Recently, I have been thinking back over when I first started going to Sam's Place. My first trip was in June of 2011, roughly six months after the first students had arrived. The children I met on my first trip were just starting to settle in. They had come to us with no language, no education, no understanding of school. They had come from a place of destitution and having to fight to keep what was theirs. They didn't understand the concept of playing a game with a shared toy - they had only ever experienced someone taking things away. They were beginning to learn about friendships, because they finally had a language for communication. They were learning that someone cared when they were hurt and would help make things better. And using this new language, they were learning about God in Heaven who loves them and cares about them.
As a team, we had plans for the work at Sam's Place, but most of them started with "Some day..." We were thinking in terms of 10 years and beyond, BUT GOD had other plans. It reminds me of the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers, but ending up as Pharaoh's right hand man. When he was finally reunited with his brothers, he told them, "It was not you who sent me here, BUT GOD. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt." (Gen. 45: 8 NIV)
Our team has experienced so many "BUT GOD" moments. In the seven years I have been going to Sam's Place, God has repeatedly said, "Stand back - I've got this." He took students who were almost adults and had NO language and prepared them for success at an in-depth technical school. He took a group of preteens, most of whom had never set foot in a school, and turned them into the first class at Sam's Place High School. Two of our former students are now employees. Students who came to us angry and suspicious are now caring leaders. Students who didn't know the word "God" are now organizing and leading their own worship service at Sam's Place. Amazing changes period, but in ONLY SEVEN YEARS???
God also brought in partners to work alongside us to accomplish NOW what we had on our long-term, distant-future project list. Fully functional (including campus-wide internet access) computer labs, projectors in every classroom, solar power for the entire campus, mock apartments for a transition program, additional classroom space, a soccer field, a garden, and, most recently, expanded work space for additional teaching staff and an on-site clinic.
So right now, we meet, and talk, and plan for the trip in a few weeks, BUT GOD knows HIS plans. And I can't wait for Him to show them to us!