As I was reflecting on 2019 at the start of the new year, I journaled some of my top 16 memories of 2019 (not in any particular order):
1. Creo Youth in Cambodia: Seeing the impact of the youth sharing testimonies, leading worship, and building friendships at a camp in Siem Reap. The response was that many young Cambodians took significant steps towards Jesus.
2. Kids working in Mexico: This is not what you may think. I was so thrilled to see our Tenth kids working with joy and intention as they participated in the ranch way of life which included la chamba (the work – literally means the trenches) at Rancho El Camino.
3. Mango Tree School: A miracle of provision for the Mango Tree students after a heartfelt prayer time with our Creo youth. Most of the kids are now incorporated into Glory International School.
4. Shalom Valley Camp: Grand opening of the Alongsiders camp in 2019 gave an opportunity for Tenth teams to experience 3 camps at Shalom Valley. Each camp was powerful and transformational – for Mango Tree students, for Precious Women staff, for Pastors and Leaders, and for Tenth visitors.
5. DOVE Succession: “This is one of the first successful successions of power that I have seen in Cambodia,” said one of our longest and dearest partners in Cambodia. Tenth was instrumental in finding an important role for Founder Seila as he passed on the baton of leadership to Sarady, a young, talented female leader.
6. Amez and Amria’s Expertise (not their real names): In 2019, Amez helped dozens and dozens of refugees seeking asylum seekers in Canada in very tangible and profound ways. Tenth has walked alongside this family since December 2017 when they entered Canada while Amira was very close to giving birth to their 3rd child.
7. Debbie Hawker as our new Director of Tenth Local: Since early 2019, Debbie has been managing Tenth Local with excellence. She has come such a long way from when she co-led a Justice Journey with me in 2007 and volunteered at Out of the Cold (now called Oasis).
8. Farzaneh at Soufra (not her real name): After showing the film Soufra after Evening service (an important film showing the barriers for refugees in developing entrepreneurial ventures), Farzaneh shared how she empowered women in Afghanistan just like in the film but fled just in time before the Taliban got to her and her family. She emphasized how Tenth has become her family.
9. Refugees in Lebanon: I was moved to tears as Inneke (my wife) and I observed a remarkable Christian woman teach Syrian kids in a makeshift refugee camp in Eastern Lebanon. She is a refugee herself, but was a school principal in Damascus, and pours her heart out every day in a dangerous setting.
10. Borders to Beginnings: Hearing stories of Tenth people welcoming new refugees in Canada couple with stories of refugees sharing hospitality back to us and others over tasty Middle Eastern Food.
11. Taste of Cambodia and Storm Makers: What a sobering but inspiring evening of hearing Cambodian stories of survival and faith in the context of human trafficking. Ratanak’s Brian McConaghy led the discussion after a Cambodian meal.
12. Weekend Away: Getting badly beat at pool and ping pong made the list. Several of our asylum-seeking families participated in our annual church camp and spending time with the men was fun, even though I often lost at some of the games.
13. Community Christmas Party: How special it was when some of the kids from our newcomer families expressed their excitement about hearing the Christmas story from our Refugee Champion Mim Wickett. The evening was simply delightful as joy and Christmas cheer filled the room.
14. Coffee in Beirut: The coffee might have been the strongest I ever had, but the fellowship may have been the sweetest. Sitting on the floor with a small group of Syrian refugees listening to incomprehensible stories of pain, perseverance, and new lives in Jesus.
15. Pastoral Visit in Malaga: After a vacation, I took advantage of the opportunity to visit our missionaries in Malaga, Spain, Deric and Amber Moen and their kids. They are involved in Christian community building in a post-Christian country.
16. Fair Trade Christmas Shopping: I am not a big fan of shopping, but I did enjoy meeting many women from exploited backgrounds who make exceptional Christmas items, which we sold at Fair Trade Christmas.
Thank you, Hannah Wong, Mim Wicket, the Missions Leadership Team, the Refugee Leadership Team, and all the Justice Journey team members who created such profound memories.
Most of these activities will be happening again in 2020. Will you be involved?
Why a list of 16? 1 Chronicles 16 (a few selected verses)
Short video clip below is from a Shalom Valley camp.