Why Me? Why Southern Asia? Why Now?

Taking Route Photo 2.jpeg

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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