10 Life Lessons Learned in Malaysia

 

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Wow! I can’t believe we’ve been living here for seven months. Seven months have already flown by…gone…see you later! Throughout these seven months God has been testing my faith and teaching me about living life overseas. Here is my top-ten list of what I’ve learned.

  1. We are fearfully, wonderfully made in God’s image. Complete with God-given gifts and talents to be used to love others and bless others. God is constantly showing me ways that I can bless another through out Bible lessons and interactions with other people in our community. Thank you, God!
  2. God has a plan for your life. If you actively seek Him, He will answer. God is so faithful. We are actively seeking Him to reveal to us a further plan of our establishment here. We continue to be in the adoption process and are waiting for an appointment to get re-fingerprinted…again.  Because your fingerprints change every year! (Sense the sarcasm)
  3. Teaching Grade 5 science is a lot harder than what I thought. Public school textbooks are from an evolutionist point of view. Don’t believe me- ask to borrow your kid’s science book and check it out for yourself. I’m constantly having to teach the kids truth and prove that evolution is a theory. I’ve spent more time arguing my point with a handful of kids than I do actually teaching. I think in the long-run, these secular textbooks will end up hurting our kids and their faith.
  4. Even though Chuck is still coaching basketball, we see more of him. We go to school together and we leave together. Chuck’s classroom is right next door to me, and I get to see Kadence and Ashlynn throughout the day. What a very special time this has been!
  5. Even though we have moved half way across the world, life is still very busy. It’s hard to reflect and have quiet time, but is a must.
  6. Taking time out of your day to pray and read the Bible is the best counseling session ever and it’s FREE!
  7. God wants us to TRUST Him and give Him the glory for our accomplishments. Even though times can be scary or we are put in an uncomfortable situation, He wants us to take a stand and trust in Him.
  8. Motorbikes ALWAYS have the right-of-away.
  9. Even though we have down-sized considerably, I still can’t keep my house clean. Thank you God for showing me our house is lived in.
  10.  We have made many close friends in the short time we’ve been here. Thank you God for allowing us to live in             a community of other believers who share the same faith and joys and heartaches as us. We are thankful that we’re not in this alone, and we have a great support system.

God has taught me a lot about living life overseas. It’s amazing to see the transformation in your life when you ask God to be the center of it all.

Living with Purpose

Have you ever been on a plane, sitting in coach, and you experience turbulence? Your stomach drops, your heart rate races, and you feel helpless because you can’t see what’s ahead and you have no choice but to trust the pilot.  You have no control over the plane. That is difficult for us to handle. My western way of thinking is about controlling my life, my decisions, forming my purpose in life. This move has forever changed our thought process, and has shown us how we live with purpose.

The months preparing to move was probably the most difficult thing we have ever done. Why were we selling our house, cars, getting rid of everything, saying bye to everyone we know, giving up great jobs for jobs that paid 60% less, taking on jobs that neither Deana or I had any experience or education in, giving up our comfortable lives within the “American Dream?” People gave us encouragement, but the fact is that we were terrified, experienced anxiety, and felt like we were sitting in coach going through intense turbulence, and we couldn’t level the plane out.  It would be my 6 year old daughter that would turn on the light bulb and help us understand the answer. Me-“Kadence, get your clothes on for school.” Her-“Why?” Me-“Because we have to get going to school soon.” Her-“Why?” Me-“Because we don’t want to be late.” Her- “Why?” Me-“BECAUSE I SAID SO, NOW DO IT!” Her-“Why?”  I think about how many times God tells me to do something, and my question is always “Why?” Why do I need more of an explanation than to have faith that God is the best pilot and will get us to our destination. I can imagine how frustrated He must get with me for not turning to prayer.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Matthew 7:7-8

Jesus says that if we pray, we will be answered. Why is it so hard to get on the plane and let God pilot? Jesus bought us a first class ticket and all we have to do is accept our first class seat on the plane. I am caught up in my skepticism so many times and pray as a last resort, instead of seeking Him first. In this move we literally had nothing, came to a new place, not knowing what to do. We began to question why we are here, and what is our purpose. We had to re-shape our minds to think differently. When we prayed it was skeptic, not sure if it was going to be answered. As we are removed from western society, we are exposed to a large variety of cultures and thought processes. We have seen people totally relaxed, and always praying first. Why? Because they have no money, or possessions to cling on to. Their faith is it. So, we have continued to try to develop a new way of thinking and to pray first and God has answered.

Deana is doing fabulous in her teaching and ideas for projects just keep popping into her head, in subject areas that she has no experience in. She has created amazing science projects, and has incorporated technology that none of the middle school has even thought about. She works with confidence knowing she is right where God wants her and helps her everyday.

As for me, I am blown away everyday at how God helps me. I came in to teach technology, and truth be told, I know very little about computers or teaching technology. So many teachers and students have come to me to fix computer issues, and part of my job is to write a technology curriculum from scratch. God has continuously guided my hands and my mind where every time someone asks me a question I have an answer pop into my head, or I just happen to click on the right button to fix the problem.  God has guided my mind to develop a solid curriculum that integrates core content with technology skills. I do not have the capability mentally to keep up with this, but God has made me successful. I know that in this moment and at this place is where God wants me. This is my purpose.

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

It is comforting to know that in this moment you are right where God wants you to be and doing what God wants you to do. Accept the free plane ticket from Christ to sit in first class because guess where the plane lands? HEAVEN How cool is that.

Experiencing life in Penang

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Being a World Geography teacher for 9 years I like to get my facts straight before I talk about a region.  I was going to wait to do our next post, but then I realized, we’re living World Geography right now. We are having so many experiences that are not normal for Southeast Asia, or even Malaysia, but Penang is a unique island. It is an island where you can have many different religions and cultures, and it works here.

Malaysia is predominantly a Muslim country. If you were to go to mainland Malaysia women would have to dress more conservatively, Muslim prayer and food laws are observed as a common way of life. Penang is not like this at all.  You can go to an Indian restaurant and not be able to get any beef because of Hindu religious practices, but you can walk out and go next door to a Malaysian restaurant and get beef, but because of Muslim food laws you can’t get any pork products. You sit there and realize that you really want some delicious pork  and chopped beef so you walk out of the Malaysian restaurant and go next door to the Chinese restaurant that has both.  This is acceptable in Penang, but other parts of Malaysia this would not fly.  Even going to the night stalls (wet market) there are food stalls lined up for about 1/2 mile and you have and Indian man cooking a pork burger right next to a Malaysian fruit juice stall.  By the way, stall food is a whole other blog that will have to happen next month-what an awesome experience! We go to the local grocery store Tesco, which is Malaysia’s version of Walmart. You can get anything you need, but when it comes time to purchase pork, you have to go to a completely separate section of the store and pay for it there.  The Muslim cashiers refuse to touch it and make themselves unclean. We went shopping in the store around 5:30 and it was Muslim prayer time. The call to prayer starts playing loud over the store speakers and many people stop to observe the prayer, but Ashlynn decided she liked the tune and started singing along with it. It was neat to get to explain to her what the song means and that she should be respectful. I realized that my kids are getting to experience something that most people in the U.S. only read about or see on TV.  

Kadence and I decided that we wanted to workout after school today and walk home. As we walked home, the sun setting over the ocean, cool breeze blowing in, coconut trees on both sides of the streets, we start to observe a trend.  A number of houses have incense burning and they are setting out paper money and burning that as well.  From what I know, the Chinese do that to celebrate the Chinese new year. I am not sure if today marks that day or if it a different Chinese holiday. What was neat about this experience is that Kadence asks about why they are doing that, and at the same time the local Mosque is playing the call to prayer for the Muslims, and she asks about that. She is getting a World class education just walking home from school.

What intrigues me more than everything is that even though so much diversity is accepted here in Penang, there are still cultural differences, and even social class divisions. The Chinese tend to be all of the business owners and bosses and are very efficient with time and money. More disciplined than any American I’ve seen. They view the Malaysians as being lazy. Part of that story is why Singapore is Independent.  The Chinese got tired of Malaysia not running things efficient and so they all went to Singapore and said we are going to be Independent and run this country more efficiently than anyone. The Malaysia government just let them try, thinking that they would fail and come back.  Oops! I guess they were wrong. Singapore was just named to have more rich people living there than any other city in the world, according to Yahoo news. 

Then there is the Indian culture. The Indian culture tend to be viewed as the hard working labor force. People like to hire them because they work long hours and work hard. You also have the refugees from Myanmar that tend to look for the labor jobs. 

Then there is the expats. A lot from Australia and the UK. They tend to live a life style much like you would see in the U.S. only everything here is a lot cheaper. 

What catches my attention in observing this blend is my perspective on the Chinese. Americans tend to be egocentric. We tend to walk into another culture and view our ways of doing things as the right way and only way. We walk into situations and insist on showing our way of doing it because we are confident that it is the correct way. Well, I have observed 3 weeks of the Chinese doing things differently, and it works really well. I am ashamed to admit that my perspective in looking at the Chinese was much like the typical American, even when I was teaching. I saw the products of a communist environment and automatically classified them as being third world culture. I have been very impressed at the difference in perspectives that you see here.  Everyone here knows the Chinese as being wealthy, smart, efficient people.  I have observed this first hand when buying my car, and seeing our school’s business office run more efficient than any school I have been a part of. 

I am thankful for living on this beautiful island, and I am thankful that I get to witness such diversity.  To see that there are other ways to go to the bathroom besides a toilet. You don’t need a fork to eat. You can eat spicy rice and noodles for breakfast. These are things that will continue to help our children grow up with a different perspective than what we had, and that makes me happy.

Airport Fun

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We began Sunday morning by packing all of our possessions into 8 suitcases.  As we crammed our stuff into each bag, some family members looked at our 9 pieces of luggage and said, “that’s too much,” while others looked on and said, “Wow! I can’t believe you downsized an entire house down to that.”  The whole time I am trying hard to hide my level of stress and sheer panic about how we are going to be able to move around the airport with so many suitcases, not to mention our 8 pieces of carry-ons, knowing full well that I will be the one carrying most these bags. How is this going work?

We finished packing and headed down to Detroit where we were spending the night so that we could have an easier trip to the airport Monday morning.  I laid in the full size bed with Ashlynn in the middle, Deana on the right, and me hanging off the edge of the left side.  It didn’t matter because there was no way I was going to be able to sleep knowing the challenges that Monday would bring.  I laid in bed and prayed that God would make our travel just as smooth as He has already made our journey this far, and once again proving to this man of weak faith, that He is in control and blesses people who set out to do God’s work.

Monday morning comes very quickly, and the nerves are at their peak, and then the Almighty steps in and shows me again that He is King.  As soon as we pull up to the departure, a kind lady brings a large cart, loads up our luggage, and takes our things to the front of the line.  She then takes our passports and checks us in.  She then escorts us to the front of the baggage line and we find out that nearly all of our bags are over the weight and we will be charged an overage fee. As I am watching bag after bag get put on the scale, Deana is approached by a lady that sees our luggage and starts asking questions.  She then asks to pray for our family and our journey.  As soon as they finish praying, the baggage lady finishes and decides that she doesn’t want to charge us any baggage fees.  Everything was free, and she warned us that when we get to Los Angeles and pick up our bags, Southern China would probably not be so generous.  Instead of praising God for showing us His grace, I begin to panic about having to do this luggage thing again.

We arrive in Los Angeles, the flight was smooth, comfortable, and the family is doing great so far. We were unfamiliar with China Southern Airline and what to expect, and so I called them to talk about check-in procedures and baggage check-in. Once again God was looking out for us.  As I was talking to the gentleman on the phone, I mentioned that we had about 6 bags a little over 50lbs.  He told me the total amount for baggage overage would be over $900.  My stomach dropped and the panic set in.  As we began to discuss it, we realized that God was looking out for us with our layover in LA and we had all of our bags with us.  We went to the CVS down the street, bought a $10 scale, and went to work balancing the weight and getting the bags under 50lbs. We managed to get all but one box under 50 lbs, and so now we would only have to pay for 2 bags, one over 50lbs, and the other was my guitar(9th piece of luggage).  God blessed us even more.  Once we got to the airport the baggage man used the 60lb box as both the overage and the extra piece of luggage, and so we only had to pay for 1 bag. Praise God!

Our 16 hour Flight to China was smooth, the girls slept most of the way, food was good, and the movies were great entertainment. Once we arrived in China we had another layover for 12 hours, but with the excitement of being so close to our final destination, the time seemed to fly by.

The sky was beautiful all day in China, and we finally got to board for Penang.  As soon as we sat down it started to pour down.  We are talking flood type raining.  I was relaxed because I thought we would just sit through it and then take off. Wrong! We proceeded to prepare for take off, and my nerves were at their peak.  I looked over and could see Deana with her eyes closed, praying, and I immediately calmed down and started doing the same.  The take off was the smoothest ride we had yet, and once again we gave God praise.

We finally made it to Penang, and it is amazing to have that feeling that when you set foot into your new apartment for the first time, but it feels like home and that you have lived there for years all because you know you are following in God’s plan.  Penang is the most beautiful place that I have ever been to in the world, and I can’t believe that this is where God has chosen us to live.  I don’t feel like we deserve His grace, but does anyone? He is good, and all we can do is live to serve and accept His gifts for us.

Thank You God

Chuck Arnold