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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Invitation to DANCE!

I am learning to love Dance Jam and Zumba at E2 Fitness Center. I'm in the back row along with other gym members who can laugh freely with me as we stumble, stomp, twist and shake our way through the hour long class.
If anything, my abs hurt from laughing at myself! 
This local fundraising event is organized by another gym member and will be taught by the best. I would LOVE to "shake it off" with you so please consider coming to this amazing event and at best, HAVE SOME FUN!

"The event is to raise money and awareness to support Trish’s upcoming book for kids with type 1 diabetes and those who love them. Trish’s inspiration for writing the book is her daughter, who was diagnosed with type 1 at age 6 in 2013. Half the profits from the book will be donated to diabetes research. Trish is also the author of The Soul of Jazz: Stories and Inspiration from Those Who Followed the Song in Their Souls (available for purchase on Amazon.com) and a writer for AllAboutJazz.com. "
The workout will be led by E2 Fitness Center owner and instructor, Christie Duque, and E2 instructors Patti Douglas and Betty Beieler. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Spring Break Update

Spring Break was a HUGE relief for me! My sister was in town and came to our house all day Monday...yep ALL day! Together, we emptied the toy shed, built some shelves, reorganized the toys in organized bins giving every item a proper place to rest while not in play. I was blessed, stressed and reminded of how amazing having a sister is during the day. Myriam even got some jumps and snuggles in with Auntie before dinner time! 
Spring cleaning continued all throughout the week as I quickly filled Tim's truck with garbage and waste. Bins were purchased and storage rooms shuffled and turned upside down. My necklaces no longer are one unified bundle of beauty, but now independent neck weights. Addison squeezed in every last minute of play with the neighbor girls including driving lessons on the local golf cart. Yikes! I'm not ready for that! 
A cashed in birthday gift to Addi's friend gave us two hours of bouncing fun as well...what a workout!
Charlie found a place in Nana's van as it traveled south to bring Auntie Traci home visiting tulip fields, friends' home during Auntie's appointment and giggles at the apartment. 
I was blessed to attend the two day Empower to Connect conference at NCCTK for adoptive and fostering families. Dr. Karen Purvis referred to the amount of information her team presented to us via simulcast, as if we were drinking from a fire hydrant - information overload! While I was soaking up the conference, Tim was home with the little ladies continuing on "the list."
Outlets replaced, lights installed, handles fixed, timers set, naps given, furniture rearranged and odds and ins completed. 
Busy mama's need spring breaks more often. 

{ Big Sister do; Little Sister to follow }

{ Yeah. It won't last. }

{ Celebrating Kayden's birthday at the Trampoline Zone }

{ Auntie spending the day helping with chores and making some laughs too. }

{ Charlie sniffing purdy flowers. }

{ Charlie finding boy things after sniffing too many flowers! }

{ They make us laugh! }

"Jesus Died; Then He Got Up!"

A few things Myriam learned at church Easter morning:
"Jesus died; then he got up!"
"Jesus died; then he grow back!"
"Jesus is important."
"Jesus have taco Tuesday..."
As you can see, some details are needing some clarity.

 { I called it "good enough" between Charlie's recent camera face, Addi's obvious distaste for pictures and Myriam admiring her big sis. }

 { Auntie Traci and her monkey's }

 { Ruby, Annie and Addi making sweets pretty! }

 { My beloved Grandma, better known by the kids as "GiGi" }

 Praying for a miracle of health for my Grandma's body. So incredibly thankful for this stubborn lady!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Cambodia Take Three: Final Days

North County Christ the King has founded and supported the Life Giving Network over the course of several years. Tim's company supports the LGN monthly so part of this trip for Tim was following upon those funds, and continuing to help support the LGN pastors on the ground.

 Theses are a few successes in Cambodia alone through the ministry of the LGN from a note that Tim sent to his staff:

"Last week I got a note from the head of the LGN stating the following.... One of our pastors who reaches out to Muslims lead 32 Muslims to Christ in one day and five different villages. Another of our pastors there now has 30 churches with 3000 people in it. Pastor Koy had 85 baptisms the week I was there. Sophea just emailed me and told me something like 23 youth gave their life to Christ just the other night at his church. One of the other pastors was part of a 10 province crusade he lead and we had 1400 people receive Christ of which 145 were baptized. We (Sophea, Kim and the church) also were able to adopt 50 children with special needs in Cambodia and I just interviewed and am preparing to adopt 50 orphans in India through our pastors in the LGN there."

Tim's final days and thoughts in Cambodia....
 { Boys and their bikes. }

{ Brian and Sophia casually enjoying an afternoon nap. }

As the trip ends, there were a couple stand out successes and areas 
for continued work.
  1. 1)  We will be establishing the micro loan business now in Cambodia, which we should have off the ground in a couple months. This will produce great returns for the investors, and will also produce extensive revenue and profits that can be left in country to support a few key organizations. We were able to get a plan developed for this, and now have people on the ground who are going to run it and manage it for us. Very exciting!

  2. 2)  Big success - got to see the Tortilla making company that we have been coaching for a year and a half now. They doubled in size last year, doubled their profits as well - in a growth year. We helped him position his infrastructure as well for better profitability in the next year, and he’s on track for that too. So cool to see it in action. He has become the “wealthy business man” of the church there (that’s how they see him), and is now able to start giving back financially to the church and it’s paying huge dividends. He is also coaching other local businesses now and paying it forward. So great to see!

  3. 3)  Spent half a day with a start-up medical clinic and helped develop their budget, market plan, and have given them the tools now to effectively start their new company. They were two people who came to the business course we taught, and wanted to get together to discuss further their plans and concerns. Very sharp kids! We fully expect next time we’re back (September) to see this medical clinic open and operational. 
4) Taught a business course to over 100 students on business development and marketing structures. Great time of dialogue and questions from them, and reviewing business plans that many of them have and are about to implement.

5) On my first trip here we visited a village where there was no school, so kids were going entirely without education, and there was no local church and literally zero infrastructure in the town. We stood outside the town on a piece of property that the local pastor had a vision for and prayed over it. We just went back yesterday (one year later) and saw a completed church, school, and entire complex developed and fully functioning. I got to stand outside the class and see kids playing games, learning, and being taught essential life skills that most here do not have. They built the entire complex for $55,000, and they have 200 students daily. Through the LGN and its support, this has all happened fast! Profits from the micro loan business, funds from the home building in Whatcom county, and other investments have helped make this a reality.

6) Have committed to build a new school in the slums for Koy and his church. Will start putting a plan together on this to see it happen in the next year. Will put a team together from the community here and will go handle it with the Cambodians. Any one interested??? :)

7) AIM.... Here is what we are working on with them.... 

We got together several times with an International organization called Agape International Missions (AIM). They focus on the Cambodia sex trade industry. In a nutshell, here is what happens over there... literally! Families have debt that has accumulated over the years and an easy way out is to sell off one of your children. The boys have less value than the girls, because the girls can be sold into sex trade and produce way more money. So the parents will sell off their young girls (average age of sold girl is 8 years old, as young as 5 at times). A local hospital first confirms that the girls are actually virgins, and they are given a “certificate of virginity” which allows them to charge top dollar for the girl. These girls are then locked in a room (called Pink Rooms), and they are kept in there and sold to pedophiles who will pay high dollar for a young virgin. After the virginity is taken away, they leave the girls in these rooms and sell them multiple times a day to men who come from all around the world for this specific reason, as well as local men who just want a quick fix. These young girls will stay in this environment until they are 12 years old or so, or when the debt is paid back. But at that point the families have become used to the additional income that was going to the debt, so they leave the girls in that environment and start collecting some income from them. If the girls can escape, which is rare, they usually go right back and become prostitutes because they only know that industry and can make ok money. This is the reality of what is going on over there!
AIM has swot teams on the ground in the cities that target pedophiles and follow them around, they identify where the girls are being sold and locked up, and then go in and save them. These
girls are then taken to a location that is not named, and cleaned up, raised, educated, and provided a normal living environment with counseling and support. To fund these homes, they started making T shirts and selling them. Now they have a small factory that makes and prints T shirts and ships them around the world. The funds go to the girls directly and to the organization as well. 

{ All of these brown roofs are brothels where young girls are
locked up being sold daily. }

This is a door that locks from below so they can secure the girls in a section of the house overnight to keep them from getting out.
We were not allowed to take many pictures, as they don’t want to reveal the locations of their safe houses. We had to go through back ground checks before we could come and see the operation as well. They take this part very seriously!
We toured the homes, the schools, the housing, etc. All if it was so well done. After learning about the background, and watching video’s of what is going on, and then seeing a school room full of young girls, who are having fun, laughing, learning, etc, it’s inspiring to say the least! We then went and toured the shirt making factory.

This is where we started to talk business with them. They have $3 mil budget every year, as they have a lot of donors around the world. A few years ago CNN did a big blitz on this organization and made a movie documentary, “Every Day in Cambodia” with Mira Sorvino (actress), which brought a lot of light to the situation in Cambodia. Next there was another documentary done called “The Pink Room”, which won awards and again, created awareness. So AIM has great funding, but is struggling in many aspects to go from begging for funds, to creating a structure that produces regular revenue and repeat donations.
We spent a better part of a day with the business development folks on the ground and were able to come up with some changes to their approach. They are hesitant and worry that the head of the organization wouldn’t go for them. We had nothing to lose so we just reached out to him directly and he is extremely interested in help. So we will be meeting with him next month in California and will be explaining our thoughts, and the concerns we had from a marketing perspective, and business management perspective. As an organization, they are now realizing that there are some things that are broken and need repair. It will be super rewarding to help them restructure their approach. With the donor base they have, we should be able to make a dynamic impact by helping them be more effective on the front end development of funds, and the execution of processes in the field.

So in the end, it was a great trip! From helping coach businesses, teaching the business course, seeing the purchase of the property, starting new businesses, etc, it was all around a success, and a busy trip. 

Thank you to everyone who had covered Brian and Tim in prayer as they traveled to and from. The kids survived, I didn't eat them in frustration of being a single parent and we all were happily waiting for Daddy last night when he came home. The sweaty laundry has been cleaned and plans for the next trip have begun. As Charlie says every night, 
"Mom, don't forget to pray for the kids in Cambodia!"

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cambodia Take Three: First Thoughts

The easiest way for me to explain what is happening on Tim's trip is by sharing bits from his journal. I have been deeply touched by this third trip finding myself emotional and wrecked by seeing and hearing testimonies from those affected by the ministries in Cambodia. Please continue to keep both Brian and Tim in your prayers as the heat is really affecting them and for their travels back to the capitol city to be safe. Thank you!

{ Wednesday }
Starting my morning off at the Dara hotel. It's always interesting starting these trips because it reminds me of how much time I don't spend doing these types of things. And I realize how much I actually need them. Even reading about the prodigal son this morning and I'm reminded about how much money and time I spend on activities that produce nothing for the kingdom, much like how the prodigal son wasted his resources when he left the home. I’m really looking forward to getting my head back into the bigger game here. In the company, we focus on the bigger purpose all the time, but it is so much more tangible and real when you are on the ground seeing face to face!

Brian and I went to AIM in the morning (Agape International Ministries). Below are links to documentaries that have been done on the exact street we were on, and about AIM.

They take children who have been sold into the sex trade by their parents, and rescue them. They also take in kids who have been abandoned and abused, and rehab them as they would be the next round of kids to possibly move into the sex trade industry because there is no other option for them. It’s an amazing program. What is staggering to me is how the families sell their kids off. How it works is the family has debt and the parents decide that the quickest way to pay the debt is to assign one kid to full time work in the sex industry which can make the most money around, and the kid then makes the money and the money goes to the family to pay down the debt. Or they sell the kid completely to a pimp and the pimp then takes on the debt and works the kid for it. As a parent, how can you do that? It broke my heart as I saw 10 year old girls there, and visualized my daughter in this situation. I stood in an actual pink room, which is where they locked the girls so they could bring men to them, and my heart just broke. How one could even conceive doing this as a parent just blows my mind. 

They focus on prevention, rescue, restoration, and reintegration. And they are focusing in this community only right now. If the model works they will attempt to franchise it so to speak in other areas. But they are not going too big, too soon. Smart move. They also have SWOT teams in the city literally doing surveillance on potential offenders. They said within minutes of Brian and I walking into the streets of this small town, we were immediately profiled by both the bad guys and the good guys, both who were going to watch our moves to see if we were interested in purchasing. Kind of crazy, and scary to be honest. 

The people leading the charge here are friends of Brian’s from Jefferson City, Missouri, Pete and Debbie Livingston. They came to Cambodia for a month sabbatical and saw what AIM was doing, went home and literally sold everything they had and moved here to work full time for AIM. Talk about sacrifice! Would I ever be willing to do that if called? Would I ever give up my comforts for something like this? Would my wife sit in a room with me like yesterday with a cockroach running on the floor? :) We need a reality check in our lives! And this is why it’s so important for me to come and see these things and be reminded of the realities in the world that we don’t see in Lynden. It helps me lead better as a father, husband, and in our business. 

 { An actual pink room where girls were locked up. }

 { Kids at AIM making shirts and clothing. }

{ Tongue anyone? }

{ Thursday }
Today, after a workout with Brian and a relaxed breakfast, we went and rented our motorcycles. While it’s always fun to rent and ride bikes, there is a few moments when you are driving out of the rental place that you wonder to yourself, “what the heck am I doing.” That goes away quite fast as you hit the road and have no choice but to be insanely focused on all that is going on around you. Add to this that it’s 95 degrees outside with 60% + humidity, and you are in jeans, in hot traffic, etc. It was fun to ride but absolutely brutal in many cases. 

The poverty I saw today was heartbreaking. I asked at one point why they stay there. If my family lived in that scenario, I would just pack up and leave. I would go find something else and risk death to attempt to improve the living conditions for my family. Yet they sit there and do nothing about it. This led to a large cultural discussion. Brian argued that it’s all relative and it really is, but as a parent, I wouldn’t let my kids live that way. Yet, each one of them has a smile on their face, the kids are enjoying their day, almost like they don’t know the difference. When you do know the difference, like we do, you just want to change it and fix it for them, but I’m realizing that isn’t necessarily the right way here. Most of them don’t really want it, which is the odd part. So you work with the ones who do, and focus on bringing Christ to everyone, knowing that the rest just doesn’t matter as much. 

 { Easiest way to travel to and from. }

 { We spent $65 on little toy animals, bouncy balls, cars and games for the kids Tim would come in contact with...pure joy. }

A common thing I keep thinking about as we’re driving through the fields in the dust, looking at people living on nothing and in garbage huts, is that Christ is all that matters. None of this matters. As I was riding yesterday through a field, the song on my bluetooth headset in my helmet was “In Christ Alone”. Words like “firm through the fiercest drought and storm, my comforter, my all in all, no fear in death, Jesus commands my destiny, in Christ alone, in Christ alone, in Christ alone, IN CHRIST ALONE!”. It just grabbed me, after seeing the slums and then hearing that. All else doesn’t really matter, and if they choose to live this way, fine. Fixing it for them doesn’t necessarily help things, but we still need to help them find the true source of peace and comfort in life as they won’t have it in the physical sense, and that’s in Christ alone. 

We drove to Prey Romeas Village, which is where Sophea was from. It was awesome. We were there a year and a half ago, praying over a piece of land that Sophea had a vision for. Standing there a year and a half later, we are in a complex that has a church building, a school, a library, etc. They have 190 students currently. The pastor there was a guy we trained in Shape a year and a half ago when we were here with Kim, his name is Sothearit. The LGN supports him and is helping him build the school and how it operates. Awesome to see! Sophea raised, and build the entire complex for $55k. Unreal!

 { Roasted frog? }

{ Friday }
Am excited for Saturday… A few days ago we were at the church and they were playing music and their sound system sounded awful. I have noticed this every time I’m here, and come to find out they think they have a bad system and wanted to get a new one. I asked if I could do some work on it and within 5 minutes had it sounding a million times better and they were pumped. I asked if I could come Sunday and run sound for them and get it fixed. They were ecstatic. So Saturday I’m going to run a sound check with their music team and help them get their system fixed. Going to be a blast!!! 

Can’t get my mind of AIM… 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

This Mommy's Hairy Nightmare

This morning as I was helping Charlie with his school work, Addi and Myriam were working in the other room quietly. Too quietly...
"Addi, you like my hair?"

This is the moment where my hairstylist-mommy-intuitions made all my neck hairs stand on end and the water works to turn on before I even saw the horror waiting for me. I have only ever cut Myriam's hair once before cutting one and a half inches along with bang trims. People have always remarked about her thick, naturally wavy J-Lo hair. With two kids before who only had fuzz at age 3, having a child with gorgeous hair that adults dream about has been perfect for her hairstylist mommy.  
So, when I saw the nightmare under the table, you can only imagine my shock and horror as Myriam now had ten inches missing from one side of her head. 
I've been weepy anyway reading about Tim's trip which gave way to real tears this morning. I knew immediately that unless I allowed a sad, pathetic looking layered mullet on our three year old darling, the only other way to fix the current problem was to cut it off.  
Say it isn't so?
Thankfully, Mandi was able to get Myriam in after lunch to fix her lop sided issue. 
You may ask, "Well, why couldn't you cut her hair?"
First, I didn't want to be held responsible for having to cut her hair more. 
I just could muster the effort to do that!
Secondly, I fired Myriam as my client after the first real haircut I gave her. 
(Too many wiggles. Worst child client I've ever had in my chair before.)
And thirdly, Mandi gets Myriam so why not make this her problem so this mama could process the loss of locks?!!
Myriam fully understands what she did. She's quite matter-of-fact about it which bothers me as she no longer has much hair left to cut if she were to ever attempt this again. It will take myself awhile to adjust to this new look as it will many others too. Daddy was surprised, shocked and not very happy as he saw the new do over a FaceTime chat this afternoon. 
But, with what Tim is witnessing in the slums of Cambodia and the fact that no one was hurt during this tragic accident, we still have our health and no band-aids were needed. It is just hair and I know it will grow back...just not for awhile.
My wise, motherly friend tried to help me see this as a teachable moment for the girls. She said that beauty is not found in our hair and looks, but rather in our hearts. I completely agree with her. My problem was not that I don't see beauty past the hair, but that IT WAS A LOT OF HAIR! 

 { I cried. }

 If it has to come off then we might as well donate it! Myriam will be donating her three remaining braids to Locks Of Love and sending them off tomorrow...so shiny...

 { Myriam never sees a situation as too serious. }

Did I mention her hair is now too short for piggy's? Maybe I should debrief with someone better equipped for situations like this...I'm still adjusting! 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Praying My Honey Over the Pacific

Please pray with us as Daddy and our friend, Brian Davidson, flew 
over the ocean blue to Phnom Penh yesterday morning. ( Currently still in the air! ) Pray for God's protective hand to be hovering over them keeping them strong and healthy
( Brian's three, adult girls are home with fevers currently ), ready to fight the devil's arrows as they seek God's guidance on this trip. Pray for the crazy motorcycles to stay upright as they travel to smaller villages and other LGN ( Life Giving Network ) churches. Pray for the gentlemen attending the business chats to gain wisdom for their companies so they can in return become better providers for their own families. 
It's supposed to be around 99 degrees and 82% humidity so prayers for the guys not to melt are welcomed as well! There are some sensitive places both men will be visiting
http://www.agapewebsite.org ), but also some fun as the kids picked out some small toys for Daddy to hand out to other boys and girls. 
The kids and I will hold the fort down with school routines, state testing, a few Mommy projects and remembering Uncle Larry this Friday as he suddenly passed away. As long as the coffee pot functions at a 3 cup-a-day routine and the kids keep the sibling barking to a minimum, then I "think" we'll be okay. 
Thank you for praying in advance for the Kingdom building efforts as we cover the guys in prayer!