Inheritance is a funny thing

As my mom would call this picture, like mother like daughter. Sou and I on our "hang out in town day".

As my mom would call this picture, “like mother like daughter”. Sou and I on our “hang out in town day”.

My mom says I write about Sou and the organization too much but let’s be honest, that’s been my life this last month and a half. It’s been an honor to be here and get to be a part of all that’s going on here. I’m always surprised at what God can do in such a short amount of time. Sou feels like a mom to me and I’m pretty sure (from her words) that I feel like a daughter to her. I often think, her daughter, also Hannah, and I are either the same person or they just miss her a lot as I seem to remind them of her.

Last month, I read through Deuteronomy, which is a book very intriguing to me. If laws aren’t about the letter but about the Spirit, then, this book is exactly what will perplex you enough to discover the Spirit as it is a book of laws. It talks about how Israelites were going to get an inheritance that they never earned because really, how do you actually earn an inheritance. Inheritance is about relationships and what flows from those relationships.

I probably should have learned this from my own family but it’s when you are taken out of your own element that you can start to see the very things you are missing. I feel utterly blessed because it’s true, I’m standing upon the shoulders of the leaders here. I don’t have to discover all over again what they have already gained and what they have already learned. I think any sort of successful business is probably like that.

It’s especially in the small things that I get to see this. For example, Ted and Sou have gone through their struggles and hard times where they did their own dishes, cleaned their own house, built things from the ground up so to speak; however, now their operations with FCOP International have grown so large that they had to delegate some tasks. But if I’m frank, from what I’ve noticed, the people that are completing the tasks don’t do it for money or some kind of earthly reward, they are simply expressing the depths of their hearts and their gratitude for all that they’ve done.

So, back to my point, I’ve been here and I don’t always have to do my own dishes, have to cook or have to clean my own messes. It’s not because of their (the workers) love for me or what I can offer but what has already been afforded to them through Ted and Sou. They have treated me like a daughter and so now I get to reap the benefits. What did I do to afford this? Absolutely nothing. I just lived as who I am, daughter of God and somehow that afforded me additional earthly parents here in Cambodia in the stead of my parents back in America. Because Ted and Sou have loved and trusted me, it’s like they can do. Relationships are funny but for that reason inheritance is even funnier.

I’ve had a great life inheriting from others things that I myself have not earned. I had food and places to live based on the earnings of my parents. I went to college to get degrees by what others have researched and already discovered and tested. I went into companies that were already established. My resume is built upon people and organizations that have already done the hard work, so to speak. It is in realizing what kind of inheritance you are gaining that you truly know the right starting point and your projection of what is to come. Also, then, you can truly appreciate all that you have instead of focusing on all that you don’t have. If you know me, you know I hate rework, so why take the time to do redundant tasks when you could be propelling forward?

“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers… with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant..take care lest you forget the Lord” – Deuteronomy 6:10-12

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The secret to the happiest kids on earth

I have been privileged for the last week and will be for the next few months to be working with FCOP International (web redesign in the works). I’m astounded for all the things that are happening through this organization. Right now, they care for 3000 orphans and 600 local Cambodian staff. Talk about large-scale! They’ve had over 15,000 children come through their homes (there’s 106 of them)! Almost all of them are passionately following Jesus and are productive members of society restoring health and wealth back into the Cambodian nation. I love their model and desire to see each person healed in body, soul and spirit. Their love is absolutely extravagant and incredible.

What really surprised me was how they married the secular with the Christian. Oftentimes, there’s too much of one or the other. But really, when we consider “let Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”, we have to remember that heaven is supposed to appear on earth. There are what seems like a million micro-enterprises and some greater enterprises (many in the works). I love how Paul recommends to the Thessalonians to be laborers and be a light to society. This is what they’re doing here. Each home has micro-enterprises that help sustain them when we don’t have enough donations come through. It’s a large scale operation that needs a lot of money. There are projects that need to happen to bring self-sustaining to be a reality here. We have large scale operations in the works that can produce enough revenue when up and running to support every home and not depend on a single donor barring any natural disasters.

I came here thinking, I have so much to give and I want to give it all. Yesterday, we visited some homes in the river (yes, in the river). I got to play with many children, and seriously, they are the happiest kids on earth. I have yet to visit a home that I haven’t felt that way about. Sure, you can tell which ones are newer. They’re a little bit shyer and perhaps a bit more aggressive. However, you look at the other kids and you know their fate. They will be so full of love that those things will not last in their hearts. I left the houses realizing that I came here to give but really, they have so much more to give than I do.

I was surprised at the authority and respect that the kids give to the organization leaders. They affectionately call the leaders, Ted and Sou, Big Pa and Big Grandma or Big Ma (I guess that depends on the age of the children). I have yet to see children in tattered clothing or famished beyond recognition. They are treated like normal kids but according to Cambodian standards, they are treated even better than that. They run each home like a real family having a caretaker for every five children. These caretakers are often widows who have nowhere else to go. Yesterday, we were handing out the apples but lovingly, Sou would correct the children as she desired each of her (yes, she considers them her own) children to have manners and respect their elders. They joyfully and lovingly accepted the correction. Wow, how many kids have we seen do that on the first try!

The impossibilities are a reality here and I get to live in that reality everyday. What a joy that is! What a joy to even participate in what they are doing here. Family really makes it a difference. Our hearts make a difference. Sometimes we focus too much on the objective that we lose sight of the people before us. But really, it’s the people before us that gives us parameters for the goals that we set and in the midst of pursuing their health, welfare and wealth, our goals become a reality.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

Communities that inspire

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Today, I would like to feature my friend, Colleen. We’ve really been through a lot together. So much that when you look back, it’s as if it was the normal. Our journey began a little over a year ago in Brazil and now we’re here together in Tanzania. Who really would have thunk?

I felt like I’ve been on a journey for the past three years learning what community really meant. I went from hiding from everyone to finding a few safe friends and now I get the freedom and joy to say I have relationships founded upon truth and love.

So, this friend of mine, let me share with you just how inspiring she is. She also reminds me of another good friend, Rona. They both have this firy passion that is completely untamed. You’ll even find similar histories and desires to jump out of planes from thousands… did I mention thousands of feet in the air. Anyway, today, it hit me. I only have about two more weeks here in Tanzania with this friend. Throughout this trip, we literally have written chapters in our friendship history. I never had a sister but it’s always been a desire. I feel as though God is honoring that request of mine.

Through Colleen, I feel like I’m really learning what God means when he says, love one another. There aren’t many friends who would find compassion on you when you walk in sick into her room at 2:30 in the morning. Knowing her, she was probably off in a wonderful dreamland. I also have seen her consider me more highly than herself on so many days even disregarding her own needs to take care of mine like missing out on ministry to read 16 books of the bible while I lay sick in bed because I couldn’t do anything but listen. She’s utterly considerate even in the smallest things like letting me take my showers first knowing that she’s probably in for another cold shower. She’s willing to share everything of hers simply because she counts me more valuable than what she owns.

It’s absolutely inspiring to be on the other end of that much love. It changes you because you realize the gaps between you and what real community is all about. When you think you have nothing left to give and you see someone giving still in the midst of their need, you see how much you still have. You start to understand even more how asking doesn’t make you weak but solidifies and strengthens your community. Being vulnerable allows others to be ok in front of you in times of need. Being in community, you understand you don’t need to be perfect in every way but you can support each other to make a stronger picture of perfection together.

“A friend loves at all times but a brother is born for adversity” Proverbs 17:17

When work is just work

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A perfect capture of my friend Colleen and beautiful little friend of ours on a rest stop over to the zoo

Recently, I got a chance to hang out with three wonderful kids. Their self-control and their ability and willingness to obey were uncanny. They clearly knew where the chocolate stash was, they clearly knew I didn’t know the normal bounds that their parents had set for them, etc. I was also astonished by how fair they played whiffle ball.  They allowed the girls to self-pitch, they allowed their youngest brother to be an all-time batter… they cared to win fair and square, which is a quality not found often these days. Now, if I had gone there simply to babysit, that would literally require me to simply sit while the kids did their own thing. However, what kind of value would I actually be providing? Perhaps I might get paid at the end of this sitting, but whose time did I waste? Theirs or mine?

These days, our society has made it all about convenience. The monstrosity of the grocery store chains pretty much prove that. While there are strides and efforts being made to swing the other direction, our society hasn’t budged all that much from that capitalistic culture. This also means we miss out on some of the great things that happen because we’re focused on being there rather than the getting there. We don’t want to be a added value to everything but just in our self-determined chosen path. This leaves us to do the real job just half done. Do we really think that history changers have only done the job they were required to do? Of course not!

I’m a strong proponent for leaving more than a trace behind. I did indeed have to check my heart to not strive beyond my capacity but if I am able, why not? Why not bring greater value to those around you, all the time? Parents that have young kids are busy all the time. They rarely have time for themselves. However, in this society, we’ve become so individualistic that families have to go on their own or pay people to provide some sort of service. When work is just work, a babysitter will do no more than make sure there is no fighting, no complaining, kids are fed and then in bed. However, when your heart is in the work as Andrew Carnegie puts it, you see the cute little faces that want to just hang out with you, that want to include you in their whiffle ball game, that want to jump with you on the trampoline, that want to tell you stories and equally want to hear your stories. You get to see smiling faces look at you not wanting to go to sleep because they would rather hang out with you.

Often times, even taking a break is more work for parents as their to-do list has not shrunk. However, when your heart is in the work, you realize that the pile of dishes isn’t something you want them to come home to especially if they had an official night off. You realize that your job isn’t about you fulfilling your responsibilities but about what you can bring to the table. Now, babysitting, that’s easy. If you know the basics of hanging out with kids, finding the kid in you, cleaning, cooking, basic housework, you’re good to go. However, when you’re talking about other work, it really requires you to know, “What is your special sauce?” as Leif Hetland puts it. What is it that you can actually bring to the table?