All About Community

I’m three weeks in to my time here and am starting to feel settled.  I even caught myself saying “I’m heading home” today after spending the day in language classes and meetings downtown, and it didn’t freak me out to realize I was referring to “home” here.  House keys, a few essential pieces of furniture, some “artwork” from my niece on the wall and some comfort food in the fridge have helped make that happen.  But even more than real peanut butter and homemade raspberry jam in the fridge, what makes this home is the community we have here.

Geographically speaking, we live just a short walk from The Well.  For those not familiar with the organization, this is where opportunities are provided for women coming out of difficult situations to learn English, develop vocational skills and most importantly be counseled and discipled.  It also provides a safe and healthy environment for their children.  It’s the bricks and mortar of the organization here, but the heart of it is so much more than bricks and mortar.

One of the greatest blessings of being here so far has been to have my understanding of this ministry transformed and deepened.  I no longer view it as simply an incredible ministry with a sound mission and vision, but it’s an extraordinarily unique family and community that is living out the principles of the Gospel with every breath.  If there’s sickness, the community comes around them.  If there’s mistreatment, the community comes around to teach and correct.  If there’s a relapse, the community continues to love and show support, welcoming them back with open arms if and when they are ready to return.  It’s an environment of continued healing and transformation made possible by relational investment.  It’s not without its messes, but even in the mess it’s beautifully Biblical.

This past weekend we celebrated all the August birthdays.  All the families, staff and other Well volunteers joined together for an evening of games, music and food.  All were equals; all were celebrating what God has done in our lives, our families and in our community.  I can’t describe the joy that overflowed that place and felt so privileged to see it, and even more to know that I have been given the opportunity to become a part.  To walk alongside our neighbors as God works on all of us together.

That’s the macro community.  I love it.  I want more of it.  I can’t wait to see God continue to grow and transform it as He continues to touch and transform lives.

On the micro side, I’d also like to take a minute to give you a glimpse into our immediate family/community at the Volunteer House.  (We’ve also been coined “the Love Shack” but that sounds misleadingly scandalous…)

I live with three other amazing people.  First, Brooke.  The HOH.  The boss. Our friend and counselor.  She’s from North Carolina and is another long term volunteer with an incredible heart for and gift of counseling.  She coordinates the short term volunteers coming through and is being instrumental in putting together a more intentional counseling process for the women and their families.  She also “counsels” me often and has been a great friend.

Then there’s Jup. She’s stinkin’ fabulous.  She’s on staff with The Well, takes seminary classes at a local university and has about eleventy billion other responsibilities.  She brings great joy and laughter to this place and makes sure we speak Thai often. I get to have guitar jam sessions with her on demand – I love it.

Frank is also pretty stinkin’ fantastic.  (There’s a theme here… have you noticed?)  Originally from North Philly, he has an incredibly genuine, generous, passionate heart that is driven to chase Jesus and see the Kingdom advanced with no regard for personal safety or gain.  He’s playing a vital role here at the Well as a strong, devoted man of God in an environment in which male role models are hard to come by. He’s been in Thailand for a couple of years; his Thai is ridiculously phenomenal and he has been a lifesaver in helping us transition into life, culture and language here.  We’ve also dubbed him our personal bodyguard.

Beyond the blessing of the macro community, these three have been an extraordinary blessing as we face what can be daunting daily challenges in life and ministry here.  Together.

Talk about an answer to prayer for this little extroverted farm girl…  Community is a beautiful thing.

The three stooges, amigos, whatever...

Wondering what monsoon season looks like in Thailand?  This:

Very soaked but very happy housemates

Looking ahead….

Beyond the day-to-day activities and projects at The Well, I’ve started an intensive Thai language course and am starting to make some connections in the agriculture community here in Bangkok.  I’m also starting to dive into my Master’s thesis process with the goal of landing on a research topic that will lay the groundwork to address some of the deeply rooted socioeconomic issues of Thailand’s rural provinces which are “home” to many of the women we meet in the bars. It’s a crazy, daunting idea and I’ll need some significant divine intervention (and some time….) to pull it off, but I’m looking forward to the challenge!

Future posts on that front, but prayers are appreciated in the meantime!

PS….. As I write about community here, I can’t help but give a shout out to YOU reading this, wherever you might be.  Though I have entered into a new community here in Thailand, I feel doubly blessed not to have lost my community at my “other” home.  Your continued support, notes of encouragement, investment of prayer, (and the simple fact that you care enough to read my crazy posts) mean the world to me!   THANK YOU!  I couldn’t be doing this without you.

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  • Comments (5)
    • David Cleavinger
    • September 8th, 2010

    Cori,
    As you were at NAWG, you continue to amaze me…..blessings to you in your mission of life. As I read your post (while in a NAWG meeting) I cannot help but pray for your safety and the work that you are doing in helping people that have lost hope in life. May God continue to use your bright face and smile to touch lives and encourage those around you. You have touched my life with dedication to your calling. Prayers your way.
    David Cleavinger

    • adamtaylorethiopia
    • September 9th, 2010

    Really glad you have some good folks around you. That alone should help you never doubt anything you are doing. It is a special gift, one that not all receive well or take notice of. Of course a you are doubly blessed to have a Philly guy with you and another reading your blog. We dominate. Does he have any tatoos? We all do. HAHA. And we Philly boys where white tank tops but they have an offensive name. See if he knows what I am talking about.

    Anyway, keep it up. Remember these first months well, you will need them later. I know I owe you skype, but it doesnt work well and it annoys me. But one day, I promise.

    • diana
    • September 10th, 2010

    i love you.

    • dad
    • September 11th, 2010

    don’t ever lose your passion…am excited to hear each new experience you encounter. Be safe!

    Love, Dad (can you tell me how you spell Dad and Mom in Thai?)

    • Nina
    • September 12th, 2010

    Miss you Cori!! So proud of you and surrounding you with prayers!

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