Sunday, June 30, 2013

Singapore Day 9: Water world and a Sunday sabbath

The Merlion, mythical mascot of Singapore
Kirsten arrives in the middle of the night, safe and sound. She was blessed to have Economy Comfort on the 19 hour flight from Minn. She reports: "The seat didn't seem to recline much - but I was happy about the extra leg room!"

Needless to say we are all awake for hours. (W took the bus to the airport and came back by taxi with K.) K unpacks into her cabinets: oh daughter of her mother. It's the first thing I do upon arrival = empty the suitcases into dressers and onto hangers.

We wake very late. W and I walk to get breakfast and it starts to drip. Soon there are big splashes of water. Wide splats landing on the sidewalk.

By the time we get under cover at the mini-mall, it's seriously raining. Vendors pull their movable displays under cover into the walkways, and rush to pull down tarps. The splash-up from the pavement is 6-10". We end up eating inside in the main cafeteria.
Glutenous rice in its leaf package
Unwrapped, a delicious mix
of sauce, seasoning, and meat

W has glutenous rice (a dim sum standard). I choose noodles, broth and veges, but the selection is skimpy. For S$4.20 ($3.50US), we can choose 6 items and noodles. I put in my bowl: 2 ladyfingers (okra), two kinds of mushroom, an egg, and broccoli. The chef submerges it in boiling broth. (Better to come in the afternoon for tastier broth!) Bags of fresh vegetables lie on the table beside us: they'll be washing and cutting those up for another hour or two. They keep bringing out greens until I'm nearly done.

Splashes and puddles form quickly!
After breakfast, W buys an umbrella: we have 3 in the flat where they're doing us no good. The rain has slowed from a deluge to a downpour by the time we stop by a bakery for some pastries to share with Kirsten.

We slog home, my flip-flops shedding water. W's Keens keep the water off until we're nearly home and the puddles are deep. Water rushes off the paved surfaces through metal grates, forming turbulent rivers in the concrete drainage canals. Every few days during dry season (now), God washes the leaves and removes smells of drainage and garbage, refreshing the air and the ground as water rushes to the sea.

K sleeps until noon. W and I are going through the Bible (he in big chunks; I listening on my IPad), but it's strange not to get to morning service. I sat through a wonderful sermon yesterday at the wedding, and I think that was my sabbath. W's been teaching theology all week in his classroom community. Our church routines are jumbled, and we miss Creekside Church (where we are members.) However, we sense God's presence in the preparation and interactions with others. We are thankful to be in ministry at home and here.

By the time we're ready to leave the flat, it's 3pm. We spend the afternoon in Singapore, letting Kirsten get acclimated to the weather. She's walking well and her arthritis is pretty quiet, even after a 4 hour flight to Minneapolis and 19 hours to Singapore. We are so grateful to God for his mercy on her.

Puri putra steamer
In the neighborhood mall a few nights ago, we tried puri putra. A gal scoops rice flour onto a 2" metal plate. She sprinkles it with brown sugar and covers the sugar with more rice flour. She spins another plate over to remove excess flour, making each "cookie" the same size. She uses rice flour and brown sugar, nothing more, nothing less.

"I learned how to do this from my sister. It is traditional Malay dessert," she explains.

The contraption to steam it is interesting (see photo). The gal shows us how she covers the rice powder with a 5" piece of fabric, slips a little metal "hat" over, and flips it over to cook on metal plates resting on the steam pot. It takes 5 minutes to steam: a serving is five 2" cookies, plenty between W and me.

 Thank you for your prayers for our time of ministry. I usually write about things I think will interest the reader: however, this is a serious time of ministry and prayer for us. We appreciate your support and partnership! Much love from Singapore from all the K's.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Singapore Day 8: Wedding day, Chinatown, and baby chopsticks

W takes his class out for roti prata (see Day 1 for the menu), his traditional last-day gift to them. I join them. They want to hear how we met and fell in love. They're very complimentary about the Systematic Theology class: W loves to teach and has no trouble communicating across culture.

Then it's back to the office to work. Finally, my teaching material and handouts are sorted and ready for Tuesday's class. Kirsten comes tonight night (1:30am) so the flat will start to fill up with our kids. The other two (Jeremy and his wife Rebekah) arrives Tuesday.

Two former ATC students are getting married at 11am. Guests are pouring into the building when we return from our late breakfast. I decide to duck into the service to see a Singaporean Christian wedding. Strings of hearts hang above the escalator, and the stage is simply decorated with two tall bar tables wrapped in fabric.

Two members of the worship team warm up the crowd in Singlish and Mandarin. The groom walks down the aisle alone at 11:15. The keyboardist plays as the attendants come in: two little girls lead the procession.

Finally, everyone stands as the bride is announced, walking slowly down the long aisle on the arm of her father. People clap, cheer her on, and stand until she's at the front and has been handed off to the groom.

The young couple sits in the front row during a 15 minute worship set. The PPT is in English and Mandarin, and verses are sung alternately in both languages.

Pastor Joseph (who preached Sunday) tells how Hans and Jan met in class. They told him exactly the same thing had attracted them to each other: a love for God and his mission, and a passion to serve children. The bride worked with Joseph in planting churches in Fiji - she leads worship, works with children, and is a vibrant minister. The groom likewise loves children's work.

After a half-hour message, given in English and interpreted into Mandarin, the couple steps onto the stage to exchange vows and rings. He kisses her, someone sings, and the crowd cheers.

There's a banquet set up in the parking garage under the building. White plastic chairs line a huge circumference around the buffet of hot dishes, desserts, and decor in the enter. There must be several hundred guests. Many are children and teens. It's noisy, friendly, and festive.

Looking through images online, I find my sister: doesn't this gal look like me? (She's prettier, but still... at some S'pore gala last year.)

At 3pm, W and I take the #12 bus to Chinatown. It takes an hour and twenty minutes to wind through the neighborhoods. We're both dehydrated and hungry, so we stop at the first place that looks decent. It's in the basement of a huge complex. The air-con is so high that our spicy hot bowl of noodles tastes just right. Mine is curried with egg, jalapenos, tiny tofu cubes, and cilantro. W's is hotter still, a red broth with thin noodles and an assortment of meats. I order a lemon grass drink that's perfumed like jasmine and rose water. Refreshing, and yummy.

We browse through the little streets of Chinatown to see what's new. Honestly, not much has changed. There are hundreds of vendors with assortments of Chinese lanterns, chochkes, souvenirs, kids' clothes with lots of embellishments, bracelets, lucky charms, and just plain junk. It's good fun. We pick up "Angry Bird" baby chopsticks for Kinsey (granddaughter) to play with.

We watch in astonishment at the square full of people who've paid their $3 to do Texas line dancing in the Chinatown Plaza. Some wear cowboy hats, some have boots and swinging skirts. They're all ages. Some 70-year-olds have the moves and shimmeys down cold. Other Western tourists stop and can't believe their eyes, just like us. (Videos, click here and here.)

We decide to take the MRT home. On two trains and a mile+ walk, it takes us 1:10. Bit faster. Better exercise, but less scenery. The humidity is 80% and the temperature is 31oC (88oF). Not bad. There's a gathering of Muslim men under one complex. The women sit on a rug off to the side. It's not mosque day but there are dozens gathered. We are traveling at a good clip as we angle through the apartments toward our own, and they hardly pause to glance up.

When we get home, we flip the air-con on to 27oC (80oF) and it feels utterly cool. W will get a cat-nap and then head to the airport after midnight to pick up Kirsten. Can't wait to see her.

Read more:
*I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2 NLT

*When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. Psalm 142:3 NIV

*Jesus said, “So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.” Luke 21:14-15 NLT

*Jesus replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.” Luke 18:27 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Almighty God, all things are possible through you. When we feel afraid, help us to remember your greatness and your goodness with wonder, love, and praise.

Steadfast God, we count on you to give us words and actions that nurture, heal, and serve. Watch over us and grant us strength and goodness. Amen.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Singapore Day 7: Bahasa, eggs, and mushrooms

Our complex: the top of the brick decor
is probably 80' high
W subscribed to a Premium version of the online Bahasa Indonesia course that I've been doing for free. The Basic courses didn't give me access to the videos and PDFs. I zip through 10 videos as the sheets wash on Thursday.

I know a few words - maybe 100. In these initial lessons, I'm staggered by how little I know. I understand a lot more than I can repeat or write. I've been carrying around two books of vocabulary and basic phrases. So far, I can count to ten, exchange names and a few greetings, and find the bathroom. Not much. I'm studying between everything else, browsing more than learning.

A secondary school in our neighborhood
Learning Bahasa is a major excursion back into the classroom. AGAIN. I keep reading headlines in the Malay newspapers on every newsstand. Many words are the same, though Indonesia has kept modernizing its language beyond Malay progress.

It was a working day. I read the last of the course material for next week, sorting it for student copies. I finally finished revisions to the syllabus and schedule by noon. It was nice to take a break for some noodles and fish sauce with W's class at 10-10:30. As my new notes were printing, I got an email with a schedule revision. The next few hours were spent redoing the syllabus and schedule. Oh well. The new timing is better for students, and leaves our evenings free.

Unrefrigerated: eggs on the grocery shelves
We get home to sparkling floors and a tidy flat. My purpose in leaving a note for the maid failed. We come back to the "already washed bedding and towels" note lying on the dresser, our sheets changed, and our fresh towels gone. I toss everything in the wash again though I hate to waste the water. Next week I'll strip the clean linens before we leave and put it back on our bed when we get home.

A plumber comes by to look at the leaking toilet. He wants S$200 to fix it. W calls ATC; there's no way they'll pay more for repair than replacement.

W and I walk across a few streets and under apartments, following the GPS to a new neighborhood complex, complete with Subway and vegetarian restaurants, medical clinic, and pet store. The food is fairly good: I like the marinated "monkey mushrooms," though they're weird and hairy. The ramen they're in is not very flavorful. W has baked "chicken rice." There's no chicken in it since it's a pure vegetarian restaurant (except for the fish and seafood) but he adds a lot of hot sauce and that gives it taste.

We buy a dozen eggs and snacks for next week's class. We have no problem finding our way home, bags swinging from our hands.

Kirsten gets bumped to a day later: she's coming in Sunday instead of after midnight tonight. W could use the sleep: he's been teaching 8:30-3:30 since Monday and wraps it up Saturday (tomorrow.)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Singapore Day 6: Laundry day and temperature regulation

Clips that fit over 1" dowels
The maid will come Friday instead of her regular Wednesday routine (yesterday). She's had to postpone twice.

I've seen the huge loads typically crammed into the front-load washing machines of Singapore (and England). My German mother (the Queen of Laundry) would freak at what goes in together. And, I admit, I'm a bit put off by it as well. I like my clothing and bedding clean, not just jumbled in a bit of water and dried off.

W tossed in a load of shirts the other day; we get soaked with perspiration in the humid 85-95oF climate. Temps indoors:
  • At school, the classroom and office air-con is turned down to a brutal 68oF (20oC) and we shiver when we arrive. Students bring sweaters and shawls, just in case the lecturer likes it cold.
  • We're always turning up the thermostat to 75oF (24oC). Much more comfy!
  • In our bedroom and in the flat where we study and eat, we keep the dials at 80oF (about 27oC). Very pleasant. We need only a light thermal blanket for the night.
This morning I toss in our bedding and do a load of clothing. The washer are labeled "Fuzzy, Economy, Jean, Wool." I think that means: Fuzzy - choose options for speed of spin, size of wash, etc.; Economy - basic wash and med. spin; Jean - hard wash and spin; Wool - who knows! It can't mean cold - there is only cold. I choose options with the Fuzzy setting. An extra rinse for sure.

When I look it up, Fuzzy refers to technology that measures the amount of dirt and kind of load to auto-adjust the water level and cycle. The washer and dryer typically sit on a porch, with closable windows against storms. Long poles (1" dowels) stretch overhead for sheets and indoor-outdoor drying. It takes a while for me to find the u-hook pole to lift the dowels down for loading and up again into the brackets.

Drying laundry hangs outside
It's common to see laundry hanging outside flat windows: 8-10' dowels slip into metal brackets spaced 12" apart, outside the laundry room. Clothes are secured with big clips before being suspended outside the flat. I hang our dainties in the laundry room but many people's stuff is on display

The water here is soft and safe to drink. There's only cold water in the kitchen - AND in the bath, unless we click on the point-of-use water heater by the bathroom. The electric kettle stays busy for tea and coffee. We save water by having short showers and use as little as possible to wash dishes, brush teeth, etc. Water is reclaimed for irrigation and toilets, but the country also works at sustainability through desalinization (water from the oceans).

There will be plenty to do when Auntie L arrives in the morning. All three bedrooms left vacant by the Taylors need cleaning. The 15" ceramic floor tiles of the flat are white. That means mopping, maybe shaking out and vacuuming rugs ... there's enough work without tossing our bedding and towels in with everyone else's.

I'm happy to sleep on fresh bedding and dry with clean towels. A good start to another day.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Singapore Day 5: Food. And more food.

The day starts up with two small pastries I picked up from a bakery last night. I share, but still ... I'm eating before I'm hungry. Cheryl takes me along to Mr. Prata, but I can only tolerate a TeeO (black tea and sugar). When the gals head back to work after 10, I look for W, who's on breakfast break with his students. I order a plate of noodles and long (green) beans. They're cold and greasy but I eat most of them.

The students remark on the way I hold my chopsticks. "You know how to hold properly," they exclaim. "We never teach our children so they hold any way. How did you learn?"

From the pictures on the back of chopstick wrappers, of course.

I ask the younger students for a demonstration. "Why do the elders say you don't know how to hold?" They show me how they cross the sticks and randomly stab at food. It's funny to watch. They weren't taught so they just pick up the food however they can. Most Singaporean Chinese alternate chopsticks with a fork and spoon.

"We have to start teaching children to use chopsticks," sighs one of the women. "And you from USA can use it?" The young gal beside me asks how I do it, and with a quick demo tries it out. "I drop food lah." Oh well. You can hardly starve to death here. With spoon. Fork. Or chopsticks.

A food stall in a hawker marker
Cheryl knocks on the office door at noon and invites me along to an official luncheon. They're saying goodbye to a coworker on her last day. However, nothing is mentioned "because she might be emotional about the farewell." Goodbyes will be said privately to this greatly appreciated helper.

Where do we go? To a buffet. Our options:
  • Chinese stir-fry and rice (snow crab and noodles; scallops and tofu...)
  • Japanese sushi (beautiful. Lots of variety)
  • Curries and meats in sauce (mutton curry; Indian beef, etc.)
  • Tempura (shrimp, beef, taro, tofu)
  • Laksa (coconut and meat soup)
  • Satay (beef, chicken, squid, etc.) For this you clip the table number to a stake of the type of meat you want and the chef cooks it up, clips your table number to the skewer, and servers bring it to you.
  • Dim sum (5 enormous steamers of buns and assorted offerings)
  • Pizza and other western foods
  • Ben and Jerry ice-cream bar
  • A pudding and fruit bar: the guava slices with plum sugar are fantastic. I spoon a bit of mango puree into a little cup and put a half-scoop of "B&J Chocolate Therapy" on top.
  • Cake desserts (brownies, squares, etc.) I skipped these entirely.
  • Drink bar: assorted teas and coffees (hot and cold), pop, fruit drinks, water
The variety of food is staggering
A small Malay motions me forward at the ice cream bar. His feet are injured so I wave him ahead. The longest line is at that counter. Everyone grabs the same ice cream scoops and plunges them into the cold water pot when they're done. (That can't be good for us.)

I try to limit my portions but we eat for an hour and a half, between laughing about our common love of Korean drama, miming Bollywood-style motions, and chatting about kids and school and recipes. It's delightful, but we're all so full we just want to sleep when we get back to the office.

Typical neighborhood: looming housing
After work, W and I walk from the flat to the nearby neighborhood center. There are skyscrapers on every side. Once we explore, I have wonton soup and W gets dim sum. We snag a few mini Magnum ice cream bars, stuff them in a freezer bag, and head home. Pistachio ice cream. Groan. Even if it's a little bar, I'm stuffed from lunch, never mind from supper.

We have emails to catch up on and a bit more work to do before bed. I watch an hour of KBS (Korean TV). Cheryl and her kids have a supper appointment before she comes home to pack. They fly out in the early morning hours. (Jay flew home Sunday night. That was a close call: he'd though his flight was Monday until they checked the ticket Sunday evening. Oh my!)

We'll be in the flat on our own until Kirsten arrives early Saturday. I have a pile of research to finish before the weekend. Can't believe it's going to be Thursday when we wake up. It's nearly the end of June. Is anyone else feeling like summer is rushing by?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Singapore Day 4: Singlish and all that

Singlish is the combination of English with Singapore's other languages (Tamil, Mandarin, and Malay). Listen and see if you can understand it (click here).

It took W and me a few trips to become more fluent in understanding. Sometimes we find ourselves copying the rhythms. (Singaporeans use "is it?" or "lah" at the end of sentences, where Canadians would use, "right?" and Americans would say, "huh.")

I spent most of yesterday in the flat, studying and working on next week's courses. Most of my students are not the evangelism interns, as I'd assumed. Instead, they're Masters- and a few Bachelor-level students who will be writing serious papers. Glad I asked! That's a totally different level of teaching. Bracing myself by reviewing texts I used to write my dissertation.

Muji motto: simplicity,
efficiency, and functionality
W and I caught supper at Tampines Mall: Cheryl took N there for a swim (except the pool was closed for renovations, which are frequent in this upscale land). I picked a wonton soup #7 ... which turned out to be a bowl of good broth, some thin noodles, and 3 small wontons. Hmmm. Tasty, but not what I thought I was getting. W chose rice and chicken. His stomach isn't being very cooperative. (Mine seems to be happy.)

I found the Muji dot notebooks I'd read about in a NY blog - at the Muji store in the mall. We were in a rush to catch a ride home, so I'll have to go back and see what else they carry. They seemed to have a lot of cool Japanese things.

It hailed for the first time in years on the west side of the island; that was the big news of the night. We went to bed early and W crashed at 8: I read until 10.

This morning, I finally went in to work at the school - while W and his class kept on working. After a tea (Tee O - tea with sugar) with girlfriends at Mr. Prata, I wandered over to the main eating area for break-time with W and his group. I wasn't really hungry and the noodles and long beans (green beans) were not great. (Not bad, just not the stellar food we often eat here.) It will keep me until supper.

The CRS (shrimp) aquarium store wasn't open but I had a nice chat with the owner. I'll go back to see what they carry when I take a break.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Singapore Day 3: Hot, hazy, and delicious

Smoke haze begins to clear
I rest in the morning while W teaches. This time around, neither of us adjusted as quickly to the time change as before. Part of it is that we're riding around in a car some of the time: we'd be walking and using public transit if Taylors weren't kind chauffeurs. The ongoing haze probably doesn't let as much sunlight through to reset our body clocks, either.

We've got opposing teaching schedules. W's on this week and our fourth. I'm teaching the two weeks between. As usual, he comes back from class excited about the discussion and material he taught. I'm reviewing material and getting ready for next week: I have to teach two intensive weeks of research methodology, or "How do you write a research paper?"

Some kids in Malaysia and Singapore wear
masks to prevent lung damage from smoke
blowing from Indonesia to the west
Most of the students have not done theological research or writing. Some from non-tech areas will have only used a computer in the previous 3-4 weeks. A few are barely literate in English. For them, this is a crash course in language and literacy, as well as academia. My job is to give them enough information and skill to get through their theology classes.

I've been inspired by those who've taught this in the past. They've loved the students and their material, and shared their joy in the progress students make. This wouldn't be my first choice of teaching material, to be honest. More artist than mathematician, I like the interchange of "what can be" rather than "these are the rules you will use." However, I have more enthusiasm than I started with from hearing others' passion for teaching English. Plus God just took me through 4 weeks of TESOL, which surely will help!

After noon, Cheryl takes me and their 9-yr-old daughter N across the island to the Junk Pile, a pottery stash on the west side. The Brits colonized Singapore so cars drive on the left, not the right like in the USA. It's a happy reminder of our stay in England a decade ago.

Young N is soon hot and bored. No wonder - her mom and I are fascinated by the variety in each aisle of the shaded warehouse. Temps are in the low 90s, but humidity is high and the breeze is minimal between the shelves. We're dripping within a half hour.

One of the island's only surviving Dragon Kilns is at this pottery. We walk through a brick tunnel and look at the pottery supplies and tools for students who come here to learn and plan with clay. When we're done, we wash the dust off our hands and cool off with a popsicle. It takes 40 minutes to cross the island back to our flat to pick up the other child, 14-year-old J.

W's class is done by 3:15. We drop by the school for him on our way to the most amazing supper at Tim Ho Wan, a Michelin-rated dim sum restaurant. The line is long but quick; we shuffle from one low stool to the next toward the entry.

Hum bao
A server comes by and hands us a tab sheet for pre-orders. Once we're seated, our food arrives on little trays and in steamer baskets. Even the kids rave about the delectable glutinous rice wrapped in leaves, fresh hot hum bao rolls with crispy outsides and bbq pork inside, and the shrimp dumplings. The tables are packed with happy customers. No wonder! We stagger out with bulging stomachs.

We make one more stop: Arab Street (the Muslim quarter). in the shops that line the narrow streets, the Taylors find batik, shawls, and other beautiful gifts. W and I are on stuff-rations. We're severely downsizing at home and determined not to bring more home than we came with. If we can, we'll shed clothing, books, and other goodies here.

W and I pause at the Sufi Corner for Turkish coffee (he) and mint tea (me). Beside us, tables of young people smoke hookahs and visit, passing the hoses of rose and milk shisha around and puffing out fragrant clouds.

We're all weary and happy to be home by 7:30. We toddle off to bed and sleep soundly. By the time I get up at 8 in the morning, everyone else is gone. In the air-conditioned quiet, I sit at my desk overlooking other flats, traffic, and lots of greenery, brushing up on what I'll teach next week.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Singapore Day 2: Sweet Sunday

Murtabak stuffed with mutton, with
more curry sauce to spice it up.
"What do you guys think about breakfast before church?" Cheryl asks. She's awake with us at 4am.

We're for it ... especially since it's not Western food. "The nearest place that serves decent Western breakfasts charges S$15 for French Toast," she explains. Out of our league, even if we were interested. (We're not.)

When you're wide awake that early, an uninterrupted day lasts a long time. I have a quick snooze between 7-8am.

The Murtabak with mutton is super, and we're stuffed when we get to church. I know we're in a different culture when the announcements begin with "Let me tell us about this." (The person making announcements is part of the group, not an individual telling others what's coming.)

The VFC sanctuary (no balloons today,
but this is where we met)
The worship is great - 6 voices, 5 instrumentalists. The usher goes on stage to collect the offering from the worship team and pastor before coming down to the rest of us.

Pastor Joseph, a former lawyer and church planter, is a compelling speaker. His text is Romans 4:17-22. To keep our attention, he uses a device common here: group repletion. "We're talking today about Abraham. Everyone say 'Abraham.'"

The audience responds, "Abraham."

When he reads V. 20, he says, "... grew strong in faith. Everyone say, 'grew strong in faith.'"

And the audience complies, "Grew strong in faith."

Soon we're instructed, "Turn to your neighbor and say, 'You have a measure of faith.'"

W and I look at each other. We're not used to this. We instinctively raise our eyebrows rather than our voices. It's always fun to see what Family does in different cultures. This church is renowned for planting house churches all over the world. There may be as many as 8-9000 church plants in the past decades. As far as they can tell to date, the church has five generations of church planting (the mother church has sent a planter, whose church planted, and then that church plants another, etc.)

Pastor Joseph has a beautiful singing voice. He leads us a Capella in one of my favorite choruses, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul, worship his holy name." Then we're called to the front if we desire God's help as our heavenly Father.

"God is honored when we ask for much," the pastor reminds us. "It shows that we believe we have a great God, who has limitless resources. He is not made poor by our requests, but delights to hear us ask him for all we need."

I need a fresh anointing of God's Spirit and I'm eager to ask. In this new calling, we will need wisdom and strength, along with the insight and power that only the Holy Spirit can give.

We return to our seats for closing announcements. At the front, off to one side, is a plexiglass box marked "Decency Cloths." inside are blue fleece blankets. An older lady hurries over to cover a gal lying prostrate on the floor praying. The woman stays on the carpet until service is over. Then a few women come up to pray with her. After we are dismissed, as many greet each other and leave, groups of 5-10 pray together among the pews.

Singapore MRT
No one is hungry for lunch. Jay has to teach in the afternoon, so he drops us at the Tampines MRT (train) station on his way to his class. There's no litter on the trains. Women wear flip-flops or cute sandals, shorts, or skirts. The men wear tight indigo jeans with t-shirts and sneakers.

On the way, a group of young people chatters on the train. The guys sit on each others' laps when there are too few seats. Many passengers are texting or checking email. When the teens say noisy goodbyes to each other at a station stop, older people hiss "sssssshhhhh" at them and all becomes quiet again.

We ride to Bugis, a suburb with a huge vendor market and a shopping hub for electronics. I need a sun hat. I don't find one at the Bugis market but the perfect one is waiting at OG, a Japanese department store nearby. It shades my fair skin from the sun. I wear sunglasses, another rarity among women. Many people stare me right in the eye/glasses as they walk by. I look back at them from behind dark lenses.

We eat at an okay place in Little India, sitting between the road (congested with narrow lorries, hundreds of Indian men, and an occasional woman) and the statue of a black goddess with enormous breasts. I keep glancing over to see who's watching us. There she is. Ugh. The chicken korma is fine, the Basmati rice is tasty, and the fennel/coriander potatoes are delicious.

The Indian (Bangladeshi?) men walk holding hands or with arms around their shoulders. The men are out in droves, visiting before the workweek resumes. They ignore traffic lights to drift across the roads in huge swarms or sit in open areas chatting and smoking together.

Little India. Lots and lots of men!
We hop a bus from Little India back to the Tampines Station. The cutest thing we see is while we're walking the mile home  is an older teen with trendy clothes, a serious Mohawk haircut, and a face mask (against pollution). He walks arm in arm with his tiny grandmother. He escorts her over the crosswalk and toward the apartment blocks. I don't have my camera, or you could enjoy the sight with me!

We've walked miles. It's pleasant out - it was still smoggy from the fires in Indonesia but not unbearable. The temperature was a pleasant 90+oF with a bit of a breeze off and on cooling the skin. It's still 93oF when we get home and the sun goes down about 7:10pm.

We're on floor 7. It's my first run at the stairs. My legs start to feel tired between floors 5 and 6. W carries his bag holding water bottles and a few purchases up the elevator. By the time he's unlocked the flat, I meet him at the door, ready for a refreshing drink.

God is good. We love this area - and are grateful for good health, the ability to walk as long as we want, eat whatever pleases us, and do God's work to boot. I think it's going to be another early night. Hope you all have a great day as the sun comes up on the N. American continent.

Read more:
*For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. Psalm 22:28 NLT

*They sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Ezra 3:11 NLT

*Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. Acts 2:46-47 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Thanks be to you, Lord Christ, for your presence in our lives, for the love you have poured out upon us through your life. We thank you for your teaching, your healing, and most of all, for giving your life for us. We know we are not worthy, but we feel your enduring love. Amen.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Singapore Day 1

Breakfast is 2 roti pratas (folded-dough flatbreads) with spicy curry gravy. Jay drops us at the little shopping complex near the church. We usually treat our students to breakfast at Mr. Prata, so we head there. Tastes yummy! W planned on butter chicken, but it wasn't ready yet. Another time!

Jay takes us back to the flat after we buy drinks (Chinese herbal tea for me), apple cider vinegar, water bottles, and tissues. Everyone takes their own tissues, used for everything from serviettes or toilet paper, so we usually hit a drug store as soon as we get here.

I have a short afternoon nap while W catches up on tech and info. Then Taylors drop us at Tampines Mall. We eat Korean BBQ at the 4th floor food court: my fish is grilled, as is W's chicken. It comes with a bowl of broth and sides of rice (with curry gravy over it), cabbage salad, and a fried egg. Yummy.

It's crowded at 6:30; families, singles, and couples are crammed on the seats. We wander the aisles looking for a place to sit down. A big family pats two empty chairs at their table and chatter to us in Singlish. After being here multiple times, it's easy to understand most people. [Here's a sample of Singlish: this Singapore blogger is funny. He suggests solutions to the terrible haze from the fires burning across the straits in Indonesia - and responds to comments by an Indonesian politician that Singaporeans are "childish" for protesting the smog.]

We walk home through the streets and under buildings. Every block of apartments seems to have a gathering place, and little vendor shops tuck away near sidewalks. People sit outside eating and talking. Someone's hosting a funeral meal in one of the open areas under the next block. There are masses of flowers, banners, and incense wafting over the walk.

W's white hair contrasts to the dark heads around us. With my blond hair and fair skin, I stick out wherever I go. Toddlers stare at us with looks of amazement. Maybe their parents will scare them into obedience by remembering us in a monster story.

We're asleep by 9pm. Good night everyone!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Singapore arrival

W grins from ear to ear. "They bumped us up."

They are Delta and their rep at the gate takes a liking to W. Though there's a long line for upgrades, she seats W and me side by side in Business Elite. We have fully reclining seats with down-like pillows and comforters. We sip refreshing orange juice as we wait for others to board. The menu choices are for a three-course dinner: soup and salad, [halibut], and a choice of desserts. W has the tenderloin. I try a bit of everything on my plate, but it's like they're feeding us everything the other passengers are not getting. Too much!

I tuck myself in after dinner and a movie and sleep for nearly 6 hours. I'm awake in time to ask for a late breakfast. The tray comes laden with fresh fruit, a quiche and sausages, and two croissants with a pot of preserves. I'd need these wide seats if I'd attempt to eat it all. Tea, fruit, and a few bites of quiche does it for me.

Our trip through security at Tokyo Narita goes smoothly, especially after we are pointed to a short line in another section of the airport. We eat a bit of congee in the Delta Club. It settles W's stomach. We both skip the beautiful sushi with regret: I'm still full from breakfast.

We're rested and wide awake, flying almost 7 hours to Singapore. Some people at Changi International Airport have dust masks on. The fires from Indonesia produce a grey haze that lies over the island as our taxi driver swirls through the streets. These guys are amazing: we tell them our address and they rush off. There's seldom a wrong turn, just a rush to drop us off and catch the next fare.

Singapore haze
It's 2am by the time we find the elevator for our block and haul our stuff into the flat. Our friends, the Taylors, have gotten in just before us and are asleep. We sleep soundly until 7am. Taylors have head out for a breakfast meeting so we catch up on emails and have a piece of toast. The smell of smoke permeates the flat.

At 9:30am, the clock back home says 6:30pm. We normally have a minimal adjustment upon arrival in a new time zone. (We feel jet-lagged for days when we return to Seattle's dark climate.) Our bodies feel like its morning, but we'll see how the evening goes. We're glad to be here!

Read more:
*Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don't know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both. Ecclesiastes 11:6 NLT

*His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away. Daniel 7:14 NIV

*But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7 NIV

*Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 NLT

Moravian Prayer: God, our lives become unmanageable and we grow weary. Knowing you are the same yesterday, today, and forever provides unimaginable comfort and joy. Amen.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A delay and a pit stop

Our afternoon flight out of Springfield is cancelled due to thunderstorms and fog to the north. By then, we've had lunch with our friends and said goodbye, packed up the house, and taken a taxi to the airport.

The next flight is delayed, so we sit at the airport for 7 hours. Of course we miss our connection to Seattle. W makes sure Delta rebooks our flight for Asia for a day later. We wouldn't even have turnaround time at home, and our teaching supplies have to come with us.

Though W's a Platinum flyer, Delta refuses to pay for our hotel room. W goes online to find a place to spend the night. He gets an excellent rate at a boutique hotel: the Hotel Indigo. We just miss the shuttle and have to wait a half hour for the next one.

We get to the hotel  at midnight, close to the time we expected to be home. There's a long line at the hotel counter. Everyone else in line has vouchers. (Delta gave all the regular passengers a voucher but not W with all his miles? Hmmm. It's their prerogative: the delay was weather-related, but it seems kinda cheezy and arbitrary, especially when we're tired.)

Oh well. We're exhausted and happy to find a nice place to sleep. Beauty feeds my soul. And the room is beautiful, the bed comfortable. There's a tea tray on the end of the bed. The furnishings are gorgeous and modern. The spa-like bath is enormous and clean clean clean. (Not to be taken for granted, at this point and going forward!)

We're up by 5:30am and once again, have to wait for the shuttle. It fills up and takes off without us, before its departure time. But the driver comes back as quickly as he can to get those still waiting. Within a few hours, we're on an uneventful flight.

Seattle is cold and rainy after the humidity and heat of Missouri. Our d-in-love R picks us up, has lunch with us, and waits while we run an errand. It's good to see her face. Family!

Finally, we make it home. We do laundry, repack, and prepare what we need to teach for a month in SE Asia. There's no place like home. Even if it's just overnight. And our granddaughter is bringing her parents over for a quick evening visit. Doesn't get better than that!

Lesson for the day: this is the beginning of inconveniences. This little one, with a blessing of such a lovely space to enjoy, is NOTHING. Our desires are not comfort or ease. We really do want whatever it is that brings God glory.

Waiting is good for us - and teaches us that we are not the center of anything. And the extra day at home? What a treat! I am grateful.

Read more:
*The words of the wise are like cattle prods—painful but helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd drives the sheep. Ecclesiastes 12:11 NLT

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests. Psalm 20:1-5 NIV

*O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples. Psalm 105:1 NLT

*Paul said, “I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Great God, we know even our finest words of praise and our great hymns of thanksgiving can never fully express our gratitude for your sacrifice. May we share your love with the whole earth! Amen.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Day 6: What's true compassion?

Dr. JoAnn Butrin leads International Ministries. Her teams emphasize compassion ministry, helping people get clean water (wells and filters), eat healthy foods (agriculture), and dealing with illnesses (medical teams). She gives us a case study and divides us into three groups. We're to evaluate how helpful various AG organizations (showcased at booths in the foyer) could be for the case study.

I'm appointed team leader so I assign team members to find out what the various ministries offer. The rest of us roam around evaluating our options. Meanwhile, Al - a pragmatic thinker - talks to a missionary already headed to the case study area to find out their plans. I whistle to assemble our team and we gather to listen to whether or not a ministry would be a good resource.

The group reaches an easy consensus about who might be the most helpful partners. Al acts as our spokesman; he does a good job of presenting our case to the general session.

When we resume, Dr. B emphasizes the importance of building relationships and asking what locals want and need - within or beyond their existing structures. Missionaries are connected to many resources in AGWM. However, we must build a vision locally and work together with nationals.

"Don't impose something from the outside that is not helpful or sustainable," she warns. "It's hard not to show up to FIX things. Most interventions are very temporary solutions."

"Times have changed," Dr. B continues, "and we can't come in to provide easy answers. We have to be careful with interventions. Restraint is vital. The local church has to be proud of saving the children, be in control of the well, solve their problems ... and get the credit. The church's presence must be given respect and influence in the community."

How? Butrin says that we show dignity and restraint. We do an assessment. Then we listen. Evaluate. We never create dependency, but plan for sustainability. "If you are partners with the local church, American giving can help. But we plan for one-time and limited financing. We engage with an exit strategy in place, so that locals own their ministry and helps."

During the lunch break, W and I zip to the seminary. It's about 10 minutes away and I want to say hello to my former professors. We catch up with a few and I slip my card under the doors of those who are away. Then we head back to the CBC campus for lunch.

After noon, we talk about spiritual warfare. "It's as real as this table," says one speaker. "You must be prepared and prayed up at all times. This is no game. This is war. We are not fighting people but spiritual battles."

The missionaries give us examples that raise the hair on my neck. "This is no picnic! Get prayer teams. You will need many intercessors, not just casual prayer partners."

Fabriano dot pages
My notebook has been filling up. I love the lime green cover on my A4 Fabriano dot-book. I can draw or write and the paper quality is good enough to fill both sides. W laughs when I pull out gel pens to color the diagrams and notes I'm making. But the little bursts of color highlighting the pages help me remember the info. This wee bit of art, especially in my sixth week of sitting in classes, cheers me up.

We're at Jason and Mary's place for supper. They're NU alums involved in Convoy of Hope. We're so proud of them! It's fun to catch up on their news and ours.

We get home to Taylors' place and tidy up, pack, and do laundry. I call my sweet Uncle E to wish him a late Father's Day. He's been a faithful "second dad" all my life. I'm blessed to have someone besides my folks who has loved me since I was a little girl.

Tomorrow we'll be on a flight home. We'll get in before midnight and leave the next day for Singapore. This is some summer! Used to be summer meant vacation. Now it's an adventure.

Read more:
*But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of the grave." Psalm 49:15 NLT

*The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3:19 NLT

*Amos said, “I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’" Amos 7:14-15 NLT

*Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” Luke 5:10 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Dearest Lord Jesus, there’s a lot of risk involved in leaving our boats by the lakeshore. Help us to know your strength as we share your love with others. Amen.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I love my dad. And he loves me.

At a grad celebration last year.
Dad's always been this excited
about parties.
I love my dad. Period. I don't have to qualify my love with "... if only he would..." or "... but I wish he ..." I love my dad with all his strengths and quirks.

My dad fell in love with a gal in his youth group and married her the week they turned 21 and 18. Yikes. (Who do you know who's that age?)

Dad and Mom agreed to love each other more than anyone else. More than parents. More than children. When I was 5, I was shocked when I asked Mom if she loved us most: she said she loved Dad best of everyone in the world. I never forgot her healthy model of marriage and devotion.

Dad and Mom flew to Springfield with us
to celebrate grad last year.
Once in a while, Dad would grab Mom and swing her around the kitchen when he came from work. We'd cling to them and squeal, "Daddy, Daddy, put Mom down," along with her "Dearie! oh Dearie!" Ha ha. What do kids know? They were young and having fun.

My three brothers and I knew we were safe from harm. Dad was the man of the house - and he went off to work every day, provided both love and spankings as needed, and taught us practical things.
By the "servant" sculpture, at grad
  • You can exercise in the middle of the LR with the kids jumping all over you.
  • If you coil a tree with copper wire that's hooked to  a car battery, the neighbor's dog will no longer pee on it and the tree will grow again.
  • Plywood boards propped on a scaffold and doused with water make a fine ice slide during Winnipeg's winters.
  • Using the garden hose to clean children with poop-y diapers speeds up potty training. (Yeah, Mom was gone that time.)
  • Reading TIME magazine with full concentration while babysitting gives children tacit permission to clamber up and down inside the storage closet. It provides them with happy memories of the "closet of mystery," even though Mom wondered who made such a mess of the neatly hung winter coats.
  • Having devotions every morning, whether or not the kids are with you, leaves a huge impression about the importance of scripture and prayer.
Dad in the middle of the tribe,
a few Christmases ago
When we were little, I had no idea that he was happy to be my dad. Mom told me that when I was in my late teens, which thrilled me. Regardless, I always felt safest with him. I knew Dad's love for God, his willingness to obey God's Word, and his love for his family buffered us from whatever would hurt us.

I'm probably as much or more like my dad than my brothers, so I like how he does things. He's encouraged us since we were little, with "You can do it!" He's applauded our accomplishments with a grin or "well, that's good." He's pushed each child forward to be courageous rather than cautious. He's modeled creative thinking when obstacles couldn't be solved with traditional solutions.

There's no one in the world like my Pop! He smiled when we said we were going to Indonesia. And I know he and Mom will be our champions, our supporters, and our spiritual advocates as we go.


I trust my Heavenly Father on this new venture, because my dad has been a most trustworthy and honorable man. I'm proud to call him my father!

Read more:
*How great are God’s signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation. Daniel 4:3 (NIV)

*God did extraordinary miracles through Paul. Acts 19:11 (NLT)

*We know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. Galatians 2:16 (NLT)

Moravian Prayer: Lord, we see proof of your extraordinary love in the miracles you performed in days of old. Open our eyes that we might see and be the miracles of today and tomorrow. Amen.