Laughing in Class

I've been assigned the front seat in our class this week.

The speaker for the past several days wanted to use me as an example. He had me stand up. I was expecting the typical response when someone sees me standing close to them for the first time. It came.

His head went up, and back as he tried to match my eyes.
"Woah, you are a big boy aintcha!"

The class chuckled.

He asked me to shake his hand. Now I've been raised to shake hands with a firm grip. And that's what I did. He mentioned "you see Chad has a firm grip, it shows he's a manly man. It communicates in our greeting something."

"Now what if I did this?" he said,
he reached over, and we bumped and rubbed foreheads.
"Or this"
he held my hand and walked with me.
"Or this"
his hand briefly touched my palm.
"or this"
and we interlocked two knuckles and then snapped.

Apparently no snapping sound is the same as a weak handshake in America.

The class sort of laughed each time he did different things which may or may not have been embarrassing.

Honestly, the funny thing to me, was that none of it was embarrassing. In fact, for a while now I've been considering the fact that I feel often like hugging people, and the only reason I don't is because I feel it might make them uncomfortable to have a man my size, hug them.

It was a good class. Challenging, but good.

Before walking into this entire calling, I really felt as if I didn't have a lot of experience. I consider myself naive.

But my prayer to God during this training has been that He would help my heart and my head learn the things He has to teach me.

Each day, when I'm grappling with a hard issue or thought, an example from my life comes to mind, it jsut sort of pops in there, and I see it in a whole new light.

It is amazing to me, that a memory long since forgotten, can surface, to teach your heart the truth of something the teacher is trying to express. IT is doubly impressive when you realize you hadn't thought of that experience in that way before and you gain a new insight.

I boast in the Lord here, because it isn't mean recalling these memories but it is instead the Holy Spirit who brings these to mind, and it is very encouraging to know that God is taking a personal interest in our training in a daily way.

Take Care!
thanks again


Training is going well. There are a lot of issues and concepts required as preparation to go and be quality representives of Christ and America. I'm grateful that we have this training available to us and it's really shaping us and challenging us, preparing us and encouraging us.

I'm specifically not going into detail about what is being taught for the primary reason that some of it requires deep processing, which doesn't lend itself to a blog format.

One of the interesting quirks of this campus is that people donate things. When people donate, they donate whatever their heart tells them to, and so these odds emails pop up from time to time.

For example, every day there is a table that has free, day old bread on it. We've had some very good bagles and sourdough the past few days because someone(s) keep donating bread. It's great!

There is a boutique where you can pick up free items. It is very much like a thrift store, used shoes, and clothing. Items which are very useful when you have a need.

Acclimating to this culture of supply is one of the fun unexpected quirks of living this lifestyle.

The most interesting email I've gotten recently read:

Come enjoy a program by Phyllis Heil from Hickory, NC

International Whistling Entertainer of the year 2005 & 2006

I gotta say, I didn't even know there was such a thing, but I'll be very interested in attending if my schedule permits!


Going To Church

one of our assignments during our intercultural training, is to attend an "ethnic" church. Our family assignment was a local Baptist church. We entered as the only white skinned people in the church.

I should start by saying, I absolutely loved it!

The approach I am taking to developing a relationship would be first, to be seen, to be known, and to participate. I entered the church with my family with the attitude of being involved, and I believe a smile, a good attitude and humility can go a long way to fitting in. I didn't approach with the idea that I knew anything, and that I would suspect judgement on everything I saw until I could come to a conclusion with enough data on it. I greeted people I met with a smile, and if they offered their hand I shook it. I found it a welcoming place and I enjoyed the service greatly.

I was looking for ways to serve the church specifically during announcements. Honestly I didn't see any multimedia involved and therefore instantly realized my technical skills would not be helpful in serving. So I listened for other areas. One announcement was that there was a canned food drive coming up and they would appreciate contributions. That is a very easy way that I can demonstrate my desire to serve. Until I find out their need though, it'll be hard to find a deeper way to serve.

I observed many things using the attitude that my learning is my responsibility. I noticed the women wore very decorative hats. This is something that I am not used to and I found it very pleasant. I think my new favorite word is "glory" as pronounced by the Reverend Johnson. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire service. It has been a long while since I've enjoyed going to church that immensely. I enjoyed the flow of the service, the way that singing, praising, worship, thankfulness and prayer intermingled in a community sharing way. It was all I could do to keep from embarrassing myself by belting out an Amen here or there. I felt controlling myself until I got the flow of the service was the best idea, but by the end I was quietly muttering my "Amen"s.

I enjoyed how the reverend took the time to pray before his sermon quietly as the choir led us in song. Regardless of the pomp, I felt he had the time to truly seek out what the Spirit would have him say. Ironically, the two main themes of the sermon were seemingly directed at me. The symbolic theme of "shoes" was humorous since I had forgotten my nice dress shoes and socks and was thinking "I was hoping this whole morning no one would look down at my shoes". The second "faithfulness" echoes something I had recently blogged, and that is "God is faithful to us, but He asks us to be faithful to Him." At a time when I feel God's faithfulness is at an all time high to my family, and I've been encouraged to be faithful in return by my personal study, I realize, that the emotional approach to this service gave me an experience that will fortify me to stand strong for God in the near future.

There was one brief moment of culture shock and that was it. When we sat down, my daughter said "why is everyone wearing black?" And then my son said, in earshot of everyone near us "black is the worst color." My thoughts were, "oh please son, they're gonna think you got that from your daddy." Graciously God allowed him to continue, "because it covers up all the other colors they're wearing." The lady in front of us turned around and said to my children, "See honey, I'm wearing green underneath." It was a good moment. In California, everyone is very worried about being politically correct. But in this church, one lady took an innocent comment as jsut that, an innocent comment. My children don't see skin color, and she knew it. They saw coat color. They saw they were in red and white and pink and no one else was. God bless them. Between my shoes and that comment I could have been very nervous, but I wasn't, and that's because I felt the Spirit of God in that place.

After the service we shared our observations. My wife noted that in some ways the church was more formal than our Calvary home, in other ways less. For example, everyone wore suits, and the Reverend wore a robe, people were only permitted to enter during certain breaks if they were late. But on the other hand, people could sing out songs as they felt led, people could stand, sit, shout Amen, and hold hands during prayer.

My daughter asked "I didn't understand why they said "Amen" at the end of every sentence." I told her, "Amen" means I agree and that when the pastor ends a sentence with "AMEN?" he is inviting us to agree with him out loud about what he jsut said. He's saying "God is good, do you agree with me?" "AMEN! Yes we agree with you!"

She turned to my mom "hey mom, tonight we should have spaghetti, Amen?"
and my son replied "Tomorrow we should have pizza for dinner amen?"

At one point in the service, one of our co-visitors little boy wandered free up the isle, up in front of the reverend around towards the side and off into a corner. It was hilarious. A single little white child 4 years old wandering free, feeling no nervousness or lack of fitting in.

They called the children up so the Rev. could speak with them. My kids went up with only a small amount of prodding and then were guided off after the talk to their children's thing. They made friends in there pretty easily.

We were definitely aware that we didn't quite fit in completely, but we felt as if we belonged. It will take a few weeks to learn the traditions, but we'll get there. As we plan to return. The church was very friendly, and I think that feeling was much more not knowing the traditions of the church and much less the color of our skin.


Training Progress

yesterday training was very interesting. We were given the assignment of making up rules for our cultures, simulating those cultures as small groups, and then visiting other cultures and hosting other cultures.

It taught us a lot of about how easy it is to view differences as negatives.
In some ways we didn't fall prey to the negative impressions but in other ways we did. Honestly this exercise encouraged us more that we're prepared for this than it did to discouraged us that we are not mentally prepared for culture differences.

This morning, the kids waited at the bus stop in the freezing cold for 20 minutes, until we realized "perhaps the bus isn't coming"

We called the school, "sir, the school is closed today" in a polite southern drawl.

What now? We still have class to go to. This never happens in the silicon valley.

So today we're attempting to juggle watching the kids with both of us in class and giving our 8 minute oral presentations.

The phone jsut rang, grown-up school is starting an hour late, but they are working on something for the school age kids. So that is good.

Another day, another way to remain flexible.

Being flexible takes different amounts of energy for different personality types. Probably the most important part of being a missionary is to remain flexible. You come across and live in tight quarters with people from all over the U.S. here, and all over the World in PNG.


We're in N.C.

We made it to North Carolina!
We're about to head out and try and get oriented, but thus far the view is beautiful (we came in at night).

We've moved out of California successfully thanks to the help and prayers of you all.

We have a small 2 bedroom apartment that we're acclimating to and unpacking into.
Thus far this place feels like a little cabin in the woods, Arnold, CA or perhaps even up in Oregon.

The trip here was guided by God the whole way.

When we pulled up to the airport at 8:30am, nearly 2 hours early for our flight, we found out our flight was cancelled.

We were able to book passage with seats near each other on another flight leaving 15 minutes later. Within 20 minutes that flight was empty. Had we not arrived earlier than expected, we'd have missed our connection.

In Dallas we had to rush to our connecting gate, but we made it in time to board, and in enough time to buy some food for what our kids dubbed as "linner" which we later ate on the plane.

As we were boarding I noticed my daughter's boarding pass had the wrong name on it, we were stopped at the gate, but luckily this was remedied in under a minute, and we got on. My daughter was slightly confused when I jokingly said to her "for the next ten minutes your name is Rachel Estrada."

On the plane the kids did great. The next mishap was the flight attendant spilling hot coffee all over my leg. Apparently her pitcher was leaky. I kindly informed her that I don't drink coffee, and requested the next spillage be decaf. (-;

Once off the plane we made our way to the luggage area and found that our ride was there and had already picked up our bags and put them on a cart. We loaded it up into a suburban with a trailer, they had cool water in a chest in the truck waiting for us, and they took us to our new apartment.

What a great greeting! One of our luggage boxes was damaged but nothing was missing.

Overall, it was a good trip. What makes it good, is our attitudes. What makes our attitudes is the knowledge that these trivial things don't matter a whole bunch, but how you react to them does.

Thanks for praying for us.

God is faithful, very very faithful.


Movin' Out

wow, what a crazy 24 hours.
we've moved out of the house after a decent bit of energy.

Remaining to do:
-ship our belongings to PNG
-clean up our garage
-final walkthrough with our landlord

PLEASE pray that the trucking company arrives in time. Weather has already made them miss their schedule by 2 days. They are scheduled to arrive at 9am friday, and that is about the absolute latest they can arrive.

One of the things we have to do before leaving for PNG is sell my car.
My car has been a reliable little Ford, but I have been treating it like what it was, a temporary stop gap. I've put new tires on it, new radiator, refreshed the A/C, kept fluids in it, but did the bare minimum that I could.

IT is a 1998 Ford Contour with 70k miles on it. Not my favorite car. But it was cheap.

Tomorrow I intended to sell it to a used car lot, but alas that shall never be.
I had a doctor appointment this morning, and last night I noticed the battery light was on. I had replaced the battery in the summer of this year so I assumed I could fix the problem later, perhaps with a trickle charge.

I went to the doctor's and my ipod kept cutting out.
Then after the doctor's (an appointment which was completely unecessary) I drove towards work.
I say towards because I didn't make it.

My ipod wasn't dying out, it was my stereo. On the highway, my electrical started blinking in and out and I suddenly lost all RPM's. I wasn't accelerating even though my foot was all the way down on the gas. So I tried to get off the highway. Feeling it unwise to cut off a big rig without having any way to speed up, but seeing a hill coming up and knowing I had to get to the shoulder, I did my best, and got to an "okay" spot. I stopped and hit my hazards, which apparently weren't showing because the electrical was failing. Smoke proceeded from under the hood.

Guessing the battery died while I was driving, meant that my alternator wasn't working. I called AAA.
WE had a premium membership for many years, two of them in fact, until I realized that I never used mine. So we renewed only 1 this year under my wife's name. I kept her expired card, she kept her original. Thankfully AAA was benevolent and towed me for free.. within 5 miles of where I work.

"Transmission's out." said the driver who arrived surprisingly fast. I doubted his diagnoses.

We were already driving, getting on the highway, and the driver says "where to within 5 miles or else I have to charge you."
I replied " a junk yard." he explained he couldn't do that. Given all of a whole ten seconds to think, I defaulted to "My dad's work." Knowing full well that he'd say yes without even thinking, and be the most helpful person in this situation. I gave a moment's thought to the burden I might be posing on him, and that was it. I knew he wouldn't mind at all, if anything I minded giving him yet another thing to have to deal with today. That's how my dad is, he'd drop anything he was doing to help family.

So, 10 seconds from his parking lot, I call him on the cell, which was choppy, and all he heard was "coming by your a towtruck." and he replied "okay, yes." I'm rather sure he didn't know what he was saying yes to, and I'm sure it didn't matter.

The driver was very helpful, and talkative, and soon left.

Here I was a 33 year old man, about to embark on this huge task which will take me away from my dad, and yet, I was coming to him much like I had when I was 16 and I wrecked his truck. Relying on dad again to help me with a vehicle.

It felt good to know I had that safety net. It felt scary to know I would soon be without that safety net nearby.

He lent me his truck to get into work, and as I drove off the song on the radio lyric said,
" Daddy's always been there for me,
From T-Ball to touchdowns.
Fixed my car an' fixed my heart,
When they've been broken down"
(the rest of the song didn't really apply but it was Trent Tomlinson's 'One Wing in the Fire')

And I thought to myself about how this day could have gone, how worse it could have been. Really I'm not put out or upset or anything.
We have a lot of things to do this week, and today, final details to handle. And yes, this threw a monkey wrench into the works.

Finally the day had worn down, and we got into bed.

PHEW! we did it... and then... our daughter began throwing up at midnight.

BUT praise God, we're in our hotel room, with only smaller little things left to do before our plane flight out.

During this time of stress God has somehow protected us from feeling overwhelmed, and has enabled us to get everything done.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.


Going Away Party

Our adult congregation hosted a nice little "going away party" for us tonight. I can tell you I was really hoping it wouldn't be a tear jerking kind of time. And it wasn't. It was a good night of fellowshiping, talking, and trying to tell people how truly excited we are about what God is having us do.

There is something very faith building when you know that God has called you to do something. You have no idea of your immediate future but you know you're where God wants.

Thankfully no one asked me to do a speech. Although, if they had, this is the speech I would have done, impromptu of course (-;. Here is the abridged version, sans the jokes that would only work in person.

--Ten years ago, my wife suggested we attend an "adult congregation" class. I replied "Sunday school is for kids. Why would I want to go?" But I went because she made good sense and I was hoping it would be a way to make common friendships as she was new to the Bay Area.

Over the years there have been a lot of good times together. The better part of my character has been shaped there in large part by the experiences I've had with people in this room. Looking back I can see how God intended me to walk through those doors into this class and how He has used it to His glory.

The interesting thing, is that jsut as God planned for us to come through those doors to join you, He also planned way back when, for us to walk out those doors to leave you.

It could seem like a sad thing. It does feel sad to realize you won't be spending as much time face to face as you're used to, but our eyes are set on God's kingdom. And that's why this isn't a goodbye party, it's a going away party. We're going away, but it's not goodbye.

Everyone here has contributed to God's glory in the very fact that we've spent time with you and seen God through you in some way or another and have been inspired to give back to God because of that.

This is fellowship, this is what God intended for all of us to do. To lift each other up.

We're excited about the stories we're going to share that God is doing in our lives. And we're very excited to hear the praises everyone of you have and will lift up to God for the rest of our lives together.


Happy New Year

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Today we added a google earth movie and a PNG F.A.Q/Stats that I threw together for Kendal who is going to present to our childrens' classes next week.

Well we're packing. For weeks we've been packing but now we're in the: furniture leaving, boxes everywhere, stage. It's great! WOW there's THAT much dust back there? hehe.

Last night we came across a really nice lady who's a bit down on her luck financially and happened to be looking for precisely what we were giving away. Couches, dining room table, and a computer desk.

(yes it is true, in the silicon valley, down-on-your-luck means that you own a cell phone, and a computer, but no couch. (-: )

The shipping company is supposed to come on Jan 10 to pick up our belongings going to PNG. From there, each member of this family will be living out of 2 suitcases each until we see our stuff again.

WE fly on Jan 13 to Waxhaw, North Carolina
We train to learn some intercultural and technical skills.
We fly to PNG on March 17!

There are so many things to do between now and then that we have to keep a clipboard jsut to keep track of them.

In the middle of it, we're trying to make time to spend with the kids and with family and friends to help everyone ease into the transition.

Please pray for a smooth transition for everyone.
We are seeing the kids needing a little more attention and care right now, they don't realize it, but we can see they need an extra hug or cuddle time or lego making time or whatever and it's because they see things going into boxes. They really are brave and resilient. Please pray for their emotional state as they transition. Especially Calvin he's very sensitive at 5.

Right now, we need coverage in prayer, it's very easy to get stressed out with the packing, then get saddened at the goodbyes and be emotionally spent right around the time our kids will need us most.

We believe that our kids will respond to any situation with the same attitude and energy that we exude, they reflect us. So we need to avoid the temptation of short tempers, avoid the desire to do all those things that one does when you get pressured.

Thank you very much for your prayer.
I'm hoping to keep the blog up while in North Carolina and I am attempting to make a photo/video travel log.