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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Beautiful Days

Week one of being back in New Zealand is not only over but through it begins the end. There is now only one week left of this 6 month experience............just had to pause to really soak in that sentence. 
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

This Is Home

For every dramatic entrance there's a soundtrack; my re-entry into New Zealand deserved to be equally equipped with a strategic selection of songs that would parallel the climatic descent. 

The playlist:
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. 
I'm home. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Just a Lil' Update

 Sunday in Chiang Mai we met up with a woman who was on last year's JDTS in Auckland; she is Thai and lives in Chiang Mai. She is married to a pastor of an Akha (hilltribe in Thailand) church and that's where we went on Sunday. Rachel shared a testimony, I sang a song, and we all helped out with kids church. We were blessed and spoiled by this woman and it was really cool to meet someone who not only has been on the school but who is really living this life of biblical justice.
   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

Ministry Complete

Wednesday marked the last day of ministry on outreach. 
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.