Wow! Has it really been two months already? I can hardly believe it - in some ways it seems like it's been a lifetime that we've lived here, and in other ways it still all seems so new!
So much has happened, that I think I'll just make some comments on various areas....
Well, we celebrated our first Christmas overseas...prior to the "big day" Sierra was struggling with not being home for it, but on Christmas day she woke up determined to have a good one and she blew me away with her positive and grateful attitude. That girl is so amazing! We got up and opened up presents at home and hung out and celebrated together before heading to the base for the big "Family Celebrations". It's a blast! First of all, they hang a stocking out for every single person about 10 days before Christmas, and people spend a lot of time filling them all up with all sorts of little goodies - chocolates, candles, notes, etc. Most people do this on Christmas Eve, so it looks a lot like Santa's workshop that night! We got to the base and opened up our stockings - it was really fun. We hung around a bit, and then there was a huge Christmas dinner with the works - turkey, ham, lobster, salads, desserts - just about anything you can think of. After dinner we had a White Elephant gift exchange that was pretty wild...mostly because it involved about 300 people, and also because if someone wanted to take your gift from you, you were allowed to run away to try and keep it so there were some really good games of chase in and around all 300 of us! Organized chaos, I guess you would call it....haha!!!
The next day was "boxing day" which is really big here - I guess it means you take all the stuff you didn't like back to the store and exchage it. Or maybe box up your Christmas decorations? At any rate, the whole base went to the beach for the day - with a few thousand other Aussies. It was a beautiful and hot day and perfect for the beach. It was a wonderful way to spend the day!
Overall, Christmas ended up being really pretty good. We were able to Skype with the fam the day after, which was their Christmas, and we were happy to be able to see them, but that also made us miss them!
Well, as I intimated previously, I am working with the Pathway ministry. This ministry helps refugees and immigrants as they transition to Australia. It is still a new ministry, so we are "pioneering" it and still growing it. A lot of what we are doing right now is getting connected with the people, particularly in an area called Mirrabooka where many refugees go. We do a lot of door-knocking and community surveys and handing out fliers for free English classes. We also had a kids club that we started over the summer holiday and that was really successful. It was so neat to see kids from so many nations, all coming together. I just know that I've caught a glimpse of what it will be like in heaven when all the nations come together to praise God in every tongue!
We've connected with some people in Mirrabooka now and make frequent trips there to meet with them for English practice, driving lessons or just to visit. Many of the people come from the middle East and are Muslim, so I am learning much about the Muslim culture and religion and how to share Christ with them. I have found that I particularly love the Hazara people, who are Shi'a Muslims and come from Afghanistan - they are a kind, gentle and peaceful people. It is really good to get to know people apart from all you hear in the media.
Yes, Sierra did make it to Cambodia for 2 1/2 weeks! She absolutely LOVED it! She was in Batambang, a rural town. She helped to teach English at a youth center and really connected with the kids there. It was quite a miracle, actually, because she was almost not allowed on the plane to go!! Apparently her passport needed to be good for 6 months beyond her travel dates, and it was only good for 5 months beyond them...so they weren't going to let her go! However, God is good, and He made a way and she found favor at each port of entry to continue on - praise the Lord!
It was really exciting for me - okay, brag alert - but so many of the leaders from her team and from the training camp time sought me out to tell me what an amazing girl Sierra is - she was so helpful, had such a great attitude, a real leader, so on fire for God, etc, etc. I was so proud of her!! She had some amazing revelations from the Lord while she was there, and was simply beaming upon her return.
School & Miracles
Sierra is attending Mt. Lawley Senior High School. She just finished her 1st week, but I will give you all a little background info!
Well, first of all, we knew coming in that foreign students pay a fee to attend school. The fees for year 10 are $6,500 - year 11 it is $7,500 and year 12 is $7,500 - $21,500 altogether. I didn't know how I was going to pay for those fees, but followed the word of the Lord and came, trusting Him to figure it out. I was praying for someone to sponsor her through school, or something.
We signed up for school and she had to go in for an interview. I thought they would interview her and go over her records, etc - but no, they just started putting her in classes. At one point I asked "what grade will she be in?" and the lady says "what year do you want her to be in?" I about fell out of my chair!! I told her I wasn't sure - she had completed only part of grade 10 in the US. She looked over her records and called another counselor in, who did the same. Then he asked Sierra how old she was an declared she would be in year 11! So, that meant the fees for year 10 were no more!! A savings of $6,500.
She got her classes - that was a whole ordeal - the kids have to basically declare their college major at 15 years old! She didn't know, they told her to figure it out in 5 minutes and then ended up putting her in business, which she was really bummed about. More on how that was resolved later...
A few days later, we got a letter from the school confirming her classes, and informing us of her fees. All students here have to pay for the classes they take, plus buy their own books and of course, the uniform. So, we got a bill and it was for $536. I thought maybe I'd get another bill for the year 11 foreign student fees, but it never came. When I went to the school to pay for her fees, I asked the lady and she said "oh, it just says the $536 - we'll just leave it, I'm sure if you're volunteering here you are doing something good" and ta-da! Year 11 fees were taken care of! Not only that, but as I was looking through the 2nd hand uniforms to get some peices for Sierra, I started talking to the guy who was working there. He is the school chaplain...we chatted for 20 minutes or so and when I asked him how much I owed for what I had picked out, he gave them to me for free!!!
So - miraculously, God has sponsored Sierra Himself! How cool is that? It's a really, really good thing, because as it is, between her regular fees, her books and her uniform, it's already been over $1,500...but thankfully I've had that and have been able to get her the things she'll need.
Oh yeah - her classes! So, a few days before school started we went to buy the other peices of her uniform she would need and I went to the office to see if she could change her "pathway" (major of study). The head guy was there and he whisked us into his office and click-click-click it was all done and now she is studying Media Arts, which I think she will really love. She had a media class and a photography class this year, along with the usual English, Math, Science, PE, Social Studies. All in all, the only thing she'll be missing for college in America is a course in US History, which we'll do via homestudy.
This year is a banner year for YWAM - it marks our 5oth year! That is quite a feat, and so Loren Cunningham, the founder, is traveling all over the world to meet with YWAMmers and celebrate. It is also a big year for YWAM Perth - it's our 25th year! So, to celebrate, we had the 25th/50th Celebration that lasted for a week. A LOT of preparation for the big party! We had about 700 people here for the week, all to celebrate and come together.
The week itself was packed with a lot of activities and teaching sessions where Loren & Darlene Cunningham, Peter & Shirley Brownhill (founders of YWAM Perth) and other speakers told us stories about YWAM's history, vision for the future and challenged us in several areas of our walk with the Lord. I could never capture it here, so I will share a few bullet points of things that particularly touched me.
- We were reminded that everything we have now is because we are standing on the shoulders of those who said "yes" before us, and how the blessings of the righteous will go forth for 1,000 generations. This was particularly poignant for me as I thought of all the people who have said "yes" to supporting me and on whose shoulders I stand so that I can serve Christ with my whole being. I was also contemplating and giving thanks for my dad, who said "yes" to the Lord and put a stake in the ground to stop the generational curses from his parents of incest, abuse and addiction. I am really overwhelmed how he is first in line of that 1,000 generations - and I am second, and Sierra is 3rd. It is so humbling, and I am so thankful for him, my mom and for all you.
- Revelation comes after you've made the commitment - not before. This was especially for me as I have come to Perth not really *knowing* the full purpose of why God has called me here, but trusting in Him for my all!
- 100 years after Jesus died, 1 out of every 360 people in the world were born again believers. By the time of Martin Luther, that number was 1 out of 69. In 1950, the number had gone down to 1 in every 21 people (this is world-wide people!!) and now the number is 1 out of 10 people know Jesus as their personal savior. The great commission is being fulfilled!! There are so many nay-sayers out there, but God is accomplishing His great purposes. Cool, huh?
- A reminder to stay single-minded, whole-hearted and focused on God's call - to continue to say "yes" to God, to develop an "I won't quit" attitude, as well as an attitude of gratitude.
- Did you know it takes the average reader only 72 hours to read the Bible? Crazy!!
- A challenge to "put legs" to your prayers! Yes God!
- A problem for some missionaries (and I have struggled with this) is feeing "illegitimate" in what we are doing - as though it is not enough because it is so different from the world's standard and the church's standard - but a reminder to fight tenaciously for what God has called us to do - it is the legitimate call of God to "go into all the world..." We are to bring the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and to disciple nations. This is an apostolic calling.
Well, that is some of the nuggets I got! This is getting really long, so I will move on now....
All of my plans have been moved up by a year since Sierra is now graduating High School a year early! Yikes!! I know that I am called into the frontier - to go where no man has gone before - okay, that was a bit campy, but seriously, I feel called to go to the unreached world. Did you know that over 80% of missionaries are in the most-evangelized parts of the world? I want to go to those places where we are not.
This July, I am going to take a TESOL course - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. I will receive a TESOL certificate from the government of Australia that certifies me to teach in other countries - this is a great way to get in to "closed" countries, as well as a way to do some "tent making" if need be. It is a 6 week course, followed by a 6 week internship.
After that, I know at some point in the next year or so I want to take a course in Frontier Missions, through YWAM Perth, where I can better learn exactly how to bridge that cultural gap and go into the frontier. I am thinking of doing a 2-year internship in Nepal after Sierra graduates from High School - I am hoping she'll want to come with me for all or part of it, but she'll be a full-fledged adult and have to make some decisions of her own about the future. She is set up to be able to attend college back home when she is ready, and also is wanting to do a DTS of her own. My how time flies! The next two years will yield a lot new directions and I'm sure will be very exciting.
Well, I guess I should go for now - if you are still with me, give a big shout HURRAY! This was an epic post!! I want to again extend my gratitude to all who are supporting me through friendship, prayers and finances...I truly, truly couldn't do this alone and am so grateful to have a wonderful team of people supporting me! God bless each and every one of you!
With much love - Dayna