My grandpa’s funeral was yesterday. In my almost 30 years, this was the first funeral I’ve ever been to, so I have no frame of reference, but I think it was good. Grandpa ran a good race, lived his life faithfully, and was welcomed into the arms of his Saviour and Lord last Thursday morning. I will miss him, but I am glad that he is Home.
At the funeral, I had to speak following my aunt Sylvia, who has spent the past few months on a marathon caring for Grandpa, and who had a special relationship with him. After she spoke, there wasn’t much I could say — literally, it was hard to talk after she did. But here’s what I tried to get out…
I have lots of good memories of grandpa. Many of them faint but happy ones from my childhood. My favorite memory though, is a recent one: bringing Ben and Abi to see their great grandfather, in his little apartment, and seeing there on his desk, his Bible. Grandpa didn’t do a lot of dusting, but his Bible had none on it, and was opened to a page he was studying.
Next to his Bible was a magnifying glass – to help him read carefully the wisdom in those pages; pages he’d studied his whole life, and still treasured in his final years.
1 Peter 3:15 says “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you, to give reason for the hope that you have. And do this with gentleness and respect.”
I don’t know many people as faithful as Grandpa was to this instruction. And I’m grateful for the example he set to his kids, his grandkids, and his great grandkids.

Bye Grandpa. See you at the end of my race — I hope I can do half as well as you did.

Asia 2010 – Vision Trip

We didn’t raise support for this trip, and we didn’t send out prayer letters. We didn’t even tell many people we were going (although my Facebook friends are probably getting sick of hearing about it by now.) We bank-rolled it ourselves (and will be doing so for the next couple months as we re-clear out our credit cards!) and we did so for a reason. This wasn’t really a missions trip.
Granted, we got to do some pretty cool things: we shared the Gospel (and a Bible) with a young Cambodian law student on the bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, we delivered a load of vitamins to kids in need in Svay Pak, and I even got to speak briefly to a congregation in Cambodia. But the reality was, and we knew it going in, that we weren’t going to be in any one place long enough to have any sort of impact. 2 days was really the longest we stayed anywhere before we were back at an airport.
But that doesn’t mean we went without a mission. We had God-given reasons for this trip, and He blessed our obedience by filling it with experiences and lessons that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. But still, it seems worth explaining why we considered this a God thing, and not just a vacation — cause trust me, it wasn’t a vacation:
Our first and primary purpose was to encourage and affirm the passion for missions in Asia that God has placed in the heart of our travel buddy. She’s been longing and preparing for Hong Kong since 4th grade, and we believe God wanted to bless her and teach her about how He sees Asia, and were privledged that He used us as part of her journey. Tatum is going to school for medicine, so we visited a half-dozen hospitals and health clinics, and her excitement about the possibilities they presented was contagious.

Our second goal was to witness and understand some of the ministries going on there that are being worked on by people close to us. Our church here in Canada has put a significant investment of people and time into Svay Pak, and the excitement about the work God is doing there is just something we had to see. All the more because my own mom has been working hard on developing and guiding parallel and complimentary ministry efforts on the ground in Cambodia, even while my dad is discipling and equipping in Malaysia.
Our final goal, one that we intend to revisit regularily until the day God sends us out somewhere, was to refresh and renew our passion for missions, and for missionaries — God’s special and hand-picked ambassador’s to the world.
We struggled with what to call this trip, since “missions trip” seemed an inappropriate assumption of the definition, until Tatum told us what she was calling it: a “vision trip.” The term is perfect and fitting. We got to see and experience God’s vision unfolding in Asia, we got to help a young person catch glimpses of the vision God is revealing in her life, and we got to catch glimpses of how He might one day release us to global missions.
Despite being broke and tired and behind the eight ball, not to mention the heart ache over my grandpa’s final days, Asia 2010 was a worthwhile and blessed adventure. If you haven’t experienced GOing yet… get off your butt and get out there.
The whole wide world is His.
PS: A huge thank you to those who made this trip possible by taking care of our kids. They say it takes a village to raise a child — you guys are our village: Mom and Dad Watters, Kristin, Jamie-lee, Brian and Bernadeen.

Asia 2010 – Hong Kong

By plane, trane, bus, taxi, bicycle and ferry, we did Hong Kong. And it was pretty cool. But… and this might offend our travel buddy, Hong Kong was my least favorite stop. It could be because we were nearing the end of our trip, and starting to focus on going home, and the stuff we’ll be facing there. But I think it was because it was a big modern city, and honestly, there’s a high degree of similarity between all the big modern cities in the world.

(click for a larger version)
Still there was enough novel to keep us entertained for a couple days. We walked 400+ steps to the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas, we biked along the river-side, we climbed a mountain (sort of), ate a snack on a floating restaurant, and we shopped the street markets. Man do girls like to shop.
Our hotel was a treat, with a beautiful pool, attached to a massive mall, and right on the subway line. Unfortunately you couldn’t find free (or even cheap) Internet in that city if your life depended on it — a situation made worse by the fact that it was relatively ubiquitous in significantly less sophisticated cities we visited in Cambodia. So planning our days was a little more challenging than we would have liked. But we saw some neat spots, and had a good end to our trip, and a nice farewell to Tatum, who stays on for another week to enjoy some Hong Kong friendships she’s cultivated since 4th grade.
We’re on our way home, at a lay-over at Tokyo, Narita. We’re bed-bug-bitten, smelly, and tired, and a little bit nervous about transitioning back home. But we’re happy and content and blessed by what we’ve seen and done. God did some pretty cool stuff with our time in Asia, and I can’t wait until we can go back — with our own kids next time.
Until then, I’ve been reading a lot about Africa lately…

Asia 2010 – The Vacation Portion

With our young travel companion in Vietnam with some missionary friends from church, we opted to take a couple days off. This trip consumes most of my vacation days for the year, so its really our only chance to get away. Which is fine, 3 nights and 2 days on the beach is really the longest I can sit still anyway, and I wouldn’t trade what we saw in Cambodia for any amount of vacation.
And we’re not complaining. Our parents were nice enough to pay for our hotel stay, as our anniversary/birthday present, and I’m sure we never would have found a spot as nice as this without their world traveling experience. We’re on a little island of Malaysia called Langkawi — actually a cluster of islands, most of the hotels being on the biggest one.

Yesterday we rented a little motorcycle (although at a 110cc with an automatic transmission, I’d personally call it a scooter) and got lost exploring the island. In the afternoon we grabbed the camera and headed back out to the cable car, where we could see the whole island — until the thunderclouds rolled in. We were actually near the highest point, on a suspend bridge, when it blew in quite quickly, and we were up there swaying in the winds, surrounded by a cloud. It was pretty cool.
We resolved yesterday to have a technology free day, so save for the camera and the motorbike, we kept it pretty simple: no phones, no iPods, no internet, no TV — no clocks, even. We napped when we were tired, ate when we were hungry, and fell asleep when it was dark. It was a great day!

Today has rain on the forecast, so although its pretty nice by the beach at the moment, we’re not planning on traveling far. We have some journaling and some reading to catch up on, and no real strong urge to do anything but relax. Tomorrow we head back to the mainland to meet up with Tatum and my dad, before we all head to Hong Kong together.

Asia 2010 – Floating Villages

There have been a number of unique, never-seen-that-before experiences on this trip — such things kinda come with the territory, and its part of the reason we love to travel. However, and I say this fully aware that our trip is not over yet, one of the most memorable has to be our trip to the floating village outside Siem Reap.
We’d heard that they were worth seeing, so we asked our hotel to arrange the trip for us. It cost $20 to book a boat, and our trip out there on a tuktuk was covered as part of our hotel costs. We left around 10 and arrived some time after 11. I say “some time” because time sort of looses meaning in Asia — especially with all the time zone hopping we’ve been doing. However, that hour was an interesting one!
We started out driving through Siem Reap, which is an Asian city that probably closely matches whatever stereotypes you have in your mind of Asian cities. Traffic is crazy, the roads vary in quality, and traffic laws are more like suggestions. Continuing out of the city we began to see some of the poorer folks, shanties and farms, vendors at the roadside selling fried crickets and fresh fruit — at this point, nothing we hadn’t already seen… but we kept going.
After 15 minutes we turned onto a dirt road and toward an actual village, where there were almost no concrete buildings: wood posts with sheet metal on top were more standard fare. People’s clothing was more random and tattered, and garbage was piled up randomly. Definitely a level lower than what we’d come to expect… but we kept going.
As we left the village, we turned onto what I could only describe as a dirt path — road wouldn’t be the right word. For awhile we saw other motorbikes or bicycles, but soon enough those were all behind us and all we could see for miles in either direction was green bushes, blue sky, and the path. Its possible that as a child in Bangladesh I’d been somewhere that remote, but I don’t remember it — none of us could name a time we were so cut off from the world. For the next 10 minutes there wasn’t a single shack, vehicle, person or even animal. We couldn’t see a cell tower, power line, sign post, or any other evidence that we hadn’t been transported to an empty alien planet. It occurred to us at some point that if our tuktuk driver wasn’t an honest Cambodian, we could very easily end up very very stranded… but we kept going.

Finally, when we were all getting really nervous and joking about how our mothers would never hear about this adventure, I spotted a roof top, and moments later a tourist bus in the distance. We’d been driving along-side an empty stream, and as we approached the bus, we saw a lean-to with some Cambodian folks hanging out under it. Next to them the stream had water in it, and a couple large wooden boats seemingly abandoned to the dry season. When the Cambodians saw us coming, a cooler of iced beverages appeared and one of the boats was pushed into deeper water where it started bobbing waiting for us white folks to arrive.

The Cambodians were happy to see us, and eager escorted us, with our newly purchased cold soda, onto the boat. Our tuktuk driver waved good-bye with the promise he would be waiting for our return, and our two young pilots fired up the engine and we put-putted off into the river. As we traveled we began to see other boats, heading towards us full of various wares: fresh drinking water in large jugs, fish, bamboo. After another 10 minutes we rounded a corner and saw what we’d been traveling toward. Dozens of makeshift houses, just like their land-bound equivalents, floated in the water, built on top of bundles of bamboo. Here was a complete, water-based village with shops, restaurants, a battery-charging station, and a school partially funded by an American NGO. While we were there school let out and the kids poured out, big brother or sister carting the “car pool” home on the family boat.

It was definitely a poorer village, but the richest of them had rigged solar power to charge their batteries for their TV, and most of them had at least a battery to charge their cell phones — wireless communications being the only real infrastructure the country has. We tried not to stare, but the people stared back at us, the children waving excitedly if we waved at them first. Although the floating villages are starting to become some of a tourist attraction, and indeed the dirt path we traveled along the dried up stream one day hopes to be a channel built back to the main road so the boats can pick up tourists earlier in the long journey, we are still among the relative few lucky (and adventurous) ones who’ve made it that far yet.

The trip back was significantly less nerve-wracking, now that we knew where we were going. Our tuktuk driver was, of course, waiting for us — with bottles of cold water and a big grin. He seemed proud to be able to show us such a unique and incredible part of his country, and every one in our little 3-person travel party felt very privileged to have made the journey.

Asia 2010 – The Template

I remember the first time I spoke to an audience on behalf of my employer. I remember being struck by the awesome responsibility that I’d been assigned — almost by default. What if I said something wrong? What if I, as the event’s sole representative of what is arguable the world’s largest software company, in front of 300 people, accidentally misrepresented or miscommunicated a feature of one of our products? I was presenting 3 different technologies, each the result of the hard work and careful leadership of 3 distinct teams, and I was just one guy, 3 months on the job, representing all of it.
That intimidating responsibility exists here in Cambodia. By virtue of having white skin, this people will listen to you. Whether you are there to exploit them, help them, buy from them, or teach them, you will be given the stage. Because of the genocide committed against this country, so hungry is the remaining young generation for leadership, that they will listen to whatever you have to say. That the Western world holds no small share of responsibility for the near destruction of this gentle, welcoming people is a fact that they seem to have forgiven us for — if only we’ll teach them how to rebuild. If only we’ll send disciplers to help them figure out how to re-create their nation.
Here the poor are so easily led that the most desperate of them post large billboards over their huts advertising allegiance to the Communist party, who’s ideals tore the nation apart so recently, simply on the promise that they will be helped. Their ignorance is rivalled only by their desperation…
But their desperation is rivalled by their ingenuity. While many lack even basic education, and many lucky ones can hope only for high school, this is not a simple people. They are creative and clever in finding solutions to problems, and I have seen hacks and inventions that put our own ideas of how vehicles, or electricity or irrigation should work to shame. And they are entrepreneurial in spirit, almost every one of them a salesman and business owner.
Last time we were in Asia we learned how the Old Testament tells not just the story of God’s love for His kids, but how it contains the details of how God used Moses to build a nation, providing principles, information, and practical instruction on not just religion, but everything from hygenine to child care. In Cambodia exists an opportunity to teach the Old Testament template for nation building, the New Testament instruction on Christ-like behaviour, and the whole Bible’s love story of God reconciling the lost to fellowship with Him.
Here in Cambodia are the lost sheep, so eager for the loving staff of a shephard to guide them, and help them grow healthy again. This is what God has His people on earth for: to reach and teach and heal and love. We are not sent to give them another religion — although most of them will happily trade what they’ve got for what we have. We are sent to teach them how to live. This place is breath-taking and awe-inspiring, these people are beautiful and wonderful, but this country is cloked in the darkness of sin. And whether in Cambodia, or elsewhere in the world, we are called to pierce that darkness with His Glory and Light.
The responsibility is an awesome one, but we are not given the option of turning it down.

Asia 2010 – Siem Reap

It was another early morning when we hauled ourselves out of bed for a 4am departure. Dad drove us all to the airport, where we got checked in, had a McDonald’s breakfast, and Coffee Bean chai lattes. The flight wasn’t long, but gave us some good time to process what we’d seen so far.
Malaysia is a good entry point to Asia because its quite modern, and multi-cultural. Cambodia is… less modern. The plane pulled up outside the airport, not at a gate — it looked more like a parking lot. There were no marked paths, and there was no security — there was only one other plane there — and we were left to sort of wander our way towards customs. The entry process into the country is hilariously over-done — your Passport is seen by a line of at least 10 people, none of whom speak anything but their own language, all of whom presumably provide some sort of rubber stamp on your Visa.
When we finally got through, we stepped out into a pretty rural, wonderfully simple, fairly tropical world. Our taxi driver was friendly, and we were whisked quickly to our lovely little hotel off a dirt road.
Since then, we explored and climbed 3 different ancient ruins, including the famous Angkor Wat, held a Bible study and prayed to the living God while perched atop the crumbling remains of a temple to false gods while the sun set in the distance, took a nerve-wracking Tuk Tuk ride into the middle of nowhere where we climbed onto a little boat and visited a floating village, shopped the night market, and enjoyed a couple different unique eating experiences — which included eating some crocodile!
I thought I’d do a better job of blogging this, and be Skyping home more often, but there’s just too much to see and do, and so little time to do it in. It’s just 6am here — I’ve been up since 5, although the girls seem to need more sleep than me — and we’re shortly boarding a bus for Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Our travel party is in good health and good spirits, and we can hardly wait to see what else God has in store for us there…

Asia 2010 – The Beginning

We arrived early in the morning on Tuesday, here in Kuala Lumpur. Dad picked us up at the airport and whisked us down empty highways to my parent’s cuet little condo outside of downtown.
Yesterday we spend the day exploring KL, saw the Batu Caves, more malls than I care to remember, and of course, the Petronas Twin Tower. Ate at Burger King and then had some Indian food for dinner, and got back late evening to strategize and pack for the next leg.
Its just shy of 4am, while the girls do their last minute prep, then we we’re back to KLIA LCCT to fly out to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Hopefully will have time to blog some while we’re there.