Max’s Birth Story

Each child has his or her own unique birth story for their mother to cherish (or try to forget…). Since the story of Max’s birth here on an island in Asia Pacific includes a window – small as it may be – into life and culture here for my American readers, I wanted to share.

I went into labor bright and early on a Monday morning. A friend of mine, Marie, living in the same city as we, is an American who married into this country, and who so wonderfully serves many pregnant expatriate ladies as a doula. Her being fluent in both languages is an extra super-bonus when you’re in labor and trying to communicate to hospital staff (which is hard enough to do in your native language). Marie came over, and a couple of other friends also came along for the experience. So, with Jim at the wheel, and a car full of ladies (one being his laboring wife – he’s a good man) we started for the hospital.

The drive takes 1 hour, about half of which is on a smooth toll-way (just last year, before the toll-way was completed, it would have been a bumpy three-hour drive).

During the throws of labor, I remember seeing a demonstration in the middle of our road (I read in the paper the next day that it was about wages). Thankfully, traffic laws aren’t quite as strict here as in the US, so really, you don’t even have to think twice before detouring into the oncoming traffic’s lane (people expect it, so it’s not as dangerous as it sounds).

Once we got up to the labor and delivery department of the hospital, I was so relieved (but only for an instant – until the next contraction hit) to find that our room was air conditioned! The day after Max was born, the city we were in hit the all-time record high temperature for the country at 103° F – and, while this may not compete with records in Texas, this is a humid place where AC is not commonplace, so we feel every bit of the heat, alllll the time. And after 9 months of being pregnant in the tropics (not to mention that labor makes it feel a good 20 degrees hotter), you can imagine how welcomed it was.

Max was born about 1 hour after we arrived. Thankfully, Jim and Marie were right there to snag little Max when he came out, because it was another hour before the Obstetrician and Pediatrician arrived. There was a nurse there, but she had stepped away for the moment, not realizing his birth was quite so imminent.

I really cannot tell this story without acknowledging how much God’s hand was on little Max and myself from beginning to end. He knew all the little concerns that were close to my heart (none of which had to do with our location), and He tenderly took care of all the details, just like He does.

Rachel and Max in hospital
He always sleeps with his hands up by his face 🙂

We stayed in the hospital until the next day, and let me just say that it was much more relaxing than staying in a hospital in the US after giving birth. They don’t feel the need here to come in and check your vitals every couple of hours – they actually let you sleep! Jim had his own full-sized pull-out bed. They bring you food at meal time, come in to change the baby’s diaper from time to time, then the doctor comes in to shake your hand when it’s time to leave.

Below is one of the meals that was served. This is a traditional meal that is often served at times of thanksgiving – one of those times being after a birth. Clockwise, it’s carrots, fried tofu, tempe (which is a fried soybean dish), grilled chicken, coconut sambal (a condiment), eggs and vegetables, and in the little bag is a dried fish to sprinkle on for flavor. The spiced, milky drink is flavored with a root that’s similar to ginger, and having jellied floaties in your drink is a special treat.  Thanksgiving meal

When you leave the hospital, they send you home with the placenta in a clay pot. You actually cannot leave the hospital without it…but of course, what kind of person would even want to? The typical practice on our island is that it is taken straight home by the father, washed, and buried outside the house. A small lamp is placed above the burial spot to protect it from darkness. Many people include in the pot things like a pencil, some fuel, a needle and thread, rice, and other small things to help ensure that the child will be healthy and successful.


Around four days after the birth, a gift with a birth announcement is given to the neighbors. This gift often consists of a variety of traditional cooked dishes, cakes, or fruit. My dear friends helped us pull all this together. It was all hands on deck.



Gift baskets

In the days following a birth, neighbors and friends come to visit and see the baby (Similarly, when people know your household is celebrating other joyous occasions, such as Eid-al-Fitr or Christmas day – they know which ones you’ll be celebrating based on your religion – they come to give their greetings).

Some common questions people ask when they see Max are, “Why do you not wrap his legs together (to correct the newborn bow-leggedness)?” “Why do you not wrap his tummy (to pull in his pot-belly)?” And the hotter it is, the thicker the blankets you tend to see people using to wrap their babies and protect them from the sun (and the heavier the coats that children and adults wear). People also wonder at the fact that we keep a fan blowing in the room where he sleeps. Almost everyone here will tell you that wind hitting and entering the body is a – if not the – major source of illness, not to mention he could get cold.

For now, Max sleeps in bed with us, and most people here would highly disapprove if he didn’t. People are shocked at the fact that our older boys sleep in their own beds, as most families sleep all together. They simply can’t believe that our kids are willing and able to sleep in beds by themselves.

It’s fun getting to chat and chuckle with some of my local friends about the differences in thinking from one culture to the next. Just as a saying here so aptly explains, “different field, different grasshopper.”

Noah Lawrence

Noah was born on March 8, and we are all in love. Hudson expressed it well when he sweetly said, “Noah, you’re da best widdle brudder I ever wanted.”


We’re fortunate to have Jim’s family close by, and Rachel’s Mom stayed with us (read: “spoiled us”) for about a week. Below, Hudson is bringing some different animals that he thinks Noah might want to play 2



  “It’s okay, Noah, calm down.” photo 1

Big brother has even been serenading his new little buddy.



Thoughts from abroad

In the shade of the back porch, the thermostat reads 95 degrees.  Our summer is almost over – in just a couple days we will load up the car for the nth time and make the thousand mile trek back to Jackson, MI, our home (for one more year) at the New Tribes Bible Institute.  It has been an incredible summer.

As if our time reconnecting with friends and family throughout Texas was not enough, we had the opportunity to join my (Jim’s) family on a vacation that took us through Italy, and briefly, to Paris and London. There is nothing so humbling as seeing buildings that pre-date America be described as “relatively new.”  And to sit beneath the really old sites, like those at the Forum in Rome, was almost overwhelming.

This summer has also provided me with some down time to think about what has become a repeated observation during our travels.  I have been studying through the book of Hebrews as preparation for our next semester, but one passage continues to stick out at me.  In the midst of his explanation about the nature of the ministry of Christ, the author pauses to warn his audience:

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14, ESV)

There is a similar passage in 1 Corinthians 3.  Paul, while addressing a severe dysfunction in the unity of the Corinthian church, explains that spiritual truth can only be discerned by spiritual people, and laments that he could not address them as such.

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.  I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3 ESV)

Both passages suggest that the Christian life is meant to have growth.  In the same way that it would be abnormal for an infant to remain an infant instead of growing into an adult, it is against the nature of a believer to remain a baby in the faith.  Of course, perpetually childlike believers are common, and commonly ignored, for reasons Paul described – we live in the flesh.  But this summer, the metaphor took on a deeper meaning for me.  As Rachel and I traveled throughout Texas and Europe with our four-month-old son Hudson, we noticed some profound differences between his trip and ours.

The Duomo dominates the Florence skyline. Milk dominates Hudson's thoughts.

Some aspects of being a baby are pretty nice.  You sleep when you’re tired, which is most of the time.  When you’re not sleeping, you just make some noise and mommy shows up to feed you.  Once you’re done, someone changes your diaper.  When you go somewhere, you’re either carried or put in a car seat.  Sometimes your car seat is attached to a stroller.  You don’t really care, since you’re probably asleep anyway.  You never worry about your needs being met, because the plans are always made with you in mind. Life as an infant is pretty easy.

But as a baby, you don’t know that you’re missing anything.  The richness of your surroundings is never perceived, because your focus remains on the foundational aspects of life.  Maybe a hint of some deeper purpose creeps into your mind when your heart bursts with joy at the sight of mom or dad, but maybe you just have gas.

Diaper change at the Colosseum.

Did Hudson know that the gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) bounce of his stroller was his dad’s feeble attempt to navigate two thousand year old cobblestone streets next to palaces built by emperors? Was he aware that just beyond his closed eyelids marched hundreds of years of the world’s most important art?

While I peered out at the Colosseum trying to figure out whether I should be in awe or despair at the enormity of the ancient architecture and the horrendous events that unfolded there, Hudson was busy filling his diaper.

Of course the list goes on.  No one is surprised at Hudson’s lack of interest in anything not related to Rachel because he is a baby.  Babies need help to eat, and to be calmed down when they are startled, and to be rocked to sleep; but they grow.  They learn to use their hands so they can put food in their mouths.  They learn to walk and to go places without your help.  They don’t stay babies.

This is the spiritual tragedy that Hudson so easily relates.  We have men and women who have been given new life by the blood of Christ, but never mature into members of the body of Christ.  They go to church as if they were consumers looking for the best deal.  “I’m not being fed,” they claim. The word of God is opened and expounded in their hearing, but never contemplated.  The delivery wasn’t right.  I prefer another translation.

And the tragic part is that we have members of churches who are content to experience the spiritual life vicariously through pastors and other church members, being physically present before an awesome God yet never even attempting to contemplate the ramifications of the encounter.  They think that they have a part in the experiences of those around them, but they remember nothing.

Rachel and I are about to start our third semester of training with New Tribes Mission.  My hope for us this year is that we will not be content to ride on the coat-tails of our teachers and rely on their experience and appreciation of our majestic God.  I hope we can grow beyond a focus on the foundations of faith and learn to open our eyes to the richness and beauty and depth that Christ proclaims in His word.  May we, like Hudson, continue to grow.

Trevi Fountain, Rome
Tower Bridge, London
View from the cemetary, Vernazza, Italy
The beach at Monterosso, Italy
The Colosseum, Rome