Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Lesson of His Arms

Today we went to the slums, as we have done every day this week but today we felt as if we shouldn't be there. As we were wrestling with embarrassment of what we perceived people must be feeling or thinking, us coming there everyday; this little girl comes out of the alley with tears rolling down her cheeks. She's a skinny little thing, one of the skinniest kids I've ever seen, and her hair was orange and brittle from malnourishment. I went over to her, got down on her level and slowly extended my arms to see if she objected to being held. She showed no resistance so I picked her up and she lost it. She began crying into my shoulder, her little hands gripping my shirt. I held her as close as I could and tried to communicate that she was safe and loved through it. My mind began to conjure up all the possible scenarios of why this girl was alone crying. Then my mind went a step further and I thought, "Whatever made this girl cry now will still be there after she stops crying." but before I could slip into feeling useless and powerless, Holy Spirit redirected my thoughts. He replayed times in my own life where I was in my room alone crying and how it was in those times that I felt the arms of Jesus holding me just as I was now holding this girl. And I felt the Lord say that now I am His arms. 
I wrestled with the day in the slums for a while till the Lord really brought clarity. He hasn't called me, right now in this present stage, to fix the 'why'; He's called me to face the 'now'. In that moment He wasn't asking me to fix what made that girl cry, He was asking me to be His arms for her. My mind has been getting so wrapped up in everything that we aren't doing and that we aren't able to do that I forget to recognize the significance of what we are doing. In the world's eyes all I did today was hold a girl as she cried but in God's eyes I did what the Father sent me to do. He and I both know the power of His arms being felt and I believe that's what He sent me to do today; what a privilege! 
All we need to do is do what the Father has for us to do. We can't tackle every problem we come across, we can't fix every broken person, can't adopt every lonely child, free every slave, nor feed every hungry mouth; we can certainly try but we'll not succeed. We need only do what the Father has for us to do; to seek out what that is and strive to give Him the utmost glory in it. We can either (I say this to myself as much as an exhortation to us all) mull around what we can't do or give all we have to what we can do.
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

Nung, Song, Sam (1,2,3)

Our time is winding down an our intensity increasing; we want so badly to finish strong. For three months, almost, we've been focused on individuals but I think our perspective is starting to widen as the end of outreach is approaching; realizing that these problems and injustices that we have seen will still exist when we leave. Questions such as, "What do we really have to offer these people?" are beginning to surface; but I think these questions are a result of our hearts feeling the difference between restoration and prevention work as well as the difference between short-term and long term missions.
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.

This week we've started doing kids ministry in a nearby slum. Tuesday was our first day out there and we decided to just spend our first day sussing it out and seeing what we have to work with but to go out there with face paint and just break the ice. We painted our own faces so that they could see what we were talking about it. They responded exactly like we thought they would, they were terrified. Not only were we probably some of the first white people these kids had ever come in contact with but we looked like aliens. Most kids we're afraid to come too close to us but once they realized we weren't ghosts they began to warm up to the face paint and to us. Next thing we knew we were overflowing with kids and their requests for what animal they wanted to have painted on their face. It was amazing! It never ceases to amaze me how, once kids realize you're for real, they open up to you and just unfold with trust. It's a beautiful thing that unfortunately is often overlooked or manipulated. Those kids are so beautiful and each one of them reminds me of some Compassion International campaign poster making it almost eerie/painful to look at them. 
The slum itself was a lot to take in. You can't help but think how unfair it is for people to have to live like this; how at the end of the day it's only God's grace that kept you from being born in that place. It makes me even more determined to honor the grace that's been given to me by letting this life of privilege not be spent on me in vain.

We've got 8 days of ministry in Chiang Mai left then it's debrief week. We've already started on our debrief packet and are starting to process these past 5 months as well as begin to really process what's after DTS. As for me, my application for staffing the next school is being processed; I'm waiting for a reference to come in. My re-entry to the States will be much different than most because I'm not leaving the mission field and I'm not trying to figure out the next step. My purpose in going home is first and foremost, to share my stories with people and raise more support as I start my career as a full-time missionary. Nevertheless, leaving is still hard. A lot of feelings from Ukraine are resurfacing; feeling like I'm being taken away from the mission field, finally feeling home and then forced to leave, and feeling scared I won't be allowed to return. What's so ironic about all these past feelings resurfacing is that they're completely irrelevant, they don't apply anymore and they're not the case. I'm not being stripped away, I'm just having a sabbatical. Who knows when I'll get to be with my family for a whole 3 months again. I'm excited to be with them and to see them; it's gonna be great to catch up and make new memories to carry us through the next stretch. I think it's just the enemy because they're complete lies and that's what he's good at so....I'm just not having any of it.
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

Worship In Red Light District

So last night we decided to go hard and play worship in the heart of the red light district here in Chiang Mai. Last time we did this in Phuket it was in a bar and there was a pretty solid relationship with the bar owner that took years to form, but this time there was no bar, no sound system, and no certainty of how it would be received or what would happen. It had been on my heart to do it so we just took a step of faith and did it. God totally had our backs and was there to meet people.
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

Typical Day In the Life of Me

So I figured I'd give you guys a clue of what a typical day in the life of me looks like here in Chiang Mai.
    Me working the night shift at Wongen Kafe
  • Wake up about 9:30
  • Team meeting/ Devotional 10am-11am
  • Lunch at a local Thai place at noon
  • Work in Wongen Kafe from 1-6
    • hanging out
    • delivering drinks and food
    • talking and making all the Thais laugh and feel comfortable
  • Eat dinner after I get off work probably at the same Thai place I ate at for lunch
  • Lead worship at 8:30
  • Leave for the bars at 9
    • Hang around the bars talking with girls
      • Build relationships with them
  • Leave the bars at 11:30
  • Arrive back at Wongen Kafe and debrief (for as long as needed)
  • Usually get to bed around midnight
     If you go out to the bars one night then the next night you work the 6pm-10:30pm shift in the cafe. During the day you go to the universtity next door or to the student center around the corner and help teach English for a couple of hours.
     It's really cool because Thai students who come to the cafe are starting to recognize us and they get so excited when they see us and want us to join them and sit and chat; which we LOVE! We've already been out to lunch with some and some immediately wanted to add us on facebook lol. It's so much fun to just hang out with Thai's and talk to them. I look forward to when the relationships are built up enough to be able to go deeper. But for now it's just a blessing to be a 20 year old girl who loves to hang out, laugh and have fun with them. We're all having a blast and are constantly reminded as to how blessed we are to be here and how much favor God is lavishing upon us.

Some of my favorite things about Chiang Mai:
  • Iced Thai Tea. You have to be sure and get real tea, not powder, or else it's gross. They love putting sweetened condensed milk in all their iced beverages and I love them for gooooood.
  • Fried "MaMa" It's just instant noodles stir fried with chicken or pork and lots of veggies. The best part is that it's not too spicy and only 25 baht (less than a dollar)
  • The weather in Chiang Mai is beautiful. Like mid fall in Florida. Crisp clean air and beautiful blue skies.
  • FRUIT STANDS! You can get fresh fruit for about 25 cents, all cut up and ready to eat! Such a great snack.
  • Rotee Pancakes; banana chocolate please!
  • Walking Street Market. It has anything and everything for ridiculously cheap. Plus it's just a fun experience!
It's so hard to believe that we only have 3 and 1/2 weeks left of ministry!!!! Where did the time go? This reality has got us all kicked into gear. I think we all feel that if we were to leave Thailand now we would be leaving feeling unfulfilled and that's not acceptable. So we're praying bigger prayers and expecting God to do great things in these final weeks. Please pray that we'll have boldness to act upon all that we ask. Because I'm honestly not satisfied with a good outreach; I want an AMAZING outreach. We all do. So we just have to have the faith to obey and trust that God will do what He says He's going to do. It seems the ball's in our court now. Pray that we are good stewards of all that we've been given.

That's all for now. Thanks for the prayers!!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I've got 15 minutes

     Ok I've got 15 minutes left on the internet before I get kicked off. So what can I tell you in 15 minutes? Chiang Mai is awesome!!! End of story.
     It's officially been a week, today, that we've been in Chiang Mai and we all adore this ministry, this people, and this place. We all feel like we're finally getting a real Thai experience. It also helps that we have a translator that goes everywhere with us, his name is Med. He's awesome and he takes us to all the behind the scenes places and gives us all the "need-to-know" info that most people wouldn't know without a Thai with them. Plus he's very handy to take out to eat. We all really enjoy having him around and with him being around us all the time we feel like we're never seperated from the culture which is such a relief compared to feeling so separated and distant in Phuket. God's really blessed us and given us so much favor here. We already feel as close to the Thai girls that work in the cafe in one week as we felt to the Thai girls that worked at SHE. I love being around them!!! And now that we're finally getting a real dose of Thai culture, I love that too.
     In the coffee shop it's so chill and feels like home. We work a 4-5 hour shift in the coffee shop everyday and our job is to help the Thai staff as much as possible and to easy! It's such a refreshing thing to be surrounded by such life, joy, peace, and opportunity during the day so that when we go out to the bars at night to do the bar ministry, we're going out full of hope.
     We work in the coffee shop everyday except for Sunday and we're going to try and go out to the bars everynight that we work as well but we'll see how that goes.

     Another plus about Chiang Mai is that it's much cheaper than Phuket; I didn't know Thailand could be cheaper but it is!

I'm about to be kicked off so I'll have to organize my thoughts better for next time I get on. Until then here's the link to view my new album from Thailand:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chiang Mai- Welcome of All Welcomes

     We made it safely to Chiang Mai!!!! We're all very hesitant to say it but there's no hiding our love for this place! Many times we jokingly say, "Why didn't we come here in the first place?" But we all know in our heart that going to Phuket was necessary and that it was not in vain.
     We had our orientation today and what a welcome we received! We met with the founder of Lighthouse in Action ministry, her name is Emmi, and she just began to unfold this great testimony of what an answer to prayer we are. She said that they have been praying for God to send help because the teams that had been helping out in the coffee shop were leaving and they had no one scheduled to come and take their place. One night she had a dream that a team of 8 people contacted her randomly and said they were coming to help; she told her sister about it and they both agreed that this definitely wasn't about any YWAM team because YWAM outreaches book months in advance; but 3 days later she got an email from Josie saying we want to come and work. HOW COOL IS THAT?! So Emmi is dead set that we're supposed to be here and there's no doubt in our minds that she's 100% correct. She met us all and heard our giftings and that got her even more excited. Seems like we all have skills that fill a specific need that she has...incredible how God works! We all were holding back the tears while we talked to her and we all left the meeting and voiced how we just wanted to cry; we were so overwhelmed by the Lord's faithfulness and seeing our purpose here.
     She wants us helping out in the coffee shop and just making it an atmosphere where people feel welcomed and loved. So whenever we meet people we can invite them to come hang out at Wongen Kafe and just build a relationship with them and love on them. Which we're all incredibly ready for. A lot of times we felt limited to really open up about Jesus because relations between SHE and the bars were so sensitive; but now we're not having to push for a ministry and we just get to love on people, be Jesus to them, and build relationships which is what we all have been aching to do. And every night a team will go out to the red light district and meet girls in the bars and build relationships, love on them, and be Jesus. You guys don't even know what a huge sigh of relief this is for us!!!
     We went out tonight to the bars to get an idea of what it's like and it's so tame compared to anything we've seen or experienced but I feel like all that we've been through has really prepared us for this ministry. We're all super excited and ready to work. As of now it looks like we'll be doing about 42hours a week of ministry but we're so ready to dive in and do it.

Nyquill is starting to kick in (I have a sinus cold thing) so I'm going to give into it :) Goodnight. More to come soon