Asian Surprise



It has been a while since I’ve provided you with actual details of our lives trekking around the globe, so I thought I would give you some newsy fill-ins on the past few months in Southeast Asia.

When we left for the World Race, Asia didn't cross our minds much; we were more focused on Africa.

We didn't know that we would end up in Vietnam - all we knew was that our tenth month of the race would be a "surprise" country somewhere in Asia. Our team jokingly began to call month ten "the Asian surprise."

When we found out last month that we were headed here, we were excited, but we never could have guessed how Vietnam, and Asia in general, would soon have a place in our hearts. I wrote about my fear of the unknown continent in this post, and I've been amazed at how quickly Lord has opened our minds and hearts to a new continent.

We are currently living in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) -- and we LOVE IT. We host English conversation classes at a local coffee shop run by Christian owners. All kinds of people show up to practice their English, and we’ve made some sweet friends here.

  • I am so thankful for the gentle Vietnamese culture -- they are so kind, interested in knowing foreigners, and hospitable. I am daily challenged by how considerate they are, especially considering the dark history between our countries.
  • It is my hope to soon be able to share with my new friends how with them how much Jesus loves them - when the time is right. I’m being reminded that discipleship is a lovely journey - meandering for some,  sudden and dramatic for others. I’m so thankful that the Lord romances us each in our own way, and that this year I've gotten involved in every part of the process.
  • We make daily discoveries here in Asia, some spiritually deep - and some not so much. For instance, it turns out my small stature is totally normal on the Eastern side of the globe. Ha! I am delighted to find clothes that ACTUALLY fit me and people at my eye level. American Standard, I reject you as inferior.
  • We are also excited to see how far our dollar stretches here. It is a welcome relief from the inflated prices of home! We daily enjoy FRESH fruit smoothies for 75 cents and spring rolls (made on the spot) for 33 cents.

Next week we head to the coast, where we’ll be working in a deaf community and reaching out to the tourists who come to the beaches to lose themselves in a life of drinking and pleasure … stay tuned for updates, and please pray with us that our time there will give us meaningful opportunities to serve and share.

Thailand: Tackling Trafficking

  • While Thailand has come and gone, we still think about our time there with fondness. The ministries we served there were some of our favorite so far.
  • I want to thank everyone who journeyed through the red-light district of Chiang Mai with me - your support and encouragement is invaluable.
    • A significant role I had in Thailand was to interceed for and encourage two of my teammates, who developed a deep friendship with a local bar manager. We watched the Lord work, transifxed as the hardened owner of one of the wildest bars on Loi Kroh road was transformed by his love. You can read my friend Carly's personal account of the whole thing here - it's worth your time:

Cambodia: My Desert

  • Last month, we lived in a very remote village in Cambodia. The Lord really tested us there - living accommodations were challenging & our bodies had difficulty adjusting to tenting in the 100+ degree heat, avoiding all the insects, and living off of primarily dirty water. There were moments I was tempted to feel like an Israelite, wandering in the desert and not sure what I was doing.
  • Our ministry involved teaching the adorable local children English. I often felt uncomfortable becuase I did not feel I was not connecting the with kids like I wanted to. Worse yet, I did not feel motivated to show them the love I knew they needed.
  • In so many ways, I felt exhausted and dried up, much like the wilted flowers growing outside my tent, fighting for life and struggling to add color to the monochrome landscape.
    • In my frustrated moments, the Lord was refining and teaching me -- showing me that HE is the one who puts work in my hands. So often, there is the temptation to evaluate if my days are productive in my own eyes. God reminded me that he makes the plans -- he only calls me to be faithful and to trust him with what he gives me. We studied Abraham for our team Bible study recently, and I was reminded that Abraham was praised in Hebrews 11 … because he was faithful. Because he was obedient to the Lord.
    • Even when he had no idea where the promised land actually was, he set out and took one day at a time, trusting that God would show him in due time what he was supposed to be doing.
    • Abraham’s obedience put him in a position to receive God’s blessing.
    • At the end of the month, God allowed me to see a glimmer of how he worked through me. A team member shared that after we left, some of the girls in our class were deeply upset and expressed how much we meant to them and how much they would miss us.

In my doubtful moments, I forgot ... I forgot that God is faithful. I forgot that the Lord is constantly drawing each person to himself. I forgot the weightiness of being a child of God. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and we literally carry Jesus wherever we go. It's impossible for things in the spiritual realm to remain unaffected when his children are present. It’s impossible for God to NOT use our presence as part of his plan.

In my doubt, the Lord opened my eyes to the beauty in Genesis 16. It's the poignant story of the slave girl Hagar, who found herself pregnant, kicked out of her house, and wandering alone in the desert.

Verse 7 says that "God found her." The Lord heard her distress, sent an angel to comfort her, and gave her the promise that she would be mother of a nation. The slave girl was not forgotten by God of the universe.

Her response reaches the deep places in my heart -- "“You are the God who sees me, ” for she said, “I have now seen the One who cares for me.” (Genesis 16:13)

God whispered to my soul -- "I see you" "I have not forgotten you." "Be faithful, and you will see greater things than these."

May I encourage you with the words the Lord gave Hagar so many years ago, gave to me, and gives to you --

Wherever you find yourself, He invites you to simply be faithful ... and in that, to "share in your master's happiness."

Is there anything better?

Girls for Sale: Reflections from the Red-Light District


On a muggy night in Chiang Mai, I walked "home" to the YWAM base. My backpack was heavy and I could have caught a ride, but I felt the need to just wander. So I meandered through the Thai streets, enjoying my worship playlist and how the city comes alive at night. To get home, I had to pass through the heart of the bar district. I slowed, walking up and down the strip. I tried to pray for those I passed - I really wanted to - but the words wouldn't come.

For the girls that can't be older than 16, their faces a mask of heavy makeup, always tugging on miniskirts hugging their straight bodies ...

For the women that used to be little boys ... before the lies whispered "You should have been a girl. Take these hormones and you can look like one. Show off your body and see your true value. Make a little bit of money."

For the mothers, with crying babies and sullen teenagers at home, far too old and too long in this business, but in desperate need of money ... just some money to put food in their childrens' mouths ...

And for the men that come to buy them, eyes glazed, searching for respect or manhood, "a good time" ... or maybe just someone to listen to their stories.

For these I tried to pray, but words wouldn't come.

The pack on my shoulders weighed me down. Pulsing lights barely lit the dark, uneven street beneath me. The hypnotic beat of dirty rap invaded my headphones, polluting my music, driving my despair for these children of God - these Jesus died for. They don't even know his name.

And it all became too heavy - my backpack, the hopelessness, the heavy sin that drenches Loi Kroh road. The deception that clouds everything.

And so I returned to what I knew - I worshipped. I worshipped the God of us, the God who came down to dwell in our darkest places, among twisted & starving humanity. I turned up the volume until all I heard ...

Wonderful savior How may I bless your heart? Knees to the earth I bow down, to everything you are Be blessed, be loved, be lifted high Be treasured here  Be glorified

And I walked. And my heart praised my king, lover of their souls.

I found myself in the parking lot of the strip club, and partway through Phil Wickham's Beautiful --

I see Your power in the moonlit night Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright We are amazed in the light of the stars It’s all proclaiming who You are You’re beautiful

I looked up ... no stars were visible beyond the neon lights - but I knew they were there, even though I couldn't see past the distractions. Just as I know Jesus cares for these women, even when they can't see him.


The Lord reminded me what a beautiful savior we have - a lover like no other.

I see you there hanging on a tree You bled and then you died and then you rose again for me

He died for all the sin, all the heavy. He took our dirty and made it pure. He took our load and made it light.

And there, in the parking lot of the strip club - in Thailand, "land of smiles" - tears flowed in a stream down my face. Becuase this sin-soaked soil, he called it Good - tov - when he breathed his God-breath on it.

And his precious blood, it washes everything clean; our old sin, new sin, even the ugly sin we don't know we'll find on ourselves tomorrow.

When we arrive at eternity’s shore Where death is just a memory and tears are no more We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring Your bride will come together and we’ll sing You’re beautiful

I desperately, desperately want these women standing next to me on eternity's shore. And you know what?

I think Jesus wants these women at the wedding feast also. He's coming to tell them: "Your tears are no more." Becuase as I write this, there are over 100 World Racers all over Thailand, carrying the Holy Spirit into dark places. YWAM Thialand has hundreds of missionaries, both Thai and foreign, spreading the news of a wonderful savior.

The truth of his word illuminated my mind, and I was finally able to pray...

"They don't know how beautiful you are yet .. but Lord, show them your face. Soon."

MANistry Video!


April was the month we lived in Thailand. This was a very unique month for us, because we were separated from one another. Jack was put on a team with all the men - they called it "MANistry month" (always said in a tones of pride). Loren was put on a brand-new team of all women. We both loved it - while it was hard to be away from each other, of course, there is a unique intimacy that comes from not mixing men and women. To celebrate their "MANistry," the boys made a video. It was made by our squad leader, Christian Roderick, is our celebration of the Thai New Year with the Songkran festival. In case you have never heard of Songkran, it's a country-wide 5 day water fight.

Chiang Mai is the best place to celebrate it because the old city is surrounded by a huge moat, which they flood just before the festival to ensure that noone runs out of water to throw in people's faces. And we just so happened to be there. Here's what it looked like:

For videos about the ministry we are working with this month, check out this link.

A Woman's Worth

Lately, life has shifted gears and moved into fast-forward. We arrived in Thailand about a week ago, and I've already started bar-hopping ... my ministry this month.

I'm serving on a fantastic team of all women this month, while Jack gets some bonding time with the men on our squad - he's doing manual labor and mentoring kids at an orphanage that rescues vulnerable children from the cycle of human trafficking.

We are about an hour away from each other, will only see each other a few days this month, and expect our time apart to challenge and stretch us as we focus on separate ministries and allow our lives to look different for the month.

My ministry this month is very unique, and very new to me. It's also something I'd like to invite you to join in a special way. My passion for this ministry is best expressed by Carly Crookston; an amazing woman, a gifted writer, and one of my new team members. She wrote the peice below that describes what we're doing this month. I'm thrilled to serve alongside her as we reach out to broken women this month ...

broken women in the red-light district...

How much?

How much is she worth?

How much money would you be willing to pay to hang out with your waitress for the night?  Five dollars?  Ten dollars?  More?  Less?

What if she was your best friend?  What if she was your little sister?  What if she was your daughter?  What if she was your wife?

How much then?

Take a walk with me.  We're in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  It's nearly midnight, but you wouldn't know it by the looks of it -- the lights flicker and glow enticingly, the music blares, the streets pulse with all of the people on them.  We walk into a bar, slide into a booth and a young woman comes to take our order.  To call her a young woman might be a little bit generous -- she can't be much older than eighteen.  She's pretty, the way that all of the women here are pretty with their fine bone structure and round cheeks and sweet smiles.  Can you see her?  Who does she look like?

To me, she looks like my best friend Andrea. She looks like my sisters-in-law, Kimberly and Abigail. Could this have been one of them?  What if they hadn't been priviledged enough to be born in America, into homes that sheltered them from the harsh reality of forced prostitution?

If you read this blog, chances are that you know me.  You've probably talked with me or spent time with me at some point… After reading these posts for the past seven months, you surely know what I've been experiencing and learning lately.  So what if it was me?  What if I was the girl “waiting tables” at these bars and I was tired?  What if I was tired of my life, but I had no other options?  Would you help me? 

If you read this blog, chances are that I know you.  And after being blessed by your generosity and support thus far, I know that you would help me.  To many of you, I am your friend, your sister, your daughter -- or at least, I could be.  You wouldn't pass by me when I was desperate.  I know that you wouldn't.

So let's not pass by these women when they are desperate.  Let's not pass by the young girls stuck in these bars.  Let's not walk past them, most of whom are not here by their own design.  Close your eyes and see your little girl, your best friend, your only sister, exploited and alone.  What are you going to do about it?

My team and I are partnering with Lighthouse in Action ministries this month.  We're walking those streets, sitting in those bars, talking with those girls and our goal is to be Jesus.  We're not walking in with Bibles, preaching a message of condemnation or anger.  We're walking in to be girlfriends.  We're trying to get to know these girls, to build relationships.  The program director made it very clear: we're not a SWAT team running in to grab the women.  We're farmers -- we're planting seeds, watering them, and maybe even harvesting a couple if the season is right.

How do we do that specifically?  Our ministry this month centers around two of my favorite things -- praying and dating.  Every day and every night, some part of our team will be in the prayer room, interceding for this country and the women that we meet.  Then we spend two days and two nights a week in bars, getting to know the girls and inviting them out on dates.  We want to take them to lunch, to the movies, to get our nails done -- the regular things girlfriends do with one another.  Ministry this month is deeply relational.  Success is not counted in how many women we personally pull out of the bar scene; it's about the depth and quality of friendships made.

But I need your help.  My team needs your help.  We have to pay to buy ourselves [non-alcoholic] drinks in every bar we go -- even the ones we go in just to pray.  We have to pay to buy the women drinks and the price doubles.  I'm hoping to get to the point where I can offer to pay a girl's bar fee, pay to take her out of there for the night.  Then on any of the dates we have, we're paying for the women.  But all of this requires cash, something that runs pretty short after seven months around the world.  My team and I are trying to raise some money so that we can treat these women.  We want to make some real, quality friendships -- friendships where we aren't trying to get anything out of them, but just showing them the love of Jesus through our lives.

If you would be willing to partner with us on this, you can email me for more information on how to give. Any money that we have left over after the end of the month will be given to this ministry; a prominent bar is closing at the end of April and the director has a vision for a rehabilitation program, where the women can come to learn about Jesus, but also to learn practical job skills.  The four-month program costs about $1,000 dollars per woman, so any money that we do not use “dating” the girls will go directly towards that project.

So there we are, sitting in the booth.  The pretty girl's name is Nam and she's ready to take our order.  What will you have?  Coca-cola?  A cocktail?  Maybe the girl herself?

How much?


He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8

Hopeful: 2012

Happy New Year!

Currently in Andhra Pradesh, India, it is 12:50 am on January 1, 2012. God is so faithful.

This New Years' Eve, I feel hopeful.

I'm grateful for all that 2011 brought - building my marriage, working for (the amazing) Living Water, leaving in September for the World Race - a year filled with challenges and joys. I can honestly say I did a lot of living in 2011; not just existing, but being fully alive. For this, I am grateful. For the Jesus who gives life, and gives it abundantly.

Our New Year rang in a unique way. Both Jack and I have some kind of flu thing, so we had a quiet night in. At midnight, I kissed my sweetheart - and took a moment to thank God for all that he is.

Then I stepped onto our 5th-story balcony and looked out over Ongole. Steady rain covered everything in a sheet, but that did not slow down revelers across the city.

Downstairs, I heard the church carrying on their passionate worship service - they repeated "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" over and over as midnight neared.

Across the street, I watched a group of sopping wet, euphoric teenagers whoop and push each other around jovially as they counted down, exploding into hugs and yells as my watch beeped the hour.

Fireworks burst across the sky, booming and filling the grey-maroon sky with vivid color.

The sound of a high-pitched Hindi song filled the air.

I closed my eyes and felt the cleansing rain ... dripping on my head, my nose, my chin, my wrists. Warm and soothing.

I felt my heart float up in a silent worship song to God.

I did not need champagne or yells or a countdown to ring in the New Year - I just needed worship. A reminder of God's love. And I found it, as my heart swelled with hope.

Because there is more for this city. Greater things are yet to come ...

Because this day, this year, we are one day and one year closer to the return of Jesus - our beloved King who will make all things right.

And until then, I get to use this body and this breath to tell people of my coming King. So they too will know this hope that fills my heart.

In 2012, I have no goal but to enjoy God more - because oh, he is so worthy of my affections.

Dear reader, I am thinking of you. Wherever you find yourself on the Eve of this New Year, know that you are so intensely loved by the God of this universe. No amount of striving is necessary to win his favor - you are already his favorite.

So seize this life he offers you, this abundant and overflowing and hopeful life ... because you only get one chance to live. And you're not really living until you feel the constant, steady rain of his love falling down on your head, your heart ... cleansing, soothing, healing.

This love is there for you ... you just have to step out into the rain, close your eyes, and feel it drip down.