Breanna's House of Joy
After my sister died, I started writing. It was one of the ways I could process what was going on inside my mind and then take a step back to make sense of it all. Since then, writing has become a huge part of my healing journey. Today, I start this website to continue to press into my writing and give breath to my soul by allowing myself the time and space to create.
I started writing because of Breanna, so it only seems natural to start this website off with the story of Breanna's House of Joy (BHJ). BHJ is a home for hill tribe girls in Northern Thailand. This is a story of healing and redemption in a broken world; a story of how God brought beauty and joy into something ugly and sad; and it all starts with my sister, Breanna Joy.
Most of her friends described her as kind, compassionate, caring, and unwavering. Breanna had a magnetic personality because she had a special way of making everyone feel loved and welcomed into her life.
When Breanna was 12, my older sister Joni had just come back from a 3 month trip to Nepal. She came back with hundreds of pictures and stories of orphaned children. Breanna was moved by all the photos and wanted to do something that would make a difference. Later, she told my parents that she thought God was telling them to adopt some of these children. At the time, it seemed like a crazy idea. Little did we know how prophetic her words would become!
One month later, Breanna died in a tragic car accident. We never could have prepared ourselves for the overwhelming force of emotions that came flooding in on us that day. I understand why people do crazy things when they lose someone so unexpectedly. In some ways, you’re just trying to show the world an outward expression of the chaos inside.
One year after the accident, we all headed to SouthEast Asia. I went to Nepal with a missions team from Church and the rest of my family headed to India, Nepal, and Thailand. We all wanted to see what made such a huge impact on my sister. It was a family quest to find her passion and figure out what to do about it. We saw things that moved us and broke our hearts, but it was the little girls that had the greatest influence.
Over the next few years, my parents began traveling back and forth to Thailand, working with a Thai couple that had a strong passion to help girls avoid being sold into sex slavery. At this time, there was more information coming out about human trafficking in Thailand and it was heartbreaking to hear. The problem seemed so big and impossible to tackle, but they started taking baby steps to open up a safe home for girls to come to the city and get an education.
My senior year in college was spent researching the plight of tribal girls in Northern Thailand. I would sit in the library pouring over all the statistics and cry over stories of young girls being taken from their families and repeatedly raped. I didn’t want to believe that any of it could happen and yet the facts were right there, staring back at me. One of my graduation requirements was to do a 3 month internship related to my research and it just so happened that our girl’s home was ready to open it’s doors to 14 young girls. We called that home Breanna’s House of Joy.
We started with bamboo huts on a property that was very similar to the villages these girls had come from.
Original property for BHJ with a bamboo hut.
The first girls that came to BHJ! From the Lisu and Ahkha tribe.
Each girl had her own bed and mosquito net.
The original bath house.
I spent my summer (along with my future sister-in-law) doing a lot of listening, smiling, teaching English, and hugging. It didn’t really seem like it made a whole lot of impact, but looking back on it now I can see that it was just the beginning.
Dancing is a huge part of the village culture. We danced in the dirt on a regular basis.
That summer was the start of a beautiful friendship. Years later, Chris and I would live in Thailand for a year serving as Ministry Directors and continue to grow these special friendships.
Over the years, BHJ has slowly grown into a thriving ministry for young girls in Northern Thailand. What started as bamboo huts has now turned into a stunning 3 acre property with 5 buildings and a fruit orchard!
Check out an aerial view of the property today!
Today, children’s homes in Northern Thailand are common. Children can learn a lot growing up in these homes, but we've realized over the years that there is still great risk for young women who outgrow the protective environment of a children's home, and then enter Thai or village society without having developed the skills necessary to thrive in their world. At BHJ, we are committed to see our girls through their lifetime. We want to support them to succeed in life so that they can break free from the cycle of poverty. What we’re learning is that further education and financial support are the keys to breaking that cycle.
A few years ago, we opened a home for college girls that is called the Daniel 1 Leadership Program. The Daniel 1 Leadership Program is a college leadership project where the girls can continue their education without debt and further develop character while learning to serve others and share their faith. This program is currently serving ten young women that have come from BHJ. It is incredible to see these older girls inspire our younger girls to dream big!
Here is a photo of some of our D1 girls mixed in with other BHJ girls getting ready to do a service project in their village. If you look closely, you can spot Micah!
Chris and I pictured with my parents and some of our original girls from BHJ. Some of them have gone on to complete degrees. Zom, the second girl from the left is our new Director for the D1 house.
This sweet girl , Patana, has been attending nursing school and is getting ready to graduate soon! BHJ has been supporting her financially as she continues to work hard and pursue her dreams. I'm so proud of her!
Just for fun, this is a photo from when I first met Patana in 2004!!
These girls have been part of the BHJ family for over 12 years now!
Ahreeya is currently on her first trip to America! She will be visiting me in Boston at the end of this month. She is now working for a children's home in Northern Thailand. We are so proud of her!
To date, we have seen nearly sixty girls come through Breanna’s House of Joy; 60 girls that are breaking the cycle of poverty in their own lives and [Lord willing] in the lives of their children for generations to come! We believe that God can use the power of multiplication to change the course of an entire generation. What we see is only the beginning!
My parents said it best when they said this:
“People who mean well will tell us that God has replaced Breanna with all these beautiful young girls at Breanna’s House. But God’s way is not replacement, it is multiplication. God didn’t say “no” to our life together with Breanna, he said “not yet”. The question is, “what will we do until we see her again?” We have given Breanna up for a short time and God is multiplying her life back to us through the girls at Breanna’s House. 60 fold to this point and we expect it to be over 100 fold before we are done. And, in the end, we will get Breanna back as well. To paraphrase Jesus in Mark 10, “anyone who sacrifices children and other things that are important to them for me will get them all back, multiplied many times, but not without troubles along the way.” We have found that the investment we have made is well worth the troubles. “
Our goal is to see individual lives transformed, so that they can transform their own communities, which forms the basis for transformation in the society of Thailand.
Join us in the fight against human trafficking! At the end of this month we will be doing an online raffle to raise money for Breanna's House of Joy. I hope you will consider joining us by entering to win some of our amazing prizes!
You can also get involved in the raffle by donating a gift card, service, or experience! Contact Amy to make a donation, or simply make a one time donation here.