We love to have company. Pam is a great cook, and clearly has the gift of hospitality. In the early days in Malaysia, we would have company over all the time. With two jobs, two Master’s degrees, and enough responsibilities to burden folks half our age, we have slowed down a little. It was great to have Matt and Kate here on the way back from missions work in Cambodia, and our dear friends Al and Shelley, with whom we shared a great island holiday in the middle of a typhoon! But lately, the company has been a little thin on the ground.

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So it was very nice to hear that my old colleague and our dear friend Shelley would be dropping by to visit for a couple of days. This was especially true since Shelley now lives in Bali, Indonesia, so for her to come all the way to Kuala Lumpur was a great delight. She has just taken a job in Macao, and I have just taken a job in the Cayman’s, so we had a lot to talk about the job hunt for those of us who are rapidly approaching their ‘best-before-date’ as far as getting a shot at international teaching jobs is concerned. Gender barriers may be falling all over the place, but ageism is alive and well, and is probably being practiced in your own country, no matter where you live.

Unfortunately, Shelley got very ill on her last two days – nothing we fed her, we’re pretty sure – and was unable to come out for dinner with us to Oasis. In her honour, and on her nickel, we went out ourselves to Foley’s and had a very pleasant evening. Shelley is going to be across Hong Kong harbor from some other ex-CPU staff, so she will be in good company, and we wish her all the best in her new adventure.

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Shortly after Shelley left, we had the pleasure of hosting some other dear friends from Phnom Penh, Beth and Stephen Lauer, who like us left Southwestern Ontario to come to Southeast Asia to minister. Phnom Penh is not an easy city to live in. It is noisy and increasingly crowded, and it is not only hot, but it is dusty and dry as well, with a fine, red dust that floats up and hangs in the air with the diesel exhaust, making it difficult to breath and impossible to escape. At least in Malaysia there is plenty of vegetation to soak up the carbon. But not so in Cambodia, whose forests have been razed for farmland and bombed into oblivion. It is a tough field in which to minister, and Beth and Stephen have persevered in difficult circumstances for many years. We were happy to be able to give them a a break from the heat and chance to unwind with those who understand the pressures of ministry.

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We didn’t give them long to rest, heading out for Malacca on our first full day to do some sight-seeing and souvenir shopping. Then with our trusty iPhone and Google map we set out across country on the back roads to a place just south of Port Dickson called Avillion, where we stayed the night in little cabanas on stilts over the Straits of Malacca.

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Pam had packed an entire picnic basket of goodies, so we all curled up in the little sitting area overlooking the water and chatted happily for half the night. No, we never did run out of things to talk about. More cross country trekking the next day brought us to Putra Jaya and some iconic pictures before we headed back to our little condo in Subang Jaya. The next day Pam led our still-game company downtown for the Cook’s tour of KL, and I joined them after work so we could go up to the top of Trader’s for a drink and a look at the fabulous view of the Twin Towers as they lit up at night. Sunway Pyramid for shopping and lunch was on the menu for the next day, with some very nice home cooking awaiting me at the end of my day. Wednesday was Stephen’s birthday, so we did the Las Carretas Mexican meal, and nobody was disappointed.

It is impossible to measure the importance of visits such as these. Our lives are rich in work, study, and experiences. But friends are among our greatest treasures, and to have an opportunity to demonstrate that importance to those we care about is especially sweet. We didn’t get to all the places we wanted to go, or all the restaurants we had in mind. There are nine places that serve food in the nearest strip mall of 12 shops. Multiply that across 5 million people and that is a mess of restaurants. But we did have a fabulous visit with some very fine people, and that is the important thing. It is also likely to be the last bit of company we have until we get home ourselves. If so, it was a nice way to bring our ministry of hospitality to a close.

Obama

Gerhard Lohfink writes, “When the church is criticized among the nations because of its bad example, the holy name of God itself is dishonored” (p. 179).  Those thoughts go through my head every time I hear of a Christian likening President Obama to the anti-Christ. Do these people have even the remotest conception of the testimony of Christ they despoil with such screeds? As Lohfink points out, there are many in the church, myself included, who decry the identification of the church with the corporate structure of America that seeks to reduce millions of people to economic slavery so the powerful can dwell in luxury. “This understanding of the church is marked by a profound embarrassment at the history of the church since Constantine as a dominating institution; it is also characterized by an aversion to elitist and triumphalist thought, [and] a longing for solidarity with all of humanity” (Loc. 809). This ‘longing for solidarity with all of humanity’ is most keenly felt by those of us who have lived in the Majority World for any length of time and have seen the damage that an “America-First” form of Christianity has inflicted on the developing countries of the world.

How did we get to such a destructive and elitist Christianity in the West? This certainly did not come from Christ, and scripture tells us that He would have condemned such attitudes in the strongest possible language (cf. Luke 4:18; 11:42; 19:46). However, it is not merely the words of Christ we need to look at, but his actions which sprang from his character. As Lohfink notes, “It was characteristic of Jesus that he constantly established community precisely for those who were denied community at that time, or who were judged inferior in respect to religion. Jesus made clear through his word and even more through his concrete conduct that he did not recognize religious-social exclusion and discrimination” (Loc. 1104). Yet the church in America does not merely recognize religious-social exclusion, it promotes it by supporting economic structures that oppress and persecute the poor and minorities.

Franklin Graham, who clearly ought to know better, recently reduced all of this oppression and exclusion to a simple matter of acceptance of tyranny (Woods 2015). As Martin Luther King pointed out years ago “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice” (King 1963). Graham, and other Christians who so callously dismiss the suffering minorities should pay better attention to their own history.

Lohfink, Gerhard. 1984. Jesus and Community: The Social Dimensions of Christian Faith. Philadelphia, USA. Fortress. Kindle Edition.

King, Martin Luther, Jr. “Letter From Birmingham City Jail.” thekingcenter.org.            http://www.thekingcenter.org/archive/document/letter-birmingham-city-jail-0

Woods, Mark. 2015. “Franklin Graham branded ‘crude, insensitive and paternalistic’ for Facebook comments on police shootings.” Christianity Today. 20 March 2015.            http://www.christiantoday.com/article/franklin.graham.branded.crude.insensitive.and.            paternalistic.for.facebook.comments.on.police.shootings/50387.htm

 

Page View

Last week I presented the work I have been doing to the GMC (there is a proper name for this acronym, but General Movers and (C)shakers covers it). I was given 10 minutes with five for questions. I had to peel myself out of there after 30. There was widespread approval and even applause for what I have accomplished in my short tenure. Everyone wanted a piece of the pie. It was very gratifying.

The website has started its uptick, almost entirely through word of mouth. The GMC want to change that with an on campus poster blitz. As people go to the site, it moves up on Google’s algorithm, spawning more hits. It topped 8,000 this month for the first time. Not sure what happened in February, but the Chinese New Year and having no students on campus might have had something to do with it!

On Wednesday I fly to Bario for the last time to try to put together a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the conclusion of the hostel that we are building there. I am hoping to get all of this in place before I leave this position at the end of June. This job has been one heck of a ride, and has opened my eyes to a potential I never knew I had. This is what happens when stop trying to be in charge of everything and let the Lord run the show!

BW

 

“Promise me that you will always remember that you are

braver than you believe,

stronger than you seem,

smarter than you think and

loved more than you know.”

Christopher Robin to Pooh

This is our anniversary. Oh, don’t ask which one. It is certainly getting on, that is for sure. After however many years it has been, this love has endured, and is still a great source of comfort and strength to us both. This is more for Pam, than for you, gentle reader. But this weblog helps us to keep our thoughts and experiences for when we are truly old. I would like to preserve this thought – captured in verse – so that in years to come it could be found.

Love’s not found
in languid looks
or impassioned sighs
and phrases muttered
as soon forgot as uttered;
or gifts that beggar cost
that ages soon will render lost.

Love’s not found in roses faded
or poses jaded by petty
jealousies. Such love only sees
what it most craves, and
not the other’s careworn ways,
or anxious fears and voiceless sighs
through toil of years now weak.

And this I speak, though
words come hard when
life’s brute strength has
worn away the sense and
bluish of love’s first kiss.

But know this: my dear
wife’s love’s a fire. Though
banked with care of those
not there and dearly missed;
it lingers ever kissed in her warm heart.

No flight of startled doves,
her love’s a constant light
to my still soul. A friend enfolded.
On this I’ve built a life
unmoved by ‘if’s and ‘should’s,
but bouldered yet by what
is good and of eternal worth.

Her love is measured
in our enduring tale, in purpose
bound, and futures claimed,
in restoration gained,
and forgiveness found.
To her I owe all this.
In her I find my peace

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We knew before we set out back in January that this would be a long trip. Into our fifth week on the road we were looking forward to having the long trip to Malaysia behind us. These last few days in this whirlwind tour were not deliberately planned, as we had booked the long legs of the journey almost six months ago in order to get cheaper fares; well before we had the details of the US travels in place. When Pam was booking the hotel, she really couldn’t face the idea of a name brand, high rise hotel so looked for something a little different and stumbled across a very small, ten room heritage hotel that looked interesting and was reasonably priced and went out on a limb.

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As is often the case, it is the atypical that turns out to be most interesting. The Cosmopolitan Hotel was originally built as a private residence but was reconstructed and became the original stage coach hotel for the first settlement in California. It is located in Old Town San Diego State Park, a central plaza that is lined with buildings, some dating back to the 1820s, which have been restored and are now museums, shops and restaurants.

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The main floor of the hotel was the restored living area of the home, and the ten rooms are on the second floor with a wraparound balcony that overlooks a courtyard with a lovely restaurant, bar and sitting area. It was all very private and a real experience just to stay there even though we have seen no evidence of the fact that the rooms were thought to be haunted. The rooms were all decorated and furnished with period pieces and there were no TVs or other modern furnishings to destroy the atmosphere. Our room was known as the Pine Tub room as it had an original tub made out of pine. Yes, we did try it out before we left.

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The area was full of life, sights and sounds and we fully enjoyed the time to explore the area as well as other parts of the city. We also had a couple of days to get caught up on course assignments, prepare lessons for Steve to teach as soon as we arrive home, and get this weblog up to date. The Old Town Transit Center was only a few minutes walk away and gave access to not only the trolley systems of San Diego but also the Pacific Surfliner train which skirts the coast line up to Los Angeles and our jumping off point for our flight home. It was a magical journey, and a lovely way to end our trip.

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We will have to hit the ground running. Steve has classes and a huge backlog of projects to get caught up with on his CSR portfolio. Pam has a conference in Indonesia to plan for where she will be presenting to regional CHE leaders. Then of course there is the transition out of Malaysia and into the Caribbean to manage in just four months from now, with all of the packing and shipping and selling that this entails. We have interesting lives, and we would not trade them with anyone we know. It is never boring, but gosh it does take a lot of work to keep up this pace. I would say Lord help us, but then He always does anyway.

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Still reeling from an exhilarating and exhausting weekend in San Francisco, we packed our increasingly dilapidated suitcases once again and headed off to catch our flight to San Diego. Again the timing was perfect, with Jon, Nic and the kids’ flight getting in just five minutes before ours so we easily met up at the baggage claim. Jon has perfected the art of car rental at airports through various Apps, so we were quickly underway for the half hour drive to our seaside resort in Carlsbad.

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The suites were fully furnished and amazingly well equipped with a great kitchen, BBQs in the courtyard, jacuzzi tub, gas fireplace and fantastic views of the ocean. There were lots of activities for the kids to do and plenty of family restaurants just a short drive away. The weather was beautiful although the wind could be quite cool. It is February after all! The pool was in a very sunny but protected area so the kids swam quite happily and we joined them in the hot tub when they were ready to warm up.

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However, the real reason for our stay in Carlsbad was the long awaited trip to LEGOLAND. We were there when the park opened and pretty much stayed to close it down. It was all actually pretty lame by Disney standards, but the kids really enjoyed it and we were just delighted to be with them so it was great fun. They all love roller coasters, Pam not so much, but we did do the dragon roller coaster three times. Fortunately Eli is too short for the big coaster so we did a more sedate ride with her while the others tackled the big coaster. It was a great day and we finished up with dinner a nice seaside restaurant.

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Jon and Nic took a bit of time the next day to explore some of the town and market by themselves while we hung out with Ben, Abi and Eli. Since the resort provided free all-terrain wagons, beach chairs and toys and boogie boards, we packed up and took the kids down to the beach for the afternoon. The waves were great and Ben and Abi turned out to be naturals when it came to boogie boarding, catching quite a few really fine rides. By the time Jon and Nic came home with chicken to BBQ, the kids had warmed up nicely in the Jacuzzi and put on their warm pajamas.

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It was a great visit all around and really difficult to see them off once again as they boarded their flight home. Honestly, the kindness and consideration of our children brings us to the edge of tears. We so appreciate the chance to see two of them and their own kids, and only regret that on this trip we couldn’t see David. Since we still had a few more days until our return flight to KL, we spent the remaining few days in Oldtown, San Diego which is near the airport. After a cab ride from the airport, we made our way there to settle in for the weekend.

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