Thankful for so much.

As I look forward to the Thanksgiving holiday and the beginning of the Christmas season, my heart is overflowing. It’s been another year full of celebrations and loss, of tragic passings and exhilarating new beginnings. All of us at Asia’s Hope have been inspired by your generosity, your courageous leadership and your prayers of support.

I wanted to take a moment to share some of the things that I’m especially thankful as I reflect upon this day set aside for gratitude.

God’s extravagant favor

Growing up, I believed that God was a harsh gatekeeper, looking for flaws and shortcomings to disqualify imperfect people from service in his Kingdom. But the last 16 years of ministry have shown me that God is actively pursuing flawed, under-qualified people like me to use for his glory and for the good of those he loves. I’m so thankful that God chose people like me — and like you — to act on his behalf to rescue and restore these kids.

Our leaders in Asia

When people introduce me saying, “John runs this amazing ministry called Asia’s Hope,” I have to laugh a little bit. I’ll own up to “stewarding” it, or maybe even “steering” it, but I can’t claim to run it. Nothing — and I mean nothing — would run at Asia’s Hope without the wise leadership and hard work of our country directors: Savorn Ou in Cambodia, Tutu Abourmad in Thailand, Amber Gurung and Sunil Tamang in India. It is an honor to serve with them.

Our home parents and caregivers

Asia’s Hope could not exist without the home parents and caregivers at our 34 children’s homes. Their job is so much harder than mine — they’re on the clock 24 hours a day, every day of the year. They have opened their hearts and homes to the 800 kids in our care, and have become real moms and dads, aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers to these children, revoking the curse of orphanhood and repealing the sentence of poverty and despair that would have otherwise doomed these precious kids. May God fill each of these dear servants with his wisdom and strength.

Our board and executive staff

Led by our board members — Glenn Kelly, Ron Biddle, Sam Cobb, Adam Heath, Sherrod Fields, Keith Wong and John Campbell — our tiny executive staff punches far above its weight. With just four people in the home office — me, Administrator Carol Wardell, Project Manager Addison Smith and Administrative Assistant Satian Preamjaisanchat — we manage a project portfolio as complex as that of organizations with five to ten times our administrative resources. I’m thankful for and inspired by the tireless efforts of our board and executive staff.

Our partners and supporters

Some organizations employ a staff of fundraisers and even hire professional consulting firms to generate the significant resources required to do this difficult and often expensive work. At Asia’s Hope, we don’t have a “development staff.” We have you. We have partners — churches, businesses and family foundations who commit to the hard work of funding significant, long-term projects. And we have individual donors who have dug deep and given generously so we can sustain and grow our ministry to some of the world’s most vulnerable kids. I’m humbled by the opportunity to help you invest your hard-earned money in God’s Kingdom, and I’m thankful to you and to God that we’ve seen such a bountiful return on that investment.

So as I look back over the past few months with gratitude and toward the next with anticipation, I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with some of the kindest, most generous people in the world.

May God bless you and your family during this season of thanksgiving.

John McCollumComment
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