A New Beginning: Hello America!
Posted on 28 Aug 2015 by Jerome Leng
As I walked towards Louisville International Airport from the airplane, I felt an entire chapter of my life closed and a new one opened. After 28 hours of flying, finally, I am in the USA!
We were greeted by Mr. Withers and Lisa. Lisa invited us over to her place for lunch the day after we arrived and introduced us to a few M.Div. students. That’s where I met Paul who then introduced me to more M.Div. students. Lisa and Mr. Withers were tremendous help. Lisa gathered a few volunteers like Bill, Cindy and Kenny who helped us move furniture into our apartment. Without them, Robyn and I would be stranded. We also met an Indonesian family who brought us to buy SIM cards and a mattress. They took us grocery shopping too and of course, KFC. (KFC Review: No Thai Chili here! And the chicken skin tastes saltier. Ok lah…Verdict: 7/10. KFC is not the big fast food chain here. Its Chick-Fil-A which is slightly overrated IMO but they give free full meal coupons so I’m sold :P)
God is good in His providential care of us. We are so thankful to Him because He took care of our needs. The reason why I planned to arrive a week before class was so that we could get all the basic stuff sorted out. I underestimated the difficulty involved. But as always, God goes before us and He prepared the way. These new friends of ours were the means by which God took care of us. I am so thankful for these brothers and sisters. It was a good opening to a new chapter, I thought. Robyn and I are both settling in well in this new environment.
Here’s our new “HQ of Operations” a.k.a. our apartment:
We have one desk, one makan table, one so called “love couch”, coffee table and a few chairs. For the kitchen, we got one pan and one pot. In the Seminary, there’s a place called the Attic where students who recently left donate their stuff. Robyn and I frequent the Attic almost every day to get utensils, couch pillows, rugs, lamps and all sorts of random stuff.
Our mailing address is: SBTS BOX 459, 2825 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY 40280, US. For family and friends back home, this is the address you can send goodies too. 🙂
Jerome’s Plan for the Semester
This semester is a full load (I don’t think there’ll be any semesters that won’t be). For this fall, I am taking 15 credit hours (5 classes).
- Introduction to Ethics
- Religion in the Public Square
- Greek 1
- Personal Spiritual Disciplines
- The Psalms
Thankfully, I did some Greek before. If not, the load will be quite overwhelming. *Tip for future seminarians: It’s possible to learn Greek on your own. I mean, one of the key reasons why anyone would want to be on campus is to interact with the professors. To learn well, I believe one has to dialogue and not just read lecture notes! For the life of me, I will not travel halfway across the world to read notes. So get some Greek done so you have time to worry about other subjects.
Classes have started on full swing and they are challenging. Challenging because I am being changed in my thinking and at the heart level. And I know that my knowledge will affect others too in the future when I teach. So, everything I learn, although the setting is academic, the implications extend beyond the walls of the Seminary. This is serious and really good stuff. I just hope that I am up for the task ahead.
Below is my haphazard class photo. Can you spot me? 🙂 So, just to explain, in case some of you are wondering what is Boyce College. Boyce College is the undergraduate arm of Southern Seminary. I am doing a specialized program that aims to complete both a Bachelors and M.Div. in 5 years. But to qualify for this program, I need to demonstrate competency by completing some classes at Boyce first and have a recommendation letter from a pastor of a local church in Louisville. But the seminary understands my situation and allowed me to take 2 masters classes first (4 and 5). So this semester is my “rite of passage” into the full M.Div. program. Please pray that I will excel.
Significant Update: Robyn’s Plan
We’re still finding ways for Robyn to get a visa that would allow her to work. It’s quite “ma-fan” (Cantonese for “tedious” in this context) to explain everything but the options are either a work visa, H1 or student visa, F1. Robyn has to work. America is expensive especially if you’re using RM. Its 4.1 now and going up. In fact, I am thinking of getting a full time job during summer and winter as well although this may affect our length of stay in the US. The seminary offers administrative type jobs and kuli work so I’ll apply and see what I can get.
The key for Robyn is to find an employer that would hire her. Only then can she apply for a work visa. But there are other factors to this as well. We’ve decided that she will not take the medical entrance exams to work as a doctor because we want her to use her time to equip herself for ministry. Robyn is going to be pastor’s wife and to be one requires preparation and training. If she does not prepare herself, we fear for our marriage and ministry in the future. So we see the need and importance of training. And what better time to do this in the midst of a community filled with fantabulous (fantastic and fabulous) pastors’ wives.
It is possible for Robyn to work off campus at a medical institution somewhere but there are transportation and time factors affecting that. We can’t afford a car and Robyn doesn’t know how to drive…yet. We’re still open to that option but that also means she’ll be out of touch with the seminary community and simply be someone who makes money. She won’t have the time or energy to study well and work. And money, although necessary, is not everything and cannot be the primary reason for our decision making especially since we trust a sovereign God. And unfortunately, the seminary does not hire internationals under H1 visa. If they did, she would be able to work and study at the same time since everything is on campus.
Now, as an alternative therefore, Robyn can apply for a student visa, F1. The good thing about this option is that it allows her to work on campus and it probably pays the same as elsewhere anyway. Plus, Robyn can certainly make time for classes and study which is what we’re hoping for. The only difference with this visa and the work visa is that she can only work part time during the long semesters. But the F1 visa requires Robyn to take 9 credit hours per semester (3 classes). That means she has to aim towards a completion of a degree and so…Robyn is thinking of completing a Masters of Arts in Biblical Counselling.
Here’s what surprised us: as a spouse, she gets 50% off tuition fees (Yay!). So, the cost of the entire course is about 9239 USD (RM 37,879.9) after discount. It’s still a hefty sum but we see this as an important move for us as it’ll broaden our scope for ministry as a couple.
So for this fall, Robyn is taking one class in Biblical Hermeneutics by Dr. Wellum. The seminary allows her to do so under a “special student” status (Only just this year the US government allowed those with spouse visa F2 to take classes – talk about perfect timing!). It’s a daunting endeavour for her as she’ll be studying with some of the brightest M.Div. students in seminary. Plus, seminary studies is something fairly new to her. Not to mention the burdens and challenges of a wife…and work. Please keep my dear wife Robyn in your prayers.
- We still have some unfinished business. We are required by US law to have medical insurance and we’re still looking for one. Medical costs here are super-duper expensive anyway so it makes sense. Please pray that we’ll find an affordable but relatively sufficient plan.
- We’re thinking of getting a car because it’s not possible to get around without one. But it’ll cost 4000-5000 $ for a relatively reliable one. Plus, it’s about 150 $ per month for car insurance. That’s too costly for us so we’re going to try to survive without one (see how lah…). Please pray for the people who will be taking us around. Thank God for them.
- Please pray for Robyn as she begins her classes, and as she learns what it means to be a wife and as she looks for a job. Pray that God will bless her efforts.
- Please pray for me that I will be disciplined in my studies. And pray that the Gospel will remain my fundamental motivation to work hard.
- And this is very important, please pray that God will help us settle in a local church. Louisville has many (ridiculously many) gospel-centred churches. We hope to settle in one that will be formative for us in our thinking of church and a place where we can serve and be a part of the Christian community. Please pray that we will find our “church family” here.
- Lastly, thank God with us. He is ever faithful to His people. Robyn and I are experiencing the grace of God in many ways. All our challenges are met with His sufficient and providing hand.
Thanks for hearing us out. May God bless you in your endeavours for the Gospel!
Grace and Peace,
Jerome and Robyn
If you are able, please contribute to the Theological Fund of CERC. God provides for His kingdom work through the faithfulness of His people. You are that people. Do participate with us in this work of grace for the sake of the Gospel. Thank you.