it’s hard not to focus on the number of kids in the youth group since it’s smaller than it used to be. we get comments about how we’ll have to work to add numbers, or they’ll talk about its heyday when there were a ton of kids. part of the challenge is there aren’t many families that are seriously involved. some fathers don’t attend, which means the kids eventually opt out. some families are typical expats: transient, long work hours, frequent business trips, so weekends are strictly family time. another factor is that we don’t have children at the international school, so there isn’t the same level of connection with families in that community; nate is meeting kids but their parents have no idea who he is.
part of me wants to be “successful” during our time here so that we aren’t wasting resources, wanting badly to be able to say we came and conquered in the face of these challenges. every week nate and i discuss whether we should change the model, how to more effectively reach kids, how to push them to think about the bigger picture beyond daily needs. i hope that at the end of the day, we are faithful in our efforts to invest in the kids that show up no matter how things turn out.
outside of the youth group, nate has also been present in church life – there has been sickness, miscarriages, divorce, funerals, in addition to preaching and teaching. it’s been interesting because for the first time he’s viewed as pastor; until this point he’s been known first as peer, seminary student, social worker. people at church are welcoming, immediately working to draw newcomers in. when your options for social networks are limited, i think a lot of people get excited about the prospects of someone new. however, a good number of them are questionably nominal, making a quick escape during the final prayer. in some ways i wonder if the expat church can be more of a social club in the same way korean and chinese churches can function as a means to maintain heritage and culture and to create a space where language is no longer a barrier.
we are also expecting a baby boy in july! although delivery is always terrifying, as is the idea of two little people running around, i am overall really excited about adding to our family. the medical system has so far been impressively efficient, advanced and shockingly affordable compared to the US since we have to pay out of pocket for now. it took some convincing, but emi is now excited about a baby brother after asking for a sister for months…although i think she imagines something akin to having a doll that she can boss around and push in her stroller…so reality might be a bit of a shock.