When She Can’t Say No to Drugs

I sat down with “Jang” today to let her know that she was out of work.
Jang, 43, is a yaba addict. Yaba, literally “crazy drug”, is a mix of mostly meth and caffeine that is pandemic in Southeast Asia, especially in the lower class. It is highly connected to risky behavior, including prostitution. It is relatively cheap, not as intense and harmful as homemade meth, but is still highly addictive, debilitating and potentially devastating. Jang has been incarcerated twice, for a total of 9 years.

Everyone likes Jang. She loves Jesus, is bright, gentle, good at making jewelry, and gets along with everyone. Sadly, it also means she hits it off with newcomers with a weakness for yaba. For the good of both Jang and others, we had to regrettably decide to ask her to step away and find a program for recovery.

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Yaba addiction is one of our biggest challenges.

We’ve worked with Jang for a long time, trying to help her through every means at our disposal to quit. She has made strides, then always relapsed. She tested positive to a surprise drug test last week, and we finally had to tell her that it isn’t working. The Well isn’t helping her, and she is hurting others.

Drug addiction, like all mental illness, is improperly stigmatized. No one grows up saying, “I want to be an addict.” Addiction preys on the hurt and vulnerable. A few years ago, when my mom was more mobile, she would visit women at her local county jail. About 90% of women with drug convictions, she said, reported having endured sexual abuse as children.

That of course is what makes this all so hard. Jang sat motionless, staring at me with wide, puppy-dog brown eyes. I wanted to reach across the table and hug her. Her eyes moistened, but she did not weep, nor did she protest. I asked her about her talk earlier today with a counselor. She said she talked about growing up unloved by her mother. Her father died when she was little.

People usually need healthy support systems in order to recover from years of addiction. That is our problem. There is a government drug clinic nearby which has limited counseling and groups, but there is no 12-step or other recovery network in Thailand. Churches, limited in number as they already are, rarely address it.

There is slow progress. We recently began a recovery unit as part of our program at The Well. Women who are unable to work due to trauma and addiction can receive holistic therapy. Our three newest ministry workers are former addicts, who just joined us in April but are already having a huge impact. Sorn and Gik, a husband-wife team, were heavyyaba users before meeting Jesus at The Well in 2008. Sii was a heroin addict, prostitute and sex trafficker before the Lord met her in Singapore years ago. We will be telling their amazing stories very soon.

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Recovery students working on an art exercise

However, we still are only able to provide a day program, and folks are still very subject to bad influences evenings and weekends. Our next goal is developing activities, such as Bible study, recovery support groups, music and recreation for folks during those hours. We hope to add Saturday and Sunday options very soon.

Please pray for Jang with us, that she will find God’s perfect plan for her. Pray for God’s victory against the overwhelming negative spiritual forces that dominate the Thai lower class. And please pray for God to continue to build and bring the leaders needed to form a healthy, supportive 24×7 community.

The Secret to Successful Ministry

Visitors to The Well often give compliments, such as “This is a tremendous ministry!” or “You’ve really accomplished a lot.”  We’re indeed grateful for “success stories” and a growing base of change-agent leaders, but we are also quick to point out that we take no credit. We’re just muddling along, really, and have only done one thing well: we haven’t quit.

img_1193Anyone in ministry among broken people (and since we’re all broken, that’s really all of us) knows how messy it is. We also know how completely incapable we can be. I asked God many times over the last nine years why He couldn’t have picked someone better to lead this thing. Packing up and leaving has indeed come to mind a few times.

We can only imagine the plethora of obstacles and discouragements over some years that prompted Paul to write to his Galatian friends, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

If we don’t give up. That’s the only ‘if’. For Paul the worst had to be not the beatings and jail (as if those weren’t so bad), but the unrelenting opposition from his own people. Imagine Paul’s chagrin each time he found a new synagogue, hoping, “Maybe this time,” only to be rebuffed once more. Then even when confident in his call to all nations, Paul found his own brothers wanting to squash that as well, prompting the Galatian letter. How many times do you think he asked, “Lord, what now?” And we all know that sometimes those “What now?” times can last a while.

The good news is that when we push through those times, however long we have to wait, we do find encouragement. In our case, runaway women came back, ready to change and grow. Some stuck in old habits finally began to break free. We saw children starting to grow up healthy. People unable to grasp the sin-grace dichotomy of salvation finally got it.

But more importantly, we have changed. Yes, we’ve made mistakes enough times to finally learn from them. We’ve also read books and received training on needed topics, from organizational management to brain science. But mostly we’ve learned to slow down, major on basics like praying and loving each other, and wait for God to do His work.

Many of you have stood by us since the beginning, giving faithfully to this work, trusting God along with us for an eventual great harvest. We are humbly grateful for your entrusting us with this ministry, and always do our best to spend wisely and carefully. We especially pray that our work can be an encouragement to you, that you will remain faithful and confident in His perfect plan for you and the work He has entrusted to you, in spite of obstacles and discouragements you face. Don’t quit. You will reap.

Signs of Spring

Happy springtime, friends!

Though I’m still getting reports of snow from Idaho, I have a suspicion many of you are enjoying signs of spring one way or another.  Perhaps not tulips or cherry blossoms, but we have our share of things budding here here in the village, both literally and figuratively.

The cliff notes: We just celebrated the end of the first full school year with our seven teen girls, wrapped up teaching at the local schools, welcomed a couple new adult (recovery) students into our midst, and are gearing up for the next school term beginning in May. Our house continues to be filled with happy sounds of teens and adults working on new leather and sewing projects, noisy ping pong games, guitar jam sessions and hyper neighbor kids.

Our team has been challenged to dream bigger than we had previously dared, specifically with the possibility of more teenagers interested in a residential program.  To that end, construction plans have been on hold as we wait for a land miracle, and we’re in a season of prayer about what’s next for the community, including prepping for even more of a houseful this next term.

More highlights from the last few months:

After a short break from rice season, we upped the ante a bit on the agricultural front. We rented a five rai piece of ground (about two acres) and made it a “family” project to plant sugarcane. (Two acres may not sound like much until you realize everything is done by hand!)  We earned the pity of the neighbors as they watched our ragtag crew try our hand at cutting sugarcane and going through the planting, fertilizing and irrigating process; most of the neighbors ended up pitching in to help us make it through. We’re now praying circles around this little plot of ground, believing it will provide ongoing lessons for the girls and others in the family of the value of laboring, sowing, praying, waiting and reaping. The goal is to direct any profit from this ground to a scholarship fund for the teens.

P.S. A special thanks to Courtney McCrea and Becca Sack for pitching in at the schools and in the sugarcane field during their visit!

The first rounds of career training seminars were completed over the last couple months. We started with weaving sticky rice baskets and bamboo fans – a skill that can be put to use immediately for personal use or for sale in the village. It’s also a skill that can be applied to making the tote bags and woven leather purses that will be marketed through Step Ahead’s “Itsera” brand. The next round of trainings will take place later this spring at which point we hope to move to real production.

On a parallel track, a few local teens and young adults in our community are diving into some entrepreneurial leather-working and metal-working projects which will largely be marketed through The Well/Narimon. We’re helping with some start-up materials and training, but they’re going to be teaching us before too long.

You might be wondering where all these teens are coming from. The majority come from situations where they didn’t dare dream about finishing school, be it due to family or financial pressures to drop out early. Now, our current seven have started laying down their “big dreams” – ranging from studying in America, to finding strong husbands, to someday having a house for their family.

Seeing their dreams grow is one of my favorite parts of our world here. And it’s addictive; we want to see it happen for all teens that come across our path. Realizing we can’t take in every teen (or we’d need to re-think our building plans!), we’re investing more time in building capacity to mentor teens that we meet through our times teaching at the local schools or other at-risk kids referred to us by neighbors and community leaders. There’s a huge need for more positive mentors and role models, and we’re praying more are being built up now.

Many of you are already an integral part of this unfolding story through your prayer and financial partnership. However, with these growing dreams comes the need for more miracles.

Would you consider being a part of the next miracles God has in store for this Khon Kaen community, either through additional prayer or financial partnership?

Jub and I will be making a trip to DC April 24 – May 6 to share more of the story of what God has been doing in this community, and asking for financial partnership as well. Let me know if you have time for a visit and we’ll start filling in the calendar! Also, if you’re interested in giving early, shoot me an email, or you can give through Servantworks (directed to The Well “Village Fund”).

As always, thank you for your friendship and partnership!

Much love,

Cori and the Isaan team

New Faces at Servantworks and Narimon

There are some new faces at Servantworks and Narimon these days!After their early partnering with Jim and Judy Larson in the formation of Servantworks and Narimon, Matt and Heather Hook served on the leadership team of both entities for many years. Now they have taken a step back for a time to re-stoke the family and career fires. Mere words are inadequate to express the gratitude that is appropriately extended to the Hooks for their zeal and dedication over the past eight years.

I am pleased to announce that Cathy Dean has joined the Servantworks family as General Manager! Cathy comes to us from a back ground in automotive finance where she served as the Business Development Manager for Ford Motor Credit. Following her work with FMCC, Cathy served as Single Family Programs Manager for a non-profit known as the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation.

Cathy makes her home in Yorkville, IL with husband, Leon. She and Leon have one son, Adam and two grandchildren, Kaylee 7 and Logan 4. Originally hailing from the Pittsburgh area, she and Leon have lived in the Yorkville area for over seven years and attend the First Presbyterian Church in Aurora.

Speaking of new faces, Tom Voigt and I joined the Servantworks board back in January of 2012 at the invitation of Matt Hook. We have learned a great deal during the intervening months and we both appreciate your patience and continued support extended during a time of transition. Tom is an assistant professor at Judson University in Elgin, IL and the head of the Marketing program. He and his wife Susan reside in Aurora, IL. They have been blessed with four grown children and four grandchildren.

I have served Cup of Cold Water Ministries, Jim and Judy Larson’s first mission sending group, for the past twenty-three years and am currently the president of that board. I recently retired from State Farm Insurance after a twenty-four year career. My wife, Joanne and I live in Morris, IL and we have two grown children and two grandchildren. The Servantworks board recently elected me as their president.

Tom, Cathy and I join current board members, Anna Hammond (Larson), Aurora, IL, Michaela Tomsen, Wichita, KS, and Kevin Kane, St. Petersburg, FL. As we work to rekindle and enhance relationships with you all, I pray you will join us in expanding the support role that we all play in serving the workers who have sacrificed much to represent us on the front lines in Thailand. The work to free those enslaved by the sex trade of Thailand must go on; impacting one precious soul at a time….to His glory!

Thank you for your support of Servantworks, Narimon and The Well. Your continued support is vital!

In His service,

Glenn Harms

Introducing Cycle Breakers

Here’s a short video intro to our new program in Northeast Thailand. Four workers from The Well have moved to the Khon Khen province and are serving well over 60 children per week in supplemental education programs. Additionally they teach values and English in local schools, and are in regular discussion with community and school leaders about how to reverse destructive patterns in families.

Search for New Location Continues

Recently we reported that The Well had entered into a verbal agreement to rent a facility that would increase our usable space by 40%, and allow better efficiency by putting more activities under one roof.  Currently we are spread between three locations about 200 meters apart.

We regret to report that we have had to end negotiations with the owner when it became obvious that the other party was unwilling to bend.

We first saw a problem when the owner increased the original rent by 5,000 Thai baht per month (about $160) because we were going to be cooking and using small gas torches for metalworking. We knew that no fire insurance policy, especially for a completely concrete building, could cost that much. Then we discovered that the owner expected us to pay the 12.5% tax on rent, adding an average of over 6,000 THB to the price. Finally, when we asked for consideration for the $5,000 or so that we planned to invest in improvements to the building, most that would add energy efficiency and value to the building, the owner became very angry, despite the fact that she was willing to only grant a two-year contract. At that point we had no doubt that the Lord was telling us to back out.

This was a beautiful space, the best we have ever looked at in several years of searching for a new location. It is obviously disappointing to let it go, but we do so knowing that when God closes a door, it usually means He is about to open a better one.