Friday, December 05, 2014

The Heart of a Child

The hands eagerly shot up into the air. All of the preschool students were willing and excited to close in prayer. How do you pick just one child who eagerly wants to talk to God? One was chosen and I look to see all the pudgy little fingers fold together. They all assume their own unique prayer positions and a quiet, fervent voice breaks through the silence. In a hushed whisper, almost as if it were too personal and intimate to speak out loud, this small child says, "I love you, Jesus. Amen." Oh, how my heart melts. Those simple words of a child that resonate louder than the fanciest prayers with the longest words. I can only imagine the warm smile on Christ's face as He hears those sweet, sincere words. It is no wonder God chose to speak to us through His word on the faith of a child. Uninhibited, free, hungry.

Father, you have taught us many, many things as we have grown older. However, in that time we have allowed the world to teach us so many untruths as well. Father, undo the lessons of the world and return us to our first love. Return us to the faith of a child. Father, give me that hunger without fear.

It is amazing the lessons we learn from such small children. It is a bit ironic that we are learning them as we teach them. We both will be the first to admit that teaching elementary or preschool children does not come natural to us. We love it, but it is hard work. Just when we think we have a chapel message or a counseling lesson broken down far enough for their understanding, we find that there were further levels to go. Each week as Steve meets with the elementary for chapel or each month that Paula meets with them for counseling time we leave exhausted from the task but so blessed. We often wonder if we are being called to this part of our job for our own spiritual walk - less for them.

Many days we can get discouraged with the lessons that just don't seem to penetrate the hearts and minds of the secondary students in front of us. How desperately we want them to know Christ. But in those short moments that we are in with those elementary children we realize that God is working and we need to have their kind of faith.

As we talk today about our lives and our faith we are convicted that there is nothing more to say that sums it up better than simply saying - fervently, honestly, desperately; "We love you Jesus. Amen"

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It's Beginning to look a lot like Fall!

Well, fall in Indonesian terms - meaning rainy season. We have come to pretend each year that the rain signals the changing colors of the leaves and a chill in the wind. Our sole fall decoration of a multicolored leaf table runner is our singular reminder of what fall is back in our first home.
What it really means is mold. Ok, not ONLY mold. After five years though it is amazing the ideas of living well that have changed. Our roof leaks - even after being repaired twice. Our walls grow a nice moldy fungus. Back home we need to dust once a week but here we scrape our mold off the walls once a week. Just life in the tropics. Are we complaining? Nope. You should see the green! The deep colors of the trees and grass. It is sopping wet - but incredibly beautiful.

The brush strokes of God's gift to us is are mirrored in each view. From the mountainous regions

to the rice paddies

how blessed we are. Welcome Indonesian fall! Thank you Lord for the gift.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Won't you be, oh please won't you be my neighbor?

The dust has settled - everyone is ready - it is time for school to begin.  This year we start school with a bit of a new excitement.  This year - when the books finally close - the doors on the school swing shut behind us - this year we are headed home.  Praise God!  Five years is a long time and we are missing home, family and friends.  The depth of yearning for home is beyond words.  We cannot even begin to explain it.
Of course, this year ends with going home (prayerfully) and then returning - with one less kiddo.  Victoria has already applied to college.  So this summer will be tearful goodbyes, chaos and joy.  We can't wait and don't want it to come all at the same time.
We ask our friends and family to pray for us as we get closer.  We certainly need stamina for the time to come.  Patience for the year to go by. And finances to meet our needs.
But we will get off that plane and be your neighbor for at least a short while.  Shall we meet for some iced tea?  How about sitting on the porch for a little while?  A game of pinochle anyone?  A little bit of stromboli making - a whole lot of cheese eating....  so for the summer to come - won't you be our neighbor?

2014-2015 First Day of School - aren't they cute?  :D

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The summers - they are a'changin'

This summer there are no family vacations.  This summer there will be a different family make up.  This summer will be different.  I am not even sure I want this summer.

As we grow older our kids do too.  That is something we know will happen, but I think rarely understand what it really means.  When my stepson graduated from Indonesia and left to go back to America for college it was hard.  He had lived with us since 8th grade and his departure would surely mean changes.  Indeed - changes came.  The kids changed how they related with one less.  We went from four kids schedules to three.  Things changed but we kept on moving.

Now we enter into our oldest daughter's senior year.  Changes - maybe I have decided I do not like them anymore.  But that is a year away - it will go quickly - but it is still a year away.  And then God called....

not me - well not directly - but Victoria.  She had been talking about it for over a year.  Praying about it, fundraising.  And now here we are - she is leaving to Thailand for a month.  Changes - happening sooner than I thought.  Sweaty palms and a fluttering heart as we watched our baby girl board a plane alone for the first time.  She turned back and waved.  A moment of panic runs through my mind - WHAT AM I DOING?  I HAVE TO GO GET HER!   But no - I smile, wave and fervently pray.

I have always known that she was mine for a little while - all of them are - how grateful I am that God entrusted me with them as children.  Truthfully, they are His.  I get that in my head - but my heart is not playing along.

This summer we will be a family of four.  Changes, yuck.

God, please protect my children as they grow.  Stretch their hearts for you.  Give them a burning desire to GO.  In whatever way or place - give them wings.  But most of all, Father, hold my heart tenderly as I try to make it understand these changes.  It just does not seem strong enough.

This is Victoria speaking to hundreds of university students in Thailand.  She gave her testimony, shared the gospel and God blessed their time together with so many receiving Christ that day.  Thank you Lord for your goodness to her.  Thank you Lord for strengthening my heart.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Parents to all...

Each year we say goodbye to a group of seniors that have become a part of our lives.  They are our adopted children.  We have prayed for them, loved on them, challenged them, and laughed with them.  Each year as we sit and watch their graduation ceremony, we shed a tear or two.  Each class is special and each class will always hold a special place in our hearts.
It reminds of us of our call.  This is what we are here to do.  As they cry and give us hugs, it warms our hearts to know that God has given us the gift of this ministry.
We always have that moment of talking about the next class coming up - what will they be like?  These new freshmen?  After years of loving students, we know that they will be just as special - we will hug them and cry for them as they say farewell in four years as well.
Change is a given.  I probably wish to keep every class right here with me, but my quiver would certainly be full.  Instead of focusing on the goodbyes - we relish the memories.  Most of all, we find it to be a privilege to continue to pray for them.

Years ago, we sat and listened to the testimony of a man who grew up in a one-room school house with the same teacher for most of his life.  When he was in college, his teacher came to see him.  As they sat at dinner she pulled out a small book and began to make notes as she asked him, What are you doing for God's kingdom?  In that moment he realized that she was spending the years of her retirement visiting her students and filling that small book.  What a precious, precious gift!

As we say goodbye again, we are reminded of the task at hand.  Love the students God has placed in front of us.  Pray for them, share God's word with them.  Simple enough, yes? But oh so draining - the times they do not respond to our love, the times they make poor choices, the times they look toward the world for answers instead of on their knees.  All of this builds who they are and who they will be - it is all a part of God's plan and we are such a minor role in it.  But our role is still important.  We do not take this calling for granted.

We pray that in our twilight years we can look around and see hundreds of students who have committed their life to kingdom work.  Maybe as a doctor, a missionary, an artist - whatever their calling may be - they are doing it for the Lord.  We pray that in those moments we can praise God for His wisdom and not our own.  It would be much easier to do this job in America - we would be around family, financially better off - probably career-wise as well.  That is not our calling.  For us to do what we have been called to do, we have to be here in Indonesia right now.  Maybe it is only for the benefit of our own children, maybe it is for one relationship with one child, maybe it is for one word to one child.  Whatever it may be, we praise God for the calling and the blessings we have received from it.

As communities around the world have graduation parties and ceremonies, we once again have a challenge for you - pray for the futures of these graduates.  Pray for them often and pray that they are protected in their college years and continue to seek Christ in all that they do.  Most of all, let them know you are thinking of them.  Send them Facebook messages, let them know they are still loved, thought of, and prayed for often.  Oh the sweet, sweet blessing to hear from your former students years later - as they are married, with children - and they think to email to you.  Just a way that God blesses you again and again.

Congratulations graduates!  May your lives be abundantly blessed with Christ's love and direction.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Showers of Blessings!

We are blessed.  It is not enough to say we are blessed - yet those are the words we are limited to in our language. Maybe, abundantly blessed?  After almost four years here in Indonesia, we can look around and see just how incredibly blessed we are here.  We have four incredible children, a wonderful marriage and ministry jobs that stretch us and fill us each and every day.  What more could we ask for?
And that, my friends, is what this post is about...  asking for more.  It is a trap.  There is always the next thing and the next step - we tend to be focused on the future than on today.  Is that just the human condition?  Well after the time we have spent in this beautiful country, we can say no.  It is not.
We work and live alongside a group of people who do not look toward tomorrow all the time.  They focus on the moment.  They take life slow and suck in each moment for the most part.  The Indonesian culture is not about the next step but right here and right now.
That can be frustrating at times, you can tell they are not thinking of the future when they build roads, houses, businesses.  It has been a cause for frustration for us many times.  We have often talked about the need for them to have engineers to work through road maintenance and design.  However, the simplicity to their lives is beautiful.
They work for enough to feed and take care of them today.  Then they go home and spend time with their family and community.  They laugh, pray, and fellowship in a way that does not know the "stress of tomorrow".
We have spent a great deal of time here caught in the trap of tomorrow.  Finishing our master's degrees, preparing our children for college, thinking of coming home - and planning for all of this.  None of these are bad things.  However, do they control our here and now?  There are days I rush from work to home, from preparing school work to doing my own school work.  What do I miss along the way?
Many of us live in this trap and when we do have that present vision we hurry through it because of the to-do list ahead of us.
We have heard it said that people on their death bed do not wish for more time to complete more tasks.
The Newell kids - 2010

 As our children get older and the realization that they will all be gone soon sets in - we pause.  When did Tori get big enough to make such complicated decisions on her own?  When did Reba grow into the beautiful young lady she has become?  When did Will grow to be so tall?  He was, after all, our little man.  And certainly, when did Andrew grow to be able to be on his own in America?
Their roads will be tough - although they have all certainly been blessed, they will face the world after high school with parents thousands of miles away.  However, we see through their lives that we have given them the world.  We would have never considered university overseas - was it even an option? In our limited vision at 17 and 18 we saw the state schools before us as our choices.  They see the whole world. So does it all balance out?
The bottom line is that I want to give my kids more than the world as an option, but I want them to be diligent in their planning, diligent in their prayers, and diligent in living their life in the present.  Easier said than done sometimes, but a true desire of our hearts.  But God is doing the work.  They stop for a friend and listen, they rest, they laugh, they pause to see the beauty and the humor in the world.
This is just another humbling lesson that they are God's children and have only been given to us for a time - they ultimately belong to Him and He will teach them - if we move out of the way.
We encourage you to learn lessons from your children - learn to stop and take pause.  God has prepared each day for you - do not rush through it in order to reach the next step.  As a two year old takes delight from bubbles - take delight what God has prepared for you today.


Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  Matthew 6:31-34

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Operation: Come Home

As we enter 2014, we do so with excited hearts.  After being in our fourth year here, we are finally going to attempt to come home for a summer break.  Our goal?  To come home for the summer of 2015, this would help us get Tori transitioned into college and give us some much needed family time - to renew us, to refresh us, to give us a chance to love on so many we miss so much!
Being here, without being able to go home, has not been an easy task.  We told our family when we left that we would see them in five years.    We knew the cost and we knew the reality of that cost.  We are praising God that we are coming into that season.  As we prepare our hearts and pray through some things to happen here for that to occur, we ask for you to stand in partnership with us.

Here our needs as we prepare:
1.  Prayer!  And lots of it!  There are so many things that have to align well here and back home.  Here, in particular, is the need for seemless and easy housing transition.  Our lease here will be up and unless a miracle comes along - we will need to move.
2.  Patience, enough said, ya?
3.  Total commitment to being here until we are actually on the ground there.  We do not want to live ahead of where we are and miss out on the blessings that await us here.
4.  Money!  You all knew that was coming. :)  The total cost of plane tickets home is just under $10,000.00.  It is an amount that we cannot cover nor see how we will be able to cover it.  But we know that our God is big and we rely on Him.  We can also accept mileage donations from frequent flyer miles!
5.  A vehicle, while we are there we will need a car to help get our family around.

All of that is a lot - and we are so grateful to those who have stood with us in prayer and financial support.  Can you please prayerfully consider how to help?  It could be through prayer, finances, asking for your churches support, sharing our blog with others, etc.  Thank you in advance for loving us in this way.

If you decide to partner with us either as a special gift or as a monthly partner, please remember it is tax-deductible.  In order to give, please follow this link:

From that screen, choose your choice of gift, then from the drop down options - choose missionary support.  In the text box please type Steven Newell/003341.

Blessings to you all - we will keep you posted through the year on our progress.  Love and miss you all!

Steve & Paula