We don’t know all the answers and that’s ok

We have arrived home. We love you Brisbane!

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We’re so excited to be home and in a familiar environment. We are looking forward to some rest and taking some time to digest what we have experienced and learnt in the last seven months.

Some answers … for people wondering.

Firstly, we don’t feel disappointed or like we’re letting anyone down by being back in Australia earlier than we had originally planned. We’re not embarrassed or uncertain, but glad we followed God’s leading.

We don’t know the purpose behind our whole trip. That’s ok.

We don’t know what we’ll be doing in the short or long-term future. That’s ok.

We actually feel that we are still on our ‘adventure’ and that this is the next step in the journey. That’s ok.

These unanswered questions are ok because we know that God is well aware and we know how proud He is of us. He asked us to ‘step out of the boat’ and we will continue to say yes.

We have grown in many areas this year but by far the biggest lesson we have learnt (and will continue to learn) is…

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God asked us on many occasions to trust Him, no matter what. He didn’t ask us to know how everything would work or figure out all the moves, He just asked us to trust. It’s definitely easier said than done and it seems like the more we learn to trust the more trust we have to learn.

Our scripture for this year spoke to us many times and kept us going:

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) – Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

While we were in Thailand at the start of August, we arrived at a point where we had four days of plans locked in and then after that nothing; no flights, no destinations, no plans. It was in this moment God said ‘Do you trust me?’ We said yes (with some trepidation) and then as things fell into place we continued to move forward.

This same scenario occurred three more times. Our plans would run out, we would wait and seek and with only days out we would book tickets and accommodation, pack up our things and keep moving. With each of these transitions we were taken to places and people who God had lined up.

There were many other things that kept our hearts strong along the way.

This song was played many times for encouragement –

This song was also played MANY times for confidence –

This beautiful picture was painted by Dana Jensen. It’s called ‘Walk on the water with me’ and looking at it repeatedly brought hope and strength.

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As we ‘walked on the water’ with Jesus just as Peter did, we read and reflected on this story many times for inspiration.

Matthew 14:28-34 (NLT) – Jesus Walks on Water

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” 29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

God was ever-present and always gracious when we would begin to doubt at any time. Right when we needed it, we would receive e-mails or messages from home as well as have conversations with people we met. We are so grateful for the love and support people have shown us along the way.

We’re excited to be home and excited about the future; we don’t have to know all the answers.

We will continue to trust the one who asks us to step out of the boat.

Tim, Jess & Amy

Picking up new Threads by Jess

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back?” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

A friend recently posted this Tolkien quote on Facebook and honestly it really speaks to the new season we’re in.

Many of you may not know, but we are in fact back in Australia. We are visiting family and friends in Melbourne before we head to Brisbane. It is our final stop and first taste of life back home.

Part of me is so excited to be back. Honestly, our first shop in Woolworths filled me with so much joy! Our first meal… oh a beautiful flat white with avocado, feta and poached eggs on toast mmmmm. Thank You Jesus. The positives are not hard to name, the lack of language and cultural barriers alone are truly bliss. However, the other part of me remembers all we have seen and heard and can’t easily just slip back into normal life.

During our travels, one of the biggest cultural differences that stood out to us was the materialism of Western Culture. Even now, after our travels, I want to rush out and buy everything I see and have all the home comforts I’ve missed during the last seven months. I want to re-do Amy’s bedroom to suit her hilarious two-year-old self. I want to eat what I want and would love to be able to afford lots of the things I see in the clothes and home-ware shops. It’s consumerism at it’s best.

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However, I also don’t want to forget the girl living in the Brazilian slum who dreams to one day live in a house. I don’t want to be so consumed with my own ‘wants’ that I forget other people’s ‘needs’. I don’t want to rush into acclimating that I forget all the lessons we have learned.

Let me tell you a story about a bathroom we used during our travels:

Firstly, the hand basin tap constantly leaked and the drainage pipe wasn’t actually attached to the wall plumbing, so when you washed your hands you had to step back so you didn’t get water all over your feet. Secondly, the toilet tap on the back wall constantly leaked as well, so I would frequently squeegee the floor just to feel a little better (honestly it was a waste of time). Other people also used the toilet in the bathroom, especially during community kids programs and church meetings. Everyone would put his or her toilet paper in a bin next to the toilet and every now and then, there would be a little surprise in the bowl just waiting to be discovered. There was no toilet roll holder, so it was either kept on the hand basin or on a nail about three-quarters of the way up the wall near the door, which it mostly fell off of. Needless to say finding dry toilet paper was always a little bonus. Lastly, the shower. It was directly next to the toilet with no curtain to separate it, so once again the whole room would get wet. It had an open drain with no grate, so anything you dropped was gone for good. It also only had cold water and Amy used to cry whenever I tried to take her in with me. Oh and there were mosquitos everywhere.

One night I was having a freezing cold shower while dodging about five or six mosquitos and I realized how lucky I was. I knew there were people not too far away living in worse conditions. In fact there were people all over the world who would count themselves blessed to be able to have a cold shower, use a toilet and sleep in a room. I felt incredibly blessed even while I frustratingly put on my wet PJs.

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It is this gratefulness and perspective I don’t want to forget. In Australia, Tim and I work hard, save what we can and try to be good stewards with our money. By Australian standards, we are far from rich, but honestly… Who cares? We are very blessed and not just by material standards.

It is a lot to process and I’m still recovering from a nasty sinus infection and re-adjusting to Australian food after three months in Asia (oh the digestive joys). I know reconciling these two world-views will take time. However I do worry that the latter will slowly disappear as we reintegrate back into home-life.

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life?” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

I do not think you can pick up the threads of an old life. Well maybe you can, but I don’t actually want to. That would be like nothing ever happened. Tim and I will need to make new threads, new stories about how we want to live. How we will spend our time, money and other resources. We will try to merge together our old life and the last seven months and that will take time and possibly several mistakes.

I was talking to Tim last night about this tension and he reminded me that God has us where we are right now. We are to live in this season, in this culture. It’s ok to buy Amy a new bed and it’s also ok to re-do our budget and reassess our time to make sure it’s being put to the greatest use. It is a process, it is difficult and once again… it will take time. It’s still part of our adventure.

Love Jess xxoo

Hangs in Da Nang by Tim

There was a good reason (in fact many reasons) that we ended up in Vietnam.

After some time in Ho Chi Mihn City we landed in the city of Da Nang. We went there to learn from the team at AOG World Relief, an NGO that was established in 1996. As soon as we met the Paul and Deb Hilton, the country co-ordinators, they gave us their time and welcomed us as part of the team. We felt right at home straight away and enjoyed our month-long visit there.

Here’s a blurb from their website describing who they are:

AOG World Relief Vietnam is a non-government organisation (NGO) that exists to partner with whole communities throughout Vietnam for the purpose of seeing them empowered to not only participate in, but also ultimately determine and sustain their own development. Through a process of Community Consultations, Training & relationship building with our team, communities identify their most felt needs and they themselves develop action plans which centre on mobilising their own assets and resources.

AOGWR do this incredible work throughout a number of regions in Vietnam. While we were there we were able to participate in different projects and opportunities the team were undertaking. Our previous time in Brazil and some of Thailand had mainly focused around observing intervention methods of sex-trafficking. Now it was time to get up close and personal with some great prevention practices.

Here’s a snap-shot of some of the parts of our time n Da Nang:

The beautiful city

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Visits to village communities to see some of their work

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Life skills in a school in one of the communities

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We met with different team members to learn how they operate both professionally and personally. Learning how families live in a cross cultural setting has been a great experience.

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We made lots of new friends

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While we were in Da Nang we were also able to explore the city and emerse ourselves in the culture. As we had one month there it was great to meet locals and see how Da Nang operates.

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In between all of that we got to have some nice coffee 🙂

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This was yet another incredible experience for our family and we gleaned many things from the wonderful people we did life with for a short time. Thanks Paul & Deb, Kelvin and Bek, Bruce and Marion and the whole amazing team at AOGWR! You guys are amazing and we learnt so much from each of you.

Tim & Jess

On our descent by Tim

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We’ve been on a few planes this year. Some flights have been as long as 14 hours and some as short as 50 minutes. It’s the short trips that are rather amusing. You reach maximum altitude and then about 10 minutes later an announcement rings out, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain, we are now starting our descent….’ We’ve heard this many times and it’s always a comforting relief.

For our family we feel like we’ve heard the call from our ‘captain’ and we’re starting our descent home. 🙂

The prospect of coming home produces many emotions; excitement, nervousness, joy and the anticipation of a cold press and avo smash! We’re looking forward to some down time and giving ourselves space to digest all that has happened. We don’t know what the future holds but we know who holds our future.

We are currently in Vietnam, observing and serving. We plan to connect with a couple of groups in Cambodia (if it all works out), then spend some time in Bangkok before we hit Australian shores. We’ll be home in four to six weeks. WOW!

See you soon Australia, the adventure continues.

Tim, Jess & Amy