I remember sitting in a tiny room—one shared by six females—in Cambodia when I got the email from Kayla, one of our squad leaders.
It's that time again... team placements! Next month, your team will be taking Malaysia by storm and doing ATL/UHC! You guys rocked it in South Africa, and we know you can do it again. I know it will be a challenge (last month, longest month), and we want to make sure you guys (and especially you) are supported.
Ask the Lord / Unsung Heroes Campaign. Again.
A few of our teammates were excited—particularly those who hadn’t done a ATL/UHC month. Me? I was hoping for an easy month. Being assigned to ATL/UHC twice was basically unheard of, and so the possibility never even crossed my mind.
Like Kayla said in her email, month 11 would be our last and longest assignment, and asking the Lord where to go and what to do on our slim budget wasn’t exactly easy. $10 per person per day. That’s all we had. Ministry, accommodation, transportation and food plan. Nothing was planned or secured for us, and staying at a cheap hostel in Kuala Lumpur would cost a day’s allocation alone.
We arrived in KL and made our way to the hostel where I’d reserved one room for our team. Upon arrival, I felt uneasy about the place. I told the front desk to cancel our reservation, and we went on down the road to Raizzy’s Guesthouse where spent about a week. We helped out at a local church before being called to the Malaysian jungle.
A previous ministry contact had put me in contact with some evangelists working in Malaysia, and we spent a few days praying about partnering with them.
This is the model for ATL/UHC. Pray and seek the Lord’s guidance for ministry (Ask the Lord) and establish relationships with unsung ministries that are in need of helping hands (Unsung Heroes Campaign). For me, it's a practice that required a great deal of faith, trust and courage—especially the second time around.
As we were praying and worshipping in our room at Raizzy's, Steve pipes up. “I see a water park.” If I hadn’t encountered the prophetic multiple times throughout the year, I’m almost certain I would’ve written him off... completely. “Ok,” I thought. “Interesting.” We continued on.
Later that day, I walked out of the bathroom and down the hall towards our room. A map of the country, hanging on the wall to my right, caught my eye. I stopped and examined it. It was covered in cartoon images of activities offered throughout the country. A golf course in this place. A shopping mall in that one. A beach here, elephant rides there.
I noted where we were on the map—Kuala Lumpur. Then I traced my finger to the approximate location of the evangelists. My mouth dropped. Water park.
Melanie came walking down the hall, laptop in hand. “Mel, pull up Google maps on your computer.” She did. “Look, here’s KL. And here it is on this map. Here’s the location of the evangelists. And here it is on the map.” Shocked, she repeated my words, “Water park.”
“Exactly,” I said.
I called a team meeting. The vote was unanimous. We were going to the jungle. For two weeks, we’d be without internet, electricity and hot water. And everyday, we ate oatmeal for breakfast, peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, and rice for dinner. We listened to Bible teachings late into the night and fought mosquitoes throughout the day. Our living conditions were some of the toughest yet, and as I’d imagined, the month wasn’t proving to be an easy one.
When I was at Raizzy’s, I could email Tony on a daily basis, but in the jungle, our communication was like Swaziland all over again—zilch. The only difference was that we only had a few weeks to go. Only a few weeks until we’d both be in the States. December’s nearness gave me the strength I needed to push through November.
Halfway through our time in the jungle, my team had to return to KL for two days. On November 11, 2013, Tony responded to one of my emails:
Your experience in the jungle reminds me of mine at the diamond mine. I want to encourage you that it’s in those times that I grow the most in Christ. He’s speaking to you in all of the small tasks you’re doing. Ask yourself whilst building a fence, “What is God telling me right now?” You’ll ooze revelation after these experiences... I promise you. Ask, and He will faithfully give freely.
Two days later, while back in the jungle, I lay in my tent and wrote to Tony. If I didn’t write down my experiences and thoughts as they happened, their realness and relevance would dissipate by the time I made it to a wifi zone. So I took notes.
We worked so hard today. My body is killing me... I feel like an old lady! We’re digging a hole—20’ x 30’ x 3’. Literally, 4-5 of us worked on it consistently throughout the day, and we only got less than 1/4 of it done. After the first 4 hours of digging, I was ready to pay for a bulldozer, but like Steve said—bulldozers don’t build character. Amen!
I wasn't even sure if bulldozers ventured into that part of the world, but before I knew it, the jungle chapter was over. It was a good-type-of-hard kind of place. Thankful to have walked through it and relieved that it was behind us, my team would soon be Penang-bound. Well, kind of. We made pitstops in KL to do some more ministry and in Cameron Highlands to get some rest and visit the infamous tea farms.
We had a few UHC meetings in Penang and were able to stay at a YWAM base with a few other World Race teams before debrief began. FINAL debrief. These 11 months—over, finished, completed. Tony wrote to me on the 29th:
I think of the end of this chapter for you... and I can't begin to imagine what must be going through your head and heart right now. Returning to family and friends. Processing your adventure. Gathering thoughts and emotions and trying to communicate them to a group of people that can’t really relate.
It was hard to process the reality of was about to happen. Going home, after 11 months of journeying around the world and into some perspective-shaking nations. I didn’t know what was normal anymore. Honestly, I didn’t know much of anything other than Tony and a YEBO Retreat in January. Those two things I was sure of.
In exactly 20 days, on the 19th of December, I’d be face-to-face with the man I called my future husband—in my hometown's airport.
We had no clue how to occupy the same physical space. All we knew how to do were words and photos and the occasional Skype session. But for some reason, I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t doubtful. I was at complete and total peace... resting in His will and plan for my life.
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