Saturday, December 31, 2011
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Friday, December 23, 2011
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Monday, December 5, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
I just got back from volunteering at a festival, here in South Australia, called "Schoolies". Schoolies is a 3 day long festival for graduating high school seniors, from all over the state, to come and celebrate their achievement.
The uniqueness about this festival is that it is pretty much run by volunteers, and even cooler than that is that all of the volunteers are Christians. Churches from all over come together to put on this festival for the kids and together the volunteers make up, what is known as, "Green Team".
Schoolies has kind of a reputation; the only thing that we in America have that comes close to Schoolies is college student's spring break. Students come and they party; not all kids are there for the same reasons but most are there to party and party hard. Green Team's job is to provide a safe and positive environment so that these guys can celebrate this great achievement in their lives.
Schoolies (the students) know that Green Teamer's are Christians; what they don't know is why we do it. I was shocked at how many times I was asked, just within the first hour, why I joined Green Team. Everything for you to evangelize is already set up for you; it was like shooting fish in a barrel.
I must admit that I was not looking forward to Schoolies at all. When it was being described to me, I heard one thing and that was that I would lose a lot of sleep. This did not sit well with me because in Psalm 127 it says that the Lord gives to His beloved rest, and I have made it my life to live by the Word; so the thought that something might come in between my ability to engage in the fulness of God's biblical promises bothered me. However, when I arrived and saw what Schoolies was about and I engaged in the ministry (whether it be riding to and from with them on the busses, picking up trash, doing crowd control or getting them excited) I was all for it! As a team we saw some really awesome things; people came to the Lord, people were touched, encouraged and moved. Personally, I'm still trying to figure out why those kids were so intent to try and make out while in a mosh pit but I know that the Lord used my presence; whether I have evidence or stories to prove that is, for me, irrelevant. If nothing else, I can say that every single one of those kids walked away with a very different perspective on Christians because there they were in their worst moments, drunk, upset, lost and out of their minds, and no one was judging them; all they received were helping hands, loving hearts and smiling faces from people that genuinely cared.
Monday, November 14, 2011
I watched the movie Moneyball and it left me feeling incredibly homesick for my country, my family, and all things familiar. On my way back to the base I just gave my thoughts over to God and He showed me that I could go back to the States and live a darn good life but I would die before my calling; my body would be buried and my soul surrendered to heaven while my calling would wander the earth in search of a willing soul to carry it. I can choose to live my life in a beautiful country where I can live a comfortable life; but is that what I live for? Seems like the places that need the most help are the least comfortable places that you could want to be. But comfort is not the compass of our lives; at least it's not meant to be.
Do I live for this life or do I live for what lies beyond this life? Do I make decisions that will result in a nice life or do I make decisions that will result in a finished work?
Thursday, November 10, 2011
If you are a full-time YWAMer, then you are living in community. If you ask someone who lives in community how they like it, they will probably tell you that it's really good but it's really hard; and they would be totally right.
I remember, 2 years ago, when God told me it was time to go on the mission field; my knee-jerk response was, "No! I'm not ready..." And still sometimes I struggle with feeling inadequate and like I don't know enough to be here. But God showed me something this week.
Andre and I are remodeling one of the old cellars into our music studio/practice room/office. Andre and I are musicians; we are not carpenters, designers, architects, handymen, electricians or anything of the sort, however, these are all things and skills that we require. Now he and I could YouTube it, work our butts off, and try to do it on our own but it'd probably take 4xs as long and probably wouldn't be done as well. But because we live with about 30 other people, we have all the skills and all the hands we need in our community to make this possible; whatever we don't know how to do, someone else does and they are helping us with it.
God showed me that if I knew enough to do things on my own- I would do them on my own...but I'd miss out on the beauty of community. See, the blessing of community is that I don't have to know everything; which takes a lot of pressure off. It goes back to that old saying, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." We were never meant to do things on our own, that's why God calls us to be a body and to work together with all of our different parts.
What are you trying to do on your own? And who's around you to help you?
Friday, November 4, 2011
Someone recently asked me how my trip was going...This struck a chord in me, not the best one, and my personal response was, "What do people think I do here?" And then I got to thinking about it some more and I thought, "They think what I tell them; which, this time around, hasn't been a whole lot." To be honest, I've been kind of afraid to blog too much for fear that my blog would just become like white noise that people just tune out, but I have a bigger fear and it's that people would think that I'm vacationing around the world rather than working and serving.
So after praying about it and thinking about it, I've decided to start blogging a bit more about what I do here in Australia.
-Clean the base
-worship and prayer for an hour
-base work until lunch (for me this means that we are either working on prayer and worship stuff or we are helping in the kitchen or the hospitality department)
-ministry work until 5pm (this is when I work on the music ministry with the rest of the band. For the next two months we are working on remodeling one of the cellars to be our practice room/office)
-Zumba for an hour before dinner (we all are trying to do more exercise so at 5 you either keep working till dinner or you go do some type of fitness. All of us girls do Zumba together and the guys usually go lift weights or play some sport)
-Sometimes we have other things we have to do after dinner, it just depends on what we have going on that week, but majority of the time we are off after dinner.
-We connect via skype with our partner base in Melbourne. We have worship together and pray together over skype. After that we usually have a Bible study led by our base leader, Pablo.
-Base work until lunch
-ministry work until 5pm
-We have worship/prayer for a little bit and then we have our staff meeting
-Base work until lunch
-ministry work until 5pm
-Clean the base
-Intercession for 1 hour
-Base work until lunch
-ministry work until 5pm
-Morning worship/prayer/family time for 1 hour
-Base work until lunch
-ministry work until 5pm
-Dinner (cook your own)
-I spend the morning and afternoons skyping, emailing, and catching up.
-Every other weekend, at night, we go and pass out food to the homeless. Every so often we go and pass out water bottles to the kids partying in the city and to the drunks so that they don't get dehydrated and just to bless them.
-Go to church (haven't been going lately because I haven't had transportation but as soon as I register my car I hope to start attending a church in Port Adelaide and really invest there)
-Finish up whatever I didn't finish on Saturday
Now on top of that, or in place of that, we do heaps of other stuff. For example, the 3rd week of November we are going to be working for 3 or 4 days at an event called "Schoolies". It's basically a Spring Break party for all of the graduating seniors of high school. All of the volunteers are Christians and it's our job to provide a safe environment for around 10,000 kids to have fun and celebrate. Over the past 3 months I've been able to do heaps of things on a purely voluntary basis; I've been a clown, I've been an ambassador for YWAM, Salvation Army volunteer, etc. Also, as a music ministry, we've got our own ministry that we are already doing and will be increasing in as opportunities arise. For example, last Sunday we traveled to a church in Victor Harbor and led worship for them.
These are some of the details of what I do in between the skeletal summary I usually give once a month. This is in NO WAY to boast or make you go, "Wow!" because it's not enough. When the music ministry's foundation is finished, then we can start building on it and there will be heaps more to do and even more to talk about and share. For instance, right now we as a band are transforming one of the cellars into a place where we can practice and work; we plan to have it done by the new year. Now it may sound like a very inward focused work but we made a decision to begin with this because it's better for our work that we have a place to practice and work so that our results can be better.
So yeah guys this is my work, this is what I'm up to behind the monthly blog posts. Please feel free to write me with questions, comments, chit chat, anything that's on your heart or mind. Thanks for reading!
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Finally after all the talking and waiting, the band is finally together. The guys came back from Thailand and we immediately went to work practicing for a 3 hour worship set for our base. Here's a photo from that day:
We've also been talking a lot, sharing ideas, sharing music, and just bouncing stuff off of each other about what we want this ministry to look like, sound like, and do. I cannot describe to you the incredible feeling that it is to be starting something like this; to be a pioneer and a founder of a ministry; to take the things you are passionate about and mold them together for Him. It's such a privilege and it's so exciting! Sometimes it's hard to not get too ahead of ourselves but it's also liberating to know that we have total freedom to dream. This is what I came here for.
Since my last post, I've been given charge over the prayer room here on base. First thing on the todo list was to remodel it.
It's still a work in progress and I hope to continue to improve more as time goes on. It was a really challenging experiment, and still is, to learn how the design of a room can distract or draw people to or from God. If you have any thoughts or advice on the subject of prayer rooms, art, design, and the combination of them all please contact me!
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Today is significant because it not only means that I have been here in Adelaide for 2 months but a year ago I was just starting my DTS in New Zealand.
Things are much different nowadays, not just because I'm different, but because this is different. In DTS it was a new experience, new lesson and new thing everyday; there was so much to blog about, so much to tell, so many stories. And yet there's not so much to blog about now; monthly summaries usually suffice...But why? Because DTS was an intense 6 month experience, one that certainly changed my life, but this isn't an experience, this is my life. I wake up everyday and I go to work.
On my DTS I began to feel a desire in me to sow in somewhere for longer term, to see what it felt like to really put my hands in the ground and watch what grew from committed work. Well, that is what's going on. There's not much to blog about because there's a lot of sowing going on, a lot of preparation for things to come; preparing for a harvest that has no due date. I'm so loving this journey that I'm on. I'm getting to be apart of pioneering a new movement in Port Adelaide and apart of pioneering a new music ministry. This is what I prayed for on my DTS. I'm getting to put my hands in the ground and really be apart of some beautiful things.
Thank you guys so much for being apart of this journey that I'm on, for sharing in my excitement, for relating and encouraging me.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
When I first arrived here I quickly realized that transportation was going to be a bit of a challenge especially since I wanted to be able to be involved with a local church. So I've been praying about transportation, how to go about it, what does the Lord want me to do, and I even put it out there for you guys to be praying about it. But the more research I did, the more discouraged I got and I had pretty much given up on even thinking about getting my own vehicle. Last week God gave me a car!
At first when I got the car I gave it right away because there was a family on base also looking in need of a car but God gave them a car this week too. So God's made it pretty clear that He wants me to have this car because this car is for His Kingdom.
There are so many beautiful things happening in Port Adelaide; God is flinging doors wide open and every time I go there I feel like I'm there, like I'm right where I'm supposed to be. Remember my post about how I wasn't feeling the same way I felt about New Zealand? I think those feelings were waiting for me in Port Adelaide. I get filled with such a peace and excitement every single time we go there that I'm itching like a player sitting on the bench, begging their coach to put them in the game.
So here's what's going on in Port Adelaide (the short version): They have a huge need, their city is dying and its hurting people are in dire need of help. We want to start another base in Port Adelaide. Our leaders met with the mayor and his community development team last week and they really want us to come and have been hooking us up with all sorts of contacts of places to volunteer, people to help, places to live, etc. We're starting to hook up with a local church in Port Adelaide and want to be a blessing there. We're hoping to start volunteering at a Christian run cafe that just opened up next to an abortion clinic. And we're still on the hunt for more places to get involved with and be a blessing to! Basically, THINGS ARE HAPPENING!
I know that this car that the Lord has given me is for Port Adelaide; I know that this is God making a way for me to be involved there. Praise God for answered prayers!
In order for me to legally operate this car there is an upfront fee of $120 as well as $180 upfront and then every 3 months after that that the government requires you to pay that serves as re-registering your car, insurance and taxes; not to mention gas to make it go. If you feel God moving you to support me in this way please click the "Donate" button up on the right and put "car" in the notes for the Paypal donation.
Thank you so much guys for your prayers and for your support! God is really doing such incredible things and I'm so excited to be able to share in this with you guys. God's up to something!
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Because of my recent change in location I've had to adjust the Paypal button. So when you click on the Paypal button to your right it will now take you to my Australian account.
Note: the currency is still in USDs for your convenience
Note, note: Please if you've bookmarked the other US Paypal account, please use the new one.
Thanks heaps guys!
Friday, September 2, 2011
Oh it feels good to be home! We got back to Adelaide at about 3:30 am on Wednesday morning and it was so good to wake up on the base. We'll be here for 3 weeks and then we pack up again to go to our next outreach location in the North of Australia. But for now it's just good to be home.
We've been doing whatever needs to be done on the base so that the DTS staff can focus all their energy on getting things ready for the school that starts on September 21. Please be praying for them.
Yesterday we also went and looked around Port Adelaide, the location where we hope to start another base at in the next year. Being there, seeing the need, it made me even more excited. There were so many vacant buildings that have been closed down; the pubs, on the other hand, have had no trouble staying in business. But around this area is a lot of poverty and even more potential for ministry. I mention all this so that you know what I'm talking about if I mention Port Adelaide in the future.
Spring is coming here to Adelaide, all the trees are beginning to blossom, and the snakes and spiders are coming out to play. Today during our staff meeting we were given a safety briefing about snakes.....yeah....."that's about all I have to say about that."
Thank you to all those who have been sending me emails with updates about your lives and how you're doing; I absolutely LOVE getting those and it makes me feel way more connected to you all. So thank you!
Well that's about all the news that's going on here right now. Thanks for reading family! Much love!
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
I cannot believe I've already been in Australia a month now!
I've been in Melbourne a week now with the team and we've just been exploring different ministries to get ideas of stuff that we can start in Adelaide. We've done soup runs for the homeless, after school care programs for kids (most refugees), helping out on the ywam base (I've been able to lead worship several times here on base), helping with a local church and their healing services, and checking out a church plant. I'm really excited to get back to Adelaide and start scheming up how we can apply some of the stuff we've seen where we live.
Being on another base has brought a lot of contrast to Adelaide and made me see things I love and appreciate about my base and it's made it feel a lot more like home. I've only been here in Melbourne a week and I already miss Adelaide and am ready to be back. I feel like God is slowly giving those feelings I talked about missing in my last blog post; the more I press on to not be ruled by emotions but rather by truth, the more the feelings come. Even here in Melbourne, there have been so many confirmations that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. I really feel like He's just got so much up His sleeve and He's just enjoying surprising me. When you really think about it, we don't enjoy a gift as much if we already know what's under the wrapping paper.
A lot of my ministry right now is just filling in and serving where there is a need. In November there will be a kind of meeting for staff where all of us will come together and there will be the assigning of roles on the base. My major role will be with the music ministry that me and some other staff members are starting. When we finish with our outreaches, in 2 months, it will be practice, practice, practice. So like I said, until all of that I'm just doing whatever I can.
I was so ready to hit the ground running after being home in the States with not much to do, but God has made me walk at a different pace. It was frustrating at first; I was definitely feeling the weight of it, as you read from my last post, but if it wasn't for God making me slow down, I really think I'd be blind to so much right now. A Scripture the Lord gave me this morning was Psalm 123 and it just talks about looking to the Lord as a servant looks to the hand of his master. And when I thought about why a servant would be looking to his master's hand I figured that it is because the servant is waiting for his master's signal, his motion, his gesture, his direction for what to do; and this is how we are to look to the Lord.
1 month in. Do I miss my family? Of course. Do I regret my decision to come here? No, but sometimes I get that outsiders perspective and wonder how I got here and why. Am I confident that I'm where He wants me? Absolutely!
Funny story that has nothing to do with anything I've been talking about: On our way over from Adelaide to Melbourne we stopped at McDonalds and they had this breakfast sandwich thing called a "brekkie" so I ordered that but I asked for just the sandwich. The lady responds, "So you want just the roll." "Noooo" I reply, "I want the sandwich." "Yeah so you want the roll." "No" I tell her, starting to get frustrated, "I want everything that comes on the sandwich not just the roll!" Finally she gave up and just placed my order. I swear I'm not too sure Australians and I speak the same language sometimes.
Now that we got that out of the way..lol...Thanks family for all your support, encouragement and prayers!!!!!! Talk to you again soon!
Monday, August 22, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
Okay I'm going to level with you guys, be open and honest: this is hard!
The best way that I know how to describe how I'm feeling is through an analogy. So you know how in marriage, it starts out being all lovey-dovey and it's all emotions and attractions. But then the emotions start to fade and reality of your commitment sets in; you begin to see all the things that you don't like and all the things that turn you off, making it hard for you to love your spouse like you did before. You wonder what's wrong and try to think about what might have happened but then you just begin to push through and love your spouse whether you feel like it or not, whether you have emotions helping fuel your love or not; this is when true love unveils itself.
For me, I haven't been feeling the same things I felt in New Zealand; I absolutely loved that country, I was more in love with every new thing I saw and experienced; but I haven't had those feelings for Australia, if anything I'm actually afraid of most things I see here (all the spiders and all their hiding places). At the same time I'm surrounded by confirmations that this is exactly where I'm supposed to be; so I'm at an impasse, I can mope because I don't feel it or I can choose to love and serve regardless if I have the feelings to fuel it all. I know what I'm going to do but it doesn't make it easy.
I experienced a similar impasse in Thailand when we were in the red light districts and I just wanted to collapse and weep but we couldn't do that, we had to push past our feelings and emotions and do what we had come there to do.
I know that I'm exactly where God wants me and when I look ahead I get so unbelievably excited, but I still miss my family and friends...and that's ok, it doesn't mean I regret anything. The same love that made me say, "I do" to the Lord's call hasn't left, it's the thing that keeps me saying, "Yes", the thing that keeps me pushing onwards. I love the Lord and I love the life that He's called me to, I just don't feel it all the time :-)
Ya feel me?
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Well I just got back Friday night from 4 days of surviving in the Australian bush aka the outback. It was for this outreach prep program called, "NIKO" and I was invited to come along; I found out later that for my Certificate IV in Missions I have to do a NIKO so it worked out anyways. I'm not allowed to tell you all the details of what it was like because they want to keep the element of surprise intact, but I can tell you this: I think that God's creation is beautiful...however, I don't want it all over me. Outdoorsy, roughing it, camping stuff is just not my thing, but it was totally worth it to be able to get to know everyone here on base better.
Some exciting news is that next week I'll be leaving for an outreach to different parts of Australia. We're going to go and serve some bases that we are partnered with and also bless some different churches and organizations throughout the region. The first 2 weeks of outreach we'll be serving the YWAM base in Melbourne (one of the bases that we've partnered with to form YWAM Southlands). While we're there we'll also be serving a church; doing healing services, worship, and whatever else they might need or that we're able to do. After 2 weeks we'll come back here to Adelaide and we'll help get the DTS that starts in September get going; we'll do this for 3 weeks. Then it's back on the road again to some other parts of Australia, serving and working with different organizations that reach out to Aboriginal children in need.
I'm really excited and blessed to have the opportunity to go on this outreach! The team is comprised of staff and base leaders so I'm really looking forward to getting to know them better and getting to serve alongside them. I'm also excited for the opportunity to get to see and know more of Australia and more of YWAM in Australia.
God has really opened up the doors for me to be able to go and I'm anxious to see what He has up His sleeve.
Most of the costs for the outreach are paid for but if the Lord leads you to give toward this you can either click on the Paypal "Donate" button to your upper right or you can go to the base website and donate through that. Any and all donations would be greatly appreciated!
Also, just a quick update on the music ministry: Since we're all going to be going away on outreaches, the music ministry will become official when we return in 2 months time. This will mean writing purpose statements and lots and lots of practices to get in sync with each other as musicians. Also Pablo asked me and another staff member to pray about teaching on an upcoming track DTS where we would be leading students who are interested in music and its potential in ministry. More to come on all this soon.
-Healing (several people on the base, including myself, are sick and in need of healing before outreach)
-Provision for personal transportation here in Adelaide
-Discernment and wisdom for the base and its members
-Protection as we travel
-And anything else the Lord might reveal to you :-)
Thanks everyone! Much Love!!!
Saturday, July 30, 2011
This is the city of Adelaide and this is where I live.
The orangey building back there is my new home.
This is my room.
Every morning we have worship/intercession/meeting at 8:30, around 10 there's tea time and after that it's work time. My role on base hasn't been completely sorted yet so this past week I was just filling in and helping out where I could which ended up being the kitchen most times (I did warn them I can't cook).
Next week is a thing called NIKO which is basically outreach prep out in the bush for a week. All I know is that we'll be roughing it; they like to keep all else about it a secret. I'm going along because otherwise I'll be on the base pretty much all by myself. It was a tough call ;-)
I met with the "worship team" and all those who are going to be apart of this new "worship ministry" that is starting and I'm really excited. These next months will just be us getting in sync with each other and learning how to play as a band. But since most of the band is going on outreach to Thailand it'll be me and the drummer getting in sync. No matter, I'm so excited for the possibilities that lie in wait there.
The base that I'm working with (YWAM Southlands Adelaide) is undergoing a major change. This base is joining with 2 other bases in Australia something that apparently has never been done before and so the base is in uncharted territory and walking in faith. When I heard this I was so encouraged because I am very much in uncharted territory and am having to walk in faith so to be working with a base that is in the same scenario is a huge blessing and such a comfort!
This week has really been comprised of just helping out wherever, getting over jet lag, exploring and getting to know people. This base has such a strong family atmosphere that they really work hard to create and maintain. I'm so thankful to be here and I'm in love with the journey that God has me on right now; it's not always easy and it's sometimes scary but it's amazing and it's a tremendous blessing.
P.S. I like Vegemite :-)
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
I touched down in Adelaide around 10:20 am. I got brought to the base, given a tour, got settled in, and then I was welcomed, welcomed, welcomed. My initiation was that I had to stand up at dinner time and sing my national anthem which was unfortunate especially since I had go be reminded what my nation's anthem was haha! Tomorrow I have my first staff meeting bright and early and then I'll get the lowdown on how things work here. It's a big base but it's a beautiful base and I can't wait to get going.
It's sinking in little by little. There are parrot looking birds flying around plus a hundred other kinds, koala bears in the trees, vineyards all around, and a kangaroo every now and then. "Holy cow I'M IN AUSTRALIA!!! How did this happen?!" lol
I'm really excited to see what the Lord had in store. The unknown can be kind of intimidating but instead of looking at it with nervousness, I'm trying to look at it with anticipation. It's not a 2 year commitment, it's a daily commitment and tomorrow is a new day. Can't wait!
Sunday, July 24, 2011
In the morning I start my fairly long journey to Australia. These past couple of days have been filled with family, packing, and reassuring. I fly out of Orlando around 1:25pm and should land in Adelaide around 10am on Tuesday. I'll be sure and let you all know when I've arrived safely in Adelaide.
This is a poem I wrote that really best describes how I'm feeling right now and of what I keep reassuring myself.
The edge of the cliff crumbles away under my feet as if nature itself is coercing me jump.
The waterfall is beautiful and the pool below enticing but there's a lot that can happen in between.
I know once I jump only ecstasy will remain so it's not the fall that shakes my knees.
I've seen others jump before and they landed just fine so it's not the ending that worries me.
Is it the daunting of the unknown?
Is it the teasing doubts?
Self-talk has little place here, my thoughts are louder now on the edge.
As I watch pebbles slip away from the ground where they used to lay, a Friend comes and offers His helpful counsel, "Take My hand."
Pages of 21 years are replayed in a moment.
I've been here before and He never let me make the jump alone.
Monday, July 18, 2011
I received an update last week about one of the girls some members of my team ministered to in the red light district in Chiang Mai. My friends Lauren and Becca met this lady and got very close with her. There was truly a God-ordained bond between them. Well the three of them have managed to stay in touch thanks to a friend in Wongen Kafe who has been keeping up with her.
Their contact from Wongen updated them that this lady has finally left the bars! She is going to Bangkok to be with her family and to learn a new trade with her sister.
I wanted to share this with you all because even though I never got to know this girl it gave me such hope and encouragement. If you followed my blog while I was in Thailand you'll know that my team and I never saw a girl come out; in fact it was an uphill battle to stay optimistic about the seeds we were sowing. But I'm so encouraged by the power of persistent prayer displayed through this story. Lauren and Becca never gave up hope and even though they never saw fruit while in Thailand, they are seeing it now. Praise God! He is so good!
It gives me such hope for the people that I still pray for; maybe not that I'll see the fruit but that there will be fruit.
Monday, July 11, 2011
I cannot begin to express my gratitude for both your financial and spiritual support while I was on my DTS with YWAM Auckland Central! I wanted to send you a letter thanking you, tell you a bit about what God did through your support and what He’s continuing to do.
As you know, I spent 3 months in Auckland, New Zealand being trained and learning about God, the Bible, and social justice issues. God truly did incredible things in and through me while in Auckland. I had the great privilege to be one of the worship leaders and, to my surprise; I found that I have a God-given passion for leading worship. Another awesome privilege that I had in Auckland was to reach out to the local community. I became friends with the people that most would label as beggars, thieves, drunks, rapists, homeless, prostitutes, drug addicts, drug dealers, and crazies; these were the people that lived on the streets in Auckland and through becoming their friend God really transformed the way that I look at ministry.
Your prayers opened doors in the hearts of the people of Auckland and I was always dumbfounded at the opportunities that were laid out for me to minister. One such experience happened when I got in a conversation with a woman who was prostituting herself on the street and what started out as casual chit-chat soon turned to her unveiling her past, and me getting an opportunity to pray for her. As I was praying for her she screamed out at the top of her lungs, “GOD GET ME OUTTA HERE!” This is just one story of hundreds; God continually heard your prayers and responded with such incredible favor.
Before I knew it 3 months in Auckland were over and I was on my way to spend another 3 months in Thailand reaching out to the girls trapped in prostitution there. Seven others and I had incredible opportunities to show the love of Jesus Christ to the girls working in the red light districts (title given to places where sex is solicited and sold), to widows, to children, and to the poor. I had several opportunities to play worship in the red light districts and saw God do incredible things through that. I was transformed by the bonds that were formed with the girls and with the Thai people we were so blessed to serve.
Your prayers opened doors, protected, and ministered to me. We had so many opportunities to minister in so many different ways and meet so many different needs (weeding a garden for a widow, worshipping in red light districts, loving on prostitutes, playing with children in the slums, interceding over temples and Buddhist shrines, teaching English, etc); all things that were made possible because of your support. One testimony I would like to share with you happened in one of the red light districts that we worked in. This red light district had one main road and off of the main road there were many side streets that each had about a dozen bars and each bar was saturated with girls selling themselves and men eager to buy them. Everyday we visited the red light district during the day to cover the streets and the bars in prayer before we returned to do ministry at night. We would pray big prayers of faith, asking God to tear down the walls, to make the foundations crack, to destroy the bars, etc; and one night He answered. We came to the red light district to find the most wicked and evil side street destroyed! God answered our prayers in numerous and in powerful ways but I know we weren’t the only ones praying and interceding.
I find it near impossible to offer a fitting summary of what God did in and through this life-changing experience. The greatest report that I have to give you is that God has done, is doing, and will continue to do amazing things in New Zealand, in Thailand, and in my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support! There are so many more stories and testimonies of what God has done. If you would like to read more about what God did in New Zealand and Thailand visit my blog at: www.stephanieandywam.blogspot.com
What God has done is certainly worthy of praise and I’m even more excited about what He’s doing next. Over the course of my DTS I really fell in love with YWAM and I’ve decided to continue on in this amazing organization. I have been accepted to staff with a base in Adelaide, Australia and I fly out July 24. “YWAM Southlands Adelaide” is the name of the base that I’ll be working with. This base has a heart for justice and has several ministries that reach out to those caught in injustice, and they are looking to grow. I’ve made a 2 year commitment during which I’ll be going through an apprenticeship style course designed to prepare you for ministry and I’ll be taking on some roles there on the base; one such role will be being involved with a new ministry, in the makings, that will use music and worship to reach the people of Adelaide and beyond. I’m very excited to see what will unfold in these next 2 years and am eager to begin the journey.
*sign up for my blog to stay in the loop with what's going on in Adelaide*
If there’s one thing that my experiences in New Zealand and Thailand showed me it’s that real change requires real commitment; this is what I’m both giving and asking from you. I firmly believe that missionaries are not individual people that work independently of others but that true missionaries are groups of people that are working together for a common goal. I hope that you will once again partner with me so that together we may make Him known.
As a full time missionary on staff, I will not have the opportunity to work outside of my role on the base. Therefore my monthly support of around $1000 will need to come through donations. This includes room and board, living expenses, outreach costs, and travel.
There are several ways that you can offer your financial support to help make this possible:
1. You can go to my blog and click on the “Donate” button and give through Paypal.
2. You can donate online through the base website. (tax deductible)
a. go to www.ywamsa.org.au
b. click on the “Finances” tab and that will bring you to a “Payment and Donation Form”
c. Under “Payment Type”, select “Staff Donation/ Support” and put my name under “Person/ Project”
-From there you will be able to elect whether you want to make a one time donation or a monthly donation.
I would be honored if you would like to join the support team (this does not just mean financially). If you are able and willing to provide financial support please email me and let me know so I can budget accordingly.
I’m forever grateful for the support God provided through your generous hearts to send me to New Zealand and Thailand and I’m really excited for the fellowship that will once again be formed as we partner together. Please keep me in your prayers. Thank you my supportive friends!
Your friend Down Under,
Monday, June 27, 2011
Now why am I using Australian slang? Well because I got accepted to staff with YWAM South Australia! Ridgie didge! *Huge sigh of relief*
Next Step: I've got to apply for a visa. I've been told that once application is in that I'll hear in a few days and then I can buy a ticket.
What I'll be doing there: I will be involved in a 2 year course called 'Certificate IV in Christian Missions.' It's an apprenticeship style course in which I'll be attending lectures during the week, assuming a role on the base, and assignments. It focuses on helping you develop ministry skills and more. (If you're familiar with YWAM it's similar to a Basic Leadership School aka BLS)
Where I'll be:
View Larger Map
I'll keep you all updated as information comes in and as progress is made. Please be praying for me as I continue to work on things and move forward.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Buy yours today at http://sacramentmedia.storenvy.com/products/87612-justice
Friday, May 27, 2011
As you know, I was set to staff with YWAM Auckland Central in Auckland, New Zealand. Well, a couple of weeks ago I received word that some changes were being made and it was left open for me to decide if I still wanted to stay with the base or not. After a lot of prayer and revisiting what I feel God's called me to do, how He's made me, and the goals that I have set; I decided to not return and staff with YWAM Auckland Central. It's been over a week now and I still have a real peace about the decision.
I had received an invitation to come and staff with a YWAM base in Adelaide, Australia (we met and worked together with this base in Thailand) about 2 weeks after I arrived home. They are wanting to start a music ministry and wanted me to come and be a part of it. I really feel that what this base is doing and what I want to be doing long term are very similar to each other. This base has been around a lot longer than the one in Auckland and so there are a lot more opportunities already established for ministry. So right now I'm currently working through the application process with them and am working hard to get it done. I still feel that I'm still only supposed to stay in the States for 3 months so I'm hoping that, if all works out, I'll still be leaving in July. So not much has changed except where I'm going.
I understand that some may wish to know more information or may have questions. So if you would like to know more please do not hesitate to email me. I'll try to answer your questions as best as I can. Thank you for your support and understanding in this situation.
I will update you all and let you know the minute I've been accepted.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
http://sacramentmedia.storenvy.com/products/87612-justice and all the net profits will go back to me. The shirts are $15 but you must order before June 22!!!! The sale of the shirts ends on June 22 and they will be shipped out on July 6.
So not only are you supporting an awesome cause, yours truly, but this shirt is going to stir up a lot of conversations through which you'll be able to be an advocate and a voice for those who have no voice.
Monday, April 4, 2011
After a gruesome 38 hour battle through airports and security, I made it into Florida at midnight on Tuesday. Wednesday was spent showing my family videos and pictures, making them Chai Yen and seeing a couple of visitors. Thursday afternoon my family and I left for Destin Beach for my sister's spring break. It's Sunday night and we're back in Alachua and I feel like I'm just now starting my re-entry process. In some ways I've been experiencing culture shock and have struggled with trying to figure out what my time back here is going to look and feel like. Part of me feels like I should be settling back in but yet it's just a home visit at it's best. So however deep the roots may go with family and friends, my overall presence feels very surface level and very observatory rather than interactive. (It's like those dreams you have where you're watching yourself move through the dream; you're seeing things through and outsiders perspective rather than from your own. That's what it feels like) But none of this is a bad thing, maybe it's just re-entry; who knows.
I do miss New Zealand terribly and I do miss the pace of YWAM but I think now that I'm back in Alachua it will allow me to start working on some things I need to get done. It's weird because I'm almost going into my second week and I still haven't seen people or shared my story. It was good though to not have to. I had a rather difficult experience when I went to CVS to pick up a couple of things my first day back. I was completely overwhelmed with the amount of choices I had to choose from and couldn't find what I wanted. So as I'm stressing out over the hundreds of hair gel options, someone I knew from high school sees me and proceeds to ask me about my trip. "Wrong timing buddy", is what I was thinking. Thankfully I have an amazing family that is willing to patiently walk with me as I go through re-entry and they're a huge help and such a blessing right now.
These next 3 months are going to be comprised of visits and getting ready to leave again. Somewhere in there I'm going to attempt to record an EP to help with support raising but we'll see how that goes. I'm going to take a bit of a break from blogging these three months but I'll try to keep you all updated on all things concerning me and YWAM. Thanks for sticking with me this far and I'll ttyl
Saturday, March 19, 2011
This week Patrick Dodson has been teaching on calling and identity, outreach teams have presented their outreach presentations, everyone presented their Face of Me identity projects, started having exit interviews, and with whatever time we had in between we spent catching up with each other and on sleep.
Being back with everyone has been great. At first the three month gap in between us all was a bit daunting and a little hard to swallow but once we started talking we realized that even though we had all changed so much, who we were was still the same. Now it almost feels like we never left.
Being back in Auckland has been great. The air isn't pure pollution, I understand people when they speak to me, I can flush my toilet paper, I can wash my clothes and dry them in a dryer, I can be alone, and the spiritual tension that always existed in Thailand isn't here. I didn't realize how tense I was in Thailand until I was out; I can see now how I was never able to fully relax or feel comfortable there. Nor did u realize how much my spirit was doing battle with the darkness that seeped out from the temples that always surrounded us. But as far as adjusting to Western life I've just jumped right back in. I keep remembering what a speaker on our school said when I asked her how she goes from being in extreme poverty in India to the West. She told me that when she's in India she's all there and when she's home she's all home; that she doesn't try to bring India home or bring home to India but just dives into the culture and the ways of life wherever she is. So I've just tried to jump in and be all here not trying to make the stories of Thailand the stories of Auckland and I'll seek to do the same in the States. It is hard, it's not the easiest transition in some ways. One way is that it's been really hard to give money to beggars here, beggars that were begging three months ago and are still begging. I see them and I'm just so reluctant to give because of the poverty I've seen in Thailand; those people have no choice yet here's someone who does have a choice and yet chooses to live like this. Again, I'm trying not to transfer stories of nations but simply admitting it's difficulty.
I'm realizing that I still have a lot to process from Thailand. I've processed what we've done and the work we did but I'm still processing what I saw; being such a visual person makes the images manifest. It's the people I met, their stories and their realities that I'm still processing. What do I mean by processing? I'm trying to figure out what justice looks like for them, I'm trying to figure out what God's doing about them, I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do with this knowledge and with these stories, and I'm trying to just learn how to live with these memories. My once innocent, child-like and little-girl view of the world has been crushed. It's the same kind of trauma you might experience if you found out your neighbor was a pedophile; where you once felt safe and protected, you no longer do and what you once saw as good and right no longer is. The world's a scary place, thats not a halting statement but rather a reality check. Yeah the world's a scary place "welcome to the real world"; right? Right, but we can't stop.
So you're probably all wondering about "home"; when I'm coming, what I'm doing, etc. I'm home now but I'm coming to the States on March 29. I am going to love on my family (period). This has been really hard for all of us but especially hard for them because, fortunately for me, I've had so much to distract myself with. So I'm going home to love them, to serve them, and to bless them. The same goes for my friends. I'll also be working on raising support which may or may not include recording an EP, I'm still seeing how doable that will be with schedules and timeframes. I'm staying in FL for no more than 3 months and then I'm back to Auckland for 2 years (at least) of staffing with YWAM Auckland Central. The reason for me only visiting for 3 months is just that, it's a visit and any more than 3 months and things get complicated.
But before the hugs and the reunions can happen I have to finish here. Finishing means saying goodbye to people who mean so much to me and saying the end to an amazing experience. Graduation is on the 25th and then people start heading home. Crazy how fast it's gone and how fast it's going. These are beautiful days of unity, memories and nostalgia. I hope to suck them dry of all they have to offer.
Friday, March 11, 2011
1. The Lord's Prayer (a Maori song)
2. Ombaio (also a Maori song)
3. This Is Home by Switchfoot
4. So Good To Me by Cory Asbury
5. Something In The Water by Brooke Fraiser
At the lighting of the "fasten your seatbelt" sign, the playlist began. It's has been almost 6 months ago that I flew into New Zealand for the first time. I began to think back to the girl that flew into this country and how strikingly different she is to the woman that is returning. This woman is stronger, more confident, more in love, more focused, more mature, wiser and bolder than who she came in as.
The plane tilted left and out the window I saw Aotearoa and "This Is Home" began to play. The lyrics proved to be all too true and all too perfect for the moment. The song's lyrics are:
"I've got my memories, always inside of me but I can't go back, back to how it was. I believe you now, I've come too far; no I can't go back, back to how it was. Created for a place I've never known.
This is home now I'm finally where I belong, where I belong. Yeah this is home. I've been searching for a place of my own, now I found it. Maybe this is home. Yeah this is home.
Belief over misery. I've seen the enemy. And I won't go back, back to how it was. And I got my heart set on what happens next. I've got my eyes wide; its not over yet. We are miracles and we're not alone.
This is home now I'm finally where I belong, where I belong. Yeah this is home. I've been searching for a place of my own, now I found it. Maybe this is home. Yeah this is home.
And now after all my searching after all my questions. I'm gonna call it home. I've got a brand new mindset I can finally see the sun set. I'm gonna call it home.
Hope this is home now I'm finally where I belong, where I belong. Yeah this is home. I've been searching for a place of my own, now I found it. Maybe this is home. Yeah this is home.
I've come too far and I won't go back. Yeah this is home."
I was incredibly giddy and in my heart I felt as though I had de-aged about 15 years; I felt what can only be described as 'pure joy'.
The feelings of divine and God-given joy flowed beautifully in sync with the song "So Good To Me"; a song that praises God for His faithfulness and His goodness. No song could have been more suiting. I came into New Zealand 6 months ago, overwhelmed by the goodness of God for allowing me to come back to the mission field and I returned to New Zealand with the same praises on the lips of my heart and mouth for Him allowing me to stay. The song says, "I waited patiently upon the Lord and He inclined and heard my cry. He pulled me up out of the miry clay, He set my feet upon the Rock. He gave me beauty for ashes and joy for my mourning and praise for heaviness. He put a new song in my mouth and a crown upon my head. He gave me life forever more." My mind went back to all those nights I cried myself to sleep begging for God to let me go back to the mission field, the only place I've ever felt at home and alive. And all I can say now is that He did it. He's been so good to me.
The wheels of the plane harmoniously touched the ground with the start of "Something In The Water". The song is of now deep significance just that it was constantly played and heard while I was in New Zealand for lecture phase and I can't listen to it without being happy and without thinking of my first three months of dts.
The only other music i heard, that served as a soundtrack, after that was the beautiful sound of the English language topped with a delightful Kiwi accent.
Every dramatic entrance has to have a big finish. My big finish was when Josie hugged me and said, "welcome home." And there's no doubt nor questions; no hesitation nor reserve in the complete validity of that statement. No burning bushes necessary for this one; the peace of God has consumed and drenched my every breath. I can breathe deeper here.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
At 11pm we bussed out of Chiang Mai down to Bangkok, where I am now. We got here on Monday morning and Josie left us to head over to Auckland that afternoon. So now we're in Bangkok for some R&R until we leave on Thursday for New Zealand. We'll be there for 2 weeks and then it's back to America for a little visit then back to New Zealand :-) That's all for now
I told you it was little
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Monday night was my last night out in the bars. At first we just met up with people we had gotten close to and said our good byes but that was over long before our night was. We struggled to know what to do and I ended up sitting and talking with this girl who I knew was younger than what she would admit to. I sat down next to her and she immediately fought back asking why I was sitting down and why I wanted to talk to her. Before I could even introduce myself she asked me if I was a Christian. I said yes and she told me how Christians are always coming and talking to her trying to shove a bunch of bull**** down her throat and she hates it; she wishes they'd just leave her alone and f*** off. I thought she would ask me to leave, and she had every right to, but she opened up and kept talking instead. She said she was 19 but there's no physical way she's any older than 16. She unveiled her utter hatred for farangs and how much she hated working in the bars, being at their mercy and their disposal, but she can't leave because she has to send money back home to her mother. ( Thai culture is all about saving "Face" which is kept and earned by money. To them, it doesn't matter how face is acquired, only that it's intact. This is why many parents send their daughters and sons to work in the bars, to earn money for face; it's the unspoken code of Thailand. For them, it's more shameful to loose face than it is to gain face by prostitution. ) I told her that money isn't everything and she replied as if I was out o my mind, "Yes it is!" She goes with older men because they want young girls, whereas young guys want older women or ladyboys. At one point a young guy walked by and she slapped his butt and his friend turned around and rebuked her in Thai and called her no good. She was hurt by it and was offended. She said how mad it makes her that my brothers come here to the red light district and get mad at her for doing her job and call her no good. She said they shouldn't come if they don't want to have sex and they definitely don't need to talk down to her for doing her job. She further unfolded how Christians have come and tried to force their God on her but she can't like Christians because she's Thai and to be Thai is to be Buddhist. She said Farangs have their Buddha and Thais have their Buddha. I told her that Jesus is a God for everyone and that he came to save Thais and farangs. She said, "that's s***." I apologized for how Christians had treated her and said that's not what Jesus wanted, He never forced anything on anyone and that our primary purpose is to love, not force Jesus on people. She accepted my apology with a simple thank you and invited me to come and talk to her again.
It was a great and sobering way to end my time in the bars. It was a heavy reminder of what we are leaving behind...girls stuck in prostitution. Her story is representative of millions of girls in Thailand who are sucked into this destructive trade of sex tourism. I just wish she hadn't been so offended by Christians. Although, it's humbling to be reminded that however pure our intentions may be, we are not judged by our intentions but rather our actions. I may be able to genuinely love that girl after only knowing her for 30 minutes because I'm connected to the Father Who love her, but that doesn't mean anything to her not should it. We want quick fixes but if there's one thing I've learned it's that this kind of work has little place for impatient people with shallow commitments. This kind of work demands the laying down of a life.
Tuesday was our last visit to the slums. We just played with the kids and prayed over each and every single one of them. One of the girls there has palsy and her left arm was clenched and immovable. We've all been praying over her since the first day but Sunday night I was awoken at 6 am from a dream in which she was healed. I couldn't go back to sleep so I spent a while interceding for her healing. We came to the slums eager to see if God had done anything and we were all amazed to see her arm relaxed and at her side, fully extended. We could tell that she's just not used to using those muscles but never before could she relax her arm and extend it. God healed her!!!
We came to the slums with printed pictures that we had taken of the kids and gave them to the parents as a gift and a thank you. They were all really touched by it and the kids took their photos and carefully took them inside and put them in a safe place where they wouldn't be damaged. As a parent, think of how you cherish pictures of your kids but that's a luxury these people can't afford. Can you imagine never having pictures of your children? Anyways; saying goodbye was definitely hard especially when the kids said they loved us and blew us kisses. They were and are an absolute joy! I'd go back in a heartbeat.
Wednesday I worked my last shift in Wongen Kafé and before I knew it ministry in Thailand was over. We spent the day cleaning and packing; had worship all together at night and we leave Thursday at 1 for a week of debriefing. We'll spend 4 days in Chiang Mai at a nice hotel/resort; Sunday night we catch a bus down to Bangkok and on the 10th we fly back to Auckland. Bada-bing bada-boom outreach is over!
How do I feel about outreach being over? At peace. I did what God sent me to do and I saw Him glorified through it. I think that qualifies as a successful outreach. I've learned so much while here in Thailand. I've been reminded of the power of prayer, worship, and the power that's in the Name of Jesus. I've learned how complex justice is; how there's no quick or easy answer and how no answer comes without a price. I've been reminded why the return of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world and how desperately we need His coming. I've seen a lot, felt a lot, heard a lot and experienced a lot. I'm coming away not only with a broader perspective, a softer heart, and a deepened passion but I'm leaving established.
One of my hopes and expectations for DTS was that I would once again be reminded and encouraged that I am made for missions. Well there's no doubt in my mind now; to wonder seems so ridiculous now. I feel like my roots have just had such a major growth spurt and I feel so incredibly solid and secure in my calling. Lecture phase was definitely a season of fulfillment; a time where God was fulfilling prophecies, promises and prayers but outreach has been a time of establishment; I feel alive. I feel as though I've been climbing a flight of stairs for so long and now I've reached the top. I'm a missionary.
Saturday, February 26, 2011
I'm thankful for the lesson that today brought. I always pray that I can be His hands and feet but when He gives me the opportunity to be them I think it's not enough, as if I know what's best. HA! God knows exactly why that girl was crying and He could have done any number of things to comfort her but God, in His infinite wisdom and love, chose to use me to carry out His will that she be cuddled and loved. Lord forgive me!
Oh and uh...PS I got accepted to staff with YWAM Auckland Central today!
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
These past couple of weeks we've really been able to minister to the kids in the red light district which has its ups and downs. The upside is getting to love on kids and just bless them. The downside is that THERE ARE KIDS WORKING IN A RED LIGHT DISTRICT!!! I got a really good dose of culture one night when our Thai translator and I were discussing the kids being there and he said how it was an honor for those kids to make money for their families, that if they didn't come and work that their families wouldn't eat. A little more culture than I wanted to hear, to be honest. I adamantly replied that I didn't care, it's not the child's responsibility to put food on the table but he disagreed. --> Just a small taste of the cultural "values" we go up against everyday. But then again that's what makes battling injustice so complex because it's not just an action or a crime that needs correction, it's often times a worldview that is painted by culture and tradition sometimes dating hundreds of years back.
One cute thing happened with one of the kids. I arm wrestled him and he won so we asked him if he wanted a rotee, he said no; we asked if he wanted a soda but again he said no; then we asked if he wanted to go to 7-11 and his eyes lit up. So Robert and I put him on our shoulders and were cheering "CHAMPION!" He was cheering and celebrating as if he was Rocky Balboa (except not melodramatic like Sylvester Stalone). We took him to 7-11 and told him to pick out his prize, to get whatever he wanted, and his eyes got all big and aglow; he picked out some Pringles, a drink and some candy after some coaxing and reassuring.
I'm really excited to be back in NZ, see everyone from DTS, and friends I made on the streets. It's going to be cold when we get back, which will either be wonderful or miserable depending on how our bodies decide to handle the major climate shift. The first things I plan on having in Auckland (we've been discussing this with more frequency as our dissatisfaction with rice intensifies) are ginger beer, L&P, Mountain Dew, and fish and chips; possibly all together. I look very forward to other starches besides rice and noodles, like potatoes. I'm totally excited about cheese, we never get because it's so expensive. I'm looking forward to all of my side dishes not being mixed together with the entree; it'll be amazing to have my veggies, meat, etc all separate rather than blended together. I'm not looking forward to paying $8-$10/ meal which is what it costs fir our whole team to eat here. I'm going to make sure to bring back 30 baht, go to the Thai restaurant in Lim Chou on K Road, and politely give them 30 baht for their pad Thai (their plate of pad Thai costs about 260 baht. Ridiculous!!! I could get an hour long full body massage for that!!!!) I will miss the cheap fruit that's readily available, the 7-11s, the ..... What am I doing?! I've still got a week left! Ok rain check on the things I'll miss; we'll save that for the final Thailand post....NEXT WEEK! Oi!
Friday, February 11, 2011
I knew exactly where I wanted to have it; it was this dark corner where I had previously seen women prostituting themselves freelance. So we went they and I just started playing and praising God. People, especially Thai people were drawn to the worship. Children, beggars, vendors and women working for sex all came and stood by or behind me to listen. Sam got to have an awesome conversation with an Austrian guy during which he was able to share the Gospel and pray with him. One guy came and gave us 100 baht. We tried giving it back saying were not playing for tips but for Jesus; he said,"I know is good!" and kept walking. We were able to use that money to bless a begging woman with a meal and pray for her afterwards. Western men generally just glared at me, the conviction was obvious. I wasn't there to convict, judge or even do ministry; I was there to worship God; all else that happened was by His Spirit an it was awesome. It was really cool to watch how people reacted to certain songs and which songs drew people closer. Like when I started singing "Prince of Peace", singing, "You are Lord of Lords. You are King of Kings. You are mighty God. Lord of everything...." kids came and sat around and were dancing and smiling. The way that worship bypasses all language and cultural barriers is incredible and a one of a kind experience; it's the kind of beauty that only exists when heaven comes to earth.
I played and sang for 2 straight hours. I didn't break any strings, my voice didn't give out (even though I only recently gained my voice back from being sick, and I had no trouble playing that long. Such a God night. We all agreed that the presence of God was so thick and that we definitely should keep doing it. So we are! God's going to do some awesome things because we're stepping out in some big ways. Praise God!
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Some of my favorite things about Chiang Mai: