Institute in Basic Life Principles

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Southeast Asian Family Conference: an American’s Perspective

Last November, families from five different countries traveled many miles to attend the annual Southeast Asia IBLP Family Conference held in Melaka, Malaysia. What compelled these families to make great personal sacrifices in time and expense, and travel from Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and the United States? I believe the answer can be found in Micah 4:2, “And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.”
I believe IBLP families around the world can identify with the motivation of their Southeast Asian brothers and sisters in Christ. But this conference was a little different from the ones we attended in the United States last year, and yet it was similar at the same time. What made this conference so unique for my wife Bethany and I was that, even though folks enjoyed the fellowship with like-minded believers and listening to speakers teaching the ways of God, the conference took place in a totally different culture than we have ever experienced, and it was delightful! Allow me to share our first impressions with you.

Bethany and I flew from San Francisco to Singapore on the longest non-stop flight in the world: 17.25 hours! As excruciating as that may seem, it was actually quite an enjoyable, comfortable, and relaxing trip because of the wonderful hospitality of the Singapore Airlines crew. That selfless attention to our needs was our introduction to a new cultural experience for us. When we landed in Singapore, the gracious hospitality of our hosts, Thomas and Pamela Teh (who are the directors of IBLP SE Asia) amplified this cultural hospitality to us by adding the love and joy of Christ. They pampered and attended to us so much that we felt like royalty!

Singapore is one of the most fascinating cities we’ve ever visited and is by far the cleanest. (Spitting and littering carry $1000 fines!) It is a city, an island, and a country all at the same time, and it takes only 45 minutes to cross from one end of the island to the other side. Thomas and Pamela took the time to carefully instruct us in the ways of their culture so that when we crossed the border into Malaysia where the conference was actually held, we were somewhat comfortable with the way they do things there.

On the first day, we were able to see the cultural uniqueness of this Family Conference! I will attempt to describe this uniqueness for you from three perspectives: Fellowship, Friendliness, and Food.

Fellowship: 

Most of the attendees to the conference come from countries where the majority of the population is Muslim. In fact, Indonesia has the largest Muslim population of any country in the world. Some of these families had just experienced severe rioting in their city of Jakarta the week before they came. Christians are a small minority in Indonesia there and face increasing pressures as the culture becomes more radicalized. Christians in most of the other countries are also a minority, so you can imagine the fellowship they have when they get together with fellow believers who are like-minded in the ways of the Lord. This is a joyful time of reunion, praise, and “iron sharpening iron.” Their fellowship with one another is deepened as they have fellowship with the Lord Jesus through teaching, prayer, praise, and singing! And, oh! How they love to sing!

Friendliness: 

The fellowship they have with one another and with the Lord not only deepens their friendship with each other but expands into friendliness and hospitality to everyone they meet. I noticed that the people who operated the hotel where the conference was held were truly impacted by the love, joy, and harmony they experienced with the ATI families. The theme of this Family Conference was “Walking in the Light,” but it was more than just a theme to conference attendees. Most of the workers in the hotel were Muslim and you could tell how, during the week, they were drawn to the warmth and light of the ATI families who walked in. 

Food: 

In this culture we quickly learned that their fellowship and friendliness is most evident when it is centered around food. There is something that happens when Christians eat together that is more than just ingesting calories. A heightened communion and joy of fellowship seems to take place when Southeast Asians eat together. And the food they eat is unparalleled in flavor. I felt like I was Marco Polo tasting spices for the first time! Not only do they make the food taste scumptilliumptious, but a lot of these spices are hot in intensity and the people all seem to have a penchant for eating spicy hot food. I must say that being from Minnesota, I do not have an affinity for spicy food; however, I thoroughly enjoyed eating the food there. It was so full of flavor that I hardly noticed it was hot until afterwards when I noticed my lips had become numb. Even more enjoyable than the spicy and delicious food was the fellowship we shared while eating together. 

That friendliness and fellowship of the conference was also evident in the activities they had for their children. The Southeast Asians have a unique program to train youth which is called FULFIL (Finding Unending Love and Fellowship In the Lord.) The young people there are very energetic and love to interact with other believers their own age.

The ALERT Cadet program is also very strong in SE Asia. This year the conference had the special honor of having Kevin Edwards, Director of the International ALERT Cadet Program, and his wife Loree and their two sons. The Edwards family came to Malaysia to conduct the Cadet program. After the conference they also attended the Malaysian Cadet Awards Ceremony. It was special to see how the boys and their dads fellowship and learn from one another.

Bethany and I are grateful to God for the opportunity to attend this year’s Southeast Asia Family Conference in Malaysia. Enjoying sweet fellowship, friendliness, and food with brothers and sisters in the Lord halfway around the world was a life-changing experience. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another” (1John 1:7).

In Christ,

Bob Newhouse

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