When we left for South East Asia over five years ago, we had no idea what we would be doing after being on a language study visa for one year. We knew for sure, though, that we wanted to support local believers and fellowships and to share Jesus’ good news with the people of the majority faith.
Through the time of language learning, Paul researched and explored ideas of how we could stay here on a long-term basis. Like most countries, you need a visa to live here if you are not a tourist. And it piqued our interest that our city is known for being a ‘business’ city.
Paul left Australia with his computer programming skills, a knowledge of running a small business and a few contacts. During his time of studying language he talked to various people, listening, building friendships and noting the needs around our city. He concluded that setting up a computer programming business would create opportunities for training local workers using the knowledge we are blessed to have from being educated in Australia.
Now we find ourselves, six years on, in an amazing, unique and financially challenging position. The computer company develops custom web-based programs, mobile apps for clients and its own software products. We have also taken on the management of an English language centre. In all this growth, Leah has found a place supporting both businesses through her love of administration and accounting. Together the businesses employ almost 20 full-time and part-time staff. We’ve also taken on apprentices from the local university.
What we love about this lifestyle is that we are privileged to ‘do life’ with our staff and clients—we rejoice when the HR lady’s baby is born, give comfort when the admin lady’s father passes away suddenly, celebrate when a staff member gets married, give sympathy when a dating relationship breaks up, offer support when a business endeavour is struggling, and give encouragement by reading the Bible with our Christian staff.
We’re also intentional about sharing life outside the office. Do you enjoy the beauty of nature? Leah does! She is always wanting to get out of the city and explore the natural world around her (she is really a country bumpkin at heart). To her surprise she learned that many of the staff at our company felt the same way. The dream became a reality recently when we organised an outing to a waterfall for staff and their families. Two of the girls had never left our city and it was wonderful to watch their faces as they saw their first mountains, water buffaloes and monkeys, went on their first bush-walk and even got muddy for the first time. Everyone enjoyed the outing. Swimming in the cool water of the waterfall was definitely a highlight after hiking in the middle of the day in the heat and the humidity of the tropics.
This trip was also unique as it included people from the many demographics that make up our company: people aged from 2 to 44, English teachers, computer programmers, admin staff, family and friends, seven people groups, and four religions. What a blessing to see everyone enjoying community together! Coming from Australia, you may be wondering why the diversity of this group outing was unique. In this country, people are usually divided by people group and religion; their cultures differ significantly from each other. Belonging to a people group usually means that you follow its dominant religion and its uniquely different culture (food restrictions, festivals, religious holidays, family reunions).
To have an environment where people are willing to be friends, respect each other, and do life together is quite extraordinary, and very exciting!
Leah and Paul live and serve in South East Asia. They have four children.
Names have been changed.