Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Thursday, August 2, 2012
I don't know if it's the heat or lack of Christmas traditions in Thailand, but sometimes it's hard to get into the "Christmas spirit" here. But then I have to ask myself, "Am I just looking for Christmas decorations and music, or am thinking about Jesus' birth?" There's actually not an absence of Christmas decorations or Christmas music in Thailand. There is an absence of nativity scenes and recognition of Jesus' birth as the reason for the celebration though.
Thai Christians have challenged me when it comes to the meaning of Christmas. Christmas isn't an official holiday here, so most people go to work and/or school on Christmas. Still, Christians make it a point to evangelize at Christmas. Most Thai people know about Santa Claus and the reindeer, but they don't know the real reason for celebrating Christmas. It's a great starting point for sharing the Gospel. Our church and mission team put together many evangelistic events and I want to share a few of the highlights.
We put together a Christmas fair to invite people from the community to come to the church. The most popular things were the yard sale, games for kids and free food. We've had one girl who came to the fair start coming to our English classes.
We also taught our elementary school English students to sing Christmas songs in English. They invited their parents to a special presentation. After the kids sang, we explained why we celebrate Christmas and then gave the kids Christmas gifts. And what Christmas celebration would be complete without food? We had a few other events as well. I pray that the people who came to our events experienced the true Light of Christmas.
When you love outside the US, you've got to find a way to celebrate American holidays, right? If I go through the day knowing that my friends and family at home are celebrating and I'm not, I'll be sad all day. So why not introduce my Thai friends to American celebrations? Everyone likes parties.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
The last few weeks have felt surreal. I taught my students for the last time at the end of March and had my last day at school on Tuesday. My students had different responses on my last day. One asked to hear me speak Thai (because I'm not allowed to speak Thai in class but they know I can). I told them (in Thai) that they have been great students and I'll miss them. Students in a different class made really sweet goodbye cards for me. Apart from the card I've posted a picture of, another student wrote: "Thank you for cind (kind) and for study me. I no have present, but I have heart." It was so cute! After five years, it feels a little strange to be moving on.
Yet, I'm so excited for the next step. I've been serving in my local church for the last few years and truly enjoying it, but now I realize that my heart wasn't fully in what I was doing. I always did my best, but so much of my time and energy was spent at school that I didn't have much left over to give at church. In the last few days, I've noticed a change in my heart. I've been really excited to spend time with the kids from the church and felt a greater need to be close to the people in my cell group. Now there's so much more space in my heart and mind for ministry.
Last Sunday, we taught the kids about the disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus. When Jesus broke bread, their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus. After telling the story, I made biscuits with the kids. I brought my oversized toaster oven from home so we could bake them. The kids really enjoyed mixing up the dough, rolling it out, and using a glass to cut out the biscuits. Most Thai families don't have any kind of oven. Baking is a novel concept to them.
Today we had a had a visitor (a friend of one of our members) come to our cell group. He came because he wants to practice speaking English. We sang some Thai and English worship songs. I asked one or our members to explain the meaning of the song "My Redeemer Lives" in Thai. In the process, he shared the Gospel with our new friend Oh. Because Oh isn't a believer yet, we decided to skip our normal lesson and spend some time sharing about our personal experience with God. We wanted him to feel welcome, so we gave him a bit of an introduction before jumping into a lesson from the Bible that he most likely wouldn't understand. After we took turns sharing, Oh said that he had walked past the church many times and always wondered why there's always music and so much noise. He comes from a Buddhist background and thought our worship seemed irreverent. He said he was glad to find out what the church is all about and why Christians do what they do. We also talked to him about how to improve his English since that's why he came to church. Thank God for the opportunity to share the Good News!
Monday, February 13, 2012
Christmas came and went, and now it's almost Valentine's Day. Christmas felt so busy last year, but after stepping back and thinking about all that happened, I can see that God was working and using every event I was part of to advance His Kingdom.
One of the highlights of Christmas for me was seeing our new believers bearing fruit and growing in their faith. During an evangelistic Christmas party, two of our new believers explained the events surrounding Jesus' birth to the guests at our party. We needed a little help with translation and they stepped up to the plate. They were also the driving force behind our community Christmas fair, which was another attempt to get to know the people in the neighborhood around the church. As you can see from one of my pictures, our cell group also sang some special songs in the Christmas service. It was neat to see everyone work together to proclaim the message of Christmas to those who've never heard it before.
Last weekend, a small group of people from my church went to the House of Hope orphanage, which is near the border with Myanmar. It was such an amazing experience. The children have come out of very humble circumstances and are so thankful for everything they have. They said thank you for taking time to visit them, for cooking for them, for playing games with them, and for giving them gifts. Money was recently raised to build beds for the boys, and our cell group had the opportunity to donate sheets.
The woman who takes care of the children told me that when she asked the kids about their fears, many said they are afraid of not having food to eat. I've taken so much for granted in my life, and hearing that is such a powerful reminder that I need to be thankful for everything God has given me, including food to eat each day. At House of Hope, the kids don't have to worry about whether or not they'll have food each day, but one little boy still eats a lot at every meal. He's used to having to eat all he can when there's food to eat.
One of our new believers was so moved by spending time with the kids and she had to stop several times while sharing a testimony with them because she was so overwhelmed by emotion. I believe God is putting a burden in her heart to make a difference in these children's lives. It's awesome to see God working in her life.
The trip was incredible. The children are so loveable. You can see that they love God and depend on Him for everything. They're truly grateful for everything they're given. Visiting House of Hope is such a humbling and rewarding experience.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Thanksgiving has come and gone again. It was very special for me this year. Because school was cancelled, I had time to prepare a semi-authentic Thanksgiving dinner for my Thai cell group the day before Thanksgiving. We invited our English students and 7 of them came. They really enjoyed trying food they haven't tasted before. I also got to explain the history behind Thanksgiving. To conclude, I shared that Christians (our students aren't Christians yet) believe that God created the world and everything we have comes from Him--even down to the families we are a part of and the friends we have. Everyone had the opportunity to share what they're thankful for. It was a great time to strengthen our relationships with our students and share the love of God.
On a slightly more comical note...
I told the Thanksgiving story in Thai and I said that 90% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving. After the 3rd or 4th time I said the word turkey, my friend told me that I was saying it in the wrong tone. I was saying "sleepy chicken" instead of "turkey."
After 5 years of waiting, I finally got to have turkey on Thanksgiving. My friend and I went to a "real American Thanksgiving dinner" with some Thai teachers from our school. One of their former students went to cooking school in the US and he wanted to cook for all of his friends. It was one of the best Thanksgiving meals I've ever had. For dessert, we had traditional pies, plus homemade sorbet, graham crackers and marshmallows. Who knew you could make your own marshmallows?
Every time I stop to think about what I'm thankful for, I think of my family and friends at home and here in Thailand. It's difficult to be away from home during the holidays, but having great friends here makes it a lot easier. I'm also really thankful for my apartment. So many Thai people are living at flood relief centers right now and many still live in their flooded homes.
I've had 2 opportunities to take food, water and other supplies to families living in the flood zone. My church rented a huge flatbed truck to drive through some lower flood waters to get to one flooded area. We had to load everything onto boats and then take it into an area that doesn't get much outside help. Most donations are taken to relief centers. A church near this flooded area coordinated our deliveries. It was humbling to see people using large slabs of thick styrofoam or large wash tubs for rafts and boats. Some people had real boats, but all were in great need. Please join me in prayer for the flood victims and the Thai government.
I joined my school's flood relief effort on Thanksgiving day. We went to a relief center and played games with the children. We gave away lots of snacks and toys, which helped brighten the children's day. We also gave useful supplies to the adults.
I thank God for using me to bring hope to those in need. I believe He is bringing good out of a desperate situation and drawing Thai people to Himself.
Monday, August 15, 2011
I think lots of my American friends would already say that I've gone native, but I think I have something new to top my existing list. I moved to a studio apartment near my school a few months ago. It's great--cheap rent, high security (you have to scan your keycard before you can push any elevator buttons), a restaurant that delivers to my room, and laundry facilities. I didn't think about how Asian it actually is until I was describing my bathroom to an American friend. There isn't a designated shower area--the whole bathroom is the shower. I stand in front of the sink when I shower and if I put up a shower curtain, there'd be no room for me to fit in the small space between the shower head and the sink (as you can see from the picture). I don't mind it actually, but I do have to squeegee the floor after every shower because I don't like getting my feet wet every time I enter the bathroom.
The school year started in May and I've really enjoyed my students this year. I'm not supposed to speak Thai in the classroom, so some of my students don't know that I can speak Thai. I think those that know seem to forget when they're upset and call me "jai lai," which means "mean" in Thai. This happened one day and I reprimanded my student for it. I asked if he could say that to his Thai teachers and he looked at me with a horrified expression and said no. I have some very sweet students in the same class who immediately said "teacher jai dee tee soot nai loke" to make me feel better. It means "you are the kindest teacher in the world." They were exaggerating but it was very nice of them to say.
A first or second grade student who I don't actually know came up to me one day and said "hair...is...fantastic." I think he was commenting about my curly hair, but he could have just been expressing his appreciation for hair itself:). It was cute.
The missionary team at my church has started teaching English classes during the week so that we can get to know more people in the community. I teach one group of 4th to 6th graders and one group of 7th to 9th graders. We had a special event for the students and their mothers last Wednesday to celebrate Mother's Day (Thailand's Mother's Day is August 12). We had over 50 people! The elementary students learned to sing English songs about mothers and presented them at the event. We gave small gifts to the mothers and a Thai female pastor spoke briefly. Most Thai people will receive a blessing, no matter what religion it comes from. We closed the presentation by praying for all the mothers and their children. After it as all over, we served food and had time to get to know some of the families. Thank God for the seeds that were planted. There is a mission team coming this week and we're having some more community events. I'm believing God to move in people's hearts as we continue to build relationships and share the hope we have in Christ.