Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Psalm 84

I've been meditating on some Psalms recently, and remembered re-writing Ps. 84 into my own words when I lived in Kenya.

God, what joy to live in your presence,
in fact, to even have You live within me.
How I long to have more of You, LORD,
to live in a way
that my life is consumed with pleasing You
and You alone.

In Your presence, God,
even the littlest birds are safe.
They lack nothing.
They can go through life trusting you
and delighting in you.
Ah, that I may be like that:
Singing my heart out to You,
trusting you with my whole being.

Trusting You completely brings peace
even when I go through tough times,
even when I don't think I have the strength to endure.

Faith paves the road that leads to you,
that leads to complete peace,
to complete fulfillment,
to a place where I would lack nothing -
not even the strength to endure
because You are my strength.

God most high - the one and only God -
would You hear my prayer?
I approach You with my shield of faith.

Walking with You, Lord,
and knowing that You walk with me,
is far better than anything I could ever imagine.
In fact, I would rather scrub floors
knowing that You are with me
than have some high-paying job
and live separated from Your presence.

Why? Because You are my source,
my source of light,
my source of life,
my source of protection.

In You, I have found
a reason to live
and a life far better than what I could ever imagine.

If I live a life worthy of the One I host
- though I cannot do so in an of myself -
You will not withhold anything good from me!
It's hard for me to wrap my mind around that sometimes.

GOD of all gods,
my life is only meaningful
if I trust in you.

I'm heading to Manado this weekend.
Took this photo there on my last visit.
Hope to catch several of its beautiful sunsets again on this visit...

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Seeing with the Heart

"Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; 
what is essential is invisible to the eye." 
~ Antoine de Saint Exupéry, The Little Prince

Rarely do I compare. I've seen too much in life to covet what others have/do/are. Instead, when I do compare, it is with pure gratitude in my heart for the blessing of a nice home, knowing that some of my friends around the world live in mud huts with wooden shutters, entire families crammed into small spaces

Likewise, I often stop and thank God for running water, for stable electricity, for warm water in my shower, for simple things like markets where I can buy meat and not have to slaughter things myself, for peace, good health, good roads, for the blessing of a great education, for a relatively easy life.

I am content, and it is my nature to seek to find the beauty in every season and in the small things around me.

But today, I caught myself wondering how it would be if my life were like that of some of my friends.

The thought was so foreign to me that it felt uncomfortable and nauseating.

I was at the home of a new friend, and from my cozy corner of the room, I so appreciated the warmth and the beauty of my surroundings. I felt so at home. Much like the homes of my closest friends, it had overstuffed furniture, warm paint colors, beautiful decor. I could smell the hot apple cider. Everything whispered, "Welcome!"

Totally out of the blue, I caught myself wishing that I had a place like that, complete with a husband and children, and a hammock in the back yard.

It was the most bizarre feeling, and a very uncomfortable one. Not because I cannot envision myself with a family--I consider myself happily single, and am thankful for the opportunities I have had in life precisely because I don't have a family to consider or a home to take care of. And though I would love to share life with an amazing spouse, I'm simply not waiting for him before I start having a blast!

The discomfort of the moment came because for a moment, I felt so utterly ungrateful for the incredible ways in which God has blessed me--and thankless I am not! I wouldn't trade my life for someone else's, even if it comes with a cozy home and family.

And so, tonight, as I process the events of the day, I am thankful once again for prompting of the Holy Spirit to pause long enough to take a closer look into my heart and to walk out the other side, filled anew with gratitude for the multitude of gifts which make my life uniquely mine--including insights into the harder side of life.

Friday, October 26, 2012

I had a farm in Africa...

OK, not really, but I do love that line from Out of Africa. "I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills..."

Actually, my favorite quote from the movie is, "If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?"

Beautiful, isn't it? And not entirely what this post is about.

It's midnight here in Chiang Mai, and I quickly rinsed out my water bottle to fill it up and keep it by my bed for the night, 'cause it's hot out here, and I have been mindful of drinking several Camelbakfulls of water every day, especially now that I exercise regularly. (That's worthy of an entire blog post.)

We cannot drink the tap water in Chiang Mai. Instead, one gets water delivered to your home, either in 20 liter jugs, or by the crate. I get two crates every other Monday. I simply leave the empty crates by my open gate, and at 7:45 sharp, a truck pulls up. One man swoops up the crates of empty 1-liter bottles while another carries two full crates to my front porch, where I leave the money: a full 54 Baht ($1.80) for 40 liters of drinking water.

I don't bother bringing the crates into my house, as I don't like clutter. So the crates remain outside, and I bring in just a few bottles at a time.

But on this balmy Thai evening, I had to step out to get some water, and it hit me: The smell of the village cows in Kenya...

See, I live in a part of town that's a bit more rural. Though it's still Thai suburbia, there are several empty lots around where neighbors keep cows and chickens. There are also several creeks where snakes and frogs coexist (though not necessarily peacefully), but at least I don't smell them. I can smell the cows though, and at midnight, at the end of a gorgeous day that topped at mid 90s (34C), the smell hangs thick in the air.

It made me think of the village and its smells.

And it made me smile.

'Cause some of the smells I'LL never forget might not be those of the cows or the dusty roads, of the first rains or of corn roasting on open fires. My favorite smell of my time in the village happens to be the smell of clean children.

In 2005, with Samwel and Kipkurui.
I literally can smell the Tiptop
when I look at photos like these...
After taking cold showers, the children would slather on a gobful of Tiptop (Vaseline/petroleum jelly) onto their faces, their short hair, their arms and legs. They'd literally shine from head to toe! And when I'd go read bedtime stories to them and answer their endless questions, I'd get hugs from big and small, tuck in the littlest ones before tucking their mosquito nets under their mattresses, and I'd walk back to my house smelling like Tiptop, which I didn't mind at all.

Even now, when I look at photos of the children in the village, I can smell Tiptop.

And though I don't wonder for a moment if the children have invented a game with my name in it, I do know that they remember me, just like I remember them. They're forever part of me, as I am of them, even while I live on the other side of the globe.

For that, I am thankful.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Feeling Normal

Tonight, I felt oh so normal! It was the first night I went out socially in the 3 months since I've lived in Chiang Mai, not counting the women's prayer group I joined 2 weeks ago, and not counting the dinners I have had with coworkers (which have been delightful, I should add.)

I describe myself as an "outgoing introvert," so I don't have a problem connecting with people. However, in Chiang Mai, it's been challenging breaking into the community. I have found that surprising.

But a few weeks ago, at church, a Kiwi lady came up to me and asked if I were South African. I looked South African to her, which I find rather funny. I'm not sure how we look... She had wanted to hear if I would be willing to connect with another South African who had recently been in an accident here.

I never got to meet the South African person, but the Kiwi and I got together for coffee, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was sad to learn that she and her family were going back to NZ at the end of this year, but appreciated her reaching out to me regardless. She's the one who connected me with the women's prayer group, too, and who invited me to her birthday bash this evening, where I met many other foreigners.

I always, always value having local friends. But I also know the importance of having some friends who understand the joys & challenges of cross-cultural living. And so, I enjoyed meeting other foreigners tonight, and to meet the husbands of the ladies from our prayer group.

But a few encounters from the evening had me wondering if I'll ever really fit in with the foreign community here. Maybe I don't want to. I just want some friends with whom I can laugh, share some meals, and process learning.

Little by little, oh-so-slowly, that is starting to happen through the mix of community from work, church, and through friends of friends. And little by little, I'm starting to feel a bit more normal.

And for that, I'm thankful.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

An Invitation to Change Lives

Yesterday morning, I found myself sitting around a table with three somewhat-elderly men and one lady, making small talk about India. They were interesting individuals, to say the least. The men took turns to tell me about this place or that, about the energy of "mother India," of visiting different ashrams, or traveling with an "enlightened individual."

We were in the waiting area of the Indian Consulate in Chiang Mai, applying for visas to travel to India. They were certain that my life would never be the same again after visiting India later this year.

"What will you do there?" they asked, echoing the question I had just been asked during my visa interview.

"I am going to meet colleagues. I want to go and see the work they do and get to know the individuals whom I support in their work," I explained.

"What do you do?" they were curious to know.

"I work for Compassion International," I explained. Their faces registered nothing. And so I continued, "We work to release children from poverty through child sponsorship projects. We have centers where the children come after school for extra tutoring. They are given food and education and a chance to get ahead--chances that those living in poverty don't usually have."

The men were curious about our work and asked more. They were all devout Buddhists and wanted to know if ours was a religious organization. "We're Christian," I answered with a smile.

"Hmmm," the one man said. "So you just work in Thailand and India?"

"Oh, no," I smiled. "There are 1.3 million children in 26 countries who are being sponsored through Compassion. And my role is with the other end of the spectrum: Many of these children not only complete school, they go on to attend universities through our leadership development program. We offer scholarships but also additional curriculum to equip these young men and women to transform their nations."

"You like what you do," the oldest of the gentlemen observed.

"What's not to love about working with a program that has such a profound impact on people's lives?" I responded just as the receptionist called me to collect my receipt.

What I said to my fellow travelers couldn't be more true. I do love working with an organization that cares enough to step up and say no to the injustices of poverty.

We don't present wealth to be the goal. Instead, Compassion has a saying that "the opposite of poverty is enough." Poverty, Compassion's president Wess Stafford describes, is "a lack of hope."

I've seen that in the lives of people living in abject poverty around the world. I saw it the first time I met the Sifuna family in Kenya. But bit by bit, as the children were rid of the jiggers, and as their father not only got sober, but put his faith in Jesus, and as the children joined classes at the local school, all decked out in uniforms, I saw hope start to grow in them.

A former colleague recently told me that he went to visit Silas Sifuna, and that Silas proudly told him how amazed he is that "these four children who run around speaking English and are getting a good education are mine."

Though Compassion is not yet working in Eldoret, I (along with two friends in Iowa) am most certainly continuing to sponsor the Sifuna childrens' education and meals through their school. But there are so many more kids around the world just like the Sifunas: Kids who are desperate for someone to give them a foot up in life, that someone will give them hope.

Would you please prayerfully consider sponsoring a child through Compassion?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I was told we would meet with a key leader in the Cambodian church today, a certain Pastor Barnabas, a man many simply call Lokrou, or Teacher. I had no idea who he was, but knew I had many questions to ask him so that I could fine-tune my training of Thursday afternoon.

My two colleagues and I, as well as two other pastors sat down over coffee and Barnabas' smile blew me away. A colleague who worked closely with this man 20 years ago, when the UN intervened in Cambodia, commented on how young his friend looked, and asked what his secret was. Over the next several minutes, the pastor shared about the way God has blessed him with a wife who takes good care of him, how they eat well, drink lots of water, how they laugh a lot. He spoke with so much love and tenderness of this woman. "How did you meet?" I asked, not knowing what I was in for. Barnabas started sharing with me a bit of what he calls his "colorful story."

He was born into a devout Buddhist family and lived at a temple, where his uncle, a monk, took care of him. He knew the Buddhist scriptures well and even emceed many of the large chant gatherings with monks and novices. But in his 20s, during the war in Cambodia, he became a fervent Communist. He was sent by the Communist Party to spy at a Christian gathering where the speaker asked, “Who, created the lights we see in the night sky? Who made those we do not see? Who holds our planetary system—a system far more intricate than the traffic here in your beautiful city—in perfect order?” Says Barnabas in his book, "In the silence I realized I was holding my breath, longing for the answer. I completely forgot my mission. I forgot to scrutinize the crowd, to locate the leaders near the front and write their names. I forgot everything but this question: Who created me? And could I, could I really know this alleged Creator? For the first time in my life, the beginning—of the earth, of life, of my life—mattered to me. A split second of common sense was all it took to debunk my naïve Darwinism. I soon understood that a loving Creator God was behind all of the precision and beauty of life."

Shortly after, he met a man who asked him whether or not he was a believer. Barnabas answered, "Yes," and the man encouraged him with words that would sustain him during the four years of Pol Pot's rule, when the despot and his Khmer Rouge soldiers systematically tortured and killed more than 2 million Cambodians. Barnabas spent those four years in a prison camp and mentored younger believers to plant churches. He was one of just 200 Christians who survived the camps, but told us that the words from the man years before carried him through many difficult times in the prison camp: “Brother, you will never be sorry! You have made the greatest decision you could ever make.”

After the time of the Killing Fields, Barnabas met his wife, a woman four years his senior. As he shared, however, of some of the challenges after the prison camps, and how he got to a point where he tried to take his own life and how God spoke to him through a vision while he was dying from poisonous plants he took, both he and I had tears rolling down our faces... God spared his life and he ended up being a pillar in the Cambodian church.

But he also spoke of division among what he calls the first generation of Christians, of the second generation, young men and women whose parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge and who became foster children of the government, of the arrogance of that generation, and of the third generation who were born after the Killing Fields, and how many of them are driven by money. He shared of the persecution he experienced at the hands of the Church for the music he composed--hundreds of Cambodian hymns that were sent to the churches along the borders. He told of many other trials and tests, and all along, I sat there thinking, "God, what do I have to share with this group? I have nothing to offer them." Yet I know that I know that I know that being here today is an assignment from God, that it is meant to be something far bigger than I so that I can never say, "I taught them."

Tomorrow, Barnabas will take us to some of the outlying areas where we will meet rural church pastors. And I will still seek to know what it is that God wants me to share during our time on Thursday.

After our time with him this morning, though, my colleagues thought it would be a good thing for me to visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, also known as S-21, one of many prison camps of the Khmer Rouge during Pol Pot's 4-year rule so that I would have a greater understanding of the background of the church in Cambodia and the history of the group I will be addressing on Thursday.

During the hour or so on the grounds of the former high school, I saw sights that I cannot imagine I'd ever forget. Some of the emotions were similar to what I experienced when I visited the Kigali Genocide Museum in Rwanda. "How can people be so cruel?" I kept wondering. In some ways, the events in Cambodia were worse than in Rwanda. Here, it was stretched out over four years. In Rwanda, everything was over within 100 days. But then again, how can I even contrast the events?? Genocide is genocide. It is merciless. Evil. Satanic. And yet, in both places, there are people who survived. People who have risen above the ashes of history and embraced a higher calling.

I am humbled by the fact that I will have time with three generations of pastors affected by Cambodia's Killing Fields. God knows what our time together on Thursday is supposed to look like. Right now, I don't. I wish to be nothing more than a facilitator and have them be the ones to come up with strategies for the way forward, for how they can mobilize the fourth and the fifth generations of Christians in Cambodia.

So help me, God.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Rethink possible."

I was on a call with AT&T in the US tonight regarding my iPad data plan, which I had forgotten to cancel when I left the US earlier this week. The were very kind and reversed the auto renewal charge without any hassles. As I was holding, though, their phone service announced all kinds of services and then said their slogan: "Rethink possible."

Earlier today, I had such diverse experiences of people rethinking possible. Or not. I had taken a trip just 5 miles or so south from where I live to a village called Baan Tawai. This village has a lot of carpentry shops. I walked from one small stall to another, looking for a bookshelf and some bedside tables. Everyone was very helpful, and I finally found what I wanted at one place where, when I asked if they had bedside tables in the same stain as the bookshelf (my office will double as my guest room), they promptly offered to stain/paint the bedside tables in the same style as the shelf. Great! They'll deliver everything to my home by Tuesday. That's customer service.

After that, I drove to "Index," an IKEA wannabe store. I've not been to Index yet as I had been told their furniture breaks within months of purchase. But I've not been able to find a comfortable office chair so far, and I thought Index might be my last option. I found a chair that would suffice, and was promptly told they can deliver it next month. "When next month?" I enquired, realizing that July starts this weekend. "At the end of next month. There is a waiting line." "Is it on back order?" I enquired. "No, we have stock," the manager told me, "but there is a line for delivery." I must've looked really perplexed, so the clerk and the manager conferred in Thai, then said, "If you have a car, you can take it yourself today." The problem is that I have a really small rental car, and the chair wouldn't fit along with other things I had in the car, so I said I might come back. It was clear that customer service was not very important to Index if they made customers wait for up to a month for deliveries!

I went downstairs to have the other things rung up. Having just paid for my bookshelf, I didn't have enough cash on me and handed the clerk my VISA card. She shook her head and said, "No credit card." This is a HUGE store, so the fact that they don't take credit cards was a bit puzzling. I was about to just cancel my entire purchase when I asked, "Do you have an ATM?" "Yes. There!" and she pointed me to an ATM. Like her colleagues in the office chair department, this clerk didn't think twice to say, "Sorry, we don't take VISA, but there's an ATM right there." What's more bizarre, after I returned and paid cash, I saw a little American Express sign. I enquired and found they do take AmEx... I left perplexed by the culture at Index not lending itself to staff thinking of solutions to problems. At Baan Tawai, the vendors, most likely either the owners of the stores, or dependent on commission, were willing to figure out ways to meet the need.

The experience at Index left me a bit frustrated--just a good dose of culture shock, really. So when I got home and unpacked 3 new boxes that arrived this afternoon with little things like my 3 favorite fridge magnets, my favorite table cloth that I got with my first paycheck in college, a small pillow my friend Nan had made me, and pillow cases my friend Mary had quilted for me, the boxes felt like a hug from God, as if to say, "I've got you covered, OK?"

Most things about moving to yet another culture, another language, another worldview is old hat to me. But there are moments when something silly like the poor service at Index just drives me up the wall, and I, myself, have to find a way to rethink possible.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


This week, since I was already in Asia for meetings, I stopped by Chiang Mai to try and find a rental home and get a feel for the city which will now be home, to see what's available in stores and what I'd need to bring over with me. I didn't expect to find a rental property this week. I looked at several places. Some small, dark homes. Some new places in brand new neighborhoods (including one with not one blade of grass--the entire yard had been cemented). Nothing that I felt I absolutely loved.

But then my realtor took me to this modern, 2-bedroom home in the south side of the city, and I fell in love. 
I like that the home has a small garden. I like that it has a covered parking space and a privacy wall. I love the front porch and the large glass doors that allow in a ton of light! I love that the home is raised, eliminating any risk for flooding (though I'm told the river on this side of town doesn't flood)
I love that it has light floors, adding to the airiness of the home. I love that the living area is open with no walls between the living room, dining room and kitchen. I love that there are blinds rather than dark draperies. I like that the place comes furnished. I love that the two bedrooms have ceiling-to-floor built-in closets. I'll turn the one room into a study yet have enough room for guests. I also like that the home is not in a neighborhood with just foreigners, but that all of my neighbors are Thai. (In case you're wondering, the people in the picture are my realtor and the landlady's parents)
I really like the modern bathroom with its treated cement walls.

I knew I wanted the place, but needed to think things through a bit, talk to friends rather than just to the realtors. What I didn't know was that the house had only been listed for rent the previous day, and that I was the first person to view it. I also didn't know that a guy was coming right after me, and that he would commit on the spot to rent the place for 6 months, starting next week...

The next morning, when I asked the realtor if I can meet the owner, she texted, "Sorry, the place has been taken." "That cannot be," I immediately thought. "It's mine!" So the realtor asked me to call the owner and visit with her.

Turns out that if I'd take it starting June rather than July, she'd let me have it. Her parents, who were at the home during the viewing, had recommended to her that she pick me rather than the guy since they said I looked friendlier, and it looked like I really liked the place. Plus they thought that I'd take better care of the home since I'm a woman. ;) She had several inquiries about the house even while we were meeting on Friday. I was VERY fortunate to get the place!
I also was able to visit some shops and markets, and of course I love that Chiang Mai has wonderful tropical fruits, including lychees (which I've eaten a ton of this week) and mangoes, some of my favorite fruits. Smoothies, anyone?
So, now I have a rental home in the southern suburbs of Chiang Mai. Tonight, I fly back to Bangkok and travel onwards in the morning to Seattle. My graduation's next weekend. I'll be working remotely from Seattle this week, then head to Colorado for corporate orientation. I come back to my new home later in June, and look forward to that!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Adele's Update: May 2012 (from Korea)

Today, I sent this update to people to whom I used to send regular updates. It explains a little bit more about the changes in my world...

I’ve been waiting 40 months to write you the good news about my new role with Compassion International. Forty months. That’s how long it has been since I left Kenya. When I left Kenya, it was with peace that God is leading me—where, I did not know.

The journey from point A to point B is rarely a straight line, they say. My journey from Empowering Lives to Compassion International took me back to Taiwan, where I deliberately wanted to work in a non-Christian setting. My original intention was merely to gain first-hand experience in what it’s like to be a Christian and see any work as your calling. God opened the research door even wider, giving me an opportunity to see what it’s like being in a job that’s not necessarily in line with what I believe I’m best at. Working as a preschool teacher, I sought to still be a positive member of my team and my school environment, and sought to be the best teacher I could be for my class of 3- and 4-year-olds.

Needless to say, I learned a ton, not only from the children, but also from my colleagues. After completing my assignment at Taipei American School, I wanted to apply that which I had learned and took on another assignment, that time, teaching 4- and 5-year-olds in Jakarta. Again, I learned much from my wonderful colleagues and kids, but I wasn’t making as much leeway on my dissertation. I accepted the opportunity to get out of my contract with my school in Indonesia, and went to Iowa to spend time at different friends’ homes with the intention of writing. At first, it was tough. I knew I was doing my dissertation on “theology of work,” but wasn’t sure of the exact approach.

My approach became clear when I visited a former professor of mine in California in August. He introduced me to a concept he called “serious play,” explaining that it was “loving what you do so that work becomes play, but you are also making a positive contribution to society.” By the time I left for South Africa in December, my dissertation proposal had been completed and I was working on case studies of serious players around the world. The academic affairs committee gave me the green light to take a different approach to my research and present the bulk of my findings as a manuscript that I hope to get published.

In the meantime, while I was in South Africa, a good friend at Compassion told me about a position that they were looking to fill. I started the application process and had my first phone interview shortly after returning to the US mid February. In March, I flew to Colorado for a panel interview and was offered the job. I could’ve started right away, but had the last chapter to wrap up on my book, and still needed to do the oral defense of my dissertation. Compassion graciously allowed me to start my role in mid April, right after I had passed my oral defense.

So, who is Compassion International, and what is my role with the organization? Compassion’s motto is “Releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.” The bulk of the organization’s work focuses on children from poor families in 27 countries around the world, providing sponsorship for them to attend school and have their basic needs tended to. Currently, there are about 1.3 million kids being sponsored through Compassion. They also have a program focusing on pre-birth through age 3, providing assistance to mothers. These programs are offered through local churches. And there’s a program focusing on additional needs such as disaster management, HIV/AIDS, malaria, clean water etc.

I don’t work directly with any of those programs. My role, instead, is with the Leadership Development Program (LDP). Students who excel in schoolwork, have gotten into a local university and stand out as promising leaders can apply for the LDP program, which is facilitated through our local offices. That’s where I come in. I work closely with the facilitators in our offices throughout Asia. I am there to help them solve any challenges, to mentor them in their work, to pray for them, to provide resources they might need.

I cannot think of a role more suitable for me! Early on in my studies, I thought of what the purpose of having a doctorate is. Typically, it is so that you can teach at a university. However, being a professor has never been my desire. I knew well that the bureaucracy of academia would drive me insane. My heart has been to be involved in change at a global level, not lecture at one university. In fact, 10 years ago, while at Azusa Pacific, I wrote a paper in which I stated that I see myself working with a global ministry doing leadership development…

My role specifically has me working throughout Asia. Although Compassion’s working in six countries in Asia (Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines), the LDP is currently only in the last four of these countries. I will call Chiang Mai, Thailand, home, but will be traveling a lot, visiting not only the specialists in our offices, but also the students in different areas, seeking to understand their unique challenges so we can adjust the program as need be and pray for them.

The goal is to raise up a generation of servant leaders who will shape the history of their nations. The leaders of Compassion Asia are men and women who are seeking not to be religious and do good work, but who seek God’s heart for their nations. I consider myself honored to be part of their team! In fact, we as a leadership team are currently at a prayer center in the mountains in Korea. We’ve had two speakers who have challenged us not to be busy doing God’s work, but to seek God first every day, and to seek his direction as we step into the roles which he has entrusted us with. We’ve had plenty of time for solitude and reflection. Later this week, we’ll go to Seoul for planning meetings. From there, I’ll go to Chiang Mai to find an apartment, after which I’ll go to Seattle for my graduation, and Colorado for corporate orientation. And then I move to Chiang Mai.

What a journey this has been! I am convinced, though, that the journey has just begun, agreeing wholeheartedly with C.S. Lewis saying, “There are far, far better things ahead than what we leave behind.”

I cannot begin to describe to you the deep excitement I have for to the things ahead!

Thanks for being part of the journey.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Major Milestones

Today's an important day. I am officially starting my new job with Compassion International. This evening, I'll board a flight from Salt Lake City, Utah, where I was visiting my sister Liesl and her family and fly to Manado, Indonesia, where I will participate in the launch of our newest Leadership Development Program.
My role these two weeks? Learner. I'll be learning all I can about this new program of which I'll be a part. I'll also get to know many of the team members, many from Indonesia, and some from the Compassion headquarters in Colorado Springs. I can't wait! I have such a profound level of peace and excitement about this position, the work that I'll get to be a part of, the organization which will become part of who I am. 

But today is also significant for another reason: I sent in the final version of my dissertation and book for the final OK before printing. Last night, I also got the comments back from the technical editor, so those changes have been made, as well as minor suggestions from the review panel. Although my graduation ceremony is only in June, I have officially completed my doctorate in ministry in global transformational leadership. 

I am now Dr. Booysen, but as I wrote on Facebook earlier this week, I'm still just Adele. The doctorate merely positions me for different job opportunities than that which I have had until today.

Søren Kierkegaard once wrote, “The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wants me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die.” It's not that I'd physically lay down my life for the chance to participate in a job that incorporates my skills, passions and is meaningful, but I know for sure that embarking on a role that is serious play makes life and work a whole lot of fun!

Thanks for being part of my journey.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My New Job

I'll get to be a serious player again really soon. For the past several months, I've been writing my dissertation on the concept of serious play. A serious player is someone who is able to use their skills (their training, their background and/or their exposure) in conjunction with their passions in a way that is meaningful (or has purpose) beyond just the scope of the person's own needs. Serious players can typically say that at least 80% of their week is spent doing stuff they love, and they typically don't even really mind doing the remaining 20%.

It's not that I've not been a serious player in recent years. I enjoyed the two years in early childhood education, doing research for my writing. I also enjoyed this year of being a full-time student, working on completing my research and my dissertation. But I am thoroughly looking forward to being in a job once again where I can wholeheartedly use my skills and my passions in a purposeful way!

Forty months. That's how long it took from when I left my job in Kenya till I signed the contract for a great position with Compassion International, an amazing group that works in 27 developing countries around the world. My role will be with their Leadership Development Program, which focuses on college students. I'll be working closely with our offices in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

I couldn't be happier about the new job!

The journey over the past 40 months has been one of "doing the next thing," of believing that God is at work even when I didn't understand the process, of trusting him even at times when I thought that an opportunity before me might be a good one, only to watch the door close.

It's been 40 long months, and every month of the process have been worth the wait. I don't believe the role I'll be in could suit me any better! In my new job, I'll get to use my academic training in leadership development. I'll get to incorporate my faith values as well as my passions, working with the poor, seeking to make a profound difference in the lives of young people. I'll get to learn from amazing coworkers all over Asia, and I'll get to keep traveling, writing and taking photos. I'll get to share stories from around the world not because I'm required to, but because I love doing it.

In the next three months, I'll be in Utah (visiting my sister and her family), in Indonesia (for the launch of a new leadership class), in Iowa (packing up my stuff), in Korea (for meetings), in Thailand (to look for an apartment), in Seattle (for graduation), in Colorado (for training) and then in Thailand again, since that's where I'll call "home" next. Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Walking with God has never been a boring journey.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sneak Preview: One of My Case Studies

Lize Albertyn-du Toit: Farmer and Small Business Owner

Lize with Poppie and Sophia, two of the Pêpa ladies
When you walk into Lize’s farmhouse, you immediately feel at home. Perhaps it’s the welcoming sound of footsteps on the wooden floors. Maybe it’s the rays of sunlight breaking through the little shutters in the solid wooden doors. It could be the laughter of friends busy in the kitchen, a room filled with things that say, “Life’s been lived here.” Old-school kitchenware, not for the show, but for use.
Everything and everyone—including the farmer and his wife—says, “Make yourself at home. Stay a while.” I had planned to visit for a day. I stayed a fortnight.
Lest anyone fears ever inviting me over for as much as a cup of coffee after this, I should point out that Lize's (LEE-zuh) and my friendship goes back to 1988, when we were freshmen at the University of Pretoria and lived in the same dorm for four years. In many ways, over those critical four years as young adults, we grew up together.
With me living overseas, we hadn’t seen each other since 1995, though. My visit to their farm happened in 2012, and we had a lot of catching up to do. Plus, the farm turned out to be an amazing place to do what I had to do: write.
You cannot help but be inspired when you fall asleep to the sight of the Southern Cross peering in through your bathroom window from a sky filled with stars. And you wake up smiling if, from the comfort of your bed, you see the sun poke out its red head directly behind the mountains on the edge of the farm. But I digress…
Over many a cup of tea, we talked about issues of faith and family, work and worship, pain and pleasure. I learned about Lize’s free-range egg business (called Ethical Eggs) and laughed out loud at her farm stories—like the one of how Lize had had it with the cocky rooster after he had kicked her yet again (this time, while she was fully focused on feeding some calves). So she chased him around the roost and showed him who’s the boss. Never had an issue with him or any of the other roosters again. Not once.
And I learned of Lize’s other business called Pêpa, a Sesotho (se-SOO-too) word meaning to carry someone. (Pêpa sounds like pepper, but with and ah sound at the end.) At some stage or another, all kids in South Africa are pêpad on someone’s back or on their hip. It’s part of growing up on the continent.
Lize had started the business partly because she had turned 40 and, having spent the most recent quarter of her life focused on raising her boys, she felt like she wanted to do something new.
The real impetus for starting Pêpa, however, was that Lize knew something bigger than the egg business had to be started. Farmers in South Africa receive absolutely no government subsidies, so it helps to have a side business that is not dependent on just the right amount of rain at just the right time of the year, or affected by a drop in wool and meat prices. If the farm goes under (not unusual under the current economic climate, nor with the weather being unpredictable), it cripples all the farm workers. Hence, Pêpa was born, to carry the women of the community.
Lize and her husband Stefanus (Stuh-FAH-niss)—along with their two sons, two dogs, several cats, chickens, sheep and some cattle—live on a wheat farm in the Swartland, a lush region just north of Cape Town. Stefanus’ ancestors have worked this land since the early 1700s. They have a great staff on the farm, but while they don’t grow fruit like many of the other farms in the region, the farm workers’ wives don’t have jobs. Few are educated and thus they cannot get good jobs in town.
Lize wanted to change that. She wanted the women to have something they could work for, something they could be proud of. She wanted them to have a way to be able to contribute to sending their own children to school.
In partnership with Liesl, another college friend of ours, Lize decided to start a small business. It had to be something fun and creative, they figured. Something beautiful yet practical. The quality had to be high. The style had to be both chic and distinctly African. And it had to be something that would inspire the farm ladies to be more than they ever thought they could be.
So, with Lize’s cadre of farm ladies, they started making the most beautiful girls’ dresses from shweshwe, 100% cotton in earthy hues of red, blue, brown, orange and green. (This fabric has been used in Southern Africa since the Dutch landed here in 1652. It’s especially popular for traditional ceremonies among the Xhosa people.) They had hardly launched Pêpa when they got an order for 100 girls’ dresses from an upscale safari company in Namibia.
Although very careful not to grow the business too fast, my friends are elated at the effect the business has had on Lize’s community. “There’s so much joy on the farm, Adéle,” she told me while cleaning up from kneading a huge ball of dough that stood covered cozily in a warm corner, getting ready to be baked.
Sitting down for some freshly-brewed coffee, she shares more stories of how much the Pêpa ladies love what they do. A great photographer to boot, Lize’s got photos up all over the kitchen and work areas of the ladies laughing while they’re working. Not only are the dresses made with loving care; they’re made with joy. And part of that joy is that all the hens on the farm are working hard, honing their skills, changing their world—one dress at a time.
To see photos of the Pêpa collection, visit www.pepaclothing.com.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Walking in Faith

This week, I get to fly to a city here in the US to have an interview for one of two positions in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It's with an organization that I have nothing but the highest respect for, and either position that would combine my passions, experience and education in an uncanny way. 

It simply seems perfect, and I have a profound level of peace about this.

But at the same time, as a person who puts her faith in things unseen rather than that which is seen, I know that I know that this is in God's hands. Though I will prepare all that I can to have the best possible interviews (I've already had three so far), I know that whether or not I get either position is not up to me. It's in God's hands. I simply have to follow his leading.

As I've been thinking and praying and praying and thinking about this, I cannot help but think of last year, when I interviewed for a position in Malaysia. It seemed like an amazing opportunity. That position was as an assistant with one of the top strategists in the world, and it would've been an opportunity to learn a lot from sitting in on his meetings with world leaders, seeing what high-level strategic planning looks like. In the end, after no less than 13 interviews that were drawn out over several months, that group announced that they thought I'd be bored in the position. I believe they were right.

What looked like an open door ended up simply being a ride through a maze of interviews. I learned plenty about the interview process. I also learned about what I would and would not be willing to do. With the previous group, the famous strategist, after asking me about the fact that I was a Christian, said, "You know, I am kind of like god. People ask me what to do. I tell them what to do. It works! See? I'm god."

I remember sitting in the seat that had just been sat in by the president of a nearby country, someone who had flown in to meet with the guru for advice, the room having been swept for listening devices, and feeling immense compassion for the man sitting next to me. I just smiled at him as he told me why he was so important. And all I could think was that I'd love to be there when he realizes who the real God is, that I'd love to serve him with love from the God who created him the genius that he was.

I ended up not getting that job, and I was perfectly OK with it. I knew it would be an interesting job, a job in which I would learn a lot, and a step in the right direction. But I also knew that I wanted more than that. I want to be part of the process of bringing change.

This time around is very different. The vision, mission and values of the new group are perfectly aligned with mine. Like the previous group, this group, too, has seen amazing transformation in the areas where they work. But unlike the previous group, who consults with presidents and kings, this group focuses on the youth who may become the future presidents of their countries, or who simply may lead their own families someday in a way that would change their world.

If I got offered a job this week, I would be working with men and women who know that it is not they, but God who changes people's lives. They know that they are to be good stewards of the resources (not only finances, but also the people and ideas) which God has provided. They walk in faith, and their faith is in God, not themselves.

It would be an honor to work with the group I'm interviewing with this week. The Message version of Hebrews 11:1-2 says, "The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see..."

Please join me in praying for God's will to be done this week, as I head to the next round of interviews.

Following in faith...

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Adele's Update: January 2012

"It's good to come home sometimes," my sister reminded me this morning. "It grounds you and reminds you who you are..."

That is so true. Not that I've forgotten who I am or where I'm from. But sitting around visiting with the people who've been part of your life for longer than you yourself can remember is good. It's funny, too. Funny to observe where certain quirks come from. Quirks and qualities, to be true.

It's been good to be home, to see my parents, to visit with my siblings, to connect with my nephew and niece, to see the changes in my country. Cost of living has skyrocketed here. Politics remain a tricky thing. But it also remains a beautiful country with beautiful people, including my family.

Tomorrow, I leave my parents' home and head to my brother's place for a week. From there, I'll get to see some cousins, too. All while working on my book.

I had recently gotten the preliminary OK from my university that I can change the approach to my dissertation slightly. The academic piece has been completed. I'm still waiting for detailed feedback from my dissertation supervisor, but  The research piece I'll present as a book which I hope will get published. It's something I having immense fun writing!

So, what am I doing these days? I'm a full-time student, in the home stretch of completing the doctorate I started in January 2008, when I was living in Kenya. If all goes well, I hope to complete my dissertation, including the accompanying book on "Serious Play," and graduate on June 2, exactly 5 months from today!

One of the fun projects of the past few days has been to teach my dad how to scan old slides and upload them to Flickr,
from where we kids can download them. So far, this is one of my favorite photos of the batch.
It was 1971. I was 3 years old, and our family took a train trip to Cape Town...
Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that 40 years later,
I'd be writing a book combining travel, work and theology!
I hope to have a job again by the fall, teaching Serious Play (or something related to the field of transformational leadership). Where that will be God only knows! And I don't mean that lightly. I truly have no idea yet where in the world I will work next. I wish I did. But I don't.

I hope to get a publisher for my book this year, also... Serious Play has been an immensely fun topic to study and a fun book to write. In so many ways, I feel like the book is a culmination of so much of the journey you've walked with me on this blog.

But you'll see, eventually. I'll post some teasers when the time is right. For now, I'll continue to connect with my people in my country, and work hard on meeting the tight deadlines in the 5 short months between today and June 2.

Phew! Back to writing it is...