Posts Tagged ‘ teenagers ’

Fields of Green

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There’s something beautiful and mysterious about seasonal rhythms of cultivating, sowing, fertilizing, waiting, believing and reaping.  But like a piece of art, a description of its beauty and mystery can’t do justice to entering into the rhythms yourself.

Though laboring over a crop in extreme temperatures may not be particularly enjoyable to most (as I’ve often been reminded by our resident teens and a few adults), the process as a whole is irreplaceable.

Rice harvest is fast approaching; November will mark our second year harvesting a crop.  Last year we harvested with seven teens; this year there’ll be closer to a dozen putting their hands to the sickle, not counting us “big kids” that can’t seem to finagle our way out of the hard labor ourselves.  Having spent the last year eating the fruits of their labor (literally… the rice we harvested ourselves fed our household of 20 for about eight months), the girls have been diligently monitoring this year’s rice crop and praying for its increase.

Rice 2013

We also tackled a slightly more intense project earlier this year by planting a couple acres of sugarcane.  It was a far more laborious process than the rice, and a great deal of blood, sweat and tears went into the ground prep, planting, fertilizing, irrigating and weeding processes.  But now as the sugarcane stalks tower far over our heads, the girls are proud and amazed that their labor could turn into something this great.  We’ll cut the first round early in 2014 and the proceeds will go toward a scholarship savings program for our teen girls.  More photos here.

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I confess there have been times I’ve doubted this strategy.  None of us are experts in rice or sugarcane, and I’m pretty sure we’ve provided some comedic relief to our neighbors (who pity us and pitch in to help).  But the process of diving in together has been priceless.    Though the girls complain a good deal through the process, I’ve heard more than one add with a thoughtful tilt of the head… “but it’s fun as long as we get to work together.  And I like seeing it grow.”

Together we grow.

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In a Year

It’s both crazy and amazing to look back over the last 12 months.  From my previous blog post where I asked questions like… “can we really be adequate interim foster parents of two Thai teens?” …to now, the journey seems almost surreal.

A few highlights from then to now:

  1. I became “aunt” to two, and then six, Thai teen girls.  In January 2012 Jub and I agreed to temporarily take in two teenagers in a tough spot.  Three more precious girls joined us in March and, after learning their stories, made that “temporary” decision seem a little less temporary (…see #2).  The sixth came to join us in October.
  2. In May, our small team officially relocated from Bangkok to a small village in Khon Kaen province in the Northeast (Isaan) region with a vision for community development.  The five teen girls voluntarily joined us, courageously entering a rural leadership development program for at-risk teens that didn’t yet exist.
  3. Our gracious village neighbors offered up their storehouses and gardens with rice, mangoes, papayas, veggies and herbs helping to feed our full house.  We even snuck some sugarcane out of the neighbors fields.  Now we have gardens going, and a friendly (and sympathetic) woman at the market that provides us with cheap produce.
  4. Between 60-80 kids and teens filled the house during after-school tutoring programs last term, so the village leaders got together and built us an outdoor classroom.
  5. Jub’s mom allowed us to take over one of her rice plots, so together we planted, weeded and harvested (all by hand), yielding enough rice to feed the house for the better part of the year.
  6. Investments in a ping pong table, a checkers board, an extra practice guitar and a growing library unwittingly solidified our status as the community hangout for kids of all ages.
  7. Three local schools offered open invitations to visit and teach; we’ve become known as “permanent guest” teachers as we hang out and teach English, character/values and drugs/migration awareness courses.  Our first long-term volunteer, Michenzie Motl, is now here and has taken a full-time teaching position at the secondary school.
  8. We were blessed with the support and partnership of Step Ahead Integrated Community Development to launch our first official economic development project in the village.  Starting with weaving sticky rice baskets, we’ll work our way up to producing woven purses and leather bags marketed under the Itsera brand.
  9. The walls in our current house are bursting with life — currently housing the teenagers, several staff, and equipment for economic development, while also doubling as community center.  We’ve begun circling a new piece of ground in the village as a build site for a new teen/community center to relieve some of the “traffic congestion” and are believing that God will bring it to be this year.
  10. And lastly…. we finally settled on a new name for our crazy and growing family here in Khon Kaen:  Breakthrough.    More to come on that front soon.

 

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I wish I was able to share the stories within each of these stories.  Like our headstrong 16-year-old teen girl that ran away for a month, came back and has since completely transformed into a bright, humble leader of the house.  Or our other 16-year-old that discovered that her friend from Buriram is now working at a bar in Bangkok and wants to help her by inviting her here with us.  Or our work-study student that couldn’t seem to escape the influence of his meth circles in Bangkok but is flourishing in a rural context, including beginning to mentor other at-risk young men.

But…. I’ll leave you with these highlights and updates from the past 12 months, and a commitment to blog more often over the next 12!

 

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!