When Community Meets Culture

Wanita asked me "Akan kalian pergi ke kremasi upacara besok?" Taking a moment to mentally translate what my neighbor had just asked me, I realized she just said: "Are you going to the funeral celebration tomorrow?" We had observed the devotion and dedication of Wanita's family; making daily offerings to the various idols and spiritual shrines on their property typical of the island. But today she was inviting us to join with the village as they observe the passing of a community elder from this world to the next. We quickly realized this would be an amazing opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of how the inhabitants of our new home island viewed the afterlife.    

 We are still getting used to wearing traditional clothing like a "sarong" (the wrapped fabric worn like a skirt by men and women for traditional events.) But Wanita was obviously overjoyed to show off her new foreign neighbors who had taken the time and effort to dress appropriately for such an important gathering.  Before we rounded the corner at the end of our alley I could hear the drums, cymbals and gamelan band. A flood of humanity flowed before adding to their numbers as they greeted the residents of each new street. Our host family drew us into the crowd by introducing us to their friend with smiles and laughter. This was far from any mournful funeral march I had ever seen. At the center of this "parade" was a "float". On this large platform, supported by many strong men, was elaborate decorations of gold and jewel colors, the spiritual guru and the body of the decided. At every main intersection the band would play faster and louder while the platform was rotated in great circles.

Finally we arrived at an open field filled with the now hundreds of community members who had joined the celebration. Only then did we realize that this cremation was going to be for three bodies. One by one the corpse wrapped in white cloth was carried from the platform to an pile of rough cut wood. Obviously this is where a fire was about to be set and the bodies reduced to ashes. The families and closest friends of the dead gathered to say their final words but we were shocked to recognize some familiar faces. 

Near one of the bodies was a circle of locals mixed with foreigners from the opposite side of the globe. We found out later that this was a circle of prayer in the name of Jesus. Volunteers, like us from the organization we are with, had been invited by one family in their time of grief to worship and pray to the Jesus they had heard so much about. These volunteers had moved to this island, learned the language, developed a way to bless the community and developed deep relationships for just such an opportunity. After years of praying they were now invited into the community as family and share the Hope that inspires their life. 

This is the the reason that we have moved so far from home. To meet people who are desperate for the Eternal Good News while surrounded by a world of depression. To be invited into a community so we may cry, laugh, mourn and rejoice with them in their own language and culture. 

It is through this lifestyle approach that we hope to see generations reject the  injustices of this world like human trafficking and child exploitation by adopting an eternal perspective that brings hope beyond death and cremation.   

 

Merdeka | Freedom

Independence Day is a proud day for any country. The day where we celebrate our national pride & freedom. We remember the lives lost to secure this freedom. And we have traditions, songs, and activities surrounding the celebrating.

In America, the 4th of July, I remember always going to a parade in the morning. I’d pick out my red, white and blue and go stand in the blazing sun to watch floats and bands and local important people walk by, wave and hopefully throw candy. Following the parade, my family would usually host a cookout at our place. We had the swimming. Family and friends would bring hamburgers & hot dogs, potato salad, watermelon and various American flag desserts. We’d end the day by setting off fireworks, or even driving to a spot in town to watch “the big ones”. The 4th of July feels like summer and feels like home.

Last month, we celebrated the 4th with a version of our own party which I blogged already. This month however was Indonesian Independence Day! August 17 is the day that Indonesians celebrate their freedom and cries of Merdeka! [Freedom!] be heard all around.

A little Indonesian history lesson [in case you forgot, or like me, never knew]. Indonesia has only been an independent nation for 70 years. 70 years!? My [living] grandparents are older than this country. Wild. Indonesia has evidence of civilization stretching quite far back, and came onto the radar of the Europeans in the 1500’s as merchants began discovering new exotic spices & goods to trade with the Far East.

Indonesia had hotly coveted resources, such as spices, cloves, nutmeg, and sugar. Indonesia was colonized by European powers for about 450 years.  In 1602, Indonesia was colonized by the Dutch, which named the vast archipelago the Dutch East Indies. The Indonesian people lived for centuries under imperialism and foreign leadership.

During the Second World War, Japan occupied Indonesia from 1942 to 1945 and controlled the trade and government of the archipelago and removed Dutch control during the war. The changing leadership allowed for national groups who resented Dutch imperialism to form and grow. After World War II, Indonesia announced it’s independence and fought a bloody revolution with the Dutch to keep it.

In 1945, Sukarno was declared President and he established the Republic of the United States of Indonesia. The Dutch finally recognized their loss and liberated Indonesia from the colonial control in 1949, when Queen Juliana of Netherlands proclaimed that Indonesia was free of Dutch rule.

Now, in 2015, we celebrate with Indonesia their 70 years of freedom. And how did we celebrate? Well, with friends and absurd games, naturally. 

Island of Relationship

Far from to-do lists and calendar schedules, I found myself on another island in a different time. I said yes to a trip with a friend. I said yes to a trip to the village where she once lived. I said yes to no schedule and no tasks.

Just a short 30 minute flight and we were there. Well, a 30 minute flight and a 3 hour car ride. And we were there. In a village at the foot of a famous volcano. People come from all over the world to trek this peak. To see the beauty it holds. To swim in a lake in the crater. To have a mountaintop experience. But we didn’t come for the peak, we came for the valley. For the people of the valley.

The plan was simple. We would just walk around, past homes and to villages and see who was home. My friend lived in this village for almost 4 years, and has been gone from it almost as long. She made deep friendships, and was anxious to reconnect. I was along for the ride.

We walked for awhile, and I took in the sights. So similar to my home island and then so different. We were eventually recognized and invited in for tea and snacks. They talked and laughed. I listened and tried to understand. Then I just prayed for the families. One woman was living with the lasting effects of an insect bite infection left untreated. Her face will never be the same. She’s heard the Gospel and already knows the hope of Jesus. Praying for her continued relationship with Him.

We continued on to new homes. It didn’t take long to fall in love with the place. It was an easy day but a rich one. And the next day was more of the same. Word had gotten out that we were in town, and the invites were still coming. We spent the morning with an industrious woman who runs a kitchen supply store out of her home. She also cooks. And roasts coffee. I loved her. Her beautifully disabled daughter soon arrived home from school, which is a praise report in itself, because when my friend lived there, this young girl was denied school because of her disability. But both her and her mom shine proudly with her newfound love of education. Again, we shared snacks and tea. And I ordered some of her home roasted coffee. Just because I love coffee. And now I love her.

We continued our walking, which lead us to beautiful waterfalls hidden in green jungles. We saw one, and then another. They were simply breathtaking. As we walked on, I would just stop and take in the view. We were so high and could look down on the fields below. And not just the beautiful rice terraces, but corn and beans and palm trees. So lush.

We had dinner with a wonderful family. They spoiled us with all the food we shared. We just talked and laughed. They complimented my language skills, and I continually couldn’t understand what they said. Story of my life. They talked about the neighborhood bully that picks on their daughter and their teenage son who doesn’t want to shower. So normal.

Leaving this village, I was really impacted by the power of relationship. Without relationship, I would never heard these families’ struggles and rejoices. Without relationship, I would have been just another white face at a guesthouse. But relationship opens doors. Relationship allows us to do life together. To speak life and to bring life. But relationship takes time. I’m encouraged to see my friend’s relationships and am hungry for some of my own.

God has created us for relationship, with family, with friends, with neighbors, with coworkers and more. We have the privilege to be in relationship with those who speak another language, live another culture, and not yet know the one True God. What a blessing. 

Jesus in the Spa

“I’ve never [even] had a boyfriend give me roses!” she said cherishing the single red blossom next to her heart. The spa we found “Amy” and friends working at is one of so many that offers hour long pedicures or “whole body massages” for under five dollars. Unfortunately spas in this area are notoriously known for selling the illicit services of young employees to international male tourists. But, like many others, “Amy” is still a girl.

 

Only a few months ago our team would weekly spend time with “Amy” and the other children who are forced to beg at the busiest intersections. Sets of siblings often work together at the traffic light. Little ones reach up to tap on the window of stopped vehicles while their slightly older sister carries the youngest, still learning to walk, in a sling around her chest. Few tourists, if any, would be equally sympathetic to a begging adult so their handlers watch hidden in the shadows.

These are the streets that “Amy” spent too much of her childhood. But once little girls start to show the hint of becoming young women compassionate concern can transition to interest of a more nefarious nature. “Amy” told us that she only recently started working in the spas. She said some of her co-workers offered “extra” services to male clients, but she didn't want to.  

The thirty minute “foot reflexi” massage Joy purchased for under three dollars became a legitimate excuse for us to spend quality time with “Amy”. Even her coworkers were excited to let us practice language as we explained how we had been praying for them. We explained [with some translation help] how we believed that God saw them as beautiful and precious, just like these roses. Joy shared the story of how Creagon pursued her, first as a friend, and then fell in love, and the godly characteristics of a healthy, biblical, relationship.

The thirty minutes became over an hour and still they hung on every word we shared. The spa remained empty the entire time we were there. It was both God’s provision for us to have their full time attention, as well as a reminder of how little they earned each day. We were told they are only able to take home a tiny fraction of the money paid to the spa so many are tempted to provide extra service to make ends meet.

At the end we asked if we could pray for their families and for their business. We boldly prayed for them to know who Jesus is and how much He loves them.

--Will you pray that we have the chance to share more of the Good News with “Amy” and the other young women working in the spas of Asia?

 

Ends of the Earth

I'm glad we went. And I'm glad we're back.

Those have been my words following our recent trip to the home village of the street kids we do regular ministry with. We were so blessed that they invited us home to their village to stay for a few days. We've grown so much in relationship with them and it was a wonderful opportunity to escape the busy city and just hang out.

We left early Thursday morning and met mom, dad & 3 kids at their city "home" in the slums. We loaded up our 6 motorbikes and took off for the village. Once we left the highways and big streets, we found ourselves in the forest as we climbed in altitude. It was breathtaking. It was exciting.

We stopped for "breakfast" of spicy rice & roasted pig. After our meal, we kept heading up as the roads got smaller and more winding. We stopped briefly at a market for a few supplies before the final 30 minutes of driving. We then began the most harrowing part of the drive. Dirt & sand littered with stones and gravel at sharp inclines, declines, and turns were our next challenge. Our bikes were getting stuck and we were falling down. I didn't think we were going to make it up this mountain. But we did. One step, one hill, and one curve at a time. The family's home hangs off the edge of the mountain and their view of the coast is spectacular. But there's a reason there's no tourist resorts up there!

We met grandpa & grandma who still live in the village when we arrived. They don't speak much of the national language that we've been learning, but still just the village language. But they were warm and friendly, welcoming us in their home. We were the first non-Asians and first Christians to ever stay on their property! We set up our hammocks and began playing with the kids. They were so excited to have us in their home, and we even met some of their cousins too! 

Although we still can't speak the language fully and very well, we communicated with the few words we did know, our smiles and our actions. Our teammates thankfully are native speakers! We enjoyed a meal, attempted to draw water from the well for showers and finally made our way to the hammocks. We went to bed the first night, worn out and full of smiles.

We were awoken quite early the next morning to grandpa playing an amplified recording of Hindu chants used to call back the ancestor spirits....for an hour. Then he released his pigeons and called them back with the banging of metal and war chants. It was not a peaceful morning at all. The spiritual atmosphere was quite heavy. One of our teammates had the chance to tell several of the kids Bible stories as they swung together in the hammocks. It was so cool to see that happen. We played in the morning with the kids at the house, and then had the chance to take them down the nearby beach. It was another eventful trip down the mountain.

The beach was a blast and we loved the chance to love on these kids even more. Our friendship with them goes beyond the streets and now is a real bond.

We separated from the team a day early, and split our driving over an extra day. Throughout the rest of the time, we reflected on this trip. It was so hard. But it was so worth it. Seeing how hard it was to reach this family in this village on that mountain just reminded us how important it is to continue to build relationship with this family. If we don't go with the Gospel, who will go?

Selamat Americanada Day!

For Americans, the Fourth of July is the perfect time for a cookout, a pool party, lots of exploding fireworks and friends & family. It’s a time to remember what we love about America, our freedoms and the sacrifices for those freedoms, and to display how proudly we can wear our red, white and blue. But celebrating the Fourth of July outside of America is a totally different experience.

Even though we had just had a party the week before, we decided to host an impromptu gathering for the Fourth. We invited all the Americans around the ministry center [which was only about 10, because a few were out of town], and the Canadians [because they have an Independence Day too, which was July 1] for our grand festivities. We planned a completely American meal. Burgers, fries, potato chips & dip, Coca-cola, watermelon and apple pie. The easiest part of that menu was the Coca-cola.

Living on a Hindu island the size of Delaware means that beef is in short supply, and is almost always imported from Australia. So, expensive. Which is also why dairy, like cheese, is pricy here too. So cheeseburgers…kind of a splurge. We went out to the Costco-type shopping center for these hard to find items, and even found mustard in the international section! We have no grill, but figured that stovetop burgers would be a good solution for the night. French fries were the next problem. Cooking burgers on our 2 gas burners meant our whole stove was occupied. We have no oven. We did not want to attempt to fry anything in our kitchen. So how could we get fries? We could drive to McDonald’s and bring some back. Or we could have some delivered from a restaurant. We finally decided for a more local option. On our street, we have many food vendors and street carts. One sells various fried chicken options. And french fries. So we negotiated in our limited language skills that we wanted 20 portions of fries on Friday night. And she agreed! Of course, I reminded her again that afternoon [good thing, because she had the day wrong], but all in all it was a successful purchase! The fries were great. We had some oddly flavored potato chips, and even cassava chips which are incredibly popular here. But dipped in a ranch dip, they all taste wonderful. Another friend brought an apple crumble for dessert [which is easier to pull off than an apple pie] and it was delicious.

One of the night’s highlights was the fireworks. One of our Indonesian friends found fireworks [miraculously] and we had enough sparklers for everyone and one big explosion set. We set up the big one inside of a trashcan and supported by large rocks. We lit it with a sparkler and aimed it away from all the power lines. It was SO LOUD. And so beautiful. God bless America!

We finished the night watching the classic movie, Independence Day. We laughed at the American-ness of it all, feeling a bit homesick for our homeland. We have all chosen to live outside of our birth nation, and wouldn’t change our current circumstance for anything. But we still love our heritage and home culture because it makes us who we are. For one night, it was great to completely indulge our American cravings, our American music, our American jokes and our American movies. I love living internationally, but somedays, I’m just real glad to be American. Our next holiday challenge...Thanksgiving. We have between now until November to figure out how to get a turkey and cranberry sauce. 

Out of the Mouth of Babes

I don't remember hearing English for the first time - I was only a few seconds old. During the next few years I fulfilled what is expected of most toddlers by using my mouth for everything - except speaking full sentences. I do remember trying to learn the national language that I began studying twelve weeks ago. Within the first month I became frustrated by the few words I could recognize, read, write or spell, let alone speak with confidence in conversation.  

Last week things changed. We got the chance to learn from a linguistic expert working with a well known Bible translation organization. She introduced us a new method that simulates the way we all successfully learned our first language. Full exposure to this method required us to start learning a completely foreign language from scratch. Fortunately we were able to use the village language primarily spoken by the children & families we work with.

We were challenged to become like little children again (Matt 18:3). This humility allowed us to fully engage our bodies as we touched objects and acted out the words we were learning. Monday and Tuesday we did everything except speak a sound of our new language. Wednesday we were allowed to say the words aloud for the first time. By Thursday we were able to accurately recall enough objects and actions to verbally tell a short bible parable. “Woman lost coin, light lamp, searched, found, happy, called friends, all happy!” Although we sounded like a toddler this had been achieved in days not years. Like a toddler we are in an attitude of humble learning and willing for others to correct and instruct us. 

These methods will help us continue to learn the national language even though we have already become conversational about limited topics. Please pray that we will have the humility of a child to learn with abandon and the divine wisdom to know how best to learn both languages of our new neighbors. 

Home is Where the Party Is

It was only a matter of time. A few weeks really. Before our house became a place to party. We knew we wanted a home that could have people over and we could be hospitable. And that we did!

We hosted a housewarming party for our new place. We invited all the staff & volunteers, all the students & guests from the ministry, and even some outside friends we’d made, like our language tutor and landlord. And I think about 50 people showed up! It was amazing.

Together, we ate SO MUCH FOOD. We wanted to blend our American party culture with Indonesian party culture. So we had one of our friends that was once a caterer put together an elaborate Indonesian dish called nasi tumpeng. It was a huge cone of yellow rice, which was surrounded by side dishes like chicken satay, cooked vegetables, fried noodles, scrambled eggs, fried mashed potato balls, and fried sweet soybeans. It was absolutely delicious.

We swam and just hung out. It was a great chance to get to know our new friends outside of a work or ministry setting. We showed our wedding video and looked at travel photos. We just got to be together.

One thing we knew we wanted at our party was worship & prayer. We wanted to thank God for our house and dedicate this new place to the Lord. What began as a simple worship song became a loud worship dance party. We were singing and shouting and having a great time. I’m not sure how our neighbors felt, but no one complained. We were able to pray over the house and over us. We declared our home would be a place of hospitality and of joy. It was a powerful evening. 

Here’s just a quick video that shows some of the party fun! Can’t wait for the next one!

Home Sweet Home

Well, we found our dream house. It's true. After 2 months of searching, waiting, praying, and hoping we would find a house that we wanted to live in for 2 years...God provided our dream house. 

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House hunting here has been a journey of faith to say the least, and we are excited to be able to live in the tangible results of our faith and prayers. We made a video for others to experience a bit of our journey, and would love for you to watch it and get a glimpse into our new home!

Thanks for praying!

Traffic Light

One year ago, May 2014, I arrived on an island many think is paradise. I understand why. The drastic cliffs are beautiful, the lush vegetation explodes with flowers, and the sea breezes keep thousands of tourists cool as they lay on the equatorial beaches.  After spending one day on “the Island of the Gods” a resident asked me if I wanted to join him for a late dinner. He said we would pickup a simple meal of vegetable fried rice and take it to one of the busiest intersections on the island. Once I accepted the invitation he bought over 20 servings and we proceeded on motorbike downtown through rush hour traffic.

That evening we shared our meal with 20+ children (infant to 14 years old) and three mothers. Having eaten rice with our hands out of the traditional banana leaf wrapping the kids began to climb on us like a human jungle gym. My heart began to melt as I recognized they were starving not for food but for attention and affirmation. The games we played, due to my non existent language skills, were simplistic variations of tag and hide & seek; Anything could think of to prove I valued their existence on this earth. Our time of laughter was quickly cut short. I watched the “mothers” communicate that break time was over and the real reason they were on the streets quickly became apparent.

Children, some too young for preschool, were sent into traffic. As the light turned red they would weave through the slowing cars and peer through the windows - if they were tall enough. Their plea was obvious as they hoped a departing tourist would hand them the leftover currency from their vacation. One of the taller girls slung an infant across her chest as to increase the sympathetic case for her begging. The mothers told me through translation that they, and the children, were not from the city but from a small village 3+ hours away. My heart was broken. I recognized each of these children had become a source of income multiple times more lucrative than a the average local daily wage. Yet their true value is infinite and based on the image of their Creator. This experience became seared in my memory as I prepared to return permanently one year later. 

May 2015 I returned to meet my little friends. Their smiles and excitement were just as I remembered them, possibly because of my return, but likely more influenced by the hot dinner we began to share. Over the following weeks they began to recognize me and I started to remember their names. My language learning has allowed me to start simple conversations often revolving around the “rules” for a game like tag, duck, duck, goose or a new card game favorite, Uno! (Some of their words sound very similar to my untrained ear, examples: Green & Rain, Yellow and Cat, Red and Angry, Blue and New… You can imagine how this makes the game of Uno quite entertaining.) 

Building relationship with times of silliness and play has earned us the right to enter into serious topics. One night many of the children obviously had a contagious eye infection. Divine provision allowed that the same night a European doctor was visiting with us. After diagnosing their symptoms on the side of the street she offered to visit them the next day to bring the correct treatment and medications. Finding the children was quite a challenge and required hours of driving in systematic circles. The driver said finding their location in the maze of back alleys was “miraculous”. One week later and all symptoms of the eye infection were gone! It is these types of interactions that we pray will allow us to meet the root physical and spiritual needs of this community. Your prayers for these children opens the heavens for these types of miracles. Please pray that as we learn the language and build deep relationships we can share the Source of these miracles and the Love that motivates us to share our evenings with them.


Our First Ceremony

The smell of incense is still in our nose and the sound of gamelan in our ears. We were invited to our first ever Balinese ceremony at the guesthouse where we’ve been staying this past week. The owner had recently opened a new wing of the guesthouse, and it’s tradition in Bali to have a ceremony to bless a new building. And the owner’s of our guesthouse WENT ALL OUT. We knew in advance about the ceremony, so we were able to purchase a traditional Balinese outfit to wear for the day. We fit right in! 

The ceremony started around 9:30am and lasted past 2pm. There was eating, laughter, prayers, offerings, chants, music, live animals, and fun. We were able to connect with a [large] family over something incredibly important to them…their culture. One woman that I [Joy] talked to about the ceremony said how proud she is to be Balinese, because there is no one else in the world like their culture. She explained how some ceremonies are for the gods and religious, but some are just for culture. The two are closely intertwined. Would the Balinese be the Balinese without their ceremonies?

By the end of the afternoon, we felt like family. We joined them in something sacred. We met them in the midst of their lives. And they welcomed us right in. We were given so much to eat and drink. We posed for photos and used all the Indonesian language we could speak! It was exhausting yet beautiful. It was hard to understand the devotion yet admirable at the level of devotion. We are so glad we had this experience.  

This wasn’t the first ceremony we’d had seen. Almost weekly, we experience road closures because of ceremonies or hear them parade across the beach next to our ministry center. These religious ceremonies are an intricate part of the Balinese life. While beautiful and spectacular, sometimes it’s sad too.

We met one family that is struggling to pay the ceremony costs for their ancestor’s bones to be cremated so he will finally be reincarnated. They are not a wealthy family, and this expense is a serious problem. They feel trapped and burdened by this religious rite. How we wish we could bring her freedom. But all we can do is introduce her to the One who brings eternal freedom. We pray she receives the invitation.  

Deeper

As we approach the end of our second month in Asia, it’s getting harder to sum up our experiences. Things are not as new as they once were. Experiences are beginning to feel normal. Language is starting to sound familiar. We are finding ease & convenience once again. I guess I would sum up month two with ‘going deep’.

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. "For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.” - Jeremiah 17:7-8 

We’ve been going deeper in our language learning. We finished our first month of daily classes, and have transitioned to tutoring twice a week. We aren’t memorizing long lists of words, but focusing on putting sentences together and understanding grammar. It’s hard & stretching, but we are getting there.

We’ve been going deeper with our friends & community. God has placed us in such a rich family within this ministry. We’ve made friends from across the globe that now call Asia home. Cross-cultural friendships are amazing. Here’s a fun friendship story. We invited some new friends over to swim at  our guesthouse pool, an American girl and her Indonesian boyfriend. I tell the American girl if you come over between 1pm and 4pm, the sun is on the pool best. Her Indonesian boyfriend asks if they can come around 4pm, so the sun is mostly gone! What happens sun-seeking Americans befriend sun-avoiding Asians! And we still had a good time. 

We’ve been going deep with house hunting. It’s been a slower process than we had hoped, and we’ve tried hard not to get frustrated. We’ve had many people helping us, which has been the biggest blessing. We can’t find a place on our own. We know that God has the perfect house for us, and we are excited for Him to reveal it! But until then, we are patient and trusting.

We’ve been going deep with ministry as well. We’ve committed to the ministry we visited last year, which visits children & mothers begging on the streets at busy intersections. We visit them regularly, and they are remembering our names and faces just as we are remembering theirs. We are praying for them and over them. We love those hours we spend on the streets with them and are praying for ways we can invest even more. God is birthing something through this ministry. We are thrilled to be part.

And finally, we’ve been going deep with the culture around us. It’s so radically different than America. And it’s more than just language. It’s non-verbal communication and assumptions. It’s food preference and values. We’ve seen so many religious ceremonies, and are still in awe over the devotion these people have towards their beliefs. I [Joy] am learning a traditional dance as a way to continue to know and love the people around me. I [Creagon] spend time at the fish market and with the fishermen practicing my language and engaging with something they love. It’s been so good, and so challenging. But we love it.

Going Mobile

One of the biggest transitions in moving to Asia was going from 4 wheels to 2 wheels. In most cities in Southeast Asia, motorbikes & scooters are the primary method of transportation. We knew we needed to adapt. Or walk. So we took on the challenge of being a couple with 2 wheels!

And it’s been so fun. We have been learning the rules of the road, or lack thereof. We’ve been able to explore the area around us with ease. For the first few weeks, we rented a bike until we could decide what we wanted to buy. But after careful research and test driving, we decided on our beautiful 150cc Honda Vario. [Fun fact: while a 150cc bike in the States is a joke, it’s one of the more powerful bikes available here!]

We’ve both been driving [Joy, less often but still doing it!] and learning our way around. We feel so much more confident in navigating our new town and the new wheels have allowed us to get to language class and ministry.

We are so thankful for our financial supporters who helped make this purchase possible! We couldn’t have bought this bike without your donations! Thank you for allowing God to provide for us through you! 

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Learning to Speak

Selamat pagi! Apa kabar? Kabar baik, terima kasih! 

Learning a whole new language is hard. In case anyone thought it was gonna be easy…it’s not. Yet that is one of the first tasks we’ve tackled since arriving almost a month ago. We spend our days in constant confusion and misunderstanding. We have to humble ourselves as though we are small children, and laugh at our many mistakes. 

This first month, we’ve joined a language class with 2 other Americans. We attend class 5 days a week for 2 hours a day. And do our homework on top of that. And practice with our new friends. And sit through meetings that are being translated back and forth. Needless to say, at the end of the day our brains are exhausted and we fall into bed easily. I think we take for granted how easy learning a first language can be. Learning a second language is no cake walk. 

While we are learning a fairly easy language, perhaps the easiest in Asia, there are some tricky things. Here are some of the quirks of our new language:

-Different sounds for familiar letters. C = ch. A = ah. I = e. So even learning to spell in our new language took a few days. And we still sound words out wrong. 

-Modifiers come at the end of the word, and informal possesive’s  can be attached to the word. Such as my book is either buku saya [book mine] or bukuku [bookmine]. This makes our sentence construction a real pain. 

-Plural pronouns. If you are talking about a whole group of people you are with, it’s kita. But if you are excluding one or more people from the group conversationally, it’s kami. If you are talking about a group of people not present, it’s mereka [which sounds a lot like America when spoken!]. If you are talking about a group of people, and not yourself, it’s kalian. But on the upside, if you are talking about he, she, her, his, or him, it’s just dia! 

-This culture views time different than America, and there are words or greetings to accompany it. From 2:30am - 10:30am, you say Selamat pagi! From 10:30-3:30pm, you say Selamat siang! From 3:30-sunset, you say Selamat sore! And from sunset until 2:30am, it’s Selamat malam! On top of that, if you want to talk about this morning [pagi ini], but only until 10:30am. After 10:30am, you have to say tadi pagi, if you want to talk about this morning. If you are talking about later in the same day [sun up to sun down], it’s nanti siang or nanti malam. If you want to talk about time with in the past 24 hours, it’s tadi, but the day before that is kemarin. By the time we figure what part of the day we are talking about, it’s another time of day!

-Usually in America, we teach kids to count to one hundred, maybe through the hundreds, and eventually thousands and briefly millions. But here our currency demands that we can count in millions. Like today. We knew the word for million before we knew the word for ten. Because $1 = 13,000 IDR. So the dinner we ate out was around 200,000 IDR and the house we are considering renting is 30,000,000 IDR for the year. When we go to the market and buy bananas or oranges, and we ask how much [berapa?] and she says dua puluh ribu lima ratus…We gotta know it means 20,500. Which is $1.50. 

-In English we have some words that can be pronounced two different ways like read or lead, and our new language is no different. We are still trying not to confuse tahu [soft “h” meaning to know information] and tahu [hard “h” meaning tofu]. Or the super similar words of tahun [years] and tuhan [god]. And I don’t know how many people we told we wanted a rice field [sawah] house with 2 rooms instead of to rent [sewa] a house with 2 rooms. Oh, language. 

So that’s been our journey of language learning in our first few weeks. Lots of mistakes and lots of laughter. But rewarding moments of understanding and connection. We do ministry and actually communicate with the kids or their parents, and it’s so encouraging. This is why we are learning the language. This is why we hurting our brains to remember all these words & grammar. It’s for relationship. It’s for Him. 

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Good Week, Good Friday

Well, friends, we have made it to Southeast Asia. After 30+ hours of travel, over 2 continents and 3 flights, we arrived...finally! Thankfully, our travel day[s] were smooth, with no delays or issues, and we even had all our bags arrive when we landed! Such a blessing. We know that we had hundreds of people praying for us as we went! Here's a quick video of our travel days.

Leaving America was very bittersweet. We have such amazing families and communities in both Florida and Michigan that we love very much. We had an incredible 3 months connecting with individuals and families to join our financial support team as well, and we saw God provide so much through those meetings. But we were also really excited to get on the ground in Southeast Asia. We've been planning and preparing for so long...we just were ready to go. 

Our first week here in Southeast Asia has been mainly in a fog of jet lag. We moved into our 1 bedroom/1 bathroom space at the ministry center, and it's quite cozy! It's such a blessing to be living in right in the midst of our new team. Our meals are upstairs and the beach is across the street. [Creagon is about to go for a swim while I finish this blog.] God is good.

One of our highlights this week was celebrating Good Friday with our ministry team. We went to a nearby beautiful park & beach where we did worship, prayer, shared communion, played games, ate snacks & lunch together. It was a wonderful way to begin our time here in Southeast Asia, with celebrating the death & resurrection of Jesus with our new family. We were amused by the many curious onlookers [photographers with their selfie sticks] who may have never seen open Christian worship before. Here's a video of our Good Friday picnic!

Thanks so much for praying for us! We are coming out of the jet lag haze and are beginning to function again! Our goals for the week include getting our cell phones working and renting a motorbike for the month until we are ready to buy! This will allow us to be mobile, in more ways than one! Hope you have a blessed Easter weekend! 


Let the Little Ones Come

Kids are great. And kids are exhausting. I don't even remember having as much energy as they seem to have daily. But they are so fun.

Over the past 3 months while we've been in Tampa & Michigan, from preschools to Sunday school, we've intentionally been connecting with kids to share about our ministry. No, we aren't telling 5 year olds about sex trafficking. But we are telling them about how different life in Asia looks. And how a lot of people in Asia don't have Bibles. And some don't even know about Jesus. And we want to change that. Kids can get on board with that.

We show silly photos of life in Asia and teach them how to use chopsticks, a must-know for living in Asia. We hand out Lunar New Year red envelopes, with fake Chinese money and prayer cards of us. 

We were able to connect with the hearts of the whole family, from the preschooler to the parent. The simple prayer of a child carry so much faith. They pray with their whole heart, with no baggage and no fear. When we asked the kids if they thought it was a good idea for us to move to Asia to tell people about Jesus, they emphatically replied yes. And out of the mouth of babes, "They should read the Bible so they will be blessed." 

Breaking Bread

Community happens around food. It just does. Especially in the church. We share meals. We cook for each other. It's no coincidence that Jesus and His disciples shared many meals together. There's something sacred about breaking bread together.

Over the past 3 months, we've shared many meals. We've cooked and been cooked for. We've gone out and ordered in. We've grown deeper in our friendships and started new ones around the kitchen table. We laugh, we cry, and we pray. We've seen the Body of Christ in action. 

One of the most beautiful and most difficult parts of our ministry is that we have to fundraise our entire salary and ministry expenses. Even when living in Southeast Asia, it's still not a small amount. But the "task" of fundraising allows us to fully trust God for our provision and to find the people He wants to use. We daily are inviting people to join what God is doing in Southeast Asia through us! So exciting.

Many people see fundraising as a hassle or a struggle. But we have connected to so many incredible people in the past few months that we would have never met if it wasn't for fundraising. We have some powerful prayer warriors and charitable giants on our team. We have acquaintances we've met once and friends we've known for decades sending us out on this mission. Fundraising has brought together individuals and families with a common vision & passion into action. 

We are currently at 82% of our monthly budget and 90% of our moving expenses. God is so faithful. With only 11 days left until we leave America for Asia, we know that God will bring in those final dollars. He is so good. 

If you would like to join our financial sponsorship team, you can right here! If you want to get our email newsletters with updates & prayer requests, sign up here

We can't do this without you. We won't do this without you. The Lord is sending us to Southeast Asia with over 50 families & individuals on our team. We aren't alone. He is with us. You are with us.

Ready to Ride

Preparing to move to another country is full of ups and downs, surprises, tiny details, laughter, tears, confusion, and excitement. Even though we've visited the place where we will be moving, there is still so much that we don't know. Where will we live? What will be our daily routine? Will we cook for ourselves? What products are hard to buy there? How quickly can we get mail? All these things and so much more. 

One thing that we knew we needed to tackle before leaving was what are we going to drive. Spending almost 6 months in Asia last year showed us that the primary for transportation is the motorbike. Two wheels really rule the road over there. And it can get a liiiiiitle ridiculous. We decided that we'd buy a motorbike once we arrive. Since we can't get a driver's license in Asia, we realized that getting an international driver's permit with a motorcycle endorsement should be a priority before leaving. What a joy and what a process.  

For the motorcycle endorsement, we took a 2 day course at a local bike shop. We assumed we'd be the anomalies in the course amidst hard core Harley riders and fast-driving sport riders. Thankfully that was not the case. Although the 250cc manual transmission bikes we learned on were big [for Joy], they weren't too difficult to learn. However our motorbike in Asia will definitely be half the engine size and an automatic. We made our way through the book work and practical exercises on the course, and both passed the test on the first try! While Creagon had driven motorbikes before [although not manual], Joy hadn't ridden anything on two wheels more powerful than a bicycle. It was encouraging to see each other learn new skills and use them with confidence. Hopefully our learning and adapting process in Asia will be as sweet. 

Getting our international driver's permit was much easier. Thanks to AAA, we are now legally allowed to drive motorbikes [and cars] in a foreign country! Watch out Asia, we're hitting the road!

Becoming Tour Guides

I [Joy] once seriously considered applying to be a tour guide at a theme park. I loved the idea of showing people around, pointing out areas of interest, little known facts, and highlights of that area. When I joined staff at YWAM Orlando, my tour guiding dreams came true, as I was part of a team that did weekly tours of the 198-acre campus the ministry owned. Not to mention I married the tour guide extraordinaire. Creagon’s tours of the YWAM Orlando campus are legendary. 

This past weekend at Watermark Church in Tampa, during a commissioning service for us missionaries, our pastor Tommy likened the missionary to a tour guide. Because we aren’t bringing Jesus to our new nation in our luggage. He doesn’t show up when we show up. Jesus is already there. God is already at work in people’s lives in all of Southeast Asia. We, as missionaries, get to simply show where God is working, explain aspects of His character, and point out little known facts about His nature and Word. 

We were able to share on Sunday during Sunday’s service for a few minutes about what we’re moving to do in Southeast Asia, and it was a great opportunity to connect people to the vision God has given us. Two other Watermark missionaries shared as well, and we’re excited about how God is going to use them in Uruguay and Europe. 

Then Tommy and our friends prayed over us to commission us.  A commission is a “group of people officially charged with a particular function”. This service was a public recognition of our callings and ministry. We are blessed to have this amazing church body [and others!], praying for us, supporting us, and sending us out. When we go to Southeast Asia, they will be with us. 

After service, we set up our JoyFilledWander travel photography, and sold pieces of art to help raise money for our move. But more importantly, we connected people with the ministry God's called us to and saw new people get involved. We also had a luncheon, which we got to share with even more people about our new country and answer questions. All of this is so important to what we're doing because we can't do it alone. Nor should we. We aren't lone rangers. We need and want people on our team. And this weekend was a great chance to spend time with those people. 

10 Countries in 12 Months: Looking Back at 2014

Top to Bottom, Left to Right: Bamboo Boat Ride in China, Elephant Riding in Thailand, Swimming Turquoise Waters in Thailand, Surfer Boys in Bali, Himalayas in Nepal, Durbar Square architecture in Nepal, the City Life of Nepal, Beautiful Bali Girls, Sunset in Mexico.

Top to Bottom, Left to Right: Bamboo Boat Ride in China, Elephant Riding in Thailand, Swimming Turquoise Waters in Thailand, Surfer Boys in Bali, Himalayas in Nepal, Durbar Square architecture in Nepal, the City Life of Nepal, Beautiful Bali Girls, Sunset in Mexico.

This has been a pretty epic year of travel for us. Unlike any other for sure! As I sit in a condo in Mexico on New Year's Day, I'm reminded of last New Year's Eve, where I stood on the Great Wall of China and think "How is this my life?!"

Since today starts a brand new year, full of hope and possibilities, I thought I'd look back over some highlights in travel this past year.

Obviously, spending last New Year's in China was a serious highlight. There is no country on earth like China, I'm convinced. It's culture is so specific and recognizable that even when traveling in other parts of Asia this year, I could see aspects of where Chinese culture had taken root. I could recognize a Chinese neighborhood without paper lanterns and dragons. Then a few week's after we celebrated the start of 2014, we got to celebrate the Year of the Horse, or the beginning of the Chinese New Year. And I'll say this, there ain't no party like a Chinese New Year Party! From fireworks to food, I got my fill of it all! But seriously, the memories I'll take with me for life. And more than just the memory of eating cat for the first (and hopefully only) time!

Another great holiday we celebrated was in Thailand in April. Songkran marks the start of the Thai New Year, and they celebrate completely different than the Chinese and the Americans...with huge water fights! I'm serious. For 5 days straight, anytime we left our apartment we were at risk of being soaked by a hose, a bucket, a water gun or all 3. Considering temperatures were over 100 that week, I had few complaints.

We survived a military coup in Thailand, watched the sunrise over the Angkor Wat temples, took a road trip to the border of Tibet, a boat ride through the most iconic mountains in China, observed a Balinese Hindu ceremony, rode elephants, drove motorbikes, swam in turquoise waters, got chased by monkeys, hung out with a monk in Myanmar, stumbled into multiple wedding photo shoots, hung out with surfers, drank coffee out of plastic bags, toured one of the richest countries in the world, and enjoyed drinks on top of a helipad. We took over 30 flights, including an inaugural flight from Bali to Brunei on Royal Brunei Airlines and enjoyed their first class lounge. We had 6 different SIM cards in our iPhones. We learned phrases and sentences in at least 4 new languages. All these memories are simply priceless.

In returning from traveling and spending some time in home sweet America, we have been able to expand my travel photography onto Etsy and a bigger online presence, and even see some sales! What a huge accomplishment.

Probably the most exciting thing we did this year....is decide to go back. Decide to make our home in Southeast Asia. To leave America, friends, family, and all that's familiar behind for what we believe in most. Freedom. Justice. Hope. Grace. Love. Jesus.

Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Loving on lepers in China x 3, Hanging out with Street Kids in Bali, Chatting with a Monk in Myanmar, Making New Ministry Friends in Thailand, Laughing with Slum Kids in Bali, Finding a Hindu Ceremony in Bali, and attending an Anti-Trafficking Conference. 

Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Loving on lepers in China x 3, Hanging out with Street Kids in Bali, Chatting with a Monk in Myanmar, Making New Ministry Friends in Thailand, Laughing with Slum Kids in Bali, Finding a Hindu Ceremony in Bali, and attending an Anti-Trafficking Conference. 

We visited some incredible ministries this year, and saw God do powerful things. We were exposed to human trafficking in a way we haven’t yet seen it before. We are confident now more than ever that God has called us to be His hands and feet in preventing this injustice. We were really inspired reading Pope Francis’ New Years Day message this morning, called No Longer Slaves, But Brothers and Sisters, in which he centers the topic on human trafficking. He writes, “For this reason I urgently appeal to all men and women of good will, and all those near or far, including the highest levels of civil institutions, who witness the scourge of contemporary slavery, not to become accomplices to this evil, not to turn away from the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings, who are deprived of their freedom and dignity. Instead, may we have the courage to touch the suffering flesh of Christ,[12] revealed in the faces of those countless persons whom he calls “the least of these my brethren” (Mt 25:40, 45).

I can't begin to imagine what 2015 what will look like. Full of highs and lows, laughter and tears, photos and blogs for sure. I guess you'll just to follow along to find out with me.
Happy New Year!