Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Accessing Power

I forget that electricity is an expensive commodity in much of the world. Every outlet here in Malaysia has an individual switch to turn it off when it's not being used. So at night when we leave the church building, we turn off all power to everything. (That's when I'm glad to hold the flashlight while Josh locks up with three different keys, because turning off the power also turns off the light at the head of the three flights of stairs.)

The first time I used my adapter with my hair dryer from home, I was so disappointed because I thought it wasn't working. Then I remembered to turn on the outlet and it worked just fine.

I'm sure there are many spiritual applications to this situation, but the one that occurs to me first is that we never have to turn off a switch to conserve the power we receive from God. His power is in unlimited supply. On the other hand, we do not benefit from his power without choosing to use it. In that sense, we always want to keep our power source going so the Holy Spirit can help us out at any time.

Our "switches" to maintain our power source are Bible reading and prayer. All our project is centered on teaching the Bible, and that makes me sometimes lazy about my own personal Bible study. Now prayer is a different matter--I'm praying constantly for the wisdom I need in working with our readers, fellow Christians, and our team. I have the confidence that I can always access that power that "comes down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." Thank God for our easy access to both the Bible and prayer!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Spiritual Questions

As Josh, Gina, and I discussed our readers, it seemed to me that their readers had much more spiritual questions than mine did. I realized that I needed to direct the discussion toward more spiritual things. Especially when the readers have pretty good English, it's easy to simply discuss interesting things but not spiritual things.

So I prayed that my readers would ask more questions about spiritual things. And we all know to watch out what we pray for! Today my reader YiKe (rhymes with "Mikey" of the LIFE commercials) was very interested in spiritual matters and asked excellent questions. Here are a few: Do Christians have to marry only Christians? If a boy goes to Thailand and gets surgery to become a girl, can God forgive that? Do Christians have to go to church every Sunday? Is there another way to baptize besides immersion? If God is our Father, is Mary our mother?

I'm certainly glad God was behind all this, because I'm confident that he sent his Holy Spirit to guide my answers. How else could I have answered all that as well as studying a lesson in just 50 minutes! YiKe's friend Vanessa is a believer so I'm sure YiKe has learned just enough from her to come up with some questions on her own. But the timing for more spiritual questions was pretty good, after praying just yesterday and today for more such questions. I can't wait to see what God will send with the rest of my readers today!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lodgings and More

The house where we are staying is lovely. Our hosts, Steven and Eileen, are very gracious and accommodating. And last night when we returned, I felt a bit like the farmer who took the wise man's advice to move all the animals in his house in order to appreciate his original situation.

In this case, I had been rooming with about 867 (estimate, of course!) action figures that belong to the two sons of the household, now 13 and 18. They ranged in theme from Ninja Turtles to Star Wars figures to Toy Story figures and anything possible in between, plus dinosaurs. The upside was that Knox loved to visit my room all the time! His imagination went wild with all the possibilities.

While we were on our two days off, Steven and Eileen had removed the toys and replaced them with a bed, possibly for Steve when he comes. What a change! Wide open spaces in which to put things, just as I'd adjusted to keeping most stuff in my (broken) suitcase. It was a delightful surprise. I should add here how much I appreciate 13-year-old Isaac for giving up his room for me.

One morning I awoke to the patter of little feet in my room and I assumed it was Knox. "What do you think you're doing in here?" I asked playfully. When Isaac timidly said, "I'm getting my clothes for school," I was mortified. I hope he understood my explanation that I thought it was Knox!

So now the real test of Knox's loyalty to me will be if he keeps coming to visit in my room....

And about my broken suitcase: The journey to Malaysia was its maiden voyage, and it arrived with a split seam of about 10 inches. As far as I could tell, nothing had fallen out, so it obviously held through most of the trip.

Last night I put all my clothes on the new bed and today took the suitcase to a place called "Minit Cobbler," near the church building. The man examined it carefully and decided he can sew it back up, but may have to remove and then replace the wheel base. He said it would take 3 hours, so I hesitantly asked the cost. He said 35 Ringits, which is roughly $11 US. I am delighted that it can be repaired rather than replaced, though it is a duffel bag and not one I'd chose to carry again. I used it because it was the lightest wheeled suitcase we own. And I'm sure I'll appreciate that aspect when I pack it to return home.

Church today was wonderful and inspiring. Some of the teens had taken so seriously Josh's prompting to use encouraging words that they made up several postcards with encouraging words on the front that the members can send to each other. What a great response to a sermon! It's also a reminder to me to be more encouraging to my teammates. I am so used to their doing a great job that I may forget to affirm them as much as I should. The announcement-giver at church this morning said Thursday's party was the best they had EVER had here, so we are pleased. God is so good and we have so much to be grateful for (such as taking our laundry in this morning and picking it up this afternoon, all folded and ready to wear tomorrow!)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cooling Techniques

Malls and grocery stores have central air conditioning, but homes and small offices, such as the church building, do not. They have individual room air conditioners that are installed on a wall at the ceiling. They operate with a remote control that usually has a holder near the door. The temperature can be regulated through the remote and these air conditioners do a terrific job of cooling a room. The large room of the church that is used for the Sunday assembly and that we'll use for tonight's party has three such air conditioners. They cool the rooms very well until a crowd arrives. Then it can get a bit warm.

Soon I hope to post some pictures of our party as well as our space.

Part of our conversation with our readers is to show pictures of our families and homes. One reader asked if our home was air conditioned all year round. I told him that in the winter it was very cold and we needed heat. He said, "So you have a heat conditioner?" It's very strange to think of entire nations that have highways and cars and skyscrapers and yet have no concept of needing heat--ever at all.

A constant temperature certainly simplifies a lot. No seasonal clothing, no need to change out closets. No need for cold weather foods or looking forward to the foods of a different season. Hot drinks are the norm here. People strongly believe drinking hot drinks cools you down. And well they may--if you like the idea of sweating so much that the air then cools you because you are so damp!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Breaking Our Own Records

We are so excited about the great response to our lessons! The groundwork laid by the Christians here has made a great difference. Yesterday Josh, Gina, and I put in a marathon day, meeting with a total of 18 readers! Averaging 4 each would be an excellent turnout, but we obviously exceeded that. But the record-breaking part is that as of Wednesday afternoon at 2, we have had NO no-shows! We are delighted, of course, for on every previous project there have been times when a reader simply did not come or call.

Today I had a student whose family speaks English in the home. That's a first, and of course his English is better than average. It's interesting that he does not feel overconfident and still wants help with his English. When I have a reader that skilled, I'm thrilled when I can teach him new vocabulary or help with his pronunciation.

We are getting ready for our party tomorrow night with the Southwestern theme. We expect a crowd since the church families are supplying dinner first. Here is where the United States and Malaysia have something in common. As they said, college students will always come if a meal is provided!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Schoolchildren Worldwide

From the kitchen and bathroom windows of our third-floor church complex, I can see the children coming and going to school and can hear two familiar sounds: children playing on the playground and school bells calling them to return to class.

Those sounds are the same everywhere I've been, from Tennessee/Kansas/North Carolina/Illinois/Kentucky to New Zealand to Fiji to Malaysia. It's a unifying sound, reminding us all that we are the same at the beginning, changed only by our surroundings and our culture.

My readers are all very earnest and eager to improve their English. Today a third-year college student said her roommate had flunked out and had to go home, so she is living alone. "Do you want to come live with me?" she asked, smiling. I told her I was tempted to take her up on her offer because she lives much closer to the church building than the Christians we're staying with. But I'll stay with the plan.

Today I have readers without a break from 2 until 7 pm. We supposedly have 10 minutes between readers, and sometimes that works out, but not always. We are excited that every single person scheduled has come! One reason, of course, is the encouragement and reminders given by our angel/secretary, Doreen.

Today Doreen took us across the street to eat at an Indian restaurant. We had a delicious dish that was a scrambled egg/chopped chicken mixture between two pieces of naan, with a curry dipping sauce. We love trying new foods, and we're enjoying most of them.

I appreciate all the prayers on behalf of our readers and us. I think we've finally gotten past the jet-lag problems and are settling into our routine. Kinley and I just made a run to the local grocery store, where we bought cereal and milk for our breakfasts here. We also managed to pick up some Coke Light and TimTams, for those of you who know what treats they are, since TimTams are not available in the U.S.

Now off to my marathon afternoon!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Worshiping in KL

We had a wonderful day with the Wangsa Maju Church of Christ in Kuala Lumpur. Our new friend Matthew led the singing very well. Josh taught a class on Mark and then preached as well, preaching on "Words of Life." His points were on encouraging words, commissioning words, and convicting words. Excellent points that held the attention well.

The women of the church had prepared porridge (kind of a chicken/rice soup) and noodles for everyone to share for lunch. There was also a pasta salad made by the American member here, which was more familiar than the other food. All was very tasty.

After we ate, we were included in a meeting about our LST plans. They wanted to know what parties we are having and how they could help. Terrific! They plan to feed our students before each party, so that should ensure a good turnout. Our first party is with the Southwestern theme, and we are supplying chips and salsa for the snack. The American volunteered to add con queso dip as well, so that's a great addition to our plan.

We're reading from three until seven each Sunday. Today I just had two readers but Josh had four! His schedule is packed, but Gina and I are fairly busy, too. As people realize that they can come more than once a week, our schedules are filling up.

We are delighted that the people here have such an interest in helping us have a successful project! I've never seen so many people so involved in all aspects of an LST project. God has truly responded to all the prayers on our behalf. We will continue to pray for our readers to have open hearts to God's truth.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Chinese Readers

People here are very aware of their status as Malays, Chinese, or Indian. Malays are all Muslim and get many more privileges than others. My first two readers are typical of our group--Chinese students. These young women are called Yi Ke and Wai Chan. Wai Chan has already invited me to be her Facebook friend, and all the other comments on her page are in Chinese. Both of them read English very well and are eager for help with English. When I explained that "day" was not the correct pronunciation of "they," we had quite a discussion about the two ways of pronouncing "th." When I mentioned "thin," Wai Chan said, "Not 'tin'?"

I told her that was a metal and did not sound the same as "thin."

She said, "But my English teacher said it is 'tin.'" Thus the problem of having other Chinese teach their English classes. So once I started listening closely, I realized that most of the Chinese at the church do not pronounce "th" at all! That sound is not in their language and is very hard for them.

Our best "pronouncers" are those who have watched lots of American movies and tried to emulate the pronunciation. It also helps if they've lived in the US at some time.

Last night we ate at a Food Court that was quite different from our mall ones. It was outside, with 40 vendors, looking more like state fair vendors. We got a table in the center that was numbered, and as we went to the food stalls and wanted to eat something they had, we just told them what we wanted and then our table number. We paid them when they delivered it to our table. Very busy and interesting. The food was good, but more bland than we expected. It was an excellent cultural experience for us, and one we wouldn't have attempted without being taken there by some of our new church friends. Our adventure continues!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Upstairs?

So our new friend Pearly, a member of the Wangsa Maja church here, told us it's important not to leave any food out when we leave the building. She went on to explain that some civets escaped from the local zoo and have been seen in the apartment above the church's area on the third floor of this building. They hear them pacing upstairs, so, in order to allay the fears of the children, they refer to them as "Mr. and Mrs. Stanley."

We're told any food left in the kitchen can disappear, thanks to the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley. I'm glad they avoid people!

Working in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Safely arrived! What wonderful words, especially when linked to both our team and our luggage!

We were met at the KL airport at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday by two cars and hosts who were most hospitable. They took us to the home of Steven and Eileen Shee, where we are all staying. We settled in, went to lunch at an Indian restaurant nearby, and then Steven took us to the church building.

The church meets two floors above a 7/11, which makes it an easy way to tell people how to find us and makes it an easy way to get a quick snack when needed. After arriving here 26 hours after leaving Cincinnati, a little caffeine was definitely welcome.

We were warmly greeted by Doreen, the church secretary who is sweet, efficient, and helpful. She had already signed up some people in advance, and we had only been at the building a few minutes when students began to arrive. We signed people up from 4 until 8 pm, and each of us has a full schedule. Josh has 17 readers and Gina and I have 15 or 16 each. Everything is still in flux the first few days, so we'll see how it falls out in the long run.

The students who came last night are for the most part freshman at a nearby college. many of them went to Chinese-speaking schools and even though they have taken English in school are ill-equipped to hear all their professors in English. We hope to bridge that gap for them and in so doing also share Jesus with them.

This morning Josh's devotional was based on Acts 17, and truly most of our readers come from a background of "many gods." We hope to point them to the one true God and his Son Jesus Christ.

Knox and Kinley are "troopers," as always. In the hours when we have four readers and just three workers, we will take two readers at a time and let Kinley assist with that group. She would like to take a reader all by herself, but this is a good way for her to get in her "student teaching" practice. The multiples are often based on transportation situations where people must come together.

Clearly, God is alive and well and working in KL! We are so grateful for all the prayers that brought us safely here and will see us through all the studies in the days ahead.

One Knox comment from yesterday at Steven and Eileen's house: "I am going to go downstairs and after I go downstairs then I will come back upstairs." At least he knows to report in when he's changing venues! Right now he is playing and singing "I Will Call Upon the Lord." Inspiring!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Celebration Continues

Though I was not eager for Ruth to leave this earth, I feel blessed that I could participate in her joyous memorial service that was truly a celebration of her life. Knowing that on June 14 I’m leaving the United States for seven weeks, I expected her to last beyond that time and that I would not be here. This was a major blessing for me, and the blessing for the family was that she was herself to the very end.

On June 14 I will leave Cincinnati for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with son Josh and his family—Gina, Kinley (9), and Knox (3½). Steve will join us July 6. Our project is under the auspices of Let’s Start Talking of Fort Worth, Texas. We offer free English lessons and use a workbook of the stories in the book of Luke. In this way, our readers learn basic Bible information as we help them with their English conversation skills. In our six weeks of study, we become friends with them and often stay in touch after we leave. We work to connect them with local Christians who will continue the friendships and possibly Bible studies. The Church of Christ in Kuala Lumpur has had other successful Let’s Start Talking projects and we are excited to be working with them. Greater KL, as it is called, (much easier to say, too!) has 7.2 million people, so “the field is white unto harvest,” as I learned as a child from my KJV.

I will have some access to the internet while there, so I will blog about our activities when possible. This is the place to keep up with how the Lord is working in our lives and in KL. I am confident there will be much to celebrate. Please pray for open hearts from our readers and safety and wisdom for us. Perhaps you should also pray for the families we will be living with!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Little Brother

My brother John was born when I was 9, and I loved being a little mother to him. Back then, being in the South and in the fifties, we called him “John Ralph.” Fortunately, he outgrew that several years ago, though some over-80s still call him that.

By the next summer, my regular duty was to rock my baby brother to sleep. He would sit in my lap facing me, straddling my scrawny body and laying his golden curls on my chest. Mother would check on us occasionally to be sure all was well.

As I rocked, I sang. I always started with “Brahms’ Lullaby,” adding my own new verses as I sang. John Ralph relaxed gently as I sang, “Lullaby and good night, you’re your sister’s delight, you’re our own sweet baby boy, and I love you so much. Go to sleep, baby boy, go to sleep little darling. Go to sleep, baby boy, go to sleep little one.”

At age ten, I’d already started to take on adult responsibilities. And, for that summer at least, I loved it.

Today he is much taller and more educated than I, and I am proud of all he's accomplished. But he’s still my baby brother, and I am sad that we aren't together to celebrate his birthday today. I love you, John. Happy birthday!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Queen Ruth

The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen!

Ruth Williams was queen of her family, queen of the Central Church, queen of our hearts. She reigned gently but firmly, guiding and directing us to the end. As we met with her, even in her last days, she gave us her smile, her wisdom, her love. She kept us connected to her and to God.

Now we must stay connected to God and to Bob, her rock. But even rocks need love and support when they are human rocks. My interpretation of "The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen!" (right or wrong) is that even though one queen has died, another immediately takes her place. In this case, it could also mean that the Queen will live forever in the heavenly kingdom. This assurance brings a comfort unknown to those outside of Christ.

Ruth, however, has assigned each of us to take her place. We have our roles to fill, taking many of us to cover the lives and encouragements that she handled masterfully to the end. The scepter has been passed to us. As Paul said so could Ruth have said if she hadn't been so humble: "Be followers of me as I am of Christ." Living as she did is our best possible tribute to this incredible woman of God.

Welcome home, Ruth!