Well, despite the best of intentions to report on our trip to Cambodia and Malaysia along the way, we’ve been safely back home a week now, and I don’t want to let the story get cold; so while it’s still fresh, I want to tell you all about it, albeit in summary form.  Karyn and I enjoyed rock solid health, little jet lag there (although it’s been tough to get back up to speed since we’ve come home…).

Thanks to so many of you who prayed and contributed to the trip financially.  You went before us and God blessed your partnership.  Thank you!

As we’ve returned to Chicago and dropped right into the intense busyness of the Advent season, we’ve so enjoyed being back together with our girls and are so thankful for Karyn’s parents who poured themselves out to watch them over Thanksgiving break while we were gone.

Here are some bullet point highlights of the trip:

  • The satisfaction of re-connecting with friends in Cambodia, including at the Cell Church of Christ in Phnom Penh and with former colleagues and fellow international workers–felt like we hit the ground running.  Phnom Penh was a whirlwind of change–we could barely distinguish landmarks in our old neighborhood of Tuol Kork, but managed to find our former nanny and cook’s apartment complex through calf-high flood waters.  We thoroughly enjoyed the shopping at the Russian Market–best little market in Asia, IMHO–cramped, hot, smelly, full of friendly people and great bargains, just the way we like it!

A fine Cambodia curry lunch with bread shared with our friends from the leadership team of the Cell Church of Christ…

Curry Lunch Cell Church Leaders

  • The gift of quality time with my wife and sharing ministry together.  I’m blessed to have such a great traveling partner and life companion in Karyn–we relished revisiting Asia, loved the adventure of it all and the gift of serving together–the only thing I would have changed would have been to be able to bring our girls along with us–maybe next time?  And, best of all, Karyn only had 2 flights where people next to her got airsick!

Enjoying a fancy lunch on the riverfront in Phnom Penh…

Lunch on the Riverfront

Coming home in a “tuk tuk” after one of our many market runs.

Tuk Tuk Ride

  • The fun of revisiting Dalat 23 years after I graduated and bringing Karyn to see it–still very much the same, but VERY DIFFERENT, too.  The four lane road in front of campus was a little unsettling (let alone the 2 monstrous hotels towering overhead right next door), but we still enjoyed the Hillside stalls and even got a free burger from the burger man (still the same guy!).

Dalat has been well-maintained–but who put those huge hotels up in the back yard?

Back to Dalat

We enjoyed SAB, the new Indian restaurant right across the street from the school!

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We asked the students to write ways they were challenged to see God differently through our talks…
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The retreat ended with a 30-minute time of solitude meditating on Zeph. 3:17, being quieted by God’s love and envisioning what it feels like to have the Father’s love singing over us…

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  • The joy of watching Brian and Valerie Weidemann, dorm supervisors at Dalat International School, serving together in their “sweet spot” as a couple–thriving as lovely, gifted complements to one another as “Dad and Mom” to the sweet kids in Jaffray Dorm.

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  • The deep satisfaction of serving fully in ministry, while being equally filled by the Holy Spirit to restore us as we worked.  Our series of retreat talks with the seventy dorm students were simple but challenging to apply.  As we encouraged the students to DISconnect from technology, we challenged them to Be There, to be fully present with their existing friendships at school and in the dorm, to Belong–to be intentionally devoted to their immediate family, both in the dorm and with their parents and siblings, to Be Rooted–to grow in their confidence of the non-negotiable foundations of their faith in Christ and to Be Still, to learn the spiritual disciplines of Sabbath and solitude as a regular practice in their lives as students (something I didn’t practice as a kid at Dalat.)

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So, in the midst of a busy ministry trip, Karyn and I have returned in the thick of Advent at Blanchard, renewed and refreshed by the quiet of God’s presence and the rich satisfaction of his Light breaking into our lives to give us hope and life.  May the words of Zephaniah 3:17 refresh and quiet you this season as much as it has for me.

The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”

The breath prayer which I taught the Dalat students (Do it like this:  Inhale and exhale deeply, then say “God quiets me with His love” at least ten times) has blessed me richly as I’ve returned home.  Maybe it will for you as well this Advent season, too?

Over the last four Sundays at Blanchard Warrenville, we’ve had the opportunity/blessing during our worship services to go forward to  little tables set up in the corner of our sanctuary to express our gratitude to God for his goodness, kindness, mercy and healing in our lives in this season of Thanksgiving.  We sang the “We Will Remember” by Tommy Walker every Sunday and I sensed the Holy Spirit really connecting those lyrics with our everyday lives–for me,  the third verse was powerful:

I still remember the day You saved me
The day I heard You call out my name
You said You loved me and would never leave me
And I’ve never been the same…

I do remember that day.  I was eight years old.  I was on summer vacation in Indonesia with my family.  We had just finished watching the only English language TV series on for the day.  That night it was EmergencyI don’t remember all the details but, obviously, Mom and Dad had let me stay up late to watch with the rest of my sisters.  In hindsight, I’m really glad they did, because, after watching the show, I crawled into bed terrified.  Somebody in the show had died.  And as I tried to close those eight-year-old eyes, they wouldn’t let me.  Deep in the  background of my sleepy subconscious I heard laughter–that I attributed to the devil.  He was laughing at me that night because, though I had grown up in a Christian home, I was his.  I hadn’t given my life over to become a devoted follower of Jesus yet. And, in that moment, I wanted to change my eternal position forever–to claim all the great stories about Jesus from the Bible  I had learned growing up and make them my own.  Feeling a strong sense of urgency to talk to my older sister, Beth, I got out of bed and crossed the hallway to knock on her door.  I told her I wanted to invite Jesus into my heart and have him become Lord of my life.  She happily agreed to help me.  So I prayed and invited Jesus in.  And the laughter stopped.

Satan had no power over me anymore.  I was now a child of the King forever.

How about you?  Do you still remember the day Jesus found you and called out your name?  And If you haven’t heard Him yet–just listen–He’s calling.

With Thanksgiving coming tomorrow, and thanks to our season of remembering at Blanchard Warrenville, I remember that day with gratitude–especially the peace and healing I’ve experienced over the last five months as I’ve recovered from brain surgery.  Jesus has been wonderfully close to me, given me a peace that passes all understanding.

I’m so glad I listened when he called out my name that scary night in Indonesia.  And I’m thankful for all the ways we had a chance to say “thank you” to him on our tree in Warrenville over the month of November, too.  

One of the things I added to the tree last Sunday?  That I was able to go to the table with Anna, my daughter, and be able to return to my seat, healthy and well–brain cancer and seizure-free.  Unlike on Father’s Day when, after returning to my seat from taking Anna, my initial seizure started.  And my life changed forever after that.  But I’m still and always will be a child of the King because of that day Jesus called out my name.

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, His love endures forever! (Psalm 136:1 NIV)

 

For those of you who read my blog and aren’t friends on Facebook (or don’t live in the Chicago area).  Just thought I drop you all a quick line to give you a update on my latest recovery news.  Had my 90-day MRI a week and a half ago and my neuro-oncologist shared with me on Wednesday that it’s clean (cancer-free) and that I’m progressing well.

I’m posting this blog from my first official full day back at the Office at Blanchard Alliance Church in Wheaton–where I actually drove myself for the first time!  Surreal and amazing all at the same time.  Next MRI scheduled for Dec. 29th.  Just part of this “new kind of normal” I’m adjusting to.  All in all, very thankful to so many of you who have been praying and to God who has been answering.  Back in the office, moving toward full time,  just a little over three months after surgery.

Blessed beyond words.

A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value…Prov. 31:10

One of the most moving experiences of my recovery from brain surgery is my beautiful, noble wife, Karyn.   She has been an absolute rock to me– and she (unlike me)  actually remembers the bad stuff–the week of my surgery at CDH–the three scary days when I couldn’t use my left side, when my surgeon kept reassuring all of us that it would all come back with time… when I was in so much pain post surgery, I could barely function.  13 years ago this Sept. 6 at Blanchard Wheaton, Karyn pledged to stick with me “in sickness and in health” –she’s kept her promise to me , hasn’t she?  I’m so proud of her and in love with her (more than ever)!

Actually, that’s been one of the more inspiring sights here at Marianjoy in the rehab gym every day to see spouse after spouse compassionately loving their now very different husbands or wives (post stroke) such simple, quiet love displayed for all the rest of us–no panic of discomfort(at least not that I can see) just patient, devoted acceptance…just like my Karyn.

Seriously,  who else but Karyn would have stuck with “crazy old me” all these years?…

From moving to Phnom Penh, Cambodia giving up her job at Blanchard as Children’s Ministries Director to follow me to Colorado Springs for five years so I could be a Student Ministries Pastor as prep for the mission field in Cambodia to being willing to have her third child in a  foreign country like Bangkok, Thailand?  Now that’s a Prov. 31 woman! In faith in her Great God, she always puts her next foot forward for what the day holds–not shrinking back--, believing God will take care of her and our family, just like He always has.  Speaking of being UNSHAKABLE, well, that’s my Karyn…Now, I’m sure she’ll tell you she’s had her weak moments where everything comes crashing in at once (probably in the quiet of nighttime, so she can’t even breathe…) but she graciously doesn’t tell me about those moments most of the time…


“Look, Dad!  It’s a goose festival!”

I enjoy driving with my little girl, Ellie.  She’s so beautifully aware of God’s world in a way that I so often miss in my hurry.  I’d never heard of a “goose festival” before, but I certainly wanted to see what one looked like after her chirpy backseat comment.  And sure enough, right through my passenger-side window, huddled happily together in a freshly-harvested corn field off Roosevelt Road, thousands of geese partied among what must have been a treasure trove of golden corn kernels conveniently scattered by the recent pass of the farmer’s jumbo-size harvester.  A festival indeed.

In this week of Thanksgiving, I’m considering not only how our Father in heaven feeds the sparrow but how he feeds the goose, too — and how His great rescue story continues to be told around the world, for me, Ellie and all of us.

I give thanks to a Father who loved me so much (found me so valuable!) that He would sacrifice his Son to die for me.

I give thanks for a chance to not burn my turkey on the grill and feed my amazing family at my own home for the very first time on Thursday.

I give thanks for an earthly father who’s prepared an old-school slide show of our family’s days gone by–and that my daughters will have a chance to see our story connecting with God’s great Story–His unchanging, unwavering, miraculous faithfulness to unite a unique family brought together from China, Lithuania, Germany and Cambodia to Chicago, Illinois,

For all these good things and so many more (“gooses” included…), I give thanks.