Sunday, March 11, 2012

Basketball Blessings

This weekend, the small fishing village of GS were we have been doing the Kids' English Club was blessed with basketball.  

 The Boys Varsity Basketball team (and one from the girls team) from Dalat went down to GS to put on a short basketball clinic for the village kids. The kids had lots of fun doing dribbling, passing and shooting drills.

Several of the guys from the Dalat team are also on our Kids' English Club team, and are already very popular with the kids. The village kids have been anxiously waiting to play basketball with their teachers! 

After the clinic, many villagers came out to watch the Dalat Boys take on the local village team. The Dalat boys had just won the Penang State Basketball championship, so everyone wanted to see the team in action. The village team consisted of young men of various ages, but they all wanted a chance to take on the State Champs.

The village team put up a valiant fight, but in the end could not beat the Dalat boys. They were really enjoying the good, clean fun. As the game ended, they were asking to keep playing!

We are all looking forward to next year when we do this again. We are so grateful to the team and coaches for sharing themselves in this way. The people of GS were truly blessed through basketball.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Currency of Spiritual Enterprise

It is hard to describe range of emotions that race through me (Jonathan) as I navigate the crowds of an event like Thaipusam in Penang, Malaysia. The opportunity to witness and photograph one of the world's most fascinating religious festivals makes me almost giddy with excitement. The anthropologist in me emerges.

At the same time I feel a keen sense of heaviness and despair. Claustrophobia is a constant companion as I am pressed by the crowd and overwhelmed by the sights, smells, and sounds around me. Groups of people line the road competing for the loudest music, best food, and coolest drink to entice the revelers to grace their temporary shelters. 
Then there is the heart break. It happens every time; often more than once. This time, my heart breaks and I fight the tears as I make eye contact with a boy who looks like he is barely 12. He is exhausted. His eyes are glazed and distant. A relative massages his legs as he rests from his long journey. He has walked and danced 4 miles barefoot already with his kavadi (burden).

Some burdens are small, like a jar of milk, some are large like the personal float he carries, and some are jarringly painful like the men pulling friends or carts through the streets with ropes tied to hooks in their backs. Many make the journey with skewers piercing their bodies or small jars of milk hanging from hooks pierced in their skin. It has to be painful. There has to be a sacrifice made to gain the favor of the gods or to pay a debt to the gods. So on this day commemorating the defeat of an evil demon by the god Murugan, hundreds of Tamil Indians carry their burdens on a pilgrimage down the streets of Penang and other cities in Asia.

In a cultural worldview consumed by a cause and effect/reap what you sow way of thinking, this makes perfect sense. You must give to receive. But why pain? Why would a god demand suffering to grant good? This is a theme that runs through most human interactions with the supernatural. Pain and death are the currency of spiritual enterprise.

In some ways, this is not too far from my own interaction with the supernatural. I owed a debt that could be paid only by my own death. My only hope to regain my favorable position with the supernatural was to pay for it with my own blood. And even that would not have been enough because it was more than just a debt; it was treason.

But in my case, someone offered to take my place, and pay my debt with His own life. So now I am wondering what would have happened if I had stopped taking pictures, took off my shoes, and asked the boy if he would let me take his burden and carry it the rest of the way for him?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Legacy of Obedience

I (Jonathan) recently had the opportunity to go into the mountains of northern Thailand with my 85 year old grandfather, Don Schlatter. When he visited these same villages for the first time almost 60 years ago, he had to hike the mountain trails for days. Things have changed, and for this trip, we got to drive in a nice air conditioned  pickup truck. 

We drove through the town where my mom spent much of her childhood and up into the Lawa villages my grandpa would visit to teach and encourage the believers there. He told me stories along the way of good times and bad times and how God led all the way. They chose a simple life devoted to hearing, obeying, and serving. In his grace, God chose to use them to do some very significant things. We visited two villages and in each, roughly half the people were following Jesus. These are only two villages of many where lives have been transformed by the gospel as a direct or indirect result of my grandparents' lives of obedience.

We also spent two days with the families of the key Lawa church leaders as they fellowshipped, strategized, and heard the Word taught by my grandfather. It was really special to be with these leaders, young and old, and see the impact they are having on the Lawa people. They too are striving to live simple lives of hearing, obeying, and serving, and in his grace, God will use each of them in significant ways. 

One night we stayed at the NTM training center for tribal lay leaders where  my grandparents served for 20 years after serving directly with the Lawa. We met young men and women who have heard the call to draw closer and learn more about God to better serve him. We also met the American and Lawa teachers who are listening, obeying, and investing in these young people. The cycle continues. 

As I contemplate the legacy that my grandparents leave, I am struck with a longing to have the same results under my belt when I am 85. I recognize the pride in this, and it begs the question, "How do I measure success as a follower of Christ?" Is it number of disciples? Churches? Schools? Grandchildren following Christ? And another question haunts me. "What if they had served in a different place and had only a handful of believers to show for 60 years of work? Would that be a success? A legacy?" 
If success is measured in terms of accomplishments, then perhaps not. But I believe that success is measured in terms of obedience. Any act of obedience is a success for a follower of Christ, no matter what the outcome. Likewise, a life of obedience is a legacy no matter what the outcome. I want to live every day, every minute in such a way that I am able to hear and obey the promptings of the Spirit in the little things till they add up to a life of obedience. My legacy, unlike my grandparents', will likely not look like much on the outside, but by God's grace, I pray that I will pass my own legacy of obedience on to my children and grandchildren. 
Thank you, Grandpa and Grandma, for this glimpse of your legacy of obedience.

A video tribute with more images

Monday, November 28, 2011

As you may or may not know, we have been on a team serving a small fishing village (Gertak Sanggul) here on Penang Island. We have been taking Dalat high school students down to teach ESL to 60-70 village kids on Saturdays, and we have a big party once a year. One of our team members writes news stories about life at our school and he wrote this about the party. The story features a Malay family.

Face in the Crowd
by Chance Edman

Living is hard in Gertak Sanggul.

Take the looming towers, air-conditioned malls and busy streets of George Town and imagine the opposite. Small shops, community markets and a laid-back lifestyle make up the small Penang town that sits far from major roads and cities.

Ah Loong and his youngest
Many people here fish for a living. Others like Ah Loong, manage to provide for their families by running a small restaurant. “Barely” is a good way to describe life for Ah Loong. His kids attend school, they have clothes, food and other necessities, but barely. There is no room for extras.

For two years, Dalat students have been teaching English classes in the village. Ah Loong’s four cute kids attend regularly. Last week, the Dalat students teamed up with Care & Share, Dalat’s outreach program, to host a massive carnival for the entire community of Gertak Sanggul at the town’s small, weathered school.

About 200 children laughed and screamed their way through the various carnival stations Saturday evening. Total, about 400 people attended the carnival. Dalat students and staff members ran games and contests where kids could earn tickets, which could be redeemed for candy or small toys.

Teaching English on the beach
Ah Loong came with his wife and four kids. The kids were shy and took a while to join in the fun. Eventually, the older two threw wet sponges at Kenji (a Dalat student), played the ring toss and got their faces painted just like all the other kids. The whole ordeal was free for everyone who attended.

After an hour of games, all 400 people got in line for a free KFC dinner with coconuts from Joez Coconuts. Choosing a meal that would fit the various cultures in attendance took some planning from Dalat staff members, but they finally settled on fried chicken – a meal that tastes great in every culture.

Ah Loong’s kids enjoyed every bite. This was a real treat. Ah Loong is an excellent cook, but fried chicken is not on his menu. His curry and satay are among the best in the business, however. He has also perfected sun-baked jello, crystallized sugar on the outside and pure jello on the inside.

Students and staff from Dalat worked for weeks in preparation for this carnival. They secured donations for a lucky draw that took place at the end of the festivities on Saturday. When the time came, all the village kids pressed closely around the table full of items to be given away – board games, mosquito killers and plenty of toys.

From somewhere in the back, Dalat staff member Jonathan Steffen hopped on a bike way too small for him and rode through the crowd. Another gleaming mountain bike was brought out as well. The kids’ eyes got big and a ripple of enthusiasm swept through the small mob. As various items were given out, most eyes stayed locked on the shiny new bikes. These were the grand prizes.

Three special faces in the crowd
The event was intended to be a blessing to the community. Dalat is fortunate in many ways, so staff and students feel it is their duty to give to those who have less. In this case, they were able to raise funds and donations to pass along to the village of Gertak Sanggul.

As the first bike’s ticket number was called out, Ah Loong emerged from the crowd, holding the winning ticket. With his littlest boy in his arms, the oldest boy and benefactor of this prize at his side, Ah Loong pointed at the bike to make sure he heard correctly. He doesn’t speak much English, but the look of gratitude in his eyes needed no translation.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Opportunistic Education

What do you do when a MOSTLY dead, 11 foot Reticulated Python with full grown goose in its belly is brought to your school?

You study it! All the Dalat students (including Elliot) got to observe and study this beautiful creature.

The high school Biology classes got to dissect it to the delight of the many big and little observers.

What a cool and unique learning experience! 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Off to a great start!

The second year of the Kids' English Club in the small fishing village we call GS is off to a great start!

We took a team of 22 from Dalat down to the village. We worked with about 50 village kids, and expect more to join in the next weeks. The team from Dalat is mostly high school students, and they write their own lessons for the village kids. It is so encouraging to watch them engage the children and see the relationships build. We are excited about the opportunity to share The Love in this very special place.

The day ended with some excitement! The groups meeting out by the beach were interrupted when a wild boar charged into their "classroom". They all had a great laugh when I told them the wild boar was actually tame. It had been adopted by a villager, and was very friendly to everyone. Though some still decided to played it safe...
More pictures HERE.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

So, the end of our summer break was a whirlwind, and it seems that we are just now getting caught up with things. We visited some friends on an island near Bali, Indonesia, and then spent almost a week on Bali itself. Jonathan was working as an educational consultant at a conference there. The kids got to be part of the children's program, and Mommy got a mommy vacation.You can see some more pictures here

When school started back up at Dalat, Elliot was a first grader! Micah has also been going to "school". He is going to a daycare a few hours a week so Kari can do some publications work for the school. It's crazy how time flies!
Elliot enjoys writing books! Here he is reading his book about nomads to his class. Photo by Lillian Chan

Micah likes to eat. Here he is raiding the fridge.