“I am beginning to see that we need to feel both joy and fear in order to step out in faith and to experience the provision that God has for us…Sometimes the most beautiful aspect of our story is how big our faith grows when we can’t see what is ahead. That first leap of faith into our unknown, but into God’s calling, is incredible. Once we do that we find that we are able to experience all the joy and a little bit of fear in our complete lack of control, and yet our total confidence in God’s ability to do it increases.”

– Imperishable Beauty 

Quote

If you don’t know now you know (pt II)

IMG_4237.JPG

 

  1. pajamas are perfectly acceptable motorbike wear. as in the matching button up top and bottom pajamas.
  2. you’re definitely going to want to purchase that face mask with the cute animal on it from family mart. trust.
  3. ::sung to the tune of tiny bubbles:: tiiiiiiiny geckosssss
  4. no frog is safe. RIP to all the frogs whose lives unintentionally ended too soon by leaping in front of my motorbike at the 11th hour in the dark.
  5. noodles for breakfast. noodles for lunch. noodles for dinner.
  6. 99% of all thai songs are about love & broken hearts (confirmed by a reliable teenage source).
  7. buying a full tank of gas = free water bottle.
  8. buying a water bottle (or any bottle. of anything) = free straw.
  9. ordering food that comes in a fruit is always a good idea.
  10. when it rains, be prepared to drive through literal rapids. (your motorbike will die and regardless of the sandals and dress you are wearing you will walk it through knee high water to safety and kind strangers will ask “you okay???” and you will hesitantly say “I don’t know!!!” it’s great. you should try it.)
If you don’t know now you know (pt II)

when it rains

When the rain isn’t letting up and you’re watching your motorbike tires get covered by a small river, inch by inch, so you decide to move English classes to tomorrow and wait out the storm to drive the few miles home once the lightening isn’t hitting so close. But the rain doesn’t stop so you keep working, until you hear little laughs and pop your head through the door to get stampeded with hugs and smiles and hands tugging you into the room. Quick conversations around school uniforms and braids. And then they leave and the rain still isn’t stopping, so you break again for a dance party with tiny feet and a voice that tries to mimic the Beach Boys jam that randomly sings out as you jump around. And then you sit back at your computer to be joined by those same small feet, and start pointing out all the people in the pictures at your desk. And the Compassion kid who lives in India and looks so much like a brother. “Do you know where India is?” And Google Maps takes us on a tour: India to Thailand to China to Cambodia … “No! Cambucha Cambuchaaaaa!” And you click through satellite pictures to marvel at the beauty knowing the real memories might not be as accessible or fond, and you watch those tiny fingers quickly master the keyboard until a kind voice calls you in for dinner. Homemade Thai and store bought Vietnamese and it all smells like garlic and you watch the crazy flooding videos and laugh and try to understand a few words of Thai until a savior of a van comes to offer you a ride home in the now pitch black evening.

I don’t mind the rain so much.

when it rains

connecting dots

img_6542

I’ve been doing a study with some sweet souls on the armor of God and it’s.been.killer. In the best way. I love how something I never would have chosen sort of chose me and it’s everything I need to hear.

Last week we focused on the shoes of peace. Among other days (read: all of them), the first day of questions particularly wrecked me. As I wrote down areas of my life where I detected disharmony, unrest, or an overarching lack of peace – it then prompted a recording of my reactions to these areas, and the hard hitting follow up to identify stunted potential or growth in myself due to the unrest or unhealthy reactions. It was a blast. ::sobs quietly in the corner::

It caught me off guard though – because I’ve never thought to attribute my lack of personal and spiritual growth to a lack of peace. But it connected some dots: distractions, frustrations, regret, expectations, confusion. These have all played a part in running (read: ruining) me over what feels like too many years. Feeling unsteady. Off balance. Uprooted. And with each appearance in my life, however big or small, they began manifesting character in me I didn’t recognize. Character I came to hate (read: still do), and eventually didn’t know how to remove. Enter more frustration and regret.

“A life without peace is simply unprotected, crippled, unable to move forward, hindered from maturing and developing in a healthy fashion.”

From relationships to work to friendships and emotional & spiritual health, I’ve watched a person I sometimes don’t recognize walk through motions. A bit empty, a lot apathetic, all around frustrated and confused. Oh, you hadn’t noticed? Gosh we put up a lot of masks. Well I know I do.

“…True peace is best detected and measured against the backdrop of commotion and confusion…”

How quickly satan pulls the blinds over the parts of us that are most alive. The parts that have the potential to bring freedom and life to people around us. And yet. Somewhere. I lost sight of my very assurance of hope that transcends life. The hope that lives IN ME. The reason I have anything good and light and life-like to give to anyone. I can muster the crap out of my own strength and give parts and pieces and glimmers – but none of it lasts. And all of it leaves me empty.

“Peace must take root deeply.”

I’ve seen how distractions have uprooted me over the years. It’s nothing new, really. It’s always a choice. Just like not letting chaos in is a choice. Just like walking uprightly is a choice. And bearing with others in patience is a choice. And thanksgiving is a choice. I had also never connected the dots between thanksgiving and peace. But it comes out of the woodworks of scripture – thanksgiving activates peace. And I love that the gospel always gives a reason to be thankful. Funny how in order for peace to take root deeply, so must the gospel.

“Our god can and will anchor your soul, tethering it to the security found in his gospel, the good news of his beloved son.”

So today, well – this moment – I’m choosing thankfulness. In looking past distractions and disappointments, I’m choosing peace.

p.s. shoutout p.shirer who rules at writing studies, and anne who recommended this before it was cool 🙂

connecting dots

car rides

The other day I was driving two of the Thrive boys home after English class. We’ve gotten into a little ritual for our short trips down the road.

Promptly after getting in the car, the younger of the two, usually in the backseat, quips, “Why is so HOT???” (which I echo back sarcastically in the grammatically correct pronunciation and blast the AC). He then politely requests to turn the light on so he can read whatever comic book he’s brought in tow. The older immediately requests music. “Yes, music!” rings from the back, and I hand over my phone for him to search whatever pop song he just asked me if I know (which, ahem, I usually do ::still got it::). Then we blast the jams for about 6 minutes and talk about places we want to visit, going to university and majors, being ‘cool’, Saturday school, our favorite dinosaurs… you know… until I pull in front of their house and we bid adieu for the eve.

The other day, a song came on that addresses love and faith and the church in a less than ‘family friendly’ way and of course they wanted to know what the song was talking about, really. It caught me off guard. I’m not a mom. I don’t work with kids (well I do now). It’s been some time since I’ve been with teenagers on the regular. Even so, where does one begin?

As I fumbled around trying to explain it in simple, neutral English, I ended up talking about the ways that sometimes churches put an emphasis on rules, and then makes us feel bad when we don’t follow them. And that makes people not want to go to church and try to find love elsewhere. But how that’s the exact reason Jesus came. Because we do fail. We need help. We need him. And we didn’t even know it – but he did, so he came. He obeyed the rules and showed us what love looks like, then he died to save us so we could be with him in heaven.

Just like that. It had holes and it was jumbled, but the gospel came out. It honestly lit me up in a way I haven’t felt since I’ve been here. And I pray that seeds were planted in them. I want so much for these boys to know Jesus. To really know him. And I hope these conversations keep happening.

What also caught me off guard was how it washed over my own soul. It was like a wave of grace to the face (holy rhymes anyone?). I forget that I need to hear it too. And keep hearing it. 

I’m so thankful that grace never gets old. That the gospel never loses its luster. And for 6 minute car rides.

car rides

if you don’t know now you know

IMG_6056

  1. helmet hair isn’t just a reality. it’s a way of life.
  2. if you don’t want to die, don’t order your papaya salad extra spicy.
  3. driving against traffic is perfectly acceptable if you stay close to the side of the road.
  4. trash pickups rarely occur before 11pm. halleluj because that stank cannot be covered or cured.
  5. pool water is warm. the ocean is warmer. ‘refreshing’ happens when you take a cold shower.
  6. fried grasshoppers are actually tasty once you take the legs off (too chewy).
  7. driving without a helmet screen in the country means getting pelted in the face by a thousand tiny bugs. not cute.
  8. 7-11 is king. get your groceries, pay your bills, and take those potstickers they just warmed up for you in the microwave tah-go.
  9. 10 out of 10 times you will see a jellyfish at the beach.
  10. curry is life.
if you don’t know now you know

crash course

jomtien

As if anyone wants to read about organizational structure and work stuff on a blog… but I thought it might be helpful to lay out some of the basics of Thrive and our initiatives – especially since the Justice School initiative (huh? exactly) has begun and you may see more posts about things other than ‘English class’ over the coming weeks. An update on what I’ve been up to the past couple months probably wouldn’t hurt either 🙂

Months. That can’t be right. Every weekend that rolls around has me wondering where the week went. A few of us are convinced (okay, maybe just me) that Thailand is outside the natural laws of time. It’s like we’re in a continuous episode of Lost except I sweat a lot more and instead of smoke monsters there are a lot of stray dogs. Hey, I’m happy as long as I’m Sayid. Or Desmond. Or Jack. Or Jin. But I don’t have favorites… Speaking of characters – we were unofficially assigning The Office characters to our team members and Pam Beesely was quickly bestowed upon me. Proud moment. (Which may have swayed my favor toward insecure Jim Halpert look-a-like Derek on the Bachelor this season but no I don’t watch that trash except when it fosters roommate bonding and amazing commentary like ‘since when did being Canadian’ become an occupation?) I digress. Back to Thrive.

IMG_5793
New school uniforms – pretty sure first day of school pictures are a worldwide phenomenon.

THRIVE RESCUE HOME – I work as a full-time volunteer/staff for Thrive, a 501c3 Nonprofit that focuses on holistic aftercare and restoration for kids who have been rescued from situations of trafficking and exploitation. We provide care for 19 kids (ages 4-17) across 4 homes (3 host girls and one hosts boys). I have the privilege of teaching English to all these nuggets each week (also – since when do kids have SUCH long school days?? they are troopers to put up with Ajahn Jenna after all that). I also help with sponsor relations (email marketing, donor correspondance, etc.) and miscellaneous admin.

Real talk: I still work at a desk a lot of the day. Because there was no previous English program in place (though all of the kids who go to school are learning base English there), my role has started from scratch, assessing their grammar and vocabulary knowledge as well as learning styles. I drive to the Thrive homes to teach each evening. Planning to add ‘Ability to develop and physically carry mobile classroom on motorbike’ to my resume…

puppets
Yes, that is a me. Yes, that is a sock puppet. No, puppeteering is not my forte. #trying

I’m starting to get the hang of quickly developing lessons that are relevant as well as age appropriate – but keeping 4 classes of varying learning abilities and prior knowledge straight takes a bit of brain work. Everyday I see ways I could have done something better or different – but it’s a sweet challenge to move forward from those points to improve, and the small wins are incredibly rewarding.

I’m joined in the office by some of our Thai Staff – a Social Worker, Accountant and In-Country Operations Director extraordinaire are usually around during the weekdays and help me navigate life in Thailand as well as give me new Thai phrases to learn. They are patient and kind and always willing to share snacks. Win-win-win. They join me, along with the house parents, for English on Wednesdays. Suffice it to say, they always keep me laughing.

office
Thrive offices (second & third floor) & the Shear Love salon (first floor)

All of our house parents are also Thai – so the kids are growing up in a culturally relevant environment. I’ll never say enough good things about these people – they are selfless and generous and big-hearted and amazing cooks. The Thrive kids are in incredible hands.

SHEAR LOVE INTERNATIONAL – Shear is an Educational Beauty School that provides holistic care for women coming from a background of poverty, abuse, exploitation and trafficking. I also get to teach these beauties English Tues-Friday in the mornings at the salon. They are a JOY. Though their English levels vary drastically (what else is new), I honestly didn’t expect to love working with them as much as I do. They are a little older (17-34), crazy talented, and so motivated to establish a life that doesn’t include prostitution. I am in awe of these girls.

I also live with the Director of this program, Dianna – who is a complete rockstar and will give you a new appreciation for Pitbull and driving on sidewalks. She has some pretty rad hairstylist friends volunteering with the program as well – shoutout to Apryle fuh keepin’ it real.

TJS
2016 Thailand Justice School Students. Jen G throwin’ down some wisdom.

THE JUSTICE SCHOOL – TJS is a 6 week initiative of classes where young people can come to receive an education on how to competently address and fight social injustice (Thailand has an emphasis on sex trafficking, and they are launching an initiative in Ghana this year with an emphasis on labor trafficking). The students walk through courses on prevention, rescue, restoration, release, and response and are provided hands-on opportunities to minister and reach out to those vulnerable and affected by trafficking in Thailand and surrounding areas.

The 2016 Thailand school is currently in full swing and it’s been fun meeting new faces and getting doses of their energy and passion to be a part of this fight. Some will help administer activities for English classes on Thursdays in the coming weeks as their field work projects. Looking forward to their creative ideas (and support!).

Kaylie is the Director of this initiative and she and her 2 cutie pie staffers (Kelsey and Jen) are staying with Dianna and I during their 3 months in country. They are amazing for sanity, group workouts and added laughs.

TON OF RICE – Thrive provides free rice each Saturday to individuals and families from a local slum. We’ve established some sweet relationships with the people there and invite them to our once a month church / fellowship gatherings to help foster community as well as share Jesus. A few Thrive kids will usually come to help out and play games or color. I got to spend Saturday mornings with them the first month or so when I was living at the Justice School center (around the corner from our offices).

neighborhood2
Welcome to the neighborhood! This is Dianna and I’s complex. A 5 minute jog straight ahead will get you to Jomtien beach – a bit dirty and crowded but the ocean never disappoints.

I know I’m long-winded, but hopefully this provides a tiny bit of context (yay context!) for my day to day and what all we’re up to out here in Pattaya. Every day is growing and I’m constantly challenged to push myself to give more, complain less and be fully invested in this work, even when the fruit isn’t daily visible (more thoughts on this soon).

I’m SO grateful for you all – for everyone who is supporting and encouraging me still. If you think of it, please pray for our staff – to have endurance and motivation to do everything with joy and excellence, and pray for the girls and kids – that they would know true healing and worth, that they would find hope in a savior that loves them more than they could know what to do with.

xo

crash course