Compassion can shape lives. So many babies have been born in adversity. Their start in life is so difficult. And yet God has a plan. Adoption is so often part of that. And sometimes, the most hopeless story, can be the one God uses to display His great power, and His gentle compassion. Arie Mahler shares his inspiring testimony, from a tiny village and Sulawesi jungle birth, to his upbringing in Seattle, and his current calling to direct the Compassion Center at Alderwood Community Church in Lynnwood, Washington. Your faith will surely be buoyed as you are invited into Arie’s heart and family.
Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Born on the island of Sulawesi in a grass thatched roof hut
His mother passed away shortly after, due to complications of childbirth
He was left in the hut, and bitten by a wild animal
His uncle brought him to a missionary orphanage in Manato, a 3 days journey
Dr. Donald Gish and uncle, went and got Arie to bring him back to the orphanage
Grandpa Gish and Nana Evelyn
They didn’t think he would make it through the night
Miraculously nursed back to health
On the Cover of the Newsletter for the church in Seattle where he would be adopted
One year process for him to be adopted by his new Seattle family
His parents first meet him at Daily’s Drive In,
A godly upbringing
His Dad gets cancer when Arie was 16
A pivotal transition
Young marriage and family
The quest to find his birth father
Healing and answers
Becoming Papa and Gram
A sweet reunion at a memorial
THE P.S. Questions Answered:
As a coach and parent do you have advice on figuring out the whole sports life church home
Who is the greatest NBA player of all time? The Greatest Shooter?
What is the greatest need in the church today?
What legacy do you wan’t to leave behind?
How to get involved in The Compassion Center at Alderwood Community Church in Lynnwood,
Washington and what it is all about.
The Compassion Center Website: https: //alderwood.cc/compassion-center/
Alderwood Community Church Email: ReachUs@amcc.org
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Arie [00:00:09] You know, the Lord plucked me out of this tiny little village 7000 miles away and placed me here in Seattle, Washington. And I remember as a as a young kid, my mom always said, Arie, God’s got big things for you.
V/O [00:00:27] And now for the next episode of Letters from Home, sending encouragement to your doorstep by capturing the heartbeat of God’s people one story at a time.
Meg [00:00:38] Hi, it’s Meg Glesener, your host. Are you ready to be encouraged? So many babies have been born in adversity. Their start in life is just difficult and yet God has a plan. Today’s guest shares with us his fragile birth, his rescue, his adoption journey from Sulawesi to Seattle. His parents love his search for his birth father, and ultimately how compassion has led him to his current calling. Here is the faith story of the every day extraordinary Audie Tjali, Arie Mahler.
Meg [00:01:23] Arie, I’m so happy to have you on the podcast today. I have known your lovely wife, Stacey, for a long time. She was Eden’s leader. And I remember your kids, your beautiful daughters playing volleyball when our girls were in. I remember seeing Tanner. Your family has been such a blessing in the community and at Alderwood Community Church, where we go, and I am so honored that we get to have you share your story today on the podcast.
Arie [00:01:51] Well, thank you. It’s good to be here.
Meg [00:01:53] I know you have quite a story and super excited just too to get right into it. Tell us about your upbringing. What was it like being Arie as a young man, as a boy in your home?
Arie [00:02:09] Well, you know, I was very fortunate to be raised in a Christian home. My dad was he not only was tall physically, my dad was 6’4, but he was also spiritually tall. He was a spiritual giant for me. My dad taught in Sunday school. He led our our church prayer meeting. And I just you know, I remember my dad being just somebody that absolutely loved the Lord and loved people. I remember just he was always in his Bible. I’d see him sitting in his chair and is reading his Bible. And just the fact that he would lead prayer meeting and and I’d see it not only in public, but I’d also see it in his private life.
Meg [00:02:51] Were you adopted?
Arie [00:02:52] I am adopted, Yes, I am adopted. And so, really, you know, I think my I mean, my journey really starts there. I was born on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. I’m the youngest of three and I have two older brothers we’re all about two years apart. You know, I remember as a kid telling people or, you know, we do an icebreaker game or even as an adult, and, you know, they’d say, you know, share something that’s different about your life or whatever. And I would always and a lot of times I would just say, well, I wasn’t born in a hospital and I just leave it at that. And then they’re like, “Well, okay, you can’t just leave it at that. You got to explain this.” So I was born in the middle of the jungle on the island of Sulawesi in a grass thatched roof hut, and my mother passed away three days after I was born. She hemorrhaged due to complications of childbirth. And my father, he all of a sudden was a widower. And he had two young boys already and he didn’t know what to do for me or with me. And so shortly, I mean, after my mother passed away, you know, he just kind of left me lying there in the corner of the hut. And during that time, actually, a wild animal even got into the hut. And I have the scar on my foot from where the wild animal bit me.
Meg [00:04:22] Wow.
Arie [00:04:24] But my uncle, who lived in the same village, knew of the missionary orphanage, which was in the town of Manado.
Meg [00:04:33] How did your uncle know you were there in the hut?
Arie [00:04:35] I don’t know a lot of details. I just know that he was there in the village, in the same village that I was born in. And he took it upon himself to go down to the missionary orphanage to see if there was any sort of help that could be given to me. So it was about a three day journey. And so he arrived at the at the hospital of the missionary orphanage there. And Dr. Donald Gish, who by the way, my first name is Donald, and so I am named after him, agreed to go back up to the village with my uncle. And so another three day journey up to the village. And once he got there, my father agreed for him to take me back down to the orphanage to see if they could care for me, nurse me back to health. So at this point, you know, I arrived back at the orphanage. And my Dr. Gish, who I call him Grandpa. Grandpa turned to his wife, Evelyn, who was my nana, just said to her, Don’t get attached. He’s not going to make it through the night.
Meg [00:05:42] Wow.
Arie [00:05:43] And so they immediately gave me a bottle of sweetened condensed milk.
Meg [00:05:50] Hmm.
Arie [00:05:50] And there’s kind of a story behind that. But by the grace of a God, he kept me alive. The nurses were caring for me almost 24 hours, seven days a week. They basically nursed me back to health. At that point, my dad and my mom, who were here in Seattle, the church that they were attending, supported Dr. Gish and Evelyn. I made front cover of their monthly newsletter.
Meg [00:06:17] So do you have the article?
Arie [00:06:19] I do. Yeah. We have a picture. We have the article. I even have a picture of me when I came to the orphanage. And it’s a little bit sobering to see the state I was in at that point. But three months later, the Lord is as brought me back to health and my mom and dad here in the States, you know, they’ve been trying to have children and were unsuccessful. And so they made a point to reach out to my nana and grampa and said, “We would love to adopt Arie if the opportunity was there.”
Meg [00:06:55] Did your birth father name you Arie?
Arie [00:06:57] So Arie is actually a derivative. My Indonesian name is is Audie. And so Audie is actually from my Indonesia name. And my last name was Tjali. So Audie Tjali was my Indonesian name. So once I was nursed back to health, my father agreed to give me up for adoption, thinking that that was the best thing he could do for me. My nana and grandpa had thought about adopting me, but they were older and their kids were teenagers at the time. And so they just wanted to see, you know, they wanted me to go to a family that was maybe younger. So that started about a year long process for my mom and dad here, going through the whole adoption process, which was really difficult at the time because the Vietnam War was kind of coming to an end. And communication with Southeast Asia is not what it is today. You know, everything was by mail or if there was a telephone call. In fact, there’s a story it was actually the confirmation that my mom and dad wanted to adopt me. My dad was on the phone with my nana. I mean, he was literally yelling into the receiver on the other end. My nana could barely hear anything he said. But the one thing she did hear him say was Arie. And that’s really the only thing she was able to comprehend through the conversation. And so she took that on faith that that was that was the confirmation. That was okay.
Meg [00:08:31] Praise the Lord.
Arie [00:08:32] Yeah. And then after that, my nana grandpa, they were due to come home on furlough. So about a year and a half, they flew back to California and made the drive up to Seattle. They got lost. They ended up on Capitol Hill, but they made it to the this old hamburger place called Daly’s Drive-In. So they called my mom and dad. And so they drove over. My mom and dad were living on Queen Anne Hill at the time. And so they came over, and that’s the first time they actually saw me. So my dad and grandpa stayed through that weekend with my mom and dad, and they were living with my grandma at the time. So my grandpa told me later on, actually about 10 to 15 years ago, he told me, he said, “Arie,” he said, “Leaving you in here in Seattle was one of the hardest things, hardest decisions they ever had to make.” You know, they were trusting the Lord that they were leaving me in good hands, but they didn’t know if they’d ever hear from me again. Or he just looked at me and he just said, “We cried all the way home.” And it really, you know, when he told me that, it just really for me, it was such a testament of faith. For them to have rescued me and nurtured me back to health and all the investment that they had made in my life. And they were then handing me over to essentially complete strangers. And I just it was to me, it just spoke of the amount of faith and trust that they were placing in the Lord, that this was the right decision.
Meg [00:10:11] That’s amazing. I love hearing I mean, hearing their heart. So it sounds like you probably because of all that, you know, you feel pretty resolved about, I guess, being loved. And, you know, that whole journey was I wanted and, you know, and all that kind of thing.
Arie [00:10:29] Well, and, you know, it was really one of the really cool things is, you know, my mom and dad, we kept in touch with my nana and grandpa all all growing up. So they were able to be a part of my life. My mom and dad would send pictures to Nana, grandpa, and then subsequently they would actually try to send pictures back. They had retired from the mission field and they were now living in California. And they would send letters and pictures back to Indonesia in hopes that my father would be able to receive those and know that I was okay. But they never knew if those letters made it back. And, you know, they never had any further contact with my father.
Meg [00:11:09] Did you ever find out why?
Arie [00:11:14] Well. So it’s interesting. So it was about 20 years ago, Stacy decided we need to find your father. And I was like, “Okay.” You know, it wasn’t to be honest with you, It wasn’t something that I was really that, you know, I wasn’t like gung ho necessarily, but I was like, “Okay.” You know? And I thought about it at that time, Tanner was gosh, Tanner was, I think eight or nine, maybe a little bit, maybe a year or two younger. And I do remember thinking in my head, you know, if I had to give up, you know, our son for adoption, I definitely would want to know how he was doing. So Stacy got in contact with Nana and got all my adoption information, the birth certificate, everything. And so she she sent an email to the head of the tourist industry on the island of Sulawesi up in the in the city of Minato. And he responded and he said, “You know, I don’t know if I can help you, but I will definitely forward your email to as many people as I know.”.
Meg [00:12:19] Wow.
Arie [00:12:19] So shortly thereafter we get this email from a girl named Christiana, and she is an owner of a dive shop. So off the coast of Manado is the Bunaken Islands and it’s a world renowned dive resort. Well, Christiana emailed us and said, “Well, one of my divers is actually from a neighboring village of your of your husband.” And she said, “You know, he goes home every every couple of months or every other month. Write us a letter and I’ll have him take it to your husband’s village to see if his father is still alive.” So we wrote a letter and, you know, just this is the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Meg [00:13:01] How are you feeling while this was going on? Personally?
Arie [00:13:05] You know, I was like, oh, okay. I mean, I honestly, I never thought we would make a ton of progress. But now we were to this point and I was like, “Oh, well, okay, well, let’s give it a go. Let’s see what happens.” So I wrote this letter, and that was kind of interesting because I’m writing a letter to somebody I don’t know, and I’m trying to craft this letter both as a, you know, to to find out more. But also that’s somewhat of a test. So if I do get a response, I know that I have some of the answers already, you know? So we send this letter to Christiana and she translates it and then her diver takes it out. So I do remember what the time frame was, but I just remember this one day I’m downstairs with our son and we’re playing Xbox and and Stacy just yells down, Honey. We have a letter from your father.
Meg [00:14:03] Whoa.
Arie [00:14:04] And I just I remember we’re playing along and I just kind of looked down at Tanner in disbelief, and he looks up at me and we just kind of keep playing. But now I’m just in this. Like, what? So I go upstairs and I read the letter, and I remember my first reaction was he was vague. He was he was really kind of vague in some of his responses. He answered some questions, but he was just kind of vague. So I decided to write another letter. And at this point, we then sent a picture of Stacy and I and the kids. So we sent a letter to Christiana. She responds, and she says, “I’ll translate it.” And then she says, “Arie, I just want to let you know why your father was so vague.” And she said, “Your father felt shame.”
Meg [00:14:56] Oh.
Arie [00:14:57] And your father didn’t know how you would respond to him. He didn’t know if you would be upset with him for for giving you up for adoption. And so I was really appreciative that she went to that length to explain it. Well, then a couple weeks go by and we get another email and we open it up and it was like he was free to communicate with me. And he addressed it to my beloved son. And he said there, you know, and he talked about my mother and he said, you know, someday soon we will see your mother together face to face with our savior, Jesus Christ. And I was blown away. At that point, I was blown away. And I was relieved to fight to find out that they were saved, that they were believers. And he then went on to just really go into great detail of everything.
Meg [00:16:01] What really struck you about the detail of what he shared?
Arie [00:16:05] It was two things That honestly, was that opening paragraph when he said to my beloved son, you know, and then he just went into such great detail about my mother. And he at the time, he was surprised because our three kids were his first grandchildren, because our older brothers didn’t have kids at the time. And so he was so taken aback that, oh, that there were grandkids. And he was so happy to know that I was doing well.
Meg [00:16:39] How did your parents feel about the process? Could you get a read on them at all?
Arie [00:16:43] So my dad had passed away prior. My dad passed away when I was 16. He passed away of cancer. And so my mom, you know, my mom was honestly she was happy that I made contact. She was never at all, you know, resistant to the idea of me trying to find my father. I think she was concerned about how he would respond to me and how that would affect me. You know, at the time, I was 33. So I don’t think she had any fear of is she all of a sudden going to be rejected or not? My mother, you know, I don’t think there was any of that of that fear. But I think she was just more concerned about how he would respond to me. But she was fully supportive of what we were doing. It was kind of a surreal it was certainly a surreal experience. And I haven’t gone to meet him.
Meg [00:17:42] Did you get to see a picture of him?
Arie [00:17:48] No, I did not get to see an updated picture. I have a picture of my two older brothers and my father. But it was I mean, it was taken probably right around the time that my adoption was going through and so forth. So but, you know, I think one of the other big takeaways for me was, you know, at the time when Christiane’s diver went out to go see if my family was still there, my middle brother was still in the village, but my father and my oldest brother were out harvesting cloves because it was time to harvest the cloves because they needed to put a new thatched roof on their house. And I just really I was like, “Wow, I have a completely different lifestyle.” You know, I’ve grown up with so much from a material standpoint. I grew up with so much more and certainly different than what they all have or had. And so that was that was also very eye opening for me as well.
Meg [00:18:51] Absolutely. Sounds like blessing all around for your birth father to be able to deal with the shame that he felt and then hear on your end and for your mom to. To see you be more you know, of course every mom we like we care about our kids so much. How’s he feeling even when you’re 33, right?
Arie [00:19:14] Exactly.
Meg [00:19:15] And you can’t turn off being mamas. She cared about you so much. And to see that. Oh, no. I mean, she probably believe in the Lord was like, Oh, no, this was a blessing. So let’s go back a little bit to when you were growing up. You said you grew up in a home where your parents believed in the Lord. Where did your faith journey kind of begin and where did your faith kind of start to take off?
Arie [00:19:39] You know, I remember just at a very young age, my mom, you know, the church that we went to, you know, we would go to church four or five days out of the week. I mean, there was church literally. It was seemed like every night. And I just remember at a very early age, learning about heaven and learning about hell. And quite literally, it that scared the hell out of me. And I was like, I do not want to go there.
Meg [00:20:09] Can I tell you how many people you guys are a little younger than I am. I’m in my fifties. But how many people kind of in our general bracket you know, I got saved because I didn’t want to go to hell. You know, there are some good, good reasons for that.
Arie [00:20:26] Exactly. And so I don’t have that you know that moment, because I was a kid. So but I do remember specifically, like, I’m not going there. I don’t want to go there. That’s scary. And so I’d would rather go to heaven. And so but I do remember just, you know, growing up and growing up in the church. And I think for me, you know, really where my faith was solidified was probably around the time when my dad passed away. And so I was 16 at the time and he came down with cancer. I remember our pastor at the time had taught one the one point, you know, God doesn’t allow testing above that which we are able. And I just remember I had some really, really good friends, the family friends. We grew up together. He actually was adopted at the same time that I was. We met each other at a year and a half and we’re like brothers. He’s total opposite of me, but we love each other like brothers. Anyway, I just remember we were going to the hospital. His mom came in and said, “Arie, you know, your dad’s been admitted, so we’re going to go ahead and take you to the hospital to see your dad.” I just remember staring out the car window that that on the way there. And I just was looking up and I was like, “Well, Lord.” I just, I had a feeling that my dad was going to pass. And I said, “Well, Lord, you know what? I’m going to cling to that promise that You think I’m strong enough to handle this, so I’ll handle it and I’ll get through it.”
Meg [00:22:05] Was his decline pretty rapid, or was it something you got to see at home and prepare a little bit for?
Arie [00:22:11] It was fairly rapid. My dad. So this was in 1987. And my dad actually had had a benign tumor removed in in 1977 above his right eye. And subsequently after that, he began to have headaches and they progressed solely to migraine headaches. And for ten years he suffered daily from migraine headaches. Well, this was in the eighties and you know we had CAT scans we didn’t have MRI’s and so nothing was detected until it was too late. And by that time he had a tumor in his head the size of a man’s fist. So I just remember, you know, seeing my dad. My dad was in the hospital for a couple of days. They did a biopsy, ended up doing two biopsies until they really determined, yes, it’s a tumor and it’s malignant. And I just remember my dad, the last real coherent conversation I had with him, he just looked at me and he just said how proud he was of me. And he said, “Take care of your mom.” And he said, “Well, we’ll see each other soon.” So it was about three months, honestly after that conversation. And that was really honestly, that was the last real conversation I had with him. And then he came home and then he slowly progressed and so forth. But, you know, through that whole journey, I just I had a peace. I knew I would see him again. You know, I honestly I remember looking at it as a it’s not anything you want to go through, but I felt honored that the Lord would allow me to go through a test like that. At 16 years old. I don’t know. I just. I guess. Yeah, I just that’s kind of how I viewed it. And I look back and I see, you know, what a spiritual heritage my dad left me. He was a man of prayer. And so, you know, for me, wanting to make him proud is something that’s always it’s a driver for me.
Meg [00:24:26] Do you also feel I mean, it sounds like your dad was amazing and that you just had that confidence and at rest, peace, though. You miss him. Not devastation or not grieving without hope. Did you have some kind of a transition? As far as now it’s me and mom. And did you kind of look at yourself as more the leader, not the leader. But did you kind of take on the mantle to care for your mom and how did she do with all that?
Arie [00:24:57] You know, I, I think so. I mean, to be honest with you, it’s probably been more in in our my later years. You know, I was 16 and I mean, that was April of of 1987 and then August of 1987, I started dating Stacy. So, yeah. I was high school and I still was playing ball and wanting to date and get married and looking forward to a career. So you know, I really kind of certainly immersed myself in living life as a 16 year old. But I think it also did teach me to be, you know, okay, I need to be responsible. I need to be I don’t think I ever took on that well, I’m the man of the house mentality now, but it certainly gave me a different, I think, perspective for sure.
Meg [00:25:49] Well, I mean, I’m friends with Stacy on social media and, you know, the amount of sickening lovey dovey posts about my husband is the greatest thing ever. No, clearly, you guys have you know, of course, we’re all imperfect. You have a solid marriage. And you met when you were teens?
Arie [00:26:08] Yes. When we were teens. She’s the older woman. It’s only by three months. I mean it was literally August of that year and we started dating and truth be told, after probably four or five months of dating, we were just kind of like, I don’t think we ever I don’t know why I’d ever want to break up. And I mean, again, I was just at that time, I was a junior, she was a senior, so we knew we were young and, you know, so we dated for four years and, you know, we got married young. And I just I do remember very much that, you know, I proposed to her up at the Space Needle on Valentine’s Day. We were both working at Nordstrom at the time. And so we both got off our late shift. And I wanted to propose there because that’s where my dad proposed to my mom. I remember the very next day we surprised my mom. I didn’t tell my mom that I was going to, you know, get engaged. And so we went downtown to her office and Stacy walked up and she showed her hands. And my mom was like, “What?” And anyway, but I just remember on our wedding day, my mom walked into Stacy’s room where her bridesmaids were. And she my mom’s not very verbose. So she just basically handed Stacy an envelope. And so Stacy opened up the envelope and it was a letter that my mom wrote to her and she just said there was a ring in the envelope. And it was a ring that my dad had given my mom. So she was now giving it to Stacy.
Meg [00:27:50] I’m sure Stacy was quite teary.
Arie [00:27:53] Yes.
Meg [00:27:54] Makeup was all messed up.
Arie [00:27:54] Yes. And she just in the letter, my mom said, “I knew from day one that God brought you to help fill the hole in Arie’s heart.
Meg [00:28:05] Wow.
Arie [00:28:06] So, yeah, you know, my faith journey has just really been. It’s been a journey, and it still is. I mean, you know, I’m still learning. I’m still trying to grow, but, you know, I’ve been so privileged. And to really see the Lord work in so many different areas of my life and it can only be because of Him.
Meg [00:28:28] Yeah. I mean, the Lord is so good. And I know you have three amazing kids. How did becoming parents and parenting and how has parenting shaped you and just added to your heart in story?
Arie [00:28:42] You know, it’s the greatest responsibility. I think, you know, there’s no greater responsibility than to be a parent. We became parents at a very young age, you know.
Meg [00:28:55] So you had all the answers…Not.
Arie [00:28:56] Yeah, you know, we are the first of our of our friend group to…We weren’t the first to get married, but we were the first to have kids. And people were like, Wow, you guys are kids yourselves. What do you…I mean, we were literally 21. You know, I look back on it, I wouldn’t change it for anything. You know, we’ve been so blessed to be able to be active and involved all growing up, as were teenagers. And the kids would say, you know, mom, dad, our friends are like, “Your parents are so young.” But, you know, in terms of just I think it’s honestly it’s been a faith builder.
Meg [00:29:35] Right.
Arie [00:29:36] You know, being parents. But it’s you certainly learn sacrifice and you learn unconditional love and you learn that you need a great deal of patience. And I think the other thing we have, you know, we’ve learned is as much as we love them, God loves them that much more. And yes, there are children, but they’re His. And so I think that’s always been a driving force, one of the driving forces for us to be the best parents we possibly can. Sometimes no greater heartache, but also no greater joy.
Meg [00:30:13] Absolutely. Yes. And we can’t fall off the the ship while the kids are out, just kind of just going up and down. And sometimes you feel like that where you’re just on your knees and on your face and just learn what all the Psalms mean, you know, like, oh, my tongue’s cleaving to the roof of my mouth. And I go about moaning all day, and you’re like, I remember, like, I was so happily married to, you know, twenties and thirties, and this is such a blessing. And then and then, you know, if your kids had any bumps, you know, like, well, I thought that was my story. I thought, I’ve been through enough? I’ve had a lot. But to stay put. And to be that consistency.
Arie [00:31:02] I think, you know, to model, to try to be a model for them when we make a mistake and to acknowledge that we made a mistake or we fail. I think in many cases, there’s no greater lesson that can be taught to them is that, you know what? We failed and will continue to fail. So let’s own it and let’s move forward and, you know, make amends or make a change or do something different. But that’s part of life.
Meg [00:31:32] And I think kids appreciate that, too. You know, whether it’s you know, I feel like, you know, you know, this part of me was ruined in childhood and you just say, I am so sorry that you felt that way. I wish I would have been more there. I’m here for you now, any time. Or, you know, the one kid who’s like going and counseling, trying to figure things out. But you know what? We have to be humble and open, right? And keep that door open and say, “I could have done better. I could have been loose. I could have been more tight.” You know? Whenever it is, they have to find the Lord in their generation and their heart. And it’s not going to be like my experience.
Arie [00:32:12] Right. Absolutely.
Meg [00:32:14] So I know recently you’ve been working and we’ll talk a little bit more about that in the P.S. But I mean I know you’re a grandpa, so that’s cool. So you have to tell me what your and Stacy’s dreams are. And then just if you would share how the Lord raised up this ministry working at the Compassion Center at Alderwood Community Church and Where We Go, and Lynnwood, Washington.
Arie [00:32:41] Yes, absolutely. So I’m Papa and then Stacy is Gram.
Meg [00:32:50] Papa and Gram that’s cute.
Arie [00:32:50] Papa and Gram. And I absolutely love that Avi, our grandson, those are completely organic. It was what he…I initially started out as Boppa. I, being an avid basketball fan and coach, basketball was always on. And so he learned at a very early age that Papa likes to watch basketball. And so he said and one of his first words was ball. So I think you’re right. And I don’t think it’s I don’t think I’m, you know, choosing to believe I’m pretty sure this is how it happened. But he’s watching ball and he associated that with me. And so it started out as Boppa. And then just as he got a little bit older, then he changed it to papa with a P and which I love. I you know, I know Stacy loves being called Gram.
Meg [00:33:48] And you were just telling me a little while ago we were talking and say what his name means.
Arie [00:33:54] So Avi means love of the father. You know, I remember before Avi was born, I was talking to a colleague of mine. A friend of mine, and he’s a grandpa. And he said, “Arie.” He says, “You love your kids like none other.” He says, “But loving your grandkids is on a different level.” And I was like, “How is that possible?” But the minute he was born, I got it. You know, those two grandkids, you know, they bring so much joy to our lives. And I can’t imagine life without them.
Meg [00:34:31] Amen. Well, is there a verse that you would say has really meant a lot to you that is shaped just as special to you in light of when you think about your story?
Arie [00:34:41] You know, is is Jeremiah 29:11. You know, for I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. And, you know, the Lord plucked me out of this tiny little village 7000 miles away and placed me here in Seattle, Washington. And I remember as a young kid, my mom always said, “Arie, God’s got big things for you. I believe that. I know that.” And I remember that. And I look, you know, now as I really am old, you know, I’m old enough to reflect on just how much the Lord did to bring me to where I am today. He has a plan. And, you know, it’s my honor and my privilege to daily try to live and walk within that plan.
Meg [00:35:36] Amen. Before we seal up the envelope on this letter of encouragement, we have prepared a little treat for you that we like to call the P.S. So you can see more of the heart and personality of our guest.
V/O [00:35:52] Here is your P.S.
Meg [00:35:57] All right. Are you ready for some bonus questions?
Arie [00:35:59] I’m ready.
Meg [00:36:00] All right. Well, so do you always keep condensed milk around the house?
Arie [00:36:04] No, but I do have a major sweet tooth, so that is one of my vices. I have a major sweet tooth. You know, one thing. When I mentioned the sweetened condensed milk, my nana passed away in 2009, and Stacy and I got a chance to go down. Her son called me. I was at work and he just said, “Arie you know, are you sitting down?” And, you know, okay, you kind of have a feeling, you know, what that means. But anyway, so we drove down and and I hadn’t seen my grandpa in years. Unfortunately, my grandpa and Nana ended up divorcing. But anyway, I walked up to the grave site service, and my grandpa didn’t know I was coming. And I put my hand on my grandpa shoulder, and he turned around. My grandpa was really short and he just turned around. He looked at me and just tears welled up. And he still calls me Audie. He doesn’t call me Arie. He still calls me Audie. And he gave me this huge hug. And I was able to have the privilege of being a pallbearer at the time. And so, well, we go back to the church where the memorial was going to be held and there’s a time sharing. And so I was the last one to share. As I introduced myself, I could hear people gasping in the back. So I talked about my nana and just how special she was. And so then we go back to the to the fellowship. And these these two or three older ladies come walking up to me and they said, “We know your story.” And they looked at me and they said, “We are the ones that sent the sweetened condensed milk.”
Meg [00:37:43] Aww.
Arie [00:37:43] And I was like, Oh my gosh. I mean, for them and for me, I mean, it was full circle. That was really a cool moment for me to meet them. And I think for them to now see yeah, see me, that was a really cool moment for me because that church too, where the service was held was the church that sent them. So, it was a special moment.
Meg [00:38:09] And you know, I know that you have coached all over the Seattle area and I know Stacy still refs. What is a favorite sports moment for each of your kids?
Arie [00:38:22] Okay. I think for Tanner, it was his sophomore year and he had just sprouted. He had hit 6’2, I think, at that time, and he desperately wanted to dunk. And so he was working in the gym as much as he could to work on his hops and and so forth. He wasn’t the tallest on the team at the time, but he had the highest vert. And so he would jump all he would…I just remember the game clincher for them to go to state. So I had been coaching for a while and my team, I had taken two teams to state at that point and I just really wanted him to be able to experience as a player. I wanted him to experience going to State and I just we were in the Malik Terrace High School gym and I was probably…I’m very typically reserved, but, you know, I’m wired as an introvert. But when it comes to sports, I’m able to come out of my shell and I probably have not screamed.
Meg [00:39:23] Lost your mind?
Arie [00:39:24] I lost my mind and I was pacing up and down the stands and waving my towel. And I was just so well. And Stacy lost her mind, too, because she went run it out onto the court at the very end and probably, you know, anyway.
Meg [00:39:42] The girls were like, “Mom.”
Arie [00:39:44] Yeah. Tanner being Tanner is like, “Mom, what are you doing out here?” But that’s probably my most favorite moment for him. Mallory was, I believe it was her junior year, I think? Volleyball. It was a bi-district game winner to state and it was the fifth match and back, you know, back then was just to 15. They were down…Gosh, I want to say it was like 11 to 3 or 12 to 3 or something like that. And they stormed back and took that match and I made it to state. And the whole back row was always the dad’s. And we were just going berserk. It was one of the most epic moments, just comebacks I’ve ever seen. And that was just I remember that to this day I was up at Glacier Peak High School’s gym.
Meg [00:40:40] And I know your girls are incredible hitters because our daughters played around the same time and I was like, Oh, they’re really good. So what about, Gabrielle?
Arie [00:40:52] So, you know, Mallory was very much a finesse player. She could hit, but she could also set and she just was very cerebral. Gabrielle was power. When she hit, you knew she hit. And I remember her senior year, I think she was outside one. But then their first match at State, their middle went down with a twisted ankle in the very first, very first set. And Gabrielle had to go switch to middle. So she played middle the rest of the state tournament. And I just remember her having to make that adjustment, playing her heart out. And the team ended up I think they ended up fifth that year at State, which is one place higher than Mallory. But those yeah, those are definitely the be the highlights for me.
Meg [00:41:45] Yeah. All right. I wish you could meet my son Micah. And you probably really enjoy him. He is totally in the basketball, but I’m just going to have to ask you, who’s the greatest of all time in the NBA?
Arie [00:41:58] Yes, that’s. That’s to me, that’s a no brainer. That’s Michael Jordan.
Meg [00:42:02] And, you know, I just I have to go with Shaq and we go back and forth on this. It’s like the Kanye West or Taylor Swift. I’m a Swifty, I don’t budge on that. But Jordan yeah that’s what Micah says Michael Jordan. Best three pointer? Who’s the best three pointer of all?
Arie [00:42:19] Your favorite shooter.
Arie [00:42:20] Oh okay. I would say I mean Steph, you know is unreal, but I think the gosh, that’s a tossup. I remember Dale Ellis when he played for the Sonics. I remember when he played for the Bucks and then he came in in the trade for the Sonics. And I was just enamored with his shot. I was like, oh, my gosh, he is so smooth. Yeah. But I think for me, it’s Ray Allen. I think he had the yeah, probably one of the purest jump shots. I mean, it’s textbook the way he would shoot the ball. It’s textbook, in my opinion.
Meg [00:42:56] Yeah. Reggie Miller is not in there in the conversation.
Arie [00:42:59] Reggie. I mean, Reggie is absolutely hands down one of the greats. I think he’s one of the most clutch shooters ever. But his shot, to me, it was unorthodox because he has such a high, really high. We could get it all this technicality. But I just I Ray Allen for me is textbook.
Meg [00:43:19] Yeah, textbook. Just a little fun fact about me. I played against Cheryl Miller.
Arie [00:43:24] You did?
Meg [00:43:25] I did. I was five, ten and five, eight and seventh grade, like 130 lbs.
Arie [00:43:32] Oh, my God.
Meg [00:43:34] I got to guard her as a sophomore.
Arie [00:43:35] Wow.
Meg [00:43:36] Yeah, just. It was the first time we had made a state. Yeah, So anyway, yeah, there was lights and it was quite a full gym.
Arie [00:43:45] I mean, Cheryl Miller, I mean she’s, she’s the OG I think. Yeah. For, definitely for women’s hoopers.
Meg [00:43:51] So there’s a lot of parents listening now and you know, it gets really tricky to figure out the whole sports, home life, church balance. What input can you give?
Arie [00:44:06] You know I think you really and I’m not saying we necessarily did it all correctly the whole time but you know sports will come and go. And while I believe sports is one of the greatest platforms to teach life skills to kids, you got to have that balance. And I think, you know, church has got to be priority number one, family priority number two, school three, and then sports. And, you know, not that you don’t make some adjustments, you know, here and there or exceptions, I should say. But I just think in this day and age, even more like I said, sports is going to come and go. And, you know, they got to have that foundation. They got to have that compass, that true north. You know, I get that, you know, the kids are vying for a scholarship. The reality is, you know, it’s difficult to get those full rides. And I just think, you know, there’s so many other avenues that can be pursued to bring the college tuition down too. Yeah, keep God first.
Meg [00:45:13] Yes. Oh, and when do you know it’s time to maybe steer your kids in a different direction? You know, like they they’re trying out for the high school team or, you know, they got cut last year but then they are you know.
Arie [00:45:25] If your son or daughter loves what they’re doing, then I would just, you know, obviously continue to support them. Even if they’re you know, some kids just love being part of a team or they love maybe they just love playing ball or volleyball or football or whatever. And if they’re just they may not be getting a lot of playing time, but they love being part of a team. They love being a part of that community and obviously continue to support that. I think teach your kids to advocate for themselves. One of the things that I think has been difficult, especially after the last couple of years, is parents probably do more for their children when it comes to sports than maybe they should. To where the players aren’t communicating. It’s the parent that’s coming up to communicate with the coach. But in terms of you know, if they’re middle of the season and it’s just…there’s difficulty, I would certainly encourage them to stick it out. You know, because again, you’re going to have jobs in life you don’t like and you just going to have to, you know, weather the storm for a while and learn how to adapt or learn how to adjust. So I definitely think keeping kids in it, if they’ve committed, you know, stay in it, then at the end of the year, make that choice as to whether or not you’re going to pursue. Great.
Meg [00:46:45] Thank you. I guess turning on to a different note, what do you see as the greatest need in the church today?
Arie [00:46:50] I think teaching the truth in honesty and conviction. Not worry about…And love. But not get overly consumed with…Well, I might hurt some feelings here. Or might. You know, if you’re teaching the truth and love, then it’s the Holy Spirit that does the convicting or will take that and convict if necessary or. Or teach.
Meg [00:47:17] Yeah. And it’s a little bit more difficult now with the climate after postpandemic. I know just it seems like even the pastors at our church and other places, they are heaped with lots of big opinions about all kinds of things. So I like how you put that.
Arie [00:47:33] I mean, It’s really, again, stay the course.
Meg [00:47:38] Absolutely. And we have this amazing thing called the Compassion Center at Alderwood. So maybe tell our listeners more about it. It might inspire them in their churches or ministry. What’s it all about?
Arie [00:47:52] Well, it’s our local outreach ministry. It’s a three story building that we that the church purchased with the idea of it being used for local outreach. You know Alderwood has traditionally been extremely you know has done very well with global missions, but was honestly lacking in community missions. And I just remember a comment that was made by a good friend of mine and I think even at the time Pastor Brad even said, “If Alderwood wasn’t here today, how would the community remember us?” That was to some degree, I think there was a bit of a sobering statement. You know? How you know, what would the community remember us for? I was privileged and honored to be recruited by Pastor Steve. I wasn’t looking for a job. I was happy I was with Seattle Goodwill and I figured I’d retire from there. And then Steve just tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Arie, the Lord’s laid your name on my heart. Every morning as I prayed about a director. Would you just pray about it? Think about it?” But we started with a food program, and we started right in the middle of the pandemic. I mean, we all remember March 6th, we closed the doors of the church and this are the offices. And, you know, for 2020, for you know, a two week break. Which turned into obviously several months. We had an idea of what the food program was going to look like. But now in the midst of the pandemic and just our world turned upside down, we had to pivot. People were losing their jobs and there was a great need. Food insecurity, which was already high in the city, in Snohomish County, and certainly in south Snohomish County. It went even higher. And so the need for a food bank, a food program, was was very much desired. And so May of 2020, we opened up and we start we served 15 families at the time and we’re now consistently serving 90 to 100 families every Tuesday. And, you know, our goal is to not only we want to demonstrate the love of Jesus, but we want to declare it. So the goal really, while we’re a food program and we are providing a practical resource, it’s not about the food. It’s about demonstrating and sharing the love Jesus Christ has for these families. And it’s just been an incredible journey for the last two and a half years and the relationships that have formed. And, you know, we have such a diverse population of families coming. You know, we have had families, you know, come that are you know, they have expressed, you know, we are a Muslim family. But they still come and they ask for prayer. And they have connected with us. So many of our neighbors have expressed we come here because you’re our family.
Meg [00:50:52] I know it’s all organized and so many people volunteer and help. So if there’s someone listening and you’re needing a little extra help. How can they reach out?
Arie [00:51:04] They can definitely just, you know, reach out to go through the church web site at Alderwood.cc and scroll down to the Compassion Center landing page. And they can connect with us through there. They can certainly email me directly if they just again, go on the website and we have, you know, teenagers and folks in their mid-seventies volunteering right next to each other and learning from each other. But we’re always looking for additional community partners to help, you know, with obviously, there’s a cost to this with, you know, stocking the shelves and making sure we have ample food to give out. We’re also looking at expanding other pieces to this ministry. We’ve got a we call it Joy of Reading, which is a reading comprehension and program that we partnership with Cedar Valley Elementary School, I have a dream that I would love to create a workforce development program where we’re teaching, helping these families, these neighbors with job search and resume writing and ESL classes and so forth. So, you know, the volunteer pool will definitely need to grow from that standpoint. But if somebody feels led to donate physical food, they can go out again, go on our website and we have a list of the items that we need because we give out the same things every week.
Meg [00:52:25] Well, thank you. Thank you for sharing that. It’s such a blessed ministry. But just how many things the Lord has raised up through the pandemic, all these new kinds of ministries. So a lot of things have closed down. It’s kind of cool to see.
Arie [00:52:43] You know, while we basically had to pivot completely and and we had all these plans for, you know, bringing but having them come in and shop right away and so forth. Well, they couldn’t come in the building. So we had to go out and but we were able to make connections and even through these car windows and even through wearing masks. And, you know, now that the masks are off, which is great, now we’re they can see our smiles and they can really get to get to know us. But we are serving a meal now once a month, which is great. So they’re coming in the building and sitting down for a meal. And it’s just really been an incredible journey. We have a gentleman that comes that started coming day one. I had a conversation with him several months ago and we were sitting down at the table and he looked across the table at me and he said, “We’re friends, right?” And I said, “Absolutely.” And so then he opened up and he shared more about his story. And it was just just really, really cool.
Meg [00:53:45] All right. Just a couple more questions. What flaw keeps you on your knees in prayer?
Arie [00:53:51] I get very anxious about things, circumstances, situations.
Meg [00:53:58] Can you give an example?
Arie [00:54:00] I worry too much about what people think about me. I hate to fail. And so I will not try something because I’m afraid of looking like, you know.
Meg [00:54:11] A risk averse.
Arie [00:54:12] I am. I am extremely risk averse. And so I battle anxiety about that.I have this internal internal battle and I’m like, “Why are you so worked up about this?” This is ridiculous. This is just a simple little thing. And I’m like, sometimes I’m like, “Lord, why am I like this?” But then honestly, I think about, you know, Paul, he prayed, you know, he had the thorn in his flesh and he’s like, he prayed that the Lord would take that away. And I know there’s great debate over what that was, but the Lord never took it away. And so for me, you know, the anxiety piece, it drives me to my knees. It drives me to rely on Him for the strength that I don’t feel like I can muster or the courage. I don’t think the Lord’s ever are going to take it away from me, because I think in part, that’s my you know…
Meg [00:55:11] Well, you’re probably extra compassionate, too, because you have that consideration deep about how people are thinking and feeling.
Arie [00:55:18] And I think that’s that’s very true. I do care about what other…I place a great deal of emphasis on, “I wonder how they’re feeling about this.” Knowing that that’s a battle that I deal with all the time.
Meg [00:55:37] And this is the last question. And what is the legacy you want to leave behind?
Arie [00:55:42] I want to be known as somebody who was a prayer warrior, somebody that loved the Lord fiercely and loved his family and loved others.
Meg [00:55:59] I trust you are encouraged by Arie’s story as much as I am. Isn’t it astounding what God can do, no matter how difficult a life starts out? When I think of Arie in that hut and the animal coming in and things seem so hopeless. But the love of an uncle, the love of new grandparents, the love of a ministry, an orphanage, and how God brought him all the way to Seattle from Sulawesi and had this great purpose and plan for him, for his family, and how the Lord even cares about forgiveness. His father, who was really fallen on hard times. Arie story just so reminds me that God can do anything. Today I am praying for us all, that we believe Him for great things, and also that we are not afraid to step into a new calling our ministry.
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Arie [00:57:36] Links from our guests will be in the show notes. For more every day, extraordinary faith stories go to our website, lettersfromhomepodcast.com and click subscribe or follow whatever platform you’re listening to.
V/O [00:57:49] 2 Corinthians 3:3, “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. Not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts. Until next time, go in peace.