Lost son finally found

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When Tola* was 18 months old, his mother made the difficult decision to place him in the care of an orphanage. With his father away – working as a solider – she was struggling to care for both Tola and her other children, especially give Tola required regular medical treatment, which she could not afford.

Tola’s mum placed her young son with an elderly lady, at a children’s centre in Cambodia’s Kampong Speu Province and visited him whenever she could. Sometime later, when Tola’s father returned from military service, they went to the centre together to pick him up and take him home. Sadly, they were told the older care worker – whom Tola’s mother had placed Tola with – had sent the young boy to live at another children’s home just before she died. No one knew which centre that was.

Tola’s parents were devastated and spent several years searching for their lost son, including an entire month looking in every known children’s centre in Phnom Penh. But still, they could not find their son.

Then in 2016, the centre Tola had been placed at became part of ACCIR’s Kinnected program. Our social workers began searching for Tola’s family and eventually found a link to his village and finally, to his parents. When his parents received the call about their son, they were so overjoyed, they travelled to see him the very next day. And after 10 years of being separated, Tola and his parents were finally reunited!

After family assessments were conducted and preparations made, Tola went to live with his parents in their home in Preah Vihear province. The family continues to receive support, including financial assistance for Tola’s schooling. They remain immensely grateful for all the people who helped bring their lost boy home again.

 

*Name changed for privacy purposes.

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An exciting new church for Fukuoka, Japan

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In mid-2015, ACCI field workers Eugene and Fiona Gebert, along with daughters Jessica and Elyssa, moved to Japan. On 8 January 2017, they planted WakuWaku Life Church – which means ‘exciting’ or ‘thrilling’ in Japanese – in bustling Fukuoka city, Japan.

For the first 10 months, the church met in the Gebert’s tiny Japanese apartment, until they had the finances to rent a property. During that first year, they also launched WakuWaku Life English – to provide free English classes to the local community – and developed a relationship with Costco supermarket, to collect and distribute free food to needy people at a park each week (both of which continue today).

Here, Eugene and Fiona Gebert share some of their recent highlights, challenges and their vision for the future of their church.

We are seeing people find Jesus through one-on-one discipleship. For example, a lady we met in a coffee shop recently became a Christian. We started meeting regularly with her and she started studying the Bible at home through a Bible app. She would show us what she had read each time we met and ask questions.

In the past year we have also been able to start a monthly kids outreach where children come and do games, art and craft, learn English and most importantly, hear about Jesus. Each month, the outreach has been growing due to parents spreading the word. Recently one of the girls that comes gave my daughter a card that said, ‘I love WakuWaku Life Church’. 

Japan has often been regarded as 'hard soil' but, as we are seeing, it is certainly becoming more and more open to the gospel. Japan is a very busy nation and people and families are often stressed in terms of time and this has a great bearing on people sowing themselves into church life. Thinking outside the box is needed.

Consistency and sowing yourself into the community is also an important part of church planting here and so it takes time. We recently moved apartments so that we now live very close to the church. We try and help out in the local community where we can, by getting involved in things like community patrol, crossing duty at school time and gardening in the local park. Through small things like this, we are becoming known in the community now and people are beginning to trust us.

God also spoke to us about becoming ‘seed scatterers’ – to not worry so much about the condition of the soil or which soil ‘to target’ but to just scatter seed. At the end of the day, we are all called to scatter seed and it is God who makes it grow. 

Our vision for the church is continued growth; to see people become disciples of Jesus who are growing and who make more disciples. We are also believing that from this church, more churches will be planted, and so reproduction is another part of our vision. We are committed to seeing people grow in their spiritual walk with God and their purpose in His kingdom being fulfilled.”

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The life-saving gift of swimming lessons

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The prevalence of child drowning in Vietnam is alarming, with thousands of children drowning throughout the country each year. Sadly, many children lack the skills and knowledge to be safe around the water, especially children with disabilities who are largely excluded from swimming programs.

For several years, ACCI partner AOG WR Vietnam has worked with government agencies and schools to help provide swimming lessons to children. The team has also supported communities to build their own swimming pools, so students – and the wider community – can continue practising their skills.

In 2018, with support from 1Day, AOG WR partnered with a school for hearing impaired children and the Vietnamese government to provide swimming lessons for 16 children with hearing impairments. It is believed to be the first time swimming training of this kind has ever been offered in central Vietnam.

Training was delivered right before the summer break – which is the time when most drownings occur – and included teaching children how to tread water and swim at least 50 metres (if not more).

As well as teaching children to be safe around water, the lessons have helped the Vietnamese government see what is possible when it comes to supporting people with disabilities. In fact, a story about the swimming training was broadcast on the news and the government received hundreds of phone calls from parents asking when their child could learn to swim!

The AOG WR team is hopeful that the swimming lessons could now be used as a pilot for facilitating training with other marginalised groups, including adults with disabilities.

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