Grace in the gaps

3 Stories


“We value time with youth over time at the office.” 

This value is ingrained within PYF culture.  We say it often, and do our best to live it out.  Office time is important, but in so far as it leads to meaningful relationships with youth.  But I have to confess, sometimes I value office work over relationships.  



Project planning, weekly meetings, emails, brainstorming.  These feel safe, with progress that is easier to measure.  I am confident in what I am supposed to do.  Relationships, especially with displaced youth from a culture not my own, aren’t as clear cut.  Sure, there are general principles that help, such as love as Christ loves.  But when someone calls me late at night because he was kicked out of his third apartment this year, what does love require of me?  I pray. I seek wise counsel.  I push against the self-centered part of me that wants to hide or feign ignorance.   I do my best to trust that when I don’t know the “best” thing to do, God’s grace fills in the gaps. 

Emails may be boring, but they are easier than this!  So why do it?  Transformation happens within relationships.  Obvious, but difficult. I am challenged to trust that something significant is happening in the midst of our relationships.  When I see it, I do something to make it memorable; a mental flag to look back on when the path to their transformation feels muddy, messy, and mysterious.  So with this update I hope to do that, given that the past couple of months I’ve been blessed to see glimmers of this transformation.  (As always, names will be changed for privacy and safety)   


I met Gai at PYFs annual youth camp in 2019.  He was the friend of another student involved in our leadership program.  He didn’t have great education opportunities in his village and moved to his youth home as a teenager.  This meant he couldn’t read or write Thai, nor did he have his Thai citizenship yet.  The first day of camp he asked me to take him home; he no longer wanted to be there.  I challenged him to stay just one night, and if he wanted to leave after that he could.  The next day I asked if he wanted to leave, and with a cheeky smile said “Nah, I’m good”.  

A couple months later he was with us at a retreat for youth who were Care Leavers.  There was a prayer station activity, with Thai reading, and the last station having them write a letter to God.  I needed to be there to help read the Thai prayer stations for him, and write his letter.  Much has happened in the 2 years since that moment, but in one month he is going to graduate from a local Bible college, having gained his Thai citizenship, and having learned to read and write Thai!  Several people have been involved in supporting him, but I am thankful to have been one of them.


Somchai graduated and left his youth home with some support, but without having had the chance to develop several life skills necessary to thrive in life outside of the youth home.  I knew him through our support group for youth like him, and over a period of months got to know him and his situation better.  Long story short, myself (along with the support of PYF and others) have seen him through a few different jobs, a pyramid scheme, a cult from Korea, several Facebook catfishes looking for money, and a couple evictions. 

He has made some poor decisions, but deep down he is a caring, conscientious, and driven person who was given a challenging hand in life.  BUT, now he has found a really solid job and a small apartment room right next door that he has held for longer than before.  He also just bought his first motorbike, so he doesn’t have to ride a bicycle everywhere!  He is beginning to make better financial decisions, having learned from past mistakes.


I’ve probably spent more time with Dee than any other youth involved with PYF.  I met him at God First, our support group for Care Leavers.  Shortly after Covid started he moved in with Aof and I for a couple months while he was experiencing depression.  Most of our time together involves eating, playing music, playing random games, soccer, and running.  For a long time he was apathetic, not motivated to do much with his time even though he had dreams and goals.  Aof and I have been working with him for a long time to get a job as a first step towards some of his bigger dreams.  For nearly two years we felt like we were banging our heads against a wall, not sure how to help him. 

He came over about 2 months ago and randomly said he got a job at a sushi restaurant, and is saving money towards his future goals. It may seem small to most, but the step into this new job was a step out of the apathy and self-defeatism he has been dealing with.

I am not the only one who has been a part of their journey, and am proud of how PYF supports one another and the community to care for these youth.   A job, reading and writing,  living in the same place for more than 3 months, citizenship-to some; these may not seem like big deals.  But we see them as steps into the full life God has for them.  We are not perfect, and don’t always know the best way to support them.  However, it is moments like these in the lives of youth that helps us see God’s grace in our gaps.