• Sheila Harkins

Reflecting at Fifty

On Feb 20th, 2018 I turned fifty. I was thankful for a group of friends who celebrated this milestone with me. There are so many friends and family who should be mentioned in a post about my first fifty years, but I limited this to just those who were able to gather with me on that day to celebrate. It was fun to write and remember the importance of community. How thankful I am for those who have walked through the ups and downs of life with us since we moved to BKK twenty-two years ago!

I was an American African born in Japan

Who fell in love with an American Korean man.

We arrived in Bangkok, not yet thirty years old,

With four children in tow—a sight to behold!

I arrived with anxiety, trembling in fear,

Trying to trust God as we crossed a new frontier.

I wasn’t very excited about this new location

Pollution, traffic, heat—in my mind, that was this city’s reputation.

That first day, our kitchen-less apartment had me crying sad tears,

The first of many that would be shed here over the years.

Times of loss, misunderstandings, conflict and grief,

Brokenness and sorrow, times of questioning my belief.

I was holding on then to a more simplified view—

You follow in obedience to God and He takes care of you.

Yes, yes, of course that is true. But it is more, much more

Finding grace in pain and beauty in brokenness was what He had in store.

I believe authentic community was what God had in mind,

To open our eyes in the many places where we were blind.

Oh, the laughter, tears, prayers and joy represented here today—

Oh, the life lessons we have learned with you all along the way!

From our first day in Bangkok, when a young couple came,

Bearing curry and rice, Australian accents and an unusual name,

God was setting in place His Body, His Church, His Bride

To constantly point us towards Himself, to bring us closer to His side.

What a privilege to watch the Fjording clan grow and thrive

First Jasmine, then Jess, and then Jianna to complete the Fjording five.

Watching the girls go from babies to young ladies has been a delight--

Especially seeing them allow God to speak into their lives.

Thinking of Allan and Kayley brings to mind silly puns,

But more than that, I think of them as very generous ones.

Their willingness to take in three more girls in addition to their own,

Letting us use their car, hosting meals--generosity repeatedly shown.

As we became part of the ICS community, of course we came to know the Grooties--

Karen, popping in and out, with Bethany on her back, as she completed PTO duties.

Carl, always being helpful and giving us insights into Thai life,

Our small group became a safe place amidst any strife.

There would also be much laughter and joy-

With the good friendship of their superman girl and our boy,

Soccer games, lip syncs, International Night dances, and basketball

Concerts, parties, videos, Bangna Villa life—too many memories to recall!

The Groots faithfully walked beside us, time and again,

Not afraid of hard things, not afraid of our pain.

They shared the truth of God’s Word and the sweetness of His grace

And, we’re thankful for limping along with them through this life race.

When missionary kids meet missionary kids, there’s an instant connection.

And when we met the Johnsons it was no exception.

With children of similar ages, we went from play group fun

All the way to high school graduation, but we still aren’t done—

Now it is young adults we pray for, with romances and jobs

And, also, sweet little Moses, the delight of Lori and Bob!

We’re thankful for the years of sleep-overs, camps, sports and Bible studies,

For your faithfulness in prayer and friendship, for you being our accountability buddies.

The friendship with the Fullingtons also goes “way back when,”

We look back at many different chapters—Prong Jai, California, Japan…

We’ve prayed for prodigals together, trusting God’s heart

Even when some of the time, things have looked pretty dark.

God has given you the gift of hospitality and you make others feel at ease

Gathering at your home weekly is a gift for all of us church peeps.

Along with the Fjordings, Groots and Johnson tribes,

You have given us the greatest privilege of allowing us to speak into your childrens’ lives.

We were middle-aged parents of teens and pre-teens,

When cool Jack and cool Jana joined the ICS scene.

We were thankful for their youth, passion and zeal

Grateful that our kids had good coaches and mentors as part of the deal.

With the birth of Marley, God started something new,

Giving you a different lens to look at the world through.

In doing so, your tender hearts were drawn to others who had been through hurt,

And, God bonded our lives over Monday night dinners and desserts.

Somewhere along the way, the Smiths joined our Monday nights,

Bringing their transparency in their sharing—from the lows to the heights.

Always looking for the gospel in the midst of their activity;

And, what a treat to get to know and love Asher and Anna-B!

Even though we go way back with Joe and Chris

Getting to know the younger Harms has been a recent gift.

I love seeing their vulnerability and their willingness to talk about hard things,

Their love for Jordan and EZ and the passion for God that they bring.

We go back further with Shaina than anyone else here,

And, there is no way to describe the joy of having the Gills near.

We’re humbled each time we think of the way that they have chosen to bless

By living here and joining us in our chaos and mess.

Giving Shaina the middle name Joy was something we did right,

Since she has always brought us laughter, smiles and delight.

Will brought to the family even more humor and wit.

Even though he is sometimes "in the doghouse", I do enjoy his quips.

Raising our children was one of life’s greatest joys, that’s true.

But, adding more young adults who love Jesus, our kids and us, too,

Is a precious treasure for us in this elderly age!

And we can’t wait to see what’s ahead for all of us during this next stage.

So here are a few things I want to share tonight--

Not a whole sermon, I promise--just a little insight.

Life is hard and messier and less black and white than I once thought.

There are things we simply don’t understand; there are times we are distraught.

But it is often in the dark, that His light can break through.

And, it’s an awfully sweet thing that His light has often come through you.

“Laughter is good medicine” so it says in the Good Book.

And, we’ve laughed together over yummy meals or a game of Rook.

“Confess and pray so you may be healed” we are also told

We’ve had opportunities to confess to you and watch restoration unfold.

“Love the Lord your God” and “Love One Another” are commandments one and two

We are thankful we can walk together to keep these commands alongside of you.

And, now in closing, I would be remiss,

If I didn’t stop to say to Philip with a hug and a kiss—

You know me so well and yet love me as I am,

That is the greatest gift to this fifty-year-old and I’m glad you are my man.

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