Author: Ethan Wheeler

Rings of Hope

 

“Don’t worry, I still have my ring to sell…”

 

 


Twelve rescued girls face the streets without our help; a certain path back to the brothels. Most of these girls are younger than my daughters.

And so we began our work – without resources and long-range plans. But with the heart of the Father who leaves the flock to rescue the one.

That was 3 1/2 months ago.

Yesterday, our project manager sold her husband’s wedding ring to make up a shortfall in her finances.


 

Many are called, but few are chosen

What does it mean to be fully dedicated to God’s calling?

I’ve been so blessed to have worked alongside some pretty amazing people. Back in Boise I watched my ministry leaders navigate one difficult situation after another, never being perfect but always remaining focused on Christ.

Moving overseas intensified that experience; we were suddenly surrounded by an army of saints who had “dropped their nets” to follow God’s leading into certain difficulty and sacrifice.

But it’s not just the western Christians that inspire us to humility and passion for reaching the lost.

I’ve met Filipino missionaries who came to Thailand to plant churches and show the love of Jesus to a population caught in a very strong current of Buddhism.

I met a man elsewhere in Asia who lost his son to illness, nearly lost his wife, navigated severe illness with his daughter, and was somehow still able to endure incredible hardships and poverty and stay the course God laid before him.

I met a woman born into the religious caste in her country, who met Jesus and literally “…left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields…” (Matthew 19:29) for His sake. She was ostracized, completely alone and despised by everyone she had known growing up. After more than 30 years she is the most scripturally grounded and knowledgeable person I’ve ever known. Her love for Jesus and her passion for reaching the lost have driven her to reach hundreds each year.

I could go on for days about the giants of the faith I’ve met in the past three years.

But there’s something special about seeing someone very close to you making the daily decision to choose trust in God over the temptation of easier worldly provision.

Our project manager in Chiang Mai is a stunning example of that right now.

Starting a new ministry is hard. We are usually at our most vulnerable; doubt and fear threaten to overcome our confidence in the leap of faith God has requested of us. But there is power in first steps.

 

Life without a safety net

In the States most of us have multiple safety nets to keep us alive and well, even if trouble might mean temporary discomfort. Lose your job and chances are you can get another one before things get too crazy. Or if not, you might have savings. Or assets you can sell.  Or unemployment checks coming in, or a retirement fund to raid. Or maybe you have friends, family, or people in your church or neighborhood or on FaceBook that are willing to step in and lend a hand. Maybe someone starts a GoFundMe account for you.

And if all that fails? We still have thousands of churches and charities ready to help.  Still some fall through the cracks and end up on the streets, but mostly our nation experiences a very different reality than most of the people on our planet.

In SE Asia, many people do not have even basic safety nets. Thailand boasts low unemployment, but jobs can be very hard to find and most do not pay well.

 

A world apart

We’ve seen this in our own home as Gunya recently searched for a job with her new degree in hospitality services. She’s a very hard worker, intelligent, speaks multiple languages, and rarely needs direction to be effective. With all that, the best she’s found so far is a job working seven  days a week, 14 hours per day, for 8,000 baht per month (about $260, roughly 60 cents an hour).

Yes, most stuff is cheaper here. The US cost of living index is 72.96 and Thailand’s is 48.91. A big difference, to be sure. But don’t be fooled into thinking you can live comfortably here for mere pennies on the dollar. You can’t.

You can survive, but not live in a way Americans would consider “comfortable”.

There’s real poverty here. In the context of American expectations, the poverty all around us is extreme. There are rats and cockroaches, trash, pervasive sewer smells. Large portions of the population live in grass-roofed huts, the most common family transportation is a $300 scooter, they eat rice at every meal. There are naked kids in the streets, everyone has chickens … you get the idea.

The poverty we see every day stings. It creates desperation and breeds vulnerability. And there’s no way out – no safety net to soothe the fall. Loan sharks offer quick cash and then come calling for big paybacks. There really is no way out. Ever.

This is how many children end up in brothels.

 

Into the unknown

I think it’s scarier to step out in faith as a Thai than as an American. If you crash and burn, there’s no safety net. It may seem that Thais have less to lose initially, but financial holes are infinitely harder and often impossible to climb out of.

 

With that bit of perspective, consider this …

Our project manager for The Phoenix Alliance in Chiang Mai told us from the start that she was willing to sacrifice in order to minister to young girls in their recovery from sex trafficking. After all, her father was a pastor, and she grew up with all the financial uncertainty that accompanies a life of service. She was prepared.

We knew this commitment would be put to the test sooner rather than later.

Right off the bat we had to make a hard choice: Do we forge ahead with our ministry in order to care for the girls that we knew needed help immediately – or do we encourage our project manager to take another job and start slowly with our ministry through The Phoenix Alliance?

Tough choice with really big consequences.

 

Anything worth doing

On the surface, this answer is easy:  You start slowly and do things the right way. Deliberately. Intelligently. Thoughtfully. And possibly with an abundance of detail. This is my comfort zone. I hate diving into things without a solid foundation. I hate risk, and I hate being unprepared.

But wait, that approach would have forced us to abandon a dozen young girls who were struggling hard with their recovery. We were out of options for these girls. Their next step was living on the street which would inevitably see them forced back into the brothels. A cycle that seems endless without long-term intervention.

Most of these girls are younger than my daughters.

Our family motto (“Do the next right thing”) failed to yield a clear answer here. Because the next right thing for our new ministry was to hit the brakes and pursue our registration, funding, detailed operational planning, etc. But the next right thing for the girls was to rescue them from certain darkness. Right now.

Uh oh.

It’s not so easy to look a child in the eye and tell them they’ll have to go ahead and go back to work in a brothel because we haven’t had time to develop our business plan just yet.

 

An American Approach

Almost from the conception of The Phoenix Alliance, we received a lot of questions about our long-term plans. Fair enough. Valid questions. I tried to communicate those plans … our vision … as best I could. But we had hit the ground running and the Planner was developing the plans as we went.

Somehow it didn’t feel right for me to force plans that God hadn’t fully revealed to us yet.

Perhaps it came across as though we were unprepared and ill-equipped for the things we shared. I can’t argue with that. But our faith was firmly in the Planner, rooted and grounded in His heart to heal the rescued. And for now that was enough for us, even if it didn’t satisfy everyone around us.

When we returned to Thailand in January with roughly half our family’s support discontinued, we weren’t angry with anyone. We really didn’t make it easy on our supporters, did we? But we didn’t worry, because we knew God was walking right next to us. That’s a pretty confidence-inspiring realization.

This experience led me to ponder how our American approach to ministry looks a lot like our  approach to business. On the surface, that doesn’t seem like a bad thing because Americans are typically really good at running effective businesses. But does that leave space for God to do things His way?

 

A spiritual reality check

We like to put conditions on things, in a way that I imagine makes God scratch His head sometimes. Those conditions are born from education and experience, but also almost always stem from a perspective of self-reliance.

I imagine God saying … Didn’t you read my book? I gave you just one simple formula to follow:

 

Love Me + know Me + know my Word + trust Me + follow Me + love My creation = Effective Ministry

Or the scripture reference version:

Matt 22:47 + Col 1:9 + Psalm 119:11 + Prov 3:5 + Matt 4:19 + Mark 12:31 = Matt 25:21

 

So are we meant to plan and use the brains and gifts He gave us? Of course!

I just don’t think He meant for us to use those gifts as an excuse to cut Him out or to delay our actions until we feel comfortable with our own designs on sustainability.  Our designs. By our own power and clever marketing. Yikes. Dangerous concept.

This calls for a kind of balance that ultimately points back to the true condition of our hearts. Do we really … I mean REALLY love and trust God? As my own situational storm was raging and our boat threatened to sink, I remembered that God only expects us to do the things He has equipped us to do.

He will do the rest, just as Jesus calmed that storm on the boat. And by the way, why was I worried? Didn’t I trust God?

This was and is convicting to me as we try to shelter our rescued girls from the savage fate that awaits them without intervention.

 

His way is perfect

In a nutshell, this is how we’ve ended up on our knees for the past several months, praying for God’s continued direction and faithful provision. We were all united in the decision to move forward in faith, “doing the next right thing” by standing in the gap for the girls and allowing God to provide in His way.

And He has. In HIS way.

His way is not our way. You’ve heard that before, right? Well, what does that even mean?

Sometimes, God waits until the 11th hour to come to our aid, which gives us an opportunity to fearlessly trust Him right up to the edge of the cliff. Sometimes He will have us lay out a 20-step plan before we take the first step out the door.

Sometimes He asks us to walk in faith, alone. This means not having the answers that we feel we so desperately need from the start.

And so we must ask: Am I sure this is God’s leading? Yes. OK then, go. Just go. Do your best to sort things out quickly, but go.

If God called you to a ministry 10 years ago, are you still “waiting on His timing” today? Are you 100% sure that you are waiting on Him and not the other way around?

If I’m making you uncomfortable, I know how you feel. Sorry not sorry. I love you though. Enough to embolden you on … to your own high calling.

 

Right off the cliff, no ‘chute

In the beginning, we raised enough to cover the most basic expenses in Chiang Mai for 2 1/2 months. Not a terrible start, and God was faithful, and no one lacked for anything.

When that ran out and we were unable to secure more funding from the States, our family diverted support funding to cover the second half of that third month. Again God was faithful and no one lacked for anything. Kids ate food; everyone slept under cover.  No worries.

Now as we start month four, we have $50. Total. Our project manager has a family to provide for, and $50 isn’t going to make much of a dent. But still, God is faithful and no one will lack. The month has only just begun, but there’s no panic.

 

Lord of the rings

Yesterday our project manager sold her husband’s wedding ring to help bridge their financial gap. I was shocked to hear this. How could you sell such a meaningful piece of jewelry?

Because let’s be honest, it’s just a shiny circle of metal. A symbol. And it was worth enough to be a legitimate (if temporary) safety net. Her marriage will be unaffected by this. But the girls she can now continue to serve will be affected for eternity. How’s that for perspective?

The ring seemed to concern me more than it concerned her. I apologized for not having enough to keep them afloat this month. Did she have a plan for surviving the rest of the month?

Her answer:

“Don’t worry, I still have my ring to sell.”

As I write this, my eyes begin to tear at the beauty of that statement, “Don’t worry”. Once again God has provided. Once again we will not lack for anything we need. My family, my extended family, her family, the 12 girls in our project care, ALL will be taken care of. And none of us feel like we’ve given up anything to get here.

She’s fine. We’re fine. Better than fine.

We’re excited to be chosen as vessels of hope to some precious young women who are desperate for a Savior. How cool is that?

I committed to diverting as much funding as possible to help this month. My first priority is to my family, which includes the 8 extra souls currently under our roof. But surely we can spare more? Sacrifice more? We’ve got this.

I could not be more inspired right now. Man, I need an “amen”! Can I get an “amen”???

 

Time for Colossians 3:23

It’s hard for us to know sometimes how to approach ministry needs. On the one hand, we DO trust that God will provide. And He does, as evidenced above.

On the other hand, it would be foolish to sit back and do nothing but wait for miracles to happen.

This is not what we’re taught to do through examples in scripture. Abraham had to climb the mountain without an alternate sacrifice for Isaac. Moses had to keep that staff raised before God parted the sea. Running from Saul was probably David’s best option to avoid being murdered. Noah must have had a million splinters from building that ridiculous boat. None of these examples is lacking personal action tied to trusting God.

We do our part in faith and God handles the heavy lifting. Always.

 

Breaking the chains of control

But … I’m not seeing much in the way of long-term planning in those examples. Maybe Moses was thinking, ok, we get through this water obstacle and tomorrow we’ll need a plan. You think before Noah boarded the ark, he had AutoCad drawings on the homestead he would build once the water retreated? Just in writing this, I’ve thought of a dozen more examples in scripture that echo this concept of trusting God in all things, from provision to planning, accompanied by the use of our gifts, talents, and abilities and 100% action.

At the risk of belaboring a point: PLANS ARE NOT BAD. Quite the opposite. We’re told that whatever we do, we are to work at it with all our heart as unto the Lord. That includes looking ahead and planning for success.

Plans just need to be used in the right context in ministry – as a tool and not as a substitute for trusting God. Consider David’s actions in 1 Chronicles 21, when he quit trusting God and instead focused on his own military prowess and plans. That one cost the lives of 70,000 men. (It’s a good read if you need a refresher.)

God seems to be quite intentional about the intricacies of this point. We plan from a position of trust, not as an alternative. And despite how we justify our control in our own reasoning, God knows the difference.

We have pages and pages of plans, budgets, policies, fundraising ideas, ministry focus, new project development strategies and the like for The Phoenix Alliance. But there’s not a single plan that isn’t kept on the altar, ready to sacrifice in order to stay focused on God’s purposes and not our own.

And if some people read that and think … “I could never support a ministry like this”, I have two things for you:

  1. I love you. I really do.
  2. I don’t need your money. And neither does God.

God is our provider, period. He might choose to provide through you, but if He does it’ll be because He wants to do something in YOUR life. He wants to continue to build His trust relationship with you. He wants you to experience a life fully dependent on Him and not on your own strength or understanding. He wants you to sacrifice.

 

True worship is sacrificial

I genuinely believe that God calls all of us to sacrifice in a way that isn’t comfortable. Wherever you send your hard-earned money or spend your valuable time, it should cost you something. Something real, something you notice. Something that makes you change plans you had previously made for yourself.

The amount is irrelevant. It was two mites for the widow (Luke 21:1-4). And yet, her faith brought her to a place in her relationship with the Lord that the rich who gave on that day would likely never experience. Trust. Real trust in the goodness of God’s perfect plan.

But we’re trying to run a non-profit ministry here. Is this really how I should be approaching things?

You know what? Yeah. It is. For us, it is.

I want to trust God in all things. I want our provision to forever be in His hands. I want to work really, really hard for His purposes. And I never want to worry about whether or not my family or my ministry will be taken care of. I want to be like our project manager, selling wedding rings without fear of the future.

I’m setting the stage for an adventure in faith. I’m trusting God with our Chiang Mai project manager. I’m trusting Him with our 12 rescue girls. I’m trusting Him with my family. And I’m inviting you all to hold me accountable to this.

If God chooses to bless us with a safety net of our own, I pray that we will continue to look toward His purposes alone and never be caught up in our  own goals or ambitions.

 

Meanwhile, in Thailand…

We would be remiss if we didn’t take action and let you know that we are praying for increased support for our Chiang Mai project. No, we don’t have everything wrapped up in a nice, neat marketing package right now.  But we have a long-term vision and we serve a great God who knows where this is headed. I’m good with that.

I don’t want you to be “sold” on the ministry of The Phoenix Alliance. I want you to take God’s hand and ask if this is a place where He would have you apply your personal, sacrificial worship. The answer to that question is entirely between you and the Lord, and it has zero impact on your relationship with us or our ministry.

I never want you to do something that God isn’t leading you to do. But I always want you to whatever God IS leading you to do.

 

Meanwhile, in America…

We have a growing team of incredibly skilled and Godly men and women spooling up to help with everything we’re doing right now. We have a dream-team board of directors that makes my head spin with possibilities. We have another dozen or so volunteers helping with various tasks. But so far we don’t have one single regular monthly supporter backing the ministry of The Phoenix Alliance. Not one.

I’m undeterred by that because today’s reality has zero bearing on God’s purposes. That said, it’s probably time for us to open the doors and see who might want to come in.

 

Behind Door Number One…

Over the coming weeks and months, you’ll start to see more from us with regard to our work in Chiang Mai and the many ways you might get involved.

Today, our greatest need is financial. If this is a ministry area you feel God has called you to serve, please pray about supporting our work in Chiang Mai. We need monthly supporters to keep the project going as well as one-time support to cover startup costs, the bulk of which are government-required expenses.

If you are one who knows us well enough to trust the process without the polish, we invite you to join the team immediately. For those who need more, great! You are a good steward of the resources God has given you! Your time will come soon enough, and we’ll be happy to have you on board if and when you join us.

The link below will take you to a dedicated giving page for our Chiang Mai project. Donations are tax-deductible and we are transferring 100% of what comes in directly to Chiang Mai expenses … no overhead/admin costs.

Donate Here

 

Don’t stop believing

The point of this blog post was not to build up to a big financial ask for Chiang Mai. But it’s true that it’s important part of what we’re doing, and as I said we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about our need there.

But that’s not why I wrote this.

I desperately want to encourage you to take your faith to the next level. Somewhere that will make even some of your Christian friends think you’ve gone a bit wacky.

Over the past three years I have learned so much about what it means to follow Jesus completely. And I still have a long, long way to go. My eyes have been opened to the amazing possibilities that exist when we just let go of our expectations and fully open our hearts to God’s leading.

Those of you who have known me for a long time know that I am passionate about sharing the things I love with others. And I love growing my relationship with my Lord.

I’ve spent most of my life doing “good things”. Serving in the church, worship ministry, leading small groups, etc. All very good things. But at least for me personally, I was never genuinely open to the big, scary, life-changing “best things” that God had in store for me. I had my career, by stuff, my very comfortable life. And I loved that life.

When we decided to start praying about the possibility of leaving all of that behind to serve overseas, I had a few concerns. It took me 20 years to get where I was with my career. Leaving could set me back a decade at least. We finally got ourselves out of debt and had (shock) positive net worth. Leaving could be financially devastating, erasing all that hard-earned stability.

I am thankful beyond words for the opportunity God gave us to trust him in a different kind of life. If Bill Gates offered to put me back where I was three years ago with 10 times the net worth I had then, there’s zero chance I would accept. Zero. I would never choose to walk away from the ministry God has called me to. Because it’s a better and more fulfilling life than I ever could have created on my own. And it has absolutely nothing to do with stuff or net worth or personal accomplishments, but everything to do with my relationship with my Creator.

That, dear friends, is the point of this blog post. I want to encourage you to follow your Savior into the scary places. The decisions that seem nutty to your friends and family. The ones that God places on your heart.

He will never force you to love Him or choose to trust Him with your life. But He does ask. Every one of us is asked, every one of us has the opportunity to walk into the unknown by saying “yes” to the seemingly illogical things God lays before us.

If you have never done anything that makes you nervous about losing the things you have built, I have a challenge for you:

 

Ask God to bless you with an opportunity to know Him on that level.

I promise you there is nothing, absolutely nothing in this world that compares with a life of total dependence on Him.

Walk off the cliff.

Trust God completely.

Sell the ring.

 

Second Rescues

*names have been changed to protect privacy

 

Twenty-five hours. That’s how long our family sat on buses and vans to get from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Chiang Rai, Thailand. We had been in Cambodia’s capital city visiting the Thai Embassy there, hoping and praying that we’d be granted new visas. We were, thankfully. In an effort to save money on the return trip we decided to forgo the two short plane rides in favor of motion sickness and insomnia. We no longer favor motion sickness and insomnia, but we do enjoy saving money. So there’s that.

We walked through the door of our home at around 6:30am Saturday morning and promptly passed out on our respective beds. A rare silence covered the house for nearly four hours. We awoke to a series of frantic messages from Nan* a former rescue girl who was married just last year and now has a beautiful newborn girl.

Nan is very special to our family. We have helped her young family in the past and she considers us second parents. A true honor from this sweet girl. Nan has been an example of quiet strength and faith to me since we first arrived in Thailand. We’ve even joked that her baby was, in a way, like our first grandchild. She is a great example of what can be achieved through rescue and loving aftercare. In fact, she has been living independently for some time now. We hadn’t seen her since we drove her to her remote village a few days after the baby was born.

Kimberly responded via text message, and we enlisted additional help from a close Thai friend and confidant of Nan’s in order to understand exactly what was happening. It turns out that Nan’s stepfather had taken drugs the night before during the Chinese New Year celebration. At some point he became angry and started fighting with Nan and her mother. Before the dust settled he had physically beaten them both.

Nan was devastated. This was supposed to be her safe place. We still remember her excitement over her new life at the wedding and her beautiful smile as we waved goodbye to her in front of their one-room grass hut just seven months ago. In one night, it all came crashing down. No safety, no peace. Only more pain and memories of a life she left behind years ago.

Her husband has been working in another city to provide enough income for his young family, and thus he wasn’t there to protect his wife and mother-in-law. He’s a good young man, doing the right thing by his family and working hard to provide for them. I can’t imagine how he must feel, knowing that he wasn’t there to stop the violence that night.

Nan needed to leave, and quickly. It had to be that same day, as the New Year celebration was to continue and there would no doubt be more drinking and more drugs. Such a brave girl, to take a stand as she did. We needed to get to her, and we knew it wouldn’t be easy.

We had a problem. Our decrepit old car had no hope of climbing the steep, unpaved trails leading to her village.

A typical Thai hill tribe village, with skinny single track paths between the huts.

And with her carrying a newborn baby and a basket of clothes, we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to pick her up on our motorbikes.

So we set out to procure something a bit more potent. Fortunately, I’ve become friends with the local motorbike rental shop owner, Brian. After a bit of pleading and telling him the purpose of our journey, he agreed to loan us his very powerful Toyota truck. We paid him just $30, less than half what it would have cost from any other rental agency in town.

Our next problem was navigation. We had technically been to this village once before, following Nan’s husband.

Google always knows the way, right?

But I’m terrible with directions and there are so many twists and turns and unmarked roads weaving through villages and over mountains, there’s no way I’d find it without help. Help came in the form of our superhero Thai daughter, G. She left her own New Year celebration to ride shotgun, frequently rolling down the window to ask for directions from the locals, and occasionally we found a patch of cell coverage from which to call Nan for added guidance.

 

We eventually came within a half mile of her home, where we found her standing on the side of the road, waiting. I slammed the truck into ‘Park’ and jumped out and ran to her. She squeezed me tightly and cried in my arms as I kissed her head and told her that everything was going to be alright. She was safe now. Kimberly embraced her too, and we all took a minute to let our emotions subside before driving over the final few hills.

As the truck slowed to a stop in front of her hut, I felt my gut tighten and my blood began to boil.

I was angry.

Very, very angry.

There he was, the man who hurt this sweet girl. This was a moment I had been imagining as the hours ticked away on the drive.I had prayed for wisdom, patience and control. And for a moment I wasn’t sure I’d have the strength to show restraint. My size advantage over him is roughly the same as his size advantage over Nan. Seems like poetic justice for me to show him what it’s like to be on the receiving end of an unfair fight. But it wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be God’s justice.

Knowing it wouldn’t be right is one thing. Accepting that knowledge is another thing entirely. I felt every breath. I tensed every muscle. I willed my face to smile at the little children who quickly began gathering around to see the foreigners in their village. I stared him down, once. Then regained control and slowly began to let it all go. Taking action would be easy. It would be incredibly gratifying. But it would very likely result in far worse consequences for his wife and others after I left. So I promised myself I’d deal with him later, and we focused on helping Nan load a few things into the truck.

Nan’s mother was heartbroken to see her daughter and baby granddaughter leaving. Before I got back into the truck, I gave her a deep wai – a sign of respect in Thai culture. She approached me and gently took my hand, tears in her eyes, and thanked both Kimberly and me for coming to the rescue. I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to her after we left. I wanted to stay. I wanted to put her in the truck with us. I thought again about wrapping my hands around stepdad’s neck and screaming threats in his face until he feared me more than he desired the drugs. But nothing else I could do in that moment would have helped the situation.

It wasn’t until later that night during a conversation with a friend that we discovered a connection to the government official in charge of domestic abuse cases in hill tribe villages. We now have the option of bringing this case to his attention and hopefully having the weight of the Thai legal system on our side. Had I taken things into my own hands, it would have been pretty difficult to enlist this resource without being charged with assault myself. Which means that to keep myself out of Thai prison, we wouldn’t be able to actively pursue legal action without raising questions that would lead right back to me.

This weekend we were reminded that rescue is not something that happens just once. What good would the fire department be if they pulled you from a flaming car wreck and later let your house burn to the ground? Rescue is something we do when someone needs to be rescued. Whether it’s their first time in peril or their 50th makes no difference. Christ came to rescue us from our sin, and His rescue covers not just one sin but all – past, present and future. Only Jesus could act once to rescue us forever. We are called by Christ to honor the greatest commandment of all – To love God and love people.

We were reminded again through this situation of the mission to which God has called our family. Not to simply be a one-time catalyst for change but to empower girls to live strong and independent lives, with the knowledge that if things go horribly wrong, we’ll still be there for them. Even when they’re married and have become mothers. Even when they are working hard in safe occupations and saving to build a house. It’s not about money. Nan asked for nothing but our presence and a ride into town. She could have taken a bus. But she wanted us. And we wanted to be there for her. Puak rao rak deg phu ying khon nee loog sao jing jing. (We love this girl like our own daughter.)

Rescue is what all you moms out there do when your adult daughter calls for advice on a job decision. It’s what you dads do when their brakes need to be replaced. It’s what we all do as parents to support the long, slow march toward full independence. We rescue again and again, and we don’t stop. The girls we work with are very strong and very independent. But that doesn’t mean they don’t still need a lifeline from time to time. It boils down to a very small investment on our part to prevent them from a potential major setback.

I know we say it a lot, but we mean it: Thank you! Thank you for making it possible for us to be here for our precious girls. Thank you for the prayers, words of support, financial help, Facebook likes, etc. All the things you do to invest in us as we invest in them. We pray that God will lead you all to opportunities to rescue someone in your path, whether it’s your own child or family member or a complete stranger. Love God, love people. Follow this commandment and you might just accomplish God’s purposes without even knowing it. Go forth and rescue. Again.

The Eleventh Hour

How do I sum up the past month? It’s been yet another time of doubt and uncertainty. We didn’t have funding for our family. Our Thai visas were rejected. We had no idea if either of those factors would force us to leave Thailand long before we completed the work we have planned through June of this year.

Last Friday our time ran out and we had to leave Thailand for one last shot at obtaining visas. We would apply for Education visas, which requires a heavy class load but in theory should grant us legal status for the whole family. Just as we arrived, we heard from another family doing exactly the same thing through an embassy in another country. Their kids were rejected. This was a devastating blow to them and to us as well. Not only did it put the work of some fellow missionaries in jeopardy, but also did not bode well for our chances.

We came to Cambodia because this was the cheapest destination outside of Thailand. However, no one seems to come here for visa renewal. They go to Vietnam or Laos, but never Cambodia. I knew there might be a reason for this but due to the tight budget we had to risk being rejected in a country that might not be known for handing out visas easily. (All embassies are very different…usually hinges on the mood or personal leanings of the staff at each location).

We dropped off our paperwork Monday morning. They wouldn’t accept half of what we prepared…all the things they say are required like bank statements, birth and marriage certificates, flight bookings out of Thailand, proof of residency and sworn affidavits (which we also paid dearly for before leaving Thailand). They wouldn’t even take any of it. Before leaving the embassy, they asked me to come back later that afternoon because they weren’t sure they’d even bother processing it. Had to ask their superiors. So after all of this and after hearing of the trouble our friends had, this gave us little hope that things would go better for us. But we prayed, and we asked you to pray too.

Fast-forward two very stress-filled days, to today. I hopped into a tuktuk and headed toward the embassy with no clue what I would find on the other end. My head was swimming with thoughts as I considered the implications of being denied. And I prayed more. God, Your will be done. If You want us here, make a way.

I walked up to the window, handed over my claim ticket, and the attendant very anticlimactically dumped all six passports into the tray. Six passports with valid visas. And that was it. Done. Approved. Praise the Lord! I am still trying to process the fact that we are going back to Thailand with legal status.

We are so thankful for the opportunity we have to press ahead with our work. God has opened some pretty exciting doors and we would have been heartbroken if we had to leave it all undone. Thank you to everyone who prayed, and for those who have stepped up to bridge the gap for us financially. Two things never change: It never makes sense, and God always comes through. What a blessed life we live, to be entrusted with this ministry. And finally, we can turn our full attention back where it belongs, on the lost and hurting souls who need Jesus. We’re coming, kids. See you soon.

The Immigration Dance

We’ve been doing the immigration visa dance in Thailand for the better part of three years now, going back to early 2015 when we began applying for the first of what would be countless documents making it legal for us to live abroad. While it may be easy to fly in for a visit, staying here more than a couple of months has become quite difficult, as the junta government cracks down on long-term foreign residents. Intentions are good. Protecting Thai jobs and keeping the country secure, as well as protecting the unique Thai culture. But for those looking to minister in Thailand, it can be tricky at best and impossible at worst.

The easiest solution for many has been Education visas. ED visas require you to attend a heavy class load, and you have to prove that you are learning to read, write and speak Thai, but it does provide a legal means for staying in-country.

At least in theory. We applied for our ED visas while in the States over the holidays and were denied. An expensive and demoralizing hit. But as we already had return tickets booked, we left for Thailand and entered the country as tourists for 30 days, knowing that we’d have to leave Thailand again one way or another in early February.

February is now upon us, and we are booked to the cheapest non-Thailand destination we could find: Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We’ve paid for new paperwork to be drafted by our Thai school, obtained the necessary papers from the US Consulate in Chiang Mai, and we’re ready to head out on the 8th.

As a family, we have witnessed God providing time and time again against all human odds. We developed the family motto “Do the next right thing” to remind us to never make excuses when deciding whether or not to walk through the doors God opens. And we’re committed to that still. But I won’t lie, it’s hard at times. When we’re so buried in paperwork that we feel ineffective in our primary ministry, and when finances look bleak, it can be so discouraging. And right now it looks bleak. Once again we’re looking at budget spreadsheets that make no sense, with negative balance projections.

In my head, I know that God will come through again as He always has. And maybe it’s not the proper “missionary response” to admit when we doubt. But if I’m honest, I have times of doubt and fear. I justify these feelings by pointing to the hard figures, or noting the fact that we have a family to feed and care for. But the reality is that my faith is too small sometimes. I forget that I am a son of the wealthiest king the word has ever known. My king has asked me to accomplish a task, and he has promised to take care of me and my family as we obey. But my king has a peculiar way of providing for me, and it makes me nervous. He doesn’t send a paycheck. Instead he directs his other subjects to serve him by providing our support.

It’s uncomfortable because I have no control over it. No one owes me anything, as they would if I were an employee covered by labor laws. It’s this lack of control that feels unnatural to me. But it’s a tool that God uses to remind us of His faithfulness. And at the end of the day, I am thankful for that. But I’m also reminded of my human smallness when I doubt. And maybe that’s a good thing too. It’s a great reminder to those who say “we couldn’t do what you’re doing”. Of course you could, if God called you to it. You feel inadequate to serve Him with your whole life? Join the club! It is a daily journey for me to continue growing my faith, trust and love of the Lord.

Please pray for us as we navigate the next few weeks. Pray for favor with Thai immigration, that we’ll be approved for our visas. Pray for God to once again provide for our needs as we trust Him to know what those needs are. Pray for patience as we wait in long lines and drag our crew in and out of the hot, muggy Immigration offices for hours on end, because we all have to be present. Pray for our provision. And as always, if financial support is something God is laying on your heart we certainly welcome it: https://grace.egiving.com/thailand-mission/wheels-over-asia

God has blessed us with joy in the work He has called us to. So if it sounds like we’re complaining, please excuse our moment of weakness. We are truly blessed to be trusted with this work. Thank you all for your prayers and loving support. We love you all!

The Importance of Discipleship

Over the past two years we’ve learned a lot about what it means to be “missionaries”. Missionaries are ultimately charged with spreading the Gospel to a world in need of a savior. But rarely does a missionary meet spiritual needs without first meeting some immediate and desperate physical needs. Thus, missions are often a combination of humanitarian and spiritual intentions. Certainly, the cause of ending the sexual exploitation of children was, and remains, the primary humanitarian calling on our family. It’s the reason we were motivated to travel across the world to a place we had never seen before. It’s the emotional drive that lit the fire of change in our lives. Without that cause, I’m ashamed to say that we likely never would have ventured away from our comfortable existence. And that’s unfortunate, because we’ve discovered so much more than a place and a job. We’ve discovered the transformative power of Christ in a very real and tangible way. We’ve seen this power in the lives of the girls we went to serve, and in the process we’ve also seen it in ourselves and in those we’ve served alongside.

My heart continues to break for children who are exploited for what sinful men desire. I’m thankful for that burden. It reminds me of the urgency of our mission. It wakes me up at night and fuels a righteous anger over the injustice of the theft of innocence that drives this evil economy.

Yet, as strange as it may sound, it is possible to become blinded by the humanitarian cause and discount the greatest gift we have to offer. We come with the message of hope, forgiveness and healing through the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. For children who have been told they are worthless, unlovable and unwanted, what could possibly be better than the knowledge that God willingly gave everything He had just for a chance to have a relationship with them?

These girls are not worthless. They are more valuable than any material possession in all of creation. They are not unloved. The Creator of the universe made His greatest sacrifice to prove His love for them. They are not unwanted. Our Father is desperate to know them and to spend an eternity in their company.

As important as our humanitarian cause is, the above message should not be a footnote. It should not be something we check off a list of things to tell the girls. There should be no expiration date imposed by us on the acceptance and understanding of the truth of God’s love.

In short, we must continually refocus our mission on the directive given by Jesus in his Great Commission:  To “go”. To “make disciples”. To “baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. If we lose focus on this core directive, we lose everything. As someone recently quipped: “We are not doing all of this to make their trip to hell more comfortable.”

That might sound harsh. It’s certainly not the easy path. But through many months of prayer and seeking, we firmly believe that discipleship is the real mission to which God has called our family. The vehicle we use to reach the lost is rescue from sexual exploitation. But physical rescue is only the first step. That step does indeed make their path more comfortable. It removes what would otherwise be an overpowering reality that makes it extremely difficult to take the time necessary to grow a relationship with the Father.

It is this point that has caused us to reconsider the direction of our mission. We have been blessed to know many incredible brothers and sisters within the organization that we served who believe exactly as we do – that Jesus is the only source for true healing. But as an organization, the focus has begun to emphasize the humanitarian cause over the eternal cause.

We understand why. There is an excellent argument to be made for rescuing as many children as possible in order to provide a fighting chance at a real future. In the old starfish thrower example, this would be represented by the boy throwing large handfuls of starfish toward the shoreline. Some starfish would be swept out to sea and survive, while others might remain stuck in the sand and perish. But at the end of the day, the boy would have succeeded in saving a large number of starfish. More, probably, than if he had taken the time to careful throw one starfish at a time into deep water.

This is an excruciatingly difficult reality. We are forced to make a choice. Do we throw handfuls of starfish at once, or do we invest in one starfish at a time to ensure their long-term survival. The former guarantees that some will perish, while the latter guarantees that some will never be reached at all. If it were simply a numbers game, the answer would be clear and our family would be on the wrong side of the answer.

This is not a decision that someone else can make for you. Each of us must examine our hearts and the calling that God has placed on our lives. There may be no universal “right” answer. But we believe that God has given us the answer for our family. For us, the answer is to emphasize depth over breadth.

Just over a year ago, we were blessed with a new child in the family. Our sweet Gunya. Even before she came to live with us we knew she was special. She has a love for Jesus that permeates everything around her. It’s impossible to spend any amount of time with her and not be reminded of the incredible goodness and power of our great God. Gunya represents what we’ve come to call “God’s economy”. She is just one girl. Could she really be worth such an investment in time, love and resources? What about all the other girls like her who have similar stories? Those who are not able to come into our home?

You can probably guess the answer to this one. We did not simply invest in Gunya. She has invested in us. Her diligent study of the Word has convicted us and encouraged us to spend more time with the Lord than ever before. Her incredible work ethic has motivated us to push harder. She even makes me eat healthier. Or at least she tries. Bringing Gunya into our family is one of the best things we’ve ever done. And maybe it’s been good for her too, but it’s been an immeasurable blessing to us.

We can’t bring every child into our home the way we did with Gunya and her younger siblings. We get that. But she has become an anchor for us as we move forward with our family’s ministry. She is a living reminder of what is possible when we as a church body invest in others. We are not the first to love Gunya, and we won’t be the last. Everyone who shares in her story should be encouraged by the fruit her life is bearing, and we should all be very excited for the road that lies ahead of this amazing young woman.

The truth is that we have no way to know what impact Gunya, or Gohm, or any of the other amazing kids we meet might make on this world. We don’t know if Gunya’s ministry in India or Thailand or America will result in bringing the lost to Christ. We don’t know if Gohm will end up devoting his life to ministry. We don’t get to know any of those things. God simply asks us to do the next right thing, and the next and the next. He alone has a plan in place, and we are mere partners in that plan. We humans struggle to see value in anything we can’t measure. Yet we have an entire Bible filled with stories of inexplicable things that were part of God’s greater plan. Things that those involved would have had no way to measure at the time. Why did Moses suffer? Why did David? Or Joshua? Why did Abraham have to wait so long for God to fulfill His promise?

Herein lies the danger of taking things into our own hands. What if Moses had fought Pharaoh directly for the release of his people while he was still in Egypt? What if David had stood his ground against Saul instead of hiding away in caves? What if Abraham had disobeyed God when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac? If we believe that we know better than God, we are fools. We act as partners in God’s plans because that’s how He wants things to work. God doesn’t need us, he wants us. So if our role is to take action when and where God leads us, why would we feel responsible for anything more than that?

By investing in the opportunities God lays before us, we can be assured that we are contributing to God’s perfect purposes. Whether we are the harvesters who reap greatly as a direct result of our efforts, or if we are simply part of the process.

People often ask us what’s next for our family. Will we stay in Thailand? Move back to the States? Serve in a new country somewhere? Will we return to our old way of life and rebuild the life we once had? Many of you have probably been frustrated by our noncommittal answers to these questions. But those answers are intentional. We do not presume to know the long-term will of God for our family. We don’t have all the answers. But we do know a few things:

  1. If God allows, we desire continue to minister to children who have been hurt, abandoned and abused. We want this to be our life’s work, if only God chooses to use us in this way.
  2. We have more to do in Thailand. Over the next six months we plan to work with a new aftercare project that aligns with the vision God has given our family for ministry. This project, called Alpha Renew, will be the first of what we hope will be many ministry partnerships which will form the foundation of our long-term ministry based in the States.
  3. Our current season in Thailand is coming to an end. We believe we can accomplish the tasks God has laid before us in roughly six months. After that time we intend to return to the States, where we will begin working to provide support for Alpha Renew and other projects.
  4. One of our “other projects” is the creation of a trafficking aftercare project in the States. God has given us an intense passion for this project. We will open a transitional home for child sex trafficking victims and provide placement assistance in foster homes. We will be recruiting Christian parents who will be thoroughly trained, strongly supported and intensely focused on the challenge of loving children who have survived sexual abuse.
  5. We are saying goodbye (for now) to Boise. Boise has been our home for nealy our entire lives. It’s where we met, married, had our kids and built our career. Boise is where our family and friends are. So it hasn’t been an easy decision to leave, but we want to go where God leads us and for now that will be elsewhere. We’ll talk more about the details soon, but for now I’ll just say that when you want to fight trafficking, it’s good to go where the need is greatest. Boise enjoys one of the lowest crime rates in the country. And while that’s amazing for raising a family, it does complicate things a bit when you are wanted to help victims of crime. It has taken the better part of a year for us to pray and seek God’s leading in this area, and we are relieved to finally have an answer even if it’s not the answer we might have chosen. It will be the best because following the Lord is always the best. Not the easiest, but certainly the best.
  6. We are in the process of registering a USA nonprofit. This is necessary for us to have a legal conduit for financially supporting our overseas partners. We will also use this organization to open our aftercare project in the States.
  7. We want to increase our capacity for ministry. If we are to spend the rest of our lives in ministry, I believe it would be very beneficial to pursue a deeper theological foundation through seminary training.
  8. We refuse to be God’s limiting factor. If all of this sounds ambitious and a little crazy, consider this: If you define your own vision for success, it can cloud whatever purposes God might have in mind for you. We want to be partners with God is His awesome plans. But they are HIS plans. For now we know that this involves a few specific things, like Alpha Renew and our USA project. And if that’s all, that’s great! But we will work diligently to structure things in a way that will allow God to open doors as He sees fit. Success in the kingdom of God is defined by how well you are able to respond to His leading. So more than buildings and fundraising targets and numbers of kids in our programs, it will be God’s measuring stick that we use to know how we’ll we’re doing.

The future is very exciting! We know that it won’t be easy, and that’s ok. I’m sure there will be times when we wonder why in the world we chose this life. But we will always have the past to look back on. Times when we’ve gone through difficult situations only to become stronger and closer to our Lord. I still have a lot of growing to do, and I’m excited (if a little nervous) to see what trials God will allow before us as he lovingly pursues a deeper relationship with us. What a blessed life this is. I am deeply moved every time I think about the lives God will change through the work he has blessed us with. I am not worthy of the honor, not by a long shot. But I am so very thankful that He has chosen my family.

 

The Cafe Bike Fund

Even before we left Boise, we had hoped there would be an opportunity for us to meet some small, otherwise unnoticed need for some of the girls in our care. Maybe something too small to broadcast on the international website, but too big to just cover from general funds.

 

Tonight I am really, really excited to have our first such opportunity. Here’s the story:

 

Our Aftercare programs often include vocational training. We work hard to help the girls learn a skill or trade that will provide long-term employment. English-speaking waitresses and baristas, especially those with customer service training and a solid work ethic, are in demand. So we operate the Destiny Café in downtown Chiang Rai as both a business and a vocational training model for girls who are interested in this career path.

Destiny Cafe

 

When our girls work at the Café, they are required to provide their own transportation and to be on time as they would for any job in the real world. Two of our girls had been walking to work for a while before some loving Destiny Rescue volunteers gathered up enough money to purchase pedal bikes for each of them. Some of our volunteers are single people surviving on much less than the USA minimum wage, so this was no small sacrifice.

 

 

Unfortunately, both bikes were stolen just weeks after they were purchased. The girls left them out in front of the Café, unlocked.  bikethiefIt’s a mistake they wouldn’t make twice, but what’s done is done. They are now back to walking to work each day, and that includes walking home on very dark streets late at night. I would never allow my own girls to do that. It’s just not safe. And yet these girls, who have every reason to be afraid of the dark, keep walking without complaint each day.

 

 

Of course, we want to find a way to replace the stolen bikes (with locks this time). The only catch is that our Aftercare team has asked that we do not give them directly to the same girls. It would appear we were showing favoritism. So instead, we would like to provide bikes as free “Café Bikes” which can be used by any of our girls who might need them.

 

Cafe Bikes1

 

 

Bikes will cost about $100 each, including a combination lock. We would like to buy at least two, but if we can raise more funding we could buy a third bike, helmets, spare parts for maintenance, etc.

 

 

 

 

If you would like to be a part of this, please hit the link below and go to our giving page. Select “Café Bike Fund” as the Purpose (see picture), so we know what your gift is to be used for. Other gifts are used to support our family, and are always appreciated, but we want your gift to go to the right place.

Cafe Bike Fund

 

We will be contributing as much as we can as well. I wish we could cover the entire amount, but things are pretty tight right now. So thank you for your generosity.  I can’t wait to tell you how this blesses these sweet girls.

Here is the link to our giving page (Remember to select “Cafe Bike Fund” as the purpose for your gift)  Thank you!

Wheels Over Asia – Giving Page

The Mission Thus Far

Due to the nature of our ministry here, there are things we can’t talk about publicly.  And that’s sad because we want you to know how to pray for us, for our DR co-laborers and for the kids we’re here to minister to.

What I can tell you is that we’ve had the opportunity to see some first-hand results.  My heart has latched onto one precious girl in particular that I am able to see each day.  Even though I haven’t had the opportunity to hear her story, I know why she’s here.  And I get to see her sweet smile each morning.  The joy and hope in her eyes.  And I often think about how different her life could have been.  How different it was.

I marvel at the incredible love of our Lord, who has such power to transform a broken soul.  We’ve faced some brutal spiritual attacks in the three long weeks we’ve been here.  And if not for the evidence of God’s hand at work, the immeasurable hope that is so prevalent in the eyes of our girls, I don’t know if I would have the strength to carry on.  But God has the power to transform our souls as well.  He gave me this sweet girl to see every morning, in order that I might draw strength from her titanic faith.  If she can thrive after the life that was forced upon her, who am I to surrender to my comparatively small struggles?

We are on the front lines of a great battle.  The enemy does not want us here.  He is clever and deceitful, the father of lies.  But he cannot stand against the awesome power of Christ.  He will lose.  One rescue at a time.  One redeemed life at a time.  Thank you, Lord, for the daily reminder that we have already won.  You have won.

Filtering the Noise

How is it that God is able to speak so directly to us through things that aren’t intended to be exclusive to us?  Kimberly and I have been reading daily from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest for a while now, and it seems like lately more often than not we are seeing answers to very specific things we are dealing with.  Seriously…very specific.

Yesterday I was so busy preparing for our fundraiser this coming Saturday that I didn’t take time to stop and read this daily devotional.  I did, however, take time to have a micro-breakdown in the middle of the day.  For the most part, I am rock-solid when it comes to this leading God had given to us.  I feel unshakable.  Confident.  Certain.  But occasionally, like yesterday, my will fades and I start to question everything we’re doing.  A few times now, this has been brought on by conversations with other Believers.  Individuals I respect greatly.  Those to whom I turn for advice, prayer, counsel and moral support.  These friends always have the best of intentions and truly care for us.  Without them, we would be a mess right now.  So how could their words ever discourage?  Here are a few examples of what I’m hearing:

“It’s very unusual for someone to move from the corporate world to full-time missions without first dipping their feet into the ministry.”

 “I don’t think you realize how hard it will be to take four children over there.”

 “You’ve NEVER even been on a short-term mission trip?  You are in for a rude awakening.”

 “You know, a large percentage of new missionaries fail.”

 “You don’t understand the culture there.  You can’t just go in and act like an American and expect results.”

 “Shouldn’t you learn the language before you go?”

You get the idea.  All of these statements are really meant to help us.  To open our eyes to things we don’t know.  To prepare us for things to come.  But they can also create doubt in moments of weakness.

And some days, like yesterday, the buildup of all these challenges and questions and life changes catches up with me and I have to stop what I’m doing and reboot my faith.  But I didn’t read Oswald.  And I should have, because God had already prepared exactly what I needed.

 

Excerpts from My Utmost for His Highest, June 8:

When God gives me a vision of truth, there is never a question of what He will do, but only of what I will do. The Lord has been placing in front of each of us some big proposals and plans.

The proposal is between you and God— do not “confer with flesh and blood” about it (Galatians 1:16). With every new proposal, the people around us seem to become more and more isolated, and that is where the tension develops.

Don’t consult with other Christians, but simply and freely declare before Him, “I will serve You.”  Will to be faithful— and give other people credit for being faithful too.

(Read the full devotional for June 8th here:  http://utmost.org/will-to-be-faithful/)

 

Wow.  Right between the eyes.  I’m reminded that there’s a difference between seeking the wise counsel of other Believers, and seeking their approval for things God has called me to do.  And I wonder, how many times in the past have I been this voice of doubt to others?

In this, as in every situation, God is working all things together for our good.  Going through yesterday’s mini-crisis was a catalyst to understanding and appreciating the words of my brothers, while keeping them in the proper perspective.  God gave us this vision, not them.  They have a different vision.  We can no more fully understand what God has called them to do than they can understand what God has called us to do.

So if you’re reading this and thinking…oh great, I think I said some of those things…worry not, my friends.  You did exactly what you were supposed to do.  God used your words to grow my faith in an incredible way.  God must prepare us for what lies ahead, and this is how He does it.  He works all things together for good, to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

Now, has anyone seen today’s Utmost post?

Last day of Work…

Wow.  Since the age of 16, I’ve been working with pro audio.  I added video, lighting, etc. later, and I’ve moved from retail sales to integrated design and contracted installations.  But I’ve essentially been in the same line of work for over 20 years.  Below is a copy of my Facebook post from today, officially announcing to the world that we’re joining Destiny Rescue in Thailand.

 

(From Facebook)

Well friends, today is a momentous day for me.  I’m sitting here at my desk at work, watching the last hour of a 20-year career tick away.  The AV business has been very good to me, and I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to support my family doing something I love so much.  But now I have been given an opportunity to do something that has been on my heart for many years.  So I can handle leaving this business, knowing that God has a new challenge ahead for me.

As some of you may have heard already, we are joining the fight against the sexual exploitation of children with a great organization called Destiny Rescue.  Our hearts have been broken over this issue for a long time, and yet we had no idea how we could possibly make a difference.  But a while back we got to know some of the folks with Destiny Rescue and found that there were real, tangible ways to take up the fight.  After many hours of prayer and countless discussions with each other and D.R. people, we let them know that we were available to fill their “area of biggest need”.

As it turns out, the biggest need we could fill is a full time position in an administrative role at their headquarters in Chiang Rai, Thailand.  Those of you who know me best are no doubt thinking “Not Ethan.  He hates travel and he’s the pickiest eater on the planet.”  Yep, that about sums it up.  I like being comfortable.  But I like following God’s perfect plan for my life even more.  So we’re stepping way out of our comfort zone and moving our whole family to the other side of the world.  In the heat and humidity of southeast Asia.  And it’s good.  Not easy, but good.

Our commitment is for two years.  After that, we honestly have no idea where we’ll be, except that I hope we’ll be wherever God calls us next.  We’ll be doing our best to stay connected to our friends and family back home, so this Facebook account of mine may see more activity than it has in years.  We are also starting a blog at www.wheelsoverasia.com.  We would love for you to follow us, and maybe even post the occasional comment so we know you’re out there thinking about us and praying for us.

Also, for the record, my amazing, beautiful, inspiring wife Kimberly has not only supported this adventure, but she has actually driven the bus for a lot of it.  We’ve never been more united in our almost 15-years together.  Without her beside me, I could never be the man God wants me to be.

In the next several weeks we may be posting some info on yard sales, pancake feeds, stuff-moving days, etc., in case anyone would like to be a part of this mission we’ve been given.  Please don’t hesitate to message us with questions or encouragement.  People have already told us we’re nuts, so that won’t be new information.  =D

Thanks for taking time to read this.  We love you all, our precious friends and family.  Thanks for always being there for us, and thanks in advance for supporting us in our next big adventure.