Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Snakes, Elephants & Jesus - sightseeing &

After 3 days of hard work our team was ready to spend Saturday sightseeing.  Dave and Diane had a great day planned for us.  It is important for our team to work hard and be able to see ministries from the inside out.  It is also important for them to be able to experience the culture of the country and have a chance to fall in love with a new, unfamiliar place.  Far more than 50% of full time missionaries have been on short term trips in the past.  Our hope for the teens that we take overseas on these trips is that the fear of the unfamiliar will lose it’s power.  That they will suddenly be able to envision themselves being happy in a place other than the one they call home now so that if God calls them overseas they can face it with adventure adrenaline instead of shaking knees.  We also want them to see the needs of the world face to face and realize that they have something to offer those needs. And we hope that the time they spend laughing with and watching our missionaries will inspire them as they craft their futures.

Saturday, after breakfast at our hotel’s buffet, we boarded the songtels and headed to the river.  A long, scenic ride down the river we arrived at our first stop.  Animal #1 on our agenda was a snake….and not just any snake, but a huge snake!  For B$300 ($9 USD) any of our team who was crazy enough, could hold the huge snake for a picture.  I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of these pictures on facebook already if you are friends with any of our team members!  Our next animal adventure involved the great Thai elephant.  In pairs, we were able to take a 30 minute ride through the river and countryside on the backs of these great beasts.  A few of our team members were even invited to leave the seats on the back of the elephant and move to the driver’s position on the head for part of the ride!  God sure has made some amazing creatures!

From the elephants we journeyed to a park area with trails that led to rivers and waterfalls.  We took our sack lunches to a scenic spot next to the first waterfall and picniced.  After lunch, most of our team took advantage of the opportunity to cool off and swam under the waterfall.  A hike just a bit farther let us to another waterfall with a rock jut out in the perfect position to jump from into the deep part of the water.  We spent the rest of the afternoon there with Fred and Tacie Anderson taking turns being our jump safety coordinators as leaders and teens alike took the exhilarating plunge!  Our team also discovered a slope to the rock that made a perfect slide into the water which provided even more fun.

Our afternoon concluded back at the hotel with a team meeting.  We walked through our team passage about Jesus washing the disciples feet again and took time to share stories of ways we have watched our team-mates exhibit the type of servant leadership this passage is talking about.  Stories were told about water being delivered to thirsty workers, encouraging words spoken when Daryl’s trip hung in the balance, smiling faces reaching out to make new Thai friends and many more.  We were also able to spend some time hearing Dave & Diane’s story and heart for their calling here in Thailand.  I hope it was as encouraging for the Fords as it was for us to be able to pull back the curtain a bit and hear more about their struggles and joys than a Sunday morning report is able to deliver.  It’s especially poignant to be able to hear their stories as we sit in their culture.  Moments like these with our teams is one of the things that helps us as a church be able envelope our missionaries with love and educated care while they are on the field and when they come home.  We talked for a long time, catching up on the days that have gone by and planning the next few and then broke for an evening of dinner, shopping and massages. 

We headed to Baan Athitaan Church Sunday morning for church.  Dave & Diane have been attending here for the past couple years.  Josh and Brittany have begun working with the teens and children’s ministries since they moved here 3 months ago.  A highlight of the service was experiencing worship music in two languages at once during worship time.  Maybe that is a taste of what heaven’s worship will sound like.  Scott preached the morning sermon out of Psalm 15.  He gave the picture of this Psalm being a mirror that we can use to evaluate our lives to see if our actions are ones that point to real faith.  It was challenging….and we also enjoyed watching his translator try to evade repeating his jokes and sound effects!

Sunday evening we got the awesome opportunity to attend a Chang Rai United soccer game!  It was super fun to cheer along with the local fans as the home team tied the game up in the final few seconds!  We have all become fans of the Big Orange!

We are enjoying each other, loving the culture and watching these kids spread their wings and fly.  Parents at home, we know that it is no small thing to send your children halfway around the world with someone else and we take that as a sacred responsibility.  They are experiencing the things you hoped when you decided to let them go.  They are willing, eager participants in everything we ask of them and they are having their own personal faith stretched in ways new to them.  We love them and are so thankful that you gave us this opportunity with them.

UP NEXT:
3 days at public schools with ESL, sports and dental ministries

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sweat and Smiles - Working at CFPM

Our team arrived in Chiang Rai at lunchtime Wednesday (midnight Tuesday EST) after a very short night’s sleep the night before in Bangkok.  On minimal sleep over those 48 hours of globetrotting, our team hit the ground running in Chang Rai.  Dave and Diane treated the team to a local favorite, Cow Soy, for lunch.  It seemed our team had a love/hate relationship with the Cow Soy.  It’s spice was a challenge for a few tummies but most bravely tried it and many found a new favorite.

Our next stop was CFPM - Children and Family Prison Ministry.  The Fords have partnered with Alung, a local Akha man, and his wife who have started CFPM to address the needs of children whose parents are in prison.  Alung grows, roasts and sells coffee in order to care for 11 children who wouldn’t have a loving home without CFPM.  They have a vision to not only care for the children but also facilitate and support family reunification when the parents are released.  They are working on new buildings that include a home for boys, a home for girls and also one for Alung and his family. 

The current projects that we were able to help with are cabinet building for the 3 kitchens and cementing the driveway areas.  Our team donned their work clothes and arrived at the complex with eager work attitudes despite their lack of sleep.

We worked on these projects half of the day Wednesday, all of Thursday and all of Friday.  The team that filled the songtels (trucks that take us to and fro) at the end of each day  was dirty and sweaty but always still smiling.  These students impressed us with not only their work ethic but also their attitudes.  Our leaders meetings included comments about how there was never a need to ask kids to work harder, faster or happier.  That is very unusual.  This is an exceptional group of teens.

Our cabinet crew was lead by Phil Muston and assisted by Rob Dame and Fred Edmonson.  The rest of the team enjoyed teasing them about their “cushy” job since they were working indoors with fans instead of under the hot Thai sun.  This team skillfully planned, designed and began construction of 3 kitchen’s worth of  cabinets that will make the everyday details of caring for CFPM’s children much more efficient.  They accomplished an incredible start and will continue working there as everyone else  moves on to school ministry next week.

The rest of the team joined Alung, Bing (the oldest of CFPM’s children) and some local men on the cement production and laying crew.  There were three stations where cement was mixed; on in a motorized mixer and two in large tubs with people stirring.  Our team used bucket brigade trains to deliver the right amount of rocks and sand to each mixer and then to deliver the mixed cement to the place it needed to be laid.  Sometimes the bucket trains were long, sometimes they were uphill, sometimes they included a hand cart full of loaded buckets with a person as the mile in front and more in the back pushing.  We were in the hot sun, the air was humid, the cement dust coated our hands and legs, the rocks cut our fingers...yet our students smiled..

We interrupted our day briefly on Friday for an important moment with Bing.  He has been with Alung at CFPM the longest and has just graduated from high school.  We were all very impressed with his spirit and work ethic as we spent work days together.  After lunch on Friday he disappeared and the reappeared showered and in clean clothes with a tie.  We gathered around him to pray as he left for his first day of University classes.  He hopes to be trained and then be able to work with the CLAY Center (the community sports and outreach center that the Fords are beginning) in the future.  Watching Bing embark on this new phase of his life that God made possible through the ministry of CFPM was a highlight of that day. 

By the end of the third day we had completed a wide driveway across the width of the property with about 1500 sq. ft. of new concrete.  They still have a lot they want  to add, but this gave their project a jumpstart through many hands making light…..well, at least lighter labor!

Friday evening as we left I saw many pairs of work gloves laid neatly on the porch and heard the students discussing their plans to donate their gloves to the CFPS workers.  They have generous spirits….and apparently no plans to be laying more concrete at home for their parents!

Our hotel is a very comfortable place where we are all grouped by pairs in rooms on the 3rd floor.  It’s neighborhood is full of all the best of the city.  The famous Night Market is just a block away and gives the students many opportunities to spend their free time searching out deals on fun souvenirs.  Our hotel also has Diane’s favorite Thai Massage Salon just around the corner.  After long days of work, many from our team have taken advantage of those for less than $10 for an hour long massage.  What a great relief for tired, sore muscles!

We are happy, we are healthy and we are safe.  But best of all, our students are experiencing the blessings along with the personal growth involved in saying “yes!” when God calls!

UP NEXT: 
Weekend news from our sightseeing day and church
School Ministry happens Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with sports, dental and ESL