A Flood to be Thankful For

13433246_10100553599080370_8755052361755025951_oAs I write this, the rain is pitter pattering outside my window. We had a HUGE rain the other day. It reminded me of the hurricanes that frequented South Florida when I was a kid. Gusty winds, palm branches blowing in the wind, but most of all, rivers of water flowing down the street. I was out on my motorbike, trying to dodge the pooling lakes and rushing currents. The rivers flowing down the street, however, weren’t streams of crystal clear water like I love to visit up in the mountains. They were dirty, muddy, filled with trash, bottles, branches and garbage of all kinds. Each river which came across my path was indecipherable—impossible to tell if it was inches or feet deep. The dirt and grime that filled the water clouded my view, and each obstacle was a risk to cross. Where did all of this trash come from?

I didn’t have much time to ponder this as I dodged the big puddles and currents, finally making my way home. As usual, however, soon after the big rain the clouds opened up and the breathtaking volcanoes appeared in the distance. The dark heavy storm always brings about the most beautiful vistas. Cascading mountain tops, white fluffy clouds, and a bright blue sky. It was a thrill to look at. I pondered back to the gushing garbage and seeping mud I had fought against just hours before. The trash, gunk and rubbish had always been there. However, it took the giant rainstorm to come and wash it out, cleaning through the streets and wiping them clean. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t pleasant (and I sure got soaked in the process!) but the result was pure beauty.

I pondered my own life. The trials, difficulty, and challenges I face each day. Some small, some big, and  as I walked in the house with my jeans sopping wet I found renewed joy in those trials and challenges. Its these challenges which bring to surface the dirt, rubbish and character issues in my own heart and life what God wants me to confront and clean out. It’s the storms and thunderstorms in my life which clean me out. It’s never fun, it’s never pleasant, but after each one the sun comes out and wow there’s always an incredible vista to be seen!

Group at BeachI know in America we generally take the month of November to be thankful, but in our dorm we designated last April as a month to really focus on gratitude. Each day we were challenged to think of at least one thing which God has given us, blessed us with, or grown in us, and thank Him for it. It was an incredibly rewarding month. Each day we practiced the discipline of gratitude, and through it, each one of us learned to make a habit out of God’s many blessings. In response to this, I wanted to take the opportunity to express some things I’m thankful for:

I’m so THANKFUL for each of you who generously donated towards my Master’s degree in Education. I’m humbled and thrilled to say that I have completed the degree, and God provided the exact amount I needed. This degree is timely as well, as it turns out I need it in order to renew my visa which is currently in process this month.

I’m so THANKFUL for ten new students who have just joined us! We are finishing up our orientation this week. They are awesome! I am thrilled to have ten new members of my Indonesian family.

New Students

I’m so THANKFUL for my chili pepper plant which sprouted this morning (yes the small things too!)

I’m thankful that God is growing us. I’m thankful for the difficult days, for the trials and challenges, for successes and victories. Let’s celebrate together how God is growing us and challenging us, flushing out the garbage, and revealing beautiful landscapes which only He can create.

Thank YOU for being a part of what God is doing here!

The Voice

518430594340A few weeks ago while visiting my hometown I got to attend the “Winterfest” basketball game at my former high school. The bright lights of the gym, the sound of the buzzer, and the chanting crowds all brought back vivid memories of when I myself played on our high school basketball team in that very same gym. It was strange to realize that it was ten years ago, but the realization of the time passed was not able to erase the wonderful memories. I looked over at the bench and there was a new coach—a dear friend and teammate whom I played with for many years. But sitting next to her was my own basketball coach, the one who mentored me and taught me to play the game.

The game was exciting, with packed bleachers and yelling fans. The screams of the fans competed with blasting music and the whole building was erupting with energy and noise. It was mid game and as my dad and I watched intently as the girls played, I noticed something. “Get back on defense!” my former coach yelled. Amidst the noise and chaos his was the only voice I heard. Yes, it had been ten years since I played on his team, but something in my mind and ears was attuned to listen to and hear his voice only. While on the team, I had trained myself to block out the yells, suggestions, and voices of the crowd and to focus on hearing the instruction of my coach.

518430514500On my way home from the game I reflected on this. How could it be that after all these years I could still clearly hear the voice of my coach? How was I able to discipline and train my mind and heart to do this? But more importantly, I began to ask myself, what voice do I listen to now? Although each of us have distinctly different lives and struggles, there is one thing we all have in common—chaos, noise, competing voices steering us between right and wrong. But is there a Voice that sticks out in the crowd? Have I trained my mind and heart to hear the most important Voice, the Voice of our Father in heaven? He is the best coach of all, guiding and leading us through each twist and turn in this life. But are we listening?

RainJoey collapsed on his bed exhausted and sweaty. What an awesome day. For Joey, nothing matches the feeling of beads of sweat pouring down his neck and the bright sun beating on his back. He loves his life, working in the rice fields each day with his dad. He loves the lush green fields and bounding hills of his little village outside the city. It’s beautiful outside, and working hard is so fulfilling. Today was a long day of hard work, but Joey was satisfied. Without realizing it, he quickly fell asleep.

“Joey! Joey!” His mom called him.

Joey quickly jumped up, realizing he hadn’t showered yet. Glancing over to his phone he saw a new text message. Butterflies fluttered in his stomach. I hope it’s her, he thought. Life is so good. Just last night Joey asked this really pretty girl to marry him, and she said yes!! He can’t stop thinking about her and their future life together.

“Joey! Shower!”

Joey scrambled to the shower, eating dinner quickly and collapsing back into bed, curled up with his cell phone ready to text her. No message. Hmm. Wonder what she’s up to tonight? Missing her deeply, Joey drifted off to sleep. BZZZZZ. BZZZZZ. BZZZZZZ. A flurry of text messages awoke him. As he read them his face turned white with shock. PREGNANT???!?! She’s pregnant?!? That’s not me!!! How? When? WHO??? Frustrated and angry, Joey slammed down the phone pacing around his room. The love of his life. How could she cheat on him. That’s it. It’s over.

It was already 11pm and Joey had a full day out on the fields tomorrow, he had to get some rest and just put this behind him. Exhausted physically and emotionally, Joey fell into a deep sleep. Now Joey is not much of a dreamer, but tonight was a strange night, and before long Joey was dreaming vividly. As he dreamed man walked in, kind of glowing, with a peaceful, loving demeanor about him. Strangely, Joey wasn’t afraid, but watched with curiosity. The man sat on Joey’s bed for a long while, finally reaching for Joey’s cell phone.

“Hey Joey,” the man said, “I heard you got some pretty rough news tonight. Your fiancé is pregnant?”

Joey, still afraid to speak, just nodded, a little freaked out that this guy knew so much.

“Relax.” the man said. “Don’t worry about it. Actually she didn’t cheat on you.”

Joey rolled his eyes. I wish, Joey thought.

“Serious!” Said the guy. “Go marry her. The Holy Spirit actually got her pregnant.”

Joey laughed. This was ridiculous.

“I’m serious! She’s having a boy.”

Joey at this point was shaking all over. Do I believe this? His mind was racing. Racing with excitement, disbelief. Could this be happening? Joey had read about this. Read the prophecies. Is it true? The man got up to leave Joey’s room.

“Oh yeah” he said, turning back around, “Your kid is going to save the world.”

Joey woke up suddenly. That dream was real. He knew it was. He quickly called his fiancé, and they talked on the phone late into the night, dreaming about their future together with their new baby boy. Apparently an angel had come to her too. Apparently it was all true.

Joey woke up the next morning, frightened, nervous, and confused about the future that laid in front of him. Somehow he had to explain to his parents that his fiancé was pregnant, that he didn’t do it, that it was all ok, and that his son would save the world? He gingerly walked out to the living room to see his parents watching the news. The President was making a big announcement.

“Everyone go home to your hometown! We are doing a count of the people. Anyone who does not go home will be held accountable to the Government.”

“Joey!” his father called. “You have to go to back for our family. You know your mom is very sick and would never make it there alive.”

“But Dad….”

“There’s no reason I can imagine for you not to go. End of discussion.”

Joey sank into his chair. In just 24 hours his entire world had turned upside down. He dreamed of the lush green fields and abounding hills that just yesterday he had found himself working in and enjoying immensely. Just one day later, and that seemed like the distant past.

As the months crawled by Joey prepared to leave, and his fiancé’s stomach had slowly grown. His parents were not pleased about it, not sure what to believe about all these crazy stories of angels and dreams, but right now there was a drought, their fields were suffering, Joey had to go back to their hometown, and they had bigger things to worry about. As the time for the census drew closer, Joey and his fiancé were really struggling to find money for transportation. Flying was out of the question. This census was driving ticket prices up, and the price was far more than Joey could afford. Train tickets were totally sold out, and the drought had forced Joey and his family to sell their car months ago.

“We are going to have to take the bus, my love.” Joey said to his fiancé. She was already 9 months pregnant, they were expecting their son any day now.

“Are you kidding me????” She said. “What if I have the baby on the bus?”

Joey was quiet. He didn’t want to take the bus either, but he saw no other choice. He had to go back to their hometown to keep his family and himself from being in trouble with the government.

The day finally came for Joey to get on that bus, and he was dreading it. Say goodbye to his mom and dad? To his beautiful home? The fields, hills and village that he loves so dearly? His dad struggled to let go of him, hugging him tightly before he left. He couldn’t even look at his mom, her face swollen with tears as she brought him to the bus stop.

“I love you mom and dad.” he sobbed, tears streaming down his own face.

The trip began alright, the bus was stuffy, humid, hot. Joey was snuggled next to his fiancé, protecting her from the others crammed in, but there were a lot of people crammed into that bus. Smelly, sweaty, rude people. The man next to Joey was smoking, the man behind him snoring loudly. Joey tried to sleep, but he was more concerned for his fiancé who could hardly sit without being in pain. Hours passed tossing and turning. Stand up, sit down. Stand up, sit down. Joey kept thinking about his dad, his mom, those lush green fields of his home and the ones he loved which he had left behind. Hungry, Joey, his fiancé and their bus finally stopped at a pit stop for a quick meal. Joey’s fiancé could hardly eat, she was acting uneasy. But Joey was starving. One day on the road was finished, but they still had two more days to go on this bumpy road.

Another long day, another long night.

“Are you ok?” Joey asked his fiancé.

Her face was pale and she looked in pain.

“I don’t feel too good,” she said.

“What’s wrong?”

“I think the baby is coming.”

Joey felt panic surge through is body. Here? On this bus? No can’t be.

“We are almost there. Just hang on my love ok?”

Joey did his best to make her comfortable on the hard wooden bus seat. The bumps seemed unending and the roads were getting even more curvy.

“C’mon get us outta here!” Joey was yelling at the driver.

EXIT HERE. The bus finally took the exit and got off the highway. The rain began to fall outside the bus and Joey was getting anxious as he saw his fiancé groaning in pain.

“SIR!!” He yelled again at the driver, “Please!! My fiancé is about to have a baby!! DRIVE FASTER!!!!!”

The driver, turning around realizing the situation immediately yelled, “Get out! I will not have a baby born on my bus.”

Surprised, bewildered and confused, Joey and his fiancé were pushed off the bus. By this time, it was pouring down rain.

Joey and his fiancé ran for cover under a gas station roof. Unsure what to do, Joey pulled out his cell phone to look for a place to stay. Battery 5%. Stay calm, he thought. Desperate, he did a search of all the local hotels and motels for any room available. There’s a baby coming! No search results. Booked. Every one? Dang this census is frustrating.

“C’mon” he said, “We gotta find you a place to have this baby.”

Joey’s calm demeanor didn’t match the panic and fear he felt inside. So much pressure and responsibility. Could he provide for his fiancé? Could he provide for this baby who would be the savior of the world? This was supposed to be a perfect, peaceful, “silent night”, but Joey felt anything but silent.

Joey hailed a cab, promising the driver a little extra if he lent them some towels. Hotel to hotel, motel to motel, they drove around. Drenched in rain and covered in mud, Joey practiced his best negotiating skills, begging, pleading for someone to let them have a room.

“Sorry, I wish I could help, but we are all full.”

Joey looked over at his beautiful fiancé with love and compassion. God please help us! He prayed with desperation.

Rain was still falling but night was falling too. Knock. Knock. Knock. He would not give up. He would go to every single hotel in that town if he had to. Joey imagined his mom and dad back in his precious village warm in their bed, looking out at the green fields. He missed them so much. A man answered the door.

“Please, do you have any rooms, please? We will take anything. My wife is about to have a baby.”

“Sorry sir,” the man answered, “I wish I could help, but we are full.”

“Please!” Joey pleaded, grasping the door before the man could close it. “I’m desperate!” He could feel tears welling up inside his eyes. “She is going to give birth any minute. I will take anything. The kitchen. The living room. We will sleep on the floor. Whatever you have we just need a roof over our heads. This is an emergency.”

“Wait a minute.” he said.

He shut the door. Joey stood there shivering. He looked back at his fiancé, sitting on the step of the motel groaning in pain. She didn’t seem to notice the mud caked on her feet and the wet hair stuck to her face. Yet somehow, Joey thought in that moment she looked more beautiful than ever.

The door opened again.

“Our rooms really are full,” the owner of the motel said, “but we take care of a few horses in the back. You can stay there if you want.”

Joey leaped for joy. “GREAT” he said.

Joey grabbed the hand of his fiancé and they raced to the back of the motel where the horses were. Joey quickly cleared out the animal droppings, leftover horse food, and gathered some hay for his fiancé to lay on. They were just in time, Joey’s fiancé was already writhing in pain and it was only minutes until the little baby boy would arrive.

Joey’s heart was beating so hard he thought it was going to come out of his chest. He looked over a the owner of the motel whose face was in shock. Joey guessed maybe he had never seen a baby born before.

“I….I….I’ll go get some towels or something,” the motel owner stuttered.

Joey smiled, “That’d be great.”

Joey looked over at his beautiful fiancé, and couldn’t stop smiling.

The occasion was anything but romantic. They were exhausted, covered in mud and horse poop, hungry and in a lot of pain. But this was the moment. And right then and there, the savior of the world was born. Joey looked over at his fiancé. She looked a little frightened.

“What’s wrong?” Joey asked.

“Where do I lay him?” she asked Joey. Just then the motel owner returned.

“I couldn’t find any towels, they are all being used. All we have are these scrap cloths.”

“That’s perfect,” said Joey.

Glancing around Joey spotted the box the motel owner usually used to feed the horses.

“Here,” Joey said, wrapping his new son in the scrap cloths. “A cradle fit for the Savior of the world.”

As Joey laid his new son into the box his mind once again drifted to his own parents, his home, the village he had left. Although he missed it, the peace that filled his heart far outweighed the longing he felt. God had called him on a new journey with a new family, and he was ready to take the step of faith and follow where ever that journey led.

“What do we call him?” Joey’s fiancé’s tender voice interrupted his thoughts.

“Immanuel. For God is with us.”

Looking for Greatness

“1 in 4 millennials think they will be famous by the time they are 25,” I heard one of my favorite speakers say while listening to a podcast this morning. Guilty, I thought to myself. Not that I thought I would be reeling in the dough, but deep down I thought maybe CNN Heroes would be knocking on my door, wanting to report to the world of how I’m changing it for the better.

Greatness.

I think we all crave it to some degree, some of us more than others. We want our lives to be worth something, for the world to look at us and go beyond acknowledging our existence, but stand up, give us a high five, and acknowledge that the hard work and fruits of our life will surely live on long after we do. But what makes greatness so great is that not all of us achieve it. But could we? Is greatness something reserved for a certain few?

If greatness means being famous, winning, receiving accolades and high-fives, or even accomplishment, then yes, it is reserved for a certain few. But what if greatness is something much bigger than that? What if greatness is not about how the world views us, but how well we live, and how well we respond to God’s call in our life?

Greatness is overcoming the fears we face.

Greatness is intentionally pursuing things which are uncomfortable and cause us to grow.

Greatness is caring for and fostering the dreams which God has planted in our hearts.

2015-10-08 06.07.53I’ve been challenged to this definition of greatness by my brothers who currently are enrolled in one of our programs called STREAM. STREAM stands for Skills TRaining in Engineering And Mechatronics. It’s a two-year, highly intense program which truly challenges each student to greatness. Teenagers are recruited from all over Indonesia with only two minimum requirements: 1) no opportunity and 2) a desire to learn. When they arrive at STREAM, every one of their possessions is taken from them. They are given a haircut, a uniform, and a wooden slab to sleep on. Students of STREAM may sleep on a mattress as soon as they can sew one themselves. Each day they wake up and work hard. They learn how to take apart a motorcycle and put it back together. They learn industrial sewing and how to make backpacks and laptop bags. They learn computer programming and engineering. They are discipled in the Word of God and are given intensive Bible training. They are each day reaching oustide of the comfortable life they always knew, and striving for greatness.

After the first year, students from STREAM go out and work for their second year in order to gain the necessary training and experience to go back to their villages and not only survive, but bring change and growth. No part of this process is comfortable. Each day students of STREAM are challenged to dig deep within to face their fears, pursue things which are incredibly challenging and uncomfortable, and respond to the dreams which God has planted in their hearts. This is true greatness.

What are you doing today to pursue greatness?

Stream 2
Students at STREAM learn Computer Science
Students at STREAM receive daily intensive discipleship and Bible Training
Students at STREAM receive daily intensive discipleship and Bible Training

A Summer of Learning

11232027_1609281972653475_1813605448349787972_oThank you all for your prayers over these last few months since our new students have arrived! We have had an incredible few months of orientation and our most intensive training of the year which we call Foundations. During this time, we offered 99 different classes and activities to our students, teaching them things from industrial sewing (they went over to STREAM to learn that!), leadership, the 5 love languages, teaching strategies, classroom management, geography, hikes up volcanos and waterfalls…..the list goes on and on. The theme of our Foundations this year was “Reap what you Sow”, and as an illustration of that each student planted a seed at the beginning of the term and were tasked with caring for and growing their plant. It was an incredible summer and our TransformNation students truly attacked it with courage, initiative, and a desire to learn and grow.

2015-08-30 08.34.14The amazing ways God is moving and working here are so many that sometimes I forget to stop and realize just how incredible it is. About 6 months ago I took on the position of leading our TransformNation program. It’s been a huge blessing and joy to get to lead what is now 33 students in their quest and pursuit to be the most incredible, influential teachers this nation has ever seen. I’m so excited to be a part of this movement. God willing, we will be opening our own university next year, allowing for students from all over Indonesia to come and study here. Check out some photos from this summer, and please keep us in your prayers!

Photo Gallery:

Anticipation

2015-02-24 20.22.12 Do your remember when you were a kid, counting down the days until summer vacation? The anticipation was huge. Just thinking about summer vacation made your stomach tickle—it was too exciting! Some nights you lay awake dreaming of it. Tomorrow? Not yet, but soon.

I’m not sure why we lose that when we become adults. Somehow we flatline into the monotony of the day-to day, failing to feel excitement for what’s to come. That vacation in a few days, the new movie coming out, or even the delicious hot dog you know you get to eat for dinner…can you feel the anticipation and excitement??

I am living in great anticipating, an exciting day is coming and it’s just around the corner! This Saturday we have ten new students arriving from villages all over Indonesia to join our teacher training program and I just can’t wait!!! We have been preparing for them for months, searching for them, praying for them, getting everything prepared. This morning I wrote a checklist on our whiteboard in our dorm of the things we still need to do. Wash the sheets. Buy more spoons. Prepare shoe racks. Clean the house! Sometimes the many things to do can feel stressful, but it’s just a reminder to me that this life is exciting, new adventures are coming and we are growing! These ten students will be with us for four years learning, growing laughing, crying and preparing to go out and be teachers and leaders in the toughest villages in Indonesia. They will enter my heart and become a part of my family. You too will see their pictures and hear their stories.

2015-05-04 16.20.45Will you join in my excitement and anticipation, and will you join in me in praying for these ten? They are about to embark upon a journey which will not only change their own lives, but which will impact their families and villages forever. Pray that God would prepare their hears to take this big step of faith. Pray for their parents and families as they say goodbye to their students. Pray for us a we receive them, that we would be ready and that God would equip us with what we need.

Thank you so much for partnering with me as God prepares his leaders to grow his Kingdom here in Indonesia. What are you anticipating today?

Sharing a Cup of Java

My dear friends and supporters,

My students teaching me how to cook
My students teaching me how to cook.

I can’t believe how many months have flown by since the last time I sent you an update. God is so alive, moving, and as His work is moving forward. Each morning I wake up feeling overwhelmingly blessed that today I get to run alongside my Savior, follow Him, serve Him, and serve His people.

Here in Indonesia their favorite coffee is called “3in1”. It’s instant coffee mixed with dry creamer and sugar, packaged in one little packet ready to go. I must admit it’s difficult for me to call that coffee, let alone consent to swallowing it. In my office I keep an Aeropress, a most precise coffee making device which produces a delicious, aromatic, bold, smooth cup of the most delicious black liquid in the world. I’m so thankful for this device.

I love it when visitors stop by my office, but each time this happens I’m faced with this puzzling decision. Do I share my precious Starbucks beans, which I drove 3 hours on my motorbike to retrieve, and press them with my Aeropress making them a delectable cup of coffee they probably won’t even appreciate? Or do I simply stir up some 3in1, hope they don’t notice my coffee making materials, and get past the meeting? A petty question, perhaps, but questions concerning coffee can quickly become wrestles of the heart.

“And if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”

2014-12-27 10.03.06We talk so often about giving our best for God, but are we giving the best we have to those around us? “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

I’ve been so convicted lately. Am I giving my absolute best to everyone around me? Can I give more? Can I give better? What can I give today, that I didn’t give yesterday? Recently I heard a pastor say, “On this earth, the beginning is birth, and at the end is death. In between, there is only service. We can always serve God more.”

I’m challenged today. Serve more. Give more. Love more.