Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! (Eph 3:20, NIV)
It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly two months since I last saw the children, staff, missionaries and ZOE Ministry School students at Zoe Children’s Home, and that it’s been a full ten days since I arrived back home. I had been told that the time at Zoe would fly by, but I found that it moved beautifully slowly. Maybe that’s because I had nothing to do all day but marvel at God’s work and pour His love on those amazing kids and their caretakers. Here, my life is filled with work, Facebook, grandkids, volunteering, shopping … way too much stuff, and with few exceptions (n.b.: grandchildren), little of it seems to matter all that much. But on the mission field, everything matters. Because everything is about the mission – in particular, the missio Dei, the mission of God – unfolding in our midst.
For nearly two decades, I had dreamed of going to Thailand, and my dreams had become quite huge, unrealistic and unreasonable. But when by dreams finally came true, I found that they had in fact been pathetically puny. I began to see God’s dream unfold before me, and I watched how He was turning it into reality. His dreams are always “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”
For nearly as long, I had been telling myself that I was “in love with Thailand.” I now know that I was only in love with the idea of Thailand. But now that I have been there and seen the land, the people, the need and the fullness, the mission, the children, the miracles, the joy, the love, I can truly say that God has filled me with a love for Thailand that is, again, “immeasurably more that I ask or imagine.”
I know. You want specifics. You want stories. I understand, but one of the reasons it’s taken me nearly two weeks to write about my time there is that I simply can’t find the words to do justice to the experiences. You just have to, well, experience them.
But there is one thing that comes close to telling the story. ZOE Children’s Home exists to rescue and provide shelter, education, the love of a family, the good news of Jesus, and the joy of His healing to children who are either in grave danger of being trafficked, or who have been trafficked. Now, I don’t care how much of all things a deeply traumatized child receives, there seems to be some residual of that trauma that stays around for a very long time – years, decades, even a lifetime. On my way to ZOE and the months before going, I expected that there would be some of the children who would be battling behavioral and emotional issues stemming from their experiences. I knew it would be a good place, but not necessarily a happy place – not all the time, anyway.
But when I set foot in ZOE Children’s Home and saw the sparkle in those kids’ eyes, the smiles on their faces, the giggles from their mouths, and the unabashed joy pouring from deep within their being, I knew that I had found not just a “happy’ place, but — sorry Disney – the Happiest Place on Earth!
But then, it only gets better. Every Tuesday evening, the entire ZOE family – kids, staff, ministry school students – all gather for prayer meeting. It’s all done quite simply. Shortly before everyone begins to arrive, the lights are dimmed, and praise and worship music is played. There are no announcements; everyone just knows that, as they arrive, it is time to pray. We had been briefed ahead of time, and were told that, if we would find a place on the floor (there are not many places to sit other than the floor) and began to pray, we would receive a blessing. Oh, did I ever! As I sat there quietly, numerous people – staff, ZMS students, older children, little ones – would come up to me, set their hands on me, and pray for me. I had no clue what they were saying, but the honor that I felt was being bestowed on me in those moments, and the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in and through these children – keep in mind where they had come from! – was overwhelming. I knew that I was in the presence of spiritual giants, some of whom were under 4 feet tall.
What had made these little ones into such giants was the very thing that would have destroyed so many of us. They had started out with nothing, and then lost everything they had. They could not have been in a worse place. But Jesus came to them, first in the form of a person – or several – who rescued them, took them in, cared for them, and showed them real love for the first time in their lives. Then by His grace they began to see beyond those people to Jesus, Himself. And they saw in Him something far, far greater than all that they had ever lost.
I often speak of the time when his disciples asked Jesus who was the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven, and He grabbed a kid. Or when he pointed to the children who had gathered around Him and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus was telling us that our greatest, best, and most profound teachers are not the people with the seminary degrees, but children.
And here I was, sitting on the floor of the big meeting room at ZOE Children’s Home, being schooled by a bunch of these wise, experienced teachers.
Written by Craig Rasmussen (ZOE Short Term Mission Team Member)
A mighty team from Rockford First Church in IL visited ZOE for a two week short term mission trip recently. They were such a huge blessing to all of us and accomplished so much. Thank you to each and every one of you for spending your precious time with ZOE and the people of Thailand.
Recently Kevin Wong led a team from the PCJC (Pacific Coast Japanese Conference).
As with most of our short-term teamers, Kevin was pushed out of his comfort zone during more than one occasion during his visit to Chiang Mai and the ZOE Children’s Home.
Check out this video to see exactly what pushed Kevin to his limits.
Kevin later recounted, “I learned from this experience and many others like it on my trip, that a faith in Jesus Christ often requires us to take risks and over-come our fears—even fears of eating juicy bugs and getting an upset stomach!!!”
“Ye have not, because ye ask not.”
So often we don’t ask because we think it’s just “too much” to expect or to believe for. And we miss out.
But last November, ZOE asked! We wrote a letter to the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand in Bangkok, inviting her to visit our children’s home the next time she visited Chiang Mai.
On a recent beautiful September day, our letter was answered in person by a visit to the ZOE Children’s Home by Ambassador Kristie Kenney. The ZOE family was privileged to play host to the Ambassador and her team which included Mr. Ken Foster, Consul General of the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai, and Vice Consul Paul Neville.
Ambassador Kinney proved to be a most charming guest. Her openness, down-to-earth nature and friendliness were a big hit with all of us. The children and young adults, especially, were delighted by their interaction with her. The Ambassador kicked off her shoes and joined the kids for a time of laughter, hugs, and high fives.
She displayed a keen knowledge of the subject of human trafficking and her questions about ZOE and our operations were insightful and discerning. Ambassador Kinney addressed the entire ZOE family before she left, presenting us with several lovely gifts and, in return, receiving a framed picture of one of our beautiful children. The Ambassador surprised all of us when she spoke to the assembled group in fluent Thai!
It was a special thrill for the Americans at ZOE to meet the Ambassador. Currently, there are 35 Americans affiliated with ZOE living in Thailand. ZOE and the Americans working here value the effective partnerships we have developed with U.S. government agencies. We look forward to continuing and expanding our work in areas of common interest including combating human trafficking, helping to build resilient communities, and promoting the friendship of our two great nations.
It was wonderful to host Ambassador Kinney. And her visit was a good reminder that “Ask, and ye shall receive.”
Q: Why did the soccer ball quit the team?
A: It was tired of being kicked around!
Q: What do you get when you mix 20 ZOE youth, 11 American interns, 35 Thai vocational training students, 35 Aussies … and a handful of teachers, ZOE volunteers (plus their kids) and a few soccer balls?
A: A whole lot of fun!
Jokes aside, a recent gathering held at a local futsal field, was the perfect location for a unique soccer tournament.
With so many groups represented, it soon became obvious, despite the cultural differences between the Thai’s, Americans and Australians, why soccer is said to be the world’s universal language.
It wasn’t long before some friendly games of soccer were clearly all that was needed to break the communication barrier between the visitors and the locals as fragmented conversations turned quickly to cheers and laughter.
An Australian group, led by Graeme Smith (a teacher from Maranatha Christian School, Melbourne, Australia) was the generous donor of the funds used to make this fun morning possible.
And by the end, there was only one question left to ask.
Q: Why is it always so hot after a soccer game finishes?
A: Because all the fans have gone home!