Wednesday, December 2, 2015


I've been angry these days. Bitter and hardened. Quick to anger, quick to question, quick to doubt. Too quick to judge, not ready to listen. I am incredibly snappy and I'm quite certain my face is set in a perpetual frown.

And so I've tried to take a step back, take some deep breaths, slow down. Why am I so full of hate? Why is anger what is flowing out?

I think there are a lot of answers to these questions. I am selfish and sinful. I brood over my hateful thoughts and selfish desires. I'm not so good at choosing to think on what is true, good, right, and noble. That muscle needs far more development in my life.

And then I think that, I'm just a bit disheartened. Okay- a lot. So much that the tears stream down my face just to say it.

The thing is, friends, I'm surrounded by death. Not the literal death (but sometimes that too) but Death. You may believe in the devil and you may not. But I see him every day.

He's at work- spreading hatred and fear, discord and violence.
I listen to these stories and I wonder how it is possible for a human to do these kinds of things to another human. Kids chained up like dogs, sold for their body parts, mother's raped before their eyes. Then I wonder about my own humanity, when I actually have to actively remind myself to acknowledge this pain, this evil, so I mutter, "I'm sorry" and then get back to business- I've got quotas to make and deadlines to meet people!

I sit in my office trying desperately to catch up- so of course there's a steady stream of kids coming in. They come. They complain. They cry. They question.

And I just want to shout from the rooftop- "yes! everything sucks for you! And NO, it is not going to get better! And yes, everything that has happened to you is so bad and it isn't fair. And No, I can't do anything to help you!"

Don't you get it, you silly 15 year old, we are all losing this battle. You experienced hell and you ran away. And now you're here in this other hell. And I am so sad for you, and I am keeping notes on all the messed up stuff that is happening to you, but I can't actually do anything about it.

And- really- I'm just not as strong as them. I'm so privileged. I'm so spoiled. Because I can't help but think- this is not my problem- I can walk away. On the bad days I dream of just walking away from it all. Pretending it's not happening. As if these atrocities and injustices would no longer exist if I didn't have a desk in a certain neighborhood. I don't want to care about these things anymore. I am numb. I am raw.

And don't even get me started on the Syrian crisis. On the boats in Lesvos. On the American christian response. The hate rises up in me and is spilling over- I'm so burdened, so sad, so ashamed. Oh yes, Death is everywhere, and he often seems victorious to me.

I was looking out the bus window earlier this week. You have to understand my views- Bangkok is ugly- a serious concrete jungle. Pollution of every kind- air, noise, odor. The bus stopped to let some passengers on and I caught sight of a small bush growing in a crack in the sidewalk. In the middle of the bush was a big, bright, beautiful butterfly. Just sitting there- slowly moving it's wings up and down.
For some reason it struck me so deeply, this living thing amongst all of these "dead" things, this beautiful thing amidst all of the ugliness. My heart quickened and tears filled my eyes- something beautiful, so very small that on most days I would have missed it.

I got to my office and started putting together an excel sheet of all the kids who would like to access family tracing services- who have lost contact with their mothers or fathers. Who literally have no idea where they are and if they're alive. A little hard to imagine in this day and age.

For a few minutes I felt so overwhelmed by the bleakness of it all.

But then I thought of that butterfly. One very small beautiful, living thing amidst the ugly and the dead.

Yeah, I see Death every day. But I see Life too.

Sometimes it is so easy to find- in the smiles through the tears, in the insane perseverance of these kids, in the way they serve each other. In their dreams to be doctors, their plans for their children, their grace towards their oppressors.

What I'm paid to do is produce a certain amount of certain assessments, make referrals and run programs. None of that hardly matters. What I'm not paid to do, what I do that can't be assessed or measured or known is to find Life.

So I'm purposefully looking for it these days. I carry with me close to 300 tragic stories from the last year and a half. Close to 300 have come through my office door, have shaken my hand, have told me their tale. It is easy to carry all of the despair and Death from all of those with me, to let that be the center of my thoughts, to feel beaten and worn down, angry and broken, so sad sad sad sad. But if I look closely, when I remember fully- I can catch a glimpse or two of Life. A little bit of hope, a little bit of beauty. If I let him, God can use me to create these moments. But I don't think he can use me when I'm so full of anger, so full of hate-when I forget that he is the victorious one in all of this.

As I'm writing this blog, I keep thinking about this certain client. She had the most messed up story-you wouldn't believe it if you heard and, trust me, you wouldn't want to hear. There were all of these things that she needed- tons of health treatments, psychological treatments, etc, etc. But all that she wanted was a gas cooker so she could cook her own food. At first, I was often irritated with her. I would call to discuss test results, doctor appointments,etc and she would be always be like, "ya, ya, ya- what about my gas cooker?!". Even when she finally got recognized, I called to congratulate her and her response was, "get me a gas cooker yet?". One day, finally, we got the money to buy her a gas cooker. We took it to her and she was ecstatic. The next time I was in her neighborhood she had me over for lunch, cooked me some traditional food. We laughed and laughed about the gas cooker.

It's always so amazing to me the things that can make a person feel human again. The things, however silly or simple or ordinary they seem, that can offer hope. Sometimes it's a gas cooker. Sometimes it's remembering their name. Sometimes it's calling them on the anniversary of a hard day and letting them know you remembered. Sometimes it's playing a game, or buying a coke. Sometimes it's a smile.

There's so very much that I can't do. But every once in awhile I can buy a gas cooker. Gas cookers and butterflies- that's what I'm fixing my thoughts on these days, that's what I'm holding tightly too.


  1. Keep your head up, Coop. Don't ever forget how you inspire so many with your work and your heart.

  2. A, you're such an inspiration. Your courage and willingness to do what you do means so much to so many people. I can relate to what you're experiencing and feeling.

    I teach Spanish in a high school that is tremendously affected by poverty. There are times when the effects of poverty on the kids I teach cause them to behave in ways that make it almost unbearable to continue. I feel like you - angry and sometimes want to go where life is (seemingly) easier and more comfortable. But, God always brings me back to the calling that he's given me to be where I am. Truthfully, I wouldn't have it any other way.

    I see how God is using me to help others in the small way that I can. What's more is that I see how he is using the lives of the amazing students that I teach, in spite of their incredibly tough lives and baggage that they have, to in turn help me. Also, as I work with others who are in the mix, I have learned how to deal with these situations much better than when I first started.

    Here are a couple of songs that have helped me tremendously. One is by Gungor called, "Beautiful Things." The other is called, "Open Up" done by The Brilliance. You may have already heard of them, but in case you haven't I wanted to pass them along to you.

    All the best,