Back In The Air

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It was a great week to be back in the air! We worked everything out with the government and the Indonesia Air Force and have begun flight operations in Kalimantan once again. It is a huge relief and a blessing to the people interior. We are starting a little slowly because not everyone knows that we are flying yet. One of our pilots did a few low passes over the airstrips to let the people know that we are flying again. We have seen an increase in activity at the hangar. Not only are there more people and cargo showing up every day, but now we have some things to fix on our airplanes.

One of our Cessna 206’s had low compression readings on the engine cylinders which means the air is escaping some how. It was determined that the exhaust valves were leaking. So, the cylinders were removed (a difficult process) and another mechanic and I removed the old exhaust valve guides, hammer in new ones, and then replaced the old valves with new ones. It was a great project and I was happy I had done it before in A & P school.

Not only are there projects to be completed, but I got to go fly on Thursday as well! It was a great experience. I flew with my coworker Paul out to Long Bawan, which is a common destination as it is a larger village near the Malaysian border with easy access from the surrounding villages. We stopped, unloaded our passengers, and then waited for our next passenger. While we waited, we walked to a wreck from an Indonesian C130. It is right next to the runway at Long Bawan.

Later, we went to a local warung (small cafe/store) and had coffee. After we had sat down, a local policeman came by and greeted us. He said, “I am so glad that MAF is flying again. When I was young, I was really sick with malaria and my only hope was to fly to the hospital in Tarakan. No one would help me and I was stuck here. But an MAF plane came in and took me to the hospital and that is why I am alive today. I am so thankful MAF is still here. I am buying your drinks today.” Wow, it is awesome to see how MAF has been making a difference in the lives of people for years!

After we drank, our passenger showed up and we continued on our way. We stopped at a small village about 12 minutes away called Binuang. (It may be 12 minutes by air but it is a multiple day trek. Check out this video made last year by a couple who traveled by land!) My coworker and friend Paul is from the US, just like me, but he has been “adopted” by a family in Binuang. After landing in Binuang, we spent time visiting with Paul’s family. The patriarch is Pak Daud and he lives with his son, Kalvin, who is about 35 years old. They have lived in Binuang all their lives, but Kalvin has visited Paul in Tarakan on a number of occasions. They showed us typical Indonesian hospitality, which is always above and beyond. They gave us tea to drink. Then, a number of the local people, who had heard that Pak Paul had come to the village, brought by a variety of fruit to bless us. I tried to two fruits that I had never even heard of before. The first was called maritam. There is a picture of it below. It was sweet like a peach but a little chewy. You just pop the white fruit in your mouth and chew off the meat around the hard pit. Then, we ate a fruit called mata kucing, or cat eyes. They have a tan shell that is peeled to reveal an opalescent fruit with a large black pit. There isn’t much fruit in each one, but it is a fun thing to eat while passing the time.

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While talking with Kalvin, he mentioned a new house he was building so we took a walk to see it. While we passed by neighbor’s houses and the local school, a number of people greeted Paul and were happy to see that MAF was flying again. After seeing the new house and eating some more mata kucing, we started back to the plane as the rest of our passengers were showing up. On the way, one of the men who greeted us on the way up to the house stopped me and wanted to tell me about how MAF helped save his life. 15 years ago, he had been hiking/hunting and he had fallen on to a broken stump of a tree. It had cut him open in his abdomen and he was close to death from blood loss. The people in the village made a call to MAF and a pilot was able to come in and take him to a hospital. His life was saved and there isn’t a day that goes by where he doesn’t thank God for MAF.

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After spending a few hours in the village (mainly because the weather wasn’t very good), we saw that there might be some holes in the clouds so we readied to depart. Just then, Kalvin approached and told us his wife had made us lunch. Paul and I were ready to go but didn’t want to offend this loving family, so we went in for a quick bite with the hope of getting up in the air before the holes filled in. We sat down to a warm meal and I must say that it was one-of-a-kind. Our host said, “This is monkey, this is (some animal that is white and likes to dig holes), and here are some locally caught fish.” This was my first time eating monkey. It was a little chewy and tasted pretty good, mainly because the spices were excellent. The unknown animal was very rubbery but the sauce it was cooked in went well with the rice. The fish head tasted like fish. It had tiny bones but the meat was tender and I ate a few bites. All in all I was simply grateful for their kindness and generosity. One thing I have learned about our work here in Kalimantan is how much the people appreciate what we do. They are always eager to share their goods be it fruit, rice, or meat, because they are so grateful that we would come live with them and serve them.

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The monkey is the brown meat on the bottom, the unknown meat is on the top left, and the fish head is dead center!

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After finishing our meal, we loaded up with the passengers and departed back to Long Bawan. As we took off, we could see that most of the holes from 10 minutes before were long gone. We didn’t know how we would get out, but we often have to proceed in order to find the holes. This is very common here in Kalimantan. We often have to probe into various places before we can see our route. I could make all sorts of spiritual connections here, however I will only say that it’s some really fun and challenging flying. It is kind of like a puzzle each day. I am presented with a problem and I get to use an airplane and my brain to figure it out each day! The important thing is to always have an out so the exploration can be done as safe as possible.

After making it back to Tarakan, our day complete, we shared the fruit with the MAF staff in Tarakan that we had received in Binuang. We also shared a fruit that is pretty much the most beloved and polarizing fruit in the world, Durian. If you have never seen a durian, I guarantee you would never forget the smell. Just google durian and you will get all sorts of descriptions, many referring to old gym socks. In fact, there are many hotels that have banned durian altogether from their establishment! Anyways, I have tried it once and I really want to like it. Pretty much 1 out of every 1 Indonesian absolutely loves durian. If they had the time, they would probably write love songs to the durian. So, I want to blend in and show them that I like what they like.

After we opened up the big, spiky green peanut (as you can see from the pictures) I ate 3 pieces. The meat is pasty and has a distinct onion/garlic flavor. There is a huge seed so don’t eat that. After eating durian, you will burp it up for the next 6 hours and pretty much everyone you talk to at close range will know that you have recently eaten the king of fruits. I don’t know if I quite like it yet, but I can at least tolerate it and appear to enjoy it! Baby steps!!!

It was a great day of flying and we, along with our Indonesian brothers and sisters, are excited to be back in the air. It has been a blessing to fly and use these gifts to serve others. I am hoping to start flying and starting my check out process so I can hopefully solo and begin flying operationally in a few months! Please be praying for safety and the energy to learn everything well and completely.

Light and Momentary

For our light and momentary struggles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

2 Corinthians 4:17

Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith pruduces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

We remain grounded but with hope. There have been quite a few articles written by the local newspapers about our current flight status as well as the plight of the people we serve in the jungles of Borneo. When I think about the hardship we face with not being able to fly, and then compare it to the hardship that our brothers and sisters are facing by being disconnected in the jungle, there really is no comparison. The people are anxious, discouraged, upset, and we have heard that some are wondering if we aren’t flying because we are mad for some reason or another. This situation breaks my heart.

Just the other day, a troupe of men carried one of their injured friends on a stretcher for a full day while trying to reach one of the villages where we serve. When the men arrived at the village and spoke to the air strip agent, they were told that MAF still does not have permission for fly. They had to return to their village (another day’s journey), uncertain of the fate their friend faces in the coming days. There have been several deaths in the villages we serve because the people were unable to access medical assistance. It is terribly tragic and it is a reminder to me about how important and vital our work is here in Kalimantan. We are hopeful that we can begin flying soon and serve these people once again.

As I think about our struggle here, I am reminded about the power of perspective. I know I have mentioned this before, but I am struck again and again by how important it is to keep my eyes focused on Christ and eternity. If I only focus on my everyday problems and the ways I make mistakes each day, I can get pretty down. But, when I am reminded of who I am in Christ, the incredible price Jesus paid when He died on the cross, and the incredible promises for those who have placed their faith in Christ, well, the problems of my life pale in comparison. I also think about eternity and how it is going to be a lot longer and a lot better than my time here on earth. Why not endure some hardship and maybe some disappointment and maybe even some failure? I am going to spend eternity with God. Let me put myself out there in obedience to God’s call for my life. If I fail, if I struggle, if I have to put up with a little discomfort while living overseas, if I have to spend more time away from family than I would like, If I have to miss that little thing called “winter” for a few years, if I have to smell some things that crinkle my nose, if I have to struggle through communicating in a foreign language, if I have to do whatever it takes to be obedient to God’s call, then let’s do it. Let’s do it well!

The cool thing is, not only do I have eternity to look forward to at the end, but enduring difficult trials helps to grow me up and mature me in Christ. There is something critical to the development of a person that can only be earned through persevering through trials. I am sure you can’t even count the number of people you know or have seen who have been given everything without having to earn it. The term most often used is spoiled. These people are spoiled because they have never had to stand up against opposition. Their parents or whomever have short-circuited their development by not allowing them to face difficulties. But God, who is the most loving Father, allows the difficulties and trials to come in order to develop our faith and our courage. It is hard, but I love that God is not a Father who spoils us and removes all pain. He is a God who allows us to suffer, but promises to be with us and help us through.

So, as we face a few months of not flying and being able to do the work that we have spent years to do; as the people in the interior of Borneo undergo the trial of being cut-off; as you face whatever trial is in front of you, I would echo Paul’s encouragement to consider these “light and momentary troubles” through the lens of eternity. Track with James and find joy and gratitude in difficulties because your Father is growing you up into the image of His Son!

Flight This Week

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I had the opportunity to do a training flight this past Monday. MAF has a few days each week where we fly a set schedule. We call this Jadwal Tetap. We take-off from Tarakan and fly to a number of villages, then reverse the order all the way back to Tarakan. This is very helpful to the people who live in the villages because they know we will be coming three times a week and they should be able to get to their destination when they want to go. Well, the day started off with a minor change in the schedule. We got a call just before 8 am. There was a jenazah (body) that needed to be transported to our first destination so he could be buried in his home village. We have an organizational chart that places importance on the types of requests we receive. Needless to say, medical situations are pretty high on that list. So, we cancelled our other passengers and loaded the plane with the jenazah. Traveling with us were two of the man’s family members who were taking care of him in the hospital. I love how we are able to meet all kinds of needs for the local people here in northeast Borneo. We serve the government, the local church, families, and every day people. We transport goods, medical patients, food, motorcycles, building materials, government officials, pastors, and people from all walks of life. We are here to support the people and help them live a better life. What more could I ask to spend my life doing?

We had an uneventful flight for 40 minutes. Then, just before we were about to start maneuvering around some clouds (an everyday occurrence here in Tarakan), we saw a “low volt” light and the ammeter revealed our battery was discharging. We checked the alternator circuit breaker and it had popped. We tried to reset it but it kept popping. So, we had to return to Tarakan.

After landing, one of the mechanics was able to swap out the regulator and we were back in the air 20 minutes later. We made it to our destination and were met with a delegation of the man’s family and friends. The man’s daughter was weeping loudly and crying out, “Bapak. Bapak.”(“Daddy. Daddy.”) It was heart-wrenching. I was so sad for these people but I was grateful that we could serve them in this way. I tried to fade into the background so the family and friends could grieve and unload their precious cargo. This may be a less talked about service that we provide, but it is no less important.

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We finished our day of flying and I didn’t get home until after 5:30 pm. My primary job while flying is learning to communicate on the radio. I have to use Bahasa Indonesia to communicate with the MAF flight followers in Tarakan. Then, I switch to English to communicate with other airplanes and the air traffic controllers. I can’t tell you how many times I just start speaking in English to our Indonesian flight followers and then I realize they don’t understand what I am saying. Some of the terminology is different than what I am used to and it takes a little practice to understand what the controllers are requesting, especially with various degrees of accents. After some more practice doing paperwork and radios, I hope to start flying and getting checked out on various airstrips.

Another thing that I am learning about are the weather patterns here in Indonesia. It may go without saying, but learning to fly in AZ where there are over 300 good flying days with barely a cloud in the sky is a little different than flying in the tropics. Every day starts with fog and low-level clouds. It often rains overnight. As the day wears on, there is plenty of convective activity. The sun heats the ground which heats the air. The hot air rises bringing with it all the moisture near the surface. The air cools as it rises and the moisture condenses and makes clouds. Clouds mean rain and sometimes thunderstorms. I am learning quickly where the clouds are likely to form and how to avoid the clouds but still arrive at my destination. It is kind of like a game or traveling through a maze. I love it.

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When there are clouds, there are rainbows!

It has been such a blessing to see the many different facets of what MAF does here on the field. Each day I become more excited about this work and adventure we are on. I wake anew each morning with a feeling of gratefulness and joy. It reminds me of Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” We have sought the Lord, asked Him to guide us and work out His plans for our life, and He has giving us the desire to serve here and brought it to fruition. What a good God!

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Underneath that cloud right there is A LOT of rain.

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Cliff jumping and Gospel Living

When I was in college (and for a year and a half after I graduated) I was part of the coolest campus ministry ever. Each weekend we spent our time hiking, rock-climbing, camping, exploring and cliff jumping the hills and dells of rugged northern Arizona. Under the incredible leadership of our campus pastor and his wife, somehow, each of these adventures led us on an even greater adventure for the soul. Every Friday night about 70 students gathered together in an Engineering building and sat at the feet of a man profoundly gifted to preach the Word of God and our hearts were gripped, forever changed. We learned that the single greatest use of our time is with people; that the heart of God is ever and always for relationships. We learned to give up our small (worldly) ambitions and to dream crazy God-sized dreams. Instead of a life spent in pursuit of self-comfort, self-pleasure, and self-centeredness we were encouraged to pour ourselves out in radical devotion to a King most High. As Phil and I sat there, young, but truly white hot in love with Jesus we decided we were all in. Although we both were doing well as pilots and Aeronautical Science majors, we decided to start dreaming and pursuing a life totally set-apart for Christ. And that is what drew us to each other.

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Phil in Zion National Park
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Phil and I hiking in Sedona with some friends just one month before he asked me to be his girl.

Continue reading Cliff jumping and Gospel Living

Amazing Things…

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Somedays, do you just wake up and think, “God, you have done amazing things!”?  It’s been like that for us the last two weeks or so and we’re reminded, once again of the bigness, the kindness, and the goodness of God.  He’s like that, you know?

This is Jess and I’m writing to you from our air conditioned bedroom in our new Tarakan house.  The house is, of course, not new.  Only, new to us.  It belonged to at least two other MAF families (and good friends) before us and I think a total of 5 babies were brought home to this house.  (Somehow missions work and childbearing years seem to line up for many of us.)  The house is lovely.  Simple.  Comfortable.  Cute.  And, roasting-make-you-wanna-climb-inside-your-freezer hot.  So hot, in fact, that I’ve developed three random new habits (in addition to occasionally hiding in my air conditioned bedroom) which are: putting my Burt’s Bees facial wipes in the refrigerator so I can wipe the sweat off my face after cooking supper (the hottest part of the day) just before Phil comes home and still kind of feel like a girl.  Second, is taking cold showers.  On purpose.  And the third is an unending slake for ice cubes. Continue reading Amazing Things…

A New Chapter

We did it! We made it through language school!

This last month has been a whirlwind of activity and transition for our family. We finished our final papers for language school. We packed up almost all of our belongings and sent them to Tarakan in a shipping container. We graduated from language school and then threw a pizza KFC fried chicken and rice party for the teachers. (Because it isn’t a meal without rice!) We said so many good-byes; to the teachers at school, the guards at the international school, our neighbors, our friends, our MAF teammates, the students and people I played basketball with on Sunday nights, our favorite restaurants, our house for a year, and the list goes on. Many were tearful good-byes but they were joyful as well. It is amazing the impact and intimacy that can take place in less than a year. I had the opportunity to climb the most active volcano in Indonesia, Mt. Merapi, with some of my friends. At the peak, we looked into the crater and could see several steam vents and smell sulfur. It was a great way to say good-bye to central Java.

We were so blessed by our time in Salatiga. As we drove away from the house and our neighbors, we both agreed that this has been the hardest year of our marriage (from the stress of living in a new culture, learning a new language, and all of the medical issues we faced along the way) but it has also been the most rewarding and it has driven us very close together as a family. We will look back with fondness on our time in Salatiga, but we are excited to start fixing and flying and set up our home in Tarakan.

After we left Salatiga, we spent a few days in Jakarta at the guest house. We had a few medical things to take care of (Adelina’s glasses, well-checks for the kids, immunizations, and even a visit to the dentist). I also did my annual flight physical and I am proud to announce that I am fit to fly with 20/20 vision. The test is a bit more intense than in the US, but I am happy that Indonesia does a thorough job of checking on the health of their pilots and flight attendants. In addition to all of our medical visits, we also spent some time with our language school bosses and debriefed on our year in language school. They did an outstanding of job of helping us transition to life overseas as well as walking with us through the many trials we faced. We grew close with them and were blessed by their leadership and friendship.

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Kalimantan

After our time in Jakarta, we said good-bye to Java (at least for a few months) and flew to our new home in Tarakan. We finally made it! It is amazing to look back on the many years of preparation and see that we have arrived at our destination. This is truly an exciting time! While we get settled and do an orientation here on the field, we would like to share a few ways in which you can pray for us.

  • Our house in Tarakan is almost ready for us to move into. The team in Tarakan has been working extremely hard to get our house ready. They have been painting, fixing, cleaning, and doing all sorts of things to get the house in tip top shape. We are hoping to move in early this week as we have been living with our new boss and his family, Steve and Laura Persenaire. Please pray that the rest of the repairs go smoothly and we can move in soon.
  • Most of our furniture from Salatiga has arrived in Tarakan, but our crates from America are still in Jakarta. Our passports are in Salatiga while we get our new visas, but they are needed in Jakarta so they will release our crates. Many important items such as my work shirts, a stove, and many of our kitchen tools are in those crates. Please pray that they are released quickly.
  • Solomon and Jeremia are currently enjoying the symptoms of Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. Solomon was only miserable for one day and Jeremiah has been extra snuggly, but we are praying for their healing and for God’s grace as we care for them. Also, pray that they rest of us don’t get sick!
  • Lastly, pray for the move and transition as we settle into our new home, move all our stuff in, and figure out how to do life here in Tarakan.

This is such an exciting time. Thanks for hanging in there on this adventure! We excited to continue sharing our lives (and pictures) with you. Thank you so much and God bless!

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View of Mt. Merbabu from the top of Mt. Merapi

Hari Merdeka

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We just celebrated Indonesian Independence Day (Hari Merdeka) on August 17th. The country of Indonesia became independent from the Dutch on August 17th, 1945, so we were here for the 70th anniversary. We had a great time celebrating with our neighbors and friends. While we did have our fair share of fireworks on the 4th of July, we celebrated in a different fashion on this holiday.

The week begins with a bunch of competitions and activities in the neighborhood. We had just returned from being out of town with Jessica’s father when we saw our neighborhood abuzz. There was a huge sound system set up at the local volleyball court with men, women, and children milling about. Some of the men were playing volleyball and they invited me to join. Even though we had just returned from a trip, it seemed like a great way to keep building relationships with our neighbors so I agreed to play. They put me on a team and I waited for my turn.

The team I was put on was made of three young men, one of whom is the son of a close family friend. We had a great time and ended up winning the tournament. During one of the games, everyone had a laugh when I played the setter position. Since I was next to the net during each point, I had a fun time blocking everything that came my way. One of the older men was serving as an announcer and he once said with a great Indonesian accent, “Oh Pak Phil, Super Block!”

Later that night, all the men played a game of soccer while wearing sarongs (basically a sheet wrapped around their waist) or women’s maternity clothing. Not sure I completely understand why, but I had to get some homework done and just so happened to miss this event. Alas…there is always next year!

The rest of week was spent preparing for the next weekend. Each neighborhood sets up a stage and invites everyone to sing Indonesian national songs, pray, and the kids usually do some sort of performance. Early on Sunday morning, I gathered with many of our neighbors and we walked around the neighborhood. I forgot to wear a red shirt (the Indonesian flag is red and white and I wanted to show my support) so I ran home and changed before the walk began. Then, we all just walked in a long line of humanity. I had the chance to talk with several different gentlemen, a few of whom spoke a fair amount of English. I would ask questions in Bahasa Indonesia and they would respond in English. That was a fun experience! After we arrived back at the starting point, everyone started to do some aerobic exercises and I returned home. All the kids played some games, like eating a rice cracker hanging from a string, and they had a lottery-type game to give out Tupperware.

That evening, the official party was held down the street from our house. After hearing the national anthem and the leader of the community read a few letters, we ate a meal of rice, chicken sate, fried tempeh (soy beans), and fried veggies. Our kids had a blast! They just rolled around and played with the neighborhood kids. Solomon kept jumping on the back of one of the kids and jumping in my lap. We had been asked been asked to sing a few songs and play the guitar. I asked what we should sing and we were told, “Just sing something fun.” So, we sang a song in Bahasa Indonesia called, “Ayo Mama.” Feel free to look this song up on YouTube or click HERE. Then, we sang “Brown Eyed Girl.” I am sure most of the people had never heard it before but it was fun and they appreciated our participation. Two of the most important aspects of relationships with Indonesians are to smile and to show up!

A week after the official Independence Day celebration, we had a party at our school as well. It is a lot of fun because we get to interact with our teachers on a whole different level. Many of them bring their families and every student brings a dish, which often means we get food from Indonesia, Korea, Japan, America, Africa, and Europe. Quite an international feast.

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We sang a few of the Indonesian national songs and then played some games. The first game is to eat a puffy shrimp cracker (called a Kripik) that is hanging from a string. The trick is you can’t use you hands. The kids got in the act as well, but got a little help from Dad! Then, we played a game where we had to use a sword made of the stalk of a banana leaf to break a water balloon. The trick here was that we were blindfolded! It was so much fun! Jess and I both managed to break the balloon and not injure anyone in the process. The last game was called Tangkap Belut, which means the capture eels. There was a small bucket filled with water, mud, and…EELS. They were about the size of a pencil, maybe a little thicker, and we had to grab one at a time and carry it to our bucket, probably 20’ away. Wow! So tough. They were super slippery and always trying to wriggle free. It was so much fun! After playing the games, we all enjoyed our dinner and spent the time talking with our friends and teachers.

So, we had a great time joining in the celebration of Indonesian Independence! And here’s to the freedom that can only be found in Christ! We hope and pray that God will continue to give us opportunities to share the love of Christ so the men and women of Indonesia will learn about true freedom.

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When Overwhelmed

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There have been a few situations and happenings in our world today that have the ability to overwhelm me. When I think about the number of abortions that happen every year, I feel overwhelmed. When I consider the number of people who live on this planet who don’t know Jesus as Lord, I feel overwhelmed. Shucks, when I think about the responsibility God has given Jessica and I to raise our three precious children, I feel overwhelmed. You know, I don’t think there is anything wrong with feeling overwhelmed. However, the crux of the issue is what we do with those situations and overwhelming ideas.  Continue reading When Overwhelmed

A Deeper Love

DSC_0054 Hello Awesome Friends!  Jess here! We have lots of really cool things to share with you about what God is doing in our part of the world.  But first, we want to tell you just how grateful and increasingly grateful, we are to be here in Indonesia.  Little by little we’ve come to understand more of what it really means to be here and to love these precious people.  Our love for them grows deeper all the time.  We’ve asked Father God to give us a heart for Indonesians and for that to really truly happen it takes time, experiences, and relationships.  It takes going over and sitting at our neighbor’s house making conversation even when we feel too “busy” with the stuff of life.  It takes hearing stories and seeing sights and smelling smells that are, frankly, uncomfortable at times.  And yet, when the love of God fills our hearts and when Holy Spirit imparts compassion, everything becomes beautiful.  I’m not being flowery or poetic.  It’s true.   Continue reading A Deeper Love