August 2013


This is my new gig: Taylor’s University. I have to giggle at the thought that it took me 32 years to ‘graduate’ to high school and another 6 to ‘graduate’ to university. I am not teaching here (yet), though I do not rule out the possibility that I will be someday. I am working on developing ‘student service modules;’ that would be learning outcomes within the curriculum that have a community service component.

I am not teaching at all at present, although because of the requirements of my work visa I have to do a couple of hours’ tutorial assistance in the program where I used to teach. But my new job requires me to help teachers to design curricula to enable them to teach. I suppose that will have to do for now. I am not actually writing much curriculum either at the moment as I am pretty busy just getting to know the players and see what they are already doing. As with any new position there is going to be a steep learning curve in this one.

You might be inclined to wonder why we would want to put ourselves through this at our age. We ask ourselves the same thing from time to time. The Lord isn’t saying much through His word except to direct our attention to passages that speak of rejoicing in the opportunity to make His name more widely known. That will have to do for now until His makes His purpose more clear. I have never known Him to be reluctant to do so, although He has shown Himself more than passingly adept at choosing His time to coincide with our requisite understanding.

We also continue our outreach and mentoring of new staff and support for those who have been here for a while. Pam is preparing new ministry initiatives in East Malaysia and we are both continuing with our Master’s. It is a full dance card, no doubt about it. Right now, still tired and dealing with separation from our families, it feels more like effort and less like joy. But serving the Lord is a privilege that we don’t take for granted. Psalm 30:5 says: “weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”  Dawn is coming.

I can’t remember the last time I felt so miserable. Here I am at the start of a new year, a new job, making new friends. It should all be good, right? Nope; it is bad. Categorically bad. At the moment irremediably bad. So bad that I would happily catch the next plane home again if I could find a way to justify it. Unfortunately, being a Christian and all, I have to run it by the Boss. And I don’t mean Pam, because she is as bummed as I am and would beat me out the door, suitcase in hand, if she weren’t as constrained as I am. Not that I think He wouldn’t understand and find me the next best place to be, being the God-of-the-Second-Chance as He is. But being a Christian and having committed my way to Him a long time ago, I know that this is His path for us at the moment. It is just that I don’t want it. Or at least I can think of a number of other things I want more.

For starters I want to be back in Seattle/Calgary/London/Toronto. They are all one city in my emotional map; geography doesn’t mean a thing to the human heart. But distance does. Being able to sit on the couch with your grand-daughter beside you reading, or playing Lego on the floor with your grandson, or feeding the ducks at the park with them, or holding your daughter’s new born child for the first time and rocking him to sleep. Chatting with your children or playing video golf, grilling Alberta beef on the deck or walking to the hill to see the fireworks.  Tooling into Seattle in your son’s sleek Saab or tearing up the turnpike in the other one’s muscle car. Fixing stuff, taking courses in an actual classroom, visiting friends you haven’t seen for year. Eating breakfast with your brother and having supper with your gorgeous nieces. How do you come back to Malaysia where there is NONE (!) of this and be happy?

So I have a new job. Here’s news: I liked my old job just fine, thank you very much. Do you think I spent 38 years in a classroom because I hated it? I loved every minute of it. I loved preparing a gem of a lesson and delivering it step by measured step into the expectant ears of my students. Do you know that I would get applause for my lessons? I’m not talking about polite little patters. I mean a spontaneous outpouring of delight and appreciation for a lesson well-prepared and entertainingly delivered. When I sang with my guitar a piece we were analyzing in class they would get out their phones, record it and post it to Facebook. When I posted a picture of me holding my new grandson there were 600 hits on my student FB page. I felt appreciated and respected. Now I am nobody again.

As I was walking through the campus at Taylor’s University where I now work, I saw a former student of our program on her orientation. She squealed with delight to see me. I was just as happy to see her, even if not as profusive. My students have been my joy and my surrogate family for years. Now I have left the classroom and we have left our real family back in Canada and I have no clear idea what I am doing in this new job or even if it has the slightest chance of success. So I am just as miserable as I can be.

However (he said, gathering whatever modicum of reason and Christian maturity he may have left), there are several other sides to this story. We have a lovely family who we love and appreciate dearly, and they for their part love and appreciate us as well. We may be miles away, but they are as near to our hearts as blood. Further, I do not think I will be out of the classroom forever, but rather see what I am doing as preparation for the next phase, Lord willing. And this job, for all its present difficulty, is what the Lord has called me to do for Him. Though I do not know the way, I know that He does. And He doesn’t make mistakes.

I know too that many of our readers deal with issues for more difficult than those we face. There are some whose spouses have died; some are divorced. Some are facing severe trials of their health; some face lives of little meaning or significance. Some are estranged from their parents, or even worse, their children. What is my trial to such as those? Perhaps the Lord is just making me more sensitive to the pain of others so I can be a better witness of His sustaining love. For I know that His love will get us through, for His love is sufficient for every trial. Even for my miserable spirit at present.

Besides, even if I fail miserably, what would be worse is to not have tried. I have in front of me the opportunity to do a world of good; to take all that I have learned in a career in education that is nearing four decades and retool it for an even greater purpose. And our family? Bless them, for they understand that we are called by God to serve Him in this way and our service for Christ is meaningful to them even if they don’t fully understand what we do. I don’t fully understand it myself, but “this one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13).

???????????????????????????????To quote our programmer analyst son our ” family runs off a distributed architecture, with nodes functioning in edge locations around the world.” Not sure exactly what that means (we haven’t actually understood our son since he was 13 and his frontal lobe disappeared into his first hard drive), but it seems to involve a lot of good-byes and too much time apart from the ones we love the most.

This year has been a tremendous blessing for Steve and I to have had almost two months home together (many thanks to a very understanding boss and dear friend Jim Leonard).  The most we have ever had for the past six years was just over two weeks. This year we started with a relaxing time enjoying the gracious hospitality of my brother and sister-in-law  in Southwestern Ontario, getting caught up with family and friends there. We even managed a Sunday at our home church and appreciated the opportunity to report on our ministry over the past six years.

From there we headed off for almost a month in Seattle, just hanging out with Jon, Nic and the kids. It was so fun to join in their lives for a while: playing in the park, visiting the Science Center, boating on Lake Chelan and exploring the area. Steve managed to get in two intensive courses towards his Master’s but I only did one because I wasn’t willing to give up that much time with my grandkids. Neither was I willing to accept the last minute change of the professor I wanted for a stand-in who turned out to be more than a little frustrating for Steve.

Back in Calgary, Greg and Liz graciously allowed us to share their home with them as we waited for and then welcomed the birth of their first little child, Russell. To be able to spend the first two weeks of his little life with him is a joy that we will always treasure. He is an absolutely gorgeous baby (we are not biased at all!), and Liz and Greg are making the most of their early days with him. It was also a real pleasure to cook meals for family and enjoy some fine Alberta steaks on the barbeque. Steve even managed to scratch that renovation itch of his with a few projects done on their house. With a new little addition to the family, Jon and Nic and the kids drove twelve hours each way for one delightful evening together as a family. Such a rare and precious treat for us to have the whole family together for the first time in two years.

But now we are back in KL, and in spite of some major jetlag, we have the apartment up and running again. We even reorganized our work area to make is easier to discuss while we work as tomorrow we embark on a new journey in our work and ministry. We won’t trouble you with the details just yet, but we are excited about the possibilities and praying that once again the Lord would use our simple talents and our willing hearts to do great things through us. As always, we appreciate your thoughts and prayers on our behalf.