September 2013

???????????????????????????????Early Sunday morning I flew to Kota Kinabalu on the island of Borneo to speak at a retreat for a group of students with an interest in holistic community development. We loaded into two vans and travelled up some pretty scary roads that twisted their way up to this very strange, but quite lovely house with an incredible view of the hills and valleys around it. Electricity and water were definitely a challenge and I slept on the floor in that brown room at the third level. However,  the students had prepared a great BBQ of fish and chicken for dinner and the fellowship was sweet.


I thoroughly enjoyed sharing with these young people the things that I have learned about holistic community development over the past five years, especially since five of these young people had recently attended a training program facilitated by our TWR Cambodia team. These are very bright, committed young people with a real passion to see transformation in the lives of the indigenous people groups in Sabah and the orang asli people of the peninsula.  It was not only a literal mountain top experience but a spiritual one as well.


We arrived back in KK late Monday afternoon in time for me to speak a second time at the final class for a group of seminary students taking a course in CHE which was being co-taught and translated by a couple of the guys who had been at my earlier session.  As I began to deliver the lesson from our retreat session, my translator got so excited about what he had just learned that I was able to step back and watch him share it with the others.  How fun to see your students become the teacher right before your very eyes.


On Tuesday I had meetings with three leaders from the seminary, a missions center and a major church group who are all beginning to realize that there is a need to look at education and community and missions from a much broader perspective. In this setting the centuries old debate between the Great Commission and the Great Commandment is very real and down to earth. Do you simply preach the gospel, or do you reach out in love to the whole community in need and allow the Holy Spirit to touch whose lives He will?

I am grateful for this opportunity to reach out in a new ministry in Borneo and am willing to let the Lord stretch me through new experiences of teaching and sharing to others what He has taught me in Cambodia. It is greatly rewarding to go to a completely new field and find that the Lord is there in the lives of His servants encouraging me and giving me an opportunity to support the good work that they are doing. Please pray for open hearts as we develop new initiatives for communities in need.

Thirty years ago today we had the joy of welcoming our beautiful baby girl who has brought us more happiness and excitement than we could ever have imagined. Thanks to the earlier arrival of her two older brothers we had already made a pretty good adjustment to parenthood so we were able to be a lot more relaxed with our third and just enjoy our daughter’s discovery of the world.

We found that she had a very unique perspective on things. She would make comments – we got to calling them Lizzyisms – that on the surface didn’t appear to be related to what she was seeing. But after suspending our own accumstomed view, found that her insights were always most pertinent and revealed things that we hadn’t noticed. As she grew she became more and more sure of her own view of the world, and forced us, reluctantly at first but with growing appreciation, to see the world as she experienced it.

We found, as she matured, that she is not only beautiful on the outside, but exceptionally beautiful and strong on the inside. She is kind, gentle, sweet, caring, persistent, wise and smart and always up for a challenge. It has been a priceless gift to watch her grow, take on the challenges of life through university and some tough years at work. She is never one to shirk a responsibility or give up on a challenge. Our hearts were bursting when we saw her walk down the aisle and join her life with such a wonderful young man, but nothing will compare to the thrill of seeing her holding her own little baby boy this last summer and see her blossom almost overnight into a wonderful mom.


We feel blessed and honoured, not because we are her Mother and Father, but because she is our Daughter! We are so, so proud of her and wish her all the best on her thirtieth birthday!

After a two hour drive and a quick tour of the village, we started work Thursday at noon with a cleared site and  eight prefabricated concrete blocks.

Thursday noon

By the time we broke for dinner at 5:30 the frame was constructed and we, the roofing team, had most of our pieces measured and cut.


An 8:30 start in the relative coolness of Friday morning enabled us to make some real progress before lunch.


By the end of the day, in spite of a break for a heavy downpour mid afternoon, we definitely had a house taking shape and had even begun the roofing. There is a kitchen with built-in cupboards, a living area, two bedrooms and a verandah, it is really quite spacious.


On Saturday we began again at 8:30 and worked straight through until we celebrated the placement of the  final cap on the roof at 2:00 p.m.


Sadly we had to leave early to make the drive north but we were on target to finish by the end of the day. The team had the painting well in hand, the doors were ready to hang and the interior walls were partially clad in plywood. It was really rewarding to look back at our little house in the forest as we made our way to the car, knowing that at least Juri and his family have a safe place to live.


We know that this is a long way from the type of holistic community development that we would like to see happening but it is a start and we are so grateful for the relationships that are beginning to develop.


When Juri and his sixteen year old bride married  there was no more land available in the village for them to build a home. They were forced to build a one room bamboo and woven grass structure suspended on stilts over a gully behind her parents’ one room house.  Now five years later they have three little boys aged four, three, and one and a few months ago the floor in their tiny home had rotted to the point it was no longer safe to remain. With no other options, they all moved into the house with her parents.


Juri’s Dad owned some land in the nearby forest and this is where we were able to build their new home.  Once the materials for the home arrived on site two days before the build, Juri built a small lean-to and moved there to protect his property and the building materials that had arrived. In order to get his new house, Juri is required to work with the team and then to go on and assist with the build of at least two further homes.  After participating in three builds, he will qualify as a master builder and could potentially earn some money for his family by working on other projects.


Once we began the build, his family joined him in the lean-to to watch the progress on their new house. His dad was also happy to help as much as possible.  It was really neat to watch them proudly working alongside the team.  It is rewarding to know that this little family will, at least be safe from the elements. I also know that this is still a long way from holistic community development and I long to see that happening in Orang Asli villages some day.


Epic Homes is a modular house developed by young Malaysian entrepreneurs to meet the need for housing among the indigenous people of Malaysia. These people, known as the Orang Asli, have been left behind in the rush to modernization that has occurred since this country gained its independence from Britain after WWII. The Orang Asli still live on the land of their ancestors, who predate the Malays who pushed into Borneo from the Philippines a thousand years ago, and then into the mainland about five hundred years ago. Marginalized by their lack of education and access to health care, many are among the hardcore poor of the nation.

More than simply a solution to the problem of sturdy housing, a significant need in and of itself, Epic Homes has designed their project as a team leadership building opportunity for local companies who sponsor the house and then send their management team out to the remote villages where the Orang Asli live to construct the house over a weekend. This past weekend Taylor’s University sent 45 of its leaders to a tiny village two hours north of Kuala Lumpur to build a house for a needy family.

A lot of thought has gone in to the design of this house. The intention was that anyone, not matter how little they understood construction, could assist in the build in some way. Some had quite literally never picked up a hand tool in their lives. Some, like Pam and I, had renovated several houses and knew what we were doing. No one was injured; everyone learned the value of teamwork and the importance of sequence in a project this size.

Pam and I were chosen to work on the roof; somewhat of a surprising selection, given our age. But we gamely set about to do what we were assigned in good spirits. It turns out that we still have both the skills and the endurance to take on such a physically demanding assignment. From lifting the heavy tile panels to installing them head down on the slope of the roof suspended only by a safety harness and my partners grip on my belt, we acquitted ourselves far better than we would have thought possible.

With a wedding in Penang to attend and a dinner engagement on the Saturday before the wedding, our goal was to finish the roof by noon, if possible, so that we could leave in good conscience with our task completed. Not far off our goal, we were done by 1:30 and on our way by 2 pm, threading our way through unnamed backroads to the main highway, and dashing north through a tremendous downpour to reach Batu Ferringhi in time for a shower and supper at 7:30. The thought that our colleagues had a dry place to shelter from the veritable deluge of rain was a great comfort.

We find it nothing short of amazing that we can still do this kind of thing at our age, and credit the Lord for His goodness in preserving our health and strength so that we can continue to serve Him in whatever way He directs. We thank Him also for keeping us safe from injury in what easily could have been a number of accidents that simply never happened. It was our joy to be of help to a needy family.




We count it a real privilege to have the opportunity to join the university leadership team to build a home for an Orang Asli family living a few hours north of the city.  This little family of five had been living in a one room house until the floor fell through and are desperately in need of a home.  In order to be part of the building team, we were required to attend a six hour workshop designed to familiar I with standard tools and yes, we learned how to use a hammer, screw driver and a drill.  For many of our Malaysian colleagues this was the first time they had ever used a hand tool, they hire workers to do those things.  We even built the windows of the house to practice using the tools.


We Steve having taught shop for 18 years and the two of us completely renovating three houses, we didn’t have much that was new to learn.  However the key purpose of the workshop introduced us to the underlying goals of the “Sojourn to Batang Kali”. We will certainly support a family and be an encouragement to a community but the vision of the university is that this will be the first step in forming a core group of leaders with a desire to change the culture by their own personal involvement as their example to the students to become compassionate members of society.

In preparation we were asked to read a book called  Barefoot Leadership,  an interesting read of ordinary Malaysian individuals who have gone barefoot into their own journey of bringing about profound change in the lives of others.  We even had the joy of meeting one of those individuals, Brother John D’Cruz and to hear his life story, which is well worthy of a separate post. We left excited, having begun to build relationships with some amazing people and looking forward to three days in the 35 degree heat of a rain forest, building a house in the rainy season. We will keep you posted!


Yesterday I hit one of those mornings when you just don’t want to do it anymore. I’m sixty-four. I can retire now. How nice it would be to stay home and work on my Master’s. I could read, I could write. I could sit down and have a nice cup of tea. I shared this with Pam on the way out the door and she smiled and gently remonstrated. She knows how tired I get some mornings, especially when I am restless and get up at three.

There was not a lot on that day. I stopped to talk to my supervisor about the weekend’s activities and how the center in Raub where we visited yesterday could be the focus of the kind of community outreach we are trying to develop. He was interested, but he has many more things on his plate than what I am trying to do.

So when he mentioned that he wanted me to be part of a meeting that was happening that morning I was more than a little surprised. I gathered my iPad, grateful that I had spent the 150 ringgit for a bluetooth keypad and the ten bucks for the Pages app that makes taking notes with this device a little easier to do, and headed out.

We met in the library with about a dozen others and I soon found out that the key speaker was the young man who had developed a modular housing unit that I had heard so much about since our return. His project group, Epic Homes, has been the focus of a lot of attention, not only here at the university, but nationally as well. These homes can be constructed in a weekend using a minimum of tools and expertise and are much in demand among the Orang Asli.

There is much I could say about the meeting; how pleasant it was to have my contribution to the development of community service acknowledged and recognized; how important it was to meet so many key players in this process in one room. But the key ingredient for me was the take away at the end. I stayed for a moment to talk to the young man who is behind Epic Homes; Johnson is his name. I offered my help to him as one who had some experience in hand and power tools, having taught the subject for 18 years in the early part of my career.

To cut a long story short, it looks as if my expertise in this area is going to be useful in the development of this project among the Orang Asli. He asked me to come on board as a technical advisor. I don’t know how all this is going to work out at this point. All I’m thinking of at the moment is how very indicative of the nature of God to have built these experiences into my life so many years ago. Perhaps the Lord doesn’t want me to retire just yet!


We have the incredible privilege of living and working for a season in a beautiful and diverse country and up to this point we have spent remarkably little time exploring it. That is about to change with Steve’s new role which will actually involve working outside of the confines of a classroom. Yesterday we made the first of those exploratory forays into an area a few hours to the north of Kuala Lumpur with about thirty Taylors’ students involved in a CSI (Corporate Service Initiative).  The young people had planned a day of volunteering at the Orang Asli Education Center which is run by a not for profit organization called SEMOA committed to improving the livelihood of the orang asli children, through access to education.

There are eighteen aboriginal tribes in Peninsular Malaysia. Their lifestyle is much influenced by the culture of Malay people whom they frequently come into contact with. They tend to be labeled “primitive” and “backward” by the larger ethnic groups. They are traditionally gatherers and hunters who make their homes in the jungle. Many today are engaged in farming but some also work as labourers in urban areas. They believe in the existence of a spirit-filled world supernatural beings, ancestral spirits and demons. The school drop-out rates for these marginalized children is very high, predominantly due to the lack of peer and family support, and due to the lack of pre-school education to help the transition into primary education..

The Orang Asli Education Centre (OAEC) is built on a 6-acre piece of land and the hostel will accommodate up to fifty Orang Asli children from the interiors of Peninsular Malaysia, allowing them to attend local government schools. These children are cared for wholly by SEMOA staff, from daily meals, laundry, transportation and tuition. The plot of land on which the center is built also serves to raise some money through the farming and sale of durians and through raising fish to augment their food supply. SEMOA hopes that these efforts will ensure that students stay in school until they enter a tertiary education system. Educated Orang Asli’s will then be able to take leadership roles in the country and have a voice to advocate for their own rights, develop their communities and become contributing members of their country.

It was fun to see the Taylors students interact with the Orang Asli kids through games and crafts and sharing a special meal together of KFC.  This gave the students an opportunity to see firsthand a project that Taylors has raised funds to support over the past few years.