Bryn’s December Update

Dear Friends, Family, and NICS Support Team,
Impossible.
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,
Bryn Rice

Selemat Hari Natal dan Selemat Ulang Tahun, Yesus!!

Sudah!!  It is finished, at least this part of my journey in Indonesia is finished.  Last Friday, was my last day of teaching.  My students and I went on a field trip on Wednesday to one of the local dormant volcanoes and walked around the volcano amazed at the beauty God has given us in this country and then we went to an orphanage where one of my student’s parent works.  We were able to sing for them and they sang songs they had written to us.  It was a really cool experience even though I cannot communicate with those children, holding them in my arms and loving on them was one of my favorite moments of the Christmas season so far.  Hearing a group of Indonesian girls and boys singing Feliz Navidad and worshipping the Savior was incredible.  Then, Thursday we had a Birthday party for Jesus at my house with my class, and then we finished the week off by using the money we had been collecting in chapel to be able to choose gifts of bibles, feeding babies for two weeks, milk for a week, and 12 baby chickens to give to Samaritans Purse to help the needy and lost people around the world.

I remember a couple of years back, I was sitting at a Lighthouse Christmas party, a party for disadvantaged and needy children as they were shopping for gifts from those given to the camp by churches around the area.  I remember holding one of the little boys with my arms wrapped around him  and him pointing to the mural on the back wall of Jesus’ birth and the picture of his death with blood pouring from his hand, and then the resurrection.  I remember him asking me, why is there blood coming from his hands?   Christmas is not just about the birth, but a celebration of why he came, to die for our sins.  Christmas is about Jesus and it is amazing how these needy children see that joy and love that Christ gave them through Jesus during this season without gifts and stuff, but the person.

When I think of this Christmas season, I don’t want to focus on the worldly processions, but on the God who gave us the greatest gift—His son to be born and die on a cross for you and for me.  Wow!!  He gave all for me, but what am I giving to Him this Christmas?

I have been greatly challenged this Christmas, being on a tropical island and very much far away from the commercialism of Christmas living in a non-Christian environment, on how to make Jesus the center of Christmas and every day.  I have been examining what the world sees as Christmas and remembering what it truly represents.  What am I saying to my helper who walks in my doors every day and the cousins I walk by on the streets?  Am I showing God’s love and representing with my life, since my words are few due to my lack of language, the gift of forgiveness and freedom God gave me from the chains that entangled me?  Do they see the joy that Christ gives me?

So, instead of the normal Christmas celebration, Bryn and I will be celebrating Christmas a little different this year.  We are going to wake up and open a memory stocking from each other with memories from the year and reflect on God’s grace and love that he has blessed us with this year.  Then, we are going to have a quiet time together praising God for who He is.  Following that, we will be having Brunch with our BAIS Big Brother and Sister, Scott and Laura and enjoy the family that God has given us here.  We will be making cupcakes to celebrate Jesus’ birth together and read the Christmas story, which is a tradition growing up that has always made me smile.  Then, we will have dinner with some more of our BAIS family.  After that, instead of giving presents to each other, we are going to write poems, create art, or in some other means truly reflect on what God h as done for us and give him the present of the talent He has given us and worship the Savior, whose birth we celebrate on that day.  It will be a day of reflecting on the Reason for Christmas and remember the sacrifice it was for Him to humble himself to be born of a virgin and the sacrifice to die for each one of us.

So, I pray that this finds you well and that you remember on the day we celebrate Jesus’ birth that you to stop and remember the gift and sacrifice that was given to us.  Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday, Jesus!!  Selemat Hari Natal dan Selamat ulang tahun, Yesus!!

I am Dreaming of a White Christmas…but this year it will have to be sand instead of snow.

“Oh the weather outside is frightful…”

Definitely the weather is not frightful here unless you consider the rain that occurs daily as we ride in the motorbike.  On Thanksgiving day to be able to take a long bike ride in 75 degree weather and then have thanksgiving dinner with our BAIS family complete with turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, and pie reminds me that we definitely are in the states.  And to look in our backyard and have mangos growing on our tree instead of pine cones and snow.  Instead of our white being snow, this year we will have our white be sand as we adventure to one of the northern islands of Indonesia.  It is definitely going to be a different type of Christmas.

It has been a wonderful Christmas season so far though.  The day after Thanksgiving, I was able to teach my helper how to make cupcakes.  She has been asking how to make cupcakes since we got here. Now, it is time to learn how to make a good icing to teach her.  J  Each Tuesday, Bryn and I have either taught our helper an American/Mexican/Italian dish or she has taught us Indonesian or Sundanese dish.   It has been a wonderful way to practice our Indonesian and develop a relationship with my helper and her daughter. On Friday after thanksgiving, I also was able to spend some time with my helper’s daughter and make Christmas ornaments from beads and pipe cleaners and I finally got her to talk to me with my broken Indonesian and have her teach me the shapes.  It has been such a joy to spend time with them on Tuesdays.  Pray for divine moments to share the truth and to give vocabulary for her to be able to understand the hope and truth of this Christmas season of the beautiful birth of Jesus and the hope we have in His death.

Christmas has always been something special to me and it is hard being away from my family and not be with them to celebrate with the traditions as a family.  I remember the traditions of making cupcakes every Christmas day for our Christmas Party for Jesus and getting dressed with stuff from my grandmother’s closet and wrapping jewelry boxes with aluminum foil to be gifts for Jesus for the wise men and putting on a nativity play at my grandparents’ house.   I remember singing Christmas carols in between certain parts of the nativity play with all of the Millers crammed together in one room with a slightly off key, but beautiful sound to my ears and sometimes my dog, Sprinkles, even singing with us.  I remember having dinner with our TBC family.  I remember having my Dad or Grandfather on Christmas afternoon reading the nativity story from the Bible before our Birthday party for Jesus.  I remember making candy treats with my Mom of white chocolate covered pretzels, tiger butter, or one year we made mouse from chocolate covered cherries, kisses, icing, and graham crackers.  I remember my cock-a-poo, guarding his stocking and opening up his tennis balls on Christmas day and being so excited. It is a wonderful time to remember my wonderful family and most of all the wonderful, amazing Savior we serve during this time of year.

This year, Bryn and I are beginning to our own traditions and figure out how to celebrate this season of Jesus’ birth and ultimately the gift He gives us through His death.  One of my favorite things so far this season was when Bryn and I made sugar cookies and cut some out in Christmas shapes which not many made it in their original shapes by the time they got delivered, but they still tasted good and went out caroling, which turned into a progressive dinner and not much caroling, but it was a lot of fun being able to go to our BAIS community of parents and have really cool conversations over peppermint tea and chocolate and then Korean fried chicken, apples, and baked rice.  Four houses in four hours is definitely a reminder that we live in Asia and especially Indonesia with the community that we live in.  I am going to miss being with my family this season and it is hard being so far away as my grandmother is in the hospital.

God is amazing and I am so blessed for all that he has been doing in my life during these last 5 month.  I have 2 more weeks of teaching and then I am looking forward to stepping back from teaching and allowing God to guide me in this next season.

There are a few things I would love for you to pray for this season…

First of all, it has been a very difficult time for our BAIS community.  One of the BAIS teachers was struggling with knee pain and went to Singapore expecting to have knee surgery and come back, but they have found through some exploration that he has stage 4 kidney cancer.  Please pray for the David as he goes through chemotherapy and pray for healing in his body and pray for his faith to stay strong and be a witness to all that are around him.  Pray for David’s wife Kim, it has been absolutely amazing to see their faith and reliance on God during this time, but pray that Satan will not take this peace and comfort from them.  Pray for their 4 kids, Grace (college in Canada), Emma (high school), Jeff (middle school), and Abi (2nd Grade).  Pray for decisions and for God to be seen and glorified in this situation.  Pray for knowledge with the doctors.  Pray for the BAIS community to have understanding and unite during this difficult time.  Pray for the BAIS students that they would see God through David and that they would not blame Him for David’s illness but see what David lives for no matter what happens.

Second, pray for Tamara and her husband Jan and 3 or 4 year old son Russell as they prepare to come back to Indonesia.  Tamara will be taking my place at BAIS.  Jan is Indonesian and Tamara taught at BAIS for many, many years.  Pray for an easy transition as they come back in January.

Pray for my students as some will be leaving after this semester to head to various islands.  Pray for an easy transition as Tamara comes in and that God may continue to shape their hearts to be more like His.  Pray for those who have yet to believe that are in my class.

Lastly, I would like to ask you to be in prayer with me that God would guide me through this next season of exploring what God has in store for me in Indonesia.  I originally thought I would be able to study at the language school, but due to my visa I am not able to.  I have been in contact with a private tutor who is a retired teacher to start taking with her, but it is going to cost 2 juta or approximately $210 dollars a month.  Pray that God would direct me in His Path as I strive to seek His Will.  Pray for His provision as we switch to a single income, I have no doubt God will provide.

I pray that this Christmas season would be an amazing time for you and your family.  May God draw you closer to each other and to Him as we celebrate Jesus’ birthday.