What has been up at House of Love and House of Blessing?
Due to Covid-19 surges the majority of the Thai schools have stayed closed for in-person meeting most of this past school year and have switched to online or remote learning. This has been a very challenging time with all the different ages, grade levels and schools the children at HoL attend. We are so thankful for the amazing staff at HoL and HoB who diligently serve day-in and day-out and who have had to really adjust their job focuses in order to accommodate remote learning at the HoL. They have really risen to the occasion and God has given them strength and creativity to meet the needs of each individual child. In addition to the HoL staff making adjustments, the HOB Preschool has been unable to open since June due to government regulated Covid restrictions. The amazing teachers are weekly going to the low-income communities where the preschool children live to check up on them, speak with the family, bring food monthly, teach mini-lessons, and check on the students’ progress of their independent work. We are in challenging times here and we thank God for His faithfulness to open doors and creative avenues to grow, these ministries and forge deeper connections with the local communities.
The past few months have seen a growth of small project focuses at the House of Love. With the kids being present at the home 24/7 there has been an opportunity to teach them some practical skills like raising freshwater crabs to eat/sell, planting peppers and other small crops, designing a fish cage and beginning a rapidly growing fish farm in the backyard pond, and there is also talk of purchasing a couple of young pigs for some of the older kids to raise. Of course every year brings an opportunity to plant and harvest rice, which the children seem to learn about and enjoy – it might have something to do with playing in the mud!
There has also been a refocus on a few of the staff members roles to be more intentional about meeting the needs of the college students. It has been a challenging year for our college students as well. Many of them find themselves in a small apartment with not much socialization. Our newly formed College Care Team is meeting weekly to discuss the needs of the older students, and are currently learning about and focusing on life-skill assessments to ensure that each of our older kids are feeling prepared and are ready for independent living upon completion of their education. This is an area that the staff feels is important to have a more intentional focus on and we are in the process of developing and expanding this area of ministry.
Christmas looked a little different this year at the House of Love. We generally have a Christmas Party at which we invite our college students and any other local graduates of the program to come back and celebrate with us and the children still living on campus. Unfortunately, COVID restrictions did not allow us to have large groups, so we had to split into two parties. We are so thankful for the generousity which allowed us to have two parties! Additionally, this was a great opportunity for the college students especially to relax a little as many expressed stress and frustration with online learning as schools continue to be closed.
Our family is finding our groove and settling into a routine in Thailand.
We are currently back in the US for a couple of months so we can change our Visa. But in the months before we left, we were really starting to connect and find our place in Thailand. Alise and the kids continued to homeschool and study Thai. The kids have an amazing teacher who came to our house weekly to teach the kids Thai through games and crafts. The kids often used those same games to play with the kids at the House of Love. Alise continues to study Thai one-on-one with a private tutor and has been making great strides forward in her language. She is also part of the College Care Team and has been enjoying connecting with the staff members at HoL as well as with some of the college students who have come to our house several times and are beginning to form a bond and relationship with us. Our family has really enjoyed getting to know them more. Mark has also been connecting with and having encouraging conversations with the HoL/HoB staff. They seem to be growing in their understanding of each other and working on movement forwards in developing projects, policies, and programs as God opens the doors for more opportunities. As a family we still enjoying new experiences like tasting different foods (we recently tried Akha food for the first time; it was spicy, but delicious), Bible study and house church with our neighbors, harvesting rice, and learning how to cook Thai dishes. While some days are challenging we are so thankful for the ups and downs in Thailand.
As always we are so thankful for the love, kindness, prayer and support you provide through your partnership with us. Thank you for walking this journey with us and impacting these beautiful lives through House of Love and House of Blessing ministries.
Alise & Mark Juanes