Bryn’s Update for April

Dear Friends, Family, and NICS Support Team:

I suppose after almost two full years this should become normal by now, but it still never ceases to amaze me, as I review my notes before sitting down to write these updates, just how much can happen in only one month’s time. There is plenty to tell, and I could easily go on for pages and pages. Let me make my best effort to give you some of the main points:

Spring Break

For Spring Break at the end of March, Courtney and I went to Phuket, Thailand. We had bought the tickets back in October I think when they were on sale for a pretty good price. And though there were many uncertainties going into the trip, Courtney had thankfully spent much time researching and coming up with a great itinerary. All in all, Phuket was so relaxing, something that Courtney and I both really needed.  There is plenty I could say about the culture of Thailand and what it was like to experience being surrounded by a vast majority of Buddhist adherents, but to save space on this update I will direct you to Courtney’s blog, https://myindonesianadventure.wordpress.com/, where did a great job giving some facts about that part of the trip.

The single biggest praise, for me at least, was the answered prayer that Courtney has been feeling much better since we got back from Phuket. We were talking just a couple of days ago about our greatest joys from the past month, and she shared how nice it’s been to feel like doing things that before she didn’t have the energy to do.

There is still a prayer request in that there are a couple of unanswered health concerns still on the radar. The tricky thing, of course, is knowing when any health issues are simply the body adjusting to such a new environment, or something completely unrelated, or a mixture of the two. As I write this to you, I hope that if you hear nothing else from me in this whole update you will hear that Yahweh has over and over proven himself faithful in all the unforeseen challenges that have come this school year. What a great God to so patiently refine us both for our service to him hear!

New Laptop meet Accreditation

To further flesh out my last sentence… Courtney and I got back from Thailand on a Friday night, leaving a couple of days for me to prep the next week’s schoolwork – which wasn’t just any week, as a team of international educators were coming for our 6 year reaccreditation visit. We as BAIS staff had been preparing for this visit since August, and truthfully I don’t think most of us were too tense about it. We had prepared well, but at the same time there was the reality of these people just dropping into your classroom at any time to see you teach or ask you questions… only slightly intimidating!

Well, I found out on Saturday morning that, after NO signs of problems, my laptop (which I bought towards the beginning of college) was completely dead. Talk about some good timing. Yet, there were so many blessings for me to count. Almost all of my data was backed up (thanks to Derrick for providing an external hard drive to me and Courtney just for that purpose), so I wasn’t really set back in terms of that. Also, I was able to get a new laptop at a really great price with some help from our IT director. Finally, I can’t imagine what it would have been like if my laptop had died during the middle of the week. Though it was an inconvenience, it was simple enough to get everything taken care of over the weekend and be ready for school.

The longer I live the more fond I grow of these testing moments – when Yahweh so pulls things outside of your expectations or control that you have no choice but to rely on him for the timing, the finances, and all the other means to carry things out. Faithful is our God!

Eternal Conversations

Speaking of Yahweh’s faithfulness, he also works so well in ways that defy our expectations. I’ve written about this several times already, but Courtney has so been excelling in her language studies! Still, the reality of language acquisition is that it just takes time, and so Courtney and I have been processing through what the next few years will look like for both of us. We were pretty well feeling peaceful and patient about the process, when very unexpectedly Courtney was able to have a conversation with our helper’s husband in which just the right door opened… that Courtney was able to share her faith with him – all in English!  Isn’t it beautifully ironic how the Lord can take us where we’re at, if we’re willing to be used by him?

As of yet, we don’t know that this person has changed has faith from that of the majority faith here, but regardless, Courtney was a faithful sower of the seeds given to us. Though this doesn’t change our visions of what the future will look like and the amount of time it’s going to take to get there, it’s so exciting to see God bearing fruit in the here and now. May we be faithful to trust the Holy Spirit to be our interpreter.

School Stuff: Spring Concert, Praise Teams, and a Very Special Birthday Party

The month of April was certainly a whirlwind at school, and it’s honestly been a tough month for me. We had our Spring Concert on Thursday, April 5th, and it’s very exciting to see how the students have progressed from semester to semester. Though, again, the process isn’t as fast as I might like, it’s exciting to see the Lord working through all my insecurities and lack of training to grow the musical abilities of the students.

What’s tough is that there hasn’t really been a break since the concert, because we had to jump right into preparing for a “recital” performance that will happen on May 15th. This was somewhat of an oversight on my part and an issue where I didn’t think through what the “recital” should be. Anyways, suffice to say that I’ve taken care of that for next year, so the schedule shouldn’t be so full on my end come the end of the school year. The problem is that, as I’m enjoying the thought of these changes for next year, I still have to finish this one!  Beyond just the calendar, there are so many curriculum changes and new ideas that are drawing me focus away from teaching well right now. I’ve prayed through this and really tried to make myself put off giving mental energy to some of next year’s things, and I would appreciate your prayers for finishing well.

Speaking of finishing well, it has been a real struggle to keep the praise teams from unraveling at the seams for their last two chapels of the year. Between sickness, lack of interest, students quitting, students not showing up, etc., I’ve had to really surrender to God my frustrations – many of which center around the revelation that I clearly haven’t shepherded quite as well as I had hoped this year. It is painfully apparent to everyone involved that I never should have taken on leading two teams, but I am so thankful that the Lord’s grace is wide enough to cover this mistake, and I can ultimately just trust him that he HAS been at work in some of the students this year. I am very excited to only be in charge of one praise team next year (and actually, I may even just be splitting leadership with someone else). That should really give me time to think through the philosophy of what we’re doing (which if I don’t have time to do I become really cranky and feeling uprooted) and also to be a better disciple-maker of the students. Please pray for wisdom as the final decisions in all of this is still being made for next year.

Now, speaking of disciple-making… I must rejoice in sharing with you that I experienced one of the greatest moments of my two year teaching career this month.  A 7th grader who is in my boys’ Bible study and also part of the praise teams turned 13 years old. For his birthday, his dad (who meets weekly with me as part of a mentoring relationship) wanted to hold a “rite of passage” ceremony for him. The ceremony took place on Saturday, April 14th. For the ceremony, myself plus 3 other teachers were asked to affirm qualities that we see in him and also speak on the role a certain topic would play in his life as he continues on the journey to manhood. My topic was integrity.

What a humbling experience… to be sitting there with veteran teachers in their 30s and 40s – you know, the prime candidates for making a big impact in this boy’s life… and then there’s me – fresh out of college, a ripe 24 years old, newly married, and feeling mostly clueless these days about the big world that God put is in! Yet, his dad told me they wanted me there specifically for the ways this student looks up to me and for the impact I’ve had in his life in just these short two years. Woah. Humbling. May I never forget the awesome responsibility and great privilege of my calling.

Easter Celebration

I’m slightly out of chronological order now, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the exciting first Easter that Courtney and I celebrated together. A couple of weeks before Easter, Courtney shared with me that she was missing the thought of a good Southern-style family dinner. As we talked through it, she came up with an idea that I encouraged her in – why not us host some people over for dinner this year (especially since we’re living in such a big house right now). Well… the next task was to make the guest list. That, of course, is a challenge – especially in such a small community where you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. We went through that game that we all play of trying to figure out what groups made most logical sense to invite together without offending other parties… and the solution we finally came up with was – why not just invite everyone (expecting, of course, that lots of people would already have plans)!
Result? 28 people at our house for Easter potluck! Courtney did such a beautiful job organizing it all – getting an extra table and chairs, coordinating with people to bring food and drinks, and setting the house up to be nice and inviting. When everyone had arrived, we opened up the homemade “Resurrection Eggs” that Courtney and I had drawn up… for which my inner theologian got a little carried away and decided that, rather than telling just the passion story, why not go through ALL of redemptive history starting in Genesis!?  =) Needless to say, it got a little long and some of the last eggs had to be paraphrased a little.
What a blessed time with so many of our Indonesian family members. I was so proud of my wife for hauling out some major party organizing skills that I didn’t even know she had.

Moving

The last thing for this update is a joyful report that Courtney and I now have keys to our new house, and it is about 99.5% furnished already! Before we came there was the big question mark of whether or not we would effectively use our year in the Paese’s house to buy the things we’d need ahead of time. Well, through various situations and people leaving, God has so provided in the details, and Courtney and I are excited that our new home will be made up furniture that has history and people associated with it. When we look at it, we’ll be able to tell people about the ones who had a place in our lives for this year but are no longer at BAIS.

Details still remain of having to move all the furniture (which people still have in their homes and are using) and getting some things setup both outside and inside the house. Again, Courtney has taken the reigns and done such a good job coordinating with Indonesian workers and getting plans into action. We are so blessed with the house we’ve had this year but it’s definitely getting time to move. How exciting, then, that the move will happen while Courtney’s family is here, so they can leave with memories of where we will be staying.

Financial Needs

How richly God has blessed mine and Courtney’s finances in our first year of marriage, primarily through the generous wedding gifts that came out before we returned to Indonesia. If I were to take the time to make a list, I think you would be utterly amazed at how far God extended that money and all the things we were able to take care of through it. The reality now, though, is that the wedding funds are almost gone, and so now we’re just about at the point of living month-to-month on one paycheck. Not for a second do I have concerns about that; God will provide, but I do, as always, want to encourage you, our support team, that there are many ways your financial gift could bless us. I’ve written before that even small gifts ($5-10) go a long ways here. For $5 you can buy a month’s worth of gas; $20 will pay mine and Courtney’s phone bills for a month; $30 will buy a week’s worth of groceries; $60 will pay our Indonesian helper’s salary for a month; $80 will basically pay all our bills for a month.

Courtney also did this write-up about some bigger needs, which I will close with. Please remember, also, that Courtney and I would both appreciate hearing from you. Especially in these last months of school after you’ve been back in country almost a year without plans to return to the States for another 7 months can make the days and weeks seem long when you don’t hear from people. We’re both easily reached by e-mail: courtneyrice@baisedu.org or brynr@baisedu.org. Also, you can call us here in Indonesia via our MagicJack number: (615) 530-7876 (which is just like calling any other 615 number in the United States – no extra international charges or anything).

Because of Christ,
Bryn Rice

From Courtney:

1. End of the Year stuff: Bryn has to attend all of the end of the year events and some of them are around 200,000 rp per person which comes to about $25

2. Housing: Bryn and I set aside money for when we moved into a house.  God has provided everything.  Part of living in this country means a lot of fixing things when moving in with cracks on the walls, etc.  This last week, I had the opportunity to get to know a local handyman who needs financial help, and he has been painting and doing an amazing job. Also, we need workers to help setup our new backyard. We set money a part for this, however, our budget did not go as far as we thought it would.  This is not just hiring people to fix things for us, but a time where we can talk to and get to know the Indonesian people and give them money so that they can have food and provide food for their families.  As they are working, pray for moments that I have the language and can share with the workers about Hope.  We want our house to be a place where Indonesians can come and see Christ.  Pray with us that God will be revealing to me His plan for that.

3. Ministry: As we look for the next school year, Bryn is looking to buy things for the new year, and his budget does not really cover all of the needed materials.  Also, there are some other possibilities on the horizon, but the ministry opportunities would require some monetary needs for me as well. Bryn and I also are interested in doing work on some other islands and assist the workers there as they work.  We have friends living on various islands in Indonesia but will need financial support to go see them and learn about the kingdom work that is going on there.

4. Weekend Getaways: This is not always a need, but I thought I would throw it in, because the demands of living in a poverty, high stress country means we need to get out of the country or at least away. We can fly to Thailand, Philippines, Singapore, and various other islands with just a 2-4 hour plane flight and they are really cheap.  It is a much needed time for reflection and to just really see where we should go from there.  It is hard to think when we are in the middle of it at times.

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Suffering. Rejoicing. Squalor. Beauty. Love. Pain.

“Suffering. Rejoicing. Squalor. Beauty. Love. Pain.

These are the things that surround me,

and all of them are from Him.

This life is beautiful and terrible and simple and difficult,

and He is using it for His Glory.” 

(Katie J Davis, Kisses from Katie)

The woman that wrote the words above is a girl who gave up everything to move to Uganda and be a light to the people.  I understand how she feels, because I can use those same words to describe this last year.  She is a true inspiration to me deciding to move from her comfortable life in Brentwood, TN to move to dirty Uganda to be God’s hands and feet, to give food to the hungry, and to take care for orphans. She truly shows what it means in 2 Corinthians 6:10-13, “Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively.”

That is my prayer, that every day I give my life away to Christ and exemplify Him in every way. I want to give myself freely and love these people that God has placed around me. To give them hope among poverty, whatever that may mean, and to help show them where they are most impoverished…that they lack SOMEONE, which leads to lack of hope. We think of poverty as lack of material things, but it is so much more. The greatest poverty you can have is the lack of Jesus Christ. That is the greatest poverty of the people that I walk by and talk to every day. They have emptiness as you look into their eyes and see into their hearts and my heart breaks as they kneel down daily 5 times in prayer to worship a God that they always feel indebted to. Sometimes, I want to sometimes shake some sense into them and realize that the debt has already been paid and no amount of works or prayer is going to get them into heaven. My heart breaks at the realization and I am lost at how to speak truth to these people and my lack of language is a barrier at times to these precious, beautiful people. But, every day for me is a learning process and continual denial of self and reliance on God to be my words and help my life and actions to show Him.  For I am not my own, but I am His and His alone.

So many days, I try to do it by myself to try to do it by myself and I realize I cannot do it by myself, my sins are too heavy and I am not strong enough. Then, I remember Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Last week I was listening to a sermon by David Platt and he was talking about this verse and I came to understand this verse at a new level of understanding, isn’t it cool the way that God can continually teach us through the Bible even though we have read verses so many different times.  A yoke is used for plowing fields, the oxes are placed on each side of the yoke, one ox is a weak and the other is a strong.  The stronger ox pulls the weaker ox along and makes the weaker ox stronger. I see myself so much as the weaker ox and I am not able to do anything on my own, but when I stay in the yoke I learn from one who is stronger than me and humble in heart and I find rest…Jesus Christ. When I get in the yoke with Jesus, as David Platt reminded me, Jesus also takes the “full weight of my sins, but also the complete and utter inability to obey God. We cannot and do not do and follow the Master’s Voice.”  He is calling to us, “Come to Me—Give all you have to me and I will give all I have to you.  I will pull you through. I will give you pardon for your sin and carry the burden you could not carry.  I will give you pardon and you can have rest.  I will give you my complete ability to obey God.  I will lead you to walk with the Father.  I will work in and through you what you cannot do for yourself.  When we are in the yoke with Jesus and allow Him to lead us we will be able to live the life God as called us to live in His strength and not on our own.”  What a beautiful picture of the grace God the picture of a yoke gives us.  The Message translates these verse as, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Living in Indonesia, I am learning more than ever to get away with the Lord and to let him show me rest as I am still recovering from last semester and learning the new rhythm of grace and plans that God has for me. As I walk with him, little pieces are beginning to be revealed and I have not yet been told what His plan is for the next step, but I am learning to live freely and lightly in his will allowing Him to be the strong one and me to follow along. For now, that plan is learning the language, spending some amazing and precious time with my helper and her family, studying and reading books to gain knowledge about Islam, listening to sermons, or whatever else God may have in store for each day. Each day is a gift of grace and opportunity like I do not deserve.  It is full of laughter as I stumble over my words in communicating with my helper as I ask, “Matahari Kemana?” or “Where did the sun go?” while we were trying to make pretzels and rolls and my helper’s daughter giggles that brings a smile to my face or the smile as I let her help me cook or play UNO. This is a time of great relationships being built and hopefully opportunities of revealing truth in the future, when I have the language and God opens the doors. My days include precious time with my language tutor as she challenges me and goes shopping with me to barter with me in the some of the local language of Javanese and Sundanese for chairs for our kitchen table.  I don’t know what the future holds and sometimes that is frustrating as I try to figure out where I belong and what my role is. But, God will reveal it in His timing.  For now I take life day-by-day with the suffering, rejoicing, squalor, beauty, love, and pain that comes to me, but I always have Jesus in the yoke beside me pulling me through.

Life in Indonesia and doing God’s Will is not easy and Bryn and I cannot make it without your support:
Ways you can support us, God is continually opening up opportunities for us to serve Him in this community, but it doesn’t come without a cost. These might include hiring someone to do jobs around the house, donating or lending money to those that are hospitalized or are going through difficult situations, but lack the monetary resources and without money will suffer, giving items to the materially poor so that we can teach them about their impoverished soul and share with them the good news, buying books to learn and read about Islam or different materials that will help that we can be better equipped both for Bryn in the classroom and for me out of the classroom, or the many other ways. You can donate money through the Network of International Christian Schools at, 3790 Goodman Rd E, Southaven, MS 38672.  Checks should be made out to “NICS/OASIS.” For the memo, you should write my account number: 003385. If you want your money to specifically go to one of the areas I mentioned, please follow-up with an e-mail to let me know (courtneyrice@baisedu.org). We praise God in advance as He provides you resources to bless our ministry here and store up for yourself treasures in Heaven.

The most important way you can support us is through prayer, I send out a detailed prayer list at least every other week.  If you would like to be added to the prayer list for more specific and current prayer updates please e-mail me at courtneyrice@baisedu.org.  Here are some basic prayer requests and praises:

Praises:

– Bryn and I have a house for next year and have completely been able to get all of the furniture and things needed from teachers that were leaving.

– The stomach sickness that I had for almost 3 months is finally gone and I have been able to resume working out and my immune system is continuing to grow.

– My helper and her family were able to dig a well and they have clean water (or as clean as it can be).

– My family is coming in a month and a half and Bryn’s family is coming in 3 months.

– BAIS (Bandung Alliance International School) has all positions filled for next year.

Prayer Requests:

Indonesia:

– Pray for the material and spiritual poverty.  Pray that they will come to know the One that can relieve their spiritual poverty

– Pray for the corruption in this nation.

BAIS:

– Pray for all of the new teacher that are coming in August: Mark and Joelene Boccaccio and his and family (Business manager), Peggy Alex (5th grade), Hermione Zhang (Mandarin), Brian Lovejoy (Secondary Math), Matt and Erin Squiers and their boys Kadin and Jace, Beth LaMertha (Secondary English), Lisa Witham (PE), Paula Christensen (Secondary Science), Rachel Carpenter (ESL-Immersion), and Caroline Miller (ESL-Immersion).  Pray for transition for all of these singles and families, especially the Squiers family with little kids.

– Pray for the end of the year events and pray for hearts to be continued to be transformed.

Us:

– Pray for the housing details and pray for relationships to be built and His name to be glorified as we begin making our house a home.  Pray that our home will be used for Him and that many will come to know Him in our new home.

– Pray for continual protection against spiritual forces.

– Pray for continual health for both Bryn and I.

– Pray for God to continue to reveal His Will.

– Pray for financial support and that God will guide us in exactly how we use every cent that God has provided through you all.

Thank you.  God is truly blessing us and I cannot wait to see what He has in the future for us through suffering and pain, but also through the beauty, rejoicing, and love that lies before us.

The Power of the Cross

Hidup, Hudup, Juru Selamatku,

He lives, He lives, Savior,

Sungguhlah hidup, Tuhanku, hidup di hatiku.

Certainly He lives, my Lord, lives in my heart.

Those beautiful words translated into Indonesian and then translated into English again are from the Hymn, He Lives. He lives! He lives! I know because He lives in my heart. What beautiful words these are that many do not understand in this country.  They know of Jesus only as a prophet, they know of his crucifixion, but they do not belief he really died. They believe that His body was replaced and someone else actually died and that it was not our Lord. They don’t believe that God would be that cruel to His son and they see it as a preposterous idea. They don’t know that He lives and He does not live in their hearts.

The crucifixion was a demonstration of the character of God and it was God’s answer to a divine problem…sin. David Platt said, “no matter how big or small sin is, what matters is who is sinned against. If you sin against a rock, you are not very guilty. If you sin against a man, you are guilty.  If you sin against God, You are infinitely guilty. One sin is an infinite offense. One in Genesis 3 brought the world to how it is today. One sin brought condemnation. We have committed thousands.” We have denounced God’s sovereignty, we have dishonored His holiness and exchanged His glory for stuff, we have despised His righteousness, we have disregarded his wrath, and we have denied his love. The cross is a picture of how valuable God is and how small we are. So many times, we look at the cross and see us and our sin being taken away, but as I have studied the last week and listened to many sermons, I have began to see the cross as the amazing exaltation of God in the cross not about me. He is our divine substitution, but God satisfies Himself in the place of sinner. “The debt was so great, that while man alone owed it, only God could pay it,” Anselm once said. We are to embrace the curse of sin and run to the cross. For it is not about us in our man-centered world, but all about God and His glory.  For more information on this you can listen to David Platt’s secret churchs on the Cross of Christ or Crucifixion, Salvation, and the Glory of God.

We have as man-centered world shrink-wrapped the Gospel to a repeated prayer and card signing. I love what David Platt said, “If He is not LORD of all, He cannot be your Savior.” We must make Him LORD of our life and live for Him, for He gave all for us.  He deserves us to submit to him daily. It was our sin that nailed Him to the tree. He is not just a way out of the sin that entangles us, He is not just a substitution for our sins on the cross, but He should be our Savior and LORD and He should guide our footsteps each day. He deserves so much more.

Each day, I step out into a world that does not have hope and they do not have a LORD or a Savior. They worship what they have known for generations, but they are entangled in the sin that surround them, because they do not realize the substitution they have in Christ. They do not realize that “Christ’s blood is heaven’s key,” as Thomas Brooks said. They worship “God,” but they miss out on the hope through Christ. They have been told stories from the Bible, but the stories they have been told leaves holes within the stories and it leaves the biggest hole of all and part of the story that matters most…Christ.  The key to the story of Christ taking their condemnation and the Savior that has died for them. As you go throughout the day today, pray for these people who do not have hope.  Pray that the lies they have been told will be revealed. Pray for people to come their way to reveal the lies and to bring light. And as you walk through today, don’t take for granted the cross.

Through the cross, we have life. Don’t miss out on opportunities God is leading you to that will be light in the darkness of someone’s life.  We live and have life only if we have Him as SAVIOR and LORD of our life and because He lives and only if He lives within our hearts.

If you would like to get prayer updates, please send me an e-mail at courtneyrice@baisedu.org.