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