After spending two wonderful weeks with the students and staff at Grace Ministries, I am happy to guest-write the January newsletter.
If you haven’t yet watched the video from our incredible Christmas party, you won’t want to miss it. Click here to watch! The weekend began on Saturday morning, when 54 mothers, grannies, and a few fathers arrived by bus from hill tribe villages in the north. Many of them traveled for 15 hours overnight to get to Krasang. More than one commented that now they know what their children have to go through making two round trips a year!
On Saturday night 78 more guests joined us from the local area. The food prepared by staff and students was bountiful and delicious, and the entertainment, which included every one of our children and young adults, was delightful. The dances and musical numbers were beautiful, but the highlight of the evening was a very Thai presentation of the Christmas story. The message that Jesus came for all people was reinforced by specific references to the 11 tribes represented that night. This was itself significant because tribes don’t mix very much in Thailand.
I personally enjoyed talking with Pateera, a retired English teacher from the local high school whom I met when past teams of Westside Christian High School students used to lead English activities there. Although she is a Buddhist, Pateera was very complimentary about her students from Grace and the quality of the home provided them.
A few local city and school dignitaries were also in attendance, a sign of the growing respect Grace has earned in Krasang and beyond.
Another highlight of my visit was renewing friendships with the Grace staff. These 12 dedicated individuals (six of whom are former Grace students) reflect the extravagant love of our Father as they selflessly, creatively and purposefully serve the kids in their care. The students at GM are held to very high academic and behavioral standards and receive all the support they need to reach them. It is clear when our staff talk about their kids that they know them very well. The Christmas programming illustrated how they help the children and young adults discover their interests and abilities and develop them, very often challenging the kids to accomplish much more than the children think they can. They also provide their students with opportunities to give as well as receive and to develop responsibility. The children were not hosts to their family members in name only. All kids were responsible for making the weekend happen, from planning to decorating to cooking to serving to cleaning, the kids were very involved in honoring their parents and guardians. They were blessed by blessing others—only one example of an intentional strategy on the part of the staff.
The members of the staff give their hearts to students over and over again, despite knowing from experience that a high percentage of them will break their hearts by choosing to leave, turning their backs on the hope a good, debt-free education will give them and often embracing an immoral and self-destructive way of life. Yet the staff love and serve in the hope and assurance that our miracle-working God changes lives. This is the obedient life, truly acting as the hands and feet of Jesus in a culture that does not welcome or understand Christians, and doing so with compassion, humor, and joy. It is a privilege to know them.
On Christmas Eve each student received the gift of an athletic jacket from his or her sponsor. Here is a message from Charles: "Heartfelt thanks to our wonderful sponsors and partners for your Christmas gifts to our precious children. Yao and Ewe spent a morning at the Thai/Cambodian border choosing them at very little cost per garment. Our children love them and send you their heartfelt thanks!"
I close, too, dear friends, sponsors, and supporters, with thanks for making possible the beautiful work of Grace Ministries. Our children are given much more than the basics of safety and a good education. They receive compassion and respect. They develop self-confidence and hope. And many find faith and purpose in the Father Who loves them. Thank you!