Selfies of Thailand

Selfies are often a sign of narcissism, I realize that, but in this case it’s a good way for you to meet my wonderful travel companions. I could not have had an easier group to be with had I hand picked them myself. Add to that the fact that intense conditions lend themselves nicely to deep conversations and quickly forged relationships. This type of intimacy with friends is difficult after marriage and kids and careers and responsibilities take over, so this trip was a chance to step into the beauty of vulnerability in a stripped down environment. Such a beautiful by-product of mission trips.

With Haley as we left the house for the airport. (Haley didn’t go, I just really like this picture.)


In the Tokyo airport with Courtney and Naomi. (Our experiences with Asian airports and flight crews were far superior to those with Americans. Why is kindness so difficult for us?)


Cruising down the Kok River with Sara. (Well mostly we cruised. Except when our driver stopped to fix the motor. Twice. No biggie.)


In the night bazaar with the whole group minus Karyssa: Courtney, Chuck, Sara, me, Naomi, Jan, and Shaana. (We’re lucky our suitcases closed after shopping here.)


Eating meat on a stick from a street vendor with Shaana. (The meat was mediocre. Shaana was quite lovely.)


Riding in the DR truck with Jan. (Not a terrible ride unless you’re bouncing around curves, over hills, and through potholes in the heat. Then you might start to consider vomit etiquette in foreign countries.)


With Karyssa en route from Chiang Rai to Bankok. (Thai people are generally much smaller than Americans and so are their airplane interiors. An hour with my knees pressed against the seat in front of me was plenty.)


With Courtney and Shaana on a curb outside a brothel district in Bankok. (Everything you’ve ever heard about middle-aged western men who travel east for “erotic entertainment” is true to the stereotype. Particularly hideous after meeting the beautiful girls in the DR rescue house.)


Side note since I mentioned the brothel district: Whether from the privacy of your home computer or in a local strip club or on a Vegas street or in a far-east brothel, the sex industry profits from destroying the vulnerable. Do not be deceived by the many who would argue otherwise. Or come see it for yourself like we did. Whatever it takes to make you sick.

Our days in Chiang Rai

I had fully intended to post each night in Thailand as there is much to tell. The Thai people are kind and lovely. The country is so beautiful and lush. And Destiny Rescue blew me away in spite of the significant challenges they’re facing.

Which is why I didn’t post each night. I was too busy taking it all in.

The general layout of our day was this:

1. Wake up in the team house and get ready.


2. Enjoy some breakfast, maybe some fruit you can’t pronounce but tastes good anyway.


3. Grab coffee in a bag at a nearby stand. I’m not a coffee/tea drinker but the partakers were emphatic about the “bliss” involved.



4. Haul yourself into the back of the DR truck and bounce to your destination.


5. Take obligatory selfies while bouncing along. (Stay tuned for the coming “Selfies of Thailand” post. Maybe I should make it into a calendar too.)


6. Enjoy the sights, sounds, and occasionally smells of Thailand.


7. Participate in morning activities. These were planned by DR for us and different every day. Unfortunately, in order to protect their safety and dignity, we could not take pictures of the precious girls at the rescue houses so I have none to share. Rest assured that we loved them dearly and would have forfeited all other experiences to spend every waking minute with them if possible. Pictured below is the clearing of debris we did outside the DR learning center in prep for useful outdoor space, crafting ornaments as taught by the girls in the DR production house, and having our hair cut/styled by girls in the DR salon.




8. Eat lunch at the DR rescue house. We shared in the food served to the girls as they came in between their classes. The dishes were delicious and honestly some of my favorite food from the trip.


9. Spend the afternoon doing activities similar to our morning. Below is a shot from our visit to the property of a DR prevention home, essentially a boarding school for hill tribe children that alleviates pressure from families that would be tempted to sell their children due to the extreme limitations of their circumstances. Hard for westerners to comprehend but sometimes cultural norms and dire poverty are simply a disastrous blend.


10. Eat dinner in the DR cafe. Like the jewelry production house and the salon, the cafe provides training and employment for some of the rescued girls. Each girl in the program has a unique plan, though the goal for all is independence with safe and profitable employment.


11. Walk to the night bazaar. Every night vendors would set up open air stands full of all kinds of interesting wares near a courtyard where you could also enjoy food and musical performances. Completely fascinating and so fun. We went a little nuts “stimulating the local economy” as we loaded up on gifts and souvenirs. “Cheaper than Walmart” was our playful mantra as we were amazed at the low prices.



12. Indulge in Thai foot massage. Between the long air travel and long hours on our feet, we were swollen and sore. This (carefully vetted) massage parlor was right next to the night bazaar and a regular stop almost every night. At roughly $6-7 for an hour-long massage, it was really a no-brainer and so wonderful.


13. Grab a roti for the road. This was a light pastry that was filled or covered with egg, jam, fruit, or chocolate, similarly to how one might eat crepes.


14. Hail a tuk tuk and head back to the team house. Tuk tuks are covered 3-wheeled motorbike taxis with a bench in the back for passengers. Slightly terrifying as red lights are optional and speed limits nonexistent, but since we survived I can say it was great fun.



15. Fall into bed happy and exhausted. I have no pictures of this as I slept hard almost every night.

This is a minimalist reporting job but rest assured, there is more to share. Such a rich experience.


So our team arrived in Chiang Rai this morning without complications…though simply enduring a grueling travel schedule of Fort Wayne to Chicago to Tokyo to Bankok (insert 4 hour night at a hotel) to Chiang Rai felt a bit complicated to a travel simpleton like myself. I felt wonderful this morning after getting a little rest but began a hard crash by 5 pm. We’ve had a long but great day getting oriented to Destiny Rescue staff and facilities. They also arranged for us to take a riverboat cruise up the Kok River to a Christian village that provides elephant rides.






Tomorrow we will spend the majority of our day at the rescue house in the learning center with teenage girls. We are in charge of some English and spiritual care lessons and would appreciate your prayers for clear communication and sensitivity to the needs of staff and residents. Much love to you all from Thailand!

Travel prep in ten easy steps

I am officially into the seven day countdown until my team leaves for a week in Thailand. I have traveled a little in the past but haven’t left the country in oh, I don’t know, 15+ years, and never to go to the opposite side of the globe. I tend to be a teensy bit stressed out when I travel, as evidence of my overall lack of control in this world tends to be magnified when airlines make promises they may or may not keep. I much prefer a road trip for this reason, but the team vetoed taking the ol’ Honda minivan to Southeast Asia, so off we’ll go to the airport with fingers crossed. I have prepared to the extent that I am able, but given the fore mentioned lack of experience, I would use caution with my travel tips. But inadequate as it is, here is my list:

1. Read. While documentaries have also been helpful, I love books and find my thinking challenged deeply by both fiction and nonfiction. I can’t imagine attempting to embrace the world without reading. Though Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof has impacted me most for this journey, my latest reads (not all entirely relevant to this trip) have been Overrated by Eugene Cho, Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, and Reading the Bible with the Damned by Bob Ekblad. And thanks to the wonders of technology, I have about a half dozen more books waiting on my electronic bookshelf to entertain me on my 15 hour Chicago to Tokyo flight. XOXO, my beloved Kindle app.

2. Shop at Target. This has become something of a problem because I live by the philosophy that if Target doesn’t sell it, I don’t need it…but usually they do sell it, so clearly I probably need it. Probably. My backpack for the plane is starting to feel like I’ve filled it with rocks so perhaps I’ve been mislead? No. No, absolutely not. Target only has my best interests at heart, I’m sure.

3. Get vaccinations. Because I hear typhoid is NOT something we should all try once. And I haven’t had a tetanus shot since I was in grade school so maybe it was time? I spent the two days following begging Brian just to saw my arm right off because apparently that shot hurts for a while afterward. Yes indeed.

4. Pray. Which sounds good, unless you stop asking God to bless you and start asking how you might glorify him. Apparently he sees that as a good opportunity to suggest crazy stuff like uprooting pride and relinquishing control. Which is about as much fun as a tetanus shot and takes a lot longer.

5. Get my passport. I did this several months ago but it bears mentioning because I did so with all three kids in tow. I was ninth on the list that day for processing in a facility with no public restroom. Children cried. One might have laid on the floor. I may have loudly voiced annoyance with people who show up without their paperwork completed. I despaired but having already tried unsuccessfully the previous day, I was not about to go for round three.

6. Bible study. I signed up for a timely study on the book of James at church, and he is kindly smacking me with his thoughts on trials, temptation, anger, and favoritism, just to name a few. Faith in action is not for the faint of heart. You might even end up having to get a tetanus shot which clearly requires a genuine commitment to the cause. Because did I mention that it hurts?

7. Meet with the team. I am blessed to be traveling with five women from our church that I already enjoy. We have met weekly to plan and learn what we can about Destiny Rescue, Thailand, and each other. Thumbs up on all counts.

8. Pack. We’ve been instructed to limit ourselves to a carry on suitcase and a backpack. Which is fine and not that difficult once I stop trying to plan for every possible scenario. Because apparently I can actually buy things there! What a novel idea. And if I forget, I can just look at the labels of many of the things I already own, those handy little “Made in Thailand” reminders.

9. Look at a map of Thailand. You would think this might have been step 1, but you would be wrong. This is what happens when someone else is entirely in charge of all travel arrangements…you let them. Easy peasy. But then I began to wonder why we had to fly instead of drive from Bankok to Chiang Rai, where we will spend the majority of our time. Turns out they’re on opposite sides of the country. Maps. So clever.

10. Grocery shop. Because my family would like to eat while I’m gone. To my shame, the unanimous request was for cereal. There are now eight, EIGHT, boxes of cereal in our house and I still felt the need to remind them to ration it. It’s like I’m living with four Jerry Seinfelds. (Hollah if you get that reference. My TV-watching prowess peaked in the 90’s so that’s as relevant as I get.)

Other than the teeth-chattering anxiety set to begin in 4-5 days, I’m ready to go. My plan is to post a few times while we’re there as we should have wifi at the team house where we’ll be staying. If not, I’ll just bore you with the details when I get back. Be excited.

Better than Gatorade

This past weekend I participated in Fort for Fitness, a collection of run/walk events here in town that allows participants to donate a portion of their entry fee to a selected charity. Runners from our church chose Destiny Rescue as the recipient so that we might “Race to Rescue”. While I have a long-held love/hate relationship with running (usually more hate than love), I can honestly say I loved this event.

True story.

As much as I valued running on behalf of DR, perhaps the most meaningful aspect of this race for me was the cheering of spectators all along the length of the course. For the entire 6 miles of my race, there were people smiling, encouraging, and high-fiving the runners. Some worked at stations to offer us drinks or even treats. Many sat on the front steps of their homes and urged us on as we passed. Children held signs and clapped. Chalk designs had been prepared on the pavement to enjoy as we ran. Musicians turned out to play on street corners. Over 1000 people formally volunteered. Craziness.

Now I have only run a handful of races, but it’s enough to know that encouragement, even from strangers, makes a substantial difference in my performance. When I entered the stadium at the final leg of the race to surround-sound noise from the stands, I was dumbfounded at the fresh energy I felt in my body. Long point made short: encouragers matter.

A lot.

That said, I am experiencing a similar wonder at the energy I feel from your encouragement as I prepare for this trip. I currently have 40% of my support raised and your prayers are readying the path. I am humbled by your emails, interest, and affirmation, as I’m reminded how beautifully dependent I am on others and on my Savior. It’s a good thing. I am so grateful. Please know how vital you are to me as you give and pray. It’s so much better than Gatorade.

Note: If you feel so led, please consider also supporting the work of Destiny Rescue. Go to for more information about sponsoring children, either in prevention for the vulnerable or restoration of the victims, along with many other projects in the works. This ministry works full-spectrum to fight trafficking and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to see it in action soon.

Just so you know…

Slavery is currently at an all time high in human history, with some estimates as high as 30 million. The UN’s International Labor Organization estimates that 21 million people are trafficked worldwide, about 20-25% for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Of those trafficked for sexual exploitation, 98% are women and children.

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” William Wilberforce


Our Thailand team has begun to meet weekly to prepare, but we are not all familiar with one another. In order to know one another better, our leader assigned the task of writing our testimony, not just about our come-to-Jesus moment, but about our current walk with Christ today. Mine looks different from what I would have written 10 years ago and 10 years from now I will likely shake my head at what I write today. I don’t generally quote Joyce Meyer but she nails my sentiment here: “I’m not where I need to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.” So for what it’s worth, here’s my story as it reads today:

My name is Amy, recovering legalist and wannabe storyteller. I was raised in a Mennonite faith community that cared deeply about love, peace, and social justice, believing each to be the very expression of Christ’s example. I chose to commit my life to Christ at a young age but set out striving for many years to become what I knew of Christian women, rather than openly seeking my unique identity in Christ. Due more to geography than to any intentional fault of their own, my faith community all looked the same: pale in skin color, plain in dress, industrious in nature. So instead of appreciating the Christ-like hearts of my elders, my childlike assumption was that true Christ followers all looked and behaved the same, because apparently they will know us by our love…and by our chaste, teetotaling ways. I devised my own checklist entitled How to Be a Christian in 569 Easy Steps…or something like that.

Hard work doth not a Christian make, but it did earn me two college degrees, a family, a home, and a savings account. By age 30, I had marked off my checklist, only to find that I had not arrived at a deep meaningful walk with Christ. I staggered under the weight of insignificance that comes from following insignificant rules aimed at insignificant goals. I looked good but didn’t feel good. I began reconsidering my purpose, my giftedness, and my goals. I questioned my worldview, the condition of the Church, the plight of humanity. I read books that suggested that perhaps western theology wasn’t 100% biblical, particularly that perhaps my own personal comfort was not exactly Christ’s purpose for dying. The gospel I had been telling did not translate to the world beyond my corner of my city. But if God is the one and only, the hope of the world, then his good news should be applicable to all mankind. Where had I missed a step…or 50? It was painful to open myself to the possibility that I might be wrong, but banging my head against the proverbial brick wall was only giving me a headache. I was unhappy with the god I had created in my own image and was hungry for the God who was the same no matter what my life looked like. Time to move on.

I was hearing more and more about the importance of story, as in the stories that lives individually and collectively were telling. I listened (not a skill I excel at) more carefully to the stories of others and began to wonder what my story indicated about the God I was supposed to be following. If I believed all that I claimed to believe about the promises of God and his plan for salvation, then how would I be living? Inconsistencies abounded. I appreciated the rich stories of people who continually based their decisions on the expectation that God would continue to be trustworthy as he always had been, even in the midst of doubt, hardship, and sacrifice. They had joy, deep joy that my pursuit of happiness could not achieve, and a faith that was real.

So gradually, in thankfulness for God’s grace as my capacity for change fluctuates by the minute, this is the story that I’m learning to tell and live and know from my deepest place: that God is faithful now. In the US. In Thailand. In fear and peace, sickness and health, comfort and discomfort. I don’t want to wait until heaven to know that God is everything He says he is. I can lean into him in the midst of my mess and trust that my story can seem so imperfect or unfair or hard but make perfect sense in the context of his story. Because ultimately that’s the one I want to be a part of.

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24b

Resurrection of the blog

In light of an upcoming trip I’m planning to take and my desire to include my supporters in the undertaking, I’ve decided to return to my blog, at least for a while. Below I’m copying my support request letter as it provides much of the background information regarding the trip. Stay tuned if you’d like to follow along at home.

Dear Family and Friends,

For the past several years, I have felt a growing desire to learn about and join the fight against the marginalization and abuse of women and girls, both locally and internationally. Growing up firmly convinced by family and friends that I was valued and loved simply because I was ME regardless of my gender (THANK YOU!!), it never occurred to me that my experience might be in any way unique.

But then I started reading: Women and girls being devalued. Undereducated. Deprived of healthcare. Bearing the brunt of poverty. Mutilated, starved, even murdered. And sold, generally for the one way they’re seen as useful: sex. In the US alone, human trafficking generates over $9 billion dollars annually. Two million children worldwide are bought and sold yearly for sexual servitude. Women and girls comprise 98% of those caught in sexual exploitation. And as a women’s health physical therapist, I see first hand the physical effects of sexual abuse; after all, 1 in 4 girls will be sexually assaulted by age 18.

Enough already. If I know better, then I guess I should do better, right? I started by donating money to organizations that promote the welfare of women and children, including microloans and sponsorship. I attended a few conferences and bought jewelry made by rescued victims of sex trafficking. I signed up to run a 10k on behalf of an anti-trafficking organization. I began volunteering with a local ministry that extends love and compassion to women working in the sex industry right here in Fort Wayne. And I kept reading.

Then several months ago our church, Emmanuel Community, began planning a second trip to Thailand in partnership with Destiny Rescue, an organization dedicated to rescuing children from human trafficking and sexual exploitation. They issued a call for volunteers to go for a week to learn about and assist in the work of the DR staff and to spend time with rescued girls as they are restored and empowered with education, vocational training, medical care, and counseling.

I said yes. Because that’s how this kind of thing always starts. I am regularly reminded that I am small with little to offer in the context of God’s greatness, but if Christ’s simple command to us was to love God and love others, then I can do that. I am hungry to witness and participate in the extension of Christ’s love and grace as it reaches far beyond the walls of our churches or the boundaries of our minds.

Will you join me?

My immediate needs are to fundraise the cost of this trip, approximately $2500, along with continual prayer for courage and willingness to participate in God’s work however it may happen. Please request a support form from me for details on how to pledge support. You can also visit to donate to the organization, sponsor a child, fund projects, and be informed. Thank you!



And then there were none…


10 years into this parenting gig, it was time. We bought the supplies, paid school registrations x3, and met their lovely teachers. We were ready and excited.

It only took two days before someone attempted scamming a sick day. Back-to-school excitement apparently has a shelf life.