I could go on and on about how busy and chaotic life has been...but it really just boils down to... I'm sorry that I've not taken the time to really update everyone lately!
In my last post, I mentioned three announcements. The first was that I didn't know when I would be getting back to Asia. The second was that I am starting my own nonprofit called Shared Vision and the last was that I'm going back to school! I'd like to update you on each of those...but in reverse!
First, yesterday I finished my last exam for this semester! Final grades are not yet in, but in looking at my preliminary assessments, I am pretty proud of how well I did after having been out of school since 2010! I'm taking on a heavier load next semester, however, and would appreciate any and all prayers you might spare for that!
Shared Vision is still on track! I've begun the process and am working with another organization to help make sure everything I am doing is above board and is actually doable. It's a four-phase process to have the nonprofit fully functional and right now, I am between phases two and three, which just means I've sent off a lot of information to the government and I am waiting on paperwork to return with their stamp of approval! So excited about the future of this nonprofit!
And now for Asia. As I sit and type this post, I am currently across the globe eating foreign foods, practicing another language, and experiencing sunshine while most of my friends and family are at home asleep under the starlit skies.
My 8 weeks away transformed into 8 months due to lockdowns and the need to have my passport renewed. I've been back here for over two weeks now and it still feels surreal! I'm thankful that I still remember most of the language that I had previously learned. (I still speak like a three-year-old, but I'm happy I didn't lose much of it!)
I was fortunate to be able to see the graduation of seven students from the Bible College in the capital city two days after my arrival! Hearing their stories about where they have come from, what made them choose to do Bible College, and what they plan to do afterward literally had me teary-eyed. God is SO faithful! And while I was very thankful to witness this and be reunited with dear friends, my favorite day was the following day when I was able to get back to "my home" away from home....where my family and kids are!
The house garden and greenhouse vegetables are all thriving. We celebrated one birthday (for a young man who lives with us whose name means "blessing" and that's exactly what he is to this family!). We have many more birthdays coming just in the next month alone! We had some visitors come for a couple of days and went up the mountain to check on the farm. I taught the kids what a "plank" was and that resulted in multiple planking competitions...after the first day, one of the little boys said to me "I can't move! My stomach has too much pain!" (He competed three times and won two of those competitions...lasting no less than three minutes each time! He keeps wanting to compete against me...but I'm not sure my pride could take the loss! Haha)
I'm so very thankful to spend this time with the kids that stole my heart!! We put up the Christmas tree this past weekend and I've been teaching them a Christmas song that we intend to film and make a short video with! They currently have a list of difficult English words posted on their bedroom wall that they are practicing every day. Can you guess the song based on the words? They include world, thorns, heaven, earth, righteousness, curse, and receive. (The "th" sound isn't the same in their language as it is in English and they typically replace "v" with "b" sounds). Every day they are improving dramatically and I'm excited for them to perform on Christmas!
Speaking of Christmas, the pastor's family is planning to do an outreach to a nearby village to distribute blankets to families for Christmas as it is getting colder here. A decent blanket is about $8 here and our goal is 60 families (just under $500USD) if you are inclined to contribute! If so, I am on Venmo (@Darien-McClung), CashApp ($DarienMcClung), Paypal (paypal.me/dariendeemarie), and Zelle (my personal phone number...contact me for that) and I am happy to utilize those funds well! (If you need a tax receipt, you can donate to my church and they will get it to me. This will be the best way until Shared Vision is fully operational!) If this is something that interests you, please send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will give you more instructions about giving in this way!
In addition to this outreach, we will be teaching the kids in the home about giving back this year as well. We will be giving each of them a small amount of money (like $20), taking them to the store, and giving them a budget with which they need to buy something they need, something they want, and something for someone else. Out of this money, they also will need to put some aside to save. Financial discipline isn't really something that is taught much here (or really many places, I suppose!) and we want to encourage the kids that THEY are responsible and are to steward money well and we can't wait to see how they choose to use their funds! They are pretty great kids, so I'm expecting a good outcome. Also, our area just opened its first-ever supermarket and most of the kids have never seen one, so we are excited to make a day of it and experience this with them! It's making necessities more accessible AND bringing jobs to the area, so we are very thankful!
On a personal level, here's a fun fact. Right now, it is mustard season and there are thousands upon thousands of gorgeous yellow flowers blooming all around me! Great for photos for sure (and for constant reminders about how God tells us how valuable even faith the size of a mustard seed can be!)...but, as beautiful as it is, turns out I'm allergic to its pollen! (I've never had a pollen allergy before, though I am also allergic to dust and cats). You'll see pictures of me with it because come on, it's stunning! Haha. But I'm living on Zyrtec at the moment!
Also, most of you may know that in the last two years, I've lost a lot of weight and I'm working towards becoming more and more fit to do God's work! That being said, the last two weeks have involved a lot of travel and a lot of "celebratory" meals...so, I've actually gained some weight (which I'm already losing again, but still!). Anyways, I love other cultures because so often, they are brutally blunt. (I appreciate it more than you may realize!) In my time back, I was told my face was getting fatter, I look like I've been "eating well," and my personal favorite was that my body looks like a fish! Haha. (We later deduced that she meant mermaid...but that was a first for me!) It reminds me of when I was in Thailand and one of the locals lovingly told me I looked like a cow! (Yes, really. And yes, he was truly trying to give a compliment!)
There is much to do in my time here with gathering information and photos we can use for Shared Vision and for helping the pastor and ministry here that I am connected with. I'm looking forward to sharing with you all of the beauty that there is to see in this country! The land is beautiful, but the people are even more so. One day, I hope you'll come and see for yourself!
This may have left you with more questions than answers, but just know that all is well and God is good! I'm forever filled with gratitude for you and the interest you show in how God works in my life. How very blessed I am! Praying so much PEACE and joy over you and yours this Christmas season!