Category: Provision

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.

Moving to a Village

In just one and a half months we will have lived in this country for two years.  In that time, we have lived in three houses and one hotel (for the first two weeks).  This was not what we planned, but sometimes life throws you a curve ball!

Our first house was great, and too expensive.  However, we had been staying in a hotel and house hunting and had trouble finding something that would fit our large family in a reasonable budget.  As anyone can guess, staying in a hotel adds up quickly.  We lived in that house for two months while we looked for something we could afford.

When another missionary family moved in October of 2015, we moved into their house in a super interesting neighborhood; a  neighborhood with quite a history.  At one time it was full of beautiful, western-style homes, complete with a clubhouse and pool.  This was approximately thirty years ago.  In Thailand, it is customary to build small spirit houses on every property.  The purpose of these houses is to give a place to the spirits so they won’t roam around.  Buddhist Thais offer food and drinks each day to the spirits.  A tragic accident happened while the neighborhood was still under construction; a small child drowned in the neighborhood pool.  The neighborhood spirit house had not been built yet, and the widespread belief was that the spirits were angry and had caused the accident.  Families moved out immediately, and it’s difficult to get Buddhist Thais to enter the neighborhood for repairs or maintenance even now because of the stigma.  So the homes are beautiful, but old and in bad shape.

One day recently, I looked up to see a dark-colored stain spreading all over the ceiling of our kitchen.  Some areas were almost black.  We contacted the landlord immediately.  A week went by, and during that time water started breaking through in one area.

 

When we first started  to notice the bulge from the water.

A few days later.

At this point I was starting to get worried about the black mold I was seeing through the hole.  Bubba was having pain in his joints again.  (You can read more about the cause of that HERE .)  We were all feeling slightly sick, after months of perfect health.  Was there a connection?

While waiting for the landlord to get back to us, we started talking about the idea of moving to a different home.  We had been so happy in our home, despite the difficult plumbing situation and other problems.  It was close to town, affordable, and fit our ever-growing family.  But the cost of repairs had been adding up and there were constant plumbing problems.  (As a side note, when I once asked the local expat group where to find a plumber the immediate response was laughter.)

The eventual result of the water damage.

We set out to look for a home within our price range, not expecting we’d find anything.  We found a sweet rental agent who was amazing to work with, and as a parent she understood our concerns about the mold throughout the house.  Within a week, she had found a home that worked.

A view on the drive to the new home.  Breathtaking.

It’s a smaller home; three bedrooms.  A bit tricky with six kids, but we’ve found a way to make it work.  When we walked through the home we could see immediately that two of the three bedrooms would be ideal for the master.  As it turned out, we ended up choosing the smallest bedroom for us.  The other two just made more sense for the kids.  🙂  The four girls are all sharing one room but the configuration works well.

It has been such a relief to be somewhere where we don’t about the kids’ health.  We’re not concerned about water mixing with rat excrement and pouring into our kitchen.  Oh, and …. WE HAVE A KITCHEN NOW!  What a world of difference that has made for our family.  I never realized how much I missed having counter tops.

Our last neighborhood was mostly expats due to the stigma surrounding the neighborhood.  We are now in a Thai village, and most of the villagers speak only Thai.  It’s great!  They are patient with our attempts to communicate and always smile and wave when we drive by.  We look forward to making friends with the precious Thai people around us.  Since our language skills are still somewhat shaky, we may be putting that kitchen to good use making food to share with neighbors.  (International sign of friendship: homemade treats!)  No matter what, we are thankful for this home and look forward to seeing how God continues to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Next Right Thing

A couple of weeks ago a surprise walked into our life in the form of a shy fourteen-year-old boy.  We got a call from G one evening asking if it would be alright if her little brother stayed with us for a few days.  The story that followed made me immensely sad.

In the same way that it’s common for girls from villages to be sent to the city to provide for their parents, it’s common for young boys to be sent off to become Buddhist monks.  And that’s how this story began.  But G’s brother really did not want to become a monk.  When he “dropped out” of monk training after a very short attempt, his parents felt dishonored and kicked him out of the home.  So at the age of 14, this boy literally had nothing but the clothes on his back.  That, and a loving big sister who wasn’t about to see him abandoned.

We welcomed him into our home, where he stayed in his sister’s room that first night.  The next day began the first of a series of discussions and prayer over how we might best support him.  Perhaps he could be placed in a trafficking prevention home, or another shelter in the area.  The idea of having a teenage boy in our nearly all-girl house seemed awkward and foreign to us.  But as one night turned into a day, and a day turned into a week, we began to seriously think about the possibility of bringing him into our family long term.  We continued to speak with contacts in the area about several local programs for boys in his situation, only to find that they were all full to overflowing.  While we weren’t to the point of being stumped, we did begin to feel that God was leading us toward a very unexpected and unplanned conclusion.  We have always felt it’s best if siblings can stay together.  G is such an amazing big sister, and she is passionate about sharing Christ with her family.  So and after much prayer we agreed that if he wanted to stay, we would welcome him into our family.

We spoke with G privately to see what her thoughts were.  She was afraid we wouldn’t want him; that we’d be too concerned about the cost of another mouth to feed.  She timidly mentioned that she was his age (14) when she was sent to work in Bangkok, and maybe he could work in Bangkok.

I think it’s important to explain that this suggestion is not as unkind as it might sound.  This is very much a cultural norm.   She never imagined that we would actually want him.  After all, what benefit could he possibly bring to our family?  This is an unfortunate and common view here.

The part of this that is still hard for us to wrap our heads around is that kids are sent to “take care of themselves” or “support the family” every day.  They have nothing.  This young man was kicked out of his home without so much as a toothbrush or a fresh pair of underwear.  He can read a little Thai, but he is from a hill tribe with its own unique language.  Men from the village are farmers and fishermen.  School is far from the the highest priority for these kids.  We have no doubt that if he were to go to Bangkok for work, he would end up exploited in some way or another.

We convinced G that we would, in fact, very much like to help her brother.  We reminded her that God would provide for his needs just as he does for us all every day.  A sweet mentor of mine once said, “God never gives a gift he doesn’t provide for.”  And that’s what this boy is; a gift.  Just like his big sister.  It’s hard to keep ones practical side in check.  Part of me was thinking We’ve bought the toothbrush, but what about clothes?   But of course, the very next morning we had an unexpected gift come in from friends who had not previously supported us financially.  We hadn’t even spoken to anyone yet about the situation!  We were able to take him to the market for a few shirts, shorts, and underclothes.

Feeding a baby goat at The Little Farm Thailand

Once we had him settled with the basic necessities, G reminded us that he was legally required to at least attend school.  If he did not go to a school in town, he would have to return to his village and attend school there, without a place to live.  Our sweet (and overly-confident-in-my-abilities) daughters suggested I homeschool him.  Hilarious suggestion, considering this is the extent of the Thai language I’ve used so far with him:

Are you hungry?  Would you like some more?  Did you have a good day?  Do you like pancakes?

Basically most of our conversation involves food.  He is a growing teenage boy after all!

Again we spoke with G and asked her to translate for us so that we could know what his preferences were.  We didn’t want to assume anything, and it was important to us that he understand he has a choice in his future.  There is a Christian Thai schools in the area, so we secretly hoped he would chose to stay and attend school there.  He sheepishly smiled and nodded his head, indicating that he would like to go to school there and continue to stay with all of us.

During this time we were also working with a short-term missions team from Grand Canyon University.  When their Destiny Rescue staff leader had an unfortunate accident on the way to Chiang Mai from Cambodia, Ethan and I made a late-night three-hour scooter ride (in a pouring rainstorm) down to help the team so the leader could rest.  We ended up spending quite a bit of time with them in Chiang Mai and later that week in Chiang Rai.  During the course of our conversations, we shared about our recent family addition and the decisions we were in the process of making.  Then during a visit to the Destiny Rescue prevention home, the team was able to meet G’s brother.  They all fell in love with his smile.

Touched by his story, this amazing team of college students scraped together what little money they had to help provide for his first semester at the Christian Thai school!  They wanted to be a part of his story.  And they forever will be.  David, one of the student leaders who had previously connected with G’s brother while playing soccer, even gave him the backpack, shoes, and most of the clothes he brought for himself to Thailand for this trip.

G’s brother with David, after playing some “futbol”.

As always, we stand in amazement at God’s goodness and faithfulness.  Here is a boy who was on the path to become a Buddhist monk, who was kicked out of his home and faced the possibility of labor trafficking or worse in Bangkok, now living with a missionary family and attending a Christian school, with dozens of new Christian brothers and sisters praying for him, supporting him and loving him just for being the great person God made him to be.

It is so humbling to be a small part of this story.  Ethan and I have fantasized over the possibilities that lay before him now.  The “what ifs”.  What if he comes to know Christ and is forever changed?  What if he leads the rest of his family to the Lord with his big sister?  What if he dedicates his life to Jesus and becomes a preacher who plants a church that begins a revival unlike anything Thailand has ever known?  What if?  The truth is that we have no expectations for him, just love.  Whatever he becomes, whatever choices he makes in life, we will be there for him.  God’s purposes are so much bigger and more intertwined than anything we can understand.  But fantasizing about those possibilities reminds us why it’s so important to always do the next right thing.  You never know what God might do with a “yes”.

For those who may be wondering what has become of Dee, G’s little sister; she is currently in the village but is planning to spend time in our home whenever she’s on school breaks.  Dee is the last of four children still living in the family home, and we’re assured that she is currently being treated well as she cares for her mother and helps around the house.  We just love her and miss seeing her sweet smile.  G doesn’t believe she is in danger right now but we are staying in close communication with her and she knows she has a home to come to anytime.

What we jokingly call the “14-year-old twins,” playing Uno while the rain comes down.

The “twelve-year-old twins” playing with make-up.

We don’t understand the full picture of what God is doing with the precious children, but we are learning to take it one step at a time.  And do the next right thing.

Gorgeous Art Series to Benefit WOA

We were blessed to have a local Idaho artist, Jenifer Rold, give of her time and talent to create a series that features the life of many of our girls in Destiny Rescue.

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First in the series, “Life In a Thai Village,” features three girls growing up in a hill tribe village.

 

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After our girls are sold into slavery, their life becomes drastically different.  The second piece in the series, entitled “Slavery” depicts these same girls as they are forced to work in the brothels.

 

 

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When our girls are rescued from human sex trafficking, they go through a long process of healing and learning to integrate into society again.  The third image in the series is based on the foot washing ceremony that we do when our girls graduate from the first stage of reintegration; their basic studies in the learning center.  Their teachers, counselors, rescue agents, and caseworkers come to celebrate their progress and wash their feet as Jesus washed his apostles feet.

 

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Last in the series, the piece entitled “Freedom,” doesn’t need much explanation.  The same three girls have been set free by the healing power of Jesus and are able to dream again!

The artist has the originals for sale on her site, as well as 8 x 10 prints.  These pictures don’t do the paintings justice; the colors are just beautiful.  All proceeds go to support our family’s work to bring more kids out of trafficking.  Here is the link if you are interested in purchasing a print or an original:

Echo Arts Studio

Thank you for your continued support of our family!

 

 

Taste of Thai #1

This last year has taught us more about how God works miracles more than any other time in our lives.  But having a history of being amazed by Him doesn’t stop us from being surprised at times.

We set a date for our very first Taste of Thai way back in June.  At this point we knew our church was under construction and the assumption was that there would be a nice big kitchen to work with by August 16.  Of course, construction delays are inevitable and we realized by the first of August that there was no way there would be any kitchen to work with at all.  So we called on an event center across the street for help, and they generously agreed to let us use their apartment kitchen, which had slightly more room than the kitchenette in their event center.

Then Monday came.  The day before the big event.  We’d created a Facebook group to get an idea of how many people would be coming out for the dinner and had a response of maybe 20 or so.  I’d contacted as many as possible to ask the size of their party and it looked like the real number was closer to 50.   While I had hoped to spend the entire day devoted to working on the event, we also cooked dinner for 18 on Monday evening.  (Sometimes timing of events doesn’t work well.)

Monday night.  Suddenly the number exploded.  This is probably typical for events, but we’d never held an event of this type before.  As the numbers climbed higher and higher all I could think was, How in the world is our team going to cook for over 100 people on four tiny burners?

Tuesday morning.  I got a call, early, from Ethan’s cousin’s wife Flo.   She was the real miracle worker in this event.  Somehow she had secured a commercial kitchen for us at 6:30 a.m.  We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Moon’s Kitchen Cafe for lending us their kitchen, some of their staff, and even offering cooking advice.  If you’re a local, please drop in and support this wonderful family!

The day was a blur of setting up tables, preparing a room for the kids, decorating, and last-minute errands.  Across town, our cooking team was laboring away in the commercial kitchen.  The air conditioning had gone out for the cooks, so it even felt a bit like cooking in Thailand!

Before we knew it, people started arriving.

Our cooks and servers, working to feed the crowd.

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Introductions, with all of the construction behind me.

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The kids all playing in one big room.  Big thanks to the wonderful volunteers who kept them busy!

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Cousins being silly.

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A dear friend of mine from high school created a display to share the story of what our beneficiaries lives look like before, during, and after being rescued from the brothels.  A close-up of one of the pictures …

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All in all it was a memorable night.  The final count served came to almost 150 people.  God was in the details, as always.  We loved being able to share our hearts for this ministry and see so many friends who are alongside us in this fight to free children.  Thanks to all who were able to come out!