Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Language School, Adoption and Bunk Beds- What's the link?

We moved to Indonesia in 2008. After completing orientation in Jakarta, we moved to Bandung. Looking back, Bandung had different things to offer than Papua- more malls, restaurants, movie theaters, outlet stores. While we were in language school, some friends told us about this church they were going to. The pastor was from America but all the teaching was done in Indonesian- perfect for an Indonesian language learner. Our friends brought us to church with them and we even joined in their weekly small group meeting. Out of this group we made new friends who introduced us to the place in town to get pork, introduced us to frog at an evening meal, and invited us to a wedding between two small group members. This church and small group stir up great memories for us during a time of hard transition and culture shock. 

Fast forward to 2015-2016. 

Our close friends and neighbors in Papua announce they are adopting a baby from Indonesia. We listen and pray for them on their journey.

We returned to Washington in July 2016. Our next door neighbors call us over to their house one day and begin to tell us a story. He said he had found some bunk beds on Craigslist. He went to pick them up and was chit-chatting with the seller. He asked the seller what he did for work. The seller said he was a writer but had been a pastor at a church overseas. It turns out the seller was the pastor of the church we went to while we were in language school! Our neighbor got his card, and we set up a time to meet for coffee. 

Over coffee we chatted about life and the past and the future. We talked about friends from our small group and he gave us the latest information he had about their well-being. We started talking about the couple who were married during our time in language school. They reminded us of a ministry the couple started called Rumah Ruth (Ruth's House). This ministry reaches out to unwed expectant mothers. They encourage and support the mommas when their is little to no support found within their families. Our pastor friend mentioned that they were working on getting approval to become an option for adoption. *Adoption* that brought the names of our friends in Papua who wanted to adopt. 

New regulations had been established saying that couples interested in adoption could not go to the orphanage or adoption agency and say we want to adopt this child. Now children eligible for adoption had to be notified by the orphanage. At that time our friends were waiting but had no word on adoptable Christian babies (Indonesia does not allow cross religion adoptions). 

We immediately contacted our small group friends in Bandung to get a phone number to put them in touch with our friends in Papua. Boy, oh boy, did the ball begin to roll! Meetings were set up, phone calls were made, and trips were made to Jakarta by both our friends in Papua and from Bandung. Our two sets of friends met and on the same day our friends on the journey of adopting were able to meet the little girl who would forever change their lives and hearts. Our Papua friends left their little one not knowing when they would board the plane as a family of three, but were praying it would be before Christmas. 

God had different plans. 

Our friends from Bandung arranged with the adoption agency for our friends from Papua to take their little girl home the following week! They went to the church we went to in language school for a time of prayer over the new family of three and then the little girl was released into their personal care! They are currently en-route home to Papua as a precious family of three. 

When we think of this story we are incredibly in awe of how God orchestrated every detail beginning 8 years ago in language school. He wove together a perfect tapestry full of different people spanning the globe from Texas, Washington, Indiana, California, Indonesia and used bunk beds from Craigslist to forever change the lives of a three month old baby girl and our two friends in Papua. We have been told that since the connection was made between the adoption agency in Jakarta and Rumah Ruth in Bandung two more babies have found forever homes with a Brazilian family and a French family. 

We praise the Lord that His pays close attention to the needs of His children and uses all things for His honor and glory. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Lessons Learned and Mixed In Blessings

Craigslist can be a wonderful resource for items that are for sale, but it can also be a place where others can take advantage of you.

We knew this time around that we would hope to purchase a vehicle during our furlough. I started looking at cars on craigslist months ago. It helped because I began to "learn the ropes" with what we were looking for. Kate started praying for a car in America months before we stepped foot on US soil. We wanted a mini-van with low miles and a clean title for a reasonable price (reasonable like super cheap would be perfect). 

Well I thought I found something even better! The ad was a beautiful white Nissan Altima, low mileage at an *incredible* price. I couldn't believe it! I quickly sent them a text message and the response was "Please email my sister I'm selling it for her". So, I sent an email. The response was that the lady was selling the car from out of state because she was being deployed for active military duty next month and needed to sell quickly. She claimed that she would be using Ebay Motors to deliver the car to us. If we weren't happy with the car we had up to 5 days to return the car to her, on her dime. Wow! What a deal! So I said ok, that sounds great! She told me that Ebay Motors would be contacting me with information regarding the shipping of the car. The email arrived and I was reading through it when something quite strange jumped off the screen at me. The preferred payment method was in iTunes giftcards. Who would prefer a payment for a *car* in *iTunes giftcards*?? So I went to my friend Google. "Ebay Motors Payment Method iTunes giftcards", search, links regarding frauds were the top hits. Ebay Motors has examples of fraudulent invoices and backstories similar to this gal- out of state so couldn't see the vehicle and need to sell quickly.  So I immediately wrote her back and didn't say what I *really* wanted to say but handled it the Indonesian way by saving face. I said "After looking over the payment methods, I don't think we will be proceeding with the purchase of your car. Best of luck to you during your deployment." 

That whole experience wiped me out! I seriously should be paid for how many frauds/scams I sniffed out. They all had extremely emotional stories, which seemed to be getting more and more outrageous. Quick deployments or even the death of a mother's son on his brother's birthday...

A quick way to tell if you might be dealing with a scammer on Craigslist is if you call the number listed and you talk to a real person. If it's an automated machine requesting your contact info or for you to leave a message, it's most likely a scam. Honestly, if a deal seems too good to be true, it might be just that. 

We finally found some deals that weren't scams. The best deal for us was a mini-van located near our location. It has automatic everything, but what sold me on this car was the built in DVD player with wireless headphones!! I told Josh "This is the one!" The Lord out did Himself! Yes, the DVD player is amazing, but there's 12 cup holders in this baby! That's right, 12. It's a smooth ride, no dings or dents, and the man selling it sold it to us for $500 less than his asking price. Let's be honest, we know that was the Lord's hand, because it definitely was NOT our negotiating skills! 

So when you see us rollin' in the mini-van wave at us, you could share a ride but BYO Drink for one of the cup holders and enjoy some Peppa Pig with K. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Power's Out... Again

Power outages happen here... a lot. Some times one can go a few weeks and not experience any outages. Other times you have frequent outages lasting a few minutes to hours or even days. It's not too bad when the weather is rainy and "cool", but often it's sunny and hot. You sweat. You lay flat on the cool tile floor, and just hope that the power will return soon. 

I have "rules" for power outages that happen at night or in a store that I try to abide by. 

Rule #1- I stop moving. I just freeze right where I am. I'm not going to run the risk of bumping into someone or something during a power outage at night. Dark is *really* dark when there are no lights. 

Rule #2- Announce to Kate where I am, tell her to stop moving, and reassure her that we're still here. (She hasn't panicked before, so this is rule is a keeper.) We added the stop moving part after during a power outage she took off running full speed ahead in whatever direction she was facing and ran straight into the kitchen cabinets, knocking her over. She's a tough cookie and brushed it off. 

Rule #3- I allow someone else to get the flashlights. At our house Josh has excellent night vision, which allows him to safely, quickly, and confidently make his way to the nearest flashlights. If Josh isn't around and a power outage happens at the store, then I just wait until the store's generator turns on. 

Last month at the grocery store, the electricity went out (not unusual) but the generator had issues re-setting. The gen-set turned on, but then quickly went out again. So I followed rules 1 and 2 and was waiting like rule 3 says to do, but it did not return. So I brought my phone out and clicked on the flashlight, and honestly waited for an employee to come around asking me to leave- where did I think I was??  No employees came to me, so we continued to shop. 

This grocery store is creepy when it's dark. I mean even with electricity there are things that I have to choose to avoid looking at- like the rat that walked across the cross beam above my head, or the moldy tops of the bell peppers, or the fruit flies swarming around the rotting avocados... but with no electricity it's even worse. 

Also, just a heads up, the place to weigh your produce so you know what to pay at the register doesn't work when there's no power. OH and also... the registers don't work either.... sometimes. 

So, you may never leave this grocery store if the power goes out. You might be stuck in the store with others who are stuck and are shopping by cellphone flashlight fooooorevvvvver.... 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Ramadan 2016

Ramadan is the month that is intentionally set aside by Muslims around the world to fast from food, drink and other physical forms of pleasure like smoking and sex. From a Muslim's perspective the month of Ramadan is an opportunity to purify their souls, refocus their attention on Allah, and practice self-discipline and sacrifice. Participation is considered one of the five pillars of the Islam faith.This month is an opportunity to rededicate themselves to worship and faith and to re-evaluate their lives. Forgiveness is both extended and received. The physical effects from the fasting reminds them of those who suffer throughout the year, and not to be wasteful or neglect those who hunger. Fasting during the month of Ramadan requires a total commitment to maintain the fast.

I honestly have mixed feelings about the month of Ramadan. Everything around me slows way down during this month. Work tends to slow down. Offices or stores may be closed. Drivers tend to be more aggressive, and people tend to be a little more on edge. The muezzin gets cranked up to incredible levels and is on all night long with people practicing the "Allah Akbar"(this is probably in proportion to the level of music played on the "Podok Natals" around Christmas time). 

While there are a few things that "bug" me about a month long fast, there are many aspect of it that I have learned to appreciate and admire. Here are a few of these lessons learned from Ramadan. 

1. It's good to be intentional and re-focus our faith. 
Life can be crazy and busy, sometimes at the same time! We can easily fall into a routine that distracts us from communicating and listening to God. Muslims have taught me the importance of intentionally setting aside a time to focus on the importance of God. Through their example our family has added the tradition of Advent, anticipating the birth of Jesus, and this past year I studied Lent, which helped me focus on the importance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. This intentional focusing helped me keep the main point, the main point- not allowing the busy-ness of the season to distract from the actual reason for the season. 

2. Anticipation is wonderful! 
Recently I was talking with a friend who grew up in Muslim home and converted to Christianity in her 20's. She shared fond memories she had growing up celebrating Ramadan. She mentioned how she missed that feeling of anticipation and excitement knowing that the entire month was leading up to the culmination of the breaking of the fast with a great feast. The anticipation could be compared to kids going to bed on Christmas Eve with an incredible feeling of excitement about the next day. It could be compared to a bride preparing to walk down the aisle to her waiting groom, who is also anticipating his glimpse of his beautiful bride. Anticipation is wonderful! I want my family to anticipate good things in life- learning that waiting for something often only intensifies the significance and value of what you've been waiting for. 

3. Ramadan is hard here. 
Celebrating Ramadan in Papua is more difficult that celebrating Ramadan in Java. I remember in language school being told to respect that others around me were not eating or drinking. We had to discreetly drink quick sips from water bottles on busy streets or eat our lunches in restaurants behind closed curtains. This caution helped those who were fasting, because it developed a sense that everyone around you was fasting so you can continue to persevere. However, it's not like that in Papua. No one has cautioned me to be mindful of chugging water on a hot day in public. Right now I can't think of one food stall that has a curtain over the windows. Last year a neighbor said that this was the most difficult time for her to live in Papua, away from her family. She expressed how in her hometown you could just assume that everyone was fasting, but here she said you automatically assume that the majority of people are not fasting. In that moment I could relate to her in way I have never been able to relate to fasting Muslims in Papua. They are homesick. This is a special month and holiday and they are separated from their loved ones doing a physically, emotionally, and spiritually demanding task with little support from the outside community. Her feelings resonated with me to how I feel sometimes around Thanksgiving and Christmas. The distance is truly difficult. This discussion changed my perspective on fasting Muslims in Papua and has challenged me to encourage and support them in their obedience by being aware of my eating and drinking in public. 

4. A simple date can open many doors. 
The daily fast is broken the same way the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast with a date and a glass of water. Nothing will open the doors quicker than offering a package of dates to your Muslim neighbors. This small sign is a reminder to them that you are aware of their fasting and it's also a sign of encouragement to press on in their search for communing with God. 

5. Prayer changes things. 
While those around me are fasting, I am praying. I am praying that they would experience God in a real and unique way. I am praying that God would reveal Himself to those who are truly seeking to know Him. I will be following this 30 day prayer guide ( to more specifically pray for fasting Muslims around the globe. 

There are more things, but these are just a few. I hope we can continue to learn and glean good things from those around us. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

English Fellowship

Speaking English is something I take for granted. I can pronounce most words with little thought and can read complex sentences fluently. I might not know or understand all the grammatical rules associated with English, but it automatically is displayed in my speech (most of the time).

The week after Easter, friends of ours began an English fellowship group at their house. It was open to anyone who wanted to learn/practice English. We viewed this as a great opportunity to get to know Indonesians. My Indonesian language isn't that strong, but maybe we could find some middle ground using a mix of Indonesian and English and establish friendships. 

Most Saturdays we sing, listen to a Bible based lesson, and discuss various topics in small groups according to gender. One Saturday a month is a fun game night. 

 My friend asked us to consider leading small group discussions. She said," It's easy! You'll answer easy questions like where does God come from..." I thought to myself if that's an easy question my friend might want to continue looking for more capable discussion leaders! 

Our family decided to check it out together. We committed to participate each Saturday. Kate comes and plays with others while we build relationships with others. 

The lessons help to lay a "firm foundation" (which is the name of the series) by starting with discovering who God is and the progressing to creation and eventually through the life of Christ. It has been such a blessing for me to evaluate the firmness of my spiritual foundation. As Christians it can be easy to accept things that others say as Truth, without evaluating it through the lenses of Scripture. So we build our fundamental beliefs on half truths or thoughts that have shifted through years of memories or even church history. These half truths cause cracks in our foundations, which can cause the whole structure to be weak. 

Here's one truth that I go back to after each lesson. We've been talking about creation. Everything that God created- land, seas, sky, fruits, trees- He didn't *need* any of it for survival. So, why did He create it?? He created it with US- me and you- in mind. He is kind and loving. God knew that humans would need land, food, and light to survive. He created them in an order that shows His kindness towards us. He didn't create people first and then those things we need in order to survive. He's thoughtful and orderly in everything He does. God had a plan from the very beginning, and no one was there to give Him tips or suggestions on how to create things. He spoke and from the power of His voice *everything* happened. Wow. So now when I look at creation, I can see how even from the beginning God was expressing His love towards all mankind- not just those who would choose to love Him. 

Another truth that is helping repair the foundations of my Papuan friends is that God's power is greater than any evil or power of this world. Satan's power is strong here. My friends have seen spirits do things that mimic God's power, but are counterfeit. It's difficult for them to accept that good and evil are not equal in power. They (and Westerners too) tend to view God as ultimate good and Satan as ultimate evil, equating them with equal good and equal evil powers or abilities. BUT, friends, here's the Truth- Satan was in Heaven with God at some point (Isaiah 14:12). We know that God created all things (Colossians 1:16) and this must include Satan. God, the Creator of everything, has more power and authority than anything He has created. Therefore, Satan or other spirits can not have equal or more power than God. The powers of darkness may mimic the power of God, but do not be mislead that does not make their power equal. In Exodus 7, Moses and Aaron approach the throne of Pharaoh. God tells them specific instructions. Aaron throws down his staff and it turns into a serpent. Pharaoh gathers his magicians and sorcerers, who throw down their staffs which turn into serpents. I image that Pharaoh is feeling a bit smug, possibly thinking God lacks respect or honor because his magicians can perform the same "trick". Then something incredible happens- Aaron's serpent/staff swallows up the other serpent/staffs. Do not be mislead- others may mimic God's power and authority, but God stands sovereign over all His creation. 

    "Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all" (1 Chronicles 29:11-12).

Would you pray for us as we re-evaluate our own foundations and as we help others as they begin the process of laying their own? 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Micah 6:8 A Nap Time Project

A little over 2 years ago, we returned to Indonesia with a four month old baby. I had tried to prepare a room for our little one before we left. The walls were painted, but that was it.

Here's a known fact about me: I am not crafty. It takes me *forever* to borrow someone else's idea and actually do it. By "forever" I mean my craft plans usually never pan out. 

Before our return, Josh dropped me off at a Joann's fabric store. I experienced instant culture shock. After almost running out of the store due to the mere selection of fabric, I regained my composure and noticed the pre-cut fat quarter squares tucked neatly away. Those pre-cut squares probably kept the employees from having to hold the hand of a pregnant, emotional woman who had no clue what she was doing. 

I'm happy to say all those squares were put to use only a few months after we returned...thanks to my craft-loving friend Michelle. I decided that we should keep Kate and get her settled in her room.

About the same time, I decided to buy four blank paint canvases and tubes of white and a rose color paint. No paintbrushes... what was I thinking? Finger painting? 

Today on May 20, 2016- two + years after buying *four* paint canvases, a project was COMPLETED! 

The project itself has been in the works for at least 3 months or more. It started out as this:

Cute, right? Super ambitious. Even looking at it now, I'm wondering how I thought I could do something like that after not having many experiences with paintbrushes. 

So, after 3 (or more) months, I adapted my idea to this: 

Only SIX words rather than 50 million. Now the only problem was the font- How do you make a beautiful font on a canvas with no craft/art talent? Easy. You look it up on Google. 

Choose your font... Wait. Microsoft Word doesn't have super cutsie fonts like that. So you have to go to these font websites and sift through millions of fonts that eventually all start to look the same! Then you have to add them to MS Word. 

Save your document.... as a PDF. This helps keep the fonts the same even if the computer that's opening the document doesn't have the fonts. Lesson learned- that cost me 2 trips to the printer. 

Print the document using the "mirror" setting on the printer. This prints your document backwards, so when it's laid flat on the canvas it reads correctly. 

Paint the canvas.

Trace the words with playground chalk. Lay the document flat and then trace the words with the tip (the non-brush side) of a paintbrush. This will leave the outline of the words on your canvas.

Mirror printing results

Fonts laid flat

Trace printed side with sidewalk chalk

Lay chalk side down and trace with point of paintbrush 

Traced words 

Next paint the traced words on the canvas.

Paint traced words

The final product:

I have never done anything like this before. While painting the words, I thought this looks terrible or maybe the paintbrush is the wrong size... Eventually I fell into a "groove" and finished. I love it. These words from Micah 6:8 are reminders of how God wants *me* to live. 

One day this will be hung in Kate's room. 

It may take another 2 (or more) years before my next project. 

Thanks to Kelli and Karen for letting me borrow paintbrushes. Thanks to Josh for buying me four paint canvases two years ago, knowing that a project may or may not ever be completed. Thanks to Kate for sleeping so I had some "work time". Thanks to Nickel Creek and Southern Gospel Radio channels on Pandora for providing music that kept me in a happy place while expressing myself creatively. 

Now... on to those picture frames that I bought at the same time... 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

1 Avocado and 1 Lemon, Please.

Usually a scroll through my Facebook feed introduces me to a variety of new, delicious-looking recipes that are simple to make. The only problem is that the ingredients can't be found locally, so after I wipe the drool off the computer I move on with my day, promising that some day I'll make that. Last week there was a recipe that we could actually get ALL the ingredients locally- avocado hummus. 

Kate and I walked to the grocery store to look for 3 items- bread, a lemon and an avocado. 

Indonesia is still generally a cash society. Employees are often paid in all cash. Businesses tend to have bank accounts, I would say the majority of the population does not have a bank account. We have an Indonesian bank account and have one ATM card, so we have to coordinate when we withdraw money. You must have small bills to pay for parking. 

So on this day I had a small amount of money on hand and no access to the ATM card. I rarely choose a good avocado and am often disappointed with the inside when I cut it open. I squeezed one and it felt like "the one". Avocado in hand, I went to have the item weighed prior to check out. The lemons were stocked right across from me, so I chose one lemon that looked on the small side. I had it weighed and asked for the price, quickly determining if I had enough money. The total would be right at the edge, and I might be the lady who deletes items at the register just so she can pay with the money she has. 

The cashier totaled my avocado and lemon- 28,300 rupiah. I looked in my bag... 28,000 in bills and 300 in coins. Exact change. Uang pas. That's all the money that was in my bag. 

It may sound strange but I was really thankful to God- that was my dinner plan and it would have really complicated the day if there was not enough money. It was a small reminder to me that God has provided and will provide for my needs both big and small.  He even cares about giving good things like 1 perfect avocado and 1 lemon. 
Images by Freepik