Archive for the ‘ The Well ’ Category

A Little Crazy Goes a Long Way

A little (crazy) prayer goes a long way.

I asked several “Will God…?” questions in my last post.  Some won’t be answered for months or years, but for others I feel like we can start counting the promise of “immeasurably more” right now.

Can I really be an adequate interim parent for two teenagers abandoned by their mom until God provides more permanent foster parents?   It’ll take a lot longer than a week to tell that.  But in the meantime, God is blessing Jub and I and our volunteer house with two precious teenage girls that need a lot of love (and eat a lot of pancakes) and stretch our faith every day.  We continue to circle these girls in prayer and plead for God to provide foster parents in the next few months, but I’m wondering if God might have something else in store…  Immeasurably more.

Will God heal a faithful and faith-filled couple that just discovered they are HIV positive, and protect their unborn baby from the disease?   We’re still circling.  But in the meantime, she’s rising up in worship with a deep faith and divine strength that gives me goosebumps.  And she’s crying out to God not for herself or her own recovery, but for the lives of those around her as she continues to fight for and love on her neighbors that continue their work as women of the night.  Crazy awesome.  Immeasurably more.

Will my friend reach his goal of staying clean from meth for an entire year and grow as a committed husband and father?   Time will tell and we’ll keep circling.  But in the meantime, he’s challenging me back with this goal saying he doesn’t want to just stay clean for a year, but he wants to stay clean for good.  Silly me.  Immeasurably more. 

Will God build a movement to create real change in rural communities to stop this cycle of family and community brokenness that so often leads to participation in the sex industry?

Now we’re getting REALLY crazy.  But I’m beginning to realize a little crazy goes a long way when you’re talking Kingdom crazy.  Here’s a preview:

This photo was taken last week after our first ad hoc community meeting in a small, rural village in Khon Kaen province.  The heart of Isaan.  The heart of Thailand.

After being unsure whether or not we’d have any attendees and being even less sure what direction the discussion would take, we were overwhelmed with the result.

The community is awake.  Without prompting, they answered every question we had with flying colors.  They want change.  They want us to be a part, but they want to take responsibility for change.  In fact, they want to start before we even get there.

We laid out our best made plans and prayers and God is already doing…. Immeasurably more. 

More soon…

 

Circling ‘Immeasurably More’

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine, according to His power at work within us, to Him be the Glory …”  (Ephesians 3:20)

One of those verses that never gets old.  Unless you let it.

It’s a forward-looking promise to hang on when I’m out of my element, out of ideas or out of options.  And that happens often here.

Can I really be an adequate interim parent for two teenagers abandoned by their mom until God provides more permanent foster parents?

Will God heal a faithful and faith-filled couple that just discovered they are HIV positive, and protect their unborn baby from the disease?

Will my friend reach his goal of staying clean from meth for an entire year and grow as a committed husband and father?

Will God build a movement to create real change in rural communities to stop this cycle of family and community brokenness that so often leads to participation in the sex industry?

I returned from our visit to the U.S. with a lot of questions and very few clear answers.  But what I did gain was a fresh sense of anticipation that God both CAN move and WANTS TO move in these situations and many others.

But here’s the catch:  He also wants US to move.  He wants us to move first in the form of prayer.

Thanks to NCC Pastor Mark Batterson’s new book The Circle Maker, our team has a new vernacular for prayer.   We’re dreaming bigger. We’re praying harder. We’re thinking longer.

We’re praying circles around the promise that God is able and will do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine in each of these situations and many others.   Will you commit to pray with us?

 

The More the Merrier

Growing up as the youngest of five kids in an extroverted family with constant visitors, I’m no stranger to full houses.  Thailand, however, raises the bar on hospitality.  “The more the merrier” seems to be an unspoken cultural mantra in this country.

October is a funky month in Thailand as schools close for a month between terms, meaning our family at The Well explodes with some new energy for a month as kids and teens from our extended community are around all day, every day.  A new twist on the usual October fun and youth programs… six teenagers and three Thai interns are camping out with us at the volunteer house for the month.  That brings our house occupancy to 13, usually expanding from there as friends and neighbors join in on the commotion as well.

Every night’s a party!

Love the life and joyful noise the kids bring to the house.  Meals turn into parties and bedtime turns into a circus.   There’s something about having teenagers around that brings good perspective and optimism for the future.

Sure – a houseful of rambunctious teenagers isn’t all fun and games; it’s easy to get caught up in the never ending cycle of grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, with a side of complaints about house rules on cell phone use.  (Gaining respect for parents everywhere!)  And yet the frequent sounds of laughter, worship music jam sessions and ‘heart-to-hearts’ more than make up for the minor inconveniences of a houseful.

The kids are getting exposed to a different type of community and family than they’ve known in the past.  And… us ‘big kids’ get a unique window into what God’s doing in their hearts and lives every day.  What a blessing and a privilege!

A couple reasons I’m writing this.

One, so you can pray with us.  For all the kids that are preparing to head back to school in the next couple weeks and, in some cases, back to far less safe family and community environments.  We want these youth to have access to consistent, healthy community and are praying for God to make a way for that to happen.  We dream of these rural kids being the cycle breakers — the ones to break the trends of brokenness in their families and communities.  With that dream, we’re continuing to pray about a possible rural youth center (think Boys & Girls Club meets 4-H) but we’re still a ways off from launching.  Let me know if this piques your interest and I’ll loop you in.

And two, so you might think about your own roof.  Who’s under it?  Who are you inviting into your community?   Are you seeking out and inviting in community not only as a means of being a blessing to others, but as a means of allowing God to stretch you, teach you, encourage you and remind you just how precious and beautiful His family is?

If you’re not, you’re missing out.  After all, the more the merrier!

The Sweetest Melody

Bar outreach in Bangkok is a key part of our work here, but not one that I write of often.  A good friend of mine that visited this last week wrote the piece below and offered to share it as a glimpse into the world of outreach.  Thanks to Erin for joining our community here and for sharing her reflections.

The Sweetest Melody

by Erin Manfredi

You’re all out of options; this is the last resort.  You show up and sign over your name.  They give you a number and you pin it on.  It’s your new identity.  They make you stand out front so everyone can have a look; they look and they think evil thoughts about you.  The nights are long and there is so much pressure.  You have to meet your quotas or you will pay.  All they care about are numbers.  How many men, how many drinks, how many dollars.  And that’s all you are to them.  Another number.  You feel it from your family, too.  They’re all counting on you.  So you keep going.  Night after night, you continue to count.  The days turn into weeks and the weeks turn into months.  This is your life.

Tonight is just another night.  No one has come to take you away yet.  You are standing there hoping they’ll like what they see so that you can do what you have been trained to do.  Then you will walk away with a large number in your pocket.  They live for your number and you live for theirs.  It isn’t even a fair exchange.  But it’s enough for you to get by.

All of a sudden you hear your name called out over all the noise.  It sounds sweet like a melody.  It startles you.  It’s been a while since someone has called you by name.  Who could be asking for you like this?  You turn to see.  Her eyes shine from the inside out and her smile is overwhelming.  She walks towards you.  Her arms are wide open and she wraps you up in a hug.  She takes your breath away.  She says your name again and all you can do is smile.  You repeat it in your head.  It’s a beautiful name.  You feel like a person again.

She tells you she has a place for you; a place where you can leave your number behind.  You won’t need it there.  At this place, they call each other by name.  She asks about your family and about your life.  You take a seat and lift your tired feet. You wish you could go away with her.

Then your boss comes out; he’s looking at you.  You stand up and your smile disappears.  With that one glance, you remember your number.  You’re just a number.  You go back to your spot.  A man comes to you.  He buys you a drink.  You see the girl smile at you and bow her head.  One day you will go.  One day you will join her.  You watch as she waves goodbye.

You don’t know but she prays for you.  At 6am she wakes.  She writes your name in her book and she calls you out to her Father.  She reminds him constantly about you.  He looks down on her and smiles.  He smiles because he knows; He knows you by name.

He also uses numbers but not like the others; his are different.  He counts the hairs on your head.  He counts the times you sit and the times you stand.  He counts your thoughts and he counts your tears.  He counts because he loves.  He also has a place for you and he is waiting to welcome you in.  One day you will overhear him calling your name.  It will be the sweetest melody you’ve ever heard because it is written just for you.  Yes, one day you will join Him.

Youth, Beach and Bieber

Three days at a secluded Thai beach sounds like heaven doesn’t it?  It was for us last week, but not like you might expect.

A little background first…. Last year The Well started ramping up efforts to serve the youth in our community, driven by the recognition that the children of students in our program were craving discipleship as much as their moms were.  Though the kids aren’t with us year round (most spend the majority of the school year out in the provinces with extended family – usually grandparents) they venture in to Bangkok during their long school breaks a couple times per year.

The youth activities have quickly expanded in a crazy, organic fashion to our neighbors in Bangkok and our extended family of kids in Buriram this spring.  We have a rock-star team of Thai leaders – spearheaded by the fearless Jup – and have seen some awesome growth in these kids in the short time they’re with us.

The culmination of this current school break for the kids was a three-day camp in ChaAm just a few ours out of Bangkok.

A few highlights:

  • Consequences of losing Thai games seem far more severe than in America.  Think red-food-coloring-mud-baths, corn starch and embarrassing dances.
  • It’s easier to get kids to concentrate on lessons when the ocean is infested with jellyfish.  Kids running out of the water screaming “I itch all over!!!!” was not uncommon.
  • Thai teenage girls are as obsessed with Justin Bieber as our NCC youth (or at least their fearless leader Jenilee Joy!) 😉

On a serious note, the kids were exposed to a series of lessons on what it means to “see Jesus” — looking at Him not as some foreigner teacher, but as a personal Savior, friend, and God of all nations and people.

One of my most precious times was a walk on the beach – careful to avoid the jellyfish mines – with a couple of our teenage girls that I’ve come to adore. (Not that I have favorites, but if I were to have them…..)  Switching gears abruptly from the all-important “Does Justin Bieber live in America or Canada?” question, one of the girls looked at me and asked if all foreigners were Christian.

She said she was curious because her teacher said that Jesus is for foreigners, not for Thai people.  I chatted with her in my broken Thai, giving her some different ideas to ponder – that Jesus came for everyone and not just for white skinned Westerners, and just because someone is a foreigner doesn’t mean they have decided to follow Jesus.  We chatted a bit more before the conversation migrated off to some more silly teenage talk.

Later I spent some time thinking about the context of her question.  She lives in a country where Christianity represents less than one percent of the population. Her dad is Muslim but she was raised by her single, hard-working mom that ended up working at a bar as a last resort to make sure her daughters would get a better education than she was able to get. Her only personal exposure to the concept of Christianity was that it’s a religion of foreigners and of no real consequence to Thai people.  I’m not entirely sure what foreigners she had been exposed to prior to the handful of us at The Well (and Bieber, of course) but I have my guesses.  I wonder what sort of impression other foreigners lave left on her idea of Christianity if she had been taught to believe that their white skin made them Christian regardless of their actions.

But here’s the good news:  She and a handful of other teens with similar stories have been drawn into a community where they are being loved and discipled by some rock star Thai leaders that not only believe in Jesus but that have “consequential faith.”  Each is living out a radical faith in light of Christ’s work in their lives.

My little mini-sermon in broken Thai can only go so far, but it’s the faith modeled by their Thai brothers and sisters that is turning their concept of Christianity upside down and right side up again.

I love our Thai leaders.  We need more of them!