Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Palu, Indonesia Thoughts

My heart is heavy as I think about what to share with you. The devastation in the city of Palu on the island of Sulawesi is unlike anything I have seen. I have watched the videos, read the news reports, and heard incredible stories. 

My quick thoughts- 
The death toll continues to rise. It's heavy to think it may be months before some are found. It's even heavier to consider some may never be found. 

The videos remind me of Who I turn to in times of crisis. Many were crying "Allah ahkbar" and others were crying "Oh, Tuhan". I pray that those who are truly seeking God will find Him, that He will meet them in their greatest time of need during their greatest loss. He will strengthen them and give them hope for a future. 

Helpers are there. Rescue efforts began before any airplanes were allowed to enter. I look at the helpers and they are regular people. Many are untrained for this type of crisis. They are regular people, grieving side by side and responding to needs around them. God, strengthen them to be Your hands. 

Colleagues from various organizations were stationed in Palu and surround areas. *ALL* have been accounted for and there have been no loss of life reported to any of these organization. That is a miracle. Many colleagues both foreign and national have been safely relocated to other areas and are meeting with various leadership to debrief their experience. 

Many have gone from Papua to help. They are on the ground to debrief the various teams and to evaluate what, if anything could have been done differently to help or prevent anything. This is heavy on my heart, because again these are regular people that we live and serve side by side with who are going to help in any way possible. May God strengthen them as they help carry the emotional burdens of others. 

I can't help but make it personal... the what if's are creeping into my mind. Large earthquakes could happen here. Earthquakes do happen here. We have experienced several and only had to run outside of our house one time. The thoughts of who to grab, what to grab, where to go and what to do are racing through our heads. How much time do you actually have in a 7. something magnitude earthquake to get out?? These are things we think of. We are safe from a tsunami, thanks to a large mountain that stands guard over this city. But there's no doubt, if an earthquake of that size happened here there would be loss, destruction and trauma. We can try to fool ourselves with words like "that won't happen here", but it's not true. It could happen here.
No one thinks it could happen to them, but ask those who lost everything in Palu. It does. 

I showed Kate a video of the wave pushing up on the shore, continuing past its regular boundary. It's an unusual phenomenon, seeing a wave cross the natural boundary set by the Creator God. She was going to bed that night and told us that she was "worried about the world". Me too, Little One. I'm worried about the world. Our kids are processing what's happening around them and are feeling the great burden of loss for those suffering. 

We continue to mourn alongside our adopted country. I'm encouraged by their call to prayer for the victims. Tragedy unites Indonesians. They are strong and resilient. May God strengthen them as the rebuild. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Change. Again.

As an expat (a person who lives outside of their passport country) I experience change all the time and in a variety of ways. Time changes range from 2 hours when we fly to the capital or 15 or 16 depending on Day Light Savings time when we call or fly to the States. Job changes- teacher to stay at home mom. Supply changes- some of the items that were available (Campbells Cream of Chicken Soup, tubs of margarine, the occasional box of Kraft MacNCheese, bacon/ham/pork products)  when we arrived 10 years ago (WHAT?! 10 years?!!) are not available now, but other items are more available (Dorito brand Nacho Cheese chips, cheese, BBQ sauce).

Some colleagues have been known to change houses frequently due to desire or circumstances changing requiring them to move. It's my opinion that we don't like to constantly be on the move. We experience that on furloughs- moving from here to there. Each newly returning colleague reporting on how many miles they drove, how many beds they slept in, and how many states they crossed- ALL explaining how glad they are to be back to their own beds, their own routine, and their own space. Now don't get me wrong, we LOVE connecting with friends, families and partners BUT it can be tiring living out of a suitcase experiencing lots of change all at once. 

So when you find a house here, you settle as best you can, living life, planting roots hoping and planning on never having to move again. 

We have lived in our house for about 8 of the 10 years we have been in country. Missionary years on the field can be the equivalent of dog years- you do the math! 8 years in missionary-speak is a REALLY long time. This has been our home. Our space. Our family has grown to fill the rooms in this house. We've brought babies across the ocean to *this* house. We've shared life with these neighbors. We've watched their babies grow. We've said good-bye to neighbors who have sent their loved ones to another island for better opportunities- one was for cancer treatments and others have been 12 year olds being separated from momma and daddy to pursue a better education. We've been included in special holidays. I've shared laughter with other mommas and grandmommas. This neighborhood has been "mine" for several years. This one tiny street that included 30 kids who were invited to Kate's first birthday- this is my home. 

Our family has doubled in size since we first signed the contract on this house several years ago. At the end of each year we always evaluate if we should move or not. The timing and the desire has never matched up. Until our return last October. The neighborhood kids have grown up. No longer is it socially acceptable for 9, 10, 11 year old boys who usually play outside (while the same aged girls are in the house tending to home responsibilities because culturally they are not usually outside playing) to interact with a 4 year old girl, her baby sister and their momma. There were few kids their age. The street they play on seems to be getting busier and busier. They need a yard. They need to be outside. A feeling that now is the right time to move started to grow. Doors of opportunity were opened and we moved forward in faith trusting God to provide the best location for our needs, desires and dreams.

At the end of May we signed a contract on a different house. Renovations have been happening since June 1. We plan to move Thursday, August 9 through Saturday, August 11. We have been preparing for this move for several years. Some days I am ready. When it's nap time and I hear a chair move in the neighbor's house. When we sit down for dinner and an audience is watching across the street. Some days I'm not ready and my heart is sad. As I stand in my kitchen looking at the mountain washing dishes, I remember how the neighbor boy once sat on the fence between our houses and would play with the stray cats- he always said they weren't his but the cats always seemed to go to him for food. I want to make sure I have as many phone numbers as possible to stay connected, to have play dates with the few friends K and A have from this neighborhood. I'll never forget the day my Muslim friend unveiled her face to me for the first time. Her smile was radiant. I have only seen it once but remember it when her eyes show her smile. It's the people I will miss. Not the walls of the actual house, but my neighbors. The people I have intentionally shared life with. My hope is that I will not be "too busy" or distracted to invite them over, but I will be all the more intentional with continuing to build these relationships growing them from acquaintances to friends. 

Friends, would you pray? Would you pray that the actual moving would go well? Pray that on those days there would be no rain- especially Saturday. Moving in the rain stinks! Pray that our girls, especially Kate, would settle quickly and this new house would quickly become their new safe place, their new home. Pray for Josh. He has been working SO hard on this house. We know it is an act of love. He is tired and ready for this final leg to be finished! Pray that all will things will happen smoothly. We praise the Lord for a new location- great neighbors (many that we already know and have friendships with), lots of new friends Kate and Allie's age already live or will be moving in soon, lots of room for guest (hint hint), and lots of room for upcoming activities like hosting pre-school. We are also grateful for many reminders of God's love through the many cheerful helping hands that have loved us in practical ways from watching kids to make trips to the hardware stores to painting walls to moving sinks and to installing outlets, lighting and door handles. Thank you and we love you all! Pray that we have opportunities to say good-bye well. 

Our house in 2010 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Meet Dortea Grace

We have been back in Papua for a little over nine months. I'm now certain of this time frame because my house helper/friend found out she was pregnant not long after our return and she gave birth last week. 

Ibu Engge has been a great friend to our family over the past 4 1/2 years. She loves my kids like they are her own. She was so excited when we returned with Allie. Even though she's at my house to work and earn a wage for her family, she always begins the day sitting down and playing with the girls. Nine months ago she took some time off because she was sick. She went to the hospital where they prescribed her medicine for "something" and she was back less than a week later to check for malaria. Instead the nurses came back and told her she was pregnant. This opened up a new world of learning and observing for me. The first three months she stayed home, too sick to go anywhere. As the baby (and her belly) grew, our excitement grew as well! The girls and I took her to get an ultrasound. It was the first of her 4 babies she has ever seen while still in the womb. This momma never gets tired of seeing life in the womb or hearing the unique rhythm of a baby's heartbeat- amazing!!  

Her due date was still a few weeks off, but she was well into the uncomfortable stage of pregnancy. Those last few weeks of knowing there's not much room left on the inside, so the baby will be making their appearance sooner than later. So I suggested she stay home and rest, not to worry about work any more, but prepare for the baby's arrival. 

Six days later she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. I went to visit the day after she was born. 

Ibu Engge shared a room with three other women. One had just gone home shortly before I arrived. The other momma had only given birth a few hours before, and was already up walking around! All natural deliveries, no epidurals and no pain meds... wow! Her baby looked like a doll, peacefully asleep on the bed. Ibu Engge's baby was stretched out on a blanket. I forgot how skinny newborn legs are! I spoke to the baby in English and told her how happy I was that she was finally here and reminded her of the blessing she is to her family. 

She opened her eyes and looked for this voice. I was there for about an hour and held this little one for 45 minutes. She was wrapped up in a warm blanket, which made me sweat even more than I already was- but I didn't care! I would have held her all day if I didn't have to get back to my own two!  
Dortea with Big sister, Leta Kristina 
I asked what the baby's name was. It's not uncommon in this culture to delay naming the baby, so I wasn't sure their thoughts. Ibu Engge said her sister-in-law chose the name Dortea (Door-tay-ah), which sounds like Dorthy to my ear and helps me to remember how to pronounce her name. Without skipping a beat, my friend asked me to give this little one a name. ME?! I was so overcome with emotion that I told her I would love to and must think about it. 

ME?! The Lord was flooding my heart with reminders of His love for me. I have several friends and colleagues who have handfuls of kids named after them or have given names to several kids in Papua. They are the Bible translators. They are the pilots. They are not me. They are not the momma who doesn't get out of her house much. They aren't the momma who can't communicate very clearly in Indonesian. This was an incredible reminder of WHO the Lord has called ME to love. 

Love those in my circle. 
Love hard those who are in my house often. 
Love the few I interact with frequently. 

I may not love a tribe, but the ripples of the people I interact with make an impact. 

So I gave the name Grace to Dortea. The Lord gave me the opportunity to explain what grace is- when we deserved the consequences of our bad actions, God chose to give us love and grace instead. Grace is undeserved. Grace is a gift. 

I pray that Dortea Grace know Jesus from an early age, that her life may be a picture of grace that constantly points others to Christ, and that she never doubt the love that so many have for her. 

When I announced that I had to go pick up my girls from my friend's house, I returned Dortea Grace to her momma and big sister. As a sign of our special bond, she cried her newborn cry when I handed her to her mom.  Such a sweet sound during waking hours! :) 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Story of a Starfruit Tree

The starfruit tree across the street was in full bloom. The branches literally bending from the weight of the amount of fruit. The owner of the tree was not interested in picking the fruit, so the neighborhood kids picked its fruit. I would see and hear the kids from my kitchen window. The smallest one would disappear into the tree while the older kids gather the starfruit that fell. Now, maybe I was going through some culture shock/general grouchiness with the amount of transition I was/am/and continue to go through, but one day I watched the kids climb on top of the neighbor's fence. Looking back this came from a genuine place of concern- pick the fruit but don't climb on the fence. 

So I yelled," Get down! Don't climb on the fence!" 

The kids froze, probably wondering where this strange voice was coming from yelling in terrible Indonesian. 

They returned later that afternoon. 

I just watched from my window (I can completely relate to Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window) and the kids scrambled up the tree, on to the fence and on to the roof of my neighbor's house! I got some advice from my Indonesian friend. Pick all the fruit, don't climb on the fence, and for sure don't climb on the roof! Who is responsible if you fall and break something? ME!? Me and my 2 kids?! So I brought my cell phone outside with the message from my friend written in Indonesian. I tried to read the message to them but not look at the phone... they filled in the word for "responsibility", so I know they knew what I was talking about. The kids left, and about that time my new neighbor came home from work. 

I began to tell him how for several days the kids have been climbing the tree, climbing on his fence, and today climbed on his roof. He said," Ibu, this is God's tree so it's okay for the kids to have the fruit." I replied," Yes! I agree! Please, let them have all the fruit. I just don't want anyone to get hurt trying to get the fruit." 

The next evening before dinner we hear WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! 

I peek out the window...

to see the neighbors chopping off the top of the starfruit tree.

My heart sinks- this is not what I had in mind!

 Branches and starfruit cover the street.  Now no one gets the fruit, but no one can get hurt. We were already going on a little walk, so we took a detour to tell all the kids to run and collect the fruit that had fallen. We came back to see a semi-circle gathered around the tree and no one collecting the fruit. So I stepped in and handed the fruit to the kids. I'm sure everyone was confused, because I felt like I was the reason the tree was chopped down... maybe everyone else felt that way too. 

It was such a shock the way the "issue" of the tree was dealt with. For some reason it made an impact on me. I see this tree every day looking out all windows of my house. The top of the tree was chopped off, and it looked dead. God watered the tree. The tree grew and the buds of starfruit can be seen. 

The starfruit tree today

New fruit fell today!

It may sound strange but this tree is a symbol of my time living overseas- specifically over the past nine months. Often times it feels like we're starting over when we leave or return, like the top of our tree has been cut off. But God in His love and mercy waters the tree whether it deserves the drink or not. The tree survives the elements, once again only through grace, and eventually bears fruit. It's hard to leave or return (I'm reminded of that every month of May when friends and colleagues say good-bye) but God gives grace. His grace is shown in friendships that pick up where you left off. It's shown in forging new relationships with people who are walking along the same life path as you. It's shown in seeing my kids fall into routine here and thrive in making their own friendships with those around them. His grace is seen when Kate tries to use Indonesian even though she only says a string of random words like "Ibu Sambal Delapan" (Mrs. Hot Sauce Eight). His grace is seen at dinner time when my kids beg for more bananas, papaya or nangka or more soy sauce on their white rice. 

His grace is what makes me feel a level of comfort living here.
His grace makes way for the fruit. 


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

MOPS and Roots Church

One of the most encouraging things about our extended furlough was being able to make deeper connections with those around us in Washington State. 

Years ago we were introduced to Derek and Anlee. They were new parents and had just returned to the area from living overseas. They were moving back to the area and were looking for jobs and a house. We met one time over dinner at Derek's parents' house. 

Fast forward to 2016, due to our extended time home I was able to get involved in MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) at our church. This was a really neat time of mommas getting together to hang out while someone else watched our kids! It was about 3 hours of great socialization for our kids, and honestly, a great time for tired moms to connect on an emotional level to other women who also spend their whole day trying to reason with a pre-schooler. 

This is where I "re-met" Anlee. She became an instant friend. It's rare to find someone who can relate to living overseas, not just going on short term trips. Finding someone who understands culture shock, the depth of loneliness you experience, and the wealth of perspective you gain is really difficult in America. Kate fell in between the ages of her two sons. We walked (not literally because we were pregnant!) the road of pregnancy together, and our daughters were born a few days apart. Her husband, Derek, and Josh grew up together. They were involved in a men's Bible study group and met weekly. 

So it only made sense that we invest ourselves in the church plant they were involved in. When we stepped in, they had already been meeting for several years- experiencing the birthing pains of a church plant. The group was meeting weekly in different homes. When we returned from Texas in February, the group announced they were looking for space to rent to launch Roots Church. God provided in incredible ways, making the next steps clear. A space was available to rent and open up services to the community. It was an exciting thing to see! On September 10 the church officially launched. That morning the sending church (Communion Church) had a time of prayer and sending out Derek, Anlee and their kids. Communion Church members were like proud parents! 

It's really difficult to describe the special place Roots has in our hearts. They came alongside us and ministered to us in ways they will never know. Our joy was renewed in being reminded of the importance of serving the Lord by serving and loving His bride, the church. We continue to pray for Roots Church, Derek and the leadership to be vessels of God's love to the surrounding community. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

August Photo Update

College friends and babies!

Road trip to East Texas


A visit to one of my favorite uncles in Texas

Traveling with Tigey

Washington, you're beautiful! 


Mount Baker

Warm Beach 5K 

Waterhose fun in Texas 

Mowing in tap shoes

Friends from Indonesia in Texas

Roots Community Service 

Solar eclipse 

Family in Texas 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

July Photo Update


MATA flight camp 

4th of July Parade


We saw this sign while camping. Showers? Wi-fi? 


Lavender Farm for Grandma Lu's Birthday

Kite flying 

Josh hiked with a friend 

Sending out newsletters and prayer cards

Helping Grandpa on the backhoe 

Trip to Texas

Pretend School- she's working in a real book and we "pretend" she's the student and I'm the teacher!

Fun with science and bubbles at the state park

J, E and E came to visit! 

Images by Freepik