As I write this, I have my "Leaves" candle burning, and the days are definitely getting shorter...but sometimes seasons blend into each other here in California. How could summer have blown past already? Does life seem FAST to you? I was browsing through a gazillion photos trying to choose just a few to share with you about our recent trip to Asia, and I was stunned at all the LIFE that has rushed past in just a few months. Clicking through all those images reminded me of great memories, great people, and God's faithfulness in bringing us yet another day...another sunrise....another sunset. So many. He is so faithful. I wish I could truly pause, climb into those images and drink them in to their fullest, because when it goes by so quickly, I miss so much. It amazes me the GOD sees EVERY DETAIL. Like in this photo from a concert we did at Glad Tidings Church in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. I only comprehended a tiny slice of what was going on here. But when I just now looked at the photo, there are all those kids and something is happening with each of them...and God sees it all. What a GREAT God!
We had an amazing time in Singapore and Malaysia in September--ripe with those experiences of God's goodness. Meeting people on the other side of the globe who became family to us in moments...eating new and delish foods, travel mercies, laughs, working hard at what we hope is helping children praise and love Jesus more and leaders feel more inspired to do the same. When I think of all the things that COULD have gone awry, I could stop right here and praise the Lord that just travel and health were all seamless. 2 weeks of events, visiting, exploring, lots of eating and getting everywhere we were supposed to go...on time and without incident...many miracles right there!
We started our journey in beautiful Singapore. A group of kids from a worship leading team called Arise helped us at our two concerts there. They were AMAZING! So hard working and serious lovers of Jesus. And as always, we were well taken care of by our friend Ai May, Flora Chew and the team from Scripture Union, the two churches we partnered with at the concerts, Darius Foo and the Arise leaders, and the hundreds of people who volunteered to pull off these concerts. And of course, Ron was always at the sound helms, and he enjoyed the teams who assisted.
We were blessed not only with the opportunity to do concerts for LOTS of kids and families, but also to put on a couple of workshops for leaders in children's ministry all around Singapore. These were also a BLAST and a blessing. Childrens ministry people are SO fun! One thing we discussed is the seemingly universal challenge of the oder elementary kids (especially boys) who are "too cool for school," crossing their arms and hanging back in cool observation rather than participation. In Singapore there is a famous statue of a founding father named Sir Stamford Raffles. When the kids act like this, they call it "doing the 'Sir Stamford Raffles!" I got a kick out of this, especially when I passed the statue when I was out on a walk. We had some great discussion about this, and its good to know its an issue virtually everywhere.
While in Singapore, I got to go visit a young gal I have been praying for from afar for years now named Jenna. My friend Ai May's high school girlfriend and her husband (Jen and Jeffrey) have one beautiful, smart, lovely daughter who two years ago mysteriously fell into a coma after battling a lingering fever. God has put Jenna on my heart daily, so I was anxious to go meet this sweet family and possibly encourage them. Truth be told, I think I was the one who was encouraged. They are people of deep faith and trust in the Lord for all things. But if you are reading this, would you please join all of us in praying for God to awaken Jenna as only He can.
There was also A LOT of good eating and hanging out with friends, and even a date night on the Singapore Sling ferris wheel for Ron and me (opening photo). What a beautiful city Singapore is, and the Lord is moving in hearts mightily there. It was a thrill and joy and honor to step in and be part of that move in some way.
After a week in Singapore, and way too much nasi lemak for me every morning (look it up...its awesome and probably terribly fattening), we were on our way to Malaysia. Sadly, there were fires in Indonesia and the smoke filled the air in ML, so we didn't get to SEE Malaysia in all of its glory, but we certainly felt the beauty and love of the people there! We immediately "clicked" with Pastor Tiffany Tang and her incredible team at Glad Tidings Church.
They had also prepared a team of kids to lead the motions at the concert with me, and they were so wonderful, hard-working, adorable, funny and just adorable! What a terrific job they did at the pretty huge concert the GT team pulled together! There was a flat- out carnival ahead of time (with games, cotton candy, bounce houses, the works) before the concert, and all of this went off without a hitch, praise God. How thrilling to work together and sense the connection and joy we share in Jesus so quickly in a brand new place. Thats how it is when we're connected in the DNA of Jesus!
Pastor Tiffany, me, lead pastor Vincent Leoh, and Ron.
We also had the THRILL of giving a workshop to a couple hundred children's ministry leaders in the area, and was that ever a BLAST and blessing. What loving people with such precious hearts for the Lord.
I also got to speak and sing for/with all the kids up to grade 6 on Sunday morning at Glad Tidings. That was a long morning for me, but a joy. I must say, that first service of 5th and 6th graders defied the norm of being "arm-crossers" (no Sir Stamford Raffles poses here!) They were super engaged and sweet.
Tiffany and her daughters and friends took me out for a little durian feast one night (Ron had gone home by this time, but I think he would have passed on the invitation anyways!)...and I was in HEAVEN! That impossibly stinky but simultaneously delicious "king of fruits" has stolen my heart.
Our time in Malaysia had only just begun after all of this excitement. On Monday we went into Kuala Lumpur proper to do ministry with our new friends Jun Leng and Charles and their family and friends.
First we had the extreme pleasure of doing a little concert at a school for families who were refugees from Myanmar. Their stories were so difficult to hear, but their joy in being in a safe, loving school was palpable! The little dynamo in the orange shirt (a brave little Korean woman of about 90 pounds and dynamic faith and courage) runs the school. My new hero.
The joy was immense in the room. At the end they prayed for Ron and me in their native tongue...and there is something about hearing prayer in another language that is so profoundly beautiful and humbling. God really does have the whole world in His hands. Every tribe and tongue will one day bow down to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
After the concert the families were treated to a lunch of something they've never had...chicken nuggets! Sounds so ordinary to us, but those kiddos had never had Texas Chicken Nuggets before and happily devoured them. We had hundreds of hugs and photos, which are always a mixture of joy and pain for me---feeling a deep connection, then knowing I'll most likely never have another opportunity to see of these dear ones. Well, not likely anyways. I was given a scarf from their area in Myanmar which I will treasure always. And if not before, we have forever in heaven, praise be to Jesus.
After this event, Ron took off for home, but I was in good hands with my new friend Jun Leng. The air was getting worse, but the time with her was priceless.
Jun Leng is a leader in (among other things) a Christian Fellowship for children at a local private international school there in KL. They meet with any children who would like to come have lunch, and share in a Bible lesson, right there on the school campus. They asked me if I would be willing to come do a little concert for them, which of course I was thrilled to do. It was no small undertaking for these parents...the smoke nearly shut the school down and threw their best-laid plans to the wind. But these folks live rich lives of prayer and devotion to the Lord and were not deterred in the least. We ended up meeting in a small classroom, but right there we sang our heads off for about 40 minutes that "Jesus is Alive!" And afterwards, of course, the parents invited me out to lunch and we ATE more astoundingly awesome food!
I have to share two of my absolute favorite photos from the entire trip with you. These were sent to me after the concert at Glad Tidings, and they are just treasures to me. Near the end of the concert, Tiffany, who is a gentle and gifted communicator with children, came to the stage and shared the gospel simply, giving children the opportunity to come forward and receive prayer, receive the Lord Jesus. There was so much going on up there, only the Lord knows what all happened! But there were two little girls (not together, both whom were invited to the concert by friends) in tears, truly touched by Jesus. They each surrendered their little hearts and lives to Him as Lord and received prayer. These images made me weep for joy. If it was JUST for these two girls, all of that effort by the hundreds of people involved, the months of planning on this side of the globe and over there, the prayer that went on in preparation by each and every volunteer and leader, the lost sleep, lost hair, and everything else lumped together...all of that would be worth it for every single one of us if just for what happened in just these two girls' hearts and lives. We know the Lord was sweetly and powerfully busy all over the place, but what a treasure to behold this. As the song goes, "Even when I can't see it, You're working....Even when I don't feel it, You're working. You never stop, You never stop working." So true. What a thrill to be part of His work, every day, in everything we do...may it be praise to You, Jesus.