Marshmallows and Tea — and Popsicles, Too.

Late night marshmallows and tea with friends under a cabana at our Doi Saket 3 home in Thailand.

For the last few nights, our plan to visit our children's homes have been scuttled by heavy rain. And I mean really heavy rain, like those Florida pop-up storms that deliver buckets and then depart as quickly as they arrived. Except these rains kept pouring for hours and hours. The front yards of the homes we were trying to visit were quite flooded.

So last night, we made a contingency plan. We stopped at Toys R Us and picked up some card games, Jenga and Matchbox cars, and invited the kids to come to our guesthouse. Rain or shine, we were covered. No rain, we'd go swimming. Rain, we'd play inside. We ended up getting only a light sprinkle, and splitting into two groups. One group — mostly older girls — decided to hang out with Kori and Xiudan and play. The rest came out with me and swam.

We had a great time, although I may have over-exerted myself. Two-and-a-half hours of pulling kids around a pool in an innertube expends energy in a way that only shows up later, like the next morning. I'm a little stiff today, but I guess I never learn, as we're planning to do the same thing again this afternoon.

At about 8pm, after the kids had returned home and finished dinner and a little homework, we walked over to our Doi Saket 3 and 4 homes (they share a single piece of land), and we sat under a cabana and drank tea. We also brought a few bags of marshmallows, which most of the kids had never seen before. We chatted with translation help from Tutu and, when she was occupied, Google. It was really a memorable evening, and left me longing for that kind of interaction with friends at home. Now all I need is to build a cabana.

Today is Saturday, and is full. We spent the morning at Doi Saket 1, playing badminton and card games with the kids from the four homes there. We ate our fill of homemade popsicles, and grabbed a quick lunch in town with Tutu. Now we're taking a very quick break. I'm going to edit some photos, Kori and Pak are working on college loan paperwork and Xiudan is watching YouTube. If I was smart, I'd take a quick nap.

Tomorrow is Sunday. I'm expected to preach, but I still have no idea what I am going to say. I'll let you know how it goes after...

John McCollumComment
Transition to Thailand

Long gone are the days when I could come to Cambodia, Thailand or India and just spend endless hours with each home, returning day after day and forging deep connections with each of the kids and staff.

With 32 homes, 200+ staff and more than 800 kids, I'm lucky if I can get a whole evening in one place, and I spend the majority of my energy encouraging and strategizing with our senior staff and collecting stories to tell throughout the next year.

But we have had some really sweet times the last few days, times that have felt intimate, though fleeting.

We arrived on Saturday, and had a really nice time worshipping with some of the kids and staff on Sunday morning. Our church building is being renovated, so we gathered only about 1/3 of the kids living at our seven Doi Saket-area homes. It's so nice to see kids realizing and exercising their leadership potential. They're singing, teaching, writing songs; as I've told them so many times before, they're not the church of tomorrow. They're leaders today.

We enjoyed a delicious lunch of Khao Soi (pictures of that at some later date) at my favorite little restaurant in the world. I ate two bowls — about half a bowl too many — and earned a short nap to sleep off my culinary conquest.

In the late afternoon, we visited our Doi Saket 1 campus, where we have four homes, our church and — thanks to the generosity of some donors from Florida — a beautiful new soccer field that our kids have been waiting to enjoy for almost a year and a half. The grass is now strong enough to survive the rigors of play, and my sons joined a group of the older boys and staff for about three hours of vigorous competition.

After watching them play for about a half hour or so, I joined the rest of our team in volleyball, takraw, monkey-in-the-middle and various other leisure pursuits. We laughed, we sang songs, we ran around, we ate mangos and finally as dusk settled in and the kids returned to their houses to get ready for bed, we reluctantly said goodbye and returned home ourselves.

On Monday, we headed up to Wiang Pa Pao, the site of two existing homes and, God willing, seven or eight new homes over the next five to ten years. I can't wait to share those plans when I get back. It's going to take a lot of work, but it's going to be absolutely transformational, not just for the lives of the individual kids we rescue, but for the entire local community.

Today our Indian directors will be heading home. On Friday, our son Chien will be on his way as well. It's been great having them here, and our trip will definitely feel different without them. We're game, though, and will enjoy every stage of this journey.

Today we're headed into Chiang Mai for a little shopping and some tourist activities. Tonight we're hoping to visit our Doi Saket 2 home — we wanted to go last night, but torrential rains prevented it. Here's hoping for a dry evening and more family time.

Beautiful church service in Doi Saket.

A relaxing evening — mangos, tea, soccer and laughter — at the Doi Saket 1 homes.

Barbecue and family fun at Wiang Pa Pao

John McCollumComment
Wrapping up our Cambodia trip

Well, our time in Cambodia is complete. My family and I will be leaving our hotel in Siem Reap and heading for the airport in just under a half hour. We're bringing Amber and Sunil — our Indian co-directors — and their wives with us to Thailand, where we'll spend time with our Thai staff and kids before heading back to the States.

I've been doing a decent job of keeping current with emails and in-person meetings, and I've kept our Instagram feed populated, but my blog posts have been few and far between. It seems that every day is packed full from stem to stern, and I usually have three or four hours of work to do after everyone else has gone to bed. Unfortunately, that means that there are a lot of pictures and stories I'd love to share that I may not get around to, at least not in this forum.

I wish I'd had more time to focus on communicating the needs at our secondary school in Battambang, Cambodia. That's something I'll be hitting on repeatedly between now and the end of the year. We urgently need to find long-term supporters for that project. It is essential to our work, but it's expensive for our little organization to keep the doors open. Please join me in prayers for that initiative. 

I do hope that if you've been reading my posts here or following on one of our other social media platforms you have gotten a sense of use what kind of ministry we are and what joining with us could mean for you. Please continue to pray for our time in Thailand. God is moving in and through Asia's Hope. 

If the admittedly marginal internet connection here will allow it, I'll post a few albums of pics from my Cambodia trip. Some of them I've posted before, some are new...

Our trip to Cambodia and arrival in Siem Reap.

Our amazing day exploring the temples of Angkor.

Family time with the kids and staff in Prek Eng.

An evening at the fights in Phnom Penh.

Wonderful times in Battambang.

John McCollumComment