“You want to grab dinner?” I asked one of our fellows after teaching his first ESL class at the Community Learning Center at St. Andrew’s in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
“I want to die,” he replied with a grimace in his face.
“The class was that bad?” Silence followed.
We walked to meet Nate and the kids at a neighborhood outdoor dinner joint and debriefed the class. As part of the ministry at St. Andrew’s, both fellows would be teaching an ESL class twice a week to middle school and secondary students. The fellows had enjoyed helping in an ESL class at our home church, but being the lead teacher in the classroom was a different story! We had prepped before and talked through the lesson plan, but the reality of 15 Thai faces in his classroom staring blankly back at our fellow was hitting hard.
As we debriefed that night and the following morning, it was clear that this challenging experience was stirring up questions of identity and security for both our fellows. One fellow was sick to his stomach. He felt like his ‘failure’ of teaching the class brought into question his purpose for being in Thailand and ultimately his value as well.
Over a plate of fried rice and thai omelette, I said “Even if you failed, that doesn’t make you a failure. You are His. You are a baptized child of God.” There were the beginning of tears in his eyes. For this young man who prided himself in his performance, in being able to serve out of strength, the confrontation of his own weakness had made him encounter the Gospel in a new way. And, it was uncomfortable for him.
We returned from Thailand a week ago and while in the throes of jet lag we’ve remembered moments of growth we got to witness in our fellows. We give thanks for the Thai brothers and sisters who we now know by name and story. We are overwhelmed by God’s providence in providing a partnership with St. Andrew’s Centre, connected to the Diocese of Singapore, which is mutually beneficial for Agape Year and their ministry. And, it was a pretty great context for our family (complete with an English preschool for Henry to attend and a family with daughters who became good pals).
Thank you for being a part of God’s kingdom come and covering us in prayer. Continue to pray for our fellows as they stay on in Thailand till February 27. They are currently visiting a sister church isolated high in the mountains surrounding Chiang Mai. Please uphold us in prayer for the last few months of Agape Year 1.0 as we travel the US, visiting churches to tell the story of what we have seen God doing in Pittsburgh, Thailand, and beyond.
We’d love to share more with you about our year so far and the Church in Thailand. Please join us for either time of sharing:
February 24, 10-11:30 am
2623 Linwood Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15214
February 25, 10:30-11:10
Church of the Ascension
4729 Ellsworth Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Growing up in the United States it was easy for me to take for granted clean, fresh water from the tap. My family has a spring on our property, but even beyond that, freshwater in the US is typically as close as the nearest sink and faucet. The average American household is equipped with a water pump to automatically fill up the toilet, the hot water tank, the washing machine, even our refrigerators!
Water in the Solomon Islands is a different story altogether, especially in the village. The picture featured above shows part of the quaint village Lololo along with the primary water source that runs through it, the Lololo River. In the village, the river is a fundamental component of daily life. It is used for drinking and cooking water, and washing clothes and dishes. It is also used for personal hygiene and even for entertainment–the children love to swim! The river—downstream from drinking, washing, and recreation areas—carries human waste away to the mangroves where it is filtered before it reaches the ocean. In short, a day does not go by in which the river is not used for the flourishing of village life.
Brothers and Sisters,
A blessed Advent to you. As we inhabit this intentional season of waiting and anticipation for Christ’s coming, we invite you to rest in the waiting and to see this time as where God is at work. Let’s not hurry to Christmas. Let’s not miss what He has for us along the way.
You’ve journeyed with our family in our call to Agape Year for a while. You’ve waited with us to see Agape Year come to be in flesh and blood. You’ve prayed, encouraged, and offered hope while the ‘waiting’ seemed so long. Since the inception of Agape Year, our family has spent many hours traveling, in flux, inhabiting the in between. We’ve been eager to get to the destination: Agape Year’s first cohort. And, we hurried our way there.
Then, Caleb and Lucas, our first fellows, came and started to inhabit the plans and prayers that came before them. But, we still felt this hurried drive toward the ‘destination’ of transformational discipleship. As we shared life with Caleb and Lucas, it was easy to rush to a service project then rush home to study together and then rush to prayer. Nate spent much time with our fellows in our faithful Subaru and I was side by side with them in the kitchen multiple times a day. These, along with others, were our ‘in between’ times. On the way to community group or ESL tutoring, Nate’s been able to have frank conversations, listen intently, and pray with our fellows. While washing dishes or prepping meals, I’ve heard our fellows share their hopes and fears for the future, chatting theology, and learned much about rugby and robotic battles. And, in these ‘in between’ times, we’ve been surprised by the Spirit’s movement, reminding us that the ordinary is indeed sacred.
We are continuing to tweak and shape the curriculum and formation of Agape Year to meet its goals. But, as we do that, it is easy to lose sight of how discipleship happens along the way, in between the books, projects, seminars, and service. In the gospels, Jesus stops to heal the bleeding woman while on his way to raise a girl from the dead. Jesus shares the words of Life with the Samaritan woman at the well on his way to Jerusalem. Jesus heals a servant’s ear on the way to the Cross. These examples, along with others, remind us that to be His disciple we must allow Him inhabit all places of our lives, even those stray, throw away moments of the day where we are waiting for the next thing. This Advent, while we wait and groan for His coming, we pray that you’ll be surprised by His peace and joy in the ‘in between’.
We are also living in an in between spot financially. We’ve grown in our partners and support as Agape Year has started. We are still praying for God to provide monthly partners as we are currently at 50% of our need to be sustainable for years to come. Would you join us along the way? Would you consider a year end gift to help close this gap? Please also join us in prayer as we seek partnership with churches. We hope to have three churches join Agape Year’s vision by financially supporting our family.
Nate and Henry marvel at the California Redwoods
Most Tuesday mornings you can find us at our community farm, Ballfield Farm. Henry finds a friend and Annie sleeps in the stroller while I attempt to rid the outfield of thistle and weed and Nate moves large amounts of soil or wood chips or compost in a wheelbarrow. We are joined with a slew of folks who have come together to give what they can to make this patch of earth bear all kinds of harvest. But the harvest we anticipate this year is a result of hard, back-breaking labor of folks, many of whom we don’t know, who saw potential in the fallow ground of an overgrown baseball field.
As dirt gets into my fingernails and I fight to make a patch of soil hospitable for seed, I am reminded of our brothers and sisters who are also planting and waiting for harvest. These past two weeks, our family was encouraged by visiting churches throughout Texas and California, most of which are in their early stages of growth as church plants. We heard a repeated and faithful refrain from several rectors, saying “We don’t expect to see the flourishing of the our work now. Perhaps are children will.” We were amazed by this faithful, sacrificial vision while laboring in at times hostile soil. Friends, your brothers and sisters in San Antonio, Austin, Plano, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Modesto are witnessing God’s kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven. Pray for them to be encouraged in the Spirit that unites us to each other.
Similarly, we press on to root Agape Year in the Kingdom for the life of the world. While there are times the soil looks dormant to our eye, God is at work! We have accepted our first applicant. Praise God! We are growing in our own support! Praise God! These sprouts of growth remind us of God’s ever-growing, ever-living work while we rest in His faithfulness.
We continue to trust God for a few more participants for this Fall. Please pray that the Lord of the Harvest will bring those He has called to pioneer Agape Year with us. We’ve seen God surprises us with His provision for our family while still trusting Him to call senders to come around us in this call. Is He asking you to join in this particular field? Consider giving a monthly donation of $40.
S’more Summer Sundays!
Would you join us this summer for fire, s’mores, and prayer for mission?
We’ll gather the fourth Sunday of the month in June, July, and August at our home, 2623 Linwood. Bring a lawn chair or blanket, or musical instrument if you like. We’re excited to see you!
Mark your calendars for June 25, July 23, and August 27.
Flying with 2 children is no joke!