Friday, December 5, 2008

"Bob Wins Reward"

is what the TV just said at 5:43 a.m. here in Thailand. I'm watching "Survivor: Gabon" and they're down to the final 7. Bob, the old guy physics teacher geeky dude, just won the reward, and it was cool 'cause he got to eat pizza and beer AND his wife showed up out of the bush to his shock and surprise.

Why am I up at this hour watching Survivor? Well, Kris and Jen just left to fly to Bangladesh and India for three weeks, and I'll leave in a few hours, so I got up to say goodbye to them. They are such generous people, and I've enjoyed this time most of all because they are so cool to be with. This I knew before I came and, in fact, looked forward to it more than seeing and experiencing Thailand. Last night when we spent some time praying for one another, I was reminded again of just how precious these two are to me.

I've just this second answered the phone and it was Jen informing me that their flight to Bangkok had been canceled, yet another dip in the roller coaster ride which has been our lives here in the past 10 days. On Wednesday, November 26th, anti-government protesters stormed the international airport in Bangkok and shut it flights in or out for 7 days or so, then a trickle of flights allowed over the past few days. Yesterday the news said the airport was fully operational, so my friends decided they would proceed with their plans for their 7 a.m. flight, going through Bangkok. Now, they are on their way home, and I'm making the coffee.

My flight should be uninterrupted since I'll be avoiding Bangkok altogether. My original departure was set for November 28th and when it didn't fly, I rescheduled for December 2nd. By the 1st, when it looked like the airport would remain closed, I canceled that flight and booked the one that takes me through Taiwan enroute to San Francisco. Thank God for China Airlines (a statement I thought I would never make after an unimpressive maiden journey with them earlier this year), because they fly directly from Chiang Mai to Taipei. Never thought I would be thankful for a flight back to Taiwan, but this morning, I certainly am!

Corinne just got voted off of Survivor!!!!! I didn't like her, so I am not sad to see her go. She's played the game in a really catty way, so it will be nice to have her out of it. Are you a Survivor fan? In America, I never watch it. I've only watched snippets of the series since it began several years ago, so I barely know how it's played. But here, I've watched The Amazing Race, The Amazing Race Asia, and occasionally Survivor: Gabon, and it's been kind of fun to see what all the buzz is about. I want Bob to win...geeky old guy, physics teaching Bob! It would mix it up a bit to see this scrawny old smart guy pull it off...sort of like rooting for the underdog, which I kind of like to do from time to time (unless it's a football game involving OU!)

Speaking of underdogs, there are probably no truer underdogs in this world than the children who are casualties of poverty, abandonment, war, or disease. My time in Thailand has primarily been characterized by my relationships with the 8 Thai children at Blossom Home, and my brief visit to the Burmese children at the border refugee camp and safe house. Two nights ago, I dashed over to Blossom Home to say goodbye to those kids for the last time, and found them in their pj's putting the final touches on homemade cards for me. Their hugs and smiles were heartwarming enough, but when through initial fits of giggles they gathered round me to pray with passionate requests to the Father for my travel and future, I was humbled and moved beyond words. What a treasure we have in the children we know. Whether they be our own, or someone else's, children are a precious gift from God and I am so blessed by the love they add to my life. I know many of you reading this have children in your life who are adored by the multitudes who know them. Each of their faces should help to remind us all that there are many more who need love, too. Underloved, underdogs, but beautiful children who have the love of God and need to know it by the love we offer them. This Christmas I hope we'll all pause to remember and support some of those without relatives to care for them, especially the children, the "least" among us, and those who I often feel compelled to "cheer" for.

I will post pictures when I get back to the states and unpack my camera stuff. Thanks for stopping by. This is my last post from Asia, sad but true.

Until next time...wherever that may be.
LC from TH

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Music in Asia...

can be a pretty hilarious thing, if you are the kind of person I am, who hears background music and is easily fascinated by her surroundings. (I'm told some people don't hear music in the background, so I make this distinction.)

Let's begin in Taiwan, where daily, for over a year, I heard the high pitched sound of the trash truck going throughout all the neighborhoods playing "Fur Elise" by Beethoven. Seriously, every day this tinty tune would play through loud and bad speakers while driving up and down every lane alerting the locals that they could come running out of their homes with their garbage and join the throngs of others tossing their bags into the back of the stinky truck. When I first arrived, I was amused and fascinated by this, but by the end of the third month, when I was sick at home in bed for about 3 days, I grew very annoyed with a sound ringing through the public airwaves that could not be turned off or ignored from my 5th floor apartment. After many more months, I grew better at ignoring it, but honestly, I don't believe I could ever sit through a serious performance of Beethoven's love song For Elise (whoever she was).

Imagine the scene when I arrived in Thailand, and within a few days made a dentist appointment for cleaning and check up. They wanted to do x-rays, and we all know that drill - sit in a chair, place a hard piece of board in your mouth, hold your head just so, while wearing a metal vest, don't move...technician leaves the room for a few seconds and voila, x-ray done. Well, I was sitting there, prepped and ready to go, and as the technician was leaving the room she said, "Don't move for 10 seconds" and the x-ray machine began it's rotation around my face. Ever so faintly, I heard a very high pitched tune, distant, but strangely guessed it, "Fur Elise"...playing from the X-RAY MACHINE, and me supposed to sit STILL!! Toughest 10 seconds I'd seen in awhile!

The other day, here in Thailand, I was walking out of the hair washing place ($3.00 wash and style, gotta love it), and had already heard the marching band from the school across the street practicing, so I paused to listen for a moment. They were pretty good, and had a pretty full sound. A huge smile came over my face when I recognized the tune, shook my head in fascination and disbelief, and marveled at the widespread success of ABBA, when a high school band in the middle of Thailand is playing with great skill, "Mamma Mia".

Now, it's Thursday morning, and I'm just waking up with some coffee, sitting on the floor at Kris and Jen's and listening to the birds and insects, while occasionally hearing the dull sound of a machine turning on and off, or a car/bus/scooter driving on the busy road fifty yards away. It's not uncommon in Asia to hear these speaker trucks driving around making some announcement deemed important by their owners/sponsors, and I usually tune it out, 'cause it's in the native language. However, just a few moments ago, I heard a tune, and thought the words were in English, so I listened closely. Bizarrely, randomly, they were playing a song from 1988 by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, "I wanna walk but I run back to you, that's why I hate myself for loving you! I hate myself for loving you..." Wow! It just never gets old...not the song, but the fascination with how songs reach places like this, and come to be played publicly. Why this song, why this place, why this time? Always funny, though.

Have a great day.

Until next time,
LC from TH

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This past week...

has had some busy days, and some lazy days, with a few decisions made in between.

Friday night, my friend Jyup took Dave and me to a Thai place for dinner, and it was very good. She's grown up here, so she knows where to go.

Saturday evening I went to a birthday party at Blossom Home. The twins, Sitigon and Sitipon were turning 12 and Bank turned 3, so they had a BBQ in front of their house. They set up these cool BBQ cookers and we gathered around them and cooked our own meat, boiled our own vegetables around the outer edges of the BBQ, and just kept eating until all the food was gone. It was my first time to do something like this and it was great! (First time to cook the food like this, not my first time to eat until all the food was gone! Duh!)

Sitigon and Sitipon, birthday boys.

The BBQ at Blossom Home.

Sunday was super cool. We went with the whole house church in a 45 minute convoy ride out to a park by a river, and joined 2 other churches to have a service, lunch and baptism. There were about 20 people getting baptized, 8 of them from our house church, all of them from Blossom Home. In addition to the 6 older children at the home, one of the staff women and her son were also baptized. It was an awesome day!!
At the service, I met this cool woman missionary, who told a fascinating story of growing up in Burma, living in the jungle and eventually ending up in Chiang Mai where she met her husband. They lived in Laos for 7 years and now back in Chiang Mai for 23. She was super interesting to talk to, and I wasn't actually all that surprised to hear that her family came from Oklahoma back in the day. One of the things she told me was that her oldest son had recently opened a restaurant here. When she said he served pizza and ribs, I was intrigued enough to mention it to Dave and Jyup and we decided we'd check it out the next evening after our day in the mountains.

Baptism before and during.

Monday, I spent the day in the back of a red truck with Dave, Jyup, her assistant Ku, and a pastor from the mountains. We were helping Jyup and Ku get some supplies up into a mountain village where they will take their project teams beginning this Sunday. Jyup and Ku (pronounced Jip and Goo) work with school and church teams who want to travel with purpose, setting up partnerships between teams and service projects. For instance, last year one of the teams came and repaired a water tank for a village that had been without a convenient source of water, and this year they're returning to do more work for the village. I had been hearing about their work for several weeks and was blessed to get to go check it out first hand. Even if it meant bouncing around in the back of an old red truck, up and around mountain roads with big potholes, dust and exhaust smells continuously, it was a great way to spend the day. After we returned to the city, we went out to eat at the missionary lady's son's place, (it's called Ridgeley's) and it was awesome! In Asia, it's hard to find a good pizza, and this kid really knew how to make 'em. I was impressed, enough to give you this review on my blog, so you know it was good...and cheap. We shared an appetizer, a salad, a large pizza, and a dessert, and we all had drinks, for right at $15 U.S.

Now, the rest of this week, I've been laying low, listening to the incessant sounds of fireworks blasting off right outside my windows, all day, all night! NO kidding. There's a festival happening here, called Loi Krathong, which I gather means floating lantern, or something like that. It's held in the 12th month of the Thai Lunar Calendar, which falls in November each year, and it lasts three days, ending on the night of the full moon. Tonight is the full moon, so tomorrow I'm looking forward to the possibility of a more peaceful existence with my otherwise peace-loving Thai neighbors. If I was afraid for my life, I think I would understand what it's like to live in a war zone, 'cause these blasts sound like gunshots, and sometimes bombs. They are so loud at times, they shake the house a little bit. This is a Buddhist festival adapted from a Hindu celebration where people would float little lantern boats down the river to make a fresh start in the new year. It holds some of the same significance here, as people put these flower wreath lanterns into the river and let go of any grudges or grievances they may have held in the previous year. One of the more beautiful, if environmentally hazardous, traditions is the lighting of lantern kites that float into the sky. Tonight I will go out and see the full moon with the sky lit up with lanterns and see if I can capture any good photos of the event. I glanced out the window last night after midnight and saw several of them and it was impressive.

Meanwhile, I've made a decision to come back to the states Thanksgiving weekend. I should be in San Francisco on Saturday the 29th, and I'm really looking forward to it. I don' t know yet exactly what I'll be doing, but plan to see my family over the holidays, and hope to be in New York City shortly after new year. I am anxious to begin that chapter, and don't really care that I'll be freezing for the first 3 months I'm in NYC. I just want to get there. So, I'm praying that God will open some obvious job opportunities, and that I'll be wise to make good decisions while I start life there. I can't explain this passion, which usually means it's from a much deeper place than my mind.

Thanks for praying with me.
Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

LC from TH

Sunday, November 9, 2008

When you stop counting your blessings...

you should take a little trip just about anywhere in the world and look in the faces of children who have no family to love them. It's a humbling experience.

A week ago, I went on a four day trip to western Thailand, specifically a border town called Mae Sot (to pronounce it, think of "mass sought" together), where there is one of 9 U.N. refugee camps set up more than 2 decades ago to help Burmese refugees avoid the genocide that prevails in their country to this day. In this town, there is a spunky Thai gal, age 26, who graduated from University here in Chiang Mai and moved out there to work with a ministry called Compassio. (A Canadian guy started the ministry.) This gal hosted us for four days, showing us the many things that she manages on a daily/weekly basis, all trying to make a drop of difference in this massive pool of need. (There are a total of 180,000 plus Burmese refugees living in these camps along the border of Thailand. In the Mae Sot camp alone, there is estimated to be 50,000.) She told how the Lord gave her 7 children and one grandma to care for. The children are all from Muslim Burmese parents, so they are very dark (not resembling the complexion of typical Burmese people), and when they smile, they light up the room. Ranging in age from 3 to 13, all of these kids came in from the streets, and their new family consists of one another, 4 staff mama's, (who themselves are only in their early-mid 20's), and a grandma. The grandma is a 96 year old, deaf, Thai woman who lives right around the corner from the safe house (Thus named because the children live there to the mystery of any of their biological family who might try to get them back on the streets earning money from begging.) We had a blast playing with the kids after school, hearing them run and laugh and hang all over the 6'6" guy, Jamie and his wife, Lisa who were spending time with the ministry at the same time as me, and another guy, Dave, from Colorado. (And before any of you say anything about anything...Dave's married with kids. Great guy, and a good traveling companion. Six hours on a bus, one way, say no more!)

Grandma with one of the staff. video

Jamie and Lisa

The time in Mae Sot included going to two schools that educate Burmese children. Both schools are funded by Christian ministries since the Thai government will not take responsibility to educate Burmese children whose parents are here as refugees. I took some photos of the first school, New Day School, where there are about 150 plus students, brought to school each day in a scooter with a basket cage "school bus". It takes the teacher 6 trips a morning and the same again in the evening to gather all the kids and bring them to school. At least it works, and it's better than the alternative, which would mean no education for these kids. As we walked around the grounds of this school that resembled more of a barnyard with little open air huts as classrooms, one couldn't help but notice the disparity in the numbers. In Pre-K there were about 50 kids present (although they have 75 on the roll), Kindergarten had about 40, and 1st grade about 25. All of these classes had their own distinct hut with their own teachers. Then the older kids were all under one roof, separated only by a few feet of concrete by their grades, and taught by one teacher roving around between grade levels. Second grade had about 8 kids, 3rd grade maybe 8, 4th grade 6 and 5th grade 4. This was a clear indication of the poverty in which these kids live. Their parents insist they work to earn a little bit of money (about a dollar a day), as they get old enough and big enough to be able to do physical labor, education becomes less and less important. It was a peaceful walk around this schoolyard, but heartbreaking as well. The teachers are mostly all Burmese refugees themselves, receiving a small stipend for their efforts to educate these children. When you stop counting your blessings...think of these little ones in such challenging circumstances.

videoThe Pre-K class at New Day School.

The School "Bus" at New Day School.

From New Day, we went to another school, where there seemed to be more students (about 300 supposedly) and obviously more older students. The 5th-7th graders performed a rousing version of "In the Jungle...the Lion Sleeps Tonight". I've uploaded the video so you can enjoy it too. This school had more older kids because they allowed them to sleep at the school and thus they were less of a burden on their families. This meant they could get an extra year or two of schooling before going to work. I met a Canadian gal there who's been volunteering a couple of years of her life to teach English to these kids. The new term had only begun the day before our visit, and she was voicing her concern for her oldest class of students. The previous term she'd had 7 in the class, and 3 of them had not returned and hadn't informed anyone why they weren't returning. She said when she asked the other kids they just said those 3 had gone to work and wouldn't be coming back to school. All of this was very disturbing to me as I tried to understand and process how a culture can be so cavalier about education, which I've always believed (and still believe) to be the door to opportunity. As I was pondering this, we took a drive with the founder of this school and several of the teachers (including a 30 year old Burmese woman who was introduced to me as the principal) to take a look at the new school they are building on the outskirts of town. It's on a huge piece of land and the bones of the school have been built with the help of volunteer teams from the western world (Australia, Canada, and America mostly). I sort of hung back in the shade of one of the buildings and chatted to 4 of the teachers, asking questions about their own background and the history of the school as well as the future for the students. They were all eager to practice their English with a native, and wanting to be good hosts, they talked with me happily. I learned that they had all grown up in the refugee camp, and that this work was really the best they could hope for themselves. Had they gone to university? No, they couldn't go since there were only two places a year available to the people in the camp, and they were not admitted. I asked if they were free to live where they wanted, and they said no. This was where they were allowed to live, and they felt blessed to have a safe place to live and work. They learned their English in the camp and had shown an aptitude for it, so they rose above the crowd a bit to become teachers in this ministry school. I gathered maybe they were able to take some university courses online to learn some teaching methodology, but mostly they were learning "on the job" as it were. When you stop counting your blessings...think of these young women living out their potential in such stringent parameters.

"In the Jungle." video

After lunch, we drove for an hour outside of Mae Sot to visit an orphanage that was started in the refugee camp several years ago. The huts of the camp were built along the base of a mountain, (I was told they built it like that to make it difficult for the Burmese government to shell the camp from their side of the border) and there was a river running through it, which was the sole source of their water. Electricity lines were strung along the tops of the huts, so they had an energy supply. When we arrived, we drove right into the camp, parked the truck and immediately many young guys came out of a gate to help unload the food we'd brought up the mountain. The whole scene felt rather chaotic, but I followed the crowd and found myself walking up wooden ladder steps into a home, where there were about 30 children singing in Thai with a few adults around them. They were greeting us with their singing. This was the orphanage, and the kids had stayed home from school to wait for us, as they didn't know when we would arrive. Wow! It was a humbling moment, followed by many more such moments, as they sang for us, we sang for them, then we all sang together. Dave had brought some paper and pens so the kids could trace their hands and decorate them for his church in Colorado. I guess many of these kids are sponsored by people in his church. He's been coming here regularly for four years and is familiar with many aspects of this ministry. For about 45 minutes we all fanned out in groups of 4 or 5 kids each to help them make their hand prints. It was cool to watch how diligently they worked at getting their pictures to look just right. After awhile, some ladies brought out plates of spaghetti for us to eat, and frankly there's no way I could do it. We had just eaten lunch a couple of hours earlier, and the drive had kind of made me nauseous, so there was no way. Apparently, they always do this out of courtesy, but we weren't obligated to eat it. And if we didn't eat it, there would be more for the kids later, so I was eager to opt out of the food offering. We stayed for about 2 hours total and then hopped back in the back of the truck and went back into town. When you stop counting your blessings...think about these kids sleeping on a bamboo floor with no mattress or pillow.

As we were traveling back to town, we saw a rainbow in the distance and it was huge. I was encouraged by the sign from God, that He will be faithful to care for those He loves. A few minutes later, we were caught in a brief and light rain shower. Just a little wet from riding in an open bed truck, we stopped off at our hotel for a rest before dinner. I could hardly think about all that we'd seen that day, so I lost myself on the hotel lobby computer and surfed the internet. This was Tuesday, November 4th, after all, and there was something else about to happen in the world. (Being 12 hours ahead of New York and 15 hours ahead of San Francisco, the voting hadn't yet started, but the buzz was fierce all the same. Even in a sleepy little border town like Mae Sot.)

On Wednesday, we spent the entire day at the safe house, doing some repair projects, talking with the staff and eventually playing with the kids when they came home from school. It was a very cool day. I had a great conversation with one of the staff, a Burmese girl who is not living in Thailand legally, so she's confined to stay in that house or only go out at night for fear of the authorities asking for papers she does not have. A bright girl of 20, she misses her home and family, but knows she's doing the right thing to give her life to the cause of helping raise these 7 children, loving them, taking them to church to be loved by the rest of the Burmese believers. As she was telling me about a typical Sunday, how she teaches Sunday school and then leads the worship, and how hectic it can be sometimes, I thought of how many times I'd had the same feeling on a Sunday. Later, I was honored to get to meet the young man that pastors her church, as he came by to visit for a few minutes before heading to the factories to preach the word of God amongst the Burmese workers. Sweet man, with a passion to bring the hope of Christ to people who have very little hope in this life. Again, a humbling moment for me.

Later when the kids came home from school, we were playing with them in the streets, 'cause Dave and I had bought some cheap rubber balls and some badminton sets. When it started to rain, we took shelter for a few minutes then went back out after it stopped. The little 3 year old, Jamila, wouldn't leave my lap when the other kids went out to play. She just sat there and watched them with big eyes and fascination. She didn't want to throw the balls she had in her hands, and started to cry when it looked like she was going to have to. I just couldn't help but think, even something so small as a cheap ball is a possession that she wants to hold onto, because she lives with so many kids she must feel like nothing belongs to her. When you stop counting your blessings...think about these little ones.

Thursday we took the long bus ride back to Chiang Mai, and I spent a day and a half in hiding, trying to process all that I'd seen and done. I will continue to do so, but for now, I can only say, when I stop counting my blessings, I hope I can remember to think of those less fortunate than me, and ask God to forgive me, again!

Until next time,

LC from TH

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Interesting and Incredible

It's been an "interesting" week since I last wrote on the blog. (You know we say "interesting" when we kind of want to say bad, but we don't really want to come right out and say it.) After the tooth extraction, Tuesday wasn't too bad, but Wednesday I started feeling funky. I had gone to teach music to the kids then I came home, drank some lunch and took a nap because I was feeling a little strange. When I got up, I actually threw up, and spent the rest of the next two days laying low trying to figure out what was going on with me. Friday morning, I mustered enough strength to get on a van and do a visa run to the northern border. This was a necessity if I wanted to legally stay in the country past Sunday, so I made myself do it. An incredible day in so many ways, not least of which was the company I kept. On the day tour were 9 others plus the Thai driver and tour guide. The 9 included an Australian couple in their early 20's, a Malaysian woman in her 50's, a Chinese couple who were studying in Malaysia (they were in their early 20's as well), a Spanish couple on their honeymoon, an Irish gal and her Scottish friend who grew up together and were now traveling for several months before heading to New Zealand to work in January. The road was long, bumpy, and windy, and it felt like our driver was on some kind of challenge show to see who could drive the fastest. (He won!) He weaved in and out of traffic from 7:30 in the morning 'til 9:30 that night, and I wasn't far from throwing up most of the day. This, coupled with the constant aching of the socket where my tooth had once been, made the day incredible! Thankfully, Saturday was a little more low key and I hustled off to the dentist by mid-day to get the hole checked out. After hearing that it was healing nicely and the pain was just part of the pleasure, I rested a bit easier. Sunday was another great day to be with the folks at the house church and now this morning I'm off to the western Thai border with Myanmar to spend the week with some refugee children. I don't really know what I'll be doing, just whatever needs doing probably, so I would really appreciate your prayers for a fruitful time. Back in Taiwan, I've heard from several of my colleagues that my replacement teacher got fired for dropping the f-bomb on one of my classes. Although I am unhappy about that, I sort of feel a little sense of "I told everyone it was hard" and I know but for the grace of God, that could have/would have been me. So, pray for my kids in Taiwan. They need some extra love from their substitutes until Serena finds them a more permanent teacher. The good thing is I know the sub and he's a loving Christian, Chinese-American guy who plays piano on the worship team at church in Hsinchu, so he and I have already been talking about the personality of my classes and I think he'll be a good person for them. I pray he enjoys it so much he wants to stay on for several months and help stabilize the situation. One last quick word on my Friday activities...I went on this "tour" as I've already said because I needed a new visa stamped into my passport. However, since it's cheaper to jump onto a real day tour than it is to have someone drive me to the border, I had to be a real tourist as part of this larger group, none of whom wished to cross the border into Burma and get a new visa. So, I had the interesting experience of walking onto a bridge, stepping into a cramped office past border police with guns, and going through the process of entering another country. I started it and felt the surge of excitement of doing something unknown, before my tour guide showed up just in time to assure me it was o.k. to leave my passport with the border police while I walked into Burma for 15 minutes. He said, "They don't want you just to take your passport back without seeing their country." If he hadn't have been there, I would have felt very uneasy about leaving my passport in the hands of a border guard. It was strange, anyway. However, I trusted him, we walked into Burma and down these steps into an alley of merchants, one of which held a sizable collection of black market DVD's and CD's. This was the tour guides store of choice, so I followed him in there. (Incidentally, his name was "Net", shortened from "Nest" which was a nickname from "Nestle" cause he drank so much of that milk when he was little.) I got a copy of "Raisin in the Sun" which I highly recommend for it's acting and plot and a copy of "Baby Mama" which is commendable for a whole lot of other reasons, mostly because you'll laugh out loud at Amy Pohler's comedic timing. I also added my long time favorite movie, "Shawshank Redemption" to the bag of contraband, and all of this for about 3 U.S. dollars. Gotta love creative economies, eh? Ten minutes later, we walked back up the steps, onto the bridge, across to the opposite side of the road and into a different office where a young woman handed me my passport and I went back to the Thai side to gain entry back into this country. What a trip!! Also, on Friday's tour, we enjoyed a boat ride up the Makong River (which comes out of China) to see the Golden Triangle, Burma, Laos and Thailand. We didn't get off the boat in Burma, but we got 30 minutes in Laos, which was full of crafts stalls and begging children. It wasn't too hot, but it was dirty and sad, so I was happy to get back on the rickety barge and head back to Thailand. I don't see many begging children/people in Thailand, but in Burma and in Laos there were many little ones with their hands out. "God, watch over them and keep them as they live their precious little lives vulnerably amongst strangers." Thanks for lifting up the children of the world. Jesus loves them. All of them. (I'm singing "Jesus loves the little children" in my head right now. Can you tell?)

On the boat tour there was an "impressive"
shot of this deity.

And not far away was this small Christian
church on top of a building. Sort of sizes up
the challenge for Christians living in a
predominantly Buddhist culture.

Fishing huts built right on the river.
Great commute.

Landing in Laos, the tour guide said,
"Just get out and walk straight to the stairs.
The platform only holds 10 people."

Standing on the bridge looking at Burma
on the right and Thailand on the left.

Walking into Burma
(officially called Myanmar.)

Birds eye view of The Golden Triangle.
You can see where the three rivers
converge in the middle of the picture.

This little guy wanted to get into the van.
We stopped in a village to see the Long-Neck
women and he was escaping his dad.

So, I'll close and go pack a bag for todays adventure. Thanks for your prayers as I continue to live out these days here in Asia. Your interest and prayer support are so valuable to me, so thank you for being prayerful people. I'll be praying for you as you engage this week in conversations regarding the election. It's going to be another "interesting" week.

Until next time,

LC from TH

Monday, October 27, 2008

Things I don't recommend...

would make a long list, but today at the top of that list is tooth extractions. I just returned from the dentist, a very nice woman in her 50's, with incredible "chair side" manner. She talked me through the whole thing, including the two extra numbing shots she had to give me 'cause I was feeling the pain. Then when it came out I didn't even know it, and she showed me a really long-rooted wisdom tooth with lots of cavity in it. (That's why I had to have it taken out.) After my 100 Baht (about $3.40) Tuk Tuk (motorcycle taxi) ride back to the house, here I am nursing a hole in my head. What a trippy feeling. That's about all I can say about it, besides that I don't recommend it (and maybe a few other things that would gross you out so I'll move on.)

On a lighter note, I spent the morning with the retired guy that's the landlord of the house my friends are renting here. He was nice enough to take me to a village nearby that had row after row of shops under big awnings. They were mostly shops of wood carvings, and I bought a wooden rubiks cube (which I promptly messed up and still can't put back together). The guy's name is Nopohn, and he wasn't very talkative, so once I had exhausted all the conversation starters I could think of (what's your favorite car, do you have a big family, how did you learn English), we were sitting in a quiet car, or walking along the shops in silence. Not bad, though. After an early lunch, he dropped me off right before another huge rainstorm.

That's all I've got for now, until next time,
LC from TH

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I'm in Thailand...

and I've been here for three weeks today. Sorry to be such a slug getting this started. Vacationing takes it's toll, you know? Truthfully, I've been trying to get my finger on the pulse here in Chiang Mai, sort of figure out what I'm doing here, and see if God wants me to put my hand to any of the things He's been doing here before me. My good friends, Kris and Jen, live here and invited me to come and stay as long as I want. The obvious perk to that invitation is getting to spend time with them in a beautiful setting where they've lived and done ministry for the past 7 years. I love spending time with them and they are great role models for me, so I decided I should seize the opportunity. I've prayed for them all these years and finally get to make good on the promise to come visit them.

There's only one snag in that scenario...they aren't here, at least not now. They were here...they picked me up at the airport, we had a few days before Kris left on a ministry trip and then Jen and I hung out for another 10 days before she left to join him. Now, I'm here in their house for the past week on my own. It's not all bad. Before they left, they gave me some great contacts and an excellent orientation to the city, so I'm not lost...well, not completely.

The day after I arrived, I attended the Thai house church they're part of. What a blessing! The church met that week at the home of Than and Aut, (two married believers who run a bakery called The Upper Crust), and was filled with children, mostly from Blossom Home, a ministry to kids forced by their parents to work in the night market. That first day at church I met Jyup, Sangwon, Ku, Meebia, Sitigon, Sitipon (twin brothers), Audo, Tiwagon, Abba, Bang, and Boaht. These are good examples of how different Thai names are to English names. It's challenging to keep up, to say the least. However, this little band of believers in this deeply Buddhist country have been a real blessing to me. The first Sunday I attended the church, I taught them "How Great is Our God" and they love it. They translated it into Thai for the second Sunday and sang it with all their hearts. I've included a video of them singing it this past week at church.


Last week, Jen and I went over to Blossom Home to teach the kids some music. They are learning English from Jyup on Saturday mornings so they are keen to learn some music in English. As it's coming up to Christmas, I decided to teach them "Happy Birthday, Jesus" and they've caught on pretty well so far. We'll work on a few other things too and teach them to the church. It should be good for the body of Christ.
Meanwhile, when I'm not going to the kids home, I've been to the dentist a few times, and I'll be returning to the dentist on Monday for a wisdom tooth extraction. Thanks for your prayers. Also on Monday, I'll be going sight-seeing with the landlord, a retired police sheriff who lives with his retired English teacher wife here on the property where Jen and Kris' house is. He knocked on the front door yesterday and asked me where I would want to go, in rather limited English (better than my Thai), so we agreed on a woodcarving shop just outside of the city, I think.

There have been many blessings in the past three weeks. I've enjoyed meeting a lot of great people, particularly Melva and her husband Mark. These folks live in Colorado and come to Thailand to help with the Blossom Home several times a year. I met Melva the third day I was here and we instantly bonded (due to the fact that we were both born in the same great state of Oklahoma and also because she laughed at everything I said.) Unfortunately, they left three days after I met them, but I have no doubt God put them in my path here for a reason. They are very generous people, evidenced in their offering to let me ride their scooter while I'm here. This makes it much easier for me to get around and much cheaper too.

Mark, Meebia, Melva, Sitigon, Tiwagon, Abba

Meebia (in black), and her twin brothers
Sitigon and Sitipon, Bank and his baby
brother Boaht (I'm holding the baby),
Tiwigan (girl in red) and Abba (in front of Meebia).

So, to all you faithful blog readers, ("Hi Mom!"), welcome to the new site, and as always, thanks for your prayers.

Until next time,
LC from TH