Category Archives: Thoughts on Life

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.”

Did you know??

IMG_0820Did you know….

….on the island of Papua there are many schools, but more than 33% of teachers are absent every day?1

….only 46% of high school aged students in Indonesia attend school (98% in the US)?2

….only 37% of teachers in Indonesia hold proper qualifications (undergraduate degree)?3

Every single day, in villages all over this beautiful country, children eagerly run to the gates of their schools, hoping that today their teacher will come, hoping that today they will learn something. These classrooms are not just spaces for learning; these classrooms are laboratories where discipleship can take place, where future leaders can be nurtured, and where the next generation of Christian influencers are being raised up and prepared every single day.

IMG_1067If one teacher teaches 20 students, disciples them, really digs into their lives and invests in those 20 souls, and does that for 20 years, that one teacher is worth 400 souls. Every day we are training teachers to go out into villages and disciple the next generation of Christian leaders. Last week we gathered all of our students in our teacher training program and asked them two simple questions: Why are you here? What are your dreams for the future? One of my students gave this response:

“Teachers who are smart are in large supply. But teachers who are smart and who also teach with their heart are hard to find. Here, we are learning to become teachers like that: teachers who’s work hours are as long as they live, not just from 7am to 3pm.”

I can’t wait to see this group of teachers rise up to be teachers who teach with their heart: teachers who invest their entire lives into loving their students.


Live Well

Have you ever had one of those days where you woke up and the whole day seemed to be against you? Your alarm didn’t go off, your coffee maker was broken, and already the day seemed to have more problems running at you than you’re ready to face.

The thing is, life is just a series of problems. How well you live is how well you respond to them.

IMG_0010_smThis past Christmas was the first Christmas most of our students in our teacher training program spent away from home. My eyes popped wide open at 4am. The house was quiet but Christmas lights dimly lit the living room and I curled up on the couch thinking through all that God has done over the last year. Last Christmas there were only 7 students in our program. This year, with 18, I just couldn’t believe the amount of fast growth that has occurred. As I sat there sipping my coffee, I wondered what new students would enter my life in this coming year, capturing my heart.

The girls slowly woke up and I saw them start to peak their sleepy heads outside of their doors. I knew today would be difficult–we all missed our families dearly today. How would they choose to respond? My own family had sent presents from America for each girl, and the squealed with delight as I handed them a little bit of love from America. Many had never opened a present on Christmas morning before.


As I look back over 2013 I’m so grateful for the many problems and challenges that I faced–from my visa, students in the hospital, support raising, to relationships, each challenge was an opportunity to respond and an opportunity to live well. And while I know I failed many times, I look forward to 2014 knowing there will be many problems and challenges to come–more opportunities.

In just two weeks I will be bringing a few students to the eastern most island of West Papua in order to visit some schools and build some relationships with some people there. This is a pretty expensive trip that I have been trying to take for a long time now. Please pray for my team and I as I lead this trip.

This week our students finish their semester one final exams, and in the coming weeks will begin semester two at their university. Please pray for them as they continue their studies.

2014-01-04 18.30.55Over the next few weeks and months we will be recruiting a group of students to admit into our teacher training program beginning this summer. Please pray for wisdom, guidance, and direction as we choose our future students.

This morning I woke up to a pile of wood cravings near my bathroom door. The termites are back. The hot water heater wouldn’t turn on, so I dragged myself into the cold shower. How well will I choose to live today? I asked myself. The choice is mine. Every problem is an opportunity. How well I live is how well I respond to them.

I Can’t Help but Love Them

Her eyes were wide as she glanced over at me.  “I’m nervous,” she said. “About what?” I asked. “I have to lead the activity tonight,” she replied. I smiled and my heart couldn’t help but overflow with love for this sister of mine. Ezia is the future of this country. She’s one of our 8 university students that we are training to become, creative, innovative, phenomenal teachers. I can’t help but love her.

Jon laughs boisterously in the corner as he strums his guitar. Orphaned at a young age, he has figured out how to survive in this world on his own. He has finally found a home here, and I can’t help but love him.

Priza sits quietly and listens carefully. Her small stature is deceiving, for her heart is big and overflows with love for those around her. Her words are chosen carefully, but when she does speak, wisdom and gentleness reverberate from her heart. I can’t help but love her.

Nathan makes a face each time I enter the room. I know he hopes I will make a face in return, so we can erupt in laughter together. I do, and as we laugh, I can’t help but love him, as his smile spreads wide across his face.

“Soooooo sweeeet,” Rachel says to me. It’s her favorite English phrase. Immediately her laughter fills the air and I find myself reaching over to embrace her. I can’t help but love her.

What a privilege it is for me to live with these 8 teachers-in-training as they have dug their way into my heart. We laugh, cry, share, eat, play soccer, study and live life together. Many of them have been through circumstances beyond my imagination: loss of parents, rejection from family, poverty, and some being told that they are not smart enough or not good enough to make anything of their lives. But when I wake up to their beautiful faces each day, I find that their joy has permeated the grief, and God has truly captured their souls. I just can’t help but love them.

Movement Initiators

I’ve been living in this dorm for 6 months now. When I first moved in, there were 4 university students participating in the pilot program of our new Teacher Training Center. We have already doubled and now have 8 students in the program. The vision is to train nationals to be innovative teachers that transform the education system in this country and empower the next generation of leaders. Our hope is that the students who graduate from our schools penetrate the various domains of their society: medicine, education, arts, media, technology, church and government, with strong leadership, creative ideas, and transformational values.

Just the other day I heard someone describe Jesus as a “Movement Initiator”. Jesus was socially active in His community. He compassionately healed people. He fervently spoke truth into people’s lives. Jesus couldn’t help but love every single person he encountered, and this love initiated a movement. I am literally shaking with excitement as I think about this next generation of movement initiators God is raising up to be the future leaders of this country. Will you join me in praying for them?


Just Jump

Her eyes widened dramatically. “What??” she said. “Yes, plans have changed,” I replied.

We took 33 ninth graders up to a small village in the mountains on a short term m-trip. Just two weeks earlier we had broken them up into groups and told them, “You will teach 7th or 8th graders for 50 minutes. Create the most creative, imaginative lesson you can think of. See you in two weeks!” My students went to work. Resolved to create the best possible lesson they could conjure, they toiled and poured their hearts and souls into the assignment.

We made it up to the village school and the students prepared to give their lessons. “Are we teaching 7th or 8th grade?” one girl begged to know. But plans had changed, as they often do. “Eleventh grade,” I said to her. Her eyes widened dramatically. “What??” she said. “Yes, plans have changed,” I replied. These ninth graders had already taught me so much, so even though the eleventh graders would be older than them, I had no doubt they would do a great job.

“You can do it,” I said, “I know you can.” “Ok,” she said, “we’ll do it.” I stood back and watched my students excel. Their lessons were creative. The students they taught were captivated. And most of all, they loved. They loved each other, they loved their new friends. I was beaming with pride and humbled to be called their teacher.

I think my eyes frequently widen when God puts a seemingly impossible task in front of me. “What??” I say. But just as I took pleasure in the courage of my students, I think God finds that same pleasure in us when we fearlessly jump into the seemingly impossible tasks He gives us.

I was brought back to memories of my 18th birthday. My best friend and I jumped out of an airplane. It’s counterintuitive. It doesn’t make sense. And it’s pretty scary. But once I jumped out of that plane, all of my fears were released. Peace swept over me. I was exhilarated. Ironically, no one ever dies from jumping out of an airplane. People who die while skydiving do so when they hit the ground, not when they are suspended in mid air. Strange, then, that I felt relieved while I was still in mid air, despite the fact that possible danger was still to come. But I had completed the step of faith that was required of me. I was in the hands of God now.

“How did you feel teaching students who were older than you?” I asked my ninth graders. “It was scary at first,” they said, “but it was really great!” God honors our leaps of faith. He joys in our risk-taking and our courage to try something counterintuitive. And then He carries us. We just have to jump.

These past two months have provided many opportunities for new experiences. Read about recent developments in The Nit-Grit: Smiles and Sweat, check out new photos on the photos page, and be sure to read through the full list of prayer requests on my prayer & praise page. Thank you so much for your prayers and support!

Irony and a Prayer Request

“The moment we recognize our complete weakness and our dependence upon Him will be the very moment that the Spirit of God will exhibit His power.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest) Oh how I bank on the truth of this statement.

Nothing can prepare you to live and lead across cultures. Before I moved here I did a lot of studying, including taking a grad class on leading cross-culturally, but I am finding the only way to learn how is to do it and fail. I am preparing my 9th grade class for a short term trip in a couple of weeks. We will be going to a school to teach in an area that was affected by a volcano eruption a couple of years ago. Like any short term trip, my hope and desire is that the students would be stretched and grown into stronger leaders.

As a part of our preparation this week I am doing an exercise in class that will aim to help them identify assumptions they have and experience a simulation of what it’s like to experience cross-cultural stress and intercultural communication. Even though the area we are going to is in the same country, every region of this country has different micro cultures, so I anticipate it will be a cross-cultural experience for everyone.

The ironic truth is this: I’m incredibly nervous about performing this simulation on Monday and its effectivity. Why? Because I myself am trying to communicate across cultures. As I prepare the simulation I am being reminded of my own assumptions: that the students will understand the rules of the game, that the students will follow the rules, that the students will participate. All of these are essential for the effectivity of the simulation. But I long ago learned that these things can’t be assumed. I know full well that I may show up on Monday and the room isn’t available, or some students are absent, or they don’t understand what I’m trying to communicate.

And so I find myself arriving at that moment Chambers talks about. I am of complete weakness. I have to depend on Him. He is the great interpretor. I can spend days preparing, but it is the Holy Spirit who does the teaching, not me. If I fail, I fail. But He does not fail.

Please pray for my class on Monday. Pray that the students would understand. Pray that the Holy Spirit will interpret. Pray that cultural and linguistic barriers would be eliminated. But most of all, pray for my students, that God would stir in them His dreams and desires.