Sharing is Proof that we Care

Have you ever heard that whisper in your ear to just let go, and give to God that thing which you are holding on to so closely? To jump into His loving arms and trust him to carry you the way? Living a life of faith demands us to walk to the edge of our comfort zone and patiently trust God as we surrender that which we feel we are entitled to.

Recently one of my students shared with me a story of when he was in elementary school in a tiny village on the remote island of Papua. Read below to learn about a moment he had to give up what he held closely to him to God, and how God provided for him.

When I was in elementary school, my friends and I would walk 2-3 hours to school each day. We were lucky if it didn’t rain. We hiked up through the mountains and crossed rivers. But it was worth it, because we desperately wanted to get an education.

One morning, when we arrived at the school, we found out that the government had given a sponsorship for my friends and I to receive some simple school supplies and a school uniform. They gave us these things with the instructions that anyone who lost their uniform or school supplies would receive a spanking on Monday. I received one school uniform, and one pencil. With excitement, I left for home. All of a sudden on my walk home it started to pour down rain and my brand new uniform and pencil got soaking wet. All of my new supplies were ruined. What could I do? The whole way home I cried. To walk home in the rain was a regular occurrence for me, but to lose my brand new uniform and pencil was a tragedy.

On Monday I went to school with my friends. Before we went into the school the teacher checked all of the new supplies that had been given to us the week before. Myself and a few of my friends were given a spanking and sent home, and were told that the we had to come back to school with our new supplies. After going home I didn’t know what to do, so I just prayed to God and also asked my friends for help. I thank God, because there was one friend who reached out to me. I told him the story of my supplies being drenched in the rain on my way home and how they had been destroyed. My friend had an idea. He took his pencil and he broke it in two, and gave me half. Since he had two books, he gave me one. I was overwhelmed. I hugged him. I received it with such gratitude and was so thankful to have a friend who loved me like that. Sharing is proof that we care for each other.

 

Give it to Him and go to Sleep

Carrying wood up the mountain.

Last week I took a group of our teacher trainees on a hiking trip up a local mountain. The goal was just one: grow in character. With 30 students and 2 nights on the mountain, we divided into small groups to coordinate food, tents, and making sure everyone got to the top safely. I tasked each student with something specific from first aid to paying the guide. I asked one student, John, to find a machete before we left so we could cut fire wood at the campsite. John’s a quiet student who doesn’t like to draw attention to himself. He’s committed to learning anything put in front of him and works extremely hard.

As we started to hike up the mountain John approached me and confessed he wasn’t able to find a machete to bring. “Don’t worry Teacher Faith, last night I went to the woods behind the dorm a cut some wood.” I looked and slung over his shoulder was a big bag filled with chopped wood. “You’re going to carry that all the way up the mountain?” I asked. He convinced me he could do it.

Carrying wood up the mountain.

About 2 hours into our 8 hour climb to the first campsite John started to lag behind. The wood was clearly weighing him down. In my mind I kept thinking, Why not just dump it, we can get wood at the campsite. We are SURROUNDED by trees! But committed to our goal of growing character, I let John carry on. “Let me carry it”, said one of his friends. John looked relieved. Over the next 6 hours we all switched off carrying the wood up the mountain.

Our whole group at the top of Mount Welirang

While carrying that wood may have brought our group together, it felt so pointless. To walk amongst trees carrying wood. It made me reflect on my own life. How many times do I carry pointless burdens, worries, grudges that are totally unnecessary and that weigh me down? I know that God will provide for me. I know that once I overcome and conquer this mountain He will be there waiting. I know worrying just weighs me down. Yet in my own stubbornness or pride I refuse to cast off my burden to God and I carry it; slowly and painfully.

“Cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22)

We have a phrase in our dorm that we constantly remind each other at the end of each day: Give it to God and go to sleep. I’m learning. He’s taken care of me this far. Will I trust Him to carry me the rest of the way?

At the top of Mount Welirang. They mine sulfur here.

(click to see more photos of our hike)

Over the last few weeks we have intentionally planned a series of activities to help the students grow in character and leadership. Below are some photos from our various learning activities.

Field trip: We brought students to a tea garden and also a chocolate garden to learn how to plant and harvest tea and chocolate once they are teachers in villages.

“Service” Trip: This trip was entirely student led and coordinated. We visited a village about two hours from our city and they led the elementary and middle school students in a variety of critical thinking and character building activities. Afterwards we visited a local volcano close to the village.

Hiking Trip: This trip consisted of 30 students hiking up Mount Welirang with a height of 3,156m (10,354 ft). Students were broken into small groups with leaders and they were challenged to coordinate food, stoves, tents and everything needed for the 3 day/2 night hike on the mountain. With 8 hours hiking the first day, 6 hours the second day, and 4 hours the third day, the exhaustion brought out character and conflict and created an opportune moment for discipleship.

Beach day: Coordinated by students, this trip allowed for them to learn how to lead their peers in a variety of activities. Their favorite part was grilling fresh fish!

Outreach day: Coordinated entirely by students as well, they invited peers from other schools and communities in our city and hosted a day of community together. This was a great opportunity as our students made new friends and grew to know the community around us.

Which Way?

WorldLead 2016

Last November I found myself on a plane headed for Boca Raton Community Church’s annual WorldLead conference. I truly love traveling alone, the feeling of invisibility in airports full of people, and the unique opportunity to witness people from all over the world cross paths. My first stop was Kuala Lumpur, and I was the lucky one who got to sit at the front of the plane. With only one person in front of me, I relished the chance to get off the plane quickly and beat the crowd. The person in front of me was a Malaysian, polite, and visibly well traveled. As we walked through the jet bridge into the concourse, I noticed the signs which normally indicate which way to walk were absent. As we came through, the Malaysian in front of me turned right, so I naturally followed, as did the large crowd of people behind me. The man in front of me soon after turned around in shock and quickly said “Not this way! I’m only going to the bathroom. Go left to get out of the concourse.” I paused in my tracks, looking left and right. It was unclear which way to go. Meanwhile the flocks of people continued right, following the man who was only headed for the bathroom. I considered. Do I follow the instructions of this man I don’t know, even though it goes against my initial instinct? Or do I follow the crowd, the safe option? I considered for a minute before deciding to go left, against the crowd but in line with the advice of the local Malaysian. Within minutes I began smiling to myself as I realized I had indeed made the right choice. Meanwhile flocks of people continued walking in the wrong direction.

As I sat waiting for my connecting flight I pondered and reflected on this experience I had just had. In so many ways it reflects our lives as God’s children. God rarely calls us to follow the crowd in an easy, safe manner. He is calling us to turn away from the crowd, completely trust him, and walk towards the unknown. His voice is whispering to us daily, giving us the opportunity to follow in faith or turn away.

Future Teachers

The past few months have been incredibly full but so rewarding. I was so blessed by the WorldLead assembly last month. Our oldest group of students has already begun teaching. We have made progress on opening a new school on another island. And most of all, God’s voice has been speaking to many of the students. It’s a joy and privilege to grow together with them.

Our teacher training program is growing and developing and it’s so exciting! In just a few months we will graduate and send 12 students to be teachers in remote schools all over the country. Over these next few years we are going to be sending teachers every year to be disciplers of the good news to villages everywhere, and we are only just beginning. Please pray for these teachers in training, as they step out in faith to go to the most difficult, least reached areas of this nation to bring good news and education.

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?