He Was Not a Good Man: Part One of Entering the Story of Hope

Her dad was gone; her brother, too. She had seen far too much death in her short life. Without their protection, as a young girl left all alone with her mother, Brinda* did what all girls must do: she searched for work. Trained as a maid, she worked in her Asian village and later was transferred to a bigger house.

Being a house helper in a police officer’s house felt like a dream come true. But, he was a not a good man. For several months, Brinda’s boss tried to force her to sleep with him. She fought him off and managed to escape…at first. Seeking a friend in another woman, Brinda confided in the officer’s wife about the attempted rapes. Sometimes women can be each other’s worst enemies. 

Now, instead of having someone on her side, Brinda had another battle to face every day in her new work. The police officer continued to demand sex from young Brinda. The more she refused, the more he sought revenge. Telling his wife that their new house maid was not properly fulfilling her role, the officer began to make intentional mistakes to blame on Brinda. Just like a child, he would add salt to the curry for dinner and insist that Brinda had messed up yet again. His tactics worked, and he won his wife over to his dark side.

The lady of the house began to fiercely beat Brinda, thinking she was displeased with her work, and all the while knowing that her husband preferred Brinda and her body. At this point, the police officer began to actively rape Brinda repeatedly. For more than a year, she endured horrific treatment at the hands of both of her employers, her body riddled with scars and bruises that are evident even today.

In a miraculous turn of events, Brinda was able to escape from her abusers. She fled the village, determined to make a new life for herself in the capital city. Immediately she found work at a brick making factory. Within a short span of time, however, she discovered that her new boss was also not a good man. Once again, Brinda found herself being raped by her employer. It seemed that everywhere she went, with everyone she met, she was wanted for only one thing. Her body became more important than her very life, her hopes and dreams, her shredded sense of dignity and honor.

Covered in shame from years of abuse and neglect, Brinda inevitably ran out of options. Demoralized, she entered into a life of prostitution rather than seeking out yet another job that would lead to nowhere.

There are countless women just like Brinda all over Southern Asia. They need a safe place to live and heal today. They need to be set free from shame now. 

Here is how you can make a difference. During the month of April, your tax refund can be turned into a gift of hope as our family seeks to raise $10,000 towards the purchase of facilities to open and launch The Refuge, a holistic ministry approach to exploited and neglected women just like Brinda.

It’s simple, really. 100 people. $100 from a tax refund. New life and hope brought to women just like Brinda. Hope starts here, with you and me. Enter the story of hope today.

*Brinda's name and photo have been withheld to preserve her dignity. All details of her story are otherwise accurate.*

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Palm Sunday: The Journey from Cheers to Jeers

It’s Palm Sunday again, a day to reflect on the Triumphant Entry our Lord made into the city. The clumsy journey on the back of the beast, the “Hosannas” joyously ringing out and reverberating through the thick crowds. The palm branches flapping melodiously in the wind, the questions asked by little children as the Man rides past them on His donkey.

I picture myself in this crowd. I, too, shout out “Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna to the King! Glory to God in the highest.” I wave my branches, and I pledge my allegiance. I taste the victory that awaits. I hope with those around me for better days ahead. I cheer. Yes, this is the place, this is the hour, this is the crowd for cheering.

I picture myself in another crowd. I, too, gather outside the Temple and gather up my excuses. I shout my accusations, and I listen to the others spew their opinion out of their own confusion and guilt. I am right alongside them; never mind how we were waving our branches together just a few days ago. “Crucify Him! Crucify Him”, this crowds crows all the more loudly. I jeer. Yes, this is the place, this is the hour, this is the crowd for jeering.

Funny how we can so quickly move from praising our King to crucifying Him. Funny how the crowd did just that in a matter of days. Far too many of those who shouted the loudest on Palm Sunday were among the cruelest mockers on Good Friday. Those who cheered for Jesus quickly became those who jeered at Jesus. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

As I wrap up this first day of Holy Week, I pause. I look at the metaphorical palm branch in my own hand. In my heart, I have pledged my allegiance. I have shouted my praise. I have prepared the way for the King of Glory to enter my city.

I pray to be always be found in the right crowd. As quickly as they turned on Jesus, so these crowds will turn on you and me. With one breath they approve of us. With another, they sentence us to die. May we never expect less for ourselves than what the Savior endured. Today, the world cheers. Tomorrow they will jeer. He was not surprised. Neither shall we be.

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Seeing the Lost on a Sunday Morning

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It’s Sunday morning, and I pause to look out my window. In streets that criss cross my neighborhood, I see all the cars, the evidence of people at home on this Lord’s Day. Feeling sick from a sleepless night, and being six months pregnant, I had decided to stay at home and have family worship with the kids instead.

I can hear their voices as I look outside. All my friends and family members who have spoken their request through the years. “Look around you. There is need here, too. Stay here and make a difference right where you are. You are needed for Kingdom work in your own neighborhood.” I concede that there is a partial truth hidden within their well-played words. I count the cars up and down the street. More than a dozen. Representative of my neighbors who most likely do not attend church anywhere, who most likely do not share my faith in God as Refuge and Strength, who for all intents and purposes, are just as lost and alone as my Asian friends.

But that is where all musing must end. I could be content, maybe, to stay in my suburban home, looking out the window, bending into the need on a Sunday morning. I could be used up to make a difference in this neighborhood, surely, bringing Light and Life and Love to all those I encounter. I could see the Kingdom grow as one fragile seed after another is dropped into the ground, the blood and sweat of my life’s work. I could see success here, right where I am.

While it’s true that my neighbors here do not know Jesus, they are not the same as my Asian friends. As I peer through the glass on a solitary Sunday morning, I think of the plethora of churches within a few miles. I reflect on the Christian radio stations and the TV (gulp!) preachers in abundance. I think of the Christian book stores and the dusty Bibles that lay strewn across America’s rickety old shelves. Even in this neighborhood, the people have access. They may choose to ignore, refusing to drink from the Spigot that gives true Life, but they have access. They have at least one household in their neighborhood that hangs a Banner stained with Divine Blood. When they have questions about their Creator, they will certainly find His Answers. 

I look around, and I see the need. I taste it, hear it, smell it, even embody it. But I also see the helpers. They are here, hidden in plain sight at times, but the workers are present in this land.

The time is drawing closer to gaze upon a different landscape on a Sunday morning. The lack of access drives me. It compels me from all sides. It’s time to look out my window at the color of poverty, at the millions of men and women and their children who still do not know what I know. It’s time to see the lost on a Sunday morning and to hear their groans through our worship songs. It’s time, once again, for there to be one lone household raising up that Banner for all to see and for all to know.

The answer is not an either/or scenario. I can’t pick this group over that group. This Kingdom work is inclusive to all neighborhoods. This one thing I know, though. When it’s time to change my address, there will be those who remain working in the gap I left. Others will move in who serve my King, peering out the same window on a Sunday morning. But if I don’t go to the places without access, specifically to my Asian friends, who will go in my place? Who will see the lost again with new eyes on a Sunday morning?

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Ten Years in Heaven: A Mother Remembers

You left us ten years ago today. Born to be welcomed into the loving arms of God instead of to my frail aching ones, you entered Heaven before I was ready. Today, on the anniversary of your death, I remember, for a mother never truly forgets.

Your dad and I watched, waited, and worshipped as your little life slipped away. We praised Jesus when the news came that you would be joining our family in June. We still praised Jesus when He began to hold you for all of eternity, and I knew that I never would again on this earth. Through your brief life and death, I learned that God is good, not just in the giving, but in the taking away as well.

My heart has healed in these last ten years, it’s true. Your brother and sister see to that each and every day. The laughter that has been left in your empty place amazes me with every passing breath. Even now, new life is kicking about inside of my womb, proclaiming yet again that God is good and the One Who carries this family from strength to strength.

And yet, I find myself wondering over and over again, how I can miss someone so much that I never even got to meet. There were such few firsts with you, my Christian. The first time I discovered I was pregnant, the first signs of life inside of me, the first doctor appointment, the first time your Dad and I could announce we were going to be someone’s parents, the first pictures we still cherish of you, the first time we should have seen and heard your heartbeat flitting across an ultrasound screen. No, we didn’t get that many firsts; we only have the lasts, the final moments on this side of Heaven’s gates.

Would your first word have been “Ma Ma” like your brother and sister? How many skinned knees would I have bandaged as you learned to ride a bike? I wonder if you would have loved chocolate and pizza and cheeseburgers, but only the kind that your Daddy grills. Would you be the leader or the follower as you played with the other kids at recess? Would you love football or soccer? Would you be left handed? What would you dream of as you were growing up? What would it be like to watch you and Gary play the Wii together? Would you play dolls with Joelle, because that’s what big brothers do? Would you kiss my growing belly each night the way your brother and sister now do?

I held your secret in our family for many years. Finally, last month, the time came for Gary and Joelle to hear of your life and your death. You, my darling baby, will always be a part of me, of this family, of your Dad’s and my legacy. Huddled in front of a fire, while we celebrated openly with your siblings that another little one is coming soon, I told them of the one who came first but never came home. Not to this temporary dwelling anyway.

Now your siblings know that they have a brother waiting for them in Heaven, who will one day lead us all to the Feet of Jesus in eternal worship. This knowledge has been so freeing. For years I have dreaded the questionnaires at the doctor’s visits or the conversations about parenthood, of love and loss. “How many children do you have? How many times have you been pregnant?”

I remember you today, my baby. Though I have no gravesite to visit, no physical markers of your journey from this life to the next, I carry your name and your memory as close as my next breath. You are my first child, though we never had the chance to look into each other's eyes. You have a Maker Who formed you even before time began. He knew you; He knew your name; He knew the significance of your story. And to honor Him and to honor you, I will continue telling this story, the story of a baby born straight to Heaven and the loving family who will never forget.

So, on this ten year anniversary, little Christian, your mother celebrates your life and your death. I proclaim to all who will listen that I am the mother of Christian, of Gary, of Joelle, and of this new miracle rapidly growing inside. I have four darling angel children. And I thank Jesus for all His gifts, even the one I couldn’t keep.

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A Plea for the Church to Reconsider Abortion

After all of the uproar of the #GOPdebate, I cannot do it any more. I cannot stay silent about this issue. Before we move on, dear reader, you need to know two things. First of all, I am pro-life. I am as pro-life as they come. I wholeheartedly believe even in placing the safety and health of an unborn precious child over the life of the mother. Secondly, Planned Parenthood makes me want to vomit. I am all for defunding an organization that sells human flesh in all forms.

Now that those important precepts are established, lest you think I have temporarily gone insane, I now need to ask us to do something, dear Church. This is my plea for us, with myself included, to reconsider how we fight for the rights of the unborn. This is my urgent plea for the Church to change Her scare tactics.

Let’s all put down our picket signs for one moment and consider the pregnant mother. In this particular moment of imagining, I imagine her as African-American, unwed, completely alone and confused. (If you do your due diligence, you will quickly find that she is the one most targeted by Planned Parenthood, and her unborn baby carries the highest percentage of being aborted.)

Let’s suppose for a moment that, in theory, we have convinced her not to abort her baby, either by way of legislation, lack of funding for Planned Parenthood, or our self-waged war against abortion clinics, complete with waving signs and harsh words. The biggest question, the one that begs the asking, the one that I do not hear enough Christians asking is this: Now what? What comes after the decision to not abort?

Dear American Church, if we are so thoroughly convinced in our conviction that abortion is wrong (and we are and it is!), will we now do the hard work after the in utero baby is deemed safe?

Will we take the mother shopping for maternity clothes?

Will we let her crash on our couch when she has nowhere else to go? When family and friends and lovers forsake her for this choice?

Will we take her to her doctor’s appointments, praying her along each step of this pro-life journey?

Will we hold her hand through a grueling labor and delivery?

Will we be willing to adopt this life we fought so vehemently to save?

Will we be the father in the absence of a father?

Will we teach a torn and lonely woman how to be a caring mother?

Will we coach her son's baseball league?

Will we braid her daughter’s hair?

Will we invite this precious life we helped to save over for dinner?

Will we welcome him? Will we welcome her into our families, into our lives, into our Church?

Will we stay long after the decision to preserve life inside the womb has been made?

Will we be around when life outside of the womb still needs an advocate?

I guess what I am asking, perhaps even begging, us to do is this: be the Church. We must be Jesus in more than just our words; we must back them up by our strong, compassionate actions, as well.

It is no longer enough to be against abortion. Being against something without offering a viable alternative is selfish and lazy. As the American Church, let us truly be for life. This must include all life: the lives of the unborn, the lives of confused and broken mothers and fathers, the lives of the widow, the lives of the orphan, the lives of the immigrant. 

If, and only if, we are willing to do these things do we have the right to wave our signs or cast our vote.

Anatomy of a Nightmare: When My Son Fell

It happened so suddenly. Isn’t that how life, with its myriad twists and turns, its triumphs and tragedies, actually works? What started out as a planned day for fun and memories quickly morphed into one of the most bone-chilling experiences of my life.

There we were, playing and laughing, talking and living, with no thought of how everything can change in one split second. Funny how it isn’t so often the years or the gradual processes that shift things the most; rather it is those instant-replays that are really just mere snapshots in time that forever become imprinted, time stamps of when that terrible thing happened. 

Our family enjoying Lake Erie in Cleveland, OH with my sister minutes before the accident; clearly we had NO idea how quickly we would quit smiling

Our family enjoying Lake Erie in Cleveland, OH with my sister minutes before the accident; clearly we had NO idea how quickly we would quit smiling

I watched it happen. I watched my son begin to slip, his footing becoming completely unsure, throwing him down to the ground, among a ledge of infection-riddled boulders several feet below me. I was powerless. There was nothing I could do. As soon as I saw his head come to rest against the jagged edge of the rock, I knew. I knew he was injured, though the extent was still unknown. I’m pretty sure time stood still as I waited for him to breathe, to move, to give a sign that he was conscious. Immediately as Gary’s head began to rise, Mel jumped down to pick him up. 

As Mel yanked his shirt off to stop the intense bleeding, I began to run. I had one thought in my head: get Gary to the hospital now. Get Gary to the hospital now. Then, as EMT responded, they grounded my feet, telling me to remain seated on the rocks, holding on to my shaking son.

How ironic that I was to remain on the very rocks that caused this injury. That’s when my Rock whispered: I am here. I love you. Call on My Name. When your feet shift, I will place you on the Rock that is higher. Always I Am Steadfast.

Over and over Gary asked if he was going to be okay, if Jesus was going to heal him. While I continued to apply pressure to stop the bleeding, I encouraged my own soul along with his, recounting all the times our God has never failed us. I did not know the outcome. I did not know any thing for sure. But I did know this: Jesus can be trusted. Jesus is alive. Jesus is my only Hope. As Gary and I sat and waited for the ambulance, that was all we needed to know.

There are millions of what-ifs. All parents know this. We are masters at detecting the risks, unveiling the irrational fears, coming to grips with how utterly powerless we actually are in the daunting task of protecting our kids.

There is no grace for the what-ifs. Those are endless and abstract and arbitrary. There is only grace for the what-is moments of our lives. When that thing has actually happened, when the nightmare comes true. When we surely need Him, He is surely already there, anchoring our lives to His Mighty Rock.

What if Gary hadn’t survived that horrific fall? What if he became paralyzed? What if he had a concussion? What if there was brain trauma/damage?

Oh, how the what-ifs can crowd out our peace! I had no grace for those thoughts. Why? Because they were not my reality. But there was a bucket full of grace when I actually needed it, when my what-is situation had turned on a dime.

This Mama never wants to ride in an ambulance again!

This Mama never wants to ride in an ambulance again!

Throughout the hours spent in the ER, my mind raced with every possible outcome. I was keenly, even painfully, aware of how very different our situation could have been. As the team of doctors deliberated on how best to treat Gary’s traumatic head wound, I received a glimpse into what I believe actually happened. I am convinced that because so many faithful prayer warriors carry our family before The Throne regularly, my son is okay. I have no doubt that angels who were commanded to be in charge (see Psalm 91) cradled my sweet boy’s head as it collided with that rock.

With hospital discharge papers in hand and eleven staples across the back of Gary’s head (binding up a very large laceration that reached down to his skull), our family stepped out with gratitude and grace. We had all the grace we needed, exactly when we needed it. Tomorrow is a new day, full of myriad what-ifs, but this family can rest, will rest, assured that God’s got all the upcoming what-is moments, and He is faithful!


I'm so incredibly grateful for my sister, Erica! She sprung into action, calling 9-1-1 immediately, and helped the paramedics locate us on the rocks. She also remained cool, calm, and collected throughout the entire ordeal, ministering to Joelle in the process. We needed another adult that day so that both of our kids could be cared for: yet another provision of our great God!

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Marriage Is Made In the Trenches: An Anniversary Reflection

I could write something cutesy, like twelve things I’ve learned in twelve years of marriage. But that’s not you, and that’s not me either. Our lessons and our vows can’t be relegated to mere words on a page, tutorials left behind for some cavalier couple.

Some would say that marriage is about trips to the beach, splashing carefree in the waves, drinking frothy beverages with pink umbrellas, while our toes connect in the white pearl sand. 

But I say that marriage is made in the trenches. Marriage is about digging a fox hole and holding your breath while enemy fire looms overhead. Marriage is forged, not under the canopy of ease and starry-eyed ideals, but under the harsh red dirt of the battlefield. Marriage is when you're buried six feet under, and you're running out of ammo, and someone jumps in your corner, literally dives down into the depths with you, providing some clear and focused cover fire. And they won’t leave, not now, not ever, not without you.

Marriage is when you come to the end of yourself, and you can’t even remember your name and the essence of what lies hidden deep inside. Marriage is that someone who always remembers, even when, especially when, you forget. Marriage is the assurance that despite all your changes, the good, bad, and ugly ones, that someone sees the real you, calling forth your gifting, calling out your name, reaching for your hand.

This year in America has seen far too many fox holes and not nearly enough sandy beaches. We’ve run out of ammo a time or two, surrendering to the noise and chaos abounding overhead. But, we’ve sat together, saying everything and nothing, hand in hand, with the scars from life’s battles firmly in our purview.

We’ve untangled many knots…in our stomachs, in our luggage, in our kids. We’ve been out of breath, holding the thread bare fragments of a Three-fold Strand that still holds up, that beckons us to trust, knowing and believing it will be strong enough.

Marriage to you is the only thing that makes sense when I can’t make sense of a single other thing. It’s knowing that you share the memories and the fears and the victories and the defeats of all the continents. You know. There can be that look or that word or that experience brought up, and you know. No other explanation needed. Now, that’s freedom, that’s peace, that’s security.

Marriage looks like you waking up earlier than you need to just so you can make sure I step into my day with an awesome cup of coffee and the mantle of grace that you have already blanketed across my shoulders like a warm shroud as you’ve prayed over me again and again.

Marriage is you washing up the dishes and folding mismatched socks when all you really want to do is put your feet up and laugh for a minute or two.

Marriage looks like you doing the hard work, asking the hard questions, and not running away…not ever running away.

Marriage is giving up for the sake of the other. Marriage is making space for the other. Period.

Marriage is knowing that you win when I fly high. We get to soar together. Always together.

The most important things we can say to each other remain: I love you. I’m sorry. I forgive you. I choose you. I will never give up on you. Thank you.

Rinse and repeat.

So many words we’ve spoken to each other, some are worthy of remembrance; others we pray to forget:

2001- Can I take you on a date, like a real date where I pay?

2002- Will you marry me?

2003- I do and I will.

2004- This is our shot.

2005- Let’s have a baby. Our baby is dead.

2006- Don’t deliver on this one day. Any day but this one.

2007- Look at us now.

2008- God is willing. Our God is strong.

2009- It’s time.

2010- Is this our new normal?

2011- So long, America. Hello, Asia!

2012- When will the shaking stop?

2013- This is you. This is me.

2014- We have to keep going forward.

2015- Things will be different this time.

Happy Anniversary, My Love. With you in my fox hole, with you in my corner, with you as my partner, life is good. It’s never easy, but it is good and rich and soul-satisfying.

One day, once again, we will sit on the beach. And we will sip our dreams and our memories down like a cold Coca Cola, tasting that much sweeter for all the times we laid down cover fire for each other. 

*What about you, dear reader? What does marriage look like to you?

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*Image courtesy of Photos by Amy Lynne

*Image courtesy of Photos by Amy Lynne

I desire quality time with my kids, both together and one-on-one. All too often in Asia, we aren’t alone in our car, and if we are, the noise drones on and on, eradicating any hope of meaningful conversation. I’m trying to take advantage of the time each week I take Gary to his occupational therapy. It’s a thirty minute drive one way, and I intentionally don’t bring Joelle to these appointments. I want my son's heart; I want the glimpses into the boy he is and the young man he is becoming. I want the preview of his thoughts. And so, as we drive to these obligatory appointments, we talk. Or rather, my boy talks, and I listen. I listen, and I wait, and I rejoice at the glimpse he shows me as he jerks back the magic curtain for a brief moment in time.

Recently, he started talking about Heaven out of the blue. He recited Scripture that he’s learned and all of the things he’s heard in Sunday School. According to Gary, Heaven is like this: “Heaven is never getting hurt again. Heaven is climbing a really tall tree and jumping, knowing that God will catch you before you fall. God will always catch you in Heaven. Heaven is doing all the things you never could do before because of your fear.”

As we continued to talk about Heaven and how awesome it will be to finally be Home, Gary started asking me about our family. One by one he went through the litany of names of our extended family, wondering aloud if each person knows Jesus and will be in Heaven with him one day. I held my breath and paused a little too long when he inquired about certain ones. Gary was truly shocked that not every single family member of ours loves Jesus like his experience has always been. When Gary heard the news that someone he dearly loves is not walking with God, he cried. And not just a little trickle either. He was upset for days, wondering how that beloved relative handled things without God. “How do they make it through the hard days? What do they do when troubles come?” For even my eight year son knows there’s no Hope apart from God. 

And this is where he got stuck. Gary has Asperger’s. This means that certain issues become like broken records, and try as we might, no needle is going to cause that melody to have another note.  My son is stuck on the fact that people he knows and loves do not know and love Jesus. And he is not okay with that! He weeps, and he perseverates; he prays, and he thinks of ways he can tell them the Truth. People in my son’s world do not know Jesus, and he refuses to just let it go and move on!

It kind of makes me wish more Christians had Asperger’s; perhaps then we would stay “stuck” on all the issues that God never intended us to walk away from, and we wouldn't waste our breath (or our time) on inconsequential jargon. The blessing of autism is fixating on what others so readily dismiss.

The conversation progressed from thoughts of climbing trees risk-free in Heaven and wondering which family members hold our faith as a sacred treasure to talking about the Cross. Funny how we can’t talk long about Heaven before we have to mention the Cross. We can’t have one without the other. And Gary gets this. He knows that Jesus is his only access, and so he focuses his mind every day on the sacrifice that was made. Over and over and over again, he recounts the Old Old Story in great detail. As I turned on my street, Gary said perhaps the most profound thing I’ve heard in a long time: “Jesus died for what happens now”. I couldn’t agree more.

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Why Me? Why Southern Asia? Why Now?

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All good things must come to an end. That’s what they say anyway. For the last month, I’ve been honored to be The Featured Blog of the Month by my friends at Taking Route. Through the course of my interview, I answered the why, where, and how of my work. And now, without further ado…

Question: What brought you to Southern Asia? 

I knew I was called to travel the world and share God’s incredible message of Hope and Freedom from the time I was nine years old. Being a messenger of the Biblical Truth I hold so dear is all I have ever wanted to do. When the time came for my husband and I to apply with our sending agency, we knew we wanted to be in an area where others simply weren’t lining up in droves to go. A dear professor in Bible college once said, “A burden is built on information”. The more we studied about Southern Asia, with its staggering statistics of life without Christ, coupled with the harsh reality of its pandemic sex trafficking, we knew we could willingly devote a thousand lifetimes to living and loving in Southern Asia. I well remember the time I was asked in one of our final interviews as to why my family and I would want to go to Southern Asia. (With our area officially being classified as a “hardship” context, I knew there could be no room for doubt). I could think of only one reply to that question: “Why not? I don’t see a long line of people waiting to go and help.”

Question: What was your first impression? 

In the middle of our jet lag, having just touched down for the very first time in the capital city, the answer to this pointed question was actually caught on video. As our young family was bouncing around in a noisy van, surrounded by all our earthly belongings in the form of airport luggage, my then four year old son shouted aloud to no one in particular exactly what he thought of our new home: “This place is awful!” We joked about his blunt realization over the years in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, but there was truth packed in those simple words. If ever a honeymoon phase should have accompanied our journey, I clearly missed my turn. I don’t live in an easy place, and I don’t pretend that the day-to-day accoutrements of life ever become easier. Yet, year after year, what was often crazy and chaotic has morphed into normal and expected rhythms. Yes, it’s true that Southern Asia is not easy, but it certainly is good!

Question: How has living abroad changed you? 

Coming face to face with extreme poverty 24/7, battling the oppression of an extreme religion, and persevering through an extreme climate…all these endeavors have forever shaped who I am and the ideals I strive to live by. I can never go back to the pre-overseas days. I’ve walked through brothels, I’ve watched poverty force its wretched hand in the lives of little children, and I’ve struggled with fitting back into life in America (temporarily). All of the statistics I spent years reading are no longer mere facts and figures to me. They represent people with actual stories, people who have now become my friends, and with whom I’ve been blessed to share my own stories as well. The global work my family and I do has taken away any option of forgetfulness. None of us will ever be able to unsee, unhear, or unfeel the plights of the millions who call out for help.

Question: What is the most difficult thing about where you live?

I am a woman living in a land that not only devalues my gender, but it so often goes out of its way to beat down any shred of dignity or hope among the masses. I am a committed follower of Jesus living in a land where 99 out of every 100 people I pass on the streets each day have never been given an opportunity to hear His Good News. I am free living in a land where so many women and children are enslaved. I am a mother of an autistic child living in a land without adequate medical facilities and treatment options. I am a language student where some days the single adventure of buying bananas is a major cause for celebration.

Question: What is the most exciting thing about where you live? 

What I have just described, while incredibly difficult, is also what lends fuel to my fire. All of the great obstacles lead to even greater opportunities for Hope to arise. New team members will be joining our efforts in the coming year. Girls are being rescued out of brothels and restored through our current project, Akhi’s Place. Exploited women will find shelter and sustainability through our newest project, The Refuge. In so many ways, our family is just getting started in Southern Asia, and the clarity and vision we have for lasting community transformation grows stronger and deeper with each passing day.

Question: What do you miss the most about America?

I miss convenience in so many forms…like the ability to go through a drive-thru when I’ve had a long day, and my troop is hungry. Instead I have to go to multiple markets, hoping against hope that what I want to buy isn’t “finished” for the day, knowing it will still be several hours before any thing purchased can be ready to eat. I miss being able to run the washer and dryer at the same time. Instead I scramble to do a load of laundry in a Jack Bauer-ish race against time before the electricity goes off again. I miss creature comforts like Starbucks and McDonald’s (while I don’t even like McD’s, it would be nice for my kids to be able to grab a cheeseburger every now and then). I miss holidays where the computer isn’t center stage, and no one needs to Skype in to celebrate with family. I sometimes miss using a fork (at every single meal) and wearing blue jeans or any pants that lack a drawstring on the waist.

Question: Is there anything you've learned to do while living overseas that surprises you? 

I expected to ride on rickshaws and fly on seaplanes. I expected to work hard to maintain a household. What I didn’t so readily expect was the transformation I would personally go through. I set out to change Southern Asia, and while that is happening bit by bit through the grace of God, Southern Asia has actually changed me. I have learned to see the world through the eyes of another. I have learned to weep with the broken and the poor. I have learned to speak to my soul and tell it to keep plodding on. I have learned to take my American-sized heart and expand it to feel like home, even when I am 10,000 miles from what everyone else calls my “home”.

Question: Why did you start a blog? 

Initially this blog was a photo journal of our very first fundraising efforts. I intended to share these adventures with just family and friends. As things often do, the blog has ebbed and flowed over the course of the last few years. In 2014, I really came back to blogging from a different angle. I realized I didn’t merely want to share our photos and stories (as fun and important as that is!); I wanted to engage with a wider readership through addressing current events and trends in cross-cultural ministry and life. I wanted to put my heart out there; I wanted to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. And, as a result, Sing For Joy Blog has been officially relaunched through a few different domains and designs. Perhaps now, I have landed in my niche.

Question: What is your vision for your blog or what are you hoping to accomplish through it? 

I seek to show the reality of life in Southern Asia. I desire to awaken the Western Church in an effort to witness ignorance and apathy spring into awareness and action. I strive to connect with others who share my faith and passion for Eternal Change to spread to every city and village across the globe. I also hope to inspire those who perhaps do not agree with me to ponder a different perspective. All in all, writing is very cathartic for me, and I find that I need to read my own words just as much as I need to write them. There is joy in my journey, and I enjoy walking with others on their own pilgrimages, too, whether they cross their street or cross the sea.

Question: Can you share your 3 favorite posts?

I’m In It to End It, Too!

The Day I Walked into a Brothel and Sat Down on the Bed

Why I’m Scared to Go Back to America

*What about you? Do you have other questions? I'd love to answer...join me in the comments!

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When Trust Is More Than a Child's Game

I used to play the game as a child. You remember it, too, don’t you? We would stand in front of someone, eyes blindfolded, hearts totally trusting. Then we would lean back, and sight unseen, we would trust that person to catch us. I’ve been playing this game a lot lately. Except it’s no longer playtime between the church kids and me. It’s only God and me in the room, and we’re playing for keeps.

I grew up my whole life believing that God was faithful. If He said it, I believed it. If He said He would do it, then I’d consider it done!

Nothing has caused me to reevaluate my trust, to fight for this trust, to push past the fears, like being a mother. Nothing.

I remember the day my baby died, my very first baby. Up until that day, my life had only been slightly singed as sporadic bullets of pain and tragedy zoomed past. I had only ever been mildly grazed, a mere flesh wound at best. On that day, though, no bulletproof vest or doctrinal class could save me. Overwhelming heartache had a missile lock on me, and I had no escape.

Up until that point I knew, the way you know something deep down in your very soul, that God was faithful. But it was when He stripped everything away, when He pried all of my dreams out of my hands with no hope of ever giving them back, it was then that I saw a new dimension. This God of mine wasn’t only faithful because He had shielded me and protected me and healed me so many times. This God of mine was good, infinitely good, when the assault of anguish hurtled right at me. This time it would not fly over head; it would not merely graze or ricochet. This time it would penetrate; it would cut; it would sever.

It was in this time that I came to trust that God is good. Not just when He gives, but when He takes, especially when He takes away. This God of mine is trustworthy. Always. Every single time. He is always good and always working for me, for my ultimate good and His glory. Even if I can’t see it. Even if I don't feel it. Perhaps that is when I can perceive His goodness the best. When I have no other assurances but my simple trust.

Not long after moving overseas, I sat down to tea and conversation with a very wise woman. I lamented my son’s brand new autism diagnosis to her. Through tears, I dropped my burden on the table between us, daring either one of us to retrieve it.

She looked me dead in the eyes and said, “People will try to tell you that you need to leave. That you need to return to America for the sake of your family and getting Gary the help that he needs. Your answer isn’t going to be found in America. Your answer is in Jesus! And we trust Him to be enough!”

Trust has come knocking on my door many more times. There’s something about living overseas that brings an inherent depth to our faith. We must trust that the One Who called us will be with us. We cry out with Moses: “Lord, if You don’t go with me, then please don’t send me from this place!”

We trust that God’s goodness and His love are not defined by our geography. He is the same One here in our monotonous comfort zone as He is over there in the vicious war zone! Trust whispers to me in the dead of night, surrounded by my mosquito net and the ever present hope that my kids will survive this overseas life. Trust reminds me that The Faithful One is the same whether we are here or there, whether we stay or we go, whether we harvest fruit or frustration.

Dear global worker and friend, it’s time to tighten the blindfold and fall back…our Father can be trusted!

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I'm linking up with Velvet Ashes, an amazing community of support for global women. This post was inspired by the weekly word prompt "trust" and is featured on The Grove.