Today marks exactly one month since I've lived in Malaysia and one week since I have settled into my new home at the Seri Mengasih Center. Uffda! So much has happened and, as I tried to explain in Malanglish to my new housemates, it's a bit "overwhelming" sitting down to write a blog about… so, so much.
Let's start simple: day-to-day living style and patterns.
I am happily residing in the "Group Home" with seven other young women who work at the Seri Mengasih Center. I have my own private room, complete with "Air Con" (woohoo!!), two huge closets, WiFi, mini fridge and a bathroom with a washing machine in it. We share a kitchen and common space, as well as meals together, lots of laughing, some language barriers (not much, though - they are great at English!) and the occasional Korean or Philippine romantic comedy.
|I went to cook something one night and found THIS in the wok on the stove! Yikes!! Natalie shared it with everyone, though, and it was delicious!|
I can see the beach from my window and enjoy yoga and/or running on it every morning. I ran in the afternoon one day and someone at the Center apparently saw me (and thought I was crazy, because it was "too early and too hot") and asked the next day if I wanted to join him in the early evening, as he runs every day, too. So, now I have a running buddy! Awesome!
|Selfie the first night in my new backyard.|
The public beach ("Beach One") in my neighborhood of Tanjung Aru is about a 10 minute walk from me, as well as a number of restaurants and about 50 "food stalls." They serve everything from fresh caught seafood to corn on a stick, meat on a stick, fruit on a stick to fresh coconut milk - served straight-up with a straw in said coconut. Walk another 10 minutes and you get to the "downtown" area of Tanjung Aru, where I can get groceries, minutes for my super stellar Nokia phone (SO old school!!) and catch the bus into KK (Kota Kinabalu).
The loving, the challenging: Seri Mengasih Center
After serving in a church for three years, my supervisor, Peter, thought it would be a good stretch for me to experience serving at an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization). SMC is a center for differently-abled children to young adults. It provides a safe environment for young people with autism, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities to learn basic life skills and vocational training. For the first two weeks, I am rotating around to each of the areas (and there area a lot - around a dozen!) to see if there's a good fit for me in any one particular area.
So far, I've helped in the Sheltered Employment area in both the bakery and the canteen, observed the "Kopolo" class for autistic youth, worked with a few different Physical Therapists as they helped students one-on-one and spent time in the Multi-Sensory Room where kids dance, do various physical and mental "challenge courses" and just relax.
I am very much in the "observing" stage right now, as well as "learning" as I soak in everything around me AND practice my Bahasa Malayu. It's become very clear very quickly that Peter was quite right when he told me SMC is the perfect place to learn this new language. The people here are helpful, patient and willing to help me in whatever way they can. I am blessed beyond words.
SMC has SO many adorable, caring and quirky little people. I love them. I'm trying my best to learn the students' names, speak as much BM (Bahasa Malayu) with them as I can and just get to know each of them, individually. Some of them speak very good English and all of them try their darndest to communicate with me and make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Their welcoming smiles and personalities greet me anew every day and I can't wait to tell you more about them throughout the year!
|New buddy: Justin! He is obsessed with Justin Bieber and sang the entire song "Boyfriend" to my 4-year-old niece on FaceTime, one morning. When he finished 4 minutes later, she asked if he could sing another. Ha!|
SMC also has a fantastic staff. Most of them are 20-somethings, so I can already sense roots to some pretty awesome friendships forming. They are extremely welcoming and have already invited me to come visit their "kampung" or villages where they are from and travel together on weekend get-aways. Over the years, I've learned there is nothing more vital than a solid community at work and it seems I am blessed with yet another great one!
New adventures in worship and faith community:
This morning, I was beyond thrilled to get completely enveloped in a church community at Abundant Life Celebration, a BCCM church in KK. The BCCM is part of the Lutheran World Federation and it was SO FREAKIN EXCITING to hear a sermon in Malaysia about Marty Luther and "faith as works." Ha! The pastor was very charismatic and when I talked to him after the service, I found out he was at Luther Seminary (staying in Stub!) this month! What??! This was amazing in itself, but the truly thrilling part of the morning was when we (Peter, fellow YAGMs Sarah and Delia and I) were bombarded - in the most loving possible way - by over a dozen youth from the church. They were ecstatic about talking with us and took us out for lunch, treated us to "Bubble Tea," pulled a great prank on Delia and are taking us to the movies, tonight.
I have felt a very prominent void in the lack of a faith community here until today and I thank God for the opportunities that lie ahead with this community. Word got around that I have served as a youth leader and am studying to become a pastor, so the people at Abundant Life and I are mutually excited about learning and growing together. One of the main reasons I felt called to serve with YAGM for this year was to try and find where God's church grows smaller by bridging God's people across the world. I am blessed with a loving congregation in Minnesota that prays for me, walks with me and loves me more than I could ever deserve. I'm excited to see how the "me" can change to a "we" as Minnesotans and Malaysians learn more about each other. We have many differences and things to learn about each other, but many similarities, as well. We already share a love for the same God and that seems like a pretty solid place to start.
Many thanks for those who are following! If there's anything you're curious about, please let me know. I feel I'm getting to the point where I can answer questions about this new place and I don't always know what strikes peoples' interests.
Also, I have my new address for those who have asked:
Seri Mengasih Centre
℅ Jenna B.
PWD 75 Jalan Selangor
88100 Tanjung Aru,
Kota Kinabalu Sabah, Malaysia
(Peace, blessings, joy)
Please pray that each of the YAGMs will continue to "settle" in their new spaces. Some things are very different right now. I know it's especially hard when people have major language barriers and dietary changes. I have been blessed with a good adjustment to the change in eating habits, but I know some are not as fortunate. Please also pray for patience and vulnerability, as we face the need to be dependent on those around us for various things like transportation and food. May God bless us with communities that care, challenge and support us and that we may do the same for them as we learn to be codependent brothers and sisters.