The Blog

The Mothers of Many

i May 10th No Comments by

In honor of Mother’s Day, we want to introduce you to two mothers living across the world raising children who have been rescued out of a loveless life of fear, abuse, neglect, trafficking, and malnourishment. They openly receive these children and raise them in the love and admonition of the Lord. Through these interviews I hope you can learn a little bit about the mothers who are shaping Life Impact International’s children into future preachers, evangelists, teachers, doctors… world changers!

***With one glance at this first mother, I see a woman who exudes leadership… and a very pregnant tummy. She runs a house full of children with respect, love, and authority. Pulling up to the house, a child will inevitably run to the gate to invite you in and offer you a cup of water. It’s a house boasting creativity and excitement, and unless they are watching a movie, the children are active with either school work, washing laundry, caring for the young ones, dancing, or playing instruments. Many of her children participate in weekly outreaches to share the Gospel. She is raising the leaders of the next generation.

SO197_197E SOE

Age: 33

House Mom for Life Impact International: 2008 – present

“She is a good mother! She teaches me ‘this way is good, this way is wrong.’”

– Soe Soe’s husband

How many children do you have living in your home?

I have ten girls and one boy.

How has your life changed since becoming a mother?

Before I lived in a village, and we only did gospel missions. My church leader called me to come here, and now I have learned more about children and have done many trainings on raising children. The first time “Ajan” Lana asked me if I wanted to keep a 9 month old baby girl, I said yes. I love her!

Since marrying in May 2013, how has the presence of a father impacted your household?

He is so funny!  He teaches the children about the Bible and the guitar. At first, some of the children were happy when he became a part of our family, and some were not, but now, they are all happy to have him. They call me “ma” and him “teacher.”

How do you balance your time between God, your husband, your children, and your housework?

It’s not the same now that I am pregnant. We would eat together as a family every night, but now I do not eat. I get sick [laughing]. I pray every morning, and when the children go to school, I read my Bible. After school, the children might watch a movie, so I go spend time with my husband. The children are older now so they help with the housework. If they do not know how to clean something, I teach them.

What has been your greatest challenge?

When the older girls do not listen. It’s so hard for me. They are so sure, so sure [laughs as she smirks with teenager attitude].

In a couple words, describe your family.

Spiritually wise. Growing in the Lord.

What is your ethnicity. In your village, how old are women typically when they marry and have children? After they marry, can they work outside the home?

I am Burmese Karen. The women usually marry between 22-27 years old, but if they have no education, they will marry young: 14-18 years old. They do not go to school after they marry or have children, but they may work in a family business.

Would you like to have more children?

[With a smile she turns to her husband, laughs nervously then embraces her very pregnant belly.]

If he wants more!

***When I look at this next mother, I see a woman with confidence and a calm, peaceful presence. With a face as smooth as a child’s, I am in awe of her lack of wrinkles and inquire about her parenting secret. Jokingly, I point out my own wrinkles after only two children. She is a professional mama with many years of experience. Her parenting style is seemingly effortless, but she understands the key to good parenting is giving it all to God.  She too is raising evangelical children; many of them also participate in weekly outreaches to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

012_12 (2)MAE NOOT

Age: 37

House mother for Life Impact International: 2008 – present

“I love the way she teaches the children and loves them.”

– Mae Noot’s husband

How many children do you have living in your home?

I have 12, but 11 living here. Two are biological. There are eleven boys and one girl.

How has your life changed since becoming a mother?

Before Life Impact, I worked at a different foundation for 7 years as a childcare worker. I worked in a daycare starting at age 18. I married at 21 and started a family. We had a daughter. It was different from the daycare children, because with my baby, I had more of a strong connection… a relationship with her. I worried about her and thought about her when I was away. Now, I share my time so all of the children get the same time with me. It’s more work now, but I love them all like they are my own.

How do you balance your time between God, your husband, your children, and your housework?

In the morning I cook, while my  husband prays with the children. When the children go to school, I clean and read my Bible. We eat together as a family, and after we eat the children play and take their showers. After the showers, I go into each bedroom and spend time with the children. If a child has a special problem, I give him more time. We worship at home as a family on Wednesday nights. On our day off, we take the children to play games at Tesco (grocery) and my husband and I eat lunch together. (She laughs and agrees when I ask if it’s a better date when the children don’t come with them.)

What has been a proud moment for you?

When a child makes a mistake, I talk to them, and they try hard not to do wrong again. I am proud when they learn how to read. One of my sons came to us very angry. He was mad all of the time, but now he is happy. He is a good big brother. He is not the same boy. Another boy could not sing a song when he first came, and now he leads worship. I like seeing change in the boy’s lives.

What has been your greatest challenge?

When the boys do not obey us, and they get angry at me even though I love them so much. My husband and I humble ourselves and pray for them.

In a couple words, describe your family. How did you achieve this quality?

Peaceful.

I tell the boys, “you come from many places, but you come to this one family. You love each other and take care of each other.” I told one son when he arrived, “you are now a big brother,” and he now helps the younger boys button their uniforms and plays with his brothers if I am busy cooking. He enjoys helping his family.

What is your ethnicity. In your village, how old are women typically when they marry and have children? After they marry, can they work outside the home?

I am from a Thai Karen hill tribe. Women get married around 18, but in some villages 15 years old. After you marry, you start a family immediately unless you want to go to school first. There is a school on Saturday and Sunday for women who want to go once their children are old enough to start kindergarten. It didn’t use to be this way. The women would stay home after they were married and had children.

Would you like to have more children?

[laughs and shakes her head] No babies. I might take more if they are 3-4 years old or older, but no babies, no babies.

Room For The Rescued

i May 4th No Comments by

Room For The RescuedNearing the end of a full year here in Thailand, and I‘m amazed at how quickly it has passed. There have been some moments that have not surprised me: the promise my children will wake up at the crack of dawn, the 2″ cockroach glaring at me from my bathroom almost every morning, and most recently, when a nurse at a local hospital injected a dirty needle into my one year old.  It seems these situations would typically create a surprised reaction, but in my current environment, they feel almost… expected.

On the other hand, there have been so many moments in the last year that have knocked my socks off. After accepting our mission to Thailand, I instantly began experiencing the surprises God had planned for our lives.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”             1 Corinthians 2:9

Becoming a missionary was never in my plans, but God knows the desires of my heart, and soon after we moved here I realized how suited we were for this mission. Several months ago I began designing a two-bedroom safe home for Life Impact International (LII), and in March, construction on that house was completed.  A family of 11 moved in, and I’m elated to know how happy the mother is with her new home. She’s so proud she can manage the household while also raising nine young children. After tweaking the two-bedroom house into a three-bedroom design, it was approved for mass production. We are now midway through construction on the first, three-bedroom home, and in two weeks we will break ground for the next. For many years, it has been my desire to design and build housing for families in need, and I truly could not imagine how quickly God has put that desire into production.

Currently, the Thai government is aligning in a partnership with LII, and as of last week arrangements were being made for the urgent placement of a 10 or 11 year old boy who has been trafficked since he was four years old. It’s abundantly evident that God has enormous plans for growing our LII family, and our role is to help make room for the rescued. Ryan and I have been helping map out the placement of over 18 more houses, which will be built in the near future, and as donations for the homes are provided, we know He will also provide the children and parents to live in them.

As this first year comes to an end, we begin looking forward to our second year here with the development of many more housing projects, a community worship center/ church, and most importantly the receiving of many more rescued children.

What an exciting time to be serving in this ministry!

Q & A

i Sep 8th No Comments by

If you’re curious about our life in Thailand, check out our Q & A for some of the most common questions we‘ve been asked lately. If you have a questin that we haven’t answered, please ask! We would love to share about our experiences.

#1 How do you greet people?

We say “sa-wat-dii ka/krap and place our hands in a prayer position. According to my son, everyone says this including Ronald McDonald and the tree frog in our backyard.

BeFunky_ronald mcdonald.jpgBeFunky_tree frog.jpg

#2 How do you communicate with people?

We are learning Thai slowly, and quite a few Thai’s that we encounter know a little English. Most major establishments have someone who can speak a little English, and in Burma, English is taught as a second language. There is a large number of Burmese people in our area. However, I usually just rely on my amazing miming skills. One time, I was looking for a weighing scale to check baby Bellamy’s growth. I went into a store similar to a Lowe’s or Home Depot and gave my best silent comedic performance. I pretended to draw a square scale on the floor, hop on, and puff my cheeks out while holding my arms out from my body like I was a marshmallow. The sales attendant laughed called more people over to watch my act, and then proceeded to tell me I should go to the bank. Apparently, they use antique balance scales at the bank, and I should just place Bellamy in the bucket.

#3 What do you eat?

Rice, rice, and more rice. And, sometimes the accidental ant. Thailand is the second largest producer of rice in the world. Fortunately, I have discovered a cookies and cream frappuccino, and it’s like a little cup of heaven. We’ve also learned cleanliness is not a top priority. So, when we found a baby cockroach inside a ketchup bottle at a restaurant, it wasn’t necessary to say anything to the waiter. Thailand is known for eating insects. It’s a gastronomic delight and a culinary heritage in this country. Just check out these giant water bugs (maeng da). I won’t eat one. I JUST. CAN’T. DO IT.

BeFunky_thai-water-beetle-maeng-da.jpg

#4 What is it like driving in Thailand?

Initially I was nervous about driving on the other side of the road and the other side of the car, but it really didn’t take long to adjust. But, almost everyday I hit the windshield wipers instead of the blinker… I just can’t get use to that one. I have never seen a speed limit sign, and basically, everyone drives how they want. Sometimes that means driving on the yellow line rather than a lane and definitely making a U turn at any point.

BeFunky_drive in thailand.jpg#5 How is the weather?

It’s the rainy season now so it’s typically 85 degrees and rains almost every day. I usually wear short sleeves and pants, but the Thai and Burmese wear jackets and sweaters. Something is telling me that I might melt when the warm season rolls around, especially if I’m sweating while they are cold.

#6 How do people react to Declan and Bellamy (my children)?

Bellamy is so fair skinned that he automatically draws a crowd. People love to put their arm up to his and laugh, laugh, laugh. Almost all of the skin care products here have whitening creams in them, so they love him. Strangers always want to hold him, and they will intentionally wake him up just to see his eye color. Declan is very timid around strangers, and unfortunately for him, Thai people are very affectionate. Strangers play with his hair or try to have a conversation with him, and he just hides his face. He does enjoy showing off by counting in Thai, but that’s usually the most he’s willing to give them.

#7 How are the rescued children?

They are so beautiful! I mostly spend time at the daycare so I see the little ones. They are happy and healthy. They are learning Thai, Burmese, and English., and when they go to elementary school, they are typically more advanced than the other students. The older children are so loving and helpful, and worship with them is amazing!

BeFunky_daycare.jpg#8 What is the progress on the land?

Since May, the experimental garden has progressed into a production garden, two houses have been built, we connected the canal so water can flow freely through the land, a water source has been established for consistent, clean “wash“ water, approximately 700 trees have been pruned, we repaired damage from the flood in August, and we have completed several murals. We are growing successfully, loads of organic food that the families do not have to purchase elsewhere.

#9 How are we adjusting to our new home?

We are really blessed with the home we are renting. God has provided exceedingly abundantly more than we could imagine. The only major hiccup was the 5” spider I found in my living room. In the moment, I wish I had just claimed my authority through Jesus Christ, but unfortunately I screamed like a little girl, frantically tiptoed around, had an anxiety attack, and then almost puked. It was a shameful sight that my 3 year old had to witness. He was very brave. I have something to learn from him. You can click on the link below for his dramatic retelling of the encounter. It’s hilarious!

declan and the spider

Stepping Out in Faith

i Jun 24th No Comments by

116_116Sliding out of the “people mover“ van, rain beats down on my head as I am greeted by young children clad in knockoff American paraphernalia and smiles. They are curious, and so are we. The landscape is painted with shanty houses drowning under a siege of rainwater. It’s the rainy season in northern Thailand. Metal scrap and tarp rooftops sink into the tenuous twig walls of the houses, and the frames stand with a Seuss-ical lean. The humor; however, is missing from the scene. We’re in a Muslim slum.

Ready for our tour, we’re clad in rain boots recently purchased solely for this purpose, and we make our way into the village. Our trek begins slowly as the depth of the water surprises us. Our hands are quickly filled with the excited fingers of the children. Twenty or more surround us to eagerly help us through the mud. We need the help. It’s quickly realized that the mud is nearly impossible to navigate with rubber boots. My foot sinks quickly into the mud, and the suction produces an inescapable grip. My foot presses exhaustedly against the inside of the boot, but the mud is unyielding. So with every ounce of faith, I slip my foot out of the boot and begin stepping barefoot into the unknown.

Prayer floods my mind as goo slips between my toes. My first thought, “God, send a whale. I’m drowning!“ I also offer up thanksgiving for the Hepatitis vaccines.

The parents of the children were laughing as they relaxed on their stoops, and we tried to make our way through their unnatural neighborhood. The children were so eager… almost proud of their home and circumstance, but how could they be? A small toddler was bathing in the flood and playing with a beer bottle as cattle and chickens were defecating in his bathwater. The smell of decay and garbage was intoxicating, but the smiles gleaming from the children and adults was even more so.

In the distance, the mountain range spreading across Thailand and Burma stood majestically, and the beauty of these people reminded me of our Creator. Four years later, God has brought me back to this moment as I look out the window of my new home in Thailand. In the distance, I see the same mountain ridges standing with all honesty and beauty as before, and as the peaks reach up and brush the shadowy, swollen rain clouds I’m overcome with a feeling of gloom.  For in those hillsides of our neighboring Burma, death, destruction, and persecution are rampant. When I look upon these mountains from my window, I’m reminded of the beauty that revealed itself the day at the slum but also reminded of my purpose here. God has given us the enormous responsibility of being a light in the darkness. And, I know the church shines only as bright as it’s individual members shine so I can dwell on the things that are troublesome or distracting in this fallen world, or I can focus on the promises of God, and overcome the darkness.

“We walk by faith, not by sight.”

2 Corinthians 5:7

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16

Confession of a Father

i May 1st No Comments by

With only 7 short days until our big move, I’m focusing on packing up our home – separating the stuff we’ve accumulated over the years into storage, moving sale, luggage, or trash. Keeping that in mind, I’ve decided, this week the blog entry will be from my dad.

Confession of a Father

After hearing my daughter and her family were planning to serve in the mission field I must admit I was apprehensive. There she was, noticeably pregnant and caring for a two year old boy, and now she is going where, to do what? Heck, I thought she could do those things around the corner or down the block. Why travel around the world when people here have issues?

Now, I’ll admit the attitude wasn’t too good, but my concern was genuinely out of love and protection, and not selfish. There were probably a hundred reasons why I was concerned, and some were significant.

The last few months have been a challenge. My prayer time has included many requests for peace and understanding. I could sense God trying to squeeze the anxious thoughts from my person, but I was holding tight. I just kept thinking in the physical, and not allowing His spiritual touch to solve the problem. For Him, there was no problem. It was me with the issue.

Last Sunday our church had a trial sermon from a pastor candidate. It was during his talk the light bulb finally clicked for me. While the pastor spoke about his family and other personal information, it was the short sermon which inspired me to come clean with God and the readers of this blog.

Without going into a lot of detail the pastor spoke about the two times Jesus was amazed by people. There are only two times. The first was the centurion that called upon Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus remarked that He was amazed at the faith of the centurion. The second occurrence was in Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown. If you recall, the people of Nazareth had so little faith Jesus could not heal the sick. Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.

The way I see it we are either faithful or we are not; Trusting God means trusting God in all things. As soon as I allowed Him complete control of the issue my peace was restored. The things which were disturbing me will no longer impact the joy I have found in Jesus my Lord.

God will use this family in a mighty way. Please pray for them and financially support them in this work. I know I will.