Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tuesday, March 10th

Our original plan for this day was to drive to Huaypha and stay the night there at center then head down to Chaing Mai on Wednesday. However, Elaine suggested I get down to Chaing Mai so I could see a doctor. So we drove to Huaypha, spent time with Lacheah, and went to the school before continuing our drive to Chaing Mai. On our way to Huaypha we stopped at Huaiya school, where Praweet is, the kid Kevin and I sponsor. They were having a graduation for all the 9 grade graduates. It was fun to see what was happening there as I had been to that school the first time I came. We then took food to a family. The family wasn't there, but when we were stopped I noticed they had the coolest little piggies. I know I took way too many pictures but I was just having a Charlotte's Web experience. Then we continued on to Huaypha.

Huaypha is where I have spent a majority of the time on previous trips. This center is primarily sponsored by members of my church, so it is the one we are most invested in. It was fun to see it and the things that have stayed the same as well as those things that have changed over the years. It was great to see there were now cement walkways between buildings. I was also glad to hear the kids helped in the efforts. The ground is a red clay dirt so especially in rainy season it is very hard to walk in. The kids now have walkways! Lacheah is more than 9 months pregnant as her delivery date had passed when we arrived. It was cute to see her pregnant belly. For those who don't know, Lacheah was sponsored at Musekee as a child. She then went to college and felt God calling her to start a similar center in Huaypha, the village she was from. She and her husband spend their lives working with about 50 kids each day. When she started she wasn't married, doing it primarily on her own (obviously a lot of support). I have always respected her so much for her life of sacrifice.

I also enjoyed going to see the kids at school, though we all were sad not to have time together that night. Even though all I wanted was to lay down, I so loved seeing the kids that I mustered up the strength to sing songs and play heads up 7up with them. Before taking off, Kevin Turl showed us a new building by the church that they will use in the village for events. I am so glad to see all they are doing.

We then got back into the truck and drove to Chaing Mai, Don dropped Kay and I off at the Ram Hospital so I could see a doctor. It was a great experience. The whole thing cost me $70 (for a doctor visit and 4 prescriptions). All the staff was nice and worked at speaking to me in English. After I saw the doctor I was given a number to go and pay as well as pick up my prescriptions. Kay and I were paying attention to the screen where the numbers were being shown, as I didn't know what my number would be as they announced them in Thai, but when they got to my number, the computerized voice had been changed for me, and it said two hundred seventy eight. I was so impressed that they were able to change it based on the patients language. Kay and I then went to a mall close by to eat at the food court so I could take my pills. I went to bed early that night so I could let my body rest.

Monday, March 9th

Unfortunately, up until now I have been getting sick and using at least a travel pack of Kleenex a day. Today it really hit me. I woke up and knew I was not doing anything. Kay allowed me to rest in their house for the day. I had a fever and really felt awful. I was sad to miss out on the school. Elaine, the woman I went with, was able to go see her sponsored child and play with the kids for the day. The group received some tooth brushes and toothpaste that my friend, Cresta, brought over for me take just before I left.

That night I did go to dinner and night worship. The kids looked at me in a way that said, they knew I was sick. After a wonderful time of worship (singing the banana song again), the kids gathered around us to pray for us and lay hands on us. Experiencing their prayers is a wonderful thing. When its time to pray everyone prays outloud at the same time. I think its great to hear all the voices going up to God at once. They know God in a way that is intimate and unheard of for kids their age in our country. It is a beautiful thing to behold. I felt so honored to have each of them pray for me and Elaine. I was humbled.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sunday, March 8th

We got up and had breakfast at Siami's, then headed to the Jamuleng Church. It is a Karen Church and was filled with beautiful people. They had a guest speaker, an American, who is apart of a ministry in Thailand. He spoke with what he said translated into both Thai and Karen. The terrible part was - he sucked and embarrassed me as an American. I am sure he is a great man, but not only was his message not applicable to the Karen people, he also broke every cultural rule in the book. This is something I could harp on for hours, but I will spare you, except just to say that sometimes a well intended heart can insult if not paired with understanding for your audience.

Afterwards we were invited to lunch at various huts. The rest of the group went with a former Musekee student and I went with Wantacom, who's daughter is sponsored by my sister, Alex. I gave her the picture I had in my Bible of Stephanie, Alex, and I from Thanksgiving and she clung to it. The Karen tradition is when a woman marries, she moves into the hut of her husband's family. So there were several of us crowded around the table that sat a few in off the ground. No one spoke English so I did my best to be kind without saying a word (well besides Deblut, which means about 10 different things in Karen). The food was brought out and my fear came true - there were foods on the table I knew if I ate I would throw up soon after. So I kindly took the veggies and fruit, and when they passed me the plate of fish heads I declined. I didn't want to be rude, but I knew the food wouldn't go to waste. It would have been nice to talk to them, but maybe I can prepare a few Karen phrases for my next visit.

As I left to join the others at the truck, I took the family's picture. It was cute to see the grandpa get all dressed up again like he had been for church. Everyone was waiting on him to take the picture. As I left I said, "Deblut," which in that instance meant "thank you" and "goodbye." I do have to chuckle about one thing. As poor as these people live , they almost all have some of the modern aspects of life like a cellphone or satallite mainly because these things are so cheap. It was humerous to see a cell phone on top of a bag of rice in the hut I had lunch in. It just felt so out of place in those surroundings.

That afternoon after returning to the center, I spent time with the kids helping them write letters to their sponsors. It was a lot of fun. I had a great time! I then got a shower (midday is the best time because othertimes its too cold to pour water on your body). I then went with Siami to have a womb massage (if you want to know more about this, just let me know). We then had dinner and again night worship with the kids (this is my favorite thing). I asked who remembered the "I like bananas..." song. A few hands went up and I saw Pitak in the back sheepishly putting up his hand. So I retaught that song and so enjoyed their faces during the song - they really get into that one. We sang a few other songs and then I taught them another game. I headed to my room above the medical clinic and before the kids went to bed I could hear them walking around saying, "I like bananas" or "Papayas." It just made me smile. I so love these kids...they have the greatest hearts.

Saturday, March 7th

So we got back in the trucks - we've spent more hours sitting than anything else, and headed up to Musekee. We took a stop in Pai, a city I think any farong in Thailand should check out. It's like the Santa Cruz/Austin/Boulder/Yellow Springs of Thailand. Then we finished the journey to Musekee in Ban Wat Chan. It was great to be in a familiar place where my heart dwells in Thailand, again with the Karen people. We settled in our rooms, bought some things from their shop and went to dinner at Siami's house. We got to meet Ahkom, Ahtid, and Tanneen - 3 wonderful young men who help out with the kids at the center, all wanting to be pastors. Then we went to night worship with the kids! I remember a few kids from Huaypha, who are now in Musekee. I asked Pitak if he remembers me, and he says yes (heart melt moment). I taught the kids a game and roared with laughter as they played. I got to see them having fun and see their cute personalities! I could stay forever just to get to know each of the kids. They are so special. Afterwards we went to bed.

Friday, March 6th

We left Mae Sot early and stopped North of Tak for brunch. It is cool because the gas stations along the road have outdoor cafes where you can order coffee and take a break, as well as use the toilet (obviously, a porcelain hole in the ground - flushing is done by using a bowl and pouring water from a bucket down the hole til your tp goes down (tp not provided)). We got into Chaing Mai that afternoon and got some needed supplies, as well as some girl time with tea at the tea house and then a $6 massage - nice! We had dinner with Claire and one of her friends. I had heard a lot about Claire and it was great to meet her. After dinner we checked email, walked the night market, then headed to bed. Don rested after all the driving and geared up for another day of driving on Saturday.

Small World Story

The farong (foreigner) behind us on stage were from Pismo Beach/SLO, CA only 2 1/2 hours from where I live in Visalia. One girl, Betsi, was the college roommate of a girl I know named Whitney. Whitney's ex-boyfriend, Alan, came with me to Thailand 4 years prior to this current trip. When we went to the Agape Center and signed the guest book, we saw those 3 ladies names above ours, and when we showed up to Dave's for dinner Betsi, Lauren, & Sarah came in too and we all got to know each other better at dinner. It was a great day! We had a great time.

Godly Wife

I had a humbling experience when I spent time with Pastor Winai and his wife. The time that we visited with Pastor and drove around, his wife and daughter (and another little girl), sat in the back of the truck so we could sit inside. She never complained as we had her husband's attention. She also gave each of us purses seh made as we left. I thanked her for her example of a Godly wife, because I know I would not have been so gracious. I have so much to learn. :)

Thursday, March 5th

Don came and got us for breakfast and the 4 of us headed to breakfast at Dave's. Then Elaine and I met someone at 8am who took us to the refugee camp. Unfortunately, they wouldn't let us into the main part of the camp. We were however allowed into the Bible school at the refugee camp (each of the 7 camps along the Myanmar/Thailand border have a Bible school!) When we arrived the students were assembled and we were escorted onto the stage where Dr. Simon was speaking and where other farong (foreigners) were seated. Dr. Simon, a teacher at the Bible college and fellow refugee, tells us about the Karen (Kah-wren) history (I will share more about this later). He also says something that makes my jaw drop. I was told about a resettlement program with 9 other countries (United States, England, Sweden...) that would allow some of these refugees start a life in another country other than Burma or Thailand. This really excited me to get involved because I wanted to see these people "without hope" get an opportunity to start a new life and have a future, but as Dr. Simon talked about this program his viewpoint was much different. He didn't talk about the possibilities of a new life, but instead the opportunity to finally be apart of the Great Commission and share the gospel around the world. I was instantly humbled. I had gotten it all wrong. These people, at least at the Bible school, had Jesus and that was all they needed. No amount of human rights could give them more. They just wanted God to allow them to share the gospel. How amazing! I can't wait to share more about the story of the Karen. They are a wonderful people. Before we got off the stage all the Bible students sang for us. They were amazing! The voices were beautiful.

We were able to tour the school. I met a man named Hello in the handicap living quarters. He is blind, but had a great spirit. We prayed for him and loved on him and even now as I think of him tears are in my eyes. We also got to go to the different classrooms and play with the children. We taught them songs and played Heads Up, 7Up with them and before I left and I taught them, "I love you" in sign language. My heart almost fell from my chest as they all raised their hands to say, "I love you" as we left. I told them I was taking them all home with me in my heart, andI know they are all nestled there right now. As we walked to the car one of the teachers, Gloria, followed us and we talked. She thanked us for coming and praying with the kids. She said, "I hope I see you again." I told her I didn't know when I could come back, but if not here, she was my sister in Christ and I would see her again. What hope that sentence held for me! They will be in heaven some day with some of the greatest rewards because they possess incredible faith.

The second have of our day was to see Pastor Winai and all he is doing near Mae Sot. We first went with him to a village to pray for a woman. She had fallen into a fire and no one could take her to the hospital, so she lay crippled in the floor of her small bamboo hut. We prayed with her, and again I was touched by her faith and beautiful smile. While we were there we saw one of the churches Pastor Winai planted and prayed with a guy who is helping out there.

Next we headed to the Agape Center, started by Pastor Winai. One one side of the road is the new home for the elderly he has started where he and his wife and small daughter live. On the other side of the road was the center for children. His oldest daughter and her husband, Briti, a Musekee graduate, live and work with the children, at least 30 (maybe 50). We sang songs with them in worship and as they headed to bed all of them gave us a hug and a "God bless you." Some practiced their English and even said, "I love you," or "I miss you." It was so sweet - totally melted my heart. I then played the guitar with Briti. I was really impressed with his English and he had great guitar skills. Pastor Winai then took us back to Dave's where we had dinner. Oh and while we were gone Don was able to get the truck because the protest had ended.

Wednesday, March 4th

We got up (I took a hot bath! Last one in 2 weeks) and had a buffet breakfast before heading to the airport. After an hour flight on Thai Airways (my favorite airline) we arrived in Chaing Mai, where Don and Kay whisked us away to Mae Sot (a six hour drive - more of the "Sore Butt Tour"). We ate lunch along the road from food packed by Kay - arroy (delicious). Every few miles we were stopped along the road by Thai police. Apparently they check cars in search of those without papers trying to come over from Burma. As we got closer to the city of Mae Sot it became apparent the police were trying to communicate a warning to us about something up the road, but our limited Thai didn't give us any indication aside from the warning. But just 2K's outside of the city, it became clear. We noticed all the cars were parked along the road and people were sitting around the road, one man had pulled out a mat and was sleeping under his truck. We pulled over and Don set out to discover what was going on.

We contacted DK Guesthouse where we were staying and they were going to come and get us. Apparently, some locals in a sign of protest (to what I have no idea) decided to park their trucks along the road to block it from anyone getting through on either side. They had been there since 10 in the morning and no one knew when it would break-up. The people reacted differently than those here. First of all, the police did not get involved. Which here the police would have already gotten them off the road. And Americans would have been engaged in outspoken protest of the protesters demanding our rights to get where we needed to go. These people just accepted it, even though some of them could lose their livelihood if the trucks didn't move soon. I almost loved the way the police let them work it out, and the acceptance of the people - its a lot less stressful and forces people to work things out (not that I am proposing a change in our country...its just different).

When employees of DK Guesthouse arrived, they helped Don park the truck at a friend's house on our side of the blockade, where they would watch our truck and stuff. Elaine and I, who haven't changed clothes in days, grabbed stuff we would need, and we all walked past the blockade to the truck from DK and we drove some back roads to the guesthouse. We checked in and got our stuff situated then headed to a recommended restaurant by the guesthouse, which was wonderful. It was a restaurant owned by a Canadian named Dave. Then we went to bed at 7pm (which was 3am CA time). Elaine and I woke up around 3am and were ready to go for the day so we just sat there til breakfast at 7am :).

Monday, March 2nd/Tuesday 3rd

Pretty much the 2nd (and the 3rd due to our 15 hour time change) consisted of sitting on a plane, which started the "sore butt tour." We were able, by the grace of God, to get our seats changed, as we were not given seats together at first. We met some sweet people in the airport in Tokyo, Japan.
One woman told us of her life and how she was coming from Colorado, headed to Bangkok, to see her husband in the military. I couldn't believe how sad to only see him a few weeks every 6 months. We arrived in Bangkok to discover our bags were taken straight to Chaing Mai, so we were free (after a line of 4's) to get to our hotel Novotel. (Okay, so every person we went to with a question gave us an answer that involved a 4. It was humorous because we heard 4 about 20 times...comical really :)). Novotel was a beautiful hotel with great accommodations. It actually cost the same as the Hacienda in LA and was much more luxury accomodations.

Light Bulb Moment on the Plane:
To say I enjoy the trek from LAX to CNX would be a complete lie. Somewhere between the 15 hour time change. Long hours sitting, switching planes and customs makes me a bit insane. I feel homesick already just from the journey, but in the midst of this madness God spoke something amazing to my heart.
As timing would have it two days after I return to California, I am singing at church. My first song choice didn't pan out, so before leaving I chose a second song that I love called, "Held" by Natalie Grant. I brought the words and song on my ipod so I could practice. As I read the words on the plane, God used the song to answer some questions for me.
Before heading on my trip, many questioned why I was going and why I wanted a visit to a refugee camp to be apart of my trip. The only answer I had was that I felt God wanted me to go. It was on my heart, but I had no human reason to give (not that I needed one). As I sat on the plane with the lyrics before me I started to cry because I knew that this song was for the refugees and its lyrics held the purpose of my trip to the camp. The song talks about devastation people experience and knowing in the midst of it what it means to be loved and held by our Savior - that no matter the circumstances we face, being loved by God and held in his hands are what is most important. I want to walk with my brothers and sisters in Christ showing them love because that is what matters most. I want to extend my heart to my Christian family around the world. By extending the love of Christ to those with circumstances less than appealing is a true extension of hope.

Thailand Trip - Sunday, March 1st

Elaine and I headed down to LA around 3:30pm. We had wonderful conversation all the way down to the hotel. We got our room, parked the car, then after lugging our stuff to our room, we walked down the street searching for a place to eat. We found a sports bar and restaurant called Sticks & Steins and had a very filling meal. Then, of course, we headed to bed (though neither of us got much sleep).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hong Nom???

Sawadee Kaaa. So there are some parts of my trip that I am not to share until I get to US soil, so I have not written because I want to keep it all in order, except today. :)...I head to Bangkok in a few hours, then to LA in the morning. If you are reading this in America you are about to start Thursday, but I am finishing it 14 hours ahead of my destination in LA. It was 15 hours when I left but Daylight Savings ate one up. Today has been humorous because if you have heard from me you know I have been fighting a throat and sinus infection, and because of that I am drinking water faster than I can buy more bottles. Everywhere we go my standard question is, "Hong Nom?" (not sure about spelling), which means toilet. Using the bathroom here can be an interesting endeavor as most are porcelain holes with feet tracks instead of the western toilets. In fact today I wore my fisherman pants which I had to take off in one Hong Nom because I couldn't figure out how to go with them on. Fisherman pants are huge pants that you wrap around your waist and tie. Okay so more than you probably wanted to know. I am sad to leave as this trip has opened my heart more than ever before, but I am also happy to get home. I have no clean clothes, out of shampoo and my hair is ready to see a blowdryer and straightener, not to mention I really miss my friends and family. If I could leave an image for you as to a summary for my trip, it would be a heart with little pockets filled with people that are leaving with me in my heart. If you want to hear more, check back in a few days and I will add all my journal entries. I have so much to share. Kupp Koon Kaaa

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thailand Adventure Begins

Even though this is my third trip to Thailand, I woke up this morning with a knot in my stomach. It's official nerves have set in. Today we drive down to LA so we can board our plane and start our 20something hour flight. I think I am all packed, though I have yet to pack my carry-on or decide what carry-on to even take. Ha! I love to travel and do it a lot, so can someone explain to me why getting ready to go somewhere overseas always invokes anxiety? It never ceases to amaze me. But I am excited for this adventure because we have things planned that I have never done before, and that will be amazing. Thailand here I come!