I blame ‘the media’

The morning after I defended my thesis, I woke up to headlines of the US government banning the disbursement of citizen-owned information, protests ranging from abortion to immigration, the Russian Parliament decriminalizing vital aspects of domestic violence laws and journalists being labeled by members of the US president’s administration as “the opposition.”

The night I defended my thesis – 51 pages worth of not fake news about freedom of information and how it affects human rights around the globe – while I was waiting for my committee members and advisor to arrive, I sat talking with a Syrian refugee and a native African. What an amazing feeling that was – a Syrian, an African and an American all chatting it up in the heart center of Thailand.

The conversation started on a light academic note but quickly turned to recent events in America. How ashamed I felt. I WISH you all could know my Syrian friend and hear his stories and see his heart. His name? Osama. How would you feel if I wrote to you today, “Our Syrian activities director, Osama, is taking us on a field trip next week.” My heart aches when I see the humility in this man.

The African, I learned, moved when he was a young man from his home country to the United States. He gained his citizenship and joined the Army. He spent nine years defending my country, serving four tours in Afghanistan and a short stint in Iraq. He now owns a restaurant in a small community in Illinois and came to Thailand to finish his master’s degree so he can run his business better and expand his international menu. I’m telling you I got teary-eyed just standing in the presence of this humble soldier.

I then stood in front of two Thai women – both academic doctors –  to talk about international freedom of information and how it pertains to protecting human rights … and how their country, and every country around them, is really bad at it. Worse yet, though, I had to stand in front of these two women and use MY country as an example of how fragile democracies can be. What hope could I give them?

I know if I were to travel to my home town in America today I wouldn’t find women being forced to sit in corners and knit. I know white men aren’t parading around town cracking bull whips. I know my hometown and the communities that surround it, along with the people I know and love there, remain the same great people they’ve always been (maybe a little jilted after 2016, but for the most part still hanging in there).

But other people don’t know that.

My Syrian friend, who DREAMS of going to America one day, said he would be too afraid to even try the journey right now. Both he and the African pointed out that all eyes are on the US.

In some ways, I feel fortunate to see all these events taking place from my worldview. In the five years I have lived here, never have I seen every news agency around the globe so focused on one agenda. But there are other days, I wish I were eating a ham salad sandwich at The Farmers’ Table and not feeling like a civil war is brewing. I read articles relaying the same event from five different sources and five opposing viewpoints, and I think, “No wonder everyone is so confused and angry with ‘the media’ all the time!”

It’s easy to blame all messes on “the media.” While I generally loathe the statement, “Blame ‘the media,’” I have been giving some consideration lately to blaming certain branches of the media. I find, as a human being, that I should probably segregate one aspect of media and really hate it out loud.

So, which “the media” do I officially blame?

Do I blame newspapers or television? (I’d probably vote to blame TV, just because … loyalty.) I could side with TV, though, and just blame individual commentators, bloggers and advertisers. Wait, there are still radio personalities, documentary filmmakers and Hollywood producers. Hey, aren’t there also directors, broadcasters, newspapers and bloggers outside the United States? Books! Let’s blame books! Or Facebook, that might be better, and way easier. Twitter is a troublemaker, for sure. It’s so hard to decide exactly where to place blame.

I guess, [shrugging my shoulders], I’ll just have to blame all of them.

I blame “the media” for enticing each of us relentlessly with click bait.

I blame “the media” for sharing biased and fake news.

I blame “the media” for altering photos and creating special effects.

I blame “the media” for posting propaganda.

I blame “the media” for editing video to suit agendas.

I blame “the media” for advertising products I don’t need.

I blame “the media” for making this information available to me, for free, 24 hours a day.

I blame “the media” for tempting me to share, post, like and talk about this information as often as I want, to whom I want and in any format I choose.

Whew. It feels good to place blame where blame belongs.

I do indeed blame “the media.”

Can you just give me a moment while I remove this huge plank from my eye? To be fair, I’ll give you a minute to remove yours, too. We’re all going to need to see clearly for this next part.

Every link we click, every post we share, every video we promote is a living, breathing, integral function of “the media.”

We are all to blame: we are all “the media.”

But blaming really isn’t fun, is it? It solves little and just makes everyone feel like yuck. So, today is the day I stop blaming and start doing. Are you with me?

Here are some ways you can help (because nobody likes to walk around feeling all blamed all the time):

  • I need your investment. I would love to be able to work away full-time and never ask anything from you, but I need you. We need each other. I am here because you sent me here, and I want to do well with what I feel God has called me (and you) to do. I live on a continent where many of the rights you and I take for granted have never even been proposed. Thailand is the only nation in SE Asia with freedom of information, but the law is poorly understood and enforced. Citizens in Cambodia lose their farmlands to the government because adequate records are not kept. Citizens who have asked for public information have been murdered. I am in a position to educate some of these citizens, and I feel like civic education is vital during this time of upheaval and uncertainty. And I feel like I have “come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” Before we came to Thailand, I remember one of our supporters saying, “I’ll support you as long as I don’t have to go.” He has remained faithful to that promise for five years. (I’m holding out for a visit, though!) Can you pray about making a similar, faithful investment for media in missions?
  • You will start seeing educational tidbits in your monthly newsletters. You can read them and share them. You’re “the media” now, remember? By sharing good stuff, you can make “the media” great again. (Sorry, I COULD NOT resist that. I’ll try to keep it non-partisan.) Topics will range from “communicating nicely,” international freedom of information and human rights and even how to dissect “the media.” (Send me suggestions if you have any! I’ve been storing up ideas for two years now, but I know my brain will turn into an empty cavern seemingly overnight!)
  • You will start seeing changes to my Web site in the next few months to accommodate media education materials and online workshops. Know a young person? Give him the link. Know someone who wants to know how freedom of information in America effects human rights in Cambodia? Give her the link. You’re now a working part of “the media.”
  • I will begin working on a journalism training school for missions workers. The school will highlight aspects of truth and justice, according to the Bible. I want to make this school specifically for missions workers, but at the same time, I want to use elements from it to communicate truth in journalism to the general public. The reputation of journalism is at an all-time low right now (and that’s bad), but I feel true journalism – the kind of journalism I was trained to share – will win out as always. I want to join the fight to make sure that happens. You can help by rooting me on, praying for me and my colleagues and trusting me when I say, good journalists work on your behalf every day. I want to train more like them.
  • I am researching ways to create materials for and conduct successful workshops in a way that promotes unity. Please pray I find outlets for these workshops. I am specifically praying about creative writing retreats with emphasis on social justice (which could mean a number of awesome things), but I need real direction, mentoring and people willing to make investments in such opportunities.

If any of these areas kindles a fire in your heart, please consider helping to keep that fire burning and make it roar! You can find links and ways to contribute to the right (PC users) or below (mobile users).

I hope this letter finds you well, and if you have any questions, please feel free to message me anytime!

Blessings, Korina

Let’s not blame each other for things we’ve created together.
Let’s create things together so that none of us can be blamed.

‘In this wasteland, where I’m living’

Greetings!

I’m riding the bus home from the YWAM Central Region Conference in Pattaya. To say I am a mess is an understatement. I came here knowing God would give me answers but not knowing the work he would do in me in two days. Sometimes my heart gets so full that the things inside of it don’t have anyplace to go except up my throat and out my eyes. So, I’ve cried – nay, wept –for things I didn’t even know existed much less lived inside of me. That’s scary and exciting that God saves such good things for such great moments.

I went into the conference knowing I wanted to pray for journalism’s place in missions. I came out knowing it will get done, and that God is pacing me, and propelling me, for something bigger than I feel prepared to handle.

I wrote to you not long ago about wanting  to share journalism for missions through workshops and seminars, which is still very much alive and part of God’s plan. But since I wrote to you, I keep feeling this nudging, this urging, this (ok, let’s get real) PUSHING to do what I wanted to do from the start – a school, a full three-month school with an outreach in a location … right where we are.

During the conference, we prayed for each province in Southern Thailand. We prayed for ongoing ministries. Those already working in provinces stood on their locations on a giant map, and we lifted them up in prayer, because everyone grows weary and gets discouraged. We prayed for a harvest of workers and for God’s light to shine in the dark places.

Then we prayed for provinces with no ministries. We prayed for our province, Nakhon Pathom. And I stood on the map, alone on our province, which is how I often feel at home in our province – alone, unequipped, petrified of moving in the direction I’m called to go. I stood there in the center of this big  map, tears streaming, heart pounding, hands open, and I heard our director say over a microphone, “You were called here for a reason.”

And that hurt.

It hurt because – here’s some brutal honesty for you – I don’t like our province. I don’t like living in Nakhon Pathom. I don’t like the loneliness that comes with it. I don’t like our neighbors. They are not nice to us, and I’ve given up trying to be get even one smile out of them. One old lady went into our gate and smeared a huge pile of dog poop on Justine’s bike tire not too long ago. That same lady, along with another one, has followed the girls down the street taunting them and teasing them because we are foreigners and don’t speak much Thai and don’t live the way they live. I feel like a monkey in a zoo every time I walk down the street. Noses turn up at my hellos. People stare but don’t smile. It’s unnerving, and yes, there are days I don’t just not like it, there are days I physically and emotionally hate it.

But I was challenged this weekend to love my neighbor as myself and to shine a light in the dark places of Nakhon Pathom because God knows it needs it – and He put me there for a reason. Some days I just want to say, seriously God? But He knows that, so we’re cool.

I often walk and listen to a song called “Wasteland” by the band needtobreathe. There’s a line that goes, “In this wasteland where I’m living there’s a crack in the door filled with light, and it’s all that I need to get by.”

Sometimes that line is the only thing that gets me successfully through another day. It propels me forward to do what I was called to do and to love who I was called to love and to teach what God has so gracefully, perfectly, beautifully and faithfully put on my heart and entrusted me to teach.

But I can’t do it alone, and I know I’m not expected to.

God has created a great picture, and he’s been giving me one piece at a time:

  • I received a blessing from YWAM Circle 18 to join back under the umbrella of the global communications team.
  • I’ve been corresponding with the dean of communications, whose first email response to me said, “Hi Korina, This makes me so happy! I have been praying for someone to resurrect this aspect of training in Journalism within the college and yes, of course I can help …” It’s a bit overwhelming to think that I am that person who a guy in Ireland, whom I’ve never met, has been praying for. That’s God for ya.
  • I spoke with our YWAM Bangkok director about my fears and hopes, and he encouraged me and invited me to have a brainstorming session with other leaders to see how God would like this school to get started and where it should go.
  • And I felt a definite confirmation that I will do a full three-month school in our province – possibly on our own street! – with an outreach that will generate stories to break hearts and break those heavy chains that bind beautiful humans who can smell freedom but can’t taste it.

And that’s when things got real and tears started streaming and a few other things all got bunched up down deep in my soul,  and wow, I think my husband thought I’d gone a bit mad, but he’s really getting used to that. (I hope.)

So, now I really need you. I need you to listen. I need you to pray. I need you to come beside me and help me to do what you sent me here to do because I can’t do it without God’s people, and guess what, you are those people.

So, as my Grandma Mabel liked to say, I’m not going to pussyfoot around about it. Here’s what I need from you:

  • I need you to pray for this school I need you to pray for a school of field journalism in missions like you’ve never prayed for anything  before. This isn’t about learning to write news stories. This isn’t about designing a Web site to share those stories. These things will be taught, yes, but there is something greater here. There is a crack in the door filled with light. Pray to break that door wide open and flood this place with truth, justice and freedom, the very platform I will design this school upon.
  • I need you to pray for a location, one God has handpicked just for journalism students in missions.
  • I need you to pray for equipment and furnishings. It’s one thing to have a location, but when students come to  study, they need computers to work on and beds to sleep on – and I don’t have any of that, nor do I have the finances to get it.
  • I need you to pray for finances. I want to do this right. I want to do this well. I want to do what I’ve been called to do and make my students feel welcome when they arrive. I want to be able to continue. I don’t want to teach one school and call it good. I want this to be my work, and I feel it will be, one way or another.

Can you do this for me? Can you do this for freedom? For truth and justice in all nations? Can you call together your small groups and congregations? Can you get down on your knees beside your bed tonight? Can you lift this school up in prayer to the Most High? Can you intercede for Southeast Asians, who can’t stand on the sidewalk and express their frustrations, who are bought and sold into slavery for an hour’s wage, who can’t ask their governments for equality without getting arrested – or sometimes murdered? Can you help me pray this into being?

Because that’s what it’s going to take.

Thank you for standing with me, with the Greatest Most Beautiful Light that shines brightly for truth, justice and freedom, not just on my tiny little unfriendly street but in  the hearts of all men and women, right where it belongs.

Much love and many blessings,

Korina

A new ministry. And Mongolia?

birdies

See those two birdies up there? One of them is me. Bird on a wire.

We’ve enjoyed watching these sweet babies from our balcony the last few weeks. One morning as I took my morning coffee outside I saw the new nest with mommy bird sitting on what looked like one blue egg. I Googled (as I do) and learned there were likely two eggs and that they would hatch in a few short weeks – when daddy bird drops them on something to crack their shells!

Luckily, we didn’t get to witness that part, but a few weeks later, again over my morning coffee, I saw some excitement in the nest. The babies had hatched! We watched them grow as mommy bird tended to them night and day. Then we noticed she started leaving the nest for short periods of time. As the babies started peaking out of the nest, getting curiouser and curiouser about the great, wide world (that’s from one of my favorite children’s books), mommy bird started issuing motherly challenges.

Instead of landing in the nest for feeding time, she would land outside the nest and make the babies crawl out to get their dinner. As days passed, she would land further and further away on the wire, until one day, we watched as the babies had to make their first short flight, about five feet from the nest. Mommy bird fed them from where they were. Little scrappers. They fought tooth and nail, all three of them balancing on that wire for their dinner that night. What a sight!

The little birdies started venturing out by themselves after that day. They hadn’t flown yet (other than the  short flight out for dinner) when I snapped this photo. I loved watching their contemplation as they sat perched there each morning, wobbling to and fro, wanting to jump but scared to make that leap.

That’s when I realized … that was me. (The fact that they were doves made my self-reflecting metaphor that much more intriguing for many glorious reasons.) And that’s when I heard this voice from within me say, “Now is the time.”

A NEW MINISTRY CONCEIVED

As far as I can remember, I have been searching for truth. I am a details person. I ask questions. I wonder. I listen. I watch. Lo, I drive people insane with my quest for the truth, yet I persist. I remember sitting in my first news reporting class, listening to my professor (Steve Valencia, whom some of you may know). I had taken the class as an elective to my English major because I liked to write, and the class sounded fun. Before the class was finished, however, I had made a link to something greater. I had made up my mind to be a journalist. I changed my major that day and never regretted it once.

During one of my earlier job interviews at the Shawnee News-Star, my future managing editor (I got the job!) asked me a simple question: Why do you want to be a reporter?

I’d never been asked that by anyone before. And it should have been easy to answer. Duh. But my mind whizzed like a tornado, and a thousand reasons came to my heart – so many reasons that they all got bunched up in a big lump trying to get out through my throat, and right there in Mike McCormick’s office, I began to weep. I was embarrassed beyond explanation, but if you know Mike, you know his gentleness, his kindness and his patience. He just waited.

I finally blubbered out something romantic like, “Because I believe people have the right to be heard, and it is my job to make sure that they are.” I said a few other things, which gushed right up from the depths of my soul. I thought for sure I’d be driving back to my radio job in Kansas that same night.

But instead, Mike leaned over his desk and pointed his index finger at me, and in his soft, southern, Shawnee accent, said, “Girl, you’ve got the passion.” And he hired me on the spot.

As my career grew, my faith started growing as well. I began seeing links in Scripture to truth, justice, human rights and freedoms, the values I tried with all my might to place in my reporting. I failed people, I know. But I suppose sometimes I hit the mark because lately my Facebook memories sure do remind me a lot of the Newspaper in Education workshops I hosted and stories I followed until I thought my eyes might bleed when I was publishing the North Central Reporter. Other little reminders keep popping up as well, like notes I kept from teaching journalism courses, ideas for class exercises, revelations from my first months in Thailand when the idea for a school of journalism for missions was planted, Scriptures based on justice and seeking truth and being the little guy. The list goes on and on. And then there was that voice: “Now is the time.”

It’s crazy how God’s plans are always better than ours.

I wont’ lie, though the last two years have been the happiest of my life (I never thought I’d get married!), I also have felt that missions-wise I have been walking through a desert. Two years ago, my former missions director and I were geared up to get a school started, but at the same time, we both felt that it wasn’t the time. I kept hearing distinctly, “Now is not the time.”

I followed, reluctantly, what I knew was God’s plan, and that was to continue my education, gain some teaching experience, get the girls settled in to our new location and homeschool cooperative, be a new mom to William and a good wife to Russ. I kept my hand in missions through the YWAM Global Communications team, as well as teaching the youth at church and working with a few projects in Cambodia. But I still felt I wasn’t doing enough. I have known for quite some time that my goal in missions was to establish some form of journalism education for missionaries. Yet, I still kept hearing the words, “Now is not the time.”

NOW IS THE TIME

When the birdies were standing on the wire, I realized how scary that would be. And when I heard, “Now is the time,” I realized how scared I truly am. And after I heard those words, I kid you not, information and ideas began raining onto me. Crazy weird stuff. And that scared me because it felt like it meant I was sealing the deal, no turning back! Then this quote also conveniently rolled through my Facebook feed – “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it isn’t big enough.”

The cherry on top was a book – the final resource I needed to complete my thesis.

My former and totally awesome university advisor, Dr. Rebecca Tallent, recommended the book to me. My thesis is based on Freedom of Information and how it affects truth, justice and freedoms globally and how teaching high school journalism can improve critical thinking skills needed by tomorrow’s leaders. Riveting, huh? The real title is basically just a puzzle – a sentence diagrammer’s dream. (I guess diagrammer is not a word because my spell check is going crazy right now.) Anyhow, Dr. Tallent also helped write the book, and let me tell you, if God didn’t deliver that book directly from an Amazon warehouse to somewhere in Texas (Thanks again, Carra!) to Chiang Mai, Thailand, to a suburb outside of Bangkok, then my name isn’t Korina.

I hadn’t even finished the introduction before, you guessed it, the tears started falling. It was exactly what I needed: statistics, ideas, case studies, testimonies, surveys – all written by a guy who said in the introduction that he got his start in journalism in high school, under the “guidance of a Christian brother who served as our newspaper advisor. The valuable lessons I learned back then … went a long way to forming the journalist I am today.”

“If your dream doesn’t scare you, it isn’t big enough.”

It must be big enough.

BACK AFTER IT

I want to thank you for your patience during the “dry season.” These have been hard times for me having the kind of non-existent patience that I do. Looking back, though, I see the importance of what I have learned. Not only am I nose to nose with a cultural whirlwind 24 hours a day, but I have also had the honor and privilege of studying, living, and learning with and about people from every continent on the planet. When I arrived in Thailand five years ago wanting to share journalism internationally through missions, I can plainly see now that I wasn’t ready. But, as the voice goes, “Now is the time.”

WHAT NEXT?

I know there have been times when I’ve shared with you my sometimes-crazy schedule. I haven’t done that in a while, and my schedule lately just took on some new twists. My contract with the Navy has ended, the girls started school, I’m approaching the final weeks of my thesis work, and yep, “Now is the time” has entered the picture.

So, here’s a glimpse of my “brand new usual” day. (Some days are hit or miss, but I try to keep it fairly organized.)

5 a.m. – Up before the chickens. COFFEE. One thing Russ promised me before we got married was that he would bring me coffee every morning. He’s only missed one day! (We were out of coffee that day – a horrible predicament.)

6:30 a.m. – William and I set off via motorscooter to his school. Russ heads to university. Girls get to be lazy a little longer.

7:30 a.m. – Back home. Wake girls up. Bible study. I try to sneak in some exercise while the girls are getting ready for school.

9 a.m. – School bells ring. That’s really just me coming down the stairs saying, “Girls, have you started school yet?” I field homeschool questions and grade papers from the day before.

10 a.m. – Thesis work. I try to work at least two hours a day on my research and writing. It’s comin’ along.

12-1 p.m. – Lunch with the girls.

1-4 p.m. – Journalism workshop research, writing, creating. I think this is why “now is the time” scared me so much! This is a huge job – so huge I didn’t quite realize how huge until I started outlining ideas. Soon I will begin putting those ideas together and making contacts. I feel right now I’m headed in the direction of putting the curriculum online as well as offering in-person workshops to YWAM missions bases, high school homeschool students, and possibly even international high schools. I can take this on the road, people! I hope to take the workshops to Cambodia and Thailand initially and see what happens from there. I’ll ask for prayers about this – A LOT! My curriculum will be largely based on journalism and critical thinking skills taught through Scriptural foundations for missions workers, but I would like to model a second curriculum after it aimed at teaching younger students. Oh, how I dream! (And how my knees quake at the thought.) God has managed to drum up that passion that welled up inside of me in Mike McCormick’s office, but this time, he has teamed that passion with a specific goal and a heart for truth, justice and freedom to be seen and felt and heard in every nation.

4-6 p.m. – Mom stuff. Dinner, laundry. Whatever needs doin’.

We’re usually asleep by 8! No need to ramble on.

When my thesis is finished, well, for one, I will shout really loudly, “HALLELUJAH!!!” But also, I will dedicate that time slot to working on and creating courses for the journalism workshops. Hopefully, I will be confident enough to begin pursuing opportunities to host them by the beginning of next year.

I’LL FINISH NOW!

Thanks for always reading my long, drawn-out, dramatic accounts. Thank you for continuing to support us and pray for us, even when I admit I’m walking through the desert. I want to end with some family updates. Exciting!

jaynee-uniform
Jaynee ready for her first day of English research class at Mahidol University.

The girls started school Sept. 5. We’ve changed their homeschool curriculum to a program that is a bit more intensive. Jaynee is also enrolled in an English research course at the university under her favorite teacher, Mr. Russ. She has class every Monday and Wednesday from 2-3:40. All schools in Thailand require students to wear uniforms. Jaynee is neither a uniform person nor a skirt person, so we’ve had some good chuckles at her expense! I think she will enjoy the class though.

Both girls will start sports next week.

Jaynee just finished training to be a volunteer in the youth center at church. She will help with child care once a month. Also, she has applied to be a team leader within the youth group. She is making a ton of friends there, and I’m so glad both the girls have this close unit during this time. I prayed for them to find good friends when we moved here, and God answered so abundantly.

BIG NEWS SPOILER ALERT: The missions Spirit is catchy. I can’t write much about this now because we don’t have many details, but both the girls have applied to join a youth missions group next year in Mongolia. Yes, Mongolia! I will write you more in the future, but they will have to do some fundraising. Right now, it appears the cost will be around $1,500. If you have a heart to follow up with them, let me know, and I will be sure to update you.

William is being the rock star that he is. Good grades. Thinking about his future. I don’t write a lot about his activities because right now his activities are school, school, cadets, and school. He’s up at 5:45 a.m. and doesn’t get back home until 6 p.m. He works hard, that boy, and we are very proud of him.

Russ is back to work, teacher by day, Muay Thai rock star by night. We enjoyed a nice drive down to the beach with William Saturday. It’s nice to be an hour and a half from the sea. Thanks for that too, God. Our own personal diving instructor, Mr. Russ, wants to start giving all of us diving lessons soon. If all goes well, the training alone should provide lots of fun family memories.

THAT’S IT. COULD YOU PRAY?

  • Pray for journalism workshops for missions. Pray for clarity in creating, wisdom in designing, truth in Scripture, ears to hear, hearts to listen, nations to move – all kinds of stuff.
  • Pray for my thesis to finish smoothly (and quickly wouldn’t hurt either).
  • Pray for the kids as they are being kids. Growing. Learning. Experiencing. So much.
  • Pray for Russ and I as parents and new step-parents. We both have our parenting ways, and sometimes they don’t always mesh, and let’s face it, parenting is HARD! Step-parenting is, well, a whole new ballgame. And co-parenting teenagers from three different cultures is … for another newsletter. I raise a toast to the step-parents of the world! Russ and I are good communicators, so we always work out those little wrinkles. Pray we can continue to learn from one another.

Thank you for your prayers, your encouraging words,  your updates, your love and your support, in all ways. We love to hear from you, and we hope all of you are well!

With much love and many blessings,

The Russ family (This is a joke from church – the way a lady listed us for a church outing one Christmas. We had a good laugh, and the name kind of stuck.)

And one morning, the birdies took the leap, and off into the great, wide world they went, to make a difference in their own special ways.

Cambodian Water Project: Stage 1

water plan 22-Jun-2016 14-00-14(1)

Greetings!

We have a plan!

For those of you interested in helping with the Cambodian water project, I am excited to report to you about the progress being made.

To date, we have the first stage of the project (of three stages) drawn up and estimated. Above is a rough sketch of the plan. Our friend Rob admits his artistic abilities might not pass an actual draftsman’s inspection, but we think it’s pretty good! Simple. We like simple.

The plan is to bore a well, which will be used during dry season, and to install a sunken tank to collect rainwater during rainy season. Rainwater will be used when available, saving bore water for the dryer times of the year. A local contractor can bore the well. Right now, the guys believe a deep and large steel-lined bore with a submersible in-line pump will work best for this type of system.

Materials are available 50 miles from the village site. The cost will be about $1,400 for this leg of the project.

Stage 2 will consist of more tanks, including rain water storage tanks, plus plumbing. We also hope to install a steel bench for food preparation as well as hot water for the kitchen. Along with these additions, we want to implement some educational workshops as to how clean water, clean dishes and better sanitation can restore health and prevent sickness.

Stage 3 moves more into sanitation and long-term solutions. Plans include transforming existing ponds into water treatment ponds. This will promote livestock health as well as overall well-being for the village. Also, we want to install a waste system for the coconut oil factory and again provide some education about the importance and long-term care of these facilities.

We have not shopped for costs of Stages 2 and 3 yet, but any money raised and left over from Stage 1 will be used to begin stage 2.

Currently, another volunteer is there replacing “squatty poddies” (in-ground toilets) with western-style facilities. This isn’t part of the water system project, just a nice side note on improvements. In addition, Vuthy, our friend and ministry director, is working with men from the village to resurface dirt roads. The roads get pretty treacherous during rainy season. It’s not easy for children to pedal bicycles and walk through the deep, red mud to get to class, but by golly, they do!

ABOUT VUTHY’S PLACE

I wish I could go into extensive details about Vuthy and his ministry.

To give you a little background, Vuthy is a former tuk tuk (small motor taxi) driver, who drove in the capital city of Phnom Penh. He grew up in his village, where he lives and directs his ministry now, but when he was younger, he went to the city to study and work. He started driving for the Phnom Penh YWAM base many years ago. He was transporting all these foreigners to slums and different areas, watching as they helped in different ways. He started wondering why all these foreigners were so eager to help people in his country. He couldn’t speak to them to ask. He knew little English.

And that’s how his story began.

He started learning English. He met more foreigners. His questions began to be answered. He learned about Jesus … and decided he wanted to meet Jesus, too.

Fast forward a few years. Vuthy felt called back to his home to teach the children in his village English and about Jesus. When I say home, it’s not the same as “home” is with you and me. Home for Vuthy was literally in a house with his mother and father, brother and sister. He was an adult at this time, so moving back home meant moving back to a community of family – his Buddhist family.

He gives all the glory to God for his family’s acceptance of not only him but his entire plan. When I say the entire plan, I mean it. Vuthy’s entire family has now given their lives to Christ and helps tirelessly with the ministry.

ABOUT THE MINISTRY

We first visited the village in 2012. Vuthy was just getting started. He was teaching five English classes by himself every day for kids ranging in ages from 5 to 21, or so. He taught out of a small building his father helped erect as a church and one grass hut. When teams (like ours) came to help, Vuthy’s sister cooked every single meal for us, and his parents gave up their home so we could sleep in it.

As much as I so dearly cherish those two weeks, I also spent more than a year processing what we actually experienced. Too much to describe in one newsletter. What we experienced, though, was a just a glimpse of most of Cambodia, particularly rural Cambodia. Many rural areas don’t have running water, good roads, or great educational facilities, and there’s no sign the government will help improve these types of infrastructures anytime soon. Let’s not even start about medical facilities. Let’s tackle what we can for now.

Vuthy is doing his part by inviting kids to his place to learn. Dozens of kids meander down to Vuthy’s daily to get something no one else gives them for free – an education. Ironically, these kids have a better chance of learning English way out in the middle of nowhere than a lot of kids who live in populated areas. They are a special crew, thanks to Vuthy and his family.

They have created not just a school, but an entire environment. It’s a happy place where children hang out, play sports, learn, laugh, love, worship, pray and are always welcomed wholeheartedly. What started as a strange thought has evolved into a school, a church that runs continuously, a Mercy House that has helped raise orphaned boys, a sports facility and even a coconut oil factory. Why not, right? Coconuts are everywhere!

Two years ago, Vuthy began cultivating coconut oils, bath salts and lotions with the products that grow around him (coconuts!). With the help of some YWAMers and his brother-in-law, he is able to keep the factory going. Proceeds help support his ministry and are sold in locations in Phnom Penh which minister to sexually trafficked women and men.

While the improvements and expansions to Vuthy’s place are truly awe-inspiring, better infrastructure can provide so much more – better health, safety and a model for his entire community. I strongly believe others will follow Vuthy’s lead. At least I pray for that. Please pray with me on that one as well.

Now, I really need some feedback from you:

I had several people respond to my last newsletter regarding the water system. THANK YOU! This is one time I don’t mind one iota asking – begging, pleading – for financial supporters! Feet are on the ground ready to get to work. The only thing missing is funding.

This is where I need your help.

I am thinking of the best way to receive contributions. Sometimes, the easiest way is a Go Fund Me account. People can read about the project and decide if/how much they want to donate. However, there is a small cost for a Go Fund Me account. I don’t mind it so much, but every penny is precious, so I don’t want to use a service that can compromise the project if donors are turned off by the thought.

The other way to donate would be to make contributions directly to our mission fund. Anyone can donate with a debit card or bank account, and there is no charge. The only thing is that it will go into our missions account, so donations would need to be labeled clearly: “Cambodian Water Project.” I don’t see deposits or who they are from, so I might possibly need any contributors to also send me a quick note before they donate. I will transfer funds to our project coordinator when construction gets underway.

I’m going to gather some opinions from you before deciding the best way to go, so please respond with your opinions (about the water project, that is. I will read your other opinions on Facebook and in emails. Haha!). So, Go Fund Me or missions account?

I have butterflies thinking about this project becoming a reality!

Thank you so much for showing so much interest in achieving clean water and healthier surroundings in Cambodia! I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Korina

Cambodia and beyond

Justine's friends honor her during a photo shoot for her 13th birthday. Very fun day for her.
Justine’s friends honor her during a photo shoot for her 13th birthday. Very fun day for her.

Greetings friends!

I hope harvest is fruitful and going well. I love seeing all the wheat cutting photos on Facebook. It makes my heart happy … and a bit homesick.

We are having a great month though. The heat has broken, and the rains have started. Hallelujah!

And I have much to tell you since our last update.

STUDIES

I finished my master’s studies coursework! I managed a 3.73 GPA, with all As and one stinking B. Don’t get me started on how unhappy I am with that ONE B! But the completion of 33 hours is a HUGE blessing! My thesis will focus on the International Declaration of Human Rights and Freedom of Information and how these acts affect justice, particularly in Cambodia and Southeast Asia.

I chose to focus on Cambodia, rather than the whole of SE Asia, for obvious reasons if you keep up with us. I will continue to pray and fight for truth, justice and freedom in that country using the tools with which God has equipped me.

CAMBODIA PROJECT

– Speaking of Cambodia, I recently had the honor and privilege to go again. I went to our friend Vuthy’s wedding. The girls stayed back to attend the wedding of one of their youth pastors. Vuthy was our very first outreach host the year we joined missions. We spent two weeks at his family’s home in the village helping to teach English classes.

I saw so many friends this trip and even made three new Kiwi friends. Together, my new friends and I climbed a mountain (on motorbikes) and made a plan to meet again next year. Our future meeting is not to visit only but to make good on a dream we discovered we’ve all been burdened with for several years: we want to drill a water well and install a water system for Vuthy’s village.

All three of us have stayed at the village. We’ve bathed in the pond water, eaten food cooked with it, watched the cattle and children alike drink from it. Just last month, one girl suffered two bouts of typhoid from consumption of the water. Water filters are helpful (we sent 13 three years ago, although to a different area), but they don’t last forever and often are not replaced after they no longer work. A water system insures generations of healthier people and longer lives.

We are still gathering estimates and details for the project, but if you are interested in any way, shape or form to help financially or otherwise with this project, please shoot me a message. I will be sure and keep you updated. I cannot tell you how important this project is to me. I have dreamed of it since the first time we visited.  Please pray for miracles and events to fall into place!

In another project for Cambodia, I was privileged to help a pastor in Cambodia design some flyers for his ministry. It was a small thing, but it made me feel really great to be able to contribute in some way.

Three days in country was too short, but it did give me the breath of air I needed and a boost of energy to continue to pray the light and love into Cambodia. And the next time I return hopefully will be to help install a new water system!

WORK AND MINISTRIES

– Two of my English classes with the Royal Thai Navy have ended. Students have moved on to their new posts in England, China, Australia and the U.S. One of my classes will continue through September, and soon we will get a new influx of students.

This week we have been interviewing Naval attaché candidates. We have more than 100 candidates who would like to be Naval attachés. We will whittle down the prospects to only 10. It’s been great hearing about their careers and personal lives during their interviews. It has really opened my eyes yet a little wider about Thai culture.

Last week one of my students sent me a link to a movie he had gone to the theatre to see. He said, “It’s a ‘God’ movie.” I asked him how it was, and he said, “It was … not boring!” haha! I think he was trying to tell me it was “better than good,” but he lost his words and concentration a bit. Ironically, at the moment we were talking about it, I looked up to see a man working on the ceiling in our foyer at work, and he was wearing a t-shirt that said “Jesus is my superhero.” It was a strange, wonderful experience.

Please pray for my current students who study so hard each day. They are here on scholarship and take that very seriously. Please pray for good test scores and a greater understanding of how important their service is to this country.

– I had a fantastic time with the youth group on my birthday (June 5). A new girl from India joined us and had me grinning from ear-to-ear all morning. You know, there are just some kids like that! She was full of spunk and questions, and I hope to see her again soon.

This month we are learning about the importance of prayer. The kids will paint canvases to decorate a room in the sanctuary now used as a prayer room. At the end of the month we will celebrate for the finished project as well as honor our director who is returning to England with her family.

Can you pray with me about our youth group and possibly taking on a few responsibilities that will be left open upon our director’s leaving? I am a team leader now, but I would like to be more active with the youth program as a whole. At the same time, I keep thinking, NO! I DON’T WANT TO DO ONE MORE THING! I’ve been having this inner struggle for many weeks, so I’m trying to be obedient, but honestly, it’s been a hard thing to commit to. At least I’m honest. J

KIDS AND FAMILY

– Justine is a teenager! Justine celebrated her 13th birthday with friends at a dog café in Bangkok. Weird, we know, but it’s the going thing.

Both the girls have almost wrapped up the school year. Jaynee will be a freshman and Justine an eighth-grader.

– Jaynee started working for a friend of ours. She is helping him paint his house. She’s excited to be working hard and earning her own money. We are very proud of the work ethic she has developed.

– The boys started their new school year last month. Albert is in 11th grade, and William is in 10th. Both boys, at this stage, must complete three years of military training while in high school so that they do not get drafted into the regularly Thai Army upon graduation.

Albert had his tryouts last year, so he has completed a year already. William took his physical test last week to see where he should be placed. He scored in the “best of the best.” We are so proud of him. This gives him great opportunity if he should want a military career. With his test scores, he could enter into the officers’ program, which would eventually lead him on all sorts of adventures and learning experiences.

Both boys are starting to think about their futures. I love hearing about their goals and dreams. Please pray that they find their talents and giftings so that they can lead productive, fulfilling lives and give back to others.

In their personal lives, Albert just got braces, so we have enjoyed teasing him a bit as he tries to get used to them! He’s been a good sport. J

– Russ will finish up this term at university and then enjoy two weeks off, which he will spend training at a Muay Thai (Thai boxing) camp on one of the islands in southern Thailand. For me, this doesn’t sound so enjoyable! Ha! But he will love it, and I’m grateful he gets this time to practice something he loves. When he returns, his summer courses will begin, and it will be back to the grind for him.

I think that about wraps it up. I feel like something is brewing in the near future, but I can’t tell exactly what. Maybe it is the youth group; maybe it is the Cambodia water project; maybe it is something else. In any case, it will be possible because you help make it that way. Thank you so much for sticking with us in our fifth year in Thailand!

Please join us in our prayers, and if you have anything to add, please do not hesitate to contact us. We love you all and hope harvest and whatever else you’re up to finds you well.

We love you and miss you.

Many blessings,

The Russ Family

(collectively: Russ, Korina, Joseph and Kelsi, Albert, William, Jaynee, Justine, Shanti)

 

Oh, What a Difference 5 Years Can Make; ‘We’ll Always Be Newspaper People’

I often ask myself when making big decisions, “Will this even matter in five years?”

Few times have I been able to answer yes to that question, but the day I published the last issue of the North Central Reporter was one of them. That was six years ago this week, and I have no doubt that the decision I made then is a direct link to where I am today. The decision was a scary one, but one that has allowed me (forced me, at times) to grow and learn and experience life in ways I never dreamed possible.

Sometimes, I forget exactly why I closed the paper. A part of me was ashamed by my decision: I felt like a real let-down to many faithful subscribers. A part of me was relieved of not having to work round the clock and pretend like nasty comments from the public don’t sting a bit sometimes.

I was reminded this morning when I was scrolling through my Facebook memories exactly why I took that giant leap and how much support I received after taking it … and the adventures we’ve had since we’ve done it!

Some words of encouragement from 2010 when I published my last column announcing the closure of the paper:

“Wow Korina! I’m going to miss having you over there in the newspaper business. I admire you for knowing what God wants for you and the courage to follow through on it. … You will never regret spending time with your kids.” – Helen Barrett (Helen, I can never express how much our friendship has sustained me. I’m so thankful for Facebook for this reason!)

“Well *&^%! I know what you’re going through, and I am too back in school at the age of 39, but we’ll always be newspaper people, even if there comes a day when no one remembers what that means, God forbid. … Good luck girl, and keep your head up. When you give something all you have, as I know you did, you always have something to be proud of.” – Joe Gray (Joe, I don’t even know if you read my blog, but if you do, thanks so much for this note way back when. Yes, we will always be newspaper people, and you’re my favorite Joe in the newspaper biz. It was great working with you, and who knows, maybe we’ll enjoy a margarita again one day in the future!)

“Count me among the sad ones, Korina. You’ve made such a fine contribution to Oklahoma journalism. You and your newspaper will be sorely missed, especially by your community. But I’m proud of your courage in taking this next step in your life. Know that all of us are pulling for you and know you’ll succeed in whatever you set your mind to. Guess that’s a -30-.” – Gloria Trotter (Gloria, what a mentor you have been to me! I’m not sure you and Wayne realize what pillars you are in Oklahoma journalism, but I remember being a university student going to my first journalism conference, giddy about the possible opportunity to meet you, among so many others, who paved the way for me. I hope I can inspire half the journalists that you both have during your careers.)

“Boo Hoo! I’m one of those sad ones, but I am also excited for you and the endeavor the Lord has set before you. May you enjoy your time as a wife and mom … and then as a college student. Blessings Korina and GOOD LUCK!” – Michelle Webster (Thanks, Michelle, for your encouragement and your support then and now.)

A wife and a mom … and a college student. This sounds familiar. Maybe because 2015 was a repeat of 2010, which scared me to even think about this time last year. The year 2010 was a bit disastrous for me. Yes, I started graduate studies as planned, but I also got divorced and lost my dad very quickly to cancer. I became a single mom again. I went back into work full-time. My studies got put on the back burner. My life did a complete 180. So when I felt at the beginning of 2015 that I needed to be a mom and a college student and prepare to be a wife again, I was scared. I saw first what I consider “the defeat of 2010,” but then I saw what actually happened: I wasn’t defeated in 2010. I was propelled into a place that could only bring healing and new growth.

Can I say this all happened because I closed my newspaper? No. But that’s my restarting point, or at least that’s how I see it. Looking back, I can see how obeying this (weird) call to action has lent, and continues to lend, strength and knowledge to whatever lies ahead.

The year 2015 was certainly a year of (re)learning for me – (re)learning in the classroom, (re)learning about others, (re)learning acceptance, forgiveness, compatibility, cultural differences … and (re)learning about love. You’d think at 43 I’d know a lot about love already, but I’ve learned and (re)learned a lot about love this year. Crazy love!

I’ve learned it’s OK to love what you do as long as you love it for the right reasons. I’ve learned that loving isn’t easy, no matter what it is you’re loving. I’ve learned loving is easier when you can accept being loved.

Thank you all for loving us through this year and the four years since we embarked on this crazy adventure. We love you right back.

Here are some things I really LOVE about 2015 (click on the first photo to see cutlines and scroll through the photos):

WHAT’S AHEAD FOR 2016?

The year is already rolling! The girls started back to school Monday and will continue with homeschool cooperative and sports classes next week. The boys will continue their studies. William is a freshman at a bilingual Christian school, and Albert is a sophomore at a Thai school. Albert just started working at 7-11 and seems to be enjoying his new job (or at least the paycheck at the end of the month!). Joseph has informed me that he and Kelsi will get married. For now, mum’s the word. Details soon! They both just changed jobs and moved closer to Chicago. Joseph’s company has an office in Bangkok. Future visit? Hope so!

I start back to graduate studies classes Monday. I have three terms to complete, which should end in July, and then I will have one year to complete my thesis. Also, I will begin teaching English classes in February to the Royal Thai Navy. This opportunity is a huge blessing for us! The Thai Navy will provide us with a long-term work permit, health insurance and a small monthly salary. I won’t teach full time, but the hours I will teach will give me valuable classroom experience and a little cushion to our monthly support while allowing me to continue my graduate studies and youth work at Christ Church Bangkok. We will be teaching the youth about missions this year, so I believe we may have a few short-term mission trips in the upcoming months. I hope so! I have missed being on the field this year, so I’m looking forward to getting back out there.

Russ just signed a new three-year contract with his university, so we will be in Thailand at least another three years. This year will mark his 20th year in the country and his 17th year with the same university. I’m very proud of him. I won’t get all mushy in my newsletter, but he really is THAT guy I always knew existed and took almost half a lifetime to find. I hope one day you all get to meet him. He’s never been to America, so he has lots of (fairly reasonable) plans on how to make a good impression during his first go! (We’re stilling working on perfecting each other’s accents. It’s slow-going.)

I think that about catches us up! I apologize for my long absence. I hope you all are enjoying a fantastic new year and that 2016 brings you many blessings and MUCH LOVE!

Russ, Korina, Joseph, Kelsi, Albert, William, Jaynee, Justine, Shanti (Might as well include us all! Besides, I wanted to see if our names could take up an entire line. Close! I am blessed! Happy New Year!)

Home Sweet Home

famsm
Having all three of my children together and my soon-to-be-daughter-in-law was the highlight of my trip to America!

Greetings!

We are back home safe and sound after spending several weeks in America! Thank you so much to those who made our trip possible. I wish we could have thanked each of you in person, but we just were not able to get everywhere we wanted to go. We are so grateful, however, that we were able to see loved ones and friends, and we also made some new friends as well!

WHAT DID WE DO?

We spent most of our time in Arizona at my mother’s house. It was nice to catch up and RELAX. Admittedly (and a bit shamelessly), we spent a lot of time by the pool, and we consumed a little more Dr. Pepper and Fritos than most people should. We were also blessed to be able to buy some clothes and shoes that fit us! Shopping in Thailand is often frustrating for us humans with hobbit feet and waist sizes bigger than a Coke bottle. We had not bought new underwear in nearly three years! Maybe that is a little bit more information than you need to know, but it’s out there now. I’m not denying how happy I am about new underwear!

We also spent a few days in Missouri and Arkansas visiting Bub, a.k.a. Joseph, and his new fiancé Kelsi. I really love my soon-to-be-daughter-in-law, and I get emotional just thinking about FINALLY getting to meet her and hug my beast of a baby boy. We spent the day with them, along with my dad and step-mom and younger sister, at Silver Dollar City and then went back to my dad’s in Arkansas for a few days. I got to cook everyone chicken fried steak! We ate it with Heinz 57! We laughed a lot! These simple pleasures made me one happy mama.

While in Arkansas, the First United Methodist Church of Bella Vista welcomed us as guests. We prepared a simple Thai lunch one day and told members about our work in Thailand. What an honor to make new friends and be welcomed into such a wonderful community. The fellowship was awesome, and I already look forward to our next visit. We made some plans to connect our youth groups across the seas and to stay in touch this coming year. If you’d like to watch our presentation, click here.

WHAT’S NEXT?

We have been home a week today, and I feel we have finally won the war on jet lag. So, time to get running again!

My graduate studies started already this week. I am studying International Communications and Media Communications this term.

I also am on the planning board for our homeschool cooperative, so our committee is steadily working to get classes going by September 10. We had to change locations this term, and our small-ish group is growing into a fantastic big-ish group! While growth is an awesome thing, it also presents its fair share of challenges. Fortunately, I work with a brilliant set of parents who are great planners and teachers.

Next weekend, I’ll get started on my newest endeavor of working with youth ages 11 to 13 at Christ Church Bangkok. Working with youth has always been a pleasure of mine, and I’m excited to get a group of “my own” to help grow in love and service and leadership.

My YWAM Global Communications ministry will begin a global prayer initiative which commences on October 8. Prayer will take place on the second Thursday of each month with the first global topic focusing on Bible translation and distribution. We invite your prayer group or you as individuals to pray along whenever your schedules allow.

The girls’ new school term will begin next week, as soon as I get their schedules made up. I’m getting there! I’m sure they aren’t too sad about a slight delay. They also start sports again in two weeks as well as Thai language class.

So, in other words, vacation is over! But it was wonderful, and we owe a great debt of gratitude to many for making it possible.

I hope your summer went well and that you are blessed and rested as you enter this fall, whether that means school days or longer work days … or even peaceful retirement days!

Until next time, much love and many blessings from Thailand!

Korina, Jaynee, Justine

Delta’s Response

Following is the letter I received from Delta. It arrived in my e-mail inbox at 11:51 p.m. (Bangkok time) June 23.

Hello,

Thank you so much for reaching out to us about your daughters when they were traveling alone over the weekend. I am a Customer Solutions Specialist in our Corporate Offices and I’ve been asked to respond to you directly.

Your children’s safety – and your peace of mind – is very important to us. So I was concerned to know that their trip did not go as planned when they flew from Bangkok on Sunday. I understand that their tickets were purchased directly through China Southern and I’m really sorry you weren’t provided detailed information about our unaccompanied minor requirements before they arrived for their flight with Delta.

As a parent myself, I realize how upsetting it must have been that they had to be rebooked off the last flight of the night. But I was certainly glad to see that our supervisor at the airport ensured they were given meal vouchers, waived the unaccompanied minor fee and contacted their grandmother directly. Children are our most precious cargo and it’s important that every aspect of their journey is held to our highest standards.

I want to thank you again for taking the time to let us know what occurred. Your family’s business is important to us and we hope to welcome Jaynee and Justine on board again one day.

Sincerely,

Michelle Calderon
Customer Solutions Specialist, Corporate Customer Care
Delta Air Lines

MY RESPONSE:

Dear Michelle,

Thank you for your kind response. It seems heartfelt and is well written, but it really does not address the issues I had with this entire ordeal, which were Ryan Davis’ handling of my initial phone call and my girls being sent to stay in a hotel by themselves. If this is what Delta considers its highest standard in taking care of its “most precious cargo” then I have to wonder how Delta takes care of its less precious cargo.

I would like to say thank you for keeping my children safe, but I can’t because you didn’t. And I can’t say thank you for the apology from Ryan Davis in Delta’s Salt Lake City office because she didn’t give one.

What I can say is that I hope this experience leads Delta to update its Web site partnerships and guides company employees in how to care properly for children who do fly alone every day, whether Ryan Davis thinks it is a “smart” thing to do or not.

While the meal vouchers to McDonald’s were a nice gesture (to a situation that could have been avoided altogether), they could not have made up for the number of things that could have gone wrong with two young girls traveling to and from and staying alone in a hotel in Los Angeles.

What I hoped to see acknowledged was not the fact that they were fed and not forced to pay $150 out of their own pocket and allowed a phone call, but the fact that when they were turned away they were put into a more dangerous situation than just flying on the last available flight out, and that when I called for information about them, I was handed to an awful woman, Ryan Davis, who showed no empathy for a mother looking for her children across the world.

Apologies to customers for the issues at hand – not just the issues you would like to address – go a long way in ensuring future customers. Word travels quickly in this day and age, and Delta’s responsiveness and how it chooses to take responsibility during all types of crises serve as a witness to not just me but to thousands of others who have followed this entire event.

I am a simple person. I didn’t ask for money. I didn’t ask for free flights. I didn’t threaten to “lawyer up.” That’s not what I’m about. I am about betterment. I am about taking hard situations and creating change for the good of everyone. All I asked for was a show of honesty and integrity about the two issues I presented above – allowing my children to stay alone in Los Angeles and Ryan Davis’ pathetic customer service. I got neither.

In addition, it would have been nice to hear in your response to me that Delta is implementing ways and coordinating efforts to make changes happen with its Web site partnerships in order to prevent future mishaps such as these. If our experience can lead to that, then I can at least say a positive change resulted from it.

Although you may not be welcoming Jaynee and Justine on board again in the future, you will be welcoming me, as I booked my flight last month through China Southern and Delta to join my daughters soon in America. I have no doubt things will go smoothly.

Sincerely,

Korina Dove

For a recap of what transpired beforehand, click here.

A Loud … Boom! A Soft Blow

Teaching photography. First day of school. Volleyball.
Teaching photography. First day of school. Volleyball.

Greetings!

Wow. We want to send a huge THANK YOU to everyone who contributed, prayed and shared our posts to raise funds for a visit to America.

Today, I am within $850 of my goal! Jaynee has reached her goal! And Justine has enough to book a ticket! Hallelujah!

I was able to book two tickets for the girls this morning, so they are officially headed to America.

WHY JUST 2 TICKETS FOR THE GIRLS?

With every triumph, there seems to be a trial lurking in the shadows.

The university I am attending provides me with a study visa. In the past, the girls have been able to get visas under me as my dependents. So, Wednesday when we went to renew our visas, we expected to continue on as usual. Wrong. Universities have different rules. We were informed that the girls will need to apply for their own study visas by enrolling in a Thai language study school.

This was disheartening news, especially after we have worked so hard to raise the money to visit America. We will need to raise another $2,300 for the girls’ study visas and Thai language school tuition.

So instead of trying to raise that money before their visas expire on June 22, I decided to fly them out of the country on June 21. I will join them in Arizona on July 13 after my final exams, and we will stay in the U.S. until August 20. That will give us time to raise the money they need for visas and Thai language school, and we can apply for their new visas in the U.S.

Although this news was surely a wollop we did not expect, we are in our fourth year in Thailand, and the Lord has never left us hanging yet. We know He will provide.

OTHER THAN THAT, HOW ARE THINGS GOING?

Wow, are we busy.

I enjoyed some time off over Christmas, and I eased into my new ministry with YWAM Global Communications as we moved from the north of Thailand to the south. But break time is officially over!

  • I have been gathering news from various sources to re-launch YWAM Voices, my ministry project with the Global Communications team. We hope the first issue will be out in the next few weeks. Please pray for my team as they are gathering this week in Harpenden, England to refresh and renew connections and wait on the Lord for new inspiration regarding our mission around the globe. I was unable to attend this meeting, but I have the opportunity to Skype in on some conferences and hope to do that.
  • I started graduate school classes at Webster University-Bangkok. With this degree I am hoping to do a couple different things: 1. Teach journalism students at the university level. 2. Design a Field Journalism for Missions school in YWAM. I am in the very beginning stages of structuring a school based on Jesus’ principles of truth, justice and liberty.
  • I am writing a book! Finally. God put on my heart several years ago an idea for a book that is meant to speak to those who struggle with the shame of past choices. It centers around some of my own life experiences, my battle with severe anxiety and depression and the hope I found in Jesus the day I humbled myself and recommitted my life to Him. I try to write an hour a day. So far, so good. I’ll keep you up to date with my progress.
  • I am getting back into the classroom to teach youth ages 11—13 at Christ Church Bangkok. It’s been awhile since I’ve had any hands-on work, so I am super excited to begin discipling our leaders of tomorrow once again.
  • The girls continue their homeschool and sports activities. They study throughout the week and attend homeschool coop on Thursdays. They play flag football and volleyball four days a week.
  • Justine and I have been teaming up to teach photography lessons each Thursday at coop.
  • Next week (June 3), Justine will turn 12! Wish her a happy birthday if you can. We will visit a place called KidZania (kind of like the Leonardo’s of Bangkok) for her birthday, and she has requested pizza – specifically her very own pepperoni pizza that she doesn’t have to share with anyone – for dinner.

I think that about catches us up! I am really loving my classes at university and being surrounded once again by media people. This time around I have a different outlook on media, knowing how truth truly does impact the world, and I can’t wait to begin sharing that with future journalists.

FINISHING THE RACE

If you want to help Justine finalize her fundraising goal for her trip to America, you can view her “Let’s Go to America!” GoFundMe page at http://www.gofundme.com/justinesjourney.

If you want to help with our visa issues, we ask first that you pray. Thailand’s visa situation changes all the time and seems to be getting more and more difficult – and more expensive. But no amount of money and no issue is too big for God!

Thank you so much! We hope to see you soon.

Until then, much love and many blessings!

Korina, Jaynee, Justine

Down to the Nitty Gritty

Greetings!

Some of you are aware we are trying to make it back to the U.S. for a visit this summer. After serving 3 ½ years in Thailand and not seeing friends and family back home for more than two years, we would love to be able to make this trip!

The girls have been campaigning to raise funds and have reached more than half their goals. I was a little reluctant to let them fundraise on their own (and have received some criticism for it!), but overall, it’s been a great experience for them. They have seen God’s provision and felt the love of so many people who support and join us in our mission work.

We are making a huge push during the next two weeks to bring in the remaining $2,500 we need to make the journey home. As my Grandma Mabel would have said, “It’s getting down to the nitty gritty!” We need to book our tickets soon in order to buy them at an affordable price. We hope to visit from July 14 to August 18.

If you’re willing to help, just click the donate button at the right. If the link doesn’t work (I have trouble getting it to work in our newsletter updates), just go to www.jugglingfire.com for the same link that always works. You can help by sharing this post too!

You also can contribute by sending a check to our missions account at:

First Christian Church
Angel Fund – Korina Dove Missions
202 S. Kansas Ave.
Cherokee OK 73728

Or direct deposit to:

Korina Dove – Missions Account
c/o ACB Bank
P.O. Box 227
Cherokee OK 73728

If you want to help the girls finish their fundraising goals, please see their campaigns at:

Jaynee’s “Reunite Friends in America”: http://www.gofundme.com/reunitefriend

Justine’s “Let’s Go To America!”: http://www.gofundme.com/justinesjourney

There are so many ways you can help, and we appreciate every single one! Thanks so much for all your love and support!

Many hugs and lots of blessings!

Korina, Jaynee, Justine