48 hours in kampung (rural village) to learn national language…  THIS WAS CRAZY, amazing, effective, AND NUTS!

In less than a month, our family will celebrate 5 years in Malaysia.  Yet for many reasons, we haven’t really learned the language.  I can jabber in the market, but often don’t know basic words (move, change, and light are three examples), and have a hard time understanding what I hear.  The boys take the easy road and assume others will work and play in English.  But I decided, “it’s TIME!”  A post of Facebook offering to pay anyone who can let us sleep on their floor and help us speak Bahasa, and voila, an invitation to a village.  I think I could write a book about our last 48 hours.  But I’ll try to hit the high points here.

First, we had the wrong Maps pin and so a 1-hour trip turned into a three-hour tour (a three-hour tour!) of rural roads, including an accidental 30 minutes on gravel/dirt/ancient mossy cement bridge, getting car stuck and unstuck, and stopping every person we saw to get directions to the next turn.  Comically, the erroneous gravel road turned out to lead us to where we were going – but the actual place was just 100 metres from lovely sealed asphalt, which meant we got back home almost entirely on great roads!

We got there and had the lovely surprise that one of Cade’s teachers had seen our post on Facebook and came to see us.  She got there way before us even though she hadn’t been there for “twenty-over” years.  Sabahan people are, in general, heartwarming, and this was a great welcome after our slightly harrowing three-hour tour (our three-hour tour)!

We hiked about 10 minutes to a river with our host, Terrence (though we just called him “Uncle,” per local tradition), and a local boy named Daziel, who was 11 and agreed to help our boys try to speak BM.  Terrence taught us a river game where he built a stone tower and we all threw rocks at it, trying to topple it.  This lasted for a looooooong time, and was super fun.  Simple games “rock”!IMG_20170809_170812

The building we stayed in had been handed down through generations, rebuilt and remodelled, into a hostel with many bunk beds.  For dinner, they fed us, and fed us, and fed us, and then we all fell asleep.

The next morning we hiked to some local homes, where we encountered:

  • A bird that can mimic you (but we were told in Bahasa, “burung ini cacap Dusun” – this bird speaks Dusun – the local tribal language.
  • We saw leaves drying – once dry, you boil them, then use the water to bathe. Bath & Body Works, eat your heart out.  The leaves smelled fabulous!
  • We found out that our guide had helped choose the place here in Sabah for the first season of Survivor – he name-dropped Mark Burnett and my jaw dropped! I love Survivor!
  • We were taught a game with a local segmented plant called “ribu-ribu” (thousands). You take a little segment and hide it in the rest of the plant and others try to find it.  Again, super fun.
  • Next we went to a family house and met the father of the tribe’s Chief. There we were relieved when their dogs went from howling and growling to helping the boys chase chickens.  Right near the house were pineapple plants and rice padi, which shared irrigation with three tiny fish ponds.  We learned about where kids go to school, the extended family that lives all over and comes home for the weekend, and even how to make rice wine!  I had to water mine down (a lot!) but it was truly relaxing to be in their home, half-understanding their stories, and thanking them profusely.  Oh, and we learned how to modulate our voice to yell “Keeeeee-hoi!” after drinking the rice wine.
  • In the afternoon, after school Daziel joined us for a hike to a waterfall. We hiked in the gentle rain, found fresh papayas, trekked through two rivers, and swam in the chilly waterfall.  Daziel taught me to open my eyes underwater (which later I thought, “hmmmmm, maybe not the wisest place for that”).  All was well until the sound of the waterfall changed – FLASH FLOOD!  Our guide shouted, “RRRRRRUN!” He grabbed Daziel, I hopped out with Dante and Caedmon, and we were safe on dry land – except that we had to fjord that river several times downstream.  Ankle-deep water became waist-deep cascades, but Terrence kept us safe as we raced the rising waters – but we did not lose our papayas!  When we got back we had hot tea and cooked the one unripe papaya – shredded and in oil, it was SO good, with chopped chicken, white rice, and leaves Terrence had gathered on the hike.  The kids played some language games and my boys quickly fell asleep.
  • Daziel stayed up with his mom, as kids here don’t go to bed until 9:30, even though school starts at 6 am six days a week. He read a BM copy of “Finding Dory” with me and helped me translate bit by bit, then he kindly wrote the Lord’s Prayer in BM into our notebook.  To say thank you (or “terima kasih”), we passed on to him Cade’s hardly-used roller blades.  Kids here are very polite when given gifts, but this boy’s face lit up and he even danced, he was so delighted.  (Next time I go, I will bring a helmet and wrist guards!)IMG-20170811-WA0015
  • Our last morning, we woke up early and headed to a place in the river that has lots of fun rapids. Three wonderful things: the boys could remodel the river with rocks, building and destroying dams all they wanted; the rapids were a jacuzzi for me, and there were no leeches!  (I haven’t actually had a leech here, but I am due.)  Hiking back we found a giant centipede (7 inches – bite would send you to hospital) right by Cade, and we gathered more food for lunch so the boys could eat and play with Daziel before we left.
  • When it came time to leave, there was a massive rainstorm. I was nervous about the drive – the 100 metres getting to the sealed road, then the parts that even locals called steep (at least 14% grade).  Terrance took pity on me (after my three-hour tour) and drove us ½ hour to the main road, meeting up with a friend to bring him back.  It only took us 90 minutes to get home.  After Terrence hopped out of our car, coming home was all downhill – staying in 2nd gear almost all the way!  Only 12% grade there, but when we approached town, the skies turned black (at 3:00 pm) and we got to navigate more flooding as the city roads were almost a foot deep in many places.  What a relief to get home!
  • And as a result of our adventure, we have new friends, invitations to return (and bring Daziel back to stay with us for a few days, we hope!), and a new 1-inch pile of flashcards from our practical language experience. Everything from “can I have more rice” to “Disengage!” to “pet the friendly dog” to “ouch” to “poop.”  The boys can now say simple sentences and we learned about the modern life of Dusun people.  I also prayed in BM for the first time (blessing the meal) and I think we all felt blessed to be able to meet, help each other, and celebrate life in Sabah.

Faculty Fellowship at our seminary

From Rev. Dr. Eric Trozzo’s newsletter – snapshots of life and work as a seminary professor:

The faculty here at Sabah Theological Seminary has to work closely together.  There are about 25 of us to cover courses for ten degree programs in three different languages.  Plus it is not like a large university that has a full complement of administrators.  All administrative functions are fulfilled by faculty members.  There are support staff to help, but each faculty member has an administrative role on top of our teaching load.  Most of us also preach in congregations regularly, with some serving as pastors of congregations.  Because of this, even though most of us live on campus in the same building, we actually do not have a great deal of time to spend together much of the year.

Because of this, the end of May and beginning of June has become a time that many of the faculty members make a special effort to spend time together. It falls between the first and second semesters of the academic year here, and so we have about five weeks at a slower pace than usual.  During that time we have a faculty retreat.  This year we went to a retreat center near Mount Kinabalu, a few hours’ drive from the seminary.  We had some work to attend to, but we also made a point of playing games, getting to know each other better, and generally having some fun together.  In the weeks since, we have had some informal pot luck lunches and have started a weekly time for playing badminton together.  It has been a very welcome time to build up a sense of being a team working together in common purpose.  Wendolyn has taken to giving “badminton names,” including “Robena the Relentless” and “Rak-sa-sa” for our neighbour, Francis.  It means “monster” and he has a monster smash stroke!  I am sure as the new semester begins these activities will cut back, but the sense of teamwork that comes out of these slower times is important for sustaining us through the busier times.sts blue sky


I grew up as a majority citizen… white, suburban, Christian, sporty enough, bookish enough… I was a woman but surrounded by women who proved that opportunities were open to me.  I grew up thinking, “Can I do this? I can try!” instead of facing obstacles of “-ism”s.

I live now as an immigrant: a minority in race, citizenship, religion, education, and so many other categories.  To be sure, I am an expat, which means that I am an immigrant by choice, that I have a nation I could easily return to, and that I have a safety net of resources (savings, health insurance, and a fabulous sending agency that has already thought of every contingency).

So many immigrants lack those assurances.  The realities they face are amplified by their lack of choices.  The lost, last, and least – leaving their own country to migrate, or worse, flee; and they arrive in other countries where they again face lack of opportunity, where they are forced again to be the lost, last, and least.

A friend of mine once told me about immigrating to Italy from the USA.  When her family got there, her husband was working.  She was encouraged to learn Italian – in fact, her community had free language classes with free childcare, because the community understood that it would be otherwise impossible for her to learn Italian.  The USA, on the other hand, demands that people learn English (a wretchedly hard language to master) while working 100 hours a week as single parents, expecting people to organize and fund their own classes and to take that time away from their families.

I’ve learned some of the language here, but it’s remarkably difficult.  Because it’s the national language, there are actually fewer resources for learning the language, becuase it’s assumed that you already know it.  I want to honor this place and its people by learning the language… even with passion and hope, it’s not happening anytime soon.

We are in limbo with visas as well, not allowed to do anything that appears to be taking a job from a local person, and under suspicion because of living at the Seminary, which is clearly Christian.  Christians in Sabah aren’t under threat of violence; but a minority faith is enough to put many roadblocks to visa approval.  Like many immigrants around the world, we are doing our best to follow our host nation’s policies.  But those policies are shifting, and we are not lawyers; it’s hard to know if we’re doing things the right way.  We have to trust our advisers here and have a back up plan.  That’s a difficult, stressful way to live.

Being an immigrant has reminded me to care for other immigrants.  Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service does amazing work within the USA, helping immigrants live better lives and contribute more quickly to their communities.  (And the contributions immigrants make are significant!)

I would ask that you pray for all immigrants: for those who go to a new place to serve, or for more opportunity; for refugees who flee with only the hope of staying alive, then find themselves in a new place with no resources; for missionaries like us who are finding immigration documents to be very challenging.  Notice the immigrants in your community and make room for them.  Pray for greater international responsibility and cooperation.  Pray, and pray, and pray.  It is often in prayer that God directs us to the concrete things we can do to care for others in our midst and around the world.

Workaround # 8 … worked!

Click here:   Borneo Briefings April 2017

Above is the link to our April/May family newsletter.  We hope to send out our June newsletter within a week or so.  So much has happened!  Hosting multi-lingual conferences, teaching in a variety of places, ages, and formats, new roles and programs, progress in visasa, and then the joy that today is Dante’s 12th birthday.  We’ve been busy!  Now to wrangle the pictures off of our phones to share with you…  soon.  Peace!

On not blogging…

Sigh.  Perhaps you have things to sigh about, too.  So let’s all take a deep breath in, pause, and blow it out as hard as you can.  That’s a quote from a sleep meditation that I have on my Kindle.  I’ve downloaded it so I can use it off-line, but ironically, Kindle keeps deleting my off-line files, assuming that I have 24-hour fast internet.

Today I had allotted 3 hours to clear out my email inbox.  But in my inbox I found a file that I needed to post to a blog that I created for local pastors.  I had a 9-page PDF document that should have been posted weeks ago, but our neighborhood’s internet cable had been stolen, and after a week I forgot about posting it.  Today, though, I had the document file, I had 3 hours, and the internet said it was working.  Hooray!

So I tried to upload a file from home.  No go.  That’s ok, I thought, I’ll take the laptop closer to the router, and I can even use the wired-in computers in my husband’s office.  I have THREE ways that this can work.

But the internet in the office did the worst thing it can do:  it KIND-OF worked.  I could load emails, about one every 5 minutes, if I clicked the mouse while the internet was functioning.  But about 3 of every 5 minutes, it was out, but it didn’t say it was out, it just didn’t load any pages.  If I knew it wasn’t working, I’d go do something non-computer.  But it seemed to be working. And this blog is at the top of my urgent and necessary list.

So I sat there, for 2 hours, clicking, hoping, gambling that a file would upload.  They’re tiny files – 9 separate PDF images.  It’s a terrible feeling, either “I should be getting this done” or “I should give up and do something else.”  Because they’re both true, and they both induce stress or guilt or a sense of powerlessness.

The key word for living in a developing nation is “WorkAround.”  Always have several back-up plans.  Right now I’m using my phone’s data hotspot to try to upload the files.  It should absolutely work.  It is not working.  Wait, now that I’ve checked again, it uploaded … twice.  Using double the data.  And it uploaded them as documents, not images, so they’re useless.  Wow.  Sigh!  Deep breath in…

At any rate, this blog as snapshots of our life, gives you one more snapshot.  My son shouted at the laptop the other day, “Darn this computer!” … and I told him, that’s the first of 10,000 times you will say that.

We are blessed.  I keep reminding myself of that.  But it is hard to feel faithful when simple things go undone.  It is rough to carry around the constant sense that “maybe NOW the internet is up…”  It just stinks.  This post, though, is just words … cut and paste and I bet it’ll post.  No fancy images this time.  Thank you for reading and receiving my venting!

Family newsletter – March 2017

Click here to read the PDF version:  borneo-briefings-march-2017

Lent Photo-a-Day devotional

I invite you to join in.  Take a picture for yourself, or take a picture to share on Facebook page – Flung Forth Anew.  You can find my photos on my Facebook page or on http://www.facebook.com/FlungForthAnew.

May you be blessed by open eyes and an open heart.

(To copy the picture, right click on it, choose “save as” and decide where on your computer you want to keep it.  That way you can refer back to it each day to find the daily word.)


Here is my picture for day 1 – “connection” – because connections can bring us energy.  But we also need to take care that others’ energy does not overrun us and fry our wires!


Christmas Songs: too much for our internet

Hello friends,

sadly, I am giving up on daily December posts… our internet cable was stolen *again* and tomorrow we leave for 9 days in Cambodia.  Hopefully you’ve enjoyed encountering some new music and catching some glimpses of our life here.  I wish you peace, hope, and joy in coming weeks.

I leave you with one more Christmas song…Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas/Sarajevo 12-24.”

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Songs Day #8

Internet cable stolen for 8th time since July – not just a little bit, we’re talking hundreds of meters of cable each time.  About a week to fix.  We have learned to upgrade our data plans for our phones, so we can hotspot and use internet on our laptops.  But of our 3 laptops, one can’t receive wifi, one stopped turning on at all, and the one I’m using has no sound (the drivers were lost when we reformatted the laptop in order to salvage it.)  So … I’m sharing this song via YouTube, and hoping that the music is what I am expecting!  (and I’m hoping that I’m not duplicating Day #8…)

This is the 2nd Peter Mayer song so far, and there will probably be more off his album Midwinter.  The song is – click here – God Is A River.  It doesn’t mention Christmas exactly, but it recognizes how we need to let go and let God, and the holidays are  a good time to practice it.

“In the ever-shifting water of the river of this life
I was swimming, seeking comfort; I was wrestling waves to find
A boulder I could cling to, a stone to hold me fast
Where I might let the fretful water of this river ‘round me pass

And so I found an anchor, a blessed resting place
A trusty rock I called my savior, for there I would be safe
From the river and its dangers, and I proclaimed my rock divine
And I prayed to it “protect me” and the rock replied

God is a river, not just a stone
God is a wild, raging rapids
And a slow, meandering flow
God is a deep and narrow passage
And a peaceful, sandy shoal
God is the river, swimmer
So let go…”

Purchase his album, listen to sample tracks, find lyrics here...

Christmas Song Day #7 “Hey Moon”

The Sidewalk Prophets are a Christian group that sings Dante’s favorite song… if you want a song to encourage someone in your life, share this with them – “The Words I Would Say.”

But today you need a Christmas tune, so here’s a heartfelt song from a star to the moon.

“Hey, hey moon
Do you ever get a tear in your eye
When you think about
the time that God came down
I couldn’t help myself
I had to shine so bright
I remember the new born baby
And the wise men that traveled so far
That’s when I knew
I was made for a reason
I feel like the luckiest star”
with a riff on Silent Night to make it that much more lovely.

Click on the blue to enjoy!