Category Archives: Major Update

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.

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.

Wisdom to Know the Difference

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
the courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I stared at this prayer each day before I tucked into bed, pondering its deep meaning. For my 13th birthday my mom cross-stitched the prayer and hung it beautifully there for me to look at and contemplate. But what did it really mean?

For years it was always the third part of the prayer which captured my attention the most. Wisdom to know the difference. The words reverberated through my mind during my moments of failure, both small and large. A scoreless basketball game. Being rejected for a job. Financial stress. Being told by my university that they wouldn’t support me moving overseas. Wisdom to know that these are things which I must accept and which I cannot change.

A few weeks ago I found myself in the back of a pickup truck barreling through dirt roads on the island of Flores. We were on our way to visit a school, but as we got further and further from civilization I found myself struggling to accept the fact that small children would walk such distances in the rain and mud just to receive an education. As our truck tumbled up to the school, children poured out of the classrooms. Their smiling faces and joy-filled eyes distracted from the dirt caked between their toes and their mud-stained clothes. Good morning Mister! Good morning Mister! Gleeful laughter erupted from their little cliques. As I peered into their faces I allowed myself to take a moment and dream about their futures. These kids had already sacrificed so much just to get an elementary school education. Would they survive through middle school and high school? Become leaders? Become doctors, engineers, businessmen, on teachers? My heart broke as I realized the reality that for many of these kids dreams for the futures couldn’t happen because the education they needed just didn’t exist.

Wisdom to know the difference. The words rang in my head again. But this time I saw these words in a different light. Wisdom to know that I CAN DO SOMETHING. The serenity prayer immediately took on a whole new meaning to me. Instead of focusing on all of the ways I was powerless, on all of the things I needed to let go of, my eyes were suddenly opened to all the responsibility I have as a child of God. The courage to change the things I can. Bringing education for the poor. Loving the unloved. Feeding the hungry. There is just so much we can do to serve God’s children. But do we have the courage?

With this renewed ambition and excitement we have been growing out teacher training program over the last few months with the goal of getting more Christian teachers into more schools in more villages in order to influence and share the Good News with more kids.

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)

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?