When “Sundays at 10 AM” doesn’t work.

The beginning vision of The Well was to reach many, starting with women at risk. We remembered Jesus’ words that the Kingdom of God is like yeast in dough, small but with incredible transformative potential. Disciples of Jesus come together to serve in ways that ultimately change societies, so we knew starting churches was a goal.

We started small gatherings immediately, but these groups weren’t impactful. Thai poverty culture strongly discourages people from going against the crowd; an underestimated obstacle. New believers who visited old friends relapsed into unhealthy activities. We once took a couple former bar girls on outreach, and I watched approvingly from a distance as one talked at length to a mamasan, thinking they were discussing her new life in Christ. Later she confessed she was asking about working there.

We were discouraged, but felt the Lord say to stay faithful. Yeast takes time. Practical challenges also forced us to seek creative answers over the years …

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Becoming the Moms We’re Called to Be

We believe in whole families here at The Well. Over the last six months, we’ve been doing some serious work on parenting education and support. We have classes for groups of mothers and one-on-one coaching. I’ve heard wonderful stories, but even with this focused approach, I still hear discouraging reports. A staff member pulled me aside to tell me of a mom hitting her 4-year-old. Another woman told me she hits her child with a hanger because he will only obey if he is afraid.

Improper parenting does not seem natural to me. None of us are born perfect parents, of course, but I believe people learn neglect and abuse from the generations before them. In parent education, we contend with automatic responses that come from memories of abuse and neglect. We invite women to end generational patterns, which isn’t something they can do quickly or easily. Our goal is to help them do very difficult work.

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A Day in the Life of a Mom at The Well

The typical “human trafficking” tale is simple: a villain lures a girl with promises of a good job, but she ends up trapped and sold. We’ve all heard some version of that story – but we’ve never heard it from a woman at The Well.

The real-life stories are never simple. Instead of being tricked by a trafficker, girls meet tricksters like peer pressure, teenage romance, or illicit drugs. They’re often trapped by abuse, economic hardship, or a mental illness.

Most women at The Well are young single moms who ended up working “at night” to support their kids. These women are a key reason we focus on holistic family recovery, from keeping nursing babies next to mom to offering parenting classes and support.

We want you to understand what we do and why, but we also want to keep women’s’ stories private. This essay is a fictionalized day in the life of a young mother who is new to The Well.

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Your Brain on Trauma

A few months ago, a pickup truck turned in front of a motor scooter just 50 feet ahead of me on my own bike. The rider braked but slammed into the truck at maybe 5 to 10 miles an hour. He appeared a bit dazed but stayed on his feet, bystanders quickly coming to help.

Afterwards I noted that while it was only a minor accident, a picture was now indelibly painted into my memory: the rider, wearing a lime-green shirt, arms flying up to catch the impact, slamming into the white truck. Twenty years from now I will most likely not remember typing this article, but I will retain that image.

Recently I asked “Nan”, 25 and with a left forearm completely scarred from years of self-cutting, what some of her worst memories were. Nan had started out very guarded and to some, threatening: her income sources had been drug dealing and pimping other girls. But having spent a few years working to slowly earn Nan’s trust, I knew I could ask. “So many!” she exclaimed.

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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.