Dear Friends, Family, and NICS Support Team,
It is just overwhelmingly impossible to convey to you all that God has done in mine and Courtney’s lives since I last wrote to you in November. Each month I try to keep notes of key events that have happened to make writing these updates easier. The problem is that I either get to a point where I stop keeping notes because so much happens or I realize that if I were to include everything my update would be longer than anyone would ever read (… they probably already are as it is!)
I suppose the key summary to it all is that Courtney is now finished with school. Our last day was Friday, December 16th, and Courtney has already turned in her classroom key and necessary paperwork. Aside from coming in to speak at a few Upper Elementary chapel services next semester, she is completely released from all her obligations. How wonderful!
Although this means another transition of sorts in our marriage when school starts back up, we eagerly anticipate it. In fact, one of my more recent reflections has been about our marriage. December 18th marked 6 months since we stood in Stevens Street Baptist Church with our families (blood-related and Body-related) to speak the vows and unite as one flesh under the leadership of our beloved pastor. Since that day, I lack the words to convey what a whirlwind our new marriage has felt like. Most married people we talk to here end up dropping their jaws in amazement at all we’ve had to deal with, and indeed, in the midst of God’s boundless blessings, our new life together has felt like one continuous process of jumping hurdles.
All things considered, and by God’s grace alone, I feel like Courtney and I have handled everything about as well as can be expected. Still, we’re praying that Courtney’s transition out of the classroom will give us a break from some of the trials we’ve battled. We pray that this will afford us an opportunity to ground ourselves a little more in our marriage and life in Indonesia.
There a few major ways that you can be praying for us during this time:
– For me, I am still working on my music curriculum, and one of my goals is to refocus things a little to include more worship education. Though worship is not just music, I definitely feel a responsibility to make it a central part of my classes to teach the students about worship.
– For Courtney, she will hopefully be starting language lessons the first or second week of January. Since our break started, she’s been home several days with our helper and really enjoys their time together, but I know that she eagerly anticipates a day when their communication can be less about hand gestures and acting and more about the words that they’re saying.
I also know that Courtney would appreciate prayers on being a good steward of the time she’s going to have now. We both know that some of that time will be God-honoring simply through rest, but she also wants to be sensitive to God’s calling for other opportunities that may come up.
– For both of us, that we can continue to build healthy, God-honoring practices in our marriage. And also that now, more than ever, we can unite as a team in ministry – her supporting me and me supporting her.
Oh how powerful the prayers of God’s saints are, and how desperately needed they are as we wade the through the darkness of spiritual warfare in this country!
Our last two weeks of break involve a trip to the island of Sulawesi to celebrate the New Year on the beach. We also have to go to Singapore at some point for Courtney’s visa paperwork, but we still have not gotten any details on when that will happen – maybe during our Christmas break, maybe not.
God is so good!
I will close out now with some stories –
1) At the beginning of November, Courtney and I were sitting at our dinner table when we heard a knock at the door. I went to open it, and there stood one of my dear Korean students with a bag of food in his hands. It was just him… no car or motorbike in the driveway, which struck me as a little weird… but he quickly apologized to me for missing a lunch meeting he was supposed to have with me. I thanked him and asked him if he was by himself. At about that time, his parents drove up from behind the corner, picked him up, and they left.
Now, I know that there are many things I probably could have been thinking, but in the true fashion of a teacher, the first thought that ran through my mind was, “Wow, his English sounded great just then!”
2) Back in October the seniors held a “senior auction” fundraiser, and I ended up “buying” the services of one of my high school teacher’s assistants – incidentally, the same student who I’ve had over for dinner three or four times. It took a while to get organized, but we finally had him over in the middle of November to teach us and our helper a Korean dish – bulgogi. It was fun to have him there with our helper (although she was expecting a girl to show up!) and have the two simultaneous languages thing going on (English and Indonesian). The food turned out to be delicious, although our helper’s attempts to make it since then haven’t been so successful…
3) A week or two before Thanksgiving I was able to go on a field trip with the whole middle school to ice skate in Bandung. That’s right. Ice skate!
One of the big malls has a small rink at the top. The trip was intended to be a middle school “bonding” time, and I thought it was a lot of fun. The ice quickly turns into slush, but we made it work as best as we could. I definitely appreciated seeing the different levels of the students. Some of the “fresh-off-the-boat” (as I like to say) Korean students were skating circles around everyone else. Many of the others had to stick pretty close to the rails, while plenty of others (myself included) fell somewhere else in between.
4) For the Thanksgiving holiday, our Korean parent community hosted a huge barbeque for the BAIS stuff. Oh my goodness! There was so much delicious Korean food! To top it off, they gave it about a billion door prizes that had been donated and hosted a fun “rock-paper-scissors type” game. The best part though –
Courtney and I sat with the parents of the student from story #1 above. They are M workers here who will be leaving after this school year. Since last year I have been intimidated by the father, but that all changed after Courtney and I had them over for dinner in October. They’re a great family who I’ll really miss. Anyways, in the game that they had us play, there were phrases you had to say: “Hello; thank you; God bless you; I love you; Hallelujah.” Needless to say, we were all in an uproar of laughter by the time it was over. After the game, we formed a huge circle so that the parents could pray for us. I was holding hands with this particular student’s dad, and after the prayer was over, it looked like he reached out his hand to me. I thought he wanted me to shake hands, but then the next thing I knew, he had his arms around me in a hug and said, “I love you.”
Tears filled my eyes. The Body of Christ here is so amazing, and parents tend to be so appreciative of the support their children receive at BAIS – freeing them up to do the works God has called them to do here.
5) After Thanksgiving, our community was rocked by some pretty devastating news. Our advanced math and senior Bible teacher had gone to Jakarta to have his knee looked at. He was experiencing growing pain. They did some checks, and before he knew it, he and his wife were on a plane to Singapore. Diagnosis: Stage IV, extremely aggressive kidney cancer with a prognosis of 2-4 years. He is, I think, in his early 40s.
They don’t train you for this kind of thing in teacher-training school. On two different occasions I had to give updated news to the 7th grade class, and most students just sat there in shock.
Here’s the amazing thing though – we have hope, and David has radiated with the living Savior in him. Every step of the way he and his wife have taken careful steps to entrust all the details into the hands of our Shepherd, and to our whole community they have proclaimed trust in the sovereignty of God.
I had an especially moving opportunity to talk with one of our seniors who is a praise team leader. The day that his team led in chapel was such a heavy time in this place, and I was praying through that I felt God press 2 Chronicles 20 on my heart – the account of Jehoshaphat sending out the musicians to defeat Moabites and Ammonites in battle. I exhorted the praise team to go out into battle on that day – to fight through the spiritual warfare that was waiting to seize our hearts and spirits and instead to offer up a sacrifice of praise to the living God. They completely rose to the challenge, and I was so proud of them.
But a couple of times during the middle of leading, this student just stopped singing and looked somewhat distant. He got out of the chapel pretty fast after they finished, and I went to see what was up. I ended up taking him to my room next door, and we sat down together. He said that he kept seeing Mr. Durham’s face as he was leading. He expressed hesitancy to show any emotion and then, after some time, confessed his doubts about this whole thing. “What’s the point of it all?” he asked. He told me that he could only see two outcomes – a miracle or total failure (David’s death). I sat in awe at the door God was opening up for me.
Now, I don’t really have doubts that this student is a Believer, and yet his words spoke to me of the holes that can exist in our foundations sometimes. I asked if he wanted to hear my take on things, and he said he did. I proceeded to talk to him about the glory that God has been given through this tragic situation and how so many Believers all over the world have united in prayer for this family. And then I told him my belief: there can be only one outcome for the Believer – miracle. Failure is not possible. I told him that whether David lives to be 100 years old or if he died tomorrow, it is all a miracle – a miracle that God would come down Himself to cleanse us of our sins and offer up a path of reconciliation to Him. That is our hope; that is David’s hope.
I am so thankful to be in a school that allows me opportunities to share freely like that with my students. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, God, my Rock and my Redeemer.
6) Just last week I was afforded a rare and incredibly proud moment as a teacher. One of Courtney’s students (who incidentally happens to be one of mine as well) had it on her heart to somehow support the poor. You see, this particular student is from an extremely wealthy family, but her heart is one of recognizing those blessings and wanting to give back. It ended up working out that a benefit concert was held in her name, and they raised approximately $5,000 to give to a local organization for disabled kids.
Courtney and I were given free VIP tickets (valued at about $50 each) to see the concert. Courtney shared how nervous the student was, but then the concert kicked off, I looked up, and saw this student on the stage. Tears immediately started to fill my eyes (yeah, I cry a lot these days…) Although I did not have a direct role in helping this prepare for the concert, it was hard to believe that I was watching one of my 3rd grade students – who, just like all of my students, gets fussed at for posture or breathing or not paying attention in class – performing in front of an audience who had paid some good money to get in. Granted, she was just the opening act for an Indonesian pop superstar (about whom I don’t have time to write how unimpressed I was with her performance!) but again she was the mastermind behind the whole thing.
Oh there I go – probably sounding like a rambling parent. Anyways, the girl performed excellently, and I thank God for these students and families that He has put in my life.
Well, that’s everything and at the same time, it seems like nothing. What a grand storyweaver our Heavenly Father is! I look forward to the day when time is no more and I can tell you more of this amazing and challenging life to which God has called me and Courtney. I also look forward to hearing your stories and rejoicing with you.
I pray that this update finds you continuing to rejoice from the blessings of Christmas while looking ahead to the New Year.
In Christ, the Risen Savior,