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MISSION UPDATE: Thriving on Empty

I've been sponging the forehead of yet another feverish child. A child who thrashes and screams on some of her best nights, and then kicks it up a notch when she's sick.

When illness invades the camp, sleepless nights become my norm and I'm quickly reminded I'm not the young mom I once was. In fact, I wonder how I was ever young enough for this stuff at all. I remember when I had just three little boys and a virus raged through our house and I was so scared and was scrambling to learn some home remedies during a time when internet access was by dial-up.

And then there was that time when I had 5 kids and they were all sick and I was so worn out from caring for them that I stood up with Hannah in my arms, got dizzy and fell forward, narrowly missing hitting her head on the side of the bookshelf.

By the time child 6, 7, and 8 entered the scene, I knew if I heard someone even sneeze we'd be housebound for roughly an eternity as that sneeze made its rounds. And here we are with 28 kids under the age of 16 and they're all sneezing and coughing and fevering.

I'll see you in the spring.

Except I won't because we're in Thailand and spring doesn't exist. Just hot, wet, and hotter. But I'm not complaining which is precisely the point of this post. Scurrying from one sick child to the next, cooling heads enough for sleep to come, and comforting kids whose hearts are failing them from the horror of the concoctions I ask them to drink ... all I can think is that yes, I would like sleep but not if it means I couldn't have all the rest of this, too.

How does one person get the honor of loving so many humans on their journey to adulthood? How did I get chosen to walk beside them in a country I never even dreamed of visiting much less living within? And why do they love us and choose to trust us when we're so unworthy?

Today Kwan, Yim, Namwan, Sky, Phot, and Bifern helped me get the meals on the table because my time was divided so much as I ran from one side of the pond to the other. At one point, I was in the house when Kwan walked in searching for a missing ingredient needed at the outdoor kitchen. I was at the counter making the most delicious (hahaha) garlic, lime, ginger, turmeric drink for the sickies (shout out to the Hill's for putting us onto this healthy form of torture we all endure!) and I offered her a little. It was more orange than the last time she'd seen it and so she was confused and turned to my American boys to ask them if it was good.

With a twinkle in their eyes and a few Thai words I didn't quite catch, they told her it was. She accepted a small glass and took a sip and her face screwed up and her eyes squinted closed, much to the amusement of the boys. They warned that her tongue might never be the same again but now she'd surely be healthy.

And then Yim, the next victim, walked in.

I stood there barefoot in my low-roofed, cracked-tiled kitchen while the sun was beginning to throw those late afternoon rays through the windows and I felt this overwhelming sense of gratitude. My Thai and American kids were sitting there laughing together in Thai. They were bonding over their mutual distaste for my remedies and it all just felt so normal. After all, those first five of my kids all did the same thing and they still tease me about my "medicine" and treatments. But the teasing has always been done in love as they choked back whatever I was offering them and today was the same.

These kids love us and sometimes I can't wrap my brain around that.

Now 28 children are tucked into their beds and the ones sick enough to need help are close-by. I'll spend another night not sleeping as much as I might prefer because God has given me what I'd never have guessed I needed.

And it's exactly what I now know I wanted.

Just last week many of the kids had a spontaneous day off school, with basically no notice. This isn't at all unusual but this time was a little different and it was a reminder to me that God is at work.

The village school is run by the government and Buddhism is threaded into the culture so it impacts everything. On this particular day, the students from some of the classrooms were visiting a temple and then taking a test related to their trip. The teachers told all our children from those classrooms that they could stay home since they were Christian.

Perhaps you'd have to be here to understand how significant this was. Because first of all, while Christianity is tolerated here, it's certainly not encouraged, especially in government schools. But also, those teachers had clearly seen evidence in all of our children that they identify as Christian rather than just knowing they live with Christians. I almost missed how incredible this was because, in real-time, it just looked like a typical day off from school.

However, God finally gave me the eyes to see this means He IS doing something in this village. At that school. On those teachers. With the hearts of our kids. We're doing little but He's doing much.

My eyes burn with tears at random moments through the days as that reality hits me. We're tired, each in our own way. But I cannot, for even a moment, imagine trading the intensity of purpose here for the convenience of a life where we weren't required to be constantly emptied so we could be filled.

Lord, empty me.


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