He immediately said that I needed to call the parents of the little boy and ask if we could come over and apologize. I was thinking we could just write a letter, you know, and avoid confrontation. Things like this make me sweat and my heart race. Normally I would be thinking, "Whew, I'm glad Rod has to handle this one, being the spiritual leader and all." But it seems like God is telling me, "No, this one is for you. It's called humility and it's a good thing."

Of course, face to face confession is the right thing to do and we have to teach Briggs to take responsibility for his actions. It will be a good lesson for both of us, but maybe I should put on a little extra deodorant, just in case.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Saturday Update with Sprinkles on Top

Max had his T ball game this morning. While the clouds looked foreboding, the rain held off all day. He was so cute batting and running to first. He would run as many bases as they would let him (i.e. they had to stop him from going all the way regardless of what was going on in the actual game). Max decided to show off his newly acquired skill today (albeit no one knew he had "learned" this) of sliding into home. It was hilarious, especially the time he got to home and just laid out on his back spread eagle. Other times he would just appear to fall when he got to home plate. He apparently has been paying attention, because Briggs has just learned to slide and Max does not want to be left out of the action.

After the game, we ate lunch and then headed back to the ball field for Briggs' game. I think this is the first time I have gotten him to the game (without Rod) without forgetting any gear; I have no idea why I have so much trouble remembering everything. The game got away from the Marlins quickly and by the third inning it was 20 to 1. The Marlins made a great comeback and scored 13 runs, but still lost the game. Briggs had two doubles, one that went far into the outfield. His third at bat he had a single with two RBI's. He did great and everyone was so proud of his hitting.

For a special treat after dinner, we went to Yogurt Mountain. The boys were so excited because they knew of the yumminess that would be theirs when we finally made it through the wrapped around line. I kept having to pull Max back to keep him from breaking in line; he could hardly contain himself. Briggs ventured away from his M&M's only topping and opted for a menagerie of fruit loops, vanilla wafers, chocolate chips, two kinds of sprinkles, Reese's pieces and M&M's. He ate nearly every bite. I think when they weighed our treats we had about 20 ounces of yogurt and toppings collectively. But it was well worth it!

After talking to dad on Skype for a few minutes, the tired boys were fast asleep. By the way, Skype is our new best friend. Whoever invented it deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. Or a big trophy. Or at least a yogurt mountain with two kinds of sprinkles on top.