Song Residence. 06:44.
Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia.
The air is hot, muggy. I am up early, with plans to run to Friendship Park with a few of the girls from my team. But first I sit here and let the morning envelope me with its warm embrace, to look ahead and anticipate all that God will do today.
The sun is just beginning to rise over the horizon. I am sitting on my balcony, drinking freshly brewed Chinese mint tea that was given to us yesterday after we finished farming. The extreme heat here in Malaysia has made some of the people on the team struggle with their health and our Chinese friends are passionate about plants with natural medicinal properties and are very generous in sharing them with us. I haven’t struggled with my health as much, thanks to a healthy digestive system (shoutout taking the ProBio and BioCleanse from Plexus). I love tea in the mornings and I certainly don’t mind the extra boost to my immune system.
I sit here at this balcony often to either watch the sunrise in the morning or at sunset and to process the events of the day. I watch as the clouds dance over the mountains, watch as people weave in and out of traffic. It’s an incredible thing to be able to immerse yourself fully into another culture so different from your own and to learn from them. I smile to myself, remembering some of the worries that I had about coming here. God has consistently wiped away all need to worry. One thing that I was worried about was driving in hectic traffic. They drive on the same side of the road as Aussies do which I was thankful for. But I expected it to be hectic driving here but instead, I’ve actually come to enjoy driving here more than I enjoy it in Australia, as the city is smaller and easier to navigate than Brisbane.
Worry only enlarges our problems and takes away our ability to trust God absolutely. God has been showing me recently how unnecessary it is to worry. “You can’t add even an hour to your life by worrying.” And I feel silly for ever worrying about driving here.
We are the first YWAM team to live on the third floor of Song Residence, about a ten minute drive from downtown Kuching. Most of the people who live here are university students, studying at the international university.
Kuching is situated along the Rajang River and has a lovely waterfront walkway with shops and restaurants and with a nightly water and fireworks show next to the hanging bridge. Kuching means “cat” in the Malay language and there are not only cats but there are also statues and murals and monuments about cats throughout the city.
In fact, for one of the girls on my team, Trayce, the cats were a confirmation to her that she was supposed to come to Malaysia on the outreach portion of her Discipleship Training School. She didn’t know that Kuching meant “cat” in Malay and didn’t even know that we would be spending most of our time in Kuching. But God kept giving her pictures of cats. It wasn’t until after she had chosen to come to Malaysia and googled some images of Kuching that she made the connection with why God kept giving her pictures of cats in correlation to choosing an outreach location.
Kuching is a culturally diverse city, a melting pot of sorts. There are the local Bahassa Malay people, the Iban people, Chinese and many other Asian culture represented. It made learning the language difficult because at each village that we would visit and even within the city, there were so many different languages and within the languages different dialects. So we learned a few words but not as many as we would’ve liked to.
One of our team members who was actually incredible with learning the language, learned this the hard way. He learned the word, “crazy” in Bahassa Malay which is “locho,” But he used it once in a remote village in reference to another team member when we were playing with the kids and being crazy and they were all dumbfounded. Come to find out, in that remote village, “locho” didn’t mean “crazy,” it meant, “demon possessed.” Oops.
“Lead from behind.”
God gave me the word to “Lead from behind” soon after our outreach location and team were revealed and we began to strategize about how to have an effective two-month outreach in Malaysia. I didn’t know what this meant at first. But I knew that it didn’t mean that it was in any way an excuse for me to be lazy and not take initiative to do things that I expected the students to do.
In retrospect, I feel like the concept of “leading from behind” really helped me to motivate and propel the team forward. As a leader on the team, I had logistics to figure out and I did need to take a supportive role and really push them forward in the ministries that we did. It really made me incredibly proud to watch them step outside of their comfort zones and do what God was calling them to do even when it was uncomfortable and hard.
The night that they announced who would be on our team, I remember standing up front with a mic in my hand and four envelopes in my hand and opening them one by one and calling people up to join my team. I did not know who would be the next person I called until I had opened the next envelope and read out the name.
The anticipation was huge.
The shock of finding out who was on my team was even bigger. “What a random group of people!” But you know what? It wasn’t random at all. God had a purpose and plan in placing each one of us on this team. That became even more evident as we learned and grew together and by the end of the two months I looked around and shook my head. No, no this was not random. This was God-orchestrated.
We had the hardest time coming up with a team name but finally settled on naming ourselves, “Team Prism.” Because we were all so different and unique but we all worked together to shine the light of Christ in our own way and it wouldn’t have been complete without all of the colors represented.
Let me tell you a little bit about the meaning behind our team name. We actually called ourselves, “Team Malaylay” for the first few weeks that we were together but we needed a more official name and as we prayed about it, we kept getting visions of color. Lots of different colors all together like a rainbow but a bit different. And that’s when we landed on the idea of a prism. The concept of this “prism” is that God shines His light into each one of us and that we each show His love through. our own unique characteristics, creating a prism of colorful light.
My co-leader, Nathan from New Hampshire in the US. Then there was Oscar from the UK, Cameron from North Carolina (shoutout to my fellow North Carolinian), Anastasia from Canada, Miriam from Arizona in the US, Charity from Wyoming in the US, Trayce from North Dakota in the US, Kassie from Oregon in the US, Lindsey from Nebraska in the US.
They say you carry a little bit of home with you wherever you go. This was true of Lindsey, who is from Nebraska. We’d be driving through the jungle on the way to a village and she’d say, “This reminds me of Nebraska!” At first we looked at her with raised eyebrows. How does this jungle remind you of your midwestern home?
But then I started to realize that this was her way of finding familiarity in an unfamiliar place. It became a team quote. We’d see something that we knew was exactly opposite of Nebraska and we’d say, “Hey, this reminds me of Nebraska!”
Our team had so much fun together. We weren’t perfect and we definitely had our “stretching” moments of uncomfortable growth to work through but God was so faithful and really blended us together as a family. I am so thankful for each of the members on my team, who supported and encouraged me and also who are so willing to step outside of their own comfort zones to do ministry, to meet people and to serve in whatever capacity we were asked to. They were the best!
So come along as I share our experiences with you. This is only the beginning. I plan to share individually about each village that we visited (we went to four in total) and then a few stories from Kuching. There will be videos to go along, so go grab your popcorn and settle in for story time with Gretta.
Fun fact: In Malaysia you can only buy caramel or sweet popcorn. There is no such thing as buttered or salted popcorn, much to one our team members chagrin. So if you, like Trayce, love salted/buttered popcorn, you may want to take your own stash when you travel to Malaysia.