Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christianity: Noun or Verb?

Thanks for following all this everybody!

Okay...this is huge to me. I said last week in my message that Holy in heaven is awesome...but holy in the church is boring. Oh so true...but what a lie! Christians should be the most passionate people on the planet!

Reading Mark Batterson's book Wild Goose Chase. Awesome stuff. In it he says "When Christianity becomes a noun it becomes a turnoff...Christianity was always meant to be an action verb." I love it!

We are not called to follow a theory or an idealist...we are called to follow Jesus! That's action...that's excitement...that's wild...that's scary...that's crazy...that's Jesus.

Do what you know...then He who knows what to do will show how to do it...yep, that was original.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Our Story

I am posting from my office now...we have been back in the states for a week and trying to download all that we have experienced. We have enjoyed speaking with our church family at dinners, softball games, email and phone. Western Reserve family members have been passionate about learning the condition of the Third World, how our family did, and most important...the kids...What was it like to meet our kids?! We have enjoyed downloading with our church family.

Returned to a church that is crazy in love with Jesus! You guys are nuts!! I love serving alongside you and watching Jesus changing lives every weekend. We are seeing significant things happen. Jesus is restoring marriages and people are re
ceiving Christ every week...amazing.

I am using this media to announce for the first time that Western Reserve has rescued 5 more kids! Yeah! Praise God! Once we know their names and have pix, we will let you know! If you have not checked out Asia'a hope you should do so. The deeper I dug into this organization the more I appreciated their hearts and mission. They are the real deal!

Been thinking this week about our story. Not the story of Western Reserve, although I will speak of it, but our story. The story that we are all writing. My son, Caleb, will turn 12 in August, and this week enters into our youth
ministry at Western Reserve. The story of his "early" years is written. We now move into the "tweener" years. In reflection, I ask questions about his first 12 years: What does Jesus look like to him? Does he believe that God can move mountains? Can he testify of God blowing his mind, and tell stories of faith? Does he know more about God than the movement of God? Is following Jesus exciting? Does fear or faith define him?

Not sure the answers are clear, but I know he has a story. I pray that he finds Jesus to be worth the risk...worth the cost. I pray that he will find that risking all for Jesus is where true security is found, and giving all to Jesus is where he will find adventure and passion for life. Go Caleb...blow the doors off the next six years for Jesus. Mom and Dad will be the ones you hear cheering in the background.

Speaking this week from Luke 7. My message is entitled Make Us Dangerous. I have been a sponge all week and am praying that God will wring me out this weekend.



Friday, July 24, 2009

Homeward Bound!

The remaining Fab Five on on our way back home! This is Jen, and we are sitting in the Taipei airport half way through our 7 hour layover. We have had a dinner ya can't guess.........noodles! If I never see another noodle or grain of rice, I don't think I'll be sad :) We begin our 13 hour trans-Pacific flight in a little over 3 hours. Vern found Cindy some night-time alergy medicine here at the airport, and we may ALL be taking one in order to get some quality sleep.

Thailand was very different from Cambodia in a lot of ways, and yet the same in others. We still removed our shoes at the door, we still placed our hands together and slighly bowed in greeting, but instead of the Khmai greeting of "Suor sdei", we said "Kop koon ka". The kids at Doi Saket #1 were not as affectionate as the kids in Battamang, but they did warm up to us on day 2 and began to give great hugs. It was hard leaving last night knowing that we would not be seeing them again. At least our attachments were not as in depth as in Battambang.

We stayed at the Wangtarn Resort in Chiang Mai, each pair in a "bunglaow" or "hut" for lack of a better term. I'm not sure the Haymakers would have fit in the tiny bungalow with all of their luggage. We did have critters sharing our bungalows................geckos, and creatures in the walls that made noises all night long. The bathroom drains were open holes, and I always checked to make sure nothing reared it's head out of that hole every time I went in there :)

Yesterday, Thursday, we headed up into the hills to the Widows' farm. We dedicated their new building, and tears were shed. Tutu, the Thailand director of Asia's Hope, cried and thanked us for our time, prayers, and gifts. She said that she had nothing to give us (although she fed us dinner every evening). We assured here that she had given us a lot. We watched a slaughtered pig be butchered and cut up, then 'Porky' was cooked for our lunch, along with Tutu's village recipes of potatoes and curry and other assorted delights.

On the way back down the mountain, we stopped in a hill tribe village where a smiling resident proudly showed us his shack on stilts, complete with bamboo floors and a TV! He recently accepted the Lord! Life in the hill tribe villages was very primitive compared to the rest of Chiang Mai.

On Tuesday, we drove up into the mountains and climbed 306 steps up to a Buddhist temple. It was very sad to see so many statues with people lighting candles and paying money to them, and monks blessing people. I am so elated that we serve a jealous God!

Saying goodbye at the aiprort today was sad. We were leaving our trip leaders, Sherrod and Rachel, Adam and Jess, and our sweet Renae, who turned 18 today! We also said goodbye to Tutu and Mike and Doug. Mike and his wife are missionaries living in Thailand and Doug is visiting from Toronto. Our team has shrunk, but we have remained together in our hearts. We can't wait to get home to be reunited, and to see you all. We have sooooooooooooo many stories to share with you all! God bless you all for your support and prayers!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Finally Home

(Marcie writing today)
Well, the first half of the team has made it safely home! Our family and Todd Gore only went to Cambodia while the rest of the team went on to Thailand. The Haymakers and Todd parted for different flights home in LA. Our flight was supposed to leave LA at 11pm on Tuesday but after sitting waiting for a maintenance problem to be fixed, they finally cancelled the flight after 3 hours of waiting. So we spent the night in LA and got a 3:30 afternoon flight instead. We arrived in Cleveland around 11pm Wednesday. WOW! It's good to be home. I have to tell you, we loved Cambodia and miss it terribly, but to have working toilets and water that you can drink from the faucet is an incredible luxury! The first thing we ate was a fat bacon cheeseburger and fries :)

Let me back up a little to Monday. Our kids from the orphanage came to the hotel to say goodbye. It was the most painful and heart wrenching thing we have ever had to do. Our hearts had been joined to these kids in a way I can't really explain. We hugged and cried and sang songs to them in the lobby. People would stop and stare at these 10 Americans with 20 little Asian kids clinging to them - all of us sobbing. I'm sure they could not figure out what was going on! We cried knowing it would be so long til we could see them again. It was comforting knowing however that we were leaving them in wonderful hands - in a wonderful new building, with good water, beds, clothes, toys and friends. They have food, education, loving house parents -they have hope! Something they never would have had without Asia's Hope and the support of our church. They followed us to the bus stop all packed in the back of a pick up truck waving their little arms off, blowing kisses til we drove away.

We left Battambang on Monday. We prayed like crazy that Emily would be alright to travel. 5 hours on a bus with no toilet is kind of a problem when you have Asian Montezuma's revenge. She woke up Monday with a fever and some stomach pain - but PTL the "yuck" part had stopped. The bus ride was hard - no air conditioning and swollen eyes from crying. We arrived back in Phenom Penn and had some great team time, processing things and talking with the leadership of Asia's Hope. We got to hear Savorn's testimony of how he believed in Jesus, hear his heart for the orphans of Cambodia, and hear his vision for the future in reaching more kids. We packed up for travel the next day.

Tuesday we parted ways ... Cindy, Jen, Vern, Gwen and Judy all left for Thailand and Todd and the Haymakers left for home. Tuesday was an all day travel day, from Phenom Phen to Taiwan to LA. Wednesday finished out the final leg of the trip from LA to Cleveland.

It's going to take a little while to adjust back to home (and I'm not talking about the time change). Our hearts have been forever changed by the people we met there. We find ourselves thinking of people we met, wondering what the kids are doing today... little things too - what's the weather like there today, what outfits are the kids wearing today (they always dress alike -it's so cute!) We are so glad to have the opportunity to go! God is still revealing things to us that we can learn from our trip!!

Continue to pray for the rest of the team in Thailand. They are visiting the rest of the orphanages there - one being a nursery! Also there is a home for widows that they will get to go to. They get home on Saturday, I'm sure with more great experiences to share.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Glorious Day in Battambang!

Greetings All! Jen Lewis here to tell you about the glorious day The Lord gave us today! Today, day 5 in Battambang, was Dedication Day for Haven of Hope! After a scrumptious breakfast at the hotel, with coffee you could paint the side of a barn with, we departed to see our kids. They always storm the van and make it very difficult for all of us to get out :)  I have never experienced so many hugs! We were led to the brand-spanking-new all-purpose building. It was but a shell when we arrived 5 days ago, and it looked fabulous today, all decorated and painted, and just beautiful! God has been hard at work in these people's hearts, and the dedication ceremony and program were flawless. The kids from all 5 BB orphanages danced for us. Our kids from Haven of Hope were adorable in native costumes. They are quite talented for their young ages. Of course, I may be just a bit biased :)  Pastor Jason spoke, and Pastor Savorn translated into Khmai. After the program, we all walked over to the Haven of Hope where Pastor Jason cut the ribbon, officially marking the opening of Haven of Hope! There was much applause and cheering, and probably more than a few tears. The orphanage directors, Jason, and Savorn all prayed at once, each in his own way and own language. God's presence was 
 HUGE in front of that new building!

This afternoon brought some much needed down time while the kids caught a nap. Some of us swam in the hotel pool, some slept, some walked down the street. At 4:30 P.M., it was back to the Haven of Hope for dinner with our kids, gift-giving, and more partying! Some of you already know that I have a new best friend in Cambodia. Her name is Srey Leang, and if I could fit her in my pocket, I would sneak her home! She has shown me more love in 5 short days than anyone else has shown me in a lifetime. She acted as my agent the other day as I signed family pictures and she orchestrated the distribution of them along with my business cards :)  Srey Leang has taught me how to count to about 30 in Khmai, how to say I love you, and various and assorted other phrases. Along with teaching ESL back home, I think I need to find a Khmai class so that she and I can communicate more effectively next time I come to Cambodia. Anyone know of any?

Tonight brought a HUGE dance party! We were in the middle of Cambodian country side and we were all dancing to some very LOUD music under God's beautiful stars :) I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday evening. As we danced under the stars, fireworks were being sent off into the night sky! The kids all screamed with each one :) 

To digress a bit, Jen, Judy, and Todd all rode a tuk tuk to the Seeing Hands massage parlor yesterday. Blind people who earn an honest living by doing one hour massages for $6.00 worked us over pretty good. We dressed in scrubs and all layed down on tables. After an hour of DEEP the tissue massage with ELBOWS and the girls ON the table, we all felt like limp noodles. They giggled a lot each time one of us would scream "UNCLE!" It was quite an experience :)

Please pray for the young ladies who "work" in our hotel. It appears that "kareoke" is a term used loosely as a cover for  prostitution, and it is going on at the end of our hallway. Please pray that these young ladies don't fall victim to some horrible disease, and please pray that God rescues them from the life they lead, just as He has rescued our kids at Haven of Hope. We have seen God at work in many different ways in Cambodia. He CAN rescue them as well.

Time for some shut eye. We have to be ready for church at 8:00 A.M, so I will pray for you all tonight and tomorrow as well. Please pray that we are all making a difference in Battambang!

Peace and Love,

Friday, July 17, 2009

Afternoon at the Water Park

Now it's Gwen's turn to blog!  Went to Battambang's water park today with 120 kids from the 5 Asia's Hope orphanages.  What a blast!  The boys just swim in their underwear and the little girls are in long shorts, no shirts.  The sun is very hot; don't know for sure but I'd bet it was nearly 90 degrees again today.  The little boys liked hanging on to Vernon and Todd in particular.  The "park" consisted of two swimming pools, one shallow and one deep.

We had our first somewhat leisurely evening since arriving.  You'll have to ask Judy and Jennifer about their "blind massages."  My laundry returned from the Cambodian cleaners -- including two pairs of socks and panties that weren't mine and yellow stains on my white capris.  Oh well!  Dinner was at a place called The Bungalow.  Emily didn't care for the spider in the bathroom!  Yes, we are having adventure!!

Tomorrow is the Haven of Hope dedication ceremony.  Everyone is pumped up for it -- us, kids and staff alike.  I expect to cry more happy tears again.  First God breaks your heart for these orphans and then he fills you up with pure joy.  

Quick update from Jason

Couple of updates: 
First, Emily had an upset stomach this morning, but seems to be fine now. Praise God! We have some down time right now and she is swimming in the pool. 
Yesterday, we visited Angkor Wat in Siem Reap and we rode elephants! Marcie was the photographer while the kids and I saddled up! 
Tomorrow is the dedication of Haven of Hope. We are honored to present to them $3,000 worth of needs for the orphanage. As a team we were able to save $1,000 by cutting costs once in country, and our team gave $1,200 on the spot! An additional $1000 was contributed by Western Reserve to get this orphanage up and running. Some of the items included: generator; computer; clothes; shoes; motorbike (for staff); sound system for new worship pavilion and miscellaneous needs. I wanted to post this to you so that you might know that if you contributed to this trip financially, your sacrifice not only got this team here, your sacrifice provided physical needs for our children. 
I will speak at the dedication in the morning, and one point that I will be clear on is this: These gifts are not just Western Reserve. These gifts are from you too! Thank you. While on the trip to orphanages this morning, Marcie had a conversation with an orphanage director. He told her that the home directors have been fasting and praying one Saturday per month for several months. Guess what they have been fasting and praying for? A sound system for the worship pavilion and the practical needs (generator; computer etc.) for Haven of Hope. We will use the sound system in the morning, and present every need on their list at the dedication.

Will touch base again...maybe tonight????

We love you...Jason 

Now a word