Category Archives: Special Events

Stories about special events involving TCKs anywhere

Expat Youth Camps in Beijing this Fall

The annual fall camps for expat youth in Beijing are coming up this November. It’s a two day, overnight event for expatriate teens from around China. There are activities, worship, teaching, and a whole lot of fun with 100+ TCKs!

High School camp is for teens in grades 9-12 (approx ages 15-18) and is on November 5th and 6th. Click here to register online.

Middle School camp is for teens in grades 6-8 (approx ages 12-14) and is on November 12th and 13th. Click here to register online.

The camp fee is 500 RMB, which includes accommodation, food, and transport from Beijing to the campsite and back again.

Kids come in from around China to attend, so if you know any teens in China who would enjoy attending, pass the info along! Travel scholarships are available for families without the financial means to send kids to camp (post a comment if you want more info about that).

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Posted by on October 6, 2011 in Special Events, TCKs


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TCK Workers Retreat next week

Today’s short post is a request for your prayers. Next week in Thailand several TCK workers from China and Cambodia will meet for a thee day retreat. Several people had to pull out so it will be a small group, but with a diverse range of roles, working with youth from 5 different international churches.

The goal of the retreat is to provide a retreat space for ministers, encourage networking among TCK workers, and create a forum for discussing some of the unique needs of TCKs. Please think of the group next week and ask that there would be relaxation, connection, and stimulating conversation.


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YiA Retreat for TCK Workers – Register Now!

The TCK Workers’ retreat will be held at Dolphin Bay in Thailand on October 3-6. We will be staying/meeting/eating at the Juniper Tree, a Christian guesthouse by the beach near Huahin.

The retreat is aimed at anyone who sees their primary calling (whether longterm or “right now”) as working with TCK youth, especially those living and working in Asia. This includes paid and volunteer church staff, bible study leaders, and teachers with a heart for ministering to their students.

The retreat has four main aims:
  1. Retreat – space for Christian TCK workers to relax
  2. Networking/Fellowship – meet and connect with other TCK workers
  3. Targeted training – discussion about issues specific to TCK work
  4. Spiritual uplifting – devotions, sharing, corporate prayer and worship

The main program is happening on the 4th and 5th (Tuesday and Wednesday). The assumption is that some people won’t be able to come early, and others won’t be able to stay late, so feel free to make arrangements based on your own time constraints.

3 nights’ accommodation (two people per room with laundry included) and meals will be provided. There are limited funded places available, but please pass this information along to anyone you believe would be interested.

If we run out of space, or you’d like to stay somewhere fancier, there are other guesthouses/resorts just up the road. YiA won’t be able to cover accommodation costs for these places but the option is there.

For more information, or to express interest in attending, comment on this post or fill out this form:


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Teens talk about the Beijing Expat Youth Conference

The BICF (with support from CCC) runs two camps/conferences every year for expat teens in Beijing. This year’s Spring Conference happened April 2nd-3rd and involved about 200 people. Mark Oestreicher (Marko) came from the US to speak, and the Joe Aylor Worship Band came in from Texas to lead worship.

Four teens from 3 of the 6 youth groups who attended have shared with us some of their reflections on the weekend and what it meant to them. We hope you are encouraged as you read about how these kids were affected. The time and effort put into running events for TCKs really does pay off.


Mikaela in an Australian 13 year old who has lived in China for six years. She lives in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province – a city of 7 million people located 650km south of Beijing. She joined the OneWay group for the Spring Conference (along with about 20 other teens who live outside Beijing).

Camp has been a fantastic part of my life this past year, as well as a very big part of my spiritual growth. This past Spring Camp especially with the awesome praise and worship, spectacular sermons, and fantastic seminars. I know that the seminar I chose, Forgiveness, really gave me a new perspective on it and helped me understand it much better. I really walked away from camp this April with a sense of understanding the bible better, and a sense of being understood and accepted by the people there.
Hey, being a thirteen year old girl in a city with only three other TCK girls my age (this year) is tough, but having camp there to look forward to twice a year makes me love being here and makes camp that much more special. My favorite part of camp is always opening my eyes during praise and worship, looking around and seeing other kids of all ages, genders, and nationalities together praising God. Some with their hands up, some with the arms around others shoulders, some on their knees, and others praying together. That is always the part that makes me smile and cry with joy the most. I honestly couldn’t have wished for my last camp to be any better.


Elisa is a 15 year old girl from Finland – who has never lived in Finland. She was born in Switzerland, moved to France at age 2, to the US at 7 and a half, then to China at age 12. 

In all the places I’ve lived I’ve never gone to church, never been part of a congregation, never been at Sunday School or had a youth group. Here in China, I joined Crossroads by my own choice, and I love it! Recently, I was a part of the Beijing Expat Youth Conference on the 2nd and 3rd of April and it was amazing!! I consider myself quite a new Christian, and meeting all the other youths was awesome, since we were all there for one purpose: to praise Him and to have fun doing it! The guest speaker, “Marko”, was also super. His funny anecdotes linked his teachings to real life and gave me perspective, which is really important in my opinion. He also used metaphors that I’ve never thought about before when talking about very well-known Bible passages, which really made everything click and made me see just how awesome God’s love is for us! I loved the worship and messages, and it all proved to me once again how amazing our God is, and how our love for Him can move so many to take part in a thing like this! I’m definitely doing it again next year!

Jonathan is a 16 year old from Singapore, and has lived in San Francisco (5 years), Taipei (2 years) and Beijing (3 years). He is in Year 11 (Grade 10) at Dulwich College.

Although I’m leaving Maotown in about six weeks, I’m pleased to say that this last Spring Conference I’ve had in my short run here in Beijing has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life; Mark-O’s eagle and three-stepper analogies were flawless, and the Joe Aylor crew were amazing in leading us into a time of intimate worship- one that I’ve never experienced to such a passionate degree before. The Holy Spirit flooded the room in its awesome power, and struck like a tidal wave, engulfing every young soul in that place in genuflecting cognizance. It was truly a spectacle to behold. My only regret is not being able to spend an additional two days having the time of my life with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ while also growing closer in wisdom and erudition in seeking after and ‘carrying our crosses’, so to speak, towards Jesus. Conferences should be longer! May the future BICF-CCC conferences thrive further and bring new brothers and sisters into the family of the LORD!


Anne is a 16 year old from the USA, but she was born in Hong Kong and has lived in Beijing China her whole life. She is homeschooled and is currently finishing up 10th grade.

At the start of campference this year I was not at all excited or even interested in being there. I kept telling myself that I really didn’t want to go to camp, but I was already signed up. Also, I’m the sort of person who once I start going to an event every fall and spring, I have to go to every one if possible. :) So on Saturday morning I was at the Marriott signing in and getting my camp t-shirt. Once I saw all my friends I began to feel a little better about being at conference. At the start I was also skeptical about the new way of separating by youth group, but I found that I liked it a lot better than I thought I would.

One thing that I always like about camps/conferences is the worship.  I like learning new songs and getting excited about it. Over the weekend I was able to learn some of the songs we sang multiple times. Worship was one of my favorite parts of camp.I enjoyed how Marko (the speaker) looked at the passages we read in a new way. It was interesting to think about the people around Jesus, and how they acted. I hadn’t noticed before in the passage about the paralytic being lowered through the roof that his friends had so much faith. Anyways it was good to hear the stories told in a unique way.

One of the parts of camp where I think I learned the most was Tanya’s workshop. Everything was clear, backed up with Bible verses, thought provoking, and helpful for life. I’m not just saying that because Tanya asked me to write for this blog either, I really mean it. Normally when people hand me papers in a Sunday school class or at youth group I can’t think of anything to write in the blank spaces, but in this workshop I barely had time to finish writing everything I had to say. It was really good think about  how God refines us to develop purity and strength in us. God taught me, and others as well, a lot from that workshop.

During camp God was teaching me (and still is) to depend on him for everthing, especially joy. On Sunday night before dinner everyone had some free time, and some other people and I were standing around talking. Somehow we started tossing a half-filled waterbottle around, and soon we had a little circle of people throwing around this waterbottle. It was really fun, I’m still not really sure why, but several funny things happened and by the end most of us were laughing so hard we were either on the floor or we were crying. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d laughed so hard. So all that to say, that was the happiest time I had at camp, and it made me even more grateful for the friends God’s given me.

I had a lot of mixed emotions about camp, but overall it was a really positive experience.

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Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Special Events, TCKs


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Takeo Tales: what a service project can look like in TCK land

Today’s post comes to us from TCK Jonathan Macqueen, who lives (currently) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This is his account of a service project he went on with kids from his youth group shortly after he arrived there (originally published on his family’s blog). He is a wonderful storyteller, so sit back and enjoy this tale from Takeo…  

It all began when I went to the ICF youth group. Christina, the youth leader, had this idea to go with some local Khmers into the provinces to preach to the Khmer kids. A week before we set off Mark (a guy in my class who had quite a lot of influence in the project) left on furlough to see his new nephew. However we carried on and soon we met up at HOPE school and got on the big orange “Cellcard” bus.

The people who went are called: Tennyson, Caleb, Jerome (now since gone back to NZ to start uni) Zoe, Samantha, Chukk, Jesse (boy) and a buncha Khmers whose names I really can’t remember. Oh and don’t forget my amazing youth leader Christina. Also on this trip was an Italian called Jeremy who was working with an Italian NGO and had provided a new primary class building to the kampong that we were visiting.

We set off. The going was good, and soon we must of hit 40-50kmh as we got out of Phnom Penh. Now for you to understand the following dilemma you need to understand a few things. Only days before Cambodia had some of the worst floods it has had in years. 5 inches of rain in a matter of hours! This meant that the lower parts of HOPE were flooded and pretty much the whole of Toul Tom Pong (the Russian market area, where we live) was submerged, so much so that tuk-tuks were getting stranded and any Honda Daelims or any other motorbike under 110CC’s was stopped dead in its tracks should they plough into the muddy brown murk. Cambodia, being very much 3rd world in every way and being one of the poorest countries in Asia sat back and waited. The bridges were severely damaged, and vast areas of paddy field became inland lakes. So it won’t surprise you to know that after about 40mins we stopped dead in our tracks. The bus was too big for the bridge.

We had been paired up with the Khmer university students during these first 40mins and just as I was learning how to say hello in Khmer “Soo-a Sa-die” we stopped. We sat there for a while, ate some roadside fried banana and then broke out the guitar and a whole medley of songs. However, soon an alternative was needed, so the Khmers and a few staff set off piled onto 2 tuk-tuks – thus leaving us stranded by a roadside hut looking over a small lake eating some snacks and taking time to get each other’s phone numbers (unfortunately at this time of my life my phone charger had gone walkabouts so now everyone has my Mum’s phone number…). Soon a mini bus had been summoned for us and with a delay of just about over an hour we piled in (all 15 or so of us) the minibus. This meant that I was squishied against the window with Tenno on my left and Zoe and Sam further on. Now if you have never seen Tennyson then you should know that he is the stereotypical Aussie build, 6ft 1 and quite broad. Fortunately I squish quite well and all was fine. We sped along doing 80-90kmh for ooh, maybe half an hour, until we got stuck AGAIN.

This time, however, was more serious. Stuck in a bus with no aircon is not pleasant and with the absence of a breeze we were soon sweltering. We were caught in a massive jam. The bridge ahead of us was being strengthened before the floods and hadn’t been fixed and operational before the tidal wave of rain water completely swamped it. The original bridge had been utterly destroyed and now a raging river separated us from the other side. For another two hours we waited in that bus. However our spirits were still high. Although we knew that the before lunch programme had been absolutely blown out of question, we came up with the novel idea to combine both programmes and cut out some bits whilst keeping our secret weapons – the skits.

At around 11am-12pm (having started at 7 in the morning) we got moving again. We went down a little dirt track following the course of the river and waiting until we got lower downstream to cross the river. It was very stop-start with vehicles trying to squeeze past each other on what was meant to be a one way road.

Then as we got out for a leg stretch, my toe decided to get itself cut on the sharp underside of the chair in front of me. Fortunately nurse Zoe was very enthusiastic to use the first-aid kit and my toe was mummified shortly afterwards.

After about an hour the traffic eased and we were bowling along. By about 1 we had reached the lunch stop and settled down for a game of cards whilst waiting for our beef loc-lac to arrive. The following event was most strange but the long and short of it was: A man, probably drunk or something, came up to our table, took off Caleb’s glasses, asked for the cards and then didn’t let go. Fellow customers soon tried to retrieve the cards by force and broke a chair. The man took off never to be seen again… Fortunately the cards weren’t expensive but it was a very peculiar event.

After a good loc-lac we set off and reached the small kampong that we were going to visit. There were a lot of children waiting for us, by my estimation 100-200, mainly children under 8 or 9.

We took shelter in one of the classrooms and whipped out face masks. We did a skit on the prodigal son and a skit about the lost sheep. We also sung the duck song “Five little ducks went out to play over the hill and far away, mummy duck said ‘quack quack quack’ but only 4 little  ducks came back” After this we sang some khmer songs with actions and sang the English versions as well. After that we played a game to get them all into groups and split up to do hands-on activities. First my group drew around their hand and stuck cotton wool onto it to make a sheep. Then we played a game where a sweet is passed around a circle secretly and the middle child (who is blindfolded) has to guess where the sweet is. If they are correct they get a sweet. This was my favourite activity with the kids as the usage of khmer was limited and a smile and pointing could do just about the same as talking.

A bit worn by now we sang the song “deep deep down” in Khmer and English once more and then created a tunnel of arms which the kids went out of to get a choco pie cake thing. Buoyed by our success we got back on the mini bus and the Khmers set off on the tuk-tuks. The speed of the tuk-tuks was somewhat let down when the Khmers, who had a 20min head start, were caught up within about 5mins.

Going back, we got to the place where the bridge had broken and we were diverted and took a very wiggly windy road through Cambodian countryside to get back to the bus. From there it was a long slow journey back into Phnom Penh gridlock. Finally around 7ish in the evening we got back to Christina’s place and Jeremy made Italian spaghetti which was most appreciated. Whilst waiting for food we came to the decision that the only thing that we could watch was “The Wiggles” and as we came to the song “lil Dingo” Caleb (who had gone into a state of suspended animation) came back to life, singing to his heart’s content. The Wiggles had revived him.

All in all it was a great trip that really got me planted in the youth group and introduced me to Cambodia, mission accomplished!


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JWA: taking TCKs into the Chinese wilderness

Chris Qualls is a long-time TCK worker. He has lived in China since 2003 and is the youth pastor at BICF ZGC (learn more about their youth group here). Chris is also the Director of Journey Wilderness Adventures (JWA), and runs summer trips specifically for TCKs (as well as trips for expats in general). In the past 10 years, Chris has traveled through more than 30 countries pursuing various outdoor adventures. We’ve asked him to share with us a little about what JWA is doing and why he is passionate about it.

How long have you been working with TCKs?

I’ve been working with TCKs in Beijing for the past five years. I arrived in Beijing in 2006 after spending two years in Henan province teaching English. I immediately got involved at the International Fellowship teaching sunday school and working with the youth program there. But the truth is, the reason I really got involved with the teen program in Beijing was because they reminded me so much of my family back in the US. My grandfather is a pastor, my dad is a pastor and several of my aunts and uncles are pastors or working overseas. So when I began meeting many of the teens at the International Fellowship I couldn’t help noticing the similarities between them and my cousins. To be honest, I just enjoyed spending time with them; it was easy. Now I lead one of the youth groups within the BICF – One Way is the youth group that meets on the west side of the city and I have some pretty amazing teens that I get to hang out with each week.

How did you get started doing wilderness trips?

From a JWA trip in the Tianshan mountains

From a JWA trip in the Tianshan mountains

It wasn’t until I was in College that I had the opportunity to get involved in outdoor sports. I started whitewater kayaking on the Ocoee River in Southeastern Tennessee and spent quite a bit of time camping with friends. During my junior year of College I was driving down the road and was confronted with an emptiness in my heart. I was a Christian, but for the past several months hadn’t been paying very much attention to the Lord. I knew that I needed to refocus on Him and that I needed to do something to get out of the funk I was in. I prayed and asked the Lord what I should do and I felt Him whisper, “Come away with me.” I had never known anyone to go camping or even hiking by themselves but I knew that at the next available holiday I needed to get away on a private retreat with the Lord.

A couple of weeks later was our Easter break and after speaking with some friends I had a place in mind. About 45 minutes from my university was a quiet meadow next to a stream far away from the distractions of the city. I put my camping gear in the car and headed up to the mountains to spend three days and three nights in prayer, fasting, and meditation with the Lord. On that trip I met with God. For me, it wasn’t about the hiking, it wasn’t even about the natural beauty all around me; for me, it was about reconnecting with the Lord and finding a suitable place to do so.

From a JWA trip in the Tianshan mountains

From a JWA trip in the Tianshan mountains

Towards the end of that long weekend the many stories of Jesus, John the Baptist, David, Elijah, and others who met with the Lord in the wilderness came alive to me. I began to understand the power and purpose of practicing the spiritual disciplines in God’s Creation. I started noticing the many passages in the Bible that talk about the Glory of God being presented in His Creation. It was on that trip that I began to understand the role of the wilderness in the life of the believer. It was on that trip that I became more aware of silence and the satisfaction that can be found when we are truly at peace with ourselves and with God. I now understand the value of the wilderness in my life and that’s why I am so eager to present opportunities like this to others.

How do wilderness trips benefit TCKs?

A wilderness backpacking trip is the perfect environment to learn more about yourself and to discover more about the world in which you live. It’s also a great place to deepen relationships and build friendships with others. Even though TCKs tend to travel a lot, a backpacking trip is a different sort of travel experience. It allows people to really engage with their environment and the people they are living with each day. It isn’t a very suitable place to have surface level relationships and it really encourages people to be vulnerable with one another. I feel like TCKs will deepen their trust in one another on these trips and be rewarded with some amazing friendships that will last for many years.

“Most of us were perfect strangers at the beginning of the hike, but by the end of it I felt that a true bond of love and understanding had grown between us.” – Emily Kempson, TCK Trip 2010

Individual time on a JWA TCK trip in the Tianshan mountains last year.

Individual time on a JWA TCK trip in the Tianshan mountains last year.

I want these trips to be something that TCKs living in Asia look forward to in the summers. Something that will get them out of whatever funk their in at their current stage of life. I know that while I was in college I needed something like this to move me past where I was at and my hope is that these trips will be a place of growth and reward for TCKs living in Asia. I also want to provide an opportunity that is currently unavailable in China to teens who live here. There are several companies in the US who offer trips like these but there are currently no wilderness backpacking companies in China. I believe in the great value and benefit that comes from these trips and want to see TCKs in Asia have the opportunity to experience the wilderness in a fresh and exciting way.

Do you have trips for adults?

Yes, Journey Wilderness Adventures has six trips this summer. Two for Third Culture Kids (June 17-26 and July 29-August 7) and four for Adults (July 1-10, July 15-24, August 9-18, and August 20-29). The June TCK trip is also an official BICF youth event. We’re really exciting to be providing Wilderness Backpacking Retreats to the international community living and serving in Asia. Our space is limited this summer so if you’d like more information about how you can join us on a trip into the remarkable Tian Shan mountains in western China this summer please let us know. Write us at – or visit us online.

Chris Qualls in the Tianshan Mountains

Chris Qualls in the Tianshan Mountains

An extra note: JWA has experienced guides and first aid personnel, and carry satcom gear in case of emergency. We recommend JWA as a group and Chris Qualls as an individual – these trips are amazing. The Tianshan mountains are are incredibly beautiful, with lakes, verdant valleys, snowy peaks… you name it! 

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Posted by on May 6, 2011 in Guest Posts, Special Events, TCKs


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30 Hour Famine Report from Beijing

Over 100 expat kids and 40 leaders came together for a large 30 Hour Famine event in Beijing, China. 6 youth groups from three churches joined in (One Way from BICF ZGC; ReGen, 21st MS and Crossroads from BICF 21st; Rev and Bongos from CCC).

This report was written by Chloe Harris. Chloe was an English TCK in Hongkong; she now works with TCKs in Beijing, where she studies poverty relief. The accompanying photos were taken by Josh Haller, another ATCK who works with TCKs in Beijing.

Beijing’s 30 Hour Famine took place on the 4-5th April this year. It was an amazing event combining worship, poverty, justice, mercy, compassion, and youth. The kids raised…well…you’ll have to get to the end of this blog post to find out, but lets just say that it was enough for several youth leaders and kids to lose head, face, and leg hair.

[Two kids raised money by shaving their heads. The city’s two youth pastors also promised to lose some hair if the kids managed to raise $30,000 USD by the night of the famine event. Matt Banker shaved his mustache, beard, and head; John Sorrell had his legs waxed. All this in front of a crowd of (hungry) teens!]

Jonny, Jason, Matt and John losing hair for the cause...

Jonny, Jason, Matt and John losing hair for the cause...

On the Friday night, 6 hours after kids had eaten their last mouthful of food, the 30 Hour Famine event began. Immediately, we were reminded that people in Haiti lost their families, friends, homes, and access to clean water, shelter and education in just 35 seconds. We looked to God and began worshiping Him in song.

Shortly afterwards, there was a power cut in the building and everyone was evacuated. Once outside in the cold, we were informed that the building behind us had collapsed, and we needed to make our shelter for the night out of the rubble that we found on the ground. Our group set about making a giant cardboard igloo. [Thanks to Santa Fe for donating 200 packing boxes for our shelters!]

Various cardboard constructions made by the Beijing 30 Hour Famine youth. Yes, they slept outside in these shelters!

Various cardboard constructions made by Beijing youth. Yes, they slept outside in these shelters! After two weeks of mild weather, the temperature dropped below freezing during the night.

We grabbed our sleeping bags, snuggled in our home for the night, and marvelling at how warm and cosy we were, with a great sense of satisfaction at our architectural and constructional abilities, we fell asleep. At 4am, Beijing, one of the driest places on earth, decided to pour down with rain on us, and we moved inside, sadly abandoning our cardboard igloo.

Painting with kids at Bethel

Painting with kids at Bethel

The next day, we set off on a coach to Bethel Orphanage, home for over 40 Chinese kids who are blind. Watching some of the youth play guitar and sing songs was absolutely inspiring. It was amazing to see how a group of TCK youth, and a group of kids who are blind, met together to share in their love of God, and their desire to worship him. The youth painted, cleaned play equipment, and did some serious digging. Some kids had the task of baking chocolate chip cookies, surrounded by amazing baking smells, a painful task for someone who is fasting…

Back at the centre, with 2 hours until the end of the famine, we had more times of sharing, praying and worshiping God. We broke the fast with communion, an incredible reminder of the body broken and the blood poured out for us on the cross. However, we weren’t allowed to take communion for ourselves, it had to be served to us, and we broke into small groups to pray.

Afterwards, we were handed a spoon of peanut butter, a small cup of some kind of mushy, grainy substance, and a mini orange. Kids were thankful, but a little confused, until it was explained to us that when severely malnourished children turn up at a World Vision relief camp, this is the meal that they are given, as it’s gentle on their bodies and easy to digest. [The break-the-fast meal was prepared using recipes supplied by World Vision: a corn meal mush and a peanut-butter-plus mixture served to severely malnourished children. The mandarin oranges were added to the meal because, as we told the kids, “we love you”.]

Each handprint represent one child fed for a month

Each handprint represent one child fed for a month

There were no complaints, no grumbling, we realised that hungry kids live on this earth, and we hardly ever think about them. Some kids shared the way that we always complain ‘Mum, I’m starving’, yet millions of kids around the world actually understand what it is to be starving, and we have no idea.

The 30 Hour Famine is all about ‘Students around the world loving God and fighting hunger’. It really has to be in this order. I felt that this weekend, students understood that worship isn’t just about singing, its about living our lives as a response to God, in response to his outpouring of love poured out for us through his death on the cross.

So how much was raised? The total is now over 250,000RMB, over 38,500 USD. The amount of money raised was enough to feed one child in Haiti for nearly every Beijing youth who was there, for a whole year. This is an incredible amount for 111 kids to raise, they did an amazing job. My lasting prayer is that its not just about the money though, that is would always be about transforming lives in the name of Christ, and in order for us to help change lives, we need to allow God to change and transform us first.


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