Nearing the end of a full year here in Thailand, and I‘m amazed at how quickly it has passed. There have been some moments that have not surprised me: the promise my children will wake up at the crack of dawn, the 2″ cockroach glaring at me from my bathroom almost every morning, and most recently, when a nurse at a local hospital injected a dirty needle into my one year old. It seems these situations would typically create a surprised reaction, but in my current environment, they feel almost… expected.
On the other hand, there have been so many moments in the last year that have knocked my socks off. After accepting our mission to Thailand, I instantly began experiencing the surprises God had planned for our lives.
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
Becoming a missionary was never in my plans, but God knows the desires of my heart, and soon after we moved here I realized how suited we were for this mission. Several months ago I began designing a two-bedroom safe home for Life Impact International (LII), and in March, construction on that house was completed. A family of 11 moved in, and I’m elated to know how happy the mother is with her new home. She’s so proud she can manage the household while also raising nine young children. After tweaking the two-bedroom house into a three-bedroom design, it was approved for mass production. We are now midway through construction on the first, three-bedroom home, and in two weeks we will break ground for the next. For many years, it has been my desire to design and build housing for families in need, and I truly could not imagine how quickly God has put that desire into production.
Currently, the Thai government is aligning in a partnership with LII, and as of last week arrangements were being made for the urgent placement of a 10 or 11 year old boy who has been trafficked since he was four years old. It’s abundantly evident that God has enormous plans for growing our LII family, and our role is to help make room for the rescued. Ryan and I have been helping map out the placement of over 18 more houses, which will be built in the near future, and as donations for the homes are provided, we know He will also provide the children and parents to live in them.
As this first year comes to an end, we begin looking forward to our second year here with the development of many more housing projects, a community worship center/ church, and most importantly the receiving of many more rescued children.
What an exciting time to be serving in this ministry!
Our quick Christmas shopping trip to Bangkok unfortunately collided with deadly street protests of rebels plowing through blockades on bulldozers and tear gas being blown with giant fans. Thankfully, we were always safe, but we were very surprised at the crowd that greeted us the first time we walked off the sky train. We exited directly into a protest of thousands. People were covered in Thai gear from headbands, shirts, and wristbands to whistles, earrings, and flags. As it turned out, the government building under attack was directly across the street from the mall we wanted to shop. Needless to say, we found a different mall.
Throughout this season of celebration, we spent time decorating houses and cookies with our Life Impact family, teaching a new dance routine for outreaches, opening presents with one of our safe homes, filling our tree with homemade ornaments, and spending a beautiful evening celebrating Christmas with a Life Impact supported orphanage of Burmese children. It was a great opportunity for us and for our 3 year old to spend time with children who would only be receiving one gift to open this Christmas. There was a beautifully emotional moment as “Angels We Have Heard on High” was sung in Burmese and English. Several of the young children closed their eyes and you could feel their emotion; it was completely tangible and overwhelming. What a perfect moment of two languages praising our God in unison!
The most memorable and life changing experience; however, was my first overnight outreach to a very poor and remote village on a mountaintop. With no set expectations, I loaded my backpack and sleeping bag into the truck with several of our rescued youth for a 5 hour drive up the mountain. Loaded down with clothing, toiletries, toys, and food for the villagers we trekked along the dirt path and drove through a creek, that just a few months prior would have been impossible to cross in the rainy season. During the 6 month rainy season, the villagers do not leave or enter the village due to the creek being flooded. One look out the truck and we were abruptly greeted with a drop off of hundreds to thousands of feet, and driving over the narrow paths riddled with cracks, was tricky to navigate as it was only as wide as a 4-wheel drive truck.
Once we arrived in the village, we began the two day outreach of games, worship, dramas, and preaching of the Gospel. While a majority of the villagers had never heard the Gospel, they had also never seen a white person. I received so many curious glares, and I had to rely completely on the translator especially to answer the “who are you“ looks. To break the ice, it was recommended I bring fireworks to the village so I brought noise makers, and the children loved hearing them pop. They followed me around just waiting for me to light one so they could have a good laugh.
On the last day, there was a big production of worship songs, dramas, and a sharing of the Word. I was honored to help lead a grandfather into a relationship with the Lord, and several others made the decision as well. When the message was complete, we celebrated with a firework show, and never having seen anything like this, the people were in awe of the sight. Similar to the dramatic performances and songs, they watched with absolutely no distraction.
I was so excited to have the opportunity to travel to this village. It was heartwarming to give the children toys, clothing, and stuffed animals. While it was a step back in time with no running water, electricity, machinery, or any other modern elements, these people now have something even bigger: a relationship with Jesus and the Word of God. Please pray for those new believers and those yet to believe, and pray for a Holy Spirit movement in that place. We will be going back, and when we do, we want the numbers to have multiplied. We can plant the seed, water it and help it take root, but God will make the garden grow and flourish, multiplying in number the harvest for the Kingdom.
1 Corinthians 3: 6-9