Thursday, December 26, 2013

Our Christmas Ode

Twas' the days before Christmas and all around the house
a tropical rainstorm was brewing and we found a dead mouse!
the stockings were hung on the staircase with care
handmade by our grandma, wish we could be there

The children all nestled and snug in their beds
while visions of American candy danced in their heads
Dad in his shorts, mom in her tank top
wrap gifts and think - the tropics are hot!

When out on the road the satpams motored by
watching white people shove a tree in their house, wondering why?
Then for the fifth time today, the Iman cries out from the mosque
a reminder to us why we go, we understand the cost

As we sit and we ponder another Christmas away
we log in to Skype and patiently pray
let the internet be steady, talking to our family is a must
without them it seems the holidays are bust

With heavy hearts we chat, laugh and then cry
I hope they understand the reasons why
we cannot be there, our place is here
to do our best to share Christ with those who live near

After four years away, we desperately miss home
so far away from our family, we feel quite alone
we are grateful to those who each day lift us up
through prayer, encouraging words or financial support

one day we will return to hopefully find
reconnections with those we have kept dear in our minds
but for now we just know our God is Sovereign and true
Merry Christmas to you all, know we very much love you!

With all our love,
Steve, Paula, Tori, Reba and Will

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Please Pray For Me

Please pray for me.  I awoke today feeling the discouragement of spending 4 years in the mission field without the support of a local church back home.  I pray that as you read my thoughts this morning that you hear the pain in my heart and know that I really had to pray through sharing these feelings.  Please hear my heart as a father, husband, and brother in Christ to my Indonesian family as well as my American family.

Half way through our fourth year in the field, it has been abundantly clear that the Lord has used, is using, and intends to continue to use us to plant seeds for the harvest to come.  There have been many days when the Lord heard the rejoicing of angels around his throne because of the work that He is doing through us and the ministry he has planted at BAIS.  We are so certain of his calling in our lives and the fact that he is present daily in this ministry that we recently committed to extend our contract for two more years after this year.  We signed our intent the same day the official invite was offered because the Lord impressed on our hearts that he is not finished with us here.

However, looking ahead at the coming years of ministry to Indonesia, knowing that our relationships back home have fallen off because of the distance of time, miles, and daily demands, it is a very discouraging notion.  It requires complete faith and trust in our Father’s care and love for us to approach the future ministry with joy.

Specifically, as Paula and Tori get ready to head to Singapore tomorrow morning for Tori’s knee surgery, I am wondering what it must have been like for those who came before us.  Those courageous instruments of the King that gave up the lives of their children and spouses to the diseases and perils of the kingdom work to which they were called without the opportunity to feel the support of family and friends back home.  My heart breaks for their sacrifices.

When we came to the field in the summer of 2010, we did so knowing that our small church plant was facing a season of change and would not be there to support us.  We knew that our local body at the Christian school where we worked was limited in their support options because of denominational requirements.  However, we knew that God had opened the doors for us to make contacts with so many godly people over the preceding years, that prayer support would be certain and in abundance.  However, after these years apart, I am discouraged wondering who still remembers to pray for us?

Financially, the Lord has met our every need in getting us established here and in continuing to provide us with our daily bread.  Over the years we have received from various generous supporters an average of $150 a month.  This has been a blessings and has been used to bless others as we have sought to further the Kingdom work and the Gospel everyday in too many ways to list here.  However, we have seen the value in other organizations requiring their workers to raise an abundance of support before coming to the field.  Our salaries have met our daily needs but are inadequate for so many other reasons.

There are so many needs around us.  So many of our Indonesian brothers and sisters in Christ live off a monthly salary equivalent to what many American spend each month on fast food and Starbucks.  When they have medical needs, tuition needs and needs in general, we are unable to bless them through our supporters.  As Tori gets ready to have this much needed surgery, we are unable to go as a family to get her through the pain and week long stay in a hospital.  We are unable to afford the $100 a night room for Paula to stay with her in the hospital.  She will be alone each night, in a strange country and in pain, without her mother’s presence.  We have been unable to afford to come home for holidays, funerals, and summers because there is no extra support for travel.  These needs are great and do not even begin to address the needs of the unreached population around us living on less than $5 a day.  Oh what we could do with our Father’s cattle scattered through the hillside for his glory and the expansion of the Kingdom.

So you see, I need your prayers as I am greatly discouraged and Satan is intending to steal the joy and peace that my Lord imparts to me on a daily basis.  I would love to begin a dialogue with your pastors and churches if there is any chance of them adopting us into your family.  We need a church home to send letters of encouragement, birthday cards for the kids, to ask questions about how the kingdom is growing here, to pray for us without ceasing, and to financially partner with us in the ministry that we see becoming our life calling.  Please pray for me.

In the love of Christ,

Chaplain Steve

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Struggling in the Field, Part 3: Is this Paradise?

After three years in Bandung, we decided we had to get away - for our own sanity.  Home was out of the question, that ticket home for the 5 of us is about $9000.00.  So we start to look and find a very cheap villa in Bali, got great round trip tickets for less than $200.00 for the family - and now, here we are.  For one month.
I can honestly say it has been the healing salve we all desperately needed.  Just away from the "bubble" we live in and spending good time as a family.  We have had Steve's mother and stepfather come, now we have a former student from the US come and experience overseas living.  It has been a great experience.
Our society places so much value on work and not enough value on rest.  But rest is needed - and required.  If our God can make this magnificent world we live in and then require a day of rest, should we not?
I love our life here.  I love how God has stretched and grown us in so many ways.  But satan uses busyness and tiredness to distract us - make us feel incomplete, unusable to others.  But that is not truth.  God uses us in the smallest ways.  As a matter of fact here is a cool story to tell...
After a day of too much sun on this fair Irish skin, me, Will, Reba & Tori stayed behind from the beach - covered in aloe :)  Our student from America, Tina, and Steve set off for the beach.  And oh how God worked!

Meet their new friend, I will call him Bob :).  He was sitting on the beach finishing surf lessons and pulled up a chair by Steve and Tina in the shade.  After a few hours of random talking Bob learns that Steve is a pastor and asks him to pray for  Steve (BTW all of this in Spanish, he is originally from South America) asks him why and the story begins to spill out.  He said he was a bad guy.  His wife had just taken their daughter and left him that morning.  He has a son back in S. America that he does not have a relationship with and he repeats...he is a bad guy.  This leads to a couple of hours of talking about God's plan for his life, God's love for him and an exchange of numbers.  Steve invites him to church and we sent the information via text.  No response.  BUT, God promises His word will not come back void.  Please join us in praying for this man's salvation.  Please join us in praising God for the opportunity for Steve and Tina to reach out to him and most importantly pray for him.  
God moves - whether in the "bubble" in which we live or on the beach in Bali - God moves.  This is just one of several amazing God stories that have happened while we are here.  I praise Him for His design for our lives and the people He puts in our path.  I praise Him for rest that leads to the lost finding Him.  
Is it time for you to seek rest?  

Friday, June 07, 2013


I guess I miss the changing seasons most about Pennsylvania. I love the changing out of the wardrobe and the cool summer nights offset several months later with the warm fires burning as it snows outside. As much as the thought of 70-80 degrees every day sounds great - it can be a little boring. That is true for other seasons of our lives as well. It is with this thought I write my first blog in quite some time. The season was tiring, never seemed to find the time for proper rest and was draining emotionally, physically and spiritually. One would think that year three would be better than year one in the field and in many ways that would be true. In other ways it becomes harder. I have not left this country in three years and the "loss" of family is becoming a noticeable weight. As well, we are entering a season of decisions again and that is stressful. I am not sure the decision is all that stressful, but the thought of it surely is at times. I loved not having to think through the future this year since we had signed a two year contract. When do you need to make your decision? Well you may laugh when I answer, "December." Yes, to most it seems like a distance away - but here is it a blink of an eye. To be truly transparent with you all this season will depend largely on funding. God has been so good over the past three years. I am amazed at how each dollar has stretched beyond measure. I am so grateful for the one family who has faithfully given $100 each month to partner with us in ministry. When we look around and see those who have nothing it seems a bit selfish to ask our friends, family and acquaintances to give to our ministry. But the truth is we cannot be here, ministering to those we have the great opportunity to minister to without financial help. As we prepare to enter a season in which we will be seeking out support the best way we can from 10,000 miles away we ask for your prayers. Support will help us determine the next step, we know that God will provide if it is His will that we continue to minister here. Additionally, we ask for your prayers that funding will be made available for us to spend next summer stateside. We need a break, our kids need a break and we desperately miss our families and friends. I know a trip home for the summer may be just what the doctor ordered. Will you join us as a prayer partner in these things? Blessings to you and yours from the Newells.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Could Not Have Said it Better Myself... A MUST Read...

Part of another blog, but is so well done - enjoy!

How Can I Help my Friend Living Overseas? {Part 1}

I get this question a lot:  ”We have friends moving overseas.  How can we help them?”
Here’s a list I’ve come up with over the years.  It’s not a complete list by any means; but it is a sort of “Top Ten” list of things that have seemed most important to us and others we know who have lived/are living abroad.
  • Pray for them. I’ll just go ahead and start with the most important.  One of the struggles I think we western [hemisphere] Followers have is that we devalue prayer.  Take a peek in the Good Book index (or Google or ) and see how many times we are told to pray or how many awesome things came out of focused prayer, by an individual or a group of people gathered together to pray.  The Son Himself pleaded with His friends on the night of His betrayal to pray.  It’s kind of a big deal, folks. People overseas need you to be making requests on their behalf.  I will promise you that they will have days when one of the only things that gets them through is knowing you are praying for them.
  • Keep in touch. In today’s world of technology, this shouldn’t be so hard to do.  But, sometimes it is.  Sometimes, we get busy with all the responsibilities we have and all those little things that come up at the last minute and need our urgent attention.  But, if you could take 5 minutes a week – or even a month – to shoot a little email or Facebook message, it would mean THE WORLD to your friends living abroad to know that you are thinking of them and took the time to encourage or just say, “Hi!”  There’s a group of folks we met in TX just before we moved overseas 8 1/2 years ago who still email us to tell us about their lives, ask questions about ours, and let us know they’re thinking of us.  And there are friends we’ve met at conferences who helped teach our kids for a week or two who still keep in touch with us.  One sweet lady emails A-man little jokes and riddles.  Hub’s aunt often sends emails just talking about her day and life.  These are some of the most anticipated emails!  These are all nuggets of joy, friends.  True nuggets of joy.
  • You might just need to stalk them.  I don’t mean be a weirdo.  I just mean that, if you haven’t heard from your overseas friends in a while, find out why.  Sometimes, it may just be that they have been busy and haven’t made time to send out an update.  But sometimes, it may be something more serious.  When some people are struggling or suffering, they disconnect with the world.  Or, they may be suffering so much that they just don’t have the energy to reach out.  Feb. – March of 2012 were very difficult days for us.  We were traveling to a country outside our host country.  Hubs and E-girl were both sick.  Hubs had major responsibilities he was dealing with – while sick and taking care of E-girl.  The boys and I were 30 minutes away from Hubs at a homeschool conference when Baby J got very sick and needed to be hospitalized.  While Baby J was in the hospital, I had to leave A-man with a friend so he could take some very important academic tests.  We also got a call during Baby J’s hospital stay that the sister of a dear friend of ours in the States was killed in a car accident, hit by a drunk driver.  Knowing that our friend and her family were suffering and that we couldn’t be there to comfort them was heart breaking to us.  During our time seeing doctors to find out what why Baby J wasn’t moving much at 9 months old, we were told Baby J might have a genetic disorder that could be very serious.  [He didn't, by the way, and is completely caught up at 21 months!]  We spent an extra week away from our home getting testing done for Baby J, and nothing came back definitive.  We kept hearing, “Yes, something is wrong.  But we don’t know what.”  During that time and the months to follow, emails and phone calls from friends were so important to us.  They encouraged us and helped us feel like we were not so very alone, even though our family and so many of our friends were on the other side of the planet.  We were, and continue to be, so thankful for the friends who remembered our struggles and asked about them.
  • Get personal. We heard it said a million times before we moved overseas, and then found it to be true – little things hidden under the surface in the States can become huge monsters when put “over the flame” when you find yourself living life in a unfamiliar culture with unfamiliar smells, sounds, foods, customs, expectations  and language.  Let me just be honest: life overseas can be really hard. Everything you’ve ever known is stripped away.  All the things you take for granted, from driving a car, to shopping at the grocery store, to asking a question like, “How much does this cost?” is all new.  Just like a preschooler, you have to relearn everything.  And if you have children, you now have the added challenge of raising them without the safety net and support of friends and family.  No one is there is help when a child gets sick or when you just need a break.  Chances are, your friends overseas are struggling, especially if it’s their first year or two overseas.  So, ASK THEM ABOUT IT.  Ask about their heart’s condition, their attitudes, their focus, where their joy is coming from, etc. Most people don’t have to luxury of a Support Community once they’ve left the comfort of the States, so most likely no one else is going to ask those important questions of accountability.

  • Care Packages. When we get a call that a package is at the post office waiting for us, everyone in the house immediately stops what they’re doing and breaks into a happy dance!  It is amazing how something like a package of Ramen noodles, a box of Gold Grahams, a DVD or CD in English, a scented candle, a tub of Lysol wipes or a stack of greeting cards or notes from a small group can brighten a day and add just the right amount of pep to everyone’s step.  It brings smiles to faces and lets people know, “We are thinking of you!  We care about you!  And we remember you love Cadbury Cream Eggs!”  It also helps our kids feel connected with friends and family back in the States.  They cannot believe that people they sometimes have never met before care enough about them to send them little “happies” in the mail.
  • Remember birthdays.  Even if they don’t remember yours.  Facebook gets the gold star for thinking up that little feature that reminds it’s users of all of their “friends’” birthdays.  A simple, “Happy birthday!  Thinking of you!” goes a long way.
  • Don’t forget about them.  We’ve lived overseas for almost 9 years.  That seems like forever.  We’ve added two extra kids since we left, and our little boy who was one year old when we left is now almost ten.  It is amazing to us that people we knew before we came overseas still keep in touch, send emails, care packages, etc.  It’s difficult to maintain those relationships over time and distance; but it’s worth it.
  • Find out if they have specific needs, and then try to meet them. Sometimes, your friends might have some specific needs.  But chances are, they aren’t going to broadcast it and ask for help.  So, ask them.
  • Visit them!!! One huge way to encourage folks living overseas is to just go see them!  Get a taste of what their life is like. Eat what they eat. Shop where they shop.  Meet their friends.  Travel where they travel.  Take a public bus. Go to a local festival.  Spend time fellowshipping with them – give them refreshment!  Babysit their kids while they go on a date or while the husband and wife take care of errands or visit friends sans kiddos.  Do a short sports camp, art camp, reading camp, etc. for the expat kids in town.  Do a one-week Book study with the expat women.  The possibilities of how you can encourage your friend just by spending a week or two with them are really endless – and the impact could last a life time.  Really, it could.

These are just a few ideas of how you can encourage your friends or family overseas. There are more, but these are the ones we keep coming back to.  Really, the biggest thing you can do is something – just do something.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Struggling in the Field Part 2 - The Newell's Story

It was quite evident when we disembarked the plane in Jakarta that we "weren't in Kansas anymore". But back then we were on fire and excited. We did indeed have a nation to save, YES? However, the fire was quickly extinguished when the porters at the airport tried to extort money from us so we could get our bags back, the bus that was sent to pick us up (think circa 1985) could not run the engine with the AC and then would not run at all - 5 hours later on the side of the toll road in this foreign land and I should have been researching ticket fares home. :) But no, we had a calling and we were sent for a purpose, a mission - something more than ourselves.

Now fast forward one month and the home we were in was growing mold (the fuzzy kind, not just the black spots) in one 24 hour period on our exterior walls. Our youngest daughter ended up with dengue and unable to walk by herself with high fevers. The puppy our kids wanted slowly withered away and died despite our best efforts to bottle feed and take care of it and then - Steve's dad wasn't going to make it - he flies home. All of this and we had barely hit the 6 month mark.

Finish year one with my crying in the airport as my oldest son flies back for college and I was a mess - really. Surely next year will be better.

Year 2 was better, we were in a non-moldy house. I was starting to make a few connections to feel a bit less lonely. I still missed our son, but he was not proving to be a great communicator and I was really missing that relationship. Then cancer entered my new friends life and as quickly as I came to know her and her family - they were back in the US as well. Add onto this a very difficult relationship with the wife of a co-worker and sickness galore - maybe year three will be better.

Year three is now closing and as much as it has been better - sickness and just tiredness will not leave our home. My schedule is overwhelming, but most of all I miss home. I understand why most organizations require their missionaries to go home for furlough during at most a three year period. You need that shot of energy and comfort. No comfort for us back home I am afraid. Although we do have guests finally coming to see us and the work we do.

That woman who stepped off the plane on fire has aged more than three years in the three she has been here - she is tired and struggles with the many hats she is to wear in the process of a day. I have gained weight and wrinkles, my hair is so gray now.
 Somehow I got old. Why am I here?

And then I look up and hear a former Buddhist student evangelizing her classmate. Sharing her story of how good God is and it all comes flooding back. The harvest is not always my calling, just tilling the ground might be the extent of my work, but what good work it is. I see my husband with his hand on a student praying for his family. He is their pastor in so many ways and they truly love him and look to him in their journey. I sit with a group of girls as they discuss their self worth in Christ and I know - my calling is clear.

I am in the home God has for me during this time.