Sunday, 11 September 2016

Hari Merdeka and SEW

Merdeka 2016

August 31st marked the holiday here in Malaysia called Merdeka Day. Merdeka day celebrates the day of August 31, 1957 when the the Malayan peninsula gained its independence from British colonization and was called the Federation of Malaya. Hence, 31 August is a National Public Holiday to commemorate and celebrate the freedom and independence gained. Malaysia is a mere 59 years old! I was here in Malaysia when the nation celebrated their 50th anniversary of independence. I plan on being here when we celebrate the 60th!

This day is also known as Hari Merdeka in the Malay language and that is why the celebration of Independence Day is incomplete without the seven shouts of “Merdeka!”. This gesture was initiated by the First Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman back in 1957 at Dataran Merdeka.

Although it is only a one day public holiday, the celebration builds up from a month before right up to Malaysia Day which is on the 16th of September. More about that day next week.

SEW 2016

September the 6th marked the beginning of SEW or Spiritual Emphasis Week. SEW is a rich tradition and that finds its heritage in the days when Dalat was founded as a private Christian boarding school for children of Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) missionaries in South East Asia. While it is no longer affiliated directly with the CMA it continues to board children of missionaries from many Christian agencies and now reaches out to children of expat families. The school is governed by an interdenominational school board.

Dalat continues many of the traditions that are grounded in our Christian heritage. One of those traditions is a special week set aside to emphasize spiritual growth and the Christian life. There are numerous special required chapel services set aside during the school day and optional evening services. Worship teams, made up of Dalat students, lead the community in worship that is very special and moving.

Students Leading Worship

Dalat usually brings in a special speakers who minister all week to all of the students from elementary to high school and to the community as well. This year James Grout, former Director for Alliance (CMA) Youth, came to minister to the middle and high school students and preside over the evening sessions. Alisa Lawrence, local mom and director of children's ministries at Penang International Church,  provided leadership to the special chapel sessions for the elementary students.

This year the theme was "Fearless." The chapel and evening messages centered on the disciples of Christ in the book of Acts. How these people went from being afraid and hiding in a locked room to becoming the life changing history making people of the early church. They became fearless.

All in all it was a great week and made special by having James here. Marsha and I knew him when he was a student at Crown College (known then as St. Paul Bible College). He graduated in 1991. It was also good to see how the students responded to his sense of humor and the stories he told. He was an effective communicator. Thanks James! Come back and visit us again.

James Grout the last night

Special thanks also to Alisa who was her normal bubbly energetic self for our younger kids. You have to know Alisa to know how energetic she can be. She loves what she does and she especially loves working with kids. There are many days I see her greeting elementary kids being dropped off for school and they all shout out a "Hi Mrs. Lawrence." We get to live, love and work in a special community.

Keep our Senior class in prayer this week as they "sneak" off to an undisclosed destination for a week of special fellowship and fun. This is something they have been looking forward to for four years!

This final picture here was taken by James Grout while he was staying at the Rainbow Paradise Beach Resort. The resort is right next to Dalat. The view shows some of the Dalat campus. You can see the gymnasium and to the left of the gym you can see the construction site of our new four story dorm being built right on the ocean! Scheduled to be open for students next fall.

View of Dalat Campus.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

We Know How to Celebrate!

Indian Wedding Reception

Photo by Mark Sasse
Photo by Mark Sasse
Living in a multicultural place like Penang is truly an adventure! We started our week going to an Indian wedding reception Sunday night. One of our security guards at Dalat invited us to attend his daughter's wedding reception. Many faculty and staff attended and Cecile was a very proud father of a very beautiful bride. 

The reception was unlike any I had ever attended. I had even attended his son's wedding reception five years ago and this one was so very different. It was a full blown theatrical production
Photo by Doug Yost
with costumes and all the pageantry! The wedding reception had an Egyptian theme. 

The food was marvelous! It was catered by favorite Indian restaurant. The fellowship was sweet and the music was lively. All in all it was a lovely evening. I just love living in Penang. 

Open House at Dalat

On Friday of this past week we had open house at Dalat. It was a great time of celebration and kindling of new and old friendships. 

One of the highlights of the night was the dedication of the new building we call the CASTLE. Not it is not because the director has his office in the upper corner with a view of the ocean. We call it the the CASTLE because it stands for Center for Arts, Science, Technology, Library, and Educational Services. It is three stories tall and is a wonderful new facility that has become a hub of activity. The blessing is the building is free and clear, got done early and came under budget. Below are a few pictures of the building.
Choir singing from the entrance to the library.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Painted Mural in the new Library with a Bible Verse

I just love living in Penang and Working at Dalat!

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Hungry Ghost - Hungry Yost

This past Wednesday, August 17th was Hungry Ghost Festival all across Asia. This is a time when the "realms of Heaven and Hell and the realm of the living are open and both Taoists and Buddhists will perform rituals to transmute and absolve the sufferings of the deceased. Intrinsic to the Ghost Month is veneration of the dead, where traditionally the filial piety of descendants extends to their ancestors even after their deaths. Activities during the month would include preparing ritualistic food offerings, burning incense, and burning joss paper, a paper-mâché form of material items such as clothes, gold and other fine goods for the visiting spirits of the ancestors. Elaborate meals (often vegetarian meals) would be served with empty seats for each of the deceased in the family treating the deceased as if they are still living." (

This past Wednesday was also the annual "Man's Meal" for the male staff members at Dalat International School. This is a ritualistic meal where men eat, swap stories, and build relationships. This year we went to a restaurant called Northern Ribs.  A real man's restaurant. Wow the racks of barbecued ribs were huge and nestled on a heaping pile of mashed potatoes. Lots of napkins were needed. The event was well organize. Using an online form we could actually put in our meal request several days ahead of the event. I responded right away and was the first to respond! I actually ordered chicken schnitzel. Meal after meal came out and no meal for me. Finally all were served, except me and one other guy. They apparently lost our order. I guess this is a case of the first being last. It may have been Hungry Ghost Festival today but it was rapidly turning in to a Hungry Yost day!! The folks at the restaurant were very apologetic and jumped right on our meals. It was worth the wait! They even gave both of us a discount. I will be back.

The Northern Ribs restaurant is within walking distance to my house so I had a nice stroll back home after a great Man's Meal. I passed several homes in my neighborhood where I saw a piles of smoking ashes in the street. These were burnt up offerings to the hungry ghosts. I live in a fascinating place.