Friday, November 24, 2017

Change of Address

I shot some cute photos of my little monsters and they were all Fall/Thanksgiving looking, so I thought I'd get out my cards early this year and make them Thanksgiving AND Christmas cards!  I just took the fall photos and added some Christmas lights borders around them. I mean, we moved this summer, so we have a new address, so sending them out early seemed like a great idea.

But of course they arrived the day AFTER Thanksgiving, which was totally MY fault for ordering them late, but alas, now I have a card with a Thanksgiving theme that will go out in December. Oops.

Anyway, as I was sitting and addressing them I was making sure to take note of the "updated on" column of my address book in excel. After all, we have lots of military friends who live all over the place and those little labels change often.

But then I started thinking about the ones that haven't changed. I smiled and thought about the many friends who have been able to use the same address for many years. The homes that are so comfortable and familiar that every nook and cranny could hold memories. I love that!

Honestly, his most recent move has been tough. For a few years in a row, we moved every 1-2 years, and we lived in 6 places by the time our oldest son was 7. Those years it was just natural and easy to pick up and start over again. Well, it wasn't ever EASY, but it wasn't quite so hard.

But then we got "stuck" in a place for over 3 years. It became home to us. We loved it there and we had a million friends and the best neighbors in the world and a church that felt like a home. Getting to share our Cambodia experience with that church is one of my greatest joys.

And... then we were off again. The kids are older now and the roots in our last place were deeper than before, so moving across the country this time was tough. As Mom, I had to make sure the kids were settled and happy and make sure the house was unpacked and comfortable. I had to take care of all the details before I could start to plant new roots. And now as I try to do that I'm finding it much harder than ever before.

Here we are at Thanksgiving and I'm writing "notice address change" on envelopes I'm getting ready to mail while still thinking that next year I'll be moving again and doing this yet again.

It's in the midst of all this - the address change, the long list of friends whose address hasn't changed in years, the season of giving thanks - that I stop and reflect on relationships.

Sometimes we can be surrounded by people and yet still a little lonely. Sometimes we can be far away from a dear friend and yet feel so close by a simple conversation or by sending a letter.

I think I'll take a moment to give someone a call (or a hug!) today and every chance I get. Who knows how many people around me are in need of that this holiday season?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Keep Spreading The Love

I promised I'd explain how great our plan worked so here goes:

We did it. We did what seemed impossible but wasn't because God was with us the whole way.

In February of 2016 we took a team of 11 people to work at The Hard Places Community's (HPC) Boys Center. This was the place I had served at with my little boys when it first opened its doors. On any given week we'd have 2 classes of 8-12 boys there back in 2011. Now they had hundreds of children. It was too incredible for me to try to explain!

Our team raised nearly $25,000 to get to Cambodia and back for a 2 week trip. All sorts of fundraisers helped us reach the goal. We sold drinks at soccer games, passed out empty jars for kids to fill with coins, cooked meals before church services to sell, sent letters to our friends and families, and more. Even the cute little cub scouts offered to help us out and those kids raised $500 for us!  Little by little, the money came in, but still, it seemed like an unreachable goal.

But we got there! And then it just kept coming in!

See, our team didn't commit to raise just enough to go. Our team committed to love on HPC for much longer than that two week trip. We committed to raise $25k as a team in 2016 and then to keep working to raise money through 2017 to send directly to HPC! 

And we did it!

When we were in Cambodia we took our money and purchased souvenirs at the markets to bring home and sell to Americans at a larger price. Then we took 100% of the funds raised and gave it back to Cambodia.

But that wasn't the part that brought in the most money.

Telling our stories inspired others more. We held a couple of events where our team was able to share what we'd seen and heard and experienced there and people were inspired to give! One of our team members, Amber, took beautiful photos that really made the children come alive as we shared about them. Through these events, it took us only a few months to raise $25,000 more to give to Hard Places.

And they have used it wisely and are reaching so many!

They've been able to hire numerous new staff members and interns to help their ministry grow!

HPC now has a girls' center that runs like the boys' center.

They also teach English and computer classes to young adults to help them find new careers.

HPC started a ministry to men working in massage parlors to help them learn skills for a more respectable career. These men are able to be English tour guides, work in beauty salons, drive tuk tuks, and more. They are opening a restaurant now where they can work as cooks or servers and earn a respectable income doing a job they can be proud of.

HPC has clubs in Siam Reap now where they reach over 300 children a week. Add this to the 500+ they now reach in Phnom Penh and its clear that the next generation of Cambodia is truly being changed!

The ministry of HPC is reaching to smaller tourist towns in Cambodia and also starting to use their model in other countries!

God is there!! The gospel is spreading throughout a kingdom that is in great need of Jesus. Children who have been trafficked are finding freedom and restoration. Families are learning how to help their children and protect them from being victimized. Young people who have been part of HPC since the beginning are so dramatically changed that they are now giving back to help their younger siblings and friends find hope as well.

God is big. Our small donations are stretched in a mighty way to provide resources for HPC.

So why wouldn't we keep spreading the love?

We are so blessed here in America and yes, there are many in need right here around us. Our family is at a place in our faith where we are able to say YES to God anytime. We are willing to go anywhere He sends us!  But for now, He is telling us to be here and mobilize others to go, to serve, to help, to give.

So we do. We tell our story and trust God to use it to His glory.

Next February, in 2018, we're taking another team to Cambodia. And after we return, we'll be raising money to give to Hard Places again!  (Want to help us get there??   Give here by designating your amount to the mission team in general at top or even to a specific member)

I can't believe God's blessed me so much to let me return to see these children again and again.

I hope you'll take this journey with me!

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Plan That Worked

Cough, cough, sneeze, sneeze... Here I am dusting off the keyboard to open up this site again and say hello.

You guys, I could make excuses, but seriously, its just life. I found it funny that my last post (2 1/2 years ago... told you, DUSTY keyboard!) was about slowing down.

I did. I tried. I mean, I still am trying. But with 3 kids and my silly hand that keeps raising itself when it hears things like, "Who can help with ________?" I just can't seem to find a free moment anywhere.

Who's with me? Anyone? We moved to Kansas this summer and I got about 95% unpacked, which in itself was astounding, but the rest has just been sitting in my hallway. For months. Honestly, I don't think it'll ever get unpacked at this point. I don't even care. I think if a thief came in the middle of the night and stole those 3 boxes that are still sitting there, I'd hug them and send them away with some cookies or something. I just can't do it.

But I have good reasons! Besides laundry and dishes and all the household chaos, I've been working on something super exciting.

It is, of course, about Cambodia!

That's what started this whole journaling adventure, right? Our family's adventure following God around the world! Well, it has continued in unexpected and amazing ways since I last recorded it here.

In 2016 Stephen and I were able to take 11 people back to Cambodia to meet the staff and kids at Hard Places and work with them there. Lives were changed!  Why didn't we do this sooner?

See, I tell everyone who will listen about these kids. I tell my story and share my heart with people and walk away knowing God will use that to inspire change for them too. They might be inspired or moved by the story but sometimes it takes actually seeing it with their own eyes to really understand. I wanted to take people with me to Cambodia to meet these people I love.


It's expensive to go to Cambodia!  Once in the country, things are quite inexpensive, but that silly plane ticket is a small fortune!  I knew that spending $1500 a person (or more) just to get them to Cambodia wasn't the best use of money. The best way to help would be to just send HPC a check! (Or, technically, cash, because they don't really do "checks" there...) But how do we get people pumped up about sending that much money if they haven't grasped the vision for what God can do with that money?

Alli, my friend who started and runs HPC, came to visit me in North Carolina in 2015 and talked to my church about what Hard Places does. The next morning two of my friends took her to breakfast and the next thing I knew, they were telling me they wanted us to take a mission trip to Cambodia. They had come up with a plan that I jumped on board with immediately and helped to make it happen.

Here was the incredible plan:
Let's raise money to send a team to Cambodia!
THEN... when they get back from their trip, let's have them KEEP raising money and the following year, let's just GIVE THAT MONEY STRAIGHT TO HARD PLACES!

It worked, you guys. It worked so so so well.

I wish I'd journaled about that whole experience. I was kind of busy planning a short term trip to Cambodia for a dozen people and buying plane tickets and managing a range of personalities and telling stories of what to expect and helping people pack and well, too much to remember, so I didn't write about it all. Or, actually, about any of it.

But the plan worked.

And it worked so well that we are doing it again.

I can't wait to tell you more about that.

But for now I have to say goodbye. Life is calling.
I promise I'll be back soon with more details.