Disaster

Tropical Cyclone Seroja

Growing up in South Florida, I have always considered myself well versed in handling natural disasters, particularly hurricanes. Yet somehow, God always has a interesting way of humbling us.

On Easter Sunday morning, April 4,  I woke up to the sound of rain pattering our tin roof. It had been pouring rain all night long, and I was surprised that it was still down pouring like this. Curious, I opened my phone to windy.com, the only weather forecast site I’ve found which forecasts our area.

Local River washes away a home near the breached dam

To my surprise, I saw a tropical cyclone sitting just east of our little island, dumping rain on us. I’ve never heard of tropical cyclones in this part of the world, and no one here had either. Within hours, the power had gone out and news infiltrated my social media that the nearby dam had been breached. Water was flooding into neighborhoods all around us. Fortunately, our house is located on the top of a hill, but just 300 yards from our home water filled the streets and the homes up to the tin roofs. People ran for their lives.

WATCH: Flooding in Indonesia

It was an Easter Sunday full of tragedy and crisis as people sheltered wherever they could find dry ground. But this was just the outer bands of the cyclone, and it was heading our way.

Shuttered in our home for the storm

There was very little time to prepare for the intense winds coming, and with no warnings or alerts from the government, the majority of the population had no idea a major wind storm was headed their way. We managed to run to the store and buy a pan of eggs and a box of instant ramen, but that was all we could manage to fit in for preparedness. No time to shutter windows, move in outside furniture, or cut loose branches from the trees. On Monday evening, neighbors who had bamboo houses shuttered into our cement-walled home, and we prayed. As the night came in and the winds started to blow, we continued to pray. Many of you prayed us through that night, and I can’t thank you enough.

WATCH: Disaster in Indonesia – Evacuation

After eating our ramen and eggs, we bundled up and waited. It was cold. It was very loud. Wind whistled all around our house and we could hear trees and debris being thrown around outside. No one slept, but we all kept looking up at the roof to make sure it would hold. I had a bag packed with important documents and my shoes next to it, ready to grab and run if the roof or walls gave way. It was the scariest night of my life.

Home destroyed by Tropical Cyclone Seroja

After 10 hours of howling winds and banging trees outside, the winds finally calmed. We nabbed a few hours of sleep, aware that the next days ahead would be full of relief efforts and hard work. As the sun came up, I stepped outside and saw the demolition of trees down everywhere. Pieces of roof were lying in the middle of the road, some houses badly damaged. But God spared us, and God spared our home. Again.

Relief Efforts

The next two weeks were full of relief efforts. Our school worked with a neighbor setting up a community kitchen to cook meals for people who had been forced from their homes. We were the lucky ones, so we invested our time and efforts bringing supplies to impacted families and homes. 

WATCH: Food Distribution for Refugees
Erdy cleaning up flooded houses

Two weeks later, our power came back on, and now that it’s been 3 weeks since that fateful Easter Sunday, life is starting to get back to normal. Most people have been able to repair their homes and return, although those badly damaged by the flood are still cleaning up. The dam breech cut off critical irrigation supply to much of the area, so now farmers are grappling to find other ways to make a living.

Newly installed water pump for affected farmers

Erdy and his team spent the last week installing 3 pumps by a river in a local village that relies on rice patties for food and income. Since their irrigation canals have dried up, this pump delivers critical water to irrigate the rice patties and keep these people alive. My school and team have spent the past week reaching out to students and parents who were impacted by the disaster, bringing supplies and also providing trauma healing for the kids who endured the crisis.

WATCH: Relief Distribution

The road to recovery and rehabilitation for our small island is still long and we have much to do, but I am amazed and blessed by the many ways God has provided for us over these last weeks, and the many, many prayers He has answered. I thank each of you deeply for being a part of our journey here and lifting us up in prayer over these past weeks. It’s your prayers which have carried us.

Delivering food and supplies to affected homes

New Everything

I’m experiencing an overwhelming abundance of blessings and new beginnings in my life here in Indonesia.

Locally woven traditional cloth

New Island

In July, I made the move from my long time home of Java to a smaller remote island in Eastern Indonesia. Rolling green hills, luscious waterfalls and white sandy beaches are now part of the incredible panorama I’m privileged to witness every day. This island, less developed than Java, is a hub of deeply rooted cultural traditions. Most women spend their days weaving traditional cloth while the men work the fields caring for livestock and looking after crops.

This place is incredibly beautiful, but lacking in education. Most adults are not educated beyond Elementary school, and the schools which are available are plagued by low teacher attendance and insufficient funding. This is a huge opportunity for us.

New Role

With my move to this island, comes a new role as well. Our organization started a small Christian School here 3 years ago, and we are striving to develop this school into a lab school which will plant schools in villages all over the island. So far, our school is Kindergarten-Grade 2 and has already planted 14 Christian schools in villages. We will continue adding a grade each year, God willing until our school is K-12.

Neighborhood kids join afternoon English club since they are prohibited from going to school.

Like in America, Covid-19 has significantly affected our school here. Children are not permitted to attend school in person, and connectivity challenges limit our ability to conduct school virtually. Instead, our teachers prepare learning materials for students to take home and work on during the week.

Since kids can’t come to school, we sometimes invite the kids living in the neighborhood for English club in the afternoon.

Local teacher tutors a student at our new school.

New Husband

Of all the changes, one in particular has been the greatest of all, bringing immense blessing in my life. On September 6, 2020, I married the most incredible amazing man. Erdy is native to this island and is the answer to many prayers over the years. Although Covid-19 prohibited us from celebrating our wedding day together with family in America, God still amazingly opened the way for family from all over the globe to take part in this special day. 

Watch a replay of the Wedding Livestream

Many of you have sent us greetings, participated in the Photo Booth, and were a part of this special day. We send our deep thanks and gratitude for each of you and for the congratulations, blessings, and prayers you have sent.

We thank God for technology which allowed for family to take part in this special day.

My heart overflows. We look forward to the day we are able to come to America and celebrate with you.

Reshaped and Repurposed

Disappointment happens whenever reality is not aligned with our expectations. Could God have a bigger purpose in mind?

The world is a different place.

A few weeks ago my days were filled with lesson plans, teaching, meetings and small groups. Lately my days have been filled with a new activity—making face shields for medical workers. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, our school, like other schools around the world has closed and moved to distance learning. However, just a few days in, the principal of our school initiated a project to make homemade face shields for medical workers. How? By finding unused foam puzzle mats in all of the empty classrooms, cutting them up, and assembling the shields with plastic and elastic. Pretty soon, parents from the school started donating supplies.

Brand new packs of these foam puzzle mats started pouring in from donors. So we began cutting. I love these carpets, and would love to have one in my bedroom or living room. In some ways, it broke my heart to see brand new mats being cut up with a knife. But as I cut one, I realized that I wasn’t destroying a foam mat, but rather repurposing it. This mat was created for sitting, working, playing. But now, this mat had potential to be so much more. Expectations no longer in accordance with reality.

This mat, after a painful cutting and reshaping process, would go beyond serving as a tool for sitting and playing. Rather, it would be reshaped and repurposed for something greater—protecting the faces of hard working medical workers in this time of crisis.

As I cut mats I found myself reflecting on my own life. I realized just how often this happens to us as children of God. I hold tightly to an expectation of what my life should be like—what I deserve, what I should be doing, who I want to be close to. But as we release our lives to the work of God, He very often brings us through a very painful process, with a greater purpose in mind. We feel disappointed because reality isn’t in accordance to our expectations. However, He has planned to repurpose us for something far beyond those expectations. He wants to use us to help others, and to achieve things for His Kingdom which we never could have dreamed of. We just have to be willing to be reshaped and repurposed.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

The Power of a Second

86,400.

That’s how many seconds each of us are gifted every single day. Sometimes they seem to go by so fast, like when I’m having a great conversation, eating a yummy meal, or laughing with my second graders. But sometimes these seconds can feel so slow, when I’m sitting still at a long seminar or can’t fall asleep at night.

I’ve been learning that these seconds are so valuable. Since I first arrived in Indonesia, there have been many moments while riding my motorbike through the city or the villages, I catch a glance of something or someone so interesting, so fascinating. These moments pull at my heart strings. It’s just a second, but these seconds are filled with information and meaning, pushing me to grow. A child carrying water from the river. A mom with 5 kids loaded onto her motorbike. A child running through the village with his friends

These seconds are so powerful. 

Marcus Aurelius said, “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.”

86,400 opportunities every day, to be the best, most God-fearing individuals we can be. Let’s be better.

This concept has caused me to reflect on the amazing children of this country. Check out my recent video “The Power of a Second” to take a dive into the lives of Indonesian children for just 60 of these valuable seconds.

Beauty After the Storm

Rainy season here can mean big thunder, bright lightening, and massive wind. Whenever a big wind comes and knocks down a tree, I smile as everyone freaks out and I calmly remember all those memories from years of Florida hurricanes.

As March and April approach, we keep wondering, “is this the last rain of the rainy season?” A few weeks ago the afternoon approached, the sky was still bright, and I leaned over to my friend, and said “I think the sky is out of gas. No more rain this year.” Famous last words. Not even an hour later, it was suddenly dark and the biggest rain of the year began to descend on us. It was the kind of rain that hurt when the drops hit your back. 1 hour. 2 hours. 5 hours. By the time I went to bed it was still torrential downpour. I woke up in the middle of the night because it started raining in my room. 8 hours. 10 hours. Finally, after 15 hours of intense downpour, the sky was exhausted and the sun started to peek out of the clouds.

8 years in Indonesia and a lifetime in Florida I had never seen a downpour like that. Every roof in East Java was exhausted. The mops came out, and we cleaned up the evidence. But I was just waiting, because I knew what would happen the next morning. You see, after the biggest rains, the sky clears, all the smog, trash, pollution, and junk is cleared away and what’s left it just God’s beautiful creation. It’s my favorite part. The bigger the rain, the greater the view.

Sure enough, the next morning, all 3 of the volcanoes that surround our city popped out. Wow. Sometimes we even see the smoke popping out of the active volcanoes Bromo and Semeru.

After the greatest storm, comes the most incredible beauty. A theme of my life.

I’ve seen this happen over and over. God places struggles, hardships, pain, difficult people or difficult circumstances, and these are the exact things that bring growth, beauty, happiness, joy, revelation, and ultimately my closeness with Him. The greatest victories always comes after the big storm.

God’s been doing amazing things. Last year we brought 17 villagers to our city to prepare to open kindergartens in their villages and they went home and opened 8 schools which are now blessing over 200 kids who last year had no school. The communities are engaging and helping to build the schools which are so badly needed. We have brought 27 more villagers to our city to receive training and we will send them back at the beginning of April to hopefully build more schools and get more kids high quality Christian education.

We are continuing our teacher training program that is hoping to build up leaders and school builders who can ultimately be principals for new schools across Indonesia. So far we have sent 18 and this year we will send 6 more. We are strategically planting hub schools which will grow to be K-12 schools in certain cities of Indonesia that can serve as training centers for our village schools. This year in July we will open a new hub school with a few graduates of our teacher training program.

I can’t thank you enough for your prayer, your support, your love, and your investment. Today, there are kids getting an education because of you. Wow.