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