The Beautiful Symphony amongst the Chaos

“This is a beautiful symphony…it may look like chaos, but everything seems to just flow.”

My mother-in-law said the previous statement about Indonesian traffic while here at the beginning of the month. We live on one of the most populated islands in the world and people fill the toll road as they pile into Bandung weekly for shopping and every alleyway is full of cars trying to get to their final destination.  However, traffic is unlike anything you have ever seen.  Lines on the road are optional here; I heard once that they are normally just for the foreigners comfort. (J)  Sometimes in what is a 2 lane road, 4 cars will fit side by side and cars will fill every space available and the little space they do allow, motorbikes will use to weave in and out of traffic to get to the front of all the cars.  As the cars move, everyone knows the unwritten rules and things move like a well-oiled machine.  Cars and motorbikes switch lanes and move like a beautiful symphony. As my mother-in-law said this, it finally gave me words for the traffic…a symphony of machines that fill the roads and interweave in and out of each other.  Just like the notes flowing from a symphony, what may seem like chaos by itself when you see the whole picture it becomes beautiful music. 

Bryn and my life in this country is sort of like the traffic, we weave in and out of troubles and sickness. Sometimes we just don’t know the rules or our language fails and we don’t know what to do. We are in the chaotic part of the symphony and like most foreigners that see the traffic in this country, it is incomprehensible and they can’t make sense of it.  We have seemed to stay in the part of the symphony that just does not seem to slow down and the notes seem to be runs that are never ending and there seems like there is not an end in sight and we don’t understand why, but we are trusting the grand composer knows what He is doing.  When we think that the sickness that has invaded my body has finally at rest, it starts right up into another chaotic melody.   Migraines, Stomach stuff, and back pain are the chaos that seems to halt life.  Are they all independent lines of the symphony (illnesses) or are they all related?  It just doesn’t make sense, but I know the composer and He knows what is going on and I am trusting that He is directing the music and He will teach me how to play this part of the symphony and that it would even in the chaos be a resounding song that will display Him and Him alone. 

As you get stuck in traffic or hear the sound a beautiful symphony playing, please stop and say a prayer for us in the chaos of the symphony for who do not see the full picture and don’t understand what is going on.  Pray for strength and hope and pray we will remember the composer who is creating the beautiful symphony in our lives. Our symphony is not finished, but it is a work in progress and at times it is chaos, but God makes beautiful music in the chaos. 

During this chaos, here are a few things you can join us in prayer about:

Indonesia:

  • Pray for open eyes and hearts.

Bryn and I:

  • Pray for strength as we are going through this trial.
  • Pray for answers and wisdom on what steps we are to take, if that means me flying to the states to have medical care or going to Singapore, etc.
  • Pray for Bryn as He began school today and for fruit of the spirit as He teaches and as we are going through this trial.
  • Pray for guidance from the Father for purpose for my life, Courtney, during this time and for the future.  Through the sickness and after stopping teaching, I am having a hard time finding purpose.  I know that it is there, but it doesn’t seem like I have purpose right now.  All ideas that I have and that God has given me, I keep getting a “not yet” answer and it is hard.Image
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God Faithfulness through the Sickness

I’m running back to your promises one more time, Lord that’s all I can hold on to, I gotta say this has taken me by surprise, but nothing surprises you. Before a heartache can ever touch my life, it has to go through Your hands, and even though I keep asking why, I keep asking why,

No matter what, I’m gonna love You, no matter what I’m gonna need You, I know You can find a way to keep me from the pain but if not, I’ll trust you, no matter what, no matter what.

(No Matter What-Kerrie Roberts)

Well, as most of your know from Facebook, Prayer Updates, or from my family, my life has not been easy and it seems like it has just been one of those season in which sickness will not leave and nothing seems to help permanently.  Through it all, I am reminded constantly that “all things work out for good,” but good is not always easy to see on the surface.  Since January, I have been having constant nausea and stomach pain that literally has prevented me from doing so many things and has knocked me on the ground.  I was listening to this Kerrie Roberts song and it continually has given me hope through this time when it has been hard to find home.  I have had major heartache, but it has all gone through God’s hand first and He has meant it for good.  Sickness is the result of sin and we will have it in this world and we will not always understand the heartaches that we go through, but through it all I have found that my only hope is when I love, lean on the only one that gives me hope and holds the true answer…God.

Through the sickness, God has proven faithful.  Sickness has provided great rest from a very hard semester and change from the first 6 months of being here in Indonesia, it gave me wonderful time to spend with my father, and it gave me lots of time to think. Sickness has also had its negatives, but God’s faithfulness as exceeded those.

At the beginning of June, after the fourth round of this sickness that we think we have a name for now, Bryn and I went in to Indonesia’s capital city Jakarta for a medical check-up and meeting with an internal medicine doctor.  I was told again as blood tests and other tests have told us that I am normal and healthy.  Of course, that is good news, but the question remains if I am healthy why do I feel so bad and feel so sick.  The internal medicine doctor did a colonoscopy and endoscopy to look at my innards and she came up with a diagnosis.  I began taking some medicine and the fourth round of whatever is going on in my body finally left for a time.

It was a fabulous time with my family showing them the vast Indonesian culture from Bali (Island south of Java) to Java (where Bryn and I live) and showing them the country and people that has captured my heart.   It was 10 days of fun and exploration from cooking classes in Bali, volcanic ash sand beaches, monkies crawling all over us, dolphin sightseeing trip, snorkeling, angklung (local instrument) performances, celebrating our new house, and just enjoying each others company.  It was too short, but we were so blessed they were able to be here.

The day my family left to head back to the states, I began having some major discomfort and pain that kept me up for a few nights and we contemplated what to do.  I sent a note to some friends in Singapore that we had stayed with before.  They kindly talked with one of their friends and asked if we could stay at their apartment for the week and they agreed.  We debated on going to Jakarta, but ended up making a quick flight out of Bandung to head to Singapore after deciding we would rather talk to someone in English…not ½ Indonesian and ½ broken English.  We arrived in Singapore on the day that the couple left, who’s apartment we were staying after a last minute decision to fly out sooner and not wait a week.  I went to the surgeon made the conclusion that it was GERD an acid reflux disease not my gallbladder, but medicine did not work and I was in pain, so I went back again.  No more medicine options is what we were told, but he was convinced that is what was going on.  But, he referred us to a gastroenterologist that may know some of the newest treatment options.  So, I went and saw the doctor and he was convinced it was functional dyspepsia with a hint of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  We met with a dietician as well to learn how to deal with my new condition and learned of all the food changes to help.   I was given medicine and we stayed for a week in Singapore, so that if there were side effects that we would be near reliable hospitals, which was a blessing because one of my medicines was causing a huge migraine which I could not seem to get rid of.  We went and saw the doctor and that day he received the results from the ultrasound that they had taken of my abdomen, in which we found that there was a tear on my liver.  In order to make sure that this was not cancerous, I was sent to have an MRI.  Medicine seemed to be working and I seemed to start feeling well, after the MRI I went for a follow up appointment with the dietician and gastroenterologist, in which he confirmed that it was not cancerous and that I could go home.  So 7 doctors visits, 6 months of medicines in hand, 1 zoo trip, 1 turtle museum, and 2 ½ weeks later, we were given the ok to go home.

Home…a word that has not sounded so good in my life.  Well, we have been home for a week and have been able to settle in to our new home.  Everything finally has its place and it is just good to be here.  Life is full of cooking experiments to try to avoid buttery, oily, sugary, fried, low-fat, and spicy foods, so that I can finally have a healthy gutt again and feel healthy.  It has been adventure; we have made homemade non-fat yogurt, applesauce muffins, granola, and so many other things.  It has been fun.  I have been feeling ok, but still the nausea has not disappeared yet.  Please keep praying for continued healing and that the medicine would continue to work and heal and that I am able to continue working out.

Through it all, God has provided all we need.  I am so thankful that we serve a God who takes care of our needs and provides for things that we need even before we know what is going to happen.  Thank you for all of your prayer through this process, so far.  Thank you for those who have been able to give financially to support us over the last year.  Really your support helps us be able to do the things that God has led us to this year.  There are lots of adventures that I will share in my next post, but until then please keep praying for healing and continued health for Bryn and I.

If you would like to receive prayer updates and support us prayerfully, please e-mail me at courtneyrice@baisedu.org.

Bryn’s July Update – Summary of our lives the past couple of weeks…couldn’t have said it better myself

Dear Friends, Family, and NICS Support Team:

Let me start off by saying that Courtney and I are back in Indonesia, and Courtney is doing well… in fact, maybe the best she’s been in a solid year. I apologize that I’m just now writing to update you both on Courtney and our Singapore trip. Suffice to say that we are still very much trying to settle in to our new “home” (more on this in a minute).

While many of you may be looking straight for the details of Courtney’s medical condition, I want to begin by giving you a transparent look into some of the spiritual lessons I’ve been learning during this blessed season of life.

“Home”

Courtney and I have a new joke: as we were saying goodbye to our friends in Singapore, it was the sort of goodbye where we honestly told them “No offense, but we hope we don’t see you again in Singapore for a while… but, we still could be seeing you again soon.”

During the past year, Courtney and I have been on an airplane 7 different times. Now, I understand that plenty of people are accustomed to frequent air travel for work reasons; however, neither Courtney nor I grew up in that sort of lifestyle. But the reality of our location means that to go to most places you either get on an airplane, spend a month on a boat, or spend even longer swimming!

And given mine and Courtney’s descriptions of our frequent, “exotic travels,” I could easily see how some people may have started forming an impression that our calling to Indonesia is just a glorified vacation and life of luxury. To that, I would respond that Courtney and I have, indeed, been blessed beyond measure, but throughout this year of consistent travels, Yahweh has been teaching us many deep and beautiful truths about himself and the lives to which he has called us.

Let me try to expound upon some of these truths: first of all, without question, he has laid as a foundation for our marriage a pillar of periodic retreat and restoration. Though during our travels Courtney and I try to do some “fun” or “touristy” things and attempt to get a feel for the local culture, it has also been of prime importance that we do some open, honest reflection with each other to assess where we’re at as husband and wife and where we want to go.  Or most recently, having a year under our belts and beginning to see more clearly the possibility (as Yahweh wills) of a long-term commitment overseas, we have started to think about what patterns we would want as a family with children, allowing us to practice them and be comfortable with them now before we have children. I am confident and feel very blessed to have learned early on how crucial it is to step back, and I know that as finances allow Courtney and I will continue to do this once or twice a year for the rest of our married lives.

A second truth comes from what we don’t want – and that is a life spent constantly “in transit.” I realize that may sound a little contradictory, but again as I rejoice in the blessings of the experiences we’ve had already, I say bluntly that Courtney and I are so sick of travelling! For our own paradigms and what we want with our family, we find it unsettling when packing a suitcase and getting our little travel toiletries ready is “the norm.” And while we do have plans (as Yahweh wills) to return to the States for Christmas and hopefully travel some next summer – that’s probably it! We are desperately looking forward to a season at home, in good health, with consistent ministry opportunities in our community.

And right there, my friends and family, is the heart of what I believe to be one of the greatest lessons the Lord could teach us. For even as Courtney and I have such a longing to be settled at home, we cannot escape the glaring reality that this is not our home! By “this,” I mean – Jingga Prabu 18 is not our home; our landlords here in Kota Baru can (and sometimes do) require people to move out. Indonesia is not our home; this is especially apparent as government changes have required all of our teachers to redo their visas, and though it’s not likely, the government could deny any of us our visas at any time… But the United States of America is also not our home. I think Courtney and I have truly become “Third Culture Adults.” And I sincerely hope nobody takes that as us having negative feelings towards our country of citizenship – not at all. It simply means that I think there is too much Asia in our blood for us to ever completely feel settled in the States again.

So where does that leave us? Now, more than ever in my life so far, I feel the deep and glorious longing for a Heavenly home – where there will be no more customs declaration forms or immigration lines. Where I will be accepted not because of race or skin color or language… but because of birth – new birth in Jesus Christ through the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit! Hallelujah!

Until that day, though, the third lesson from our travels has been that, in the temporal sense of the word, Indonesia is mine and Courtney’s home for a season that will last until the Lord calls us away from it. There’s no question about it; our hearts couldn’t be more centered on this country, and more specifically the Sundanese people of West Java along with the smorgasbord international community of Bandung. Every time we have gone and experienced other places of Southeast Asia, we are quickly ready to get back to these people and this culture. And we long to see the day when there is a bountiful harvest for the Kingdom of Heaven – may He send workers into this difficult area, soften the soil, and find us faithful to do the work to which we’ve been called.

Health

Alright – now that I’ve sufficiently preached my sermon for the month, how about updating you on Courtney’s health? First of all, the Lord was so gracious to confirm his will for our Singapore trip. We were there a total of 19 days (see last month’s update for the amazing story of how we got there), and during that time we made 7 trips to the doctor. If we had stayed in Indonesia and gone to Jakarta, it would have probably cost much more money to keep making trips to Jakarta or having to book hotel rooms. In Singapore, on the other hand, it was so easy to get to the hospital, and several times we cancelled our plans and went to see the doctor – who was able to work us in the same day – because Courtney wasn’t feeling well.

In terms of the medical journey itself, we ended up seeing two doctors and a dietitian. The first doctor diagnosed Courtney with GERD (or acid-reflux problems) and gave her 4 different medicines to take. She took those for about 5 days but didn’t see any improvements. We went back to him, and he reassured us that he did not think Courtney was having issues from her gallstones and that GERD made the most sense. He did, however, have the humility to refer us to another gastric specialist – and for that we praise God. Along with that, we were referred to a dietitian to help with specifics of a gastric-friendly diet.

The second doctor was incredibly nice and helpful, and as an added bonus he had spent some time in the States (behind him hung a plaque from the Mayo Clinic!) By the time we went to see him, Courtney and I had made a very detailed timeline of all her symptoms dating back from December. Based on this information and upon examining Courtney, he changed the diagnosis from GERD to functional dyspepsia (or a severe indigestion). He prescribed a whole different set of medicines and, beyond that, was willing to request bloodwork and an ultrasound to further rule out any gallbladder issues or pancreas problems.

After talking with the doctor and meeting with the dietitian, what quickly became apparent was that – regardless of the final diagnosis – some major lifestyle changes were in order if Courtney’s stomach was ever to recover. Namely, we were being advised to switch from 3 big meals a day to 5-6 smaller meals. Courtney was also advised to go to a low fat/high fiber diet and cut out many of the basic cooking ingredients used in Indonesia. To the drawing boards we went – and my ever adaptable wife began looking up new, healthier recipes and figuring out what substitutions she could make to the cooking we already enjoy.

We quickly saw fruit from the new medicine, and for the first time in weeks Courtney was feeling nausea free. In fact, we were able to enjoy the surprise blessing (thanks, Lord!) of a nice park located right behind the apartment we stayed in. Everything was looking up for a day or two… until Courtney developed a very severe migraine. This was strange because, despite all the stomach problems she’s been having, her chronic migraines have been few and far between. She took her migraine medicine which usually does the trick, but two days later when her migraine wouldn’t let up, we began to suspect the new medicine as a culprit. Courtney went online to check her records from Vanderbilt at the time she was seeing a neurologist and discovered that one of the medicines prescribed to treat nausea is similar to one of the medicines she was given to treat migraines… but that medicine only made the migraines worse!

That earned us another trip to the doctor, and he was willing to switch out medicines. While we were there, he received the results from Courtney’s abdominal ultrasound. We rejoiced to hear that, though she does have some gallstones, there is no inflammation of the gallbladder or any markers in her bloodwork to indicate that the gallstones are symptomatic. And though in some ways we just wanted them to yank her gallbladder out so we don’t ever have to think about it again, we know God fearfully and wonderfully made us, and that the more body parts you can keep in the better. We really respected the doctors too, who held to a philosophy of being as noninvasive as possible.

While we looked at the ultrasound, however, the doctor informed us of something unexpected – a small lesion on Courtney’s liver. He assured us that it was common and nothing to be immediately alarmed about… but he did want to have an MRI done just to be sure.

Taking full advantage of all the medical services Singapore offers = success!

That was on a Tuesday, and her MRI was scheduled for Thursday. On Wednesday we finally were able to work in a trip to the Singapore Zoo – such an educational and enjoyable experience! – and during that trip and the day spent having the MRI done, Courtney’s symptoms seemed to be diminishing. We returned to see the doctor on Friday, and praise the Lord the lesion is completely benign. Though it may grow a few millimeters throughout the rest of Courtney’s life, it should never get big enough to be a concern. The MRI also confirmed, yet again, that the rest of Courtney’s innards are doing just fine. In fact, my mom has joked that despite the stomach symptoms, Courtney has been poked on and examined so much that we are blessed to know that the rest of her body is doing quite well!

The final diagnosis was functional dyspepsia – a condition that the doctor said will likely never go away; however, with diet and lifestyle measures it can be regulated. Courtney has a couple of medicines to take daily for the next month, along with a couple of medicines that she can take whenever she is symptomatic (and those medicines seem to be working well). After a month, she is to come off the medicines and just see how she does. Additionally, the dietitian was wonderful to work with, and her thorough knowledge of Asian diet and cooking practices were especially helpful.

Many passages of Scripture and songs talk about praising the Yahweh through the storms of life, and I’m here to say that he is worthy of all that praise. Though I so wish Courtney didn’t have to go through this whole process, the journey of walking by faith and not by sight has led us to places as individuals and as a couple where wouldn’t have been otherwise.

We have been back in Indonesia since July 10, and so far all the lifestyle adjustments are going well. Both Courtney and I feel great and are enjoying being able to exercise. We also continue to settle into our new house, especially in preparation for my family to arrive next week!

For Our Support Network

Where would we be without you? Only our Father himself knows. What I do know is that so many people have been faithful to pray for us, and I hope you never doubt for a second the difference it makes. Beyond that, I have said very openly that Courtney and I are headed into a much more difficult financial season, as the blessing of our wedding support carried us solidly through our first year but has now run out. But with that reality comes the excitement of trusting our Lord. And honestly, I think I prefer the life of earning less money. It certainly makes decision making a lot easier, because there are many things we’d like to do that end up in: “Well Lord, if you want us to do that, you’ll just have to provide the support. If you don’t, then don’t send the support.” Surely Christ continues to provide all our needs according to his riches in glory.

And we praise God for the many of you who are willing vessels to provide that support. Several of you stepped in when we talked about having to stay in Singapore for so long. Somehow – and it truly is beyond my comprehension – we came back to Indonesia with more money than when we left. We praise God that you have added to the collection of your imperishable Heavenly treasures that our Father is so anxious to shower on us in Glory.

My next update will probably be around the time school is starting – August 21. In the meantime, Courtney and I have time to enjoy with my family, time to hopefully relax and continue getting into our healthy routines, and also time to work (me preparing for school and Courtney resuming her language studies). Though we have full trust that Yahweh will not send any more trials at us beyond our ability to handle through his strength, we would greatly appreciate prayer for a “normal,” predictable month ahead!

Blessings to you all in Christ Jesus,

Bryn Rice

Bryn June Update – God’s Hand at Work

Dear Friends, Family, and NICS Support Team:

This update starts my third year of monthly chronicles for this amazing journey on which God has placed me, and if you have been following the journey with any sort of regularity, you should have a grasp by now on how God is ever using me as living proof of his word: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways” (Isaiah 55). Over and over again Yahweh has proven himself sovereign over mine and Courtney’s lives, and I praise him for it – even when it means going through difficult times.

The start to Year Three is no different. As I write this update to you, Courtney and I have been in Singapore for six days and will, unless the Lord changes things, continue to stay here for at least ten more days. The story goes something like this…

Courtney first got sick around the end of January/beginning of February. Her symptoms were pains in her stomach and constant nausea. This waxed and waned for about three months and even had periods where it was basically gone. When it came back, however, towards the middle of May, and another round of medications didn’t do anything to stop it, we decided it was time to get serious and go to a hospital. The Lord guided us to a hospital in Jakarta that did a full checkup on Courtney. We then met with an internal medicine specialist who scheduled to have a couple of scopes done to see inside Courtney’s digestive tract. All of that happened, and results were somewhat inconclusive. We knew that there was inflammation in her stomach, but the actual cause was not diagnosed. Courtney was given five different medications to take, and the doctor said that patients often take those medicines and never need to see her again.

Fast-forward to the end of school – June 8 – and Courtney’s family arrived to Indonesia. It was such a blessed time of showing them around this land that we love so dearly, not to mention getting to catch up with them (it just doesn’t seem like Courtney and I have been gone from the US for a year now). Their time here truly seemed way too short. Amazingly, the Lord blessed Courtney with a respite in her sickness, and she was well almost the whole time they were here.

Just before they left, however, the same nausea and pain started to return. It built up to the point that , after they left, it seemed even worse than before. By this time, I had already scanned and e-mailed all of Courtney’s test results to doctors in the States who looked at the paperwork and were concerned that Courtney was having gallbladder issues. This wasn’t great news to us as Courtney’s mom just had her gallbladder out not long ago and has had an above average recovery time. Still, when we’re talking four or five months of sickness, we were also just hoping that her gallbladder could be removed and then she’d instantly start feeling better.

The prospect of surgery, however, begged some difficult questions. I want to be sensitive in this, as you know how much we love the land and people of Indonesia. At the same time, I’ve had Indonesians themselves tell me that they don’t trust their medical care.  All of this to say that our first instinct in thinking Courtney may need surgery was to fly to Singapore. With that possibility in mind, I quickly set to work researching insurance issues, flights, etc. The process was a little overwhelming. Our insurance doesn’t directly settle with a single hospital in Bandung, and there’s only a couple in Jakarta. What do I see when I pull up Singapore’s information? Dozens of direct settlement locations!

The first answered prayer then, was when I called my secondary principal to see about getting our passports out of the school safe. He gave me the information I needed and then asked where we were going in Singapore. He was able to recommend a location that he and his wife went to and then, the beautiful thing about our community, he made sure to pray with me before hanging up. I was ecstatic and quickly got that “I know you’re working this out, Lord” feeling that I’ve gotten so many times before. We ended up choosing not to go to that clinic because, as we were considering surgery, we knew they would just refer us to a hospital anyways. The clinic’s website, however, had hospital websites listed. From visiting those websites, it became pretty clear what the best fit would be.

The next step was to find housing, so Courtney set to contacting some of our brothers and sisters in Singapore. As we waited for that, we started looking at plane tickets. Woah – they were much more expensive than we expected! So expensive, in fact, that we started questioning whether or not the trip was justified. “Maybe we should just go to Jakarta and see what happens from there,” was our thought.  All of this came to a head when on Wednesday, June 20th – amidst moving from our old house to our new – we found decent priced tickets to fly out the following week. To make a long story short, we were unable to pay for those tickets due to debit card complications, and the price was going to go up about $20 per ticket to use our US bank card. We went back to the drawing boards.

We ended up at BAIS really confused. We so desire to be good stewards of God’s money, and this Singapore trip was starting to seem a little wasteful (and an affront to our Indonesian friends who could never afford to hop over to Singapore for medical care). I suggested that we pray about it because I deeply felt that Yahweh was trying to speak to us on the matter. In my classroom, Courtney and I split up and prayed. When we came back together, it was clear that we both sensed Singapore was where we should go, and then I added another component that I felt impressed on my spirit… that we should leave the next day!  We had waited so long already that I didn’t see a reason to wait another day longer than necessary. And thankfully, we didn’t really have any firm ties holding us to Indonesia until my family arrives at the end of July.

Courtney agreed, and we decided to go to my laptop and check plane tickets one more time. We opened up the website for Batavia Air, and lo and behold – the tickets had JUST gone on sale for almost $40 cheaper per ticket. In my mind, it doesn’t get much clearer than that. We didn’t have our passport information at school, so we had to run home to book the tickets. When we did, we discovered another hitch – that the only way to pay for the tickets  (because our flight was in less than 24 hours) was with an Indonesian debit card , paying at one of several bank’s ATMs… none of which were our bank. This was the exact same problem we had run into before. I determined in my heart not to panic. I mean, really? Why would the Lord make that so clear only to be defeated by a bank card? I wouldn’t accept it.

After some quick thinking, we called an Indonesian friend, and it “just so happened” that he used one of the required banks. Ten minutes later I had gone to his house and was then  headed to the ATM… by myself… because he had just handed me his bank card with pin number and said to get it back to him the next day. Hallelujah for the Body of Christ! So we successfully bought our tickets and did some quick packing. When I woke up on Thursday morning, June 21, and went to school to check my e-mail, I learned of the next huge blessing – our friends in Singapore had connected with some of their friends… and a brother in Christ who I’ve never even met handed over his keys for me and Courtney to stay in his apartment while he and his family are gone for several weeks to the US (and he actually left the morning of our trip to Singapore – talk about good timing). Wow.

Our doctor’s appointment was on Friday morning, and it just so happened that they assigned us to a doctor who specializes in gastrointestinal issues and gallbladder surgery. But then a surprise came…

Despite Courtney having a small gall stone, the doctor doesn’t think her problem has anything to do with her gallbladder. After examining her, he gave her two weeks of medicine and wanted to do a follow-up appointment. We thought that was great, since we had been freely given two weeks (or longer) of housing, but there was admitted disappointment that the answers didn’t come in an immediate, quick fix.

Now, as I write this to you friends, family, and support team, I don’t have any grand conclusions to the story yet. This is a time of waiting, praying, and being still to know that Yahweh is our God. After five full days of medicine, Courtney has not gotten better, and I just sent the doctor an e-mail this morning. I have full trust that the Lord is either going to continue working out his fantastic plan so that a resolution is reached while we are in Singapore, or he’s somehow going to give us the strength to endure. Honestly though, I’m so ready for Courtney to not be sick anymore, and I know she is too.

If you didn’t realize, Courtney and I just celebrated our first wedding anniversary on June 18 (only three days later to get on the plane to Singapore), and what a year of marriage it’s been. I only pray that Yahweh continues to prove Isaiah 55 true in our lives – that his plans to use us in sharing the Good News haven’t even begun to clearly come into the light, for surely that’s all that we desire – to be used by him. And there is no question that he has used this first year to strengthen and refine us through situations that were NEVER on mine and Courtney’s radars for a first year of marriage. To him be all glory as our loving Father.

Your prayers for healing, answers, and continued fruit of the Spirit are greatly appreciated. I rejoice in saying that a couple of financial gifts are coming in to help support us while we’re in Singapore. Even while trying to be as frugal as possible, it took two grocery trips in this country (within the same week) for me and Courtney to spend almost a month’s worth of food money for Indonesia. At the same time, we know that Yahweh will provide. If he leads you to contribute in any way towards food, travel, or medical expenses, you are still welcome to give knowing that the treasures stored in Heaven are not based on a certain amount given but on a condition of the heart.

We love you all and pray that our testimony will be an encouragement to you in your walk with Jesus. May the news of his incomprehensible gift – tearing down the veil separating us from almighty God – flow from your mouth to reach all the lost who are trying to battle the storms of this life in their own hopeless futility.      

Because of Him,

Bryn Rice

If you desire to support us financially, you can send checks to:

Network of International
Christian Schools

3790 Goodman Rd E
Southaven, MS 38672
U.S.A.

Checks should be made out to “NICS/OASIS.” For the memo, you should write our account number: 003385.

Weeds, Foundation, and the many lessons of Moving

If you have ever moved houses, you know how much work it takes to get it ready to move into both inside and out, house must be painted, cabinets built, curtains made or bought, grass put in, screens for the open areas so bugs will not unwelcomly come in, and so many other things.  Couches, beds, table, refrigerator, lemari (the closet in Indonesia, since there are no closets), chairs, microwave, plates, cups, and more are bought.  When the final thing is in and everything is situated, you can finally breathe a sigh of relief.  That is what has filled many hours, since March.  God has provided everything we need and many things we have wanted.  Budget was tight and God has provided.  He is so good to us and we are so blessed.  Through this process, God has taught me many lessons and I thought I would share 2 distinct lesson and reminders of stories in His Word that He has shown me during these months.

One lesson that I have learned as moving into our new house is about weeds.  Everyone knows what weeds are, those annoying little things that spread and threaten to kill your flowers and take over the things that you plant, those little things that seem to pop up and never seem to go away and grow faster than anything else in your garden.  When we moved into our house all we had were weeds, wild grass, in the back yard and we had the weeds pulled up and then placed good dirt on top of it, so that we could plant grass, good seed, in the area.  We planted the grass, watered, and put fertilizer on it to get the good grass to grow, but the weeds came back.  As I was pulling the weeds up in and feeling like I was barely making any progress and was reminded of the parable of the weeds, we sowed the good grass, but those weeds were still there and along with the good grass weeds appeared.  We only planted the good grass, but the enemy…weeds…still appeared.  However, as I began to pull the weeds, the grass came up with it, so I talked to my helper’s husband, who is a gardener, He said to let the weeds grow with the grass, because it would be harmful to remove the weeds while the grass is rooting in the ground.   

In life, we have weeds and Jesus sows good seed in our lives and the good seed becomes wheat or in my story grass that is good and we grow around the weeds of this world, who are those who are of the evil one.  As we grow, we are continually under attack of the evil around us and from Satan who sows those weeds.   There is a huge field all around this world that is waiting to be harvested, seeds to be planted, will they be good seed or bad seed that take root?  Here in Indonesia, there are good seed being planted in the hearts of people and many that follow and grow in that truth and many become part of the kingdom, but the weeds that Satan has planted in the hearts are blind to the truth. Satan is sowing lies to the people and in the end the weeds will not have life, but only the good seeds will live.  Please pray with me for good seed to be planted in the hearts of the people here and for the weeds and lies that the various religions around us bring will not take root in the hearts of the people.  The devil is at work here and weeds are growing like crazy around us, but pray for the good seeds to take root.  Also, join with me in praying for harvesters in the field to be good seed amongst the weeds, truth and good seed cannot be planted without harvesters.

Another lesson, I have learned as we have been moving into our new house is about foundation.  Next door, the owners have decided to build three extra rooms in the back of their house instead of having a yard, so we have had the privilege to watch these rooms being built from the ground up.  As they build, I wonder how this house is going to stand with what seem like flimsy iron bars that sway in the wind.  Then, brick is put around it the iron bars with cement to hold it together carefully laid by hand (for the internal and outside walls).  After that, cement spread on top of the brick to make it strong.  Houses are built mostly by hand like this and it continues to amaze me how they stand against the rains and winds that come.  I have heard of many stories of house in the local villages in Bandung, they are built on strong places and other times not so much, when they are not built on strong places the rains and earthquakes come, many houses are flooded or crumpled under the pressure, because they were not built on a good foundation.

I remember another story that Jesus told about the man who built his house on the rock, a good foundation, and “the rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”  Another man built his house on the sand, not a good foundation, and “the rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7)  If our foundations are not solid, then we will fall just like the house on the sand when hard times come.  Many houses and lives here are not built on solid ground it will crash to the ground.  As earthquakes happen in Indonesia, we evacuate our buildings and pray that our foundation is strong enough to hold.  But, with God as our Foundation, we can withstand the things that happen in our life.  Though sickness and infections have entered in and things happening during the storms of life, we have a foundation to stand and lean on, if we have Christ.  Sometimes it may seem awful and that we will not be able to stand, but God helps us stand during those times.  These last few months, I have been really sick.  Yesterday, I went to the doctor and had an endoscopy and colonoscopy done and found out that there was an infection caused by something.  On top of that, these past months we have had house stuff, my mom being sick and having complications with her gallbladder surgery and cysts on her ovaries, my mother-in-law being sick, grandmother sick and in critical condition, having to leave the country for Visa stuff, and many things that I cannot even begin to mention.  But, through it all I have been thankful to have a solid foundation, a Savior I can lean on when I seem like I am going to fall apart, a peace within the storm.  Many around me do not have that peace and they stand in the storms and get torn apart.  Please pray with me for these people, pray that the Indonesian people would find the strong foundation to build their lives on, one that will withstand the earthquakes, tsunamis, and storms that will come and that though the physical foundation of their houses may be built on sand and not the rock that their spiritual foundation and hope would be built on the rock.  I have found hope in 2 Timothy 2:19-20 states, “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’”  I pray that the people here will find hope in this as well and turn away from wickedness.

God has been using the moving experience to teach me with weeds and house being built next door, and many more other stories I have not yet told.  I cannot wait to see how God will use this house to be used for His glory.  As Hebrews 4:4-6 says, “For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything…But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.”   I know that this house was built by God through the hands of those that built it and I pray that this house would be His house and that He would be made known in and through this house that He has given us for this time.  Please join me in praying that His Will will be done in this house.  If you would like to receive my bi-weekly prayer updates or would like to know what is going on in our lives beside the bits and pieces you get a glimpse of here, you can e-mail us at courtneyrice@baisedu.org or brynrice@baisedu.org.  God has amazing things for us here, but we need your prayer and financial support.

May 2012 Newsletter from Bryn

Dear Friends, Family, and NICS Support Team:
Usually when I sit down to write each month’s update, it feels like ages since I wrote the last one. This month, however, is a break from that trend, as it seems like I sent the April update only a week or two ago. Many things have happened, though most of it seems like a blur as we have been running full speed ahead to the end of the school year. Yahweh is ever teaching me to seek him and praise him through all the various situations that come our way. I’m not sure that we ever get a reprieve from the flaming arrows of spiritual warfare, and yet, the Lord’s grace and new mercies have been daily helping us claim the victory in Jesus!
Future Planning and Financial Support Opportunities
I don’t typically do this, but before I get to stories from the past month, I want to let you know of some financial support opportunities. In considering our positions as ministers abroad, and upon rereading some of Paul’s words to support his support networks, I want to be as up-front as possible. Though Courtney and I are only living on one income right now, there is nothing that we need. Our Lord Jesus Christ has continually provided for us according to his riches in glory. At the same time, we don’t want to hide from you the vast number of opportunities in which you can support our lives and work here- that your faithful stewardship may be credited to you in the form of imperishable treasure stored in Heaven.
Here are some of the current ways you can support us:
1)      BAIS Music Library Resources: One of my main goals is to build up the music resources available to students in the form of recordings and books. These will also help me to know my content better. I have setup a wishlist on Amazon that you can browse at http://amzn.com/w/1IACQRWF85HTA . Items range from a couple of dollars on up. Used books and recordings are OKAY! Even if you can only afford to purchase one book that will go a long way in helping me stretch the budget that I am given by the school. Purchased resources should be sent to Bryn Rice / 1071 7th St / Erwin, TN / 37650
2)      Sports Equipment:  Courtney and I are really trying to invest are money in things that promote community and fellowship. Looking ahead to next year’s boys’ Bible study, my goal is to be more involved in casual ways – such as playing soccer or (my first love) baseball with them. I could use money in the following ways – $6 to purchase a baseball and $20 to purchase a soccer ball
3)      Cooking Utensils: Courtney is looking forward to a ministry opportunity that seems well within her reach for where the Lord has her right now – that’s investing in the local Sundanese helpers who work for our school families. Many families wish their helpers could cook more Western food, and it just so happens that my wife is an expert at adapting recipes to make delicious dishes from home with the resources we have. She’s hoping to meet weekly to cook and talk over a cup of tea. It would be helpful for her to have some extra cooking supplies. Estimated cost: $25-50.
4)      Sponsor a Song! One of the biggest expenses that I have is purchasing high quality, theologically sound, and age-appropriate music for my school choirs to perform. I am incredibly picky, especially as next year I want to be more deliberate about using the concert music to witness to students and teach them about worshiping the One True God. Though I’m blessed with a large budget, music (when purchased legally) is very expensive, and there are other needs that prevent me from shelling out my whole budget on music. I’m trying to be economical and use as much free music as possible, but it takes hours upon hours to sort through all the junk. If you are interested, you could sponsor a piece of music for approximately $35-45. Once the copies arrive, I would be glad to write your name in it and explain to my students the blessing of someone halfway around the world who was willing to support their music education.
5)      Exercise Equipment: On a more personal support opportunity – Courtney and I have greatly enjoyed our membership for the gym/pool at our local hotel, but the cost of the membership is so great that we probably won’t pursue it for next year. Still, as we discipline ourselves for godliness, we also want to keep disciplining our bodies that we can run this race with endurance. We are looking to buy some basic weights and other equipment to be able to exercise at home. The approximate cost would be $150.
6)      Medical Money: We would appreciate continued prayers for Courtney, as her stomach issues have resurfaced with a vengeance this past week. She is finishing up some new medicine with the hope and prayer that it will be taken care of. But as this problem has kept resurfacing (and she’s still feeling sick despite the new medicine), we’re facing a possibility of making trips to Jakarta and/or flying to Singapore to get a thorough medical checkup.  Transportation costs will quickly add up, so any amount you feel led to give would be helpful.
As you can see this is a list of opportunities ranging from as little as $5 all the way up to larger expenses. No amount of support is too great or small; we appreciate the thoughtfulness and are certain that Yahweh sees the heart behind your giving heart.  If you desire to support us financially, you can send checks to:
Network of International
Christian Schools

3790 Goodman Rd E
Southaven, MS 38672
U.S.A.
Checks should be made out to “NICS/OASIS.” For the memo, you should write our account number: 003385. Also, please feel free to contact me via e-mail for more details about any of these support opportunities.
 
A Closed Door
I received some surprising news at the very beginning of this month. You may recall from updates all throughout this school year about the many happenings with high school praise teams. I eagerly stepped into the leadership role for them this year and, with new knowledge of many things that worked and didn’t work, I was ready to continue building next year on what the Lord did this year.
But I kept praying for the Lord to make it clear that I should do it without me just assuming that I should… and the result of that prayer? He said a very clear, “No.” Needless to say I was surprised by this and a little down about it for a few days, but then I realized that his ways are best. In fact, only a few days after that, new puzzle pieces were revealed as to how next year may look. One of those being that I am the new 7th grade class sponsor! I am extremely excited for this role – though it will be unique and challenging for me as a “specials” teacher. This is a class for which I’ve felt a close affinity the past two years, and I’m looking forward to walking with them through a special year of middle school.
Suffice to say that this opportunity and several others would be much more difficult if I were doing praise teams, as that ministry takes a lot of time. I would greatly appreciate your prayers for Yahweh to continue to reveal to me exactly what my niche of service is here, for I don’t want to be laboring in vain outside of it – even though I may be doing “good” things. Too many people here see and experience the tragic results of us having a heart to do “good” things for which we really aren’t called to do. I still don’t have all the answers, but with each closed door new ones are opening, making the daily walk with our Lord all the more exciting.
Visitors, Recitals, and Curtains
 A couple of weeks ago we were blessed to have a brother and some sisters from the Singapore school come visit us. James, who was in my PFO group and who we connected with in our trip to Singapore, stayed with us and was able to experience some of our lives here in Indonesia – a vastly different experience from theirs in Singapore. I just love being part of a Body for which I can open up my home and also be welcomed into other homes, all of us sacrificing for each other as members of the some Kingdom and having the same desire to see that Kingdom expand.
On the 15th we had our music “recital.” This particular event was a big struggle for me. It got cancelled last year and, in reality, should have been cancelled this year. It was crammed into a full week, and no one entirely knew what it was supposed to be or look like. I made it into a “mini-concert,” with most of the ensembles performing one or two pieces. Overall, the students did great, but I’m glad to have it over. For next year, I took advantage of having two years’ experience at the school and decided to completely change it. Instead of a “mini-concert” in May, we will have a true “recital” in February in which students who are learning instruments outside of BAIS will be invited to display their talents for the glory of God.
A joy of this month has been seeing our new house come together. We were able to setup a beautiful back yard, have painting done, curtains installed, and custom-built cabinets made (which is good since there was absolutely no storage space in the kitchen!) We’re so excited to have this as our “first” home – as much of a blessing as our borrowed house has been, we haven’t necessarily considered it home this year. From the ground-up in planning this house, I feel like it portrays so much of mine and Courtney’s personalities. We are trying to tailor it to not be materialistic, effective for ministry, and ultimately something that we want to offer back up to the Lord for his service. Thanks for everyone who has supported us the past year, providing the resources possible to see the house shape up.
Banquets and Graduation
This month entailed two banquets and our high school graduation. The whole season has been even more exciting than last year, as I have built closer relationships with so many students. First was the 8th Grade Banquet, for which I had the joy of being accompanied by my lovely wife.  The 8th Grade Banquet was a time to celebrate the accomplishments of the 8th graders and also for them to be blessed by their parents as they prepare to transition into high school.
Next came the high school banquet – “One of a Kind.” This would kind of be our school’s prom equivalent, but it just takes the form of a meal together and celebration of the seniors. Each senior chooses someone to speak on behalf of them – friends, family, teachers, etc. – and I was paid the special honor of being asked to give such an address. 준영 (Jun Young) has been my TA and member of the high school choir for two years now. As one of my first, close glimpses into Korean culture, I’ve so enjoyed my time with Jun Young and have several memories with him that will stand out for years to come. For anyone who is interested, I have attached the address that I gave for him along with a photo taken a week later at graduation.
Finally, just this past weekend, we had graduation, and in looking at the stage to our 20 seniors, I couldn’t help but think of how equipped so many of them are to make an impact for the Kingdom wherever the Lord sends them. Of course, some of the seniors are not followers of Christ, and that only compels me to keep teaching music in a way that points to Christ and clearly outlines the cross before my students’ eyes. I consider every moment that the Lord gives me with these students as a special gift – even though I don’t always fully seize it. As we finish up this year and I look to a third year in this community, my heart is even more set to be a servant-leader, seeking to come alongside the paths my students are walking along, sharing in their joys and struggles, and ultimately pointing them to the Good Shepherd who is already walking ahead of them, clearing the way.
Closing Thoughts
We only have 8 days of school left, and I can’t help but feel dizzy when I try to look back and consider all that this year has held. What a growing opportunity it has been, and how indescribably joyful it’s been to have a companion walking with me through all of it. By the next time I write to you, we will have passed our one-year wedding anniversary. I couldn’t be more in love and taken by the heart of someone who’s given up so much to follow me to the ends of the earth – and not only to follow, but to join me in taking up the banner of our King and give her heart to serve the lost here. How deeply blessed I am, my dear support network, and I pray that through whatever hardships you are walking through in your life that the incomprehensible mosaic of God’s plans would shine brightly in your sight, reminding you of the one who gave it all that you might have abundant life through the Spirit.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Bryn Rice

Learning to Be

“It’s not all about doing.  It’s about being.

You need to just let yourself ‘be here’ first before you start doing stuff.”

-Robin Jones Gunn

I have finally been able to define what this season of life is…a season of “being”. For all of my life, I have always been a doer and not a person who just is. I always found ways to do something for the kingdom, but I am realizing more and more than I don’t have to always do something, but I can just be and God can still use me. When arriving in Indonesia, I was so busy with doing: lesson plans, adjusting to marriage, and trying to figure out the culture, but I was forcing myself to do what God had not made me to do. The last five months have been a very different season, I am learning to “be.” I do not need to do everything, but I need “to be” in Christ. I am learning the language by being and practicing in my everyday life and with the help of my wonderful tutor and I am being and allowing God to bring opportunities daily my way, whether that would be cooking with my helper, having long conversations with my helper, UNO games with my helper’s daughter, or long walks with no agenda. God is renewing me and allowing me to see the culture and allowing me really love even more being in Indonesia. Through this time of being God is slowly revealing to me ways that I can “be” effective and use the gifts and skills He has given me to use for His glory.  I am still figuring this one out…stay tuned for more information in a later post. Sometimes it is not easy to “be” and I want to “do”, but God is showing me His Will and allowing me to rest in Him and Him alone during this time. I challenge you to stop doing of your own strength and to start being in God’s strength and allow Him to do amazing things in you.

Our new Senior Pastor helped demonstrate this greatly in his sermon this morning during both the and English service in his sermon on Bezalel and Oholiab. Most of you are probably thinking…who?  Bezalel and Oholiab were the two people God appointed by name and whom God had given ability and skills for the different crafts needed to construct the Tabernacle (Exodus 35-36). He continued to tell us that we are called to do great things like both Bezalel and Oholiab and we may not be recognized or known, but that God has given us each skills to different purposes and we should use them for His kingdom. Pastor Ardi also warned us against being “Superman” and relying on our own ability. We are not Superman, and our abilities are given by God, so we should be and allow God to use us to do amazing things through the skills that He has given us with.

I don’t know what season you are in, but I challenge you to allow yourself to “be” in Christ. I also challenge you if you are in a season of doing that you would do within the skills God has given and you would do within His strength and not in your own ability.

Prayer Requests and Praises

Praises:

–          I am so thankful for my wonderful Mom this Mother’s day (or at least it is in America).  I am also thankful that my Mom is healing after a very long recovery after her Gallbladder surgery….Praise God!!

–          Housing stuff is slowly coming together and it looks like we will be able to completely move into our new house at the beginning of June. Only thing that must be done is to put curtains up around the windows.

Prayer Requests:

Indonesia:

–          Pray for the 150 million unbelievers and the many unreached groups in Indonesia.

–          Pray for the 600 Baptist Churches around Indonesia and of those 600 churches 200 of those churches do not have pastors at this time. Pray for workers to be sent from the harvest from other countries and from inside Indonesia.

–          Pray for the believers and Ms to stand strong amidst the persecution that surrounds us.

–          Pray for the spiritual and material poverty.

–          Pray for the government of this nation.

BAIS:

–          Pray for the many upcoming events:

  • Tuesday, May 15 (around 2:00 AM central time) is the Music department at BAIS last performance. Pray that His Name will be made known.
  • Wednesday, May 16 is Middle School Banquet that Bryn and I will be attending.
  • Saturday, May 19 is Senior Banquet.  Pray for the Seniors and this time of building them up before they leave.  Bryn will be speaking on behalf of one of the Seniors, please pray that God would give Him the words to say.

–          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 outgoing staff: Diyan Yap (moving to Brazil after getting married in Indonesia and then having another ceremony in NY with his fiancé who is working at the NICS school in Brazil), Lori Newsom (going to US for summer and then to India), Kelly Thompson (going to America for a season), Janine and Gregg Hegle (going to America for summer and then going to NICS school in Peru), Jason and Janet Phillips and their 5 kids (to states for a season of seeking God’s will, will be leaving May 31st),  Adam and Bekk (will be doing to Australia and then possibly India), and Yuhei Taguchi (moving to Canada).  Please pray for great last weeks and for their transition to the different countries that they are going to.

–          Pray for the remaining of the semester and that God would be working in the hearts of the students.

Us:

–          Pray for protection against spiritual forces that have been raging.

–          Pray for God to continue to reveal what opportunities to pursue.

–          Pray for financial support.

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.

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.