big news, part 5

At some point, I will stop calling these posts “Big News, Part [fill-in-a-number].” I will come up with creative, applicable, one-of-a-kind titles.

That will be fun.

(Here’s where you can find Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.)

So. I had started filling out the Monster Application to become a part of The Hard Places Community family. And, by “monster,” I mean BIG and INVOLVED and DETAILED and CHALLENGING, but also really, really awesome. They covered all their bases. Man.

Remember, I said they were all essay questions. 13 of them. Except with a lot of questions-inside-questions. I just counted them. 57. FIFTY-SEVEN.

Some examples:

What do God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit mean to you?

Is your spouse 100% with you on this? Is this your dream or your dream together?

How do each of your children feel about taking this leap of faith?

What is your personal definition of community, and how do you live that out?

What kind of support system do you have set up?

Define evangelism. Walk us through how you would lead someone to Christ. 

(So, that’s 6 of the 57. Piece of cake, eh?)

Then some that made me a weeeee bit uncomfortable, seeing as I had just finished up the rawest, most vulnerable e-book I’ve ever written.

Would you say that your life is chaotic or that you are often on an emotional roller coaster?

Hmm… nope. Nope, I’m good. Totally even-keeled. No worries here!

Are there certain triggers that can cause an emotional meltdown in you?

Hmmm… triggers…? Nope. I’m like an emotional rock.

In coming to join our work in anti-trafficking for sexual exploitation, you will need to exhibit that you are emotionally stable, steady, and ready to handle an intense amount of heartbreak that you see in other people. How do you plan to do this?


So, not only was I worried about how I was going to answer these questions truthfully while trying to convince them to hire us, I was also worried about something else.


He had to fill out the application too, and he did it on his own. Without my assistance. And brilliant advice.

Can you believe that?

And, control freak that I apparently am, I had to pray about this A LOT. I was reeeeeeally nervous that we were going to answer things wildly differently, and the HPC Board would shake their collective heads, and say, “Nice try, Tavianos. How about all y’all get your act together, and fill out another application a few years down the road? Or never.”

Hoo boy.

We finished our applications (separately) and sent them in on Saturday, October 24. My new e-book also unofficially released that day (please don’t let the board members read it, please don’t let the board members read it, please don’t let the board members read it).

On Wednesday evening, Gabe was in our bedroom, and the girls and I were doing something at the kitchen table (can’t remember what). Ava went into our room to get something (an iPod charger maybe), and I hear Gabe say these words to her.

(very offhandedly, calmly, AS OPPOSITE OF ME AS YOU CAN GET)

“Tell your mother we’re officially part of The Hard Places Community.”

I run into the room. “WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY???”

“Did you get the email from Alli?”


He hands me his laptop, and I read it out loud to everybody.

Marla, Gabe, Livi, Ava and Nina, It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to the Hard Places Community, Cambodia!!! We are so excited to begin this journey with you. We believe that God has called your family to our community and to the people of Cambodia for such a time as this!!! We look forward to serving you as you serve the people of Cambodia. Welcome to the family! 

OH MY GOSH. I mean, I kind of felt like it all just HAD to work out, but sometimes things just don’t, you know? Sometimes God has other wait-a-year-or-three ideas.

I had asked the girls earlier if they ever had a flash of worry that this wouldn’t work out, wouldn’t actually happen. They waited exactly zero seconds and yelled, “NO!” in unison.

Well, they clearly are not related to me.

I texted Alli to ask her if I could share publicly right away. She said yes. I had already written Posts 1 and 2, so I published the first one and started working on the third.

The next day, Thursday, was the 4-year anniversary of Gabe’s heart attack and the official release of my new e-book.

On Friday, our family met with Alli and Angel for about 45 minutes to talk briefly about some things before Alli left for the States for 2 weeks the next day.

Once again, soooo encouraged by everything Alli said. Things like, “We’d much rather do prevention than restoration.” And “God has given us so much vision lately for new things.”

And, concerning some big-name ministries that have talked to HPC about merging with them and absorbing all of HPC’s costs, “God has told me, ‘Your hope is not in any of these organizations; it’s in ME.”

We talked briefly about what some of our responsibilities will be, some creative/artistic ways to get kids to open up and share. We talked about what the next 2.5 months will look like before we move.

Alli told us we’ll be starting from scratch with the center. Basically, the budget? Does not exist.

We’ll need to help raise money for rent, utilities, the two staff members’ salaries, supplies, toys, books, water, snacks, mats, etc etc etc.

Instead of being nervous about this, we are SUPER EXCITED. Because we know some really awesome people (YOU!!) who we think will want to help. (more details soon!)

And we found out more AMAZING news.

Our first TEN months of rent? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10?


As we were finishing up the meeting (we’ll have a really big one when Alli gets back to Cambodia), Angel said she had something to say to the girls.

She looked right in their eyes (oh, I love her), and said, “We just want you girls to know how excited we are that YOU are part of The Hard Places Community. Not just your mom and dad, but YOU. And I just want to say to each of you, ‘YOU BE YOURSELF.’ Whoever it is that God made you to be, that’s who we want you to be. Just being you? Will speak life to these kids. And living life with your family? Will show them what a family is supposed to be. I don’t want you to worry. We want you to just be you.”

(I could’ve collapsed in a heap and sobbed, but I didn’t. Yay, me!)

Saturday was my 40th birthday and our infamous traditional Khmer family photo shoot.

And Monday we started “work.” Which basically means going to HPC every week day all day long & shadowing people & taking notes & helping with Kids’ Club & learning/soaking up as much as we can in this relatively-short period of time.

We have five days under our belts, and we are TANKED. Sooooo thankful for the weekend.

So there you have it. I have soooooo much more to say, but the cliffhangers are over. From here on out, I’ll just share what’s going on while we learn more about The Hard Places Community. From just this week, I have a ton of stories to share about some amazing staff and some resilient, filled-with-hope kiddos.

Reeeeeeally excited to share some ways you can partner with us. THANK YOU, friends, for all of your love, support, and encouragement in the past 10 months (we celebrated our 10-month Cambodiaversary on the 4th). And some of you have been loving on our family for way longer than that.


p.s. Gabe let me read his HPC application just now. Oh. My. Gosh. I almost cried. It was perfection. Maybe someday he’ll let me share some of it with you.

17 thoughts on “big news, part 5

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  8. Sue Oda

    Isn’t God’s timing amazing. This sounds perfect for your family. Will continue praying.
    By the way, I just finished your new book today! God is good!

  9. Gail

    So excited God has given you your hearts desire a ministry to belong to in a country you took a leap of faith and went to. You and your family are blessing many here in the states and are encouraging others to step out of our comfort zones praising God with you all 💓

  10. Stephanie Taylor

    Oh my goodness! Such wonderful news!! Exciting, amazing and beautiful! I am so happy for your family!!! I want to share that this post made me shed some tears and the dentist offfice! When he asked about it, I shared just alittle of this excitement and you know what? He wrote down the name of the community you are becoming a part of

  11. Lori Haskell

    Congratulations, Tavianos! Really happy for you. Definitely brought me to tears reading all of the parts of your story. Wow! Esp. loved Alli’s words to the girls. Absolutely powerful! Will continue to pray for you all.

  12. Ruth Feiler

    Its so exciting and encouraging to me to hear the way God is working out every detail of your lives in Cambodia. I know your family will do a wonderful job working with the Hard Places. It sounds like God is giving you a ministry that is a perfect fit for you!

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