Posts Tagged ‘ Thailand ’

A Look Inside

We love visitors in Thailand! But if you’re not able to come experience the houseful of teens (and bucket showers, poisonous centipedes, surprisingly delicious insects, etc) yourself, check out this video for a glimpse of life and work in rural Thailand.

A huge thanks to the National Community Church family for their support of this project, and to the amazing artists Dave and Erica Baker (bakerstories.com) who sacrificed time, talent and treasure to capture the story (not to mention risking themselves and their video equipment in flooded rice paddies.) Grateful for you!

A Little Crazy Goes a Long Way

A little (crazy) prayer goes a long way.

I asked several “Will God…?” questions in my last post.  Some won’t be answered for months or years, but for others I feel like we can start counting the promise of “immeasurably more” right now.

Can I really be an adequate interim parent for two teenagers abandoned by their mom until God provides more permanent foster parents?   It’ll take a lot longer than a week to tell that.  But in the meantime, God is blessing Jub and I and our volunteer house with two precious teenage girls that need a lot of love (and eat a lot of pancakes) and stretch our faith every day.  We continue to circle these girls in prayer and plead for God to provide foster parents in the next few months, but I’m wondering if God might have something else in store…  Immeasurably more.

Will God heal a faithful and faith-filled couple that just discovered they are HIV positive, and protect their unborn baby from the disease?   We’re still circling.  But in the meantime, she’s rising up in worship with a deep faith and divine strength that gives me goosebumps.  And she’s crying out to God not for herself or her own recovery, but for the lives of those around her as she continues to fight for and love on her neighbors that continue their work as women of the night.  Crazy awesome.  Immeasurably more.

Will my friend reach his goal of staying clean from meth for an entire year and grow as a committed husband and father?   Time will tell and we’ll keep circling.  But in the meantime, he’s challenging me back with this goal saying he doesn’t want to just stay clean for a year, but he wants to stay clean for good.  Silly me.  Immeasurably more. 

Will God build a movement to create real change in rural communities to stop this cycle of family and community brokenness that so often leads to participation in the sex industry?

Now we’re getting REALLY crazy.  But I’m beginning to realize a little crazy goes a long way when you’re talking Kingdom crazy.  Here’s a preview:

This photo was taken last week after our first ad hoc community meeting in a small, rural village in Khon Kaen province.  The heart of Isaan.  The heart of Thailand.

After being unsure whether or not we’d have any attendees and being even less sure what direction the discussion would take, we were overwhelmed with the result.

The community is awake.  Without prompting, they answered every question we had with flying colors.  They want change.  They want us to be a part, but they want to take responsibility for change.  In fact, they want to start before we even get there.

We laid out our best made plans and prayers and God is already doing…. Immeasurably more. 

More soon…

 

Sacrifice

As I traveled through the States over the holidays I had the chance to reconnect with friends and family and be reminded of the beauty of the American world.

On a minor scale, it’s being reminded how tasty homemade Christmas cookies are. Or how my friends at Ebenezers Coffeehouse in DC know how to make my ridiculously complicated coffee drink just right, at which point I can enjoy it over life-giving conversations with friends from my home church.  It’s hugging my nieces and nephews, siblings, parents and grandparents and realizing how much of our individual strength has come from the collective strength of our family.

Yes, the world on the other side of the world is a pretty sweet one.  But here’s the catch.

Those cookies wouldn’t have tasted so good had I not been without them (or an oven for that matter) for a year.  The coffee wouldn’t have tasted so good had it not been shared with a friend as we visited about what God had been doing over the last year in each of our lives.  Those hugs with my family would not have been as sweet if I hadn’t just spent a year surrounded by people living in extreme hardship stemming largely from broken families, and realized just how preciously rare a strong, healthy family unit is.

When people tell me that they are inspired by the sacrifice of leaving a comfortable world behind, I have to correct them.

I made no sacrifice.

Rather, by not leaving, I would have remained trapped in my own sense of pride and drive for accomplishment and sacrificed the beauty of being humbled by those that live with so little and yet live with so much.

I would have sacrificed learning the depth and richness of love, community, compassion and restoration and recognizing each of them more fully in my life.

No, I made no sacrifice.

 

Submerged

A few of us took a trek through one of the flooded neighborhoods of Bangkok yesterday in hopes of checking on and helping out a friend and her family.  She fussed about us making the trek… In typical Thai fashion, she was worried about her ability to be hospitable from a flooded house.

The water still hasn’t reached our neighborhood, though it continues to move through the city.  Check out satellite imagery of the flood’s slow daily descent on Bangkok here.

Here’s a quick tour through one of the flood zones, at least as far as we were brave enough to venture.

High clearance vehicles work overtime to move people in and out of flood zones.

Sign reads "Out" ...

Still a popular place for lunch?

Hard to believe so much of the country is under water until you see it with your own eyes.  We get to see more than just water, however.  The resilience and creativity of the Thai people comes out in force, as does their strong spirit of generosity in times of need.  Though many are submerged, they’re still smiling in the Land of Smiles.

If you’re interested in best ways to help out with the flood, shoot me an email or comment and I’d be happy to offer some ideas.  

24 Hours

Saturday morning alarm set for 5 AM I wish I could say it was done with a joyful heart, but I’d be lying.  It had been a long week; I was tired and grumpy.  Nothing seemed to be going as planned.  Expended energy seemed to be yielding little fruit. But we knew we had to go.  Motivated by the fear of regret, we went.

Three sisters, part of our family at The Well, had a family crisis.  And when one in our family has a family crisis, we go.  A child was in the hospital in critical condition, and we hadn’t seen two of the sisters in some time.  We wanted to give hugs, prayers and encouragement. To do so would require an eight hour bus ride upcountry followed by unknown local transport to their rural village.  A few hours into the trip, a phone call informed us that both sisters had been called away to work and wouldn’t be able to meet us after all, and the child in critical condition had been taken away by his dad to a different hospital.

My first reaction?  Resentment.  Not a glamorous missionary reaction, right?  5 AM wake-up followed by an 8-hour bus ride on a rare, open weekend and nobody would be there. Seriously?  Isn’t my time more important than a wild goose chase literally across the country?

Jub smiled at my clear disgruntledness and settled in to her bus seat to catch some sleep on the way. Her calm attitude convicted me.

Almost to our destination, we called the girls’ mom directly since she was likely the only one still home. She had gotten very sick and asked us to meet her at the hospital.  We met her at the local clinic where they had given her a shot of morphine and sent her on her way.  (Thai health care at its finest.)   We followed her home, sat with her, visited, and played with the sweet one-year-old that had spent his first six months of life at The Well before going back to live with his grandma.

Mom’s signs of sickness worsened and we helped her get to a more legitimate hospital for better medical attention.  Off she went, and that was it.  Jub and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and started looking for a creative transportation mode to start our trek back to Bangkok.

We walked in the door at home almost exactly 24 hours after we had left.  Over 20 hours in a moving vehicle of various shapes and sizes, less than 4 hours of visiting, and nowhere close to fulfilling our originally intended purpose.  And yet, it seemed God knew more than we did.

Mom got the hospital attention she needed. Sisters felt cared for.  Jub got some sleep on the bus.  And I got my weekly dose of humble pie-in-the-face.

Wild goose chase?  Perhaps.  A weird way to spend a weekend?  Yep.  Thankful that God takes extraordinary measures to remind me that He’s not only in charge, but actually knows what He’s doing?  Absolutely.

Harvest

Harvest is wrapping up on the Idaho home front. My cousin sent a report a while back that one of our fields registered a record-breaking 133 bushels per acre.

I got that report during a particularly rough week in Bangkok during which I was struggling to hang on to hope of a fruitful harvest with a few cases here.  A series of drug relapses were causing downward spirals among a few students.  These added to several health crises and a myriad of other issues in our community, not to mention a few more heartbreaking nights of outreach where we realize just how much it’s going to take to break these cycles of broken rural families sending broken women to work in broken bar districts frequented by broken foreign men… Taken together, it tipped the scale enough to trigger questions and emotions that I didn’t particularly want to face.

I sat reading this bright email from home, 8000 miles away, and feeling much further even than that from a bountiful harvest.

And then I remembered.

I was around eight years old. We had a bumper crop in the fields; just waiting for another week of sun to ripen it and ready it for harvest.  We came home from church, shared our Sunday family dinner, and sat on the porch to watch a storm roll in.  But this one wasn’t an ordinary storm.  It carried enough hailstones to destroy that bumper crop in a matter of minutes.

I wasn’t very old, but I knew enough to know the consequences of those hailstones.  Completely out of our control.  Completely devastating.  But oddly, I don’t remember the devastation as much as I remember the reaction of my dad.

We watched in silence as the storm came and went.  He calmly got up, smiled, and said “There’s always next year.”

Dad illustrated a lesson for me that year that I’ve revisited many times since: We have the responsibility to plant and tend, but ultimately we’re asked to hold loosely to the work of OUR hands and instead trust in the work of GOD’s.

Put differently, harvest doesn’t always look the way we’d like it to look.  It doesn’t always fit into nice spreadsheets or “win” columns.  For me, that year of a destroyed crop provided more fruit than a bumper crop would have. It gave me a picture of faith, and of faithfulness.

It’s a picture that reminds me that success doesn’t always mean seeing the fruit of our labor in the near term.  Success means faithfulness over the long term.  It means faithfulness to the calling you’ve received, and more importantly, to the One who called.

“…if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday…”  — Isaiah 58:10


1000 Words Aren’t Enough

We easily accept that a picture can be worth a thousand words.  But how often do we stop with the thousand words it speaks?  What about the rest of the story?

I took my camera to Soi Cowboy last week for the first time, trying to get some images for awareness-raising efforts.  And I hated every second of it.  As someone that usually enjoys being behind a lens, this threw me for a loop.

I hated looking through a lens at that place; I would much prefer to look in their eyes and hear the stories of the women we meet rather than “capture” the scenes that can’t possibly come close to telling the real stories of the past or dreams of the future.

I realized going there with a camera was risky.  I was risking looking (and feeling) like I was reducing women to subjects and statistics rather than affirming their worth and value.  Beyond that, I feared what reaction I might get to the photos.  I feared that others might see the photos and pass judgments.  Or even worse, that people might simply react with pity, shake their head and go on their way.

Either way, I realized that I’m terrified to take photos of the hard stuff because I know all too well how easy it is to stop with the “thousand words” and not bother to find out the rest of the story.

As uncomfortable as this makes me, I was reminded by someone I respect that it’s a turmoil we have to face.

I have the privilege of working alongside some incredible people and a handful of ministries that are committed to getting to know both stories of the past and dreams for the future.  Most of these people were moved at some point or another by the reality of the injustices we saw – whether it was through a photograph, a video, or seeing it in person.  “Seeing” it offered an invitation to enter in.

I guess that makes the turmoil worth it.  It’s my hope that any images used from this shoot or any others would not evoke judgment. Or pity. But that they would be an invitation for others to be moved with compassion to come and find out the rest of the story.

Tomorrow we’ll be attending a full day networking event with Thai Christian business leaders and a number of local non-profits. It’s an opportunity for Thai leaders to better understand what God is doing in the country and for ministries like The Well to find committed, local leaders to partner in our efforts.

We would love your prayers for God to move in the hearts of those at the meeting — that they would be compelled to want to learn the stories behind the images.

Whose Daughter?