Posts Tagged ‘ Community ’

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…

 

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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!

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.

It Takes a Community

Check out my letter for more details on how to join in with the Thailand adventure!

Thailand Update!

After spending the weekend moving out of my apartment and looking ahead to my last month in DC before the next chapter, I’m finding myself dealing with a whole myriad of emotions.  The first of which is forced humility, and realizing just how hard it is to relinquish my independence.

Nothing brings me more joy than being on the giving end of things.  But for some reason I find it extremely hard to accept help. Well…. I’m being forced to get over that.  I’m entering a new chapter of being dependent on the help and support of family and friends to send me off on this new adventure overseas.  It’s an uncomfortable place to be, but I’m thankful for the lesson in humility.

I’m humbled daily by the generosity of family and friends that are coming alongside to support, encourage and give of themselves to help me make this transition.  What has the potential to be a pretty scary place to be is manageable with a community behind me, quick to remind that I’m not in this alone.

I’m thankful for friends lending their muscles (and patience) to help me move.  For a wonderful friend letting me crash in her basement for the month of June before I peace out of DC.  For those quick to encourage and affirm that this is, indeed, the right decision, no matter how crazy I feel.  And now that the support letter is sent, I’m grateful for those that have been so quick to lend their prayer and/or financial support.

Thankful for the adventures ahead and the community that has come alongside me!