We have had many epic moments recently: moments we have waited years for.
I can’t tell you all of them, really. For some I don’t feel the details or intricacies are mine to share, for some I don’t think it’s worthy of being public. Some I just want to hold closer, for them to be mine and not the world’s.
Writing here gets harder and harder, and I nearly quit so often these days. I am afraid of not representing my friends well, not representing myself well, not representing my faith or my beliefs well. The internet is just a messy place, and I’m not sure I want to be a part of it anymore.
But I also want to celebrate, because we don’t always have so much to celebrate. I also want to write, because while we live here without kids and without careers and often with more questions than answers, somehow year after year we still remain here: for the kids that we love like they are ours anyway, for the job skills we see our friends learning, for the aunties and brothers and sisters that we see floating on hope, for the answers we are finding in people and relationships.
So while I’m terrified to write, I also sometimes can’t seem not to. Here’s to a few thousand words.
Rewind to about three years ago, when I had the opportunity to take a sewing class. I had a Burmese friend that wanted to learn some sewing skills; we had another friend with a promised job if she could sew. I wanted to touch up skills I’d learned from mom & grandmother and attend the class as well, but we were left with one spot to spare.
Stephen & I had the idea of finding a woman in a challenging life situation, so that after the training she might be able to work in a sewing factory nearby. But as we prayed about who, our friend San Aye continually came to mind. For months on end, we felt like this was who God brought to mind.
At the time, it didn’t seem very logical. She was seven or eight months pregnant with her second child, and she’d have the baby in the middle of the training, requiring us to take a break in the middle for a short maternity leave. It was also unlikely she’d get a job at a local factory once the baby arrived. From our perspective, their family was also in a more stable financial position, and it seemed the training would be a better opportunity for a different family.
But alas, we couldn’t shake it. I went to ask if she’d like to do the training and she agreed. She had the baby halfway through, and a number of other family challenges came her way. By the end of the training, it was clear she needed steady work in a safe environment, and we were looking for how to make that happen. And as God so often does in our little neighborhood, things fell into place quickly: a local shop asked if we had any friends able to sew for a product they wanted to outsource, and we became that outsource. Within a month of the training, San Aye was sewing in our home a few days a week with her newborn beside her.
Fast forward to today, when she continues to sew two days a week with us, and also makes jewelry three days a week in our house, through our partnership with Sojourn Studios.
In many ways, we’ve known God orchestrated this from the beginning, as He has with each of our eight House Collective “employees.” It’s a random conglomerate, but we can see his orchestration of each one, and we’ve told them that. It doesn’t have to make sense; it’s obedience.
Last week, as we sat around a cup of tea with the jewelry ladies, we were discussing our greatest achievements: what accomplishment are we most proud of? San Aye shared that it is her ability to sew. She said as a child she always wanted to learn to sew and set it as a sort of goal in her life, and she’s proud that now she can.
I was a bit shocked, since I thought it was a more random skill. The training was offered, the job was needed…it all happened in such quick succession from my perspective. So I asked, What did you think when I showed up to your house asking if you wanted to do a sewing training?
She said she was “joyful,” but didn’t really know how to tell me how excited she was. She said my Burmese wasn’t as good then, so she just said yes, but really she was so excited. She’d previously tried a few days of training that were offered for free in the market—the top “students” were given jobs at factories, so it was sort of like an interview or exam to see who could pick up the skills fastest. But she wasn’t chosen, so she wasn’t sure how she’d learn.
While I’ve told her before why we asked her and a bit of our side of the story, I told her again. I told her how much God had told us over and over, and I just wasn’t sure why. But not only did He know the challenges she’d be facing in just a few months, he also knew her dreams, her goals. He knew her! He knows her.
And he loves her so much to tell us over and over, to create a training, to send a shop in town with a bag design and a job, to provide a sewing machine in our home. We’ve now moved through three or four other sewing projects. She’s learned to make beautiful porcelain jewelry. I can’t even really begin to share all the ways we’ve seen her personally thriving in the past two years. She’s meeting life goals and we’re witnessing it all right from our little house and over sweet cups of tea.
We’ve known Pyint Soe since he was nine, and he celebrated his 18th birthday this month. It felt so epic, and I’m unable capture quite why.
We have so many hopes for him, and we’ve invested so much of ourselves into him. Recently, we’ve had some hard conversations, we’ve asked big things. We feel such pride and concern and love for him, like he’s our little brother. And now he’s 18!
Stephen’s spent so many hours with Pyint Soe in recent years, and he’s learned so many things. We’ve been watching him learn so many unique skills: to type in Burmese, to use a Mac easily, to run Powerpoint for church, to run live sound for a variety of different events, to do the basics of sound editing, to speak and write English more fluently. This week we’re anxiously awaiting his exam results, praying he is able to enter grade 10 in June, praying he’ll be the first to graduate in his family.
The love I have for this young woman is scares me. She’s meant so much to me over the years, and she is one of God’s good gifts to me.
We sat over coffee recently and had my favorite conversation to date. It wasn’t easy by any stretch, but it was one of the most beautiful, epic moments in it’s own way.
I’m thanking God again for her, for our nine years here, and for the woman she’s become.
This young woman on the right turned seventeen this month, too—another epic moment! In some ways it was another day: we had a jewelry meeting that morning before she worked in the afternoon. We all slipped out for a special birthday lunch and snapped this photo.
But it was epic to me, because I realized just how much I love her and pray for her.
This is still the year of conversations; conversations we’ve been waiting years to have. Or friendships and relationships we’ve waited years to hold the stories and history and memories they do.
I can’t help but feel a sense arrival; some sort of peace. Our house is crazy folks, and so many days are just one jumble after another. But these friends we wanted to love so well; we were reaching to love them. And then we fell in love with them. They became family. We don’t have to reach anymore, but just be. It happened.
We’re watching the years go by together and having conversations wondering how this unlikely friendship became so normal for all of us. And there’s something very epic about that.