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

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