Alex's Blog | Myanmar

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Alex's Blog | Myanmar

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Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Yangon, the capital city of Myanmar (formerly Burma). Our international team (Filipino, Singaporean, and American) taught over 40 people about Christian media and video production. Our participants were lay leaders and pastors and came from all parts of Myanmar and almost half had very little experience in video production. This is the first nationwide production workshop in our sending organization's history and it was an honor to be a part of such a monumental event in the country's history. _betsyalex_rotatorbanner_myanmar_longyi

Myanmar is a place that has been in a time warp for almost 50 year. Within the last 18 months, it has begun opening up to the outside world. The country is moving fast away from the typewriters and land line phones I encountered in the markets on this  trip and toward Internet cafés and cell phones that are now available in Myanmar at reasonable prices. Myanmar was one of three countries that did not manufacture Coke (Cuba and North Korea being the other countries). Until nine months ago, Coca-cola was only available via bringing it in from Thailand or Singapore and was considered very expensive.  We bought a bottle of Coke at a local convenience store and the price was printed right on the bottle, something Coke NEVER does, making it clear that this is a product for the masses.

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Just as the Gutenberg printing press drew people close to Jesus at the launch of the Reformation, I believe that media in Myanmar can be the catalyst for change to draw people toward Jesus. There is cautious anticipation and optimism among the people. When we met with national church leaders, they stressed the timeliness of our being here and are  hoping the church can creatively take advantage of this moment to bring the Message of Jesus to the people of Myanmar through media.  So please, continue to pray for Myanmar so that through media Buddhists may see the light of Jesus.

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Betsy + Alex Blog | Metro Manila Flooding

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Betsy + Alex Blog | Metro Manila Flooding

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Luzon needs your prayers. Luzon is the name of the island where we live, which includes Metro Manila. Both Monday and Tuesday this week, schools and government offices have been canceled due to flooding caused by monsoon rains. Heavy rain began Sunday evening, letting up Monday afternoon/early evening then continuing to present without letting up for more than an hour. The water was able to recede Monday afternoon/evening, but the heavy rains beginning Monday evening have wreaked havoc. Our neighborhood and the school where Betsy teaches lie high in the mountains so the rain flowed down and away without affecting our home or Betsy's school. However, the areas where we shop, where Alex works, and the surrounding rural provinces experienced flooding. Water swelled into homes and businesses. Last we heard, the death toll was at 7, with 11 wounded and 4 missing. The state weather agency issued a red level alert because of flooding in low-lying areas and because of the amount of rain expected per hour. As the river and flood waters converge, some residents move to their roofs to avoid being trapped in their homes. Over 50 streets in the area are impassable. Pray the storm will move on. Pray for hope. Pray for comfort. Pray for provision. Pray for people to know Jesus more. "...Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you..." Psalm 32: 6-8

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Betsy + Alex | Answered Prayer

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Betsy + Alex | Answered Prayer

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For nearly a year, our biggest prayer request has been finding someone to rent our townhome in Chicagoland for the year we’re in the Philippines. We would have loved to have a renter lined up before we left the country. Of the many interested parties we met/heard from, our townhouse wasn’t meant for any of them. Through a mutual friend who saw our YouTube video months ago, however, God brought us a renter who will be blessed by our place and who will be a huge blessing to us. She will both enjoy and take care of our home. That is exactly what we have been praying for all this time. We are so thankful for her and so thankful for each of you and your prayers. Prayer is powerful. Thank you for partnering with us in prayer. Let’s praise God together!!!

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Betsy's Blog | First Week at Faith Academy

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Betsy's Blog | First Week at Faith Academy

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There are quite a few differences that I have discovered over the past week at my new school in the Philippines from the schools I have taught at in Chicagoland:

  • In Chicagoland, first period opens with pledge and announcements on intercom. At Faith Academy Manila, first period opens with teacher making announcements, reading Scripture, and prayer.
  • In Chicagoland, I can answer students’ questions about faith. At Faith Academy Manila, I integrate faith and academic learning.
  • In Chicagoland, I teach more classes; shorter school day. At Faith Academy Manila, I teach less classes; longer school day.
  • In Chicagoland, all kids are in the lunchroom with multiple staff. At Faith Academy Manila, kids spread out on campus with a roaming staff.
  • There are just under 900 students in 6th-8th grade at my school in Chicagoland. There are about 125 students in 6th-8th grade here at Faith Academy Manila.
  • The students are busy outside of school with club sports, youth group, volunteering, park district activities in Chicagoland. Here in Manila, the community doesn’t offer much for middle school students. Faith Academy Manila offers more clubs, sports, youth groups and volunteer opportunities.
  • Schools in Chicagoland have indoor hallways. Faith Academy Manila has outdoor, covered hallways
  • The average class size in Chicagoland is 30+ students. The average class size here at Faith Academy Manila is less than 20.
  • In Chicagoland, my classroom is set back from the street with an amazing view of the forest preserve. At Faith Academy Manila, my classroom is set in the mountains with a view of the Manila skyline, mountains, and tropical plants.
  • Students ride bus, walk, or carpool to school from within district boundaries to schools in Chicagoland. Students walk, ride a 15 passenger school van, or carpool from across the Metro Manila area to Faith Academy Manila. Very few missionary students live in the dorms.

Students from one of my classes.

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Whatever cultural/environmental differences there may be, middle school students are middle school students. Most are full of energy. Many are insecure and desperately wanting to fit in during a season when friendships ebb and change. Some friendships dwindle, which is painful, but others usually grow in their place. Students are trying new things, learning what they are (or aren’t!) good at, and forming habits and patterns which determine how they will make decisions for the rest of their life. Most of my beginning of the year sixth graders are enthusiastic and eager to learn. Please pray with me that this year the Holy Spirit will equip me to

  • connect with each student
  • communicate clearly and creatively
  • challenge my students to grow academically and in their faith
  • set an example as a student of the Word who also enjoys learning about the world around her
  • see my students as God sees them, see who they are becoming in Him
  • speak life and encouragement into my students

Thanks for your prayers, encouragement and support. Betsy Lyons

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Alex's Blog | Chiang Mai

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Alex's Blog | Chiang Mai

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Prior to coming to Chiang Mai, all of what I knew of Thailand was from a western perspective. “The King and I” (which is outlawed in the country), amazingly spicy cuisine and the red light district was all the information I knew about the country. Over the past week with the help of new missionary friends and the Thai nationals I have met, my knowledge has expanded and I have learned a few things. betsyalex_blog_alexelephant

Thai people are very polite and when thanking or greeting someone hold their hands together and say “Sawadee kap” (welcome) or “Capcuhn kap” (thank you). While there are thriving cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai, most of Thailand is rural.

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The markets, and especially Chiang Mai’s famous night market, are open every night are filled with fresh food, colorful textiles and flavorful spices for you to purchase. The vendors are very warm and welcoming. My favorite food while in Thailand was a local northern Thai noodle dish. Pronounced  “khow soi”, this spicy coconut milk with red curry and noodles served with crunchy noodles on top was the one of the best things I have ever eaten.

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The public transportation is very similar to the Philippines, though they drive on the left. A tricycle here in Thailand is called a “tuk tuk”. The jeepney here is called a “songtaw”. Unlike a jeepney, you can ask a songtaw driver to go to a specific place verses the specific route like the jeepneys travel.

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While the Buddhist temples are architecturally stunning and ornate, they also break my heart over the deception and veil that is over the eyes of those who worship these idols. Most hotels and even the airport have places where you could choose to pray to these buddhist false deities.

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AGMF Country Moderator Sam Bowdain told us about missionary Daniel McGilvary. This man and his epic beard that would put any hipster to shame, would travel in a full suit in 100 degree weather to evangelize the Thai and Laos people. Many years after his death, there are still churches in Laos and Thailand from the descendants of the disciples of the original churches he planted in the 1800’s.

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The Asia Pacific meeting was a great time to sing in worship to Jesus together with our fellow missionaries. Former American Idol Contestant Phil Stacey and students from SAGU led our times of praise.

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We launched our region's new vision, mission and values and the “SpendYourself” marketing campaign. It was great to see and hear our coworkers’ response to the new brand. The video that the LyonTamer Productions team created was premiered with much applause and missionary after missionary were excited to use it to explain how they are “spending themselves” in Asia Pacific. Watch this video to see if God is challenging you to “spend yourself” in Asia Pacific.

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AGWM executive team members Greg Mundis and Jeff Hartensfeld challenged us how we could spend ourselves to reach the unreached and forgotten and have them no longer be without a relationship with Jesus.

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In addition to connecting with missionaries from all over Asia Pacific, we had a time to connect and glean from our coworkers from all over the Philippines. We also had a time to pray for each other during our meetings.

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We asked a lot of questions and listened to their wisdom, trials and victories as they have served over the years. We pray we can be the next part of what God is doing in Asia Pacific and the Philippines as we grab the baton and run our race of faith to reach the unreached and forgotten.

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After learning all that I have this week in Chiang Mai, I am excited to put into practice and challenged to see how the Lord will stretch me in Asia Pacific. Watch this video to see how you can continue to pray for Betsy and I as we continue along our journey.

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Betsy Blog | My first week and a half

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Betsy Blog | My first week and a half

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After living in Manila for one and a half weeks, learning and observing rank as high priorities. Because Alex spent a little over a month here in 2009, he’s told me stories about many aspects of Filipino culture. These one and a half weeks, I saw his words evidenced as true with my own eyes! 1. Public restrooms don’t have toilet paper and often lack seats and soap as well. BYOTP (Bring your own toilet paper...and anti-bacterial hand gel.)

2. As our vision video states, traffic really is legendary! There are few traffic lights in this most densely populated city in the world. Cars, motor bikes, trikes, jeepneys, and pedestrians swerve in and out of lanes at will. To turn without a traffic light, simply start edging out in front of traffic. Consider tapping the horn as well. During super busy hours, an officer may open up a “counter flow,” where vehicles takes over an extra lane on the oncoming traffic side. Some pedestrians/people on public transportation cover their nose/mouth with a bandana or towel to help filter the pollution. Alex and I laughed when we passed an emission test site. Jeepneys and other vehicles regularly spew black smoke into the already smoggy air. To help battle the congestion and pollution, each car has a “no drive day.” On that particular day of the week, the car is not allowed on the main roads except between 10 and 3. Our no drive day is Tuesday, the day we picked up our car. Alex was nervous about driving in Manila, but he’s driven wonderfully! The longer we’re here, the more we recognize the flow and organization to the chaos. ; ) I’m still not used to how close vehicles move, however!

3. There are bugs. Cockroaches from time to time and many species of ants enjoy the tropics, and even our home. Cinnamon deters ants. On counters, walls, ceilings, and floors, Baygone chalk works wonders to keep bugs at bay. : )

4. Tagalog speakers use the term “po” (ma'am/sir) as a term of respect. Often, native speakers weave in and out of Tagalog and English in the same conversation (Taglish). Their tone is sing-songy and cheerful. Filipinos are an extremely respectful people.

5. No vacuum cleaners are needed, as buildings use tile/brick instead of carpet. It’s much easier to mop, especially in an area prone to flash flooding.

6. Malls provide entertainment and air conditioning (in a city where electricity is extremely expensive). They are huge; Mall of America has nothing on the malls of Asia! Park at any mall for less than a dollar, or walk there for free. Then walk around enjoying the “free” aircon. Often, the atrium provides some kind of fun activity. In our few days living here, we’ve experienced a festival for pregnant moms, a Jolibee Kids Club presentation, a group Doodle contest on giant butcher paper, and a giant Cadbury chocolate organ filled with flowing chocolate. We’ve stopped to watch each one. : )

7. On your way into the mall parking lot, expect to stop the car for a trunk inspection. Finding a spot is easy due to the red/green light system over the cars. Open spots light up green. Occupied spots light up red. This is a system we’d love to see in the states! Open your purse while walking in and let the guard stick his/her wooden baton inside to quickly take a look while another guard checks your person.

8. Stores like Target or Walmart are unnecessary, as everything is available at malls. Department stores, grocery stores, hardware stores, restaurants, etc. Since plastic bags are illegal, many customers use reusable fabric bags. When customers don’t bring reusable bags, stores give out paper bags, wrap items in tissue paper, or tie string around heavy/large items to make them easier to lug home. The Philippines offers some items we expected not to find. We located size 12 womens shoes at a Payless even though we heard that it’s hard to find higher than a size 8. Someone must have told them we were moving here for a year!

9. Skyscrapers abound, but not more than slums. You can’t arrive at skyscrapers without driving by the slums and villages with homes/businesses lined up right next to the road. I’ll never forget one of the first days I was here seeing a young girl stand up from resting on the pavement, pick up her box, and find a spot a few feet away. She squatted, used the “restroom” (hiding behind the box stood up on its side), then walked back to her spot on the pavement. This contrast reminds me of something we learned in Pre-Field Orientation (PFO). The Filipino culture has a high power distance. They expect the wealthy to have extra privileges and to be able to break certain rules. They expect the poor to have less rights, opportunities, and privileges. It’s normal and right to them, where our American eyes see injustice.

10. Another concept we learned at PFO was that relationship rules in Asia. We must spend significant time investing in relationships. Driving home night before last, we drove within inches of families, tables, and chairs set up in the street right next to our townhouse. We stopped by to introduce ourselves and found out we had crashed a ten year old boy’s birthday party. They insisted we stay and join them to eat. We met many moms, a few dads, lots of children, and a couple grandpas! They were all warm, welcoming, and friendly. Pray we can continue to develop effective relationships with our neighbors.

As we continue to learn, Lord (Panginoon), help us to remain soft toward the work of your Spirit. Teach us, correct us, encourage us, and work through us even in our brokenness. We need you so desperately.

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Alex's Blog | Mabuhay to Manila

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Alex's Blog | Mabuhay to Manila

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We have arrived safely in Manila, our home for the next year! I wanted to give you a snapshot of our first few days:

  • After leaving the states on July 1 and a journey of 24 hours, we arrived in Manila about noon on July 3 (11pm on July 2).
  • We were greeted by Abe from APMM (Asia Pacific Media Ministries) and Mark from AGMF (Assemblies of God Missionary Fellowship) along with his little dog Chico.
  • After stopping at McDonalds for lunch, we went to our new home to drop off all of our suitcases. We meet their friend Lisa and got the tour of our new place before heading back to AGMF, where upon arrival, we crashed and woke up the next day.
  • We slept for about 14 hours in the AGMF building, where we will be staying the next few days.
  • We woke up and waked outside around Quezon City (pronounced "kay-son" as in "on") before enjoying breakfast with two other couples as we started AGMF Orientation!
  • The orientation discussed the history of the AGMF in the Philippines, culture shock, and administrative details.
  • We went to the first and original Max's for lunch (Max is a fried chicken chain here) and had pizza for dinner from Yellow Cab (another chain)

Today we go to get our driver's license to brave the streets of Manila and get our cell phone today! We plan on moving into our apartment by Monday.

Thanks for all your prayers and we will give you more details about our transition soon!

Alex

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Betsy + Alex | Pre-Field Orientation

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Betsy + Alex | Pre-Field Orientation

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The first week of pre-field orientation stands out as amazing. We met friends from around the world who are obeying a similar call to GO. The details of how, when, where, and why vary, but each of us forms a part of the story God is weaving. Times of encouragement, prayer, worship, fellowship, fun, and training abound. The days prove to be full and exhausting, yet exhilarating and exciting. As we move to Manila with its four seasons (hot, very hot, wet, very wet : ), we need to not only plan what to pack but also how we can prepare for cultural changes. While American culture expects equality for all, the Philippines expect and tolerate favorable treatment of the wealthy and powerful. The Philippines also has distinct gender roles. Relationship takes priority over all else in the Filipino culture; throw individualistic tendencies and to do lists out the window!

Please pray that as we engage in a new culture, we can run the “mental software” necessary to quickly and effectively form working relationships with the people. Also, pray that we find a trustworthy party to rent our townhouse in Aurora. Finally, pray for our transition as we finish orientation, pack for the Philippines, and say final goodbyes to friends and family.

Salamat sa iyo kaya magkano ang para sa iyong suporta! (Thank you so much for your support!) Your prayers and partnership overwhelm us daily and remind us of the generosity and grace of our Creator.

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Betsy + Alex | On Our Way!

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Betsy + Alex | On Our Way!

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After just over 7 months of raising support, we would like to publicly announce that we have received initial clearance and approval from the Assemblies of God World Missions office to leave for Asia Pacific in July! Rejoice with us in this exciting news! We still need to receive travel clearance, visa clearance and regional clearance before we purchase tickets and set a hard departure date, but we plan on leaving near July 1 and are excited that that is a very strong possibility!  This final process could take several weeks or even a month, so please pray for this process to be expedited. We are really humbled by how God has provided for us along our journey so far, but there is still more to do! God is continuing to give us vision of additional projects and ways to serve throughout Asia Pacific. To take on these projects, we need additional funding.  Here are some projects that we feel the Lord is putting on our heart Equipment: Editing System - $4000 Alex needs an editing and motion graphics computer system to be able assist on projects within the current APMM workflow. This equipment would stay with APMM after Alex and Betsy’s term and will be a great resource to the APMM team. This will also provide resources for an Filipino college senior internship that Alex is developing to work alongside American college students providing on-the-job-training.

Myanmar: Video Production Training - $1100 Myanmar is open to the Gospel for the first time in 50 years. This is a tremendous opportunity for APMM to pour into church leaders like never before. Alex has been invited to develop a training for church leaders in September.  Pray for Alex as he prepares and presents at a media workshop for these urban churches.

Taiwan: Video Production/Motion Graphics Training - $1000 Alex has been invited to working alongside APMM staff in the Taiwan studio  to develop short video segments for believers on a website in China.

Hong Kong: Pre-Production Scouting - $900 APMM is in pre-production on a feature length film about the Overseas Filipino Worker, or OFW. Alex has been invited to interface a film crew in Hong Kong to research video production equipment and personnel.

Indonesia: Video Production Training - $1000 Alex has been invited to provide training for local leaders. Alex would also film footage for future use and possibly work along side missionary and friend Jamie Kemp.

Prayer Requests: Would you pray that God would continue to be faithful in providing for us and these additional opportunities? Here are some additional ways you can pray for us: 1. We still need a renter for our town house. Please pray God provides a perfect renter and share this video with anyone you feel would be interested. 2. We are feeling a bit overwhelmed with all we have to do before we leave for Asia Pacific. Pray for endurance during our last few days in the US and that we use our time wisely and efficiently. 3. Pray that our final clearance can be expedited so we may purchase tickets quickly.

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Betsy + Alex | Our Manila town house!

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Betsy + Alex | Our Manila town house!

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We are excited to announce that we found a place to live for our one year in Manila! We will be staying in a two bedroom town house in Manila that is about 5 minutes from Faith Academy by foot.  What is even better about the house is that we are renting it from a furloughing missionary, so we will not need to bring furniture, appliances or cooking supplies! Praise God! Check out some photos of the place below! You can still be in prayer for our town house in the states; we have yet to find a renter. If you know someone who may be interested, please let us know. Here is a short video walkthrough of our town house in Aurora.

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Betsy + Alex | Townhouse Walkthrough

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Betsy + Alex | Townhouse Walkthrough

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One of our main prayer requests is that we find a reliable renter for our townhouse while we are in Asia Pacific from July 2013 to July 2014. Our two bedroom, two car garage, and one and a quarter bathroom is located at 2332 Reflections Drive in Aurora, IL. Please share this video to anyone looking for a place to live in the area. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVKuFemDu5g

 

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