For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family, both above and here on earth, is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that the Son may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all those who believe what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of him that surpasses all knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of him. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him is glory in the body and in the Son throughout all generations, forever and ever. So be it. As the Father continually reveals Himself, challenges, trials, and great joy are offered. It is through this process that understanding of His character is deepened and rest is brought. It is a difficult yet beautiful process that requires those who follow Him to do so with great diligence and faith. It is only because of His grace that I even have my being.
We have begun to notice changes in our time and efforts here in Southeast Asia. We are currently transitioning from the dry season to the wet season. This typically includes a few rain showers everyday. Some are heavy downpours while others are light sprinkles. It also means that we are experiencing mati lampu on a daily basis. This translates to power outage. We are learning how to keep things charged at all times so that when the electricity is out we are still able to use them. For example, our well is dry so we have a pump attached to the house that runs to a large container in our backyard. We must run the pump each night in order to ensure enough water for the next day’s activities such as laundry, showering, dish washing, etc. If the power is out then we are unable to run the pump as it is powered by electricity. The only exception to this is our floor fans. When the power is out it simply means no airflow, even if it is the heat of the day. Mati lampu has also taught us how to enjoy dinner by candlelight. It has provided for fun moments in the house.
However, we have greatly noticed other changes as well. These changes are the most important and the reason as to why we are willing to allow other changes, such as the one mentioned above, to refine us. Through the work of our Father, we have begun to see hearts softened and trust built. Friendships have continued and sharing has increased. We have been given opportunities both through friends we have established a relationship with over the course of our time in country as well as with people that we have intentionally met for the first time. I am encouraged during these moments but also must take into account that there is not any good that will come from myself but rather the working and drawing of the spirit. This serves as the ultimatum. This weekend we are gathering with several like-minded nationals. We will discuss Paul’s idea of teaching others so that they may in return teach others. I ask that you remember this time and thank you for doing so.
A local majority religion university recently held a day event on how to better one’s English. My supervisor and I went as guest speakers. We were asked to inform the first semester (Freshmen) students on how they can become better English speakers throughout their university career. The event took place at a local outdoor recreation center. The students rotated through events of recreation such as rope climbing and through various presentations. We were one of these rotated presentations. The Father provided us with an opportunity to share as we presented opportunities on bettering one’s English. For this I am thankful. At the end of our presentation, we were invited to participate in some of the outdoor activities. We chose to zip-line. Both my supervisor and I were secured in our own harness, climbed up a knotted rope net, made our way around a tree, walked across a swinging bamboo bridge, walked around another tree and then were attached to the zip-line device. After asking if I was ready, the outdoor center’s worker counted to three and then pushed me off of the platform I was standing on into midair to rush over a swampy lake that rested below. It was thrilling! After, safely making it to the bottom, I was detached from my harness and my supervisor and I began the climb back up to the main campground of the center.
This past week my roommate, Rachel, and I went with a national friend to a traditional dance class of a local university. We met outside of the university at a dance studio. The dancing included audition pieces for an upcoming competition as well as a routine for an annual festival coming in one month. This festival is a huge part of our research as it is a major aspect of the lifestyle of our people. After arriving at the dance class, we first watched the dancers practice. The women moved their hands in a very delicate and elegant manner. The men were strong enough to lift the girls off the ground and then dance on one foot while still maintaining rhythm. The instrumentalists creating the piece of music to be danced to played handmade drums, wooden flute, accordion (that one took me by surprise!) and a large seashell found in the ocean. It was amazing how they created such music. They also incorporated singing. However, I think our culture would better describe it as chanting as they were not singing words but rather noises only. After watching and listening, it became our turn to learn. Both my roommate and I had a personal instructor that taught us how to move in the manner they moved. For example, the way they move their hands during dance is a way that I have never before moved my hands. It involves smooth movements of the fingers and wrist. They also use their toes much in dancing. It was fun to learn.
A university in our city is currently hosting an international seminar. Guests from all around the world have come to participate and present at this seminar. The theme of the seminar is Poverty Reduction. It is a three-day event with various presentations and events on each day. Some of our friends from the English Club invited us to attend the seminar. We went and found several booths displaying unique items made only in our city. This included items such as honey, made from our city’s “Pure Tropical Rain Forests,” and decorative pins to put on your clothes. They also had a booth with caged house cats. These cats were extremely fluffy and were labeled with a sign that read, “Fancy Cats.” When I asked what the cats had to do with the seminar, I was told, nothing, they are just for fun. I suppose it was a sight as typically most cats in our city are tailless, thin and stray.
Also, at the seminar, we attended a presentation in which one of our friends was helping to direct. Once we got there we came to find that our homestay mother was the main speaker! As the seminar is an international affair, it is all being conducted in English, which is serving as the common language among all of the countries represented. We got to hear our homestay mom make a presentation in English! It was very exciting to watch her. She did a great job. As she attempted to create awareness, she presented to her hearers a majority religion organization that has efforts to reduce poverty throughout the island. It was very interesting to listen to.
We ended our time at the seminar by attending a formal dinner. At the dinner, they gave thanks for all of the participants as well as entertainment through traditional dance. I became excited as I recognized the dancers as they came to the stage. They were the same dance team that I had taken lessons from the week prior to the seminar. They were dressed in traditional costumes and wore heavy make-up. They danced beautifully for the crowd as the instrumentalists accompanied their dance.
The seminar served as a means of cultural exposure for us. We were able to gather some important information for our research. Also, it served as an encouragement. Here in our city, foreigners are extremely rare. Therefore, when one is present, that foreigner immediately becomes a new celebrity. It is a daily aspect of living in our city to be called a “bule” or foreigner. It is also very common for random people to come running up to us asking if they can have their picture made with us, simply because of our skin and hair. Many days this provides as excellent opportunities, other days it serves as a frustration that must be released to my Father. However, at this seminar, instead of being called bule and asking for our picture to be made with numerous groups of people, we saw many friends that the Father has allowed us to make throughout our time in Southeast Asia. People began to call out our names instead of bule. It was exciting to have made the transition from foreigner to friend. Also, our homestay mom began introducing Rebekah and I to her coworkers as her own daughters. I thank my Father for making this transition possible. We feel extremely blessed that He has provided such relationships during this time of our lives. We intend on returning to the seminar to continue building relations and gathering cultural information.