A festival of "firsts."
Jai Mashi (victory in Christ)!
On Saturday, Kori and I will kiss our kids goodbye and leave for a two-and-a-half-week trip to India. This is the first time we've traveled overseas without the kids, so there's a bit of anxiety all 'round. The boys are 16 and 17, so they'll barely notice our absence. But Xiu Dan is only 9; being without mom and dad for so long is likely to hit her a little harder.
We've covered all of the bases — our dear friends Peter and Keilah will be staying at our house with the kids, and we've updated our wills (assets divided between the children; debts go to the cat) — so I think we'll be fine. Though I'll miss the my kids, I'm looking forward to some quality time with Kori. In just a few years, we'll be empty nesters. We'll consider this a dry run.
This trip represents a number of other "firsts," too.
First ever Himalayan Leaders Conference
Our time in India will be dedicated to hosting Asia's Hope's first ever Himalayan Leaders Conference. We're bringing in hundreds of pastors from all over the region — paying for everything from their transportation to their food and lodging — for a few days of leadership training, networking and encouragement. Many of the leaders in attendance will be coming from countries where it's simply too dangerous to gather in the name of Jesus.
These pastors comprise the front line of defense against human trafficking of children: many are caring for orphaned children in their homes and churches. All share their table with the needy. Most of the children in the care of Asia's Hope India have come from the villages in which these pastors minister.
We depend heavily on a wide network of indigenous churches, and I'm praying that this conference will build valuable connections and will increase the Himalayan church's capacity to care for orphaned children at high risk of sexual and economic exploitation.
Cambodia director's first visit to Asia's Hope India
Our conference is not only hosting guests from India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh: we're also honored to welcome Asia's Hope Cambodia's national director, Pastor Savorn Ou, who will be visiting Asia's Hope India for the very first time.
The "cross-pollination" of leaders is a real priority for Asia's Hope. I can provide our national directors with funds, structure and philosophical guidance, but I can't fully appreciate the challenges they face on the ground. I can't give nuanced advice based on first-hand experience in the same way that one of their directly-analagous colleagues can. When Asia's Hope first began work in India in 2010 and 2011 we sent our director, Pastor Nandu, and his family to Cambodia to spend a few weeks with Savorn and his staff. I'm so pleased that Nandu and the staff of Asia's Hope India will be able to reciprocate the warm welcome Savorn gave them while in Cambodia, and I expect long-term benefits for Asia's Hope as our senior leaders share their wisdom, their vision and their passion for the work.
Savorn will be speaking at the conference. His topic is "Renewing Our Vision." I can't think of a better person to bring this message than Savorn, a man who has built one of the finest residential orphan care systems anywhere. As Savorn says, "Vision is hope with a blueprint." I believe in our blueprint. I also believe that we have the leadership framework and support network in India to see those plans come to life on a grand scale. And I know that Pastor Savorn's presence at this conference will be catalytic. I believe that we'll be looking back on this conference as a transformative moment in Asia's Hope's history.
First time visits from new sponsoring churches
We'll be joined on this trip by Brad Isch, Greg and Linda Smith and Jay O'Brien. Brad is the pastor of Narrow Road Church in Heath, Ohio, new sponsors of our Kalimpong 3 home. This will be his first trip to India, and the first person from his church to visit the kids at KP3. Greg and Linda are from Vista Church in Dublin, Ohio. Vista is co-sponsoring our Kalimpong 4 home with Jay's church, Scarlet City, in Columbus, Ohio. Greg visited Asia's Hope India once before on a vision trip in 2012; this is Linda's first time. Jay has visited twice, but this is the first trip as a sponsoring pastor.
This is going to be a wonderful time of celebration, something like a cross between an inauguration gala and an adoption party. The relationships that will be formed on this trip will transform countless lives in India and in America. Again, a historic day for Asia's Hope.
Anticipating new firsts
As you can probably tell, I have high expectations for this trip. Lord-willin'-an-the-internet-don't-fail, I'll be posting lots of stories and photos. Please follow along. Bookmark my blog, follow Asia's Hope on Twitter or like us on Facebook. And invite your friends to do the same. I could use the prayers, and I'm sure you can use the encouragement.
Until next week, Jai Mashi!