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.

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.

The Well Moving to New Building

Update: We have decided not to sign a lease.  The building owner raised the original asking price, was only willing to commit to a 2-year contract, and became angry when we politely asked for consideration for part of the approximately $5,000 in improvements we were prepared to invest in the building.  We are very grateful to all who have prayed and given, but we believe God will provide an owner who is sympathetic and supportive of our ministry. We will continue looking for the better location that we believe God has prepared for us.

The Well has made a verbal agreement to rent a new five-story, 540 square meter building, not far from our current location. A formal two-year lease should be in place within a few days, with moving scheduled for the month of August.  Current plans involve vacating two buildings housing our work and daycare centers, and moving daycare and all temporary housing to our current Center 1. All offices, classrooms and work space will move to the new location.

These two buildings combined will provide about 40% more usable space than our current facilities, and by consolidating offices and classrooms will significantly improve efficiency.  Our monthly rent and utilities will increase by about $400 per month.

The new building is in move-in condition and will require minimal improvements for our purposes:

  • Two interior rooms will be added, most importantly a secure stock room for The Well Products
  • Work and meeting rooms on floors three to five will require additional surface-mounted wiring and sound dampening materials.
  • Eight air conditioning units will be moved from our current buildings at a cost of $100 each.

We are grateful to God for this opportunity that will allow us to seve more people with better quality. To contribute, go here.

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Are Thai Men Really No Good?

When we first began reaching out in red light areas, with our limited Thai, naturally we would ask basic questions such as, “How long have you worked here?” and “Why?” The length of time varied from days to years, but the reason was nearly always the same: “I want a Western husband.” Why a Western husband?

“Because Thai man no good.”

At first it seemed like a lame excuse. They must really be after money.

However after hearing enough stories, spending time in Bangkok and villages, and seeing the many hundreds of men’s entertainment venues throughout the city and suburbs, it became apparent that Thai women as a whole indeed have a problem.

Not that there aren’t some really good guys–there most certainly are, but far, far too many are blatantly unfaithful. And even though the culture has a long history of polygyny, we have yet to meet one woman who was ok with the idea of a two-timing husband.

The title of this song by a Thai pop group means “It’s time to listen,” and well depicts the cries of women that go unheard. Pray for them as you watch this, and for the guys to begin a full-time men’s leadership training program.

Top Issues on My Mind Lately

  • Reactive attachment disorder–how can we help girls who have been abandoned or abused be able to attach to loving caregivers? When they hit teen years they tend to put all their hope in romantic love, only to choose unhealthy guys and get burned. We’re seeing that happen to a 16 year-old we know right now.
  • Maternal attachment disorder–how can we help moms unable to bond with their kids? We’ve worked with some tough cases here, but have only seen success with one. All were themselves abandoned and/or abused by parents, so they’re really adults with reactive attachment disorder, and all dumped their own kids in order to be with a man. In the successful case, she found a good man who came to Jesus and has been very faithful, helping her towards the emotional safety needed for recovery.
  • How to develop a peer-based sobriety culture at The Well, that could help start an AA-like movement in Thailand. Not necessarily twelve steps, but possibly.
  • How best help bright, high-potential teens from broken backgrounds in a broken school system.  Read more about Thai education here.
  • How do we strike a balance at The Well and The Well Products between the hurting people we most want to reach and better functioning people who maybe don’t need our help so much but who add stability into the mix.
  • How to teach abstract thinking skills to adults who are smart and literate but have never read a real book or written a theme paper.

Any ideas?  Pick one and share your know-how or ideas.