here in Akron.

may 31st was my last post. a whole two months ago, almost to the day. both my blogs were somewhat set on the back burner since i got home from cambodia. i promised myself i wouldn’t slack but well, here we are.

the last two months have been a whirl wind. i don’t know what sides up and what sides down anymore. a million things have happened that i’ve wanted to share on here…and as much as i want to write about Lollapalooza this weekend and rant about the cool bands of boys with cool hair…i’ll save that for another post.

within my first couple days home from cambodia i got to experience a miracle. an absolute mind blowing, make you cry like a baby and throw your hands up, miracle (which you better believe i actually did). i didn’t see a baby saved from a fire or an elephant get a prosthetic leg (google it, it’s real), but i did see…this.

i think the saying is “a painting is worth a thousand words” but this photo ^^^^ is worth about 10,000.

no, i won’t write 10,000 words. but i could. honestly. about that girl in yellow.

let me back track….to make a long story short. my freshmen year of college i volunteered at a ministry in downtown Akron called Urban Vision. it’s a ministry devoted to a neighborhood outside of Akron called North Hill. it’s an after school program and so many more things. i could go on about them as well but you just need to know- the’re awesome, they help really cool kids, and love jesus a lot.

carrying on. my first year in college i wanted to be a teacher, so when the opportunity came up while at Urban Vision to teach science, i jumped on it. well about 3 months later i realized i actually hated teaching. i found myself coming back to Urban Vision day after day, just because i loved being with these kids. about half or more of the kids who attend UV are Karen, aka asian, and we all know how i feel about cute little asians. the more time i spent with them, the more i realized that i really just loved the relational part of interacting with the kids. i wanted to talk with them, hang out with them, take them on fun outings, etc. so, that’s exactly what i did.

i started taking out a group of 5 girls. ahem, pictured here in 2008, which seems like a decade ago because they are so darn tiny!!

and here’s them last month. too cute.

my goal in taking the girls out was to give them experiences they wouldn’t have other wise. [shout out to papa stouff and mama stouff for funding every single ice cream cone, bowling ball, pink frilly dress, and tea party that i got to have with these sweet girls. my parents are the bomb. enough said] oh and, side note, these kids are refugees. this kinda makes everything change. the Karen people that are living in Akron are refugees from Burma who have fled their country because of unrest, political uprising, and oppression. so basically, they left to save their own lives. once they cross the border they are placed in to Thai refugee camps, where most of “my girls”, as i like to call them, were born. they were all brought here at different times, knowing no english, not knowing a soul. i could talk about these little girls and their amazing families for hours. they are sweet, and wonderful, and precious, and caring, light hearted, beautiful, and i guarantee they have seen and heard and been through more than anyone you know. they are amazing, and they will humble you to the core.

the youngest was in kindergarden at the time. all this to say, they were really young, easy to entertain, and the best part…they love you and think you’re cool no matter what. so you can imagine that i was a little taken back when April, an older sister of Paw Lah (one of my girls) and who was 14 at the time, showed up at my car to come hang out for the day. i won’t lie to you…i was a little annoyed. i did have an extra seat in my car…but the girls hadn’t told me before hand…and it’s one more mouth to feed….and *insert every selfish reason here*

i think i had been hesitant to let April come along that day because i was intimidated. i get intimated by older girls, and just teenagers in general. ministry isn’t easy with them. they have adult issues and well…you have to make more effort to make them like you! i guess you could say i was afraid of feeling like i had failed at ministry if she didn’t respond to me well. little did i know, right?

all that to say, April came with the girls and i that day. that night i got to sit with April and just listen. listen to her talk about her life, her family, her past, her people, her struggles. i learned that April had come to the US when she was 14 years old, in the 8th grade. she was put into Akron Public Schools, not knowing any english, or much less what was going on around her in this strange new inner-city school. she came from a small bible school in the middle of a Thai refugee camp, so to say she had a bit of “culture shock” was laughable.

now fast forward 4 years. i’ve had the privilege of mentoring April and getting to know her and her family well. she is the definition of “beating the statistic”. starting at square one, she worked harder than any one i know, staying up all night, going to english tutoring, never being afraid to ask for help, and mastering a language long after you should be able to.

so back to the picture. here is April. graduating from high school. and not only that but with honors and receiving one of the few scholarships they give away to graduating seniors. not to mention getting a 4.0 her first semester senior year. this year April wrote a short autobiography which I’ll attach to this post. Part of it read this…

“Our family lived very primitively in a small bamboo house with no electricity or heat. Everything we cooked was over an open fire. We had no furniture, bathroom, or even tissues. Most importantly, we had no freedom.”

Imagine this 12 year old girl living in a bamboo hut, and now here she is. graduating from high school, and attending her first college course in less than a month. i’ll leave you with one of my favorite details of April’s story and a quote from her autobiography.

“I had always dreamt of coming to America, but my parents did not want to leave Maela [refugee camp] because they feared beginning a new life in a foreign country. I prayed for a long time and kept talking to my parents about the freedom and education we could have in America. Finally, their hearts changed. I remember dancing around the room the day we learned we would make this amazing journey in our new life.”

she danced around the room. if you knew April, you would know this is so typical. she is so full of spirit and life and joy. and i feel like the luckiest person in the world that i got to be part of her story.

so here is the miracle. right here in Akron. and the miracle isn’t that she did well in school (which she did) or that she has a bright future (which she does), but the miracle is that God orchestrated every minute of her life since she was born. the miracle is that this girl wants to become a nurse with her college degree and go BACK to the refugee camp where she came from and help the refugees that still live there. the miracle is that God allowed me to even have a minute in her life and experience the goodness of grace and love and humility.

now just wait until this bunch below graduates. maybe that’s when i’ll write my 10,000 words.

One comment

  1. jolie · July 31, 2012

    so. awesome.