December 2014


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Part of the reason that I have been so busy is the number of courses we have been taking for our Master’s. Pam and I recently changed our program at Fuller Theological Seminary from a Master’s of Intercultural Studies to a Master’s in Global Leadership, with an emphasis on Intercultural Studies. The difference is more than one of semantics. It is also a difference of six fewer courses, which at the current rate of progress, is about a year and half. It is also $10, 000 US less in expenditure. Each. We were easily convinced.

The downside was that instead of taking the semester off, which given my other responsibilities at work I was more than inclined to do, I would have to take a course to stay with the ‘cohort’ design of this program. The coursework was not particularly difficult. I find that now I am finishing up my second year in this program that I have no trouble keeping up with the readings. We both have Kindles, and most books are now available in e-book formats. Although I still relish the look, smell, and feel of a ‘real’ book, an electronic book is not only cheaper and easier to obtain in Asia, it is also easier to highlight and cite in the multiplicity of essays, book reports, and forum posts needed to complete online courses at this level. Kindle now has a website that compiles our highlights by text, in order, with hyperlinks to the text to see context. For students and scholars this is indispensible. I don’t know who is the genius at Amazon that came up with this, but if you are reading this I would like to buy you a drink.

We very much enjoyed getting to know the members of our cohort. We were subdivided into smaller groups for the forums and feedback that constitute the bulk of the interaction in this course, and I felt like I got to know them each a little by the time the course was over. We also like the fact that we will be working with this cohort for the next two years. We even get to meet them this coming January in Colorado Springs when we fly there to fulfill the residence requirement of this course. By then we have to have read half of the course material assigned. Another six books in the queue.

At approaching two hundred books in our Kindles, half of them for these courses, our tiny minds are just exploding with new ideas and concepts in Christianity. From Brueggemann to Boyle, Hiebert to Korten, Bryant Myers to Walter Wink, it has been an exhilarating ride. The conversations these readings have inspired between Pam and I have been very rewarding as well. But after this course, and the two other I took simultaneously, I am now mentally exhausted and need a little breather. Looking forward to a little light reading. Think I’ll try Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart and Darrell Johnson’s Experiencing the Trinity over Christmas. That should be a nice break.

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Regular visitors to this site may have noticed that Steve has been curiously silent of late. Bless you for noticing. I have not abandoned my obligations to whatever posterity may bring in our wake. I assume, I hope correctly, that these reflections over the last seven-plus years have been of some value, even if only to myself. Perhaps they have been of some value to you as well. Perhaps someday our grandchildren will read these pages and gain some insight into what constitutes a godly life.

My absence is easily explained, as the following half dozen posts will show, by a term that has been intense almost beyond endurance. I know in every fiber of my being, that God has called me to my present responsibilities. Yet I also know, that despite all the gifts He has placed in my care, like Paul, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” Sometimes, in order to remind us that this work is of Him, and not ourselves, He allows us to be “Afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Cor 4:7-9). Such has been my lot this term.

The burden of this term did not sneak up on me unawares. I saw it looming in the distance even as far back as the first of June, when I returned to Malaysia for my second year as Project Coordinator for corporate social responsibility for Taylor’s Education Group. I had already spent half a year in getting the outlines of a website together and building the framework for it in Sharepoint, a Microsoft product more suited to internal communications than external. The two great advantages of Sharepoint were that it cost nothing to use, as Taylor’s already had a license, and it could be easily ‘migrated’ to a more visually appealing and socially accessible site once it was constructed. As a previous post indicates, that internal site was launched at the end of July.

PrintThere were many, perhaps even the majority of voices, that advised me that I should be satisfied with this product and simply release it to the public, rather than keep it ‘hidden’ behind a staff and student login. I would not. It was not what I had envisioned, and it was not the site that our visionary CEO Dato’ Loy wanted. I took the product to him and asked for his permission to engage the services or a competent web vendor to translate this draft site to something that would show off his university, colleges and schools in the best possible light. It was a remarkably easy sell.

It was to be an incredible amount of work: web vendors to be vetted, ICT departments to be engaged and brought on side, marketing departments to be mobilized, community service coordinators in six other institutions to be consulted, cajoled, and encouraged to participate. There were hundreds of pages of text to be written and rewritten, hundreds of images to be selected and uploaded. Starting in August and finishing just three weeks ago, it has been by itself a huge undertaking. But as you will see in the following posts, it was hardly ‘by itself.’

Nor is it ‘done’ in the sense that there is still much to be edited in this new format and piles of new text and images pouring in daily. Despite its many features – the map is one of my favs – there are still things I want to add, such as a video marketplace, where participants can pitch for support, embedded right into the site. But it is done enough for me to finally get some much needed rest and recovery, and done enough for me to finally invite you, gentle reader, to have a look for yourself. This is the result of perhaps two thousand hours of labour. May God bless the labour of His servant in this, and may it accomplish the purposes which He intended.

Please see the IMPACT site at http://csr.taylors.edu.my

weddingparty

We had the great privilege of being invited to the marriage of  Raksmey, the young man who heads up the TWR Cambodia Youth Team to his sweetheart Rathmony. It was a wonderful celebration, a beautiful blend of traditions that honoured  both the Khmer culture and the Christian culture. The ceremony, which began at 7:00 a.m. was held in the chapel of the Phnom Penh Bible School and of course included breakfast and lunch.

The morning began with the community tradition of each guest carrying in a gift of fruit or food to present to the families of the bride and groom.

fruit

Both families then “met” and with the services of an intermediary, negotiated the terms of the marriage. When both families agreed that the marriage should proceed, the mother of the  bride brought her out to present her to the groom’s family. The members of the families where then introduced to one another and the congregation. With all of this settled we broke for breakfast and the first of many changes of wedding outfits for not only the couple but for the wedding part as well.

community

The next session of the ceremony was a pretty traditional western style wedding with a processional, the couple in white and Dad walking the bride down the aisle. After the vows, exchanging of rings and charge to the couple by their pastor; the marriage was sealed with a demur little kiss on the bride’s forehead.

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While the next change of clothing took place, the stage was rearranged so that family and guests could present best wishes and a token gift of money to the happy couple.

gifts

After lunch, we broke for the afternoon while people went home to prepare for the evening reception which is all about eating, socializing, music and dancing. For the women this was the time to get your make-up done and dress in the most amazing outfits. The bride and groom again changed outfits regularly throughout the evening.

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redoutfit

fruitstall

Having arrived home earlier than planned from our Redang trip, we were able to get a good start the following day for a day trip to Melaka. Our little rental car is a pretty comfortable ride so the three hour road trip went pretty smoothly. We stopped a few times along the way to snack on some local fruit and see some scenery. It was a little tricky to find the central area of town and we were quite amazed at how the city had grown since we were last there seven years earlier.

Malacca was a major trading port for ships from India and China. The Portuguese conquered Malacca in 1511. Later the Dutch took over in 1641 until much later the British empire ruled Malacca. The state finally obtained independence with the then “Malaya states” in 1957. There are still many reminders of this rich history to be seen.

Christchurch

We found ourselves parked just at the beginning of Jonkers Street, the famous Chinese shopping street so we wandered happily until we came to the town square. took the obligatory photos at Christ Church and then toured the ruins of St Paul’s Church enroute to visit a replica of the Melaka Sultanate palace. The design is based on the description of the palace from the sixteenth-century ‘Malay Annals,’ or ‘Sejarah Melayu.’ It is the only building of its kind in Malaysia, and it provides a rare glimpse of the ancient Malay kingdom that once flourished here. The palace houses the Malacca Cultural Museum, which includes many artifacts of that kingdom.

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The rains held off while we walked along the waterfront and enjoyed tea at a little shop before we headed home. We decided to swing by Putra Jaya on the way home even though it would be dark. We arrived to find the place packed and the main street blocked for a large eFormula One event. Got totally lost attempting to find a back way in but did get there and it is every bit as beautiful at night with the bridges and buildings all lit up. We even managed to find the mall and had dinner at TGI Fridays.

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Our time together went by way too quickly but we did have one final evening sharing dinner at another of our favourite outdoors dining spots; Oasis. In spite of really miserable weather, Al and Shelley are pretty laid back and took it all in stride. We were sad them off but excited that they would have four days to explore Singapore. Thanks Al and Shelley for taking the time to visit with us and for all of your encouragement and support during our stay here.

Oasis

 

resort

With three days booked at the hotel and four sets of snorkel equipment we were thrilled to find that although the name had changed, this was the same hotel we had loved seven years earlier. It is a beautiful hotel, on an incredible island and was fully staffed in spite of the fact that there were a total of eight guests, including us. Sadly it rained, almost literally, the entire time we were there, By the second day we decided that the waves were calling to us and it was warm and there was no lightning.

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Steve rustled us up four boogie boards and we spent the next two afternoons riding the waves. We all had some pretty amazing runs. It was so sad to know that the beautiful coral reefs and colourful fish we came to see were only feet away but completely unreachable because of the rough seas. We had internet access, plenty of books, tons of snacks and drinks and a deck of cards and great friends with us. Not at all what we hoped for but it was fine in spite of Shelley falling on the steps and landing on her computer. And they got to experience monsoon rains up close and personal- enough for a life time.

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It was evident that the weather was not going to change and it was now too dangerous to take a speed boat so we opted for the public ferry. It was an enclosed boat, large enough to seat over 250 so a safe option. It was a pretty wild ride with swells that appeared to be a couple of stories high. Almost two hours later, we were pretty ready to celebrate when the town jetty finally came in to sight. For a price, a significant price, we switched to an earlier flight that got us home to KL by early afternoon. When we looked down on the floods in Kuala Terengganu, we felt very fortunate to be heading back to a much drier KL.

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Couch

We are a long way from home and it is not very often that our Canadian friends come by this way. It was especially sweet to have Al and Shelley come and stay with us for ten days. Al has been in here before with his work but it was Shelley’s first visit to Asia. November is in the dead of the monsoon season so a bit of a risky time to come. It had been a pretty dry couple of weeks and we were beginning to wonder if they would even get to experience the amazing monsoon rains which we actually love. We needn’t have worried!

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Fountains

For the first few days Steve was working so we didn’t go too far afield. I took them on a city tour on Thursday and then we met up with Steve at the end of the day for dinner at KLCC and then an evening at our favourite spot for watching the Twin Towers light and the dancing fountains; the Skybar at the Traders Hotel. Friday we hung around locally, spending the morning at the pool and then touring the university before coming home for dinner and a evening just chatting with friends; a rare treat for us.

Batu

On Saturday we made the climb up to Batu Caves on our way out to take the cable car up to Genting Highlands. There is not really much to see up there but we will never tire of the 4.38 Km ride over the rainforest. It was a beautiful day, sunny and bright at the top. Spent about three hours visiting over a great multi-country buffet. Sunday we went to church and did some shopping then came home to pack for a trip to Redang Island early the next morning.

Plane

We were up and ready for an early flight to Kuala Terengganu when we saw the first warning signs of heavy rain. We took off in the rain and as we came in for landing in KT the rains were torrential. We waded into the airport only to learn that the ferry to the island had been cancelled due to weather. However very helpful hotel staff met us at the airport and took us to their lounge while they arranged for a fast boat to take us to the hotel. We agreed to it because it really had to get better, right?

fastboat

Even getting to the jetty was a challenge because the roads were pretty much flooded the whole way. The “fast boat” was open but covered by a canopy and they graciously provided us with rain gear while we bounced through eight to ten foot waves in the pouring rain. We took a few hard hits when the boat crested waves and then crashed into the troughs. We were happy to see the helpful hotel staff at the jetty with warm towels and a dry van. Took some negotiations and an upgrade to get settled into our lovely hotel rooms just steps from the beach. Just waited for the sun to come out after the rains. But that never happened!

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