John 3:8

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Near the beginning of my time here, my housemate taught me how to properly eat tilapia from the whole fish.

It's really an interesting thing, because before she told me, I would always end up with crazy amounts of bones in my meat. Because I didn't know where the bones were, I didn't know where to start, so I would just dig in, and make even more of a mess of things. Gia taught me where to start--from the middle, where the backbone of the fish is located, and just to cut it open gently. If you press too hard, as I had been doing, you break other bones and pick some up from the other side of the fish--in short, you're left with a mess.
Why do I tell you this story? Because I think it has a lot of implications for our spiritual lives. I have slowly been reading through a book John Sender gave me called, The Praying Life: Connecting With God in A Distracting World by Paul Miller. In the first few chapters, he discusses our need to come to God as little children, and part of that is that we come to him as we are.
Now we've heard this a million times in our lives. But how many times when we pray, do we try to make prayer feel a certain way, or look a certain way? We end up praying generic sentences like "thank you for this day", or " "please bless so-and-so" or at least I do...

So, do we often pray what we think we "should" be praying, in hopes that it will make us more spiritual? Do we flounder around, trying to think of "good things to pray"? I have definitely felt like that, and not unfrequetnly, if I am honest with myself and with you.

And so I found that prayer is like eating tilapia. We have to start at the right place--not a "cookie-cutter, spiritual" place. Rather, a real place--wherever you are. I found that I don't have to think of 'the right things' to pray; to make sure I pray the most spiritual prayers; to make sure I am having a 'deep' conversation with God. In fact, if I try to do this, I am trying too hard, and I will only end up with a bigger mess. I have ended up feeling like a hypocrite.

Paul Miller said in his book, "The kingdom comes when Jesus becomes king of your life. But it has to be your life. You can't create a kingdom that doesn't exist, where you try to be better than you really are. Jesus calls that hypocrisy--putting on a mask to cover the real you.
"Ironically, many attempts to teach people to pray encourage the creation of a split personality. You're taught to "do it right." Instead of the real, messy you meeting God, you try to re-create yourself by becoming spiritual. No wonder prayer is so unsatisfying.
So instead of being paralyzed by who you are, begin with who you are. That's how the gospel works. God begins with you. It's a little scary because you are mesed up."

Praying things only because they seem "right" or "spiritual" never gets me anywhere. Instead, I am left with more things to sort out in the future, more bones to pick out, if you will. the more I try to overlay a better me into my prayer life, the more I am decieved.

So I give up. I'm done trying. Instead, I am going to pray for God to help me start from who I am.

Messy as I am.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The non-necessities of American culture

So, since I've been living outside of the US for 9 months now, I have realized there are quite a few things we are so used to using in America that we don't think about the possibility of not having them. Really, though, they are non-essentials.. Here's a list of a few things that I've realized we don't "need" in the way we have come to be dependant on them :
Hot water (for washing dishes, for showering..)
An overhead shower.

what we use here for showering--buckets
Air conditioning.
Flushing toilets.
Toilet paper. Mmhmm. old school style. 
Some people in towns near me don't even have bathrooms, running water, or electricity. Now, i realize that this is usually not sanitary, and can cause lots of illnesses, due to using the same river for a bathroom and a shower, but at the same time, people live that way...

during a brown-out.. sitting by candle-light

Some other things people go without here, and make it just fine:
Self-filling and -running clothes washing machine
A washing machine in general
A house free of ants, or cockroaches for that matter
An electric stove

A gas stove.. (it's called coal).

the kitchen at the girls' dorm
matches..? sometimes. If you're out, why not just rub two sticks together...

Now, this is not just a post to tell you how much people 'rough it' here, or how different life is. Let this never become something that just fascinates us, lest we forget the people behind the different tasks that these things imply. Just because we have these things in our homes in America doesn't make us an better, or better off for that matter, than the people living here without them. In fact, recently, I was thinking about how much more complicated and frustrating our lives can be because of owning machines and devices designed to "make our life easier." I mean, when you own a dishwasher, a washing machine and dryer, toilets, showers, stoves, etc. you also have to spend time on their upkeep. Machines break. Then we have to fix them, and that costs money. So yes, our modern "conveniences" can be helpful, but they can also be a big pain. 

People here who don't have those things may spend more time on tasks we have come to dislike. That's not to say, though, that their lives are not enjoyable. I'm sure when students do laundry in the dorms, even if it's not fun for them, they spend a lot of time near each other and probably talk while they're doing their chore. How many people do you talk to while you're doing your laundry? What about washing dishes? Every night, I wash dishes with my housemate, and we talk or sing along with the radio together. It's something simple, but this has built a tighter friendship between the two of us. For probably a month or two, we cooked at home over coals. It took more time, yes, but it made me so much more appreciative of having something to eat, and some way to cook it.
girls doing their laundry together at the dorm
What other things can you think of that we use in America a lot but really could probbaly go without, or at least spend less time on? How about the very thing we're both using right now--computers? How dependant are we on our computers? How much time do you spend on them that you could spend face-to-face getting to know people?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Music in Aisa

Sometimes I wonder if life back in the States will seem really quiet and boring to me when I return.

Here, I think just about everyone loves music, and singing. People often have their radios on, and they will sing karaoke at all hours of the day—even in the early morning. Our houses are really close together, and the walls do not insulate sounds, hardly at all. So it’s really not uncommon for me to have background music provided by the neighbors while I’m eating breakfast at 6am. In fact, I was recently woken up at 5:30 by my neighbor's blaring music. Some days, if we are eating breakfast and everything is really quiet, I feel like something is strange.. then I realize that the music is missing.

Just to give you an idea of the kind of music, there isn’t much of a generational difference when it comes to song choices. Children all the way up to grandparents will listen to the same music together. So it’s not uncommon to hear One Direction, Michael Buble, Guy Sebastian, Simon and Garfunkel, and then back to Brian McKnight, all in a ½ hour time span….recently, it's been "total eclipse of the heart" that has taken over the neighbors karaoke...

Also, there seems to be this phenonemon where the malls will play songs like "heart of worship" by Matt Redman, "Mighty to Save" by hillsong and "Unfailing Love" by Chris Tomlin.. not even kidding. I defninitely have heard those songs playing. It's kind of interesting and refreshing too, to walk through a place that reflects the materialism in this world--a mall--and have a sweet reminder of what is really important, like God's unfailing love for us.

Even though the loud music at all times can sometimes be wearying, I also find it quite enjoyable. You can be at a restaurant, and all at once, the server behind the counter begins singing. Loudly, without reservation, on or off key. It doesn't matter. I like the way people here are not ashamed to be heard, even if they are not the best vocalist. They enjoy singing, so why not?
It's not uncommon to see a group of employees gathered around the karaoke machine in an appliance store or a department store. I think it's partially advertisement to attract customers, but hey, it doesn't hurt to pass the down time at work that way, either!

In the same vein, people like to dance (and make jokes). I can't tell you how many times I have hear people say "thanks for teaching me.." and others jump in with "how to duggie?" One of the most interesting jobs I have seen here is the traffic policeman. I don't know if it's an actual rule, but it sure is a common thing to see the traffic cop dancing in the middle of the intersection as he directs the vehicles where to go. Because this is so popular, there are even videos of this online. Check out this link for an example of a particularly talented cop!
Sometimes, places like coffee shops and restaurants also like to play cds of cover songs. Usually the covers are of pop songs, hip-hop songs, or Michael Jackson, but no matter what the sound of the original, they are all done in a "lounge/elevator music" style, very smooth, and low-key. it's kind of funny to hear a girls soft voice slowly singing Kesha's song "tick tock"... "don't stop, make it pop, dj blow my speakers up.."

The joys of living in another country! ;-)

Sunday, September 16, 2012


A couple of weeks ago, the University we are helping had its "foundation week," commonly known as Intramurals (or intrams, cause people here like to shorten everything! ha!) which commemorates the beginning of the University by having all the colleges compete against one another in various sporting events. It was a very welcomed break from classes, and a good chance to just hang out with students on campus, with no time restrictions.

The opening ceremony was held at a huge "gymnasium" in the city, so we traveled there Monday morning. The main event was a cheer dance competition. Even though most of them had lots of men in the group dancing inappropriately, I enjoyed this group's act because they used a lot more mechanics and technique instead of just being "sexy."

As we walked around campus that week, these are some of the sports we saw..

for the basketball games, they kept track of the score by hand, on a chalk board! Talk about old school! =)
I was really impressed by the number of sporting events that were taking place. The sports list included volleyball, track, baseball, softball, soccer, badminton, table tennis, chess, darts, and of course, basketball. It also included a national sport, Sepak Takraw. This sport is like a combination of volleyball and hackey sack. It is played with a bamboo ball about the size of a softball. There are 3 players on either side of the net, and they must use their head and feet only to pass the ball over the net. It’s actually really fun to watch.
one of our students playing Sepak Takraw

One day during Intrams, they also had an "open dorm" event. All of the dorm residents prepared their rooms, and judges went around to award prizes for the best decorated. The girls go all out for this event. I mean all out. One room was really creative, and turned a bed sideways to create a "throne" look.. (not sure if that'd be allowed in our dorms in the States, but it sure looked really nice!)

Almost all of the rooms also decorated their ceilings too. This one looked particularly cool.

In many rooms, girls prepared food to serve to any guests. We stopped and ate with one of our students in her room.

In addition to sports and dorm events, there were a lot of vendors who set up their table/shop on the campus, selling bracelets, food, drinks, and even offering karaoke.

I hope you enjoyed getting a small glimpse into University life here. I know I did.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Earlier this year, I was told that people begin to celebrate Christmas in September.. why? Becuase it's the start of the brrr months... initially I thought that was really funny, and kinda cheesey.

Today, on September 1st, I still think that. But I love it. It just makes me laugh, because here in SE Asia, we live in a tropical climate. There are no real "brrr" months. The lowest temp is probably in the 70s..

At home, Christmas always happens in winter.. temps are probably in the 30s or 40s, and there could be snow on the ground. A couple of years ago, we pulled my nephew around in the snow that covered our front yard.


We also dress kids like this.

(yes, this is a shameless insertion of my niece and nephew into this post, cause they're so cute!)

But people here like to play with words and make puns a lot. And I know they see a lot of Christmas ads, hear lots of Christmas songs and see lots of christmas decorum involving snow and fireplaces and the weather being cold. They've probably seen gingerbread houses decorated of course with frosting that looks like snow..

So what do they naturally think about? The berrr months!

And what better excuse for extending the celebration of Jesus' birth. So a very Merry Christmas to you... in Septemberrrr!!!
(and Octoberrr and Novemberrr, and Decemberrr.)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Where you go, I'll go.

I would like to introduce you to my friend Stephanie.

Steph is a good friend of mine from university. We met freshman year, and pretty much instantly became good friends. We discovered that we are quite similar and  happened to be taking the same course--Social Work. So as we proceeded to go through the program together, we spent a lot of time hanging out, talking about God's word, taking pictures, going on adventures and roadtrips, giggling together, praying and crying together and praising God together. Oh yea, we also spent time being completely stressed over our Social Work Theses, and then rejoicing that they were done! haha. Stephanie and I even shared an apartment for a year. We often talked about the places we (mostly she) wanted to go and the things we wanted to do..So it wasn't surprising that the day we walked in graduation together, we both left within 24 hours for our respective trainings to go overseas. So, you see, I am not the only one living abroad.

Stephanie was also living in foreign countries this last year. 11 of them. She was moving each month with a group, to serve people in 4 different continents, in countless different ways, from loving on orphans, to building buildings, to mentoring college students, cooking for teams of 20-30 people, bathing kids in the street, shoveling cow poop on a farm, and much, much more.. I could never pretend to tell about all the things she did. If you are interested, you can check out her blog here. With that being said, Stephanie returned to the States in June, and after just 2 months has again left her home.. but this time to go to Georgia. The state, not the country. ;)

Talk about brave.
I know this post seems really random, because it's not about me.. But I have just been thinking a lot about her recently and am really impressed by the way that she lives her life. Steph, in case you didn't already know, I am proud of you! I am so glad to call you my friend.

That's my crazy awesome friend, for ya! :) 

I've been challenged so much in the past year and a half by Stephanie's writings and experiences, but more so by the heart and the person behind them. It's sad for me to say that we've talked I think 2 or 3 times in the last year in 'person', aka Skype, and somewhat sporadically through email. Still, I am just as excited for this next step in her life! It's awesome for me to think about all the things that she has seen and heard...and that now she will continue to do something about it, from the States (and maybe Spain for a bit). It's encouraging to me to see God move in unexpected ways, knowing that He has great plans for us. It doesn't have to mean living in a foreign country. Who knows? It might. But either way, there is faith involved.

No matter where we are, we must always trust that God will provide for our needs. And that's exactly what Stephanie's doing right now. She is still in the process of raising support so that she can live down south and do the work she believes God has for her right now. But she's already there. In Georgia. I'm so challenged and blessed by that. I'm sure that She would not mind if some extra people wanted to help her out by contributing to her financially ;-) so if you're interested, let me know, or go to her blog and contact her through that.

But even if you do not feel led to support financially, or follow Stephanie's blog, I hope you are encouraged to follow Jesus. No matter where He leads. So, what's next for you? Maybe you're not planning to physically move, but God is asking you to do something differently. Maybe he's asking you to step outside of your comfortable living and engage people around you.. those who have less than you, those who are not just like you, who need someone to love them. (Oh yea, you can also be praying for me, as I consider what to do when I return to the States in January.) So whatever it is, I pray that we would all have the courage and the faith to follow, one step at a time. Wherever He goes.

As they say here, "Thank you. That is all."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

You know you're not in America when....

There have been so many times recently when I see or hear something and and realize it is so typical of life here, and so NOT typical of life in the States. My friend Candice (another intern here) and I laugh about these kinds of things all the time now. So here are some of them I have thought about recently..
You know you're not in America when:

1) There's karaoke playing next door at 6am, and it sounds like it's in your house. (the walls are really thin)

2) Small lizards that crawl around inside your house are welcome guests, because they dont bother you like the other guests do (cockroaches, ants). And hey, they're kinda cute!
They also sometimes get stuck to your car window as you're drving..? true story.

3) You say a word like "grape" and your students don't understand you until you tell them it's a small fruit. Their reaction? "Ah... grip!"

4) You see little kids running as they roll a tire down a dirt road with a stick/ their hand. This is a daily game, like it used to be in the 1920s or so..

5) The kids on your street run after you calling, "aaatttteee!" and then bless you, like this:

6) As you walk down the street, you say, "something smells like poop" and you're probably right. Two seconds later, the smell has changed--it's now smelly fruit, then fish. then burning trash, then...

I'm sure there are more that I can't remember now, or I will come up with later, but I wanted to share these with you.. sometimes things like this just make me laugh.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Like cold water to a thirsty soul... is good news from a far country.

Have I ever told you about my (sponsored) child, Ruth?  She lives in Rwanda and is 9 years old. Over the past 4 ½ years, Ruth has grown to be so precious to me. She has a good sized family, including a pair of twin siblings! Some of you know how much I really want to go visit her someday, to meet her and her family, and those who work with them. I often try to picture what it must look like where they live… She said before she likes to run and play ball. I wonder, ‘what kind of ball does she play with’? A soccer ball, maybe? Does she run in a dirt field outside of her school building?

Today, I received a letter from Ruth! Man, those letters make me so happy! At the same time, they are such a good reminder to be praying for her. I see her picture in my room every day, but sadly I don’t always stop to pray. Her father wrote the letter updating me on Ruth and the family’s health and livelihood. They just got a cow! So now they have manure for fertilizer, and are hopeful that they can harvest crops this year even though its sounds like heavy rains destroyed many.  
Sometimes I just long to be there and see the things they talk about… for instance, I sent money for her birthday this year, and her father told me that they  were able to have a party for her “by cooking good food”.. He also said they were able to buy her some new clothes and shoes, and then added “and join her in happiness.” How precious!

The last thing he added in the letter was that they are getting a door for their house. Wow. I can’t imagine living without a door on my house. Imagine all that must mean: open to strangers, insects, animals, etc. What privacy or security do they have? What a huge blessing, to be able to provide for such basic needs!
this house may look similar to one Ruth would live in

SO why did I decide to share this with all of you? First, so that you might also join in my happiness. But second; maybe you also support a child somewhere in the world. Do you think of him/her often? Do you pray for them? Do you even write to them every few months?? I would challenge you, along with myself, to be more involved, more invested, really in their lives. Pray for them. Ask God to meet their needs. Don’t just send your money and forget about them like I so often have. Their lives are moving along there just as ours are wherever we are. Don’t miss your opportunity to “watch” God work in theirs.

Friday, August 3, 2012


Every year, our organization runs free medical clinics in nearby towns. These clinics provide people with a check-up, medicine, basic health and hygiene information, and counseling, as well as a dentist for tooth extractions sometimes. This year, we held clinics in 6 different towns, and were able to see a total of 972 patients (men, women and children)! I had the chance to counsel a number of the women. It is heart-breaking sometimes to hear their situations, their physical illnesses which are so unnecessarily prevalent, and emotional needs. Still, it's awesome to be able to provide help to so many people, who might never otherwise receive these services.

praying with a woman at the counseling station

pretty self-explanatory

entertaining the children during the lunch break

A tip for running International Races: Do it!

Most people who know me know that I love sports. I played soccer for 8 years, field hockey for 2, and love to play baseball, tennis, volleyball--basically anything that involves people and energy. But I've never been really big on running. I do it sometimes to try to stay healthy, but I wouldn't say I'm a X-country runner.
But thanks to my new friend Candice who is also living here for 6 months, I am proud to say that I ran in my first official race! It was a 5K here in the city.. and oh yea, it was at night!
there we are!
Hmm.. did I also forget to mention that they did not rope off the streets for the race?? Cause they didn't.....
notice all the trafic still driving normally... BAHHAA
 Because of this, Candice and I were laughing for the first 30 seconds of the race, as we weaved our way through tricycles and motorcycles... It was pretty hilarious!

still looking good.. this was only a few minutes in.


We did it!
We finished in under 30 minutes, and only walked for about 20 seconds. I must say, night running in a night race in Asia was an excellent choice--and an experience I won't quickly forget.

Here are some of our friends who came to cheer us on! Thanks guys!

One down... ?? to go!

June; the month of visitors

As I was recovering from Dengue, a lot happened here. It seems June is THE month for interns and short-term groups to arrive. We had 14 people from 4 different places come in a span of only 2 ½ weeks! Here are some of my experiences during that time:
dinner with some interns and friends
Besides the interns, my Social Work professor from the States also came to visit his family for some special occasions. One of those was a wedding which I was honored to be able to attend! I especially loved learning about the cultural traditions they have for weddings here. There is a lot of symbolism used, as they pin a lace covering over the couple. It is laid over the bride’s head, showing her husband’s authority over her, and on the groom’s shoulder, showing his responsibility, and submission to God’s authority over him. Then a beaded chord is tied around them, representing their new unity.

Plus, I had a good time just visiting with my prof and seeing him in a completely different environment! Thanks Lloyd!

While we had a group of 9 from Michigan here, we ate unch together one day... Now, I had eaten the same meal before, but this time the tuna I ate was really spicy! As I was chewing, I thought, I can't believe it's so hot that it's hurting my mouth!, but, just like I was taught as a child (thanks mom!) I finished what was on my plate. After about 20 minutes, my face was hot and my head was pounding. Come to find out, it was a reaction to bad tuna (which the nationals called "itchy tuna") and few others had the same reaction. Still, it was nothing a little benedryl and rest couldn't handle.
much of my body turned bright red from the reaction to the tuna!

The last week of June brought some good friends and some welcome down time at the beach. I loved having Paul and Annalise here and showing them around! We did a lot while they were here, including visiting our farm, and attending my English class. Paul and Annalise even sang some special songs at our campus social event! I miss them both already, and I know our students do too!

having fun while hiking at the farm!

Here are some more fun pics from that time period:

washing dishes after lunch

some beautiful scenery.. tipalia farms

Annalise and I feeding the baby goat, born the day we visited!

just a ride in a tricycle..


special music

this little girl was chasing a chicken! so cute.