Fourteen years ago, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
Fourteen years ago, I first learned about sex trafficking in Southeast Asia (and then, all over the world). This was where I first came in contact with a team headed over to do missions work in Thailand. When I first said that someday, somehow, that would be my life, too.
Over the next 8 years, I continued dreaming of making it there someday. I watched several friends visit and show me pictures of this beautiful country. I made actual plans to arrive there more than once. Looking back, I think this dream of “Thailand” was the only tangible thing I could grasp onto that represented my desire to see the world, do exciting things, make a difference, be involved in justice. But instead, my husband and I were given the opportunity to travel and study in Amsterdam for three months. This had never been in my “plan”–and yet it fit so much better into preparing and training me for actual work right here in my hometown.
I love that God can redirect the desires of our hearts so gently and perfectly. Often our current dreams are only a seed of the bigger desires He has placed inside us. After our time in Amsterdam, I set the dream of Thailand aside. And yet, I still carried an incredibly tender spot for the country in my heart.
I am where I am because of this dream. It was the dream of Thailand that led me to Amsterdam; it was the time in Amsterdam that led me to my work with Loom. I can’t think of any job I’d rather be a part of than working with local leaders in caring for the most vulnerable around the world. Which is why, when I had the opportunity to travel with Loom for a training in Thailand this October, I felt this incredible nudge in my soul. Things were coming full circle. I just had to show up and see what God was going to teach me next.
Part of me wondered – when I arrived, would I feel a renewed sense of passion to join anti-trafficking work in Thailand again? Would I hear a new call? Would I want to stay?
I landed in Thailand with the sense that I was on a pilgrimage, with no idea what I was seeking. What I did know, is that I was there to learn, to connect, and to receive. As part of the global World Without Orphans Forum, Loom was hosting a two-day pre-summit intensive training called Next Steps: Critical Interventions for Working with Children at Risk. It was incredible to sit in the room with leaders from around the world who shared a passion for preventing the vulnerabilities that lead to trafficking, abuse, and exploitation.
This was the first official launch of our new curriculum, which meant that all the preparation for each day of training kept me very busy. But on the last day, as we all transitioned to being a part of the full gathering, I loved getting to sit longer with leaders and hear their stories and struggles. 700 leaders from over 70 nations were here to discuss how we could partner together to protect children, and I felt so privileged to be a part of it.
“Mostly we have been reactive and issues-based” when caring for vulnerable children, commented Rebecca Nhep, Senior Technical Advisor at Better Care Network, “Something needs to shift, [to] ground our decision-making in the needs of the systems.” Collaboration and interdependence understands that we all have a place in addressing a “gap” of the system – and that we don’t need to each reinvent the wheel and try to do everything.
During my time there I met leaders running children’s homes, foster care programs, training programs, advocacy in law and justice, foundations, media advocacy, and much more. I sat in workshops led by a partner of ours in India, Anu Silas, and those using media and communications to tell stories of truth and dignity. It was encouraging to be there on behalf of Loom, and see how hungry leaders are for true partnership and collaboration. Out of this time, new and stronger partnerships are emerging between Loom and organizations around the world. We hope to see some of our new friends again in East Africa and beyond!
Like I said, I went into this week of trainings, meetings, and connecting wondering if I would sense a new leading in my spirit from God. What really happened is that I did receive a “call” – but it was a recalling back to my first love, not to my first dream. He reminded me that my first calling is always following Him, and helping people understand their value as made in His image. Over and over again throughout the week, I found myself simply in awe of God’s beauty, love, and creativity in all He is doing in the world. Surrounded by leaders from so many nations reminded me of what a small part I play in a much larger tapestry. The Spirit is vibrantly present everywhere, and I can rejoice in my insignificance in simply getting to witness a piece of how He is working around the world.
It is stirring to arrive
And find you already here.
The sign of the dove encircling
Hill and endless hills
Sky and endless sky
And you, endless you:
There is no time you do not
Go before me;
There is nowhere you are not
Gently weaving grace into the world.
I came here with nothing
But what You had already given.
All the journeys I have taken
have been the map to here:
a pilgrimage with no relic,
a destination with no ending
a glimpse into the bountiful everness of You.
After the Forum, I had the huge privilege of staying in Thailand for another four days, hiking in the national parks with my best friend Kimberly. We soaked in so much beauty, ate delicious street food, and wandered the old city. But my favorite moment by far was our last night there, visiting the Karen Leadership Development Program and worshiping with a circle of kind, talented emerging leaders. Once again, I was reminded of how little I was needed there, in Thailand – and how grateful I am to be part of the global church, this diversely stunning body of Christ.
What was I seeking on this pilgrimage? I was seeking Him.
For everywhere I arrive, He is already present.
2 thoughts on “With Love from Thailand”
Wonderful letter Jenna! Thanks for sharing so many of your thoughts, experiences and feelings! You express everything so very well.
And welcome home!! 🙂
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