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Ten!

Ten years ago I began the journey of a lifetime – marriage. I’m so thankful for the great Summer Dawn and all she means to me. We could not have predicted at that time the life we have now – our three precious children, our move from India to Thailand, knowing each other so much more than we did then. I’m so grateful for all we have. I look forward to the next ten years to come (and beyond).

Summer is wonderful woman. She’s a solid source of strength for our family. She loves God and takes delight in serving others. She is faithful and generous. As we become parents again now for the third time, I’m reminded of the sacrifice that it takes to be a mother. We are so blessed that she is the mother in our little tribe.

As we celebrate our anniversary today, I thought I’d take a moment to thank God for her presence in my life. I love you Summer Dawn. May this year’s journey be blessed…

Minolta DSC

Thai Meal Fundraiser

If you are in or near Lancaster County on June 20th, don’t miss the Thai Meal Fundraiser at Willow Street Mennonite Church!

Don’t forget to RSVP by June 13th…

D&S Houser

(click to enlarge)

See the Facebook event here.

Blessings to you all!

Coming Back

As most of know, we are expecting the birth of our first son in May. We have been assuming all this time that we would stay here in Thailand for the delivery. Recently, we were discussing when we should plan our next trip to America. It seemed likely we would need to plan to go in summertime or take our kids out of school if we wanted to come during another time of year. As we were discussing the possibilities, we started to reconsider having the baby here and looking at having him in Pennsylvania instead. If we waited until the latest time Summer could fly (around 34-36 weeks pregnant) and left to come back when our son is first able to fly (8 weeks is the recommendation for international flights), Kate would miss around one month of 1st grade. After looking at a calendar, it turns out she also has a two week break in April, which means even if we left here April 3rd, she would miss 28 days of school at the most.

As we began considering this possibility, several things fell together quickly that point in that direction. Kate’s school teacher assured us we could make up for the lost time easily (helped by the fact she already reads at a level more than a full year ahead of her age). The SOFM I staffed here last year during July through September 2014 will not be running until sometime in 2016. I will probably have a steady line of coaching over Skype during that time which I can continue with as long as I have good internet access. We found a great deal on flights from Chiang Mai to Newark, NJ (we plan to skip California this time since Summer was there when her Grandfather died). Someone is generously helping cover the cost of our travel. And one of our friends needs a place to stay in Chiang Mai during that time and will be subletting our house while we are gone. Going now will be much easier than next year since I will more likely be involved in an SOFM then, and our girls will be further along in school, making time away more complicated.

We are still have a lot of planning and packing and arranging to do, but we are booked to arrive in Pennsylvania early April and leave to return here mid July. We have been offered a beautiful place to house sit in April and May (as well as a vehicle to drive), and the rest of our housing is planned out. We look forward to being with friends and family for a few months and catching up with many of you during our time there. Thank you for your ongoing support and concern for us. We are greatly blessed!

We now have a fundraiser up on a giving site called youcaring.com. This is the first time we’ve done an online fundraiser, and it’s raised a lot of questions from others – and ourselves! Here are some of my thoughts on the process: (to see the fundraiser homepage, click here)

 

What are the main reasons you need a newer vehicle? 

During our time in Thailand, we’ve been invited to do a number of things that involve traveling. Our roles with YWAM in Northern Thailand require visiting various ministry locations, and we also teach, contribute in leadership meetings, and attend or help lead outreaches into other provinces. Our car has been a great blessing, and we trust it every day on the roads of Chiang Mai. Longer trips do seem to come at a price though. Several times we’ve needed to send it to the shop shortly after returning home.

As our children grow, our transportation needs locally are expanding too. Dave has been getting to Thai class and other ministry functions on a motorcycle, but so far we’ve avoided taking our children anywhere with it. We hope that we won’t have to take that risk.

We’ve come to realize as well that 1st Class Insurance (which includes both liability and collision coverage) is only available on vehicles less than 10 years old. So buying an 8 or 9 year old car could mean losing the option of full coverage in just a few years.

 

Didn’t Dave Ramsey say never buy a new car?

Actually, he said never go into debt to buy a depreciating asset. We are not planning to have any debt and cars don’t depreciate in value nearly as fast in Thailand as they do in America. The 17 year old Toyota Corolla we purchased when we moved to Chiang Mai cost around 3 times what it would have in the States. Very high taxes (often up to 200% of the original value) on car imports, lower maintenance costs, and other factors keep the prices of new and used cars high. So while buying a used car feels very expensive, selling one might feel like a blessing!

 

This sounds like an awful lot of money. Do you really think you can raise that much?

It’s very overwhelming. We’ve never attempted to raise this much money before for anything. It would be nice in many ways to continue to put it off. We’ve been praying about this, and we are looking to God for our needs. It can be hard to do that when donations come from specific people. We also know that often needs have to be proclaimed before they are met. Asking for money is truly one of the worst parts of our calling, but it is the reality we live with. We are so grateful for all we have been given over the years. We don’t take it lightly that other believers have chosen to invest in us.

We’ve seen people struggle to raise $100 for a worthy cause and others raise millions for large projects with seemingly little effort. It can be hard to understand. We believe God is for us, and we know many people care for us. We hope no one will be offended that we asked, and that whoever does give will be able to do it willingly and cheerfully. We are trying to share the need with as many people as possible, allowing everyone to decide for themselves if they would like to be involved.

 

What happens if you only reach half your targeted amount?

We will do our very best to buy the best possible vehicle with whatever we get. We are trusting the Lord not only to provide finances for us, but to bring along the right deal on the right vehicle at the right time.

 

What if you end up leaving Thailand?

It’s not likely that we will be leaving Thailand any time soon. Having said that, we do realize that not everyone can stay in a place they feel called to for as long as they expect. We expect to keep anything we do buy in good condition and would hope for a good resale value. So a donation to us at this time is not just for an immediate purchase, but an investment in our family’s transportation needs long term. If we had to leave Thailand for whatever reason, we could use the money from selling the vehicle into another car wherever we would be off to next.

 

Isn’t the best time to raise money supposed to be in October?

That’s what we’ve heard. By God’s grace (and by yours), we’ve seen money come in when we’ve needed it, even at the most inopportune times (and often from places or people we didn’t expect). We know there are many other needs out there, and we don’t presume to in everyone’s focus all the time. We are simply sharing our need now because the best time for us to purchase something would be by the time our girls start the new school year.

 

Why didn’t you share about this earlier?

We’ve been thinking about it for a long time, but we’ve been finding other ways to get by. We’ve been praying and looking for wisdom into how and when to ask. As it is the biggest fundraiser we’ve undertaken, we’ve been hesitant. Nevertheless, it seems that now is the time.

 

How do you know you won’t spend all this money and get ripped off?

We can’t be 100% sure. But, we do know some reputable dealers and have friends who are knowledgeable about cars. In fact, one of our friends used to work at a car dealer and had to inspect cars that were being returned from leases to make sure they were still in appropriate condition. We will do our very best to find the most quality we can with whatever we receive.

 

If I give on the youcaring.com site, will it be tax-deductible?

No. If you’d like to receive a tax-deductible receipt for your gift, please send a check to the address below. We will receive 100% of the amount given and record the progress towards our goal as we are made aware that has been received. May God bless you in every way!

Make the check payable to “Willow Street Mennonite Church” with a note enclosed stating that it is for the car fund of David and Summer Houser, and mail it to:

Gordon Rohrer
MST Treasurer
2662 Hazelwood Rd.
Lancaster, PA  17601

 

If I give through the youcaring.com site, will you receive 100% of what I give?

It is possible, yes. The youcaring site is set up to allow giving for free, but they request a donation to make their site sustainable. After entering the gift amount, there is a place to enter a donation amount. There are options of 5%, other percentages, and 0. If you choose the 0 option, 100% of your gift would go to PayPal.com. PayPal is set up in such a way that a percentage is taken in each transaction, unless an account is “verified”. A “verified” account is simply an account that is tied to a specific bank account. So if you don’t have a PayPal account, you could simply create one and enter your bank account information and become verified. All of those steps are safe and free. If you gave from a verified PayPal account and selected “0” as your contribution to youcaring.com, then 100% of your gift would go directly to the fundraiser.

As I sit and type this, my daughters are coloring in the next room and workers across the street are finishing up with the construction of our neighbors new house. My heart is heavy, mostly thinking of a funeral about to begin hundreds of miles away. One week ago at this time, I was in that exact location. It was my last day of sharing in a staff training time. After lunch, I brought my bags down from the room I had been staying in. Outside of the door there was a picture taken around 10 years ago. It was the first training school they ever had in that location. In the front row sat an American man and his Korean wife. On her lap was a girl, perhaps around 2 years old.

As I made my way to the truck that would take me to the bus station, I said goodbye to several people. Some I had just met for the first time, others I have known for a few years. The same family of three from the photo on the wall were also there. I shook hands with them and said I hope to see them again soon. The wife smiled, then joked, “Don’t come back here without bringing your wife”. I said that I hoped to do that, and smiled at them. I didn’t actually speak with their daughter, now 12 years old. She seemed to be a tender young girl with many friends around the base there. I made my way back to Chiang Mai, and they made their own journey up here the next day.

Saturday night I received a phone call to learn they never returned. On their way back home, they were in a tragic accident and Jeff, Jiin (pronounced Jean), and Jasmine Roggenback all died. I did not know them well, but the reality that I just traveled those same roads and just had conversations with them is shocking and hard to get out of my mind. I keep thinking about last week and the four days I spent in that place. I think about the words I heard them speaking. And I think about their blog.

The Roggenback family blog may have seemed to be a normal site with some information and pictures to help those far away get imagine what their lives were like. Reading it now, it is striking how many times it mentions death. They had clearly thought about it, counted the cost, and made the choices they had to continue ahead with what they felt called to do. In reality, none of us know when our time here on earth will be over. The Roggenbacks clearly understood that their lives could end early, and they felt the risk was worth it.

One of the first things I shared last week was a quote a heard in my first weeks of training with YWAM. “You can learn something from every person you meet”. As I shared, I saw Jeff nodding in the back row. I learned from Jeff, and I still have a lot to learn from him. In Hebrews 11, we are reminded that those who live by faith continue speaking after they die. It’s not that we will sit down and talk with them (oh how we wish we could), but that memories and what we have documented will continue to teach us long after they are gone.

I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to learn from this family of faith. I hope that in some way I might become more like them.

roggenbacks

Facebook was Down??

On Wednesday afternoon, facebook.com briefly stopped working all over Thailand. After hearing of Martial Law, a Military Coup, and a Nationwide Curfew, it seemed this event really got people’s attention. It also lead to some hilarious moments in social media. Here are a few of my favorite tweets from twitter during that time:

 

I almost, just almost…went outside
 
 
Thai army blames ‘technical glitches’ for Facebook suspension shortly after admitting to blocking access. OK then.
 
 
Thai Facebook block was quite possibly the funniest 30 minutes of social media angst ever.
 
 
Detentions, arrests – nothing. But when they block Facebook & people are outraged, NCPO [National Council for Peace and Order] apologies.
 
 
Thai people weren’t really affected from the TVs suspension for days, however, Facebook was down for 20mins they were dying.
 
 
I’m a 20-min-offline-Facebook survivor. Checking into rehab just to be on the safe side.
 
 
Citing threat to social order, junta in Thailand cracks down on selfie epidemic
 
 
Welcome back everyone missed you more than anyone in their life
 
 
RT : Only 89.3% of people in Bangkok had FaceBook anyway. Sure they won’t mind.
 
 
You can dissolve parliament & the senate, but nothing would unite Thailand AGAINST your cause more than blocking Facebook
 
 
Streets are now full of people looking straight ahead, trying to stretch their focal point farther than 20cm.
 
 
‘Thailand crisis’ seems to be over, Facebook is now back
 
 
Blocking Facebook is clearly just part of the junta’s economic stimulus plan. Office productivity should go up 300% immediately.
 
 
I’ve had my roads blocked, my weekends ruined, parks flooded w protesters, but shut my and you go too far!😛
 
 
By reading social networks in Thailand today the feeling is “We don’t care about personal freedom and martial law…just leave us Facebook”

 

The Sting of Death

Sometimes I feel the need to stop everything and ponder life. I guess I have the sense that there is something to learn in specific moments that could alter my life and are therefore worth paying attention to.

Tonight I spent an hour or so reading through a document put together as a memorial for a woman who died four years ago. Oddly, I never knew her name, and referred to her only as “Aunty Haokip”. Since their last name was similar to mine, I sometimes referred to myself as “David Haokip” to include myself in their family.

I first met Aunty in her home in Guwahati after the conclusion of a 10-day Mission Adventures program. A few of the young people we trained were somehow related to her, and they were planning to visit her before going back to their home state of Manipur. It was odd to me how quickly she seemed to take interest in the ministry I was involved in. I didn’t know at that time how faithfully they supported the cause of missions or how much she prayed for those she knew who were involved in full time ministry.

Her husband was a faithful worker in his own field, and became a high ranking official who was well respected. They were very generous, and I eventually asked them if they would consider supporting Mission Adventures, and later on, all of YWAM Shillong. They gave faithfully for several years. Every time I would go to visit them, I would be asked to sit down, then served tea. Aunty would talk about how she had been praying that day for YWAM and for me. At first I thought that she had some kind of spiritual gift that enabled her to know when I was coming. Later I realized that she prayed for me every day, and that on any occasion she could testify truthfully that she had been praying for me.

It’s not fair that cancer takes some of the best people we meet away from us. I went to visit the Haokips before leaving North East India at the end of 2009. When I went to their home, I was told to sit in their family room and wait. They would go and call Aunty they said. When she entered the room, I wasn’t sure how to greet her. I hesitated, thinking the person standing in front of me might possibly be someone else and that Aunty might still be on her way. I had no idea how bad her condition had become. I didn’t know when I might travel back there next, and quickly realized this might be my last time meeting with her.

Her husband came after a short time and began explaining how many treatments she had been through and how awful it had been for her. They had traveled far and wide, trying everything, but nothing seemed to be working. He told me his three biggest prayer requests for the year, how the first two had already been answered, and how all that remained was for his wife to be healed. Oh how I wish she had been. After praying with them, I traveled back to Shillong, where I packed the remainder of our things and left for good.

About four months later, I was in America attending further training while preparing for Serah’s birth and our eventual move to Thailand. Aunty passed on, and as much as I wished I had been wrong, that meeting was my last time to see her on this earth.

Tonight I was reflecting on her life and her faithfulness. She had been faithful to God, faithful to so many people they had supported (including me), faithful to her family, and faithful to their community of believers. She was a gracious host, generous and kind. I copied two pictures of her and printed them out. They now hang on the wall above my desk beside a painting of another tribe from India’s Northeast. That painting was hung to remind me of God’s faithfulness to me during our time there. Aunty and Uncle now share the space – a challenge for me to be faithful to Him.

Our lives pass by so quickly, but all of us will be remembered by others. Some lives may affect millions. Others will be mourned by a few close family or friends. As I read the words about Aunty’s life, I was especially struck by the memories of her children. Her son talked about the emptiness he felt whenever he was separated from her, and how much it hurts for him to not be able to go home to her anymore. One of her daughters mentioned her constant childhood struggles with sickness and how her mother cared for her through the night and into each day. Through tears I reminded myself – it all matters; the little things, they really matter. Our lives make a difference, even when we don’t feel it.

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ ”                      – I Corinthians 15:51-55

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