Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Freedom in Christ International Conference in Malaysia

In May we had the opportunity to go to Malaysia for a Freedom in Christ International Conference.
We were all excited to go to Asia for the fist time, but Lydia was super excited to experience Asia as Mongolia is in Asia (she feels called to be a missionary there). 
We flew through Dubai and had a overnight there.  We arrived at 10:30pm but because it was Ramadan the mall was open til 2am, so we went to the biggest mall in the world to see a little of Dubai.  What stood out to me is how incredibly clean everything is.  Like beautiful.  Everything is so nice and SO expensive.  We couldn't afford anything.  It was hot even though it was their cooler time of year and night.  I don't think I would do well in a desert.  And I can't help but be struck by the lostness.  A new culture is fascinating to me and I enjoy seeing and learning but my heart breaks for those who don't know Jesus and I long to share.  Dubai is made up of 80% foreigners - workers.  I loved meeting people from Nepal, India, Congo, Uganda, Philippians...but as I talked with them and asked them questions it can make me sad.  They are away from their families trying to make money.  They can't afford the high life there.  Many were scrubbing the tiles and railings and taxi drivers.  I was happy to see others seem to be high up in management too.  One worker told me about the biggest Catholic church in the world that she goes to in Dubai.  It is ok for foreigners to go to churches I believe.  Another worker loved how safe it is in Dubai.  With Sharia Law is serious and so there is little crime and alcohol and such are not allowed.  The worker did not like those rules.  One of our stewardess was a Christian who lived in Dubai and was so happy to meet us.  We had a great conversation with her too.  I love meeting God's people around the world!  The whole short exposure gave me a lot to think about! 
The Burj Khalif - tallest building in the world!

We were excited to see all the American restaurants at the mall in Dubai, but the prices not so much.  We shared 3 burgers, 1 large fry and 2 shakes for $55!  I am glad it was good. 

The mall was pretty cool but so big we only got to see a little bit.  It was all high end of course. 
And then we made it to Malaysia!  FIC has an international family conference every 4 years.  This is the first international conference we have attended.  I loved feeling a part of the family and seeing 31 countries living in and sharing God's truth! 

We came two days before the conference to be with our director and his wife and to adjust to the time zone change (7 hours different).  We went to the mall to ice skate.  The malls blow me away.  They are so big, modern and high end.  I don't get anything partly because I never had time, partly because it was expensive and because I was overwhelmed.  We did enjoy a couple of the American restaurants - they had most of them! 

Ice cream!  A Shaarda must.

Our hotel had a bowling alley that we enjoyed. 
The day before the conference we joined our directors, Howard and Aileen, our friends and FIC workers in South Africa, Jono, Sandy and their daughters Michelle and Sarah, and our new friend James with FIC Kenya and we all explored some of Malaysia together.  It was one our favorite days!  We first took the subway then got on a boat to crab island.  It is a Chinese fishing/crabbing community.  It was a cultural experience.  It was just what I wanted.  I love really seeing a country not just being a tourist.  I love learning and exposing our kids to new things. 

This was our boat.  It was fun to see big freighters and mangrove trees along the way.

One of many crabs Grace got a picture of.

It was fascinating to see floating cages and homes and all the houses on the island on stilts.

We summed up the island as feeling like a Chinese Mackinaw Island (those from MI will know what we mean).  There were no cars and only bikes, a main street of Chinese stores and food, and then houses.  It was SO HOT!  Like 95 some degrees and 99 percent humidity.  We really didn't know what to do with ourselves it was overwhelming.  Thankfully clouds slowly came in for some relief.

It was very sad to see all the temples to different religions and gods.  We really haven't been in a country where Christianity is the minority.  My kids were really concerned about it too and we had lots of good talks and prayers.  Such lostness.  Emalai really felt it and kept telling us that we shouldn't worship statues and prayed about people who don't worship God.  All of our hearts were being touched by God to want to reach the unreached.

This is our awesome group and friends we loved being with!  We had a seafood feast on crab island!
Our kids are so fun to watch trying oysters, squid omelet, lots of crab...  Somethings they liked and others not so much but they tried it all.  Emalai is defintely our seafood kid.
After Crab Island we took a long subway ride to Kuala Lampur, the capital of Malaysia.
We went to the Pasar Seni which is like a big market or cultural market.  This one was inside and had beautiful Malaysian clothes, crafts and gifts.  If only I had more time!
AND we found the Happy Fish Spa there!  Just before we left Josh heard about this weird thing they do in Malaysia - fish spas to clean your feet.  I was so excited to see one and have this cultural experience.  

It was worth it!  We had so much fun laughing.  It tickles like crazy until you get use to it.
James and Josh were so funny!  Josh could not do it and James made the best reactions. 

It was a crazy feeling, but my feet did feel soft afterwards.  The fish don't have teeth.  One of my kids described it as the fish kiss my feet.  Hope you get to try it someday!
Our fun day wasn't finished yet!  We then went to the famous KL twin towers.  We had to see it and get a picture since everyone talked about them.  They were beautiful all lit up at night.
I am so thankful for our day with our special FIC friends!
Then the conference officially began.  This is the FIC Africa group.
We were so encouraged at this conference.  To be a part of what God is doing around the world is a blessing.  Seeing the nations we pray for as a family there worshiping God was powerful.  To be with people who are free and bath you with encouragement and prayer is awesome.  I loved seeing old friends and making new ones from around the world.  I am thankful to be a part of the FIC family!
Josh shared about the revised simplified FIC Discipleship book he made.  People from several countries are interested in using it and already it is going to be translated into Portuguese!
We were really excited to hear about translation work being done in closed countries.  One of  those countries is using SD cards in phones to bring God's truth and resources for believers.
We had amazing food at our conference.  Most of it was interesting and we could not pronounce, but that made it fun.  We had lots of noodles and curries even for breakfast.  Since it was Ramadan there was a HUGE buffet after dark.  I mean hundreds of items from around the world and it was a fun affair.   

We had an afternoon excursion for the conference.  We chose to go to the Batu Caves.  I am not really sure much about it but it is a Hindu temple in a cave.  It is impressive and the cave is beautiful but it is so sad at the same time.  God's creation used to worship false gods.  It was disheartening to  people stop and pray before entering.  We did our own prayer time inside to the One true God!

You can see some of the statues inside the cave behind Malai.  She could not understand how someone could worship them.  It was a real teaching moment and she hasn't forgotten.  She tells people often we shouldn't pray to gods because they are not real.
We also toured the pewter factory.  I learned a lot watching the process in the factory - all by hand.  Beautiful and expensive. 
And we toured a batik factory - beautifully painted on silk.
Here we are with Christa by the Malaysian flag.  Christa is our friend from MI and outreach person at our church there.  She came to do the kids program at the conference.  We were so excited to be with her again and the kids love her!
The last night of the conference we had a FIC has talent program.
The girls and I were able to do our dance to "What a Beautiful Name" and Lydia and Grace rocked it with "No Longer Slaves".

The kids did as song for everyone.

African song with Fred for the talent night.  It was a super fun and funny night!

And much too soon we had to say goodbye again to old and new friends.  It was really hard to leave after such an encouraging time, time of growth, and fellowship.  We really miss everyone.  It was all very special and can't wait for next time.

This is the FIC family picture - see us?  It was a very busy, full week and I was tired, but so very blessed.  So many people gave Josh and I encouragement and were blessed by our family.  People really thanked us for our kids.  I am thankful to be a part of a family who know who they are in Christ , live free and share grace and truth.
Before we left the conference Lydia, Christa, Michelle and I went to Little Indian to shop.
It was another great cultural experience.

After the conference we went 3 hour to the other side of Malaysia to the beach for a short family vacation.

We were on the South China Sea.  It was very peaceful and nice but there seemed to be something in the water that would sting or prick you.  Ok, not fun.  We heard it was some kind of jelly fish you can't see.  We did see jelly fish on shore and one in the water.  Needless to say we "swam" carefully.  

There were lots of fun shells and creatures to discover.  There were tons of hermit crabs even as small as grain of rice.  They were fun to play with.  We also found sand dollars and starfish.

We enjoyed watching local fishermen bring in their nets and sort through the fish.  So cool!

It was fun to see different fish and creatures.  This guy is holding a big jelly fish.

We went and saw the sea turtles which was a bit of a disappointment, but we saw turtles in pools.
Not everything we did worked out but overall we had fun exploring and trying to do cultural things.
We took many taxi's on our vacation.  It was great to meet local people and learn from them.  We also were able to share our faith with them.  We realized that everyone we met on that side of Malaysia were Muslims.  It gave us a lot to pray for.
We had fun trying different food at local restaurants.  This was kinda an outdoor food court.  We couldn't read most things on the menus so it made it interesting.  We got chicken skewers with peanut sauce, Pat Thai (noodles),  something I don't know and we all liked the coconut shakes.  I am so proud of my brave and positive kids.  We enjoy our adventures.

This little outdoor restaurant was the kids favorite.  I love all the outdoor eating places. 

And we found a few American treats!

We did get to swim and had fun in the waves one night - without being stung!

God's artwork!
There was quite a bit of rain forest around the area too.

This was our very favorite day and beach!  It was so beautiful, fun and private.

We are so thankful for the opportunity to go to Malaysia and see a new part of God's world!
We have lots of good memories, experienced a lot, and God spoke to us in many ways. 
I was quite sad with it was all over, but I know God used our trip for His glory.

In a our ten days there we did not see one church building.  Yes, there are churches and we went to a church that met in our hotel, but never saw a building made to be a church.  The whole country is dotted with mosques and Hindu temples - they are everywhere.  It really spoke to us.  Please join us in praying for the people in Malaysia and other countries that still need God's truth.
I got the blog out!  A month later and a few pictures short but I still praise God for His help with internet.  Hope it was worth it and you enjoyed it.  I will try to add videos someday so keep checking!