View Part One here.
I didn't expect it, but there it was.
Moist eyes...gravely voice...and a tear.
It was the last twenty minutes of my final meeting as a member of the board of Mountainview Christian School, located at the foot of Mount Merbabu in Central Java, Indonesia.
"Do you have any words of wisdom to share, Steve," I was asked over the Zoom call as I sat in the makeshift office in my Idaho home.
"Well...I don't know about words of wisdom...but I do have something to say."
The words were out of my mouth before I had considered whether or not I wanted to say them.
I was going off-script.
Off the cuff.
Flyin' by the seat of my pants.
"I don't know if any of you know much of my story...but I came to Central Java Inter-Mission School as a 24 year-0ld single guy who really didn't know what he wanted out of life..."
Central Java Inter-Mission School (CJIMS) became Mountainview Christian School sometime in the early 2000s.
I arrived on the campus of the school formerly known as CJIMS1 in June 1997, following years of changes, transitions, and new beginnings. I had finished my student teaching a year before, traveled to Scandinavia with the Northwest Nazarene University choir in June 1996, broken off a two-year relationship upon return to the States, and taken a job teaching math and coaching basketball at Nyssa Middle School on the Oregon side of the Snake River.
If my memory is correct (I can't guarantee it is), it wasn't quite Christmas when I began investigating the possibility of teaching overseas. I had recently moved into the basement of the parsonage at Nyssa Church of the Nazarene, where I found myself blessed and encouraged by Pastor Mick and his wife, Shirley, a teaching colleague of mine at the middle school.
It was in the basement, one day after school, that I received a phone call that would change my life. The caller told me that he was calling from the island of Java. I didn't let it be known then, but I had no idea where the island of Java was located.
I learned later, from an encyclopedia, that Java was one of the islands of Indonesia. My next task was to figure out where Indonesia was located.
"...I came to CJIMS because I received a phone call from Ona Liles from the island of Java, in the days when long-distance calls were not cheap. He asked me if I would come and teach math and coach basketball. I eventually accepted that invitation."
Ona and Ruth Liles were instrumental in the founding of CJIMS in the early 1980s. Now, the Liles name graces the front of the Mountainview Auditorium on the campus and has grown and expanded significantly since those early days.
There was something about Ona that reminded me of my maternal grandfather. That, and his homemade cinnamon ice cream and a love of all things durian (aka "stinky fruit"), created a soft spot in me for the Liles family. Ona had grown up in Oregon, as had I, and he was an encourager by nature.
And Ruth...well, she suggested that perhaps I should take guitar lessons to pass some of my free time in a world that, at that time, was experiencing its first taste of dial-up internet (it took all day to download any email I received), had a run-down theatre where foreigners were not encouraged to go, and only one restaurant where one could find western food--KFC.
"Learning guitar will be a great way to spend some of your free time," she told me.
She was right.
Less than three years later, after returning to the States and getting married, I was hired as a part-time worship leader at Kuna Church of the Nazarene. I didn't want to take the job, but my wife of just a few months encouraged me to try it.
I'm grateful to Ruth Liles and my wife, Tamara, for encouraging me to play guitar. Playing guitar, singing, and leading people in worship are among my favorite things to do at this stage of my life.
"...I had no plan to stay at CJIMS beyond the two-year contract I had agreed to. I was just a young kid looking for a little adventure..."
I vividly remember saying goodbye to my brother and parents before heading to PDX, where we waited for what seemed like an eternity, mostly in silence, for my flight to begin boarding. Nobody knew what to say...I was wondering if perhaps I had lost my mind...I was doing something truly off-script.
I can't say what the impetus for a decision this was, other than to acknowledge that perhaps the Holy Spirit was leading and guiding. If you had asked everyone who knew me growing up, I would be among those voted least likely to do something like this. I was a shy, quiet, mama's boy...not a world-traveling adventurer.
My flight was called and I boarded the plane bound for Singapore, my first solo international flight. When I walked off the small plane and onto the tarmac of Solo International Airport on the island of Java, I was hit by a wall of heat and humidity.
Later that evening, I was on the back of a Vespa driven by Pak Nosh, scooting around the small town of Salatiga in the mountains of Central Java. And that night, I went to sleep in an empty house, all by myself.
My adventure had begun.
And the next two years were an adventure, indeed. I taught math, computers, and P.E. to students from countries all over the world – Canada, Switzerland, India, England, Korea, Australia, the USA, and more.
One of my first purchases was a bicycle that my housemate, Albert, and I rode through the rice fields. Many nights were spent playing basketball on the concrete court with students or hanging out with the other single teachers. I took Indonesian language lessons and never seemed to have time to be bored.
Weekends and school breaks were filled with all kinds of adventures with Albert, Will, Stacy, Liz, Kyung, Jenn, and others – long road trips to Bali to stay in cheap hotels and enjoy the well-known tropical tourist destination, mission trips to the jungles of Kalimantan and Sulawesi, and an occasional trip north the Semarang, where we could shop at something resembling a grocery store, eat at something resembling Pizza Hut, and watch a censored movie in something resembling a theatre.
"...and here I am, more than twenty-seven years later, having lived most of my married life in Indonesia..."
In January 2005, our family was assigned to Indonesia by the World Mission Church of the Nazarene. Later that year, in October, we boarded a plane with two-year-old Indah Grace and ten-month-old Elijah.
Our first year and a half were spent in Yogyakarta, learning the Indonesian language and teaching my first courses at the Indonesian Nazarene Theological College. In May 2006, a massive quake hit the city of Yogyakarta, killing more than 3000 people. Later that spring we moved across the island to East Java, where we would spend the next six years.
During those years, I helped coach Wesley International School's boys' basketball team. One year, we found ourselves in the championship of the Indonesian International Small School Activity Conference (IISSAC) basketball tournament against Mountainview's team.
We got beat.
After six years in East Java, we moved to Sumatra to begin a pioneer work. Unfortunately, we were there less than three years when we were asked to consider leaving. There were various reasons – our children's education, the needs at the college, and hazardous air quality from illegal burning. We evacuated the area for six weeks when the air quality index surpassed 1000 (scientifically classified as a "crazy-high-you'll-die-an-early-death level of hazardous...or something like that).
Our children's educational needs brought us to Mountainview Christian School almost twenty years after I had first arrived on the CJIMS campus as a much younger man. Our kids enrolled, we rented a home and exhaled. We found ourselves happily enjoying the cooler weather of Salatiga.
We loved living in Salatiga.
"...there's no way to count...to quantify...the influence and impact this school...its teachers...students...and all those I have met along the way...have had on my life..."
Watching Nick and Bill interact with their young children in a way that I had not seen before.
Bible Study and fellowship with Tim and Rhonda.
Thanksgiving Day at Laura's house...with roasted chicken and old Boise State football games on VHS.
Meeting Yohanes at a JOY (Jesus-Others-You) gathering of university students.
Playing rain volleyball and mud soccer (football) with Tatik and the other neighbors near our home.
Riding a long boat upriver in the jungles of Kalimantan...and carrying the boat when the water was too shallow.
Plunging off the edge of a mountain in Sulawesi in an M.A.F. airplane.
Traveling to India with the CJIMS basketball team for a Sports Ambassadors mission trip led by Todd.
BJ giving assurance to my wife they would do everything possible to meet the educational needs of our children.
Sunday night basketball with Jake, Charles, David, Nathan, and many more.
Indian food for Christmas and Thanksgiving with Jacob and Karen and their family...and sharing those holidays with our international friends.
Being invited by Marilyn, one of the original founding members of CJIMS, to serve on the board of Mountainview Christian School.
I could include so many more, but I'll stop here before you get bored. These names may mean very little to you, but to me, these names come with faces and memories.
These people have impacted my life in various ways. They helped shape and form me as a husband and father, a cross-cultural minister and teacher, and as a friend.
You've got names, too, don't you, people whose impact on your life cannot be measured? Take a moment to remember them and thank God for their place in your life.
"...so for me, serving on this board has been a labor of love...a way to give something back. From here on out, whatever happens, Mountainview will be a part of me. Thank you."