Tuesday November 27, 2018

Luke 13:11-13 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God

The power of touch is immeasurable and that was evident today as we said goodbye to the wonderful people who care for us, supported us, and loved us for the last two months in Thailand. Wat took us out to a nice lunch (and to get a new shirt for Lucia with her name spelled correctly) in Nan before our flight and Lucia was thrilled that Yumi was able to join us. When we got to the airport, we realized that the whole family was there to send us off and I was blown away with the amount of love these people showed us. They have made such an impact on our lives and my heart is hurting as we say goodbye, but the power of a loving embrace is surprisingly comforting. I am hopeful that we will see all of you again!

Na Na and Anjali
Grandma and Lucia
Grandma and David
Lucia and Na Na

Wat and Lucia
The whole crew!

We said our final goodbyes and walked through the tiny airport in Nan, out onto the tarmac to board our plane for Bangkok. And so begins the very long journey to Banbasa, India.

Upon arriving at the Don Muang Airport in Bangkok we took a drive to our hotel that is adjacent to the Suvarnabhumi Airport. We made the decision to book a hotel room here because we arrived in Bangkok at 2:30 pm and our next flight is not until 3:30 am tomorrow. This hotel was beautiful and we had fun walking through the Thai Gardens and playing in the pool. After putting the kids to bed, Jeff and I enjoyed an evening of drinks and some pool at the sports bar in the lobby. Because our flight was so early and we had to get the kids up at 12:45 am in order to walk to the airport for our 3:30 am flight, we decided that it would be best to stay awake and try to get some sleep on the airplane.

Here are a few shots of the hotel at night and showing how close we actually were to the airport!

Here’s to no sleep and an exciting journey to India and The Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission (aka: The Farm).

Monday November 26, 2018

Proverbs 24:10 If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength being small

Today was so hard. Our van picked us up for the last time to take us to school (just the preschool today). Several of the teachers from the primary school, including the Principal, also attended. The schools had planned the same ceremony for us as Wat had done yesterday. While we were waiting for the ceremony to begin, the children started to get a bit restless, so Jeff got up and we all sang our “Good Morning to You” song and the whole room was filled with the most beautiful sound, singing children!

The older girls from the preschool (all 5-6 years old) got up and did a traditional Thai dance for the school. It was beautiful. These girls practiced so hard and watching these girls brought tears to my eyes. This was such a special celebration. The “Doctor of Ceremony” performed the ceremony, followed by the principal and teachers tied strings around our wrists as a blessing and then presented with shirts from Nan, so we would always remember them.

Afterwards we sang our “Goodbye to You” song one last time, and again the whole room was filled with the sound of these children singing at the top of their lungs. We had lunch with Rinya, Emma, and Jonas. Before we ate lunch, our children decided that they wanted to share their Sour Patch Kids (which is their absolute favorite candy that we can’t get while abroad) with the children of the school. The thought was overwhelming for me, our kids wanted to share their favorite candy with these children. As a family we gave Rinya some photos of our time here, as a way for her to always remember us. Teaching at these schools has been a life changing experience for our whole family.

While we were sitting outside waiting for the van, we took some time to just visit with Rinya. However, our girls were not getting along at all. Actually, Anjali was being very rude to Lucia and Lucia just wasn’t going to take it. I walked over to talk with the girls and realized that Anjali was really struggling. As I sat next to her, she refused to look me in the eyes and when I asked her if she was sad, the tears just started rolling down her cheeks. I wrapped her in my arms and reminded her that it is okay and even healthy to feel sad about leaving; that we were all feeling this tug on our heart. This is when Rinya came over and sat with Anjali and before we knew it, all of us were crying. Goodbyes are hard and I realize now that at every place we will serve over this year we will have to deal with this grief and loss; it will be our reality. I took this opportunity to talk to the children about the constant changes in life and that grief and loss are intertwined with happiness and joy; we can’t have one without the other. We feel that sadness when we loose something we love dearly. If we do not love, we have nothing to loose. I am not sure if it sunk in, but it will be a conversation we will have more than once.

Here are some pictures we took with Rinya just before leaving the school, a nice way to say our final goodbye to her.

When we got home, Wat presented our children with soccer shirts that he had put their names on the back (but they spelled Lucia’s name “LUCLA” and Wat didn’t notice it until he got home). So we decided that we would be able to go into Nan a bit early tomorrow and get that taken care of before we head to the airport. After dinner, we gave Wat, Grandma, and Na Na some photos that we printed as a gift to them for their love, kindness and generosity. Again, the tears were unable to be kept back. These people are a part of our family now. I love that every two months my family just keeps getting bigger.

Sunday November 25, 2018

John 20:26-29 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

This morning we got up and Wat took us into Nan after breakfast. We really didn’t know why we were going into Nan, but off we went; Wat had his own plans : ).

We ended up at Wat Phumin in Nan and Wat pointed out the mural painted on the wall of a man whispering into a woman’s ear, specifically called “The Whisper of Love” and local legend says that if you make a wish for eternal love with your partner in front of this painting, your wish will be granted. The whole inside of the temple depicts the history of Nan by means of a beautiful mural that stretches the entirety of the temple, even the ceilings. The temple dates back to 1596 and this mural, while have been renovated a few times, still remains as beautiful as ever.

A statue depicting “The Whisper of Love”
Inside Wat Phumin
“The Whisper of Love”
Jeff and I in front of “The Whisper of Love”
A family picture in front of ‘The Whisper of Love”

After a beautiful experience at the temple, we ended up at the Nan Museum where we got to learn about the history of Nan. As you walk up to the Museum you will see a beautifully lined path of Frangipani Trees (I swore I took a picture of this, but I can’t for the life of me find it, so here is a picture of just the tree!). These have become my favorite trees because of the amazing flowers that bloom; they are the most beautifully smelling flowers I have ever experienced.

A picture of the Frangipani Tree
All of us in front of the Nan Museum
David in front of ancient weapons

Little did we know that Wat had a celebration planned for us when we returned. I tried to go upstairs to finish packing (since I didn’t get much done yesterday or today!), but that wasn’t going to happen. As soon as I sat down to pack, Lucia came running upstairs to let me know that we needed to be downstairs right away for a party. When we came downstairs there were 7-8 family members waiting for us, including a “Doctor of Celebration”. This ceremony was beautiful, though everything was in Thai and I had no idea what was being said. At one point Wat did whisper that this was a ceremony to give us blessings of health, safety, and well-being. After the Doctor of Ceremony did his part (which was about 20 minutes), the family members there tied pieces of string around our wrists while giving us their own personal blessing. I am blown away at how thoughtful and wonderful this afternoon was and my heart is overflowing with joy and love towards these people. We have been accepted into their home and they have allowed us to be a part of their customs. We have learned so much from them and they will forever have a special place in our hearts. I just can’t believe we will have to say goodbye on Tuesday.

Here are some pictures from this wonderful afternoon.

David receiving blessings from the family
Anjali receiving a blessing from “grandma”
Jeff receiving a blessing from Wat
Lucia and Yumi
David and Yumi
Anjali and Lucia with Yumi
Me receiving a blessing from Wat
Anjali receiving a blessing from Wat

Today was a day filled with love and compassion. I can’t describe how many times I saw Jesus today. He has blessed my family in so many ways and today we got to feel His love through these wonderful people in Thailand. We have laughed and learned with them, and have felt a great amount of love from them. We can only hope that we were able to not only show our gratitude, but also our love for them. God was truly present today and among us. God knows no limits, and even with those that do not believe He is the Son of God, He is able to show us what love looks like through them. These wonderful people in the pictures above are a part of our family and I am so grateful for all of the time with had with them. I will miss them greatly and they will always have a place in my heart, and in our family.

Saturday November 24, 2018

Psalms 62:1 For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.

We have learned to just roll with things as they come, and today proved to be no different. We had arranged with Wat to have dinner at the night market in Nan one last time tonight and we planned on leaving Wiang Sa around 4:30 or 5:00 pm, so we could stop at Big C for a few items that we needed before meeting with Rinya, Emma, and Jonas at the market for dinner. So after lunch Jeff and I went upstairs to our room to get some packing done. Because it I am a total type A personality and like things done a certain way, Jeff ended up taking a nap. I figured that I would have about 3-4 hours of packing before we were going to leave and would be able to get most of it done. However, at 2:30 Wat came knocking on our door saying that it was time to leave for Nan! This was so typical for Wat and both Jeff and I just had to laugh out loud. Wat had a plan that we didn’t know about and we were just along for the ride! But every time this happened, we had a wonderful day and memorable experiences; again I say, today was no different!

We thought we were headed straight for Big C, but instead Wat took us to Wat Phrathai Khanoi where we hiked up 307 stairs (303 according to the picture, but there were 4 more steps after the sign) to the temple, where we found ourselves looking out over Nan. The view was beautiful. Then to Big C and off to the market. As always, we got way too much food, but it was amazing. We also met up with Rinya, Emma, and Jonas which was a lot of fun. Here are some pictures from the day. I am so grateful to God for the many blessings and amazing people with whom He continues surround us. My heart is just filled with joy and sadness that we have to leave more wonderful people in just a few short days.

I was thinking about all our experiences in Thailand and decided that it would be a good idea to come up with a list of “good to know” things, should you decide to travel to Thailand.

Be prepared for a totally different driving experience. Whether you are driving or are just the passenger, being on the road in Thailand is quite different than the States. For one, motorbikes and mopeds are all over the place and they don’t really adhere to the lane lines, not that cars do either; the lane lines are more of a suggestion than a requirement. Motorbikes are known to weave in and out of traffic via the shoulders of the road of highway, in between lanes, and over the center line. It is also not unusual to see a car doing the same thing. The horn on the car is also used in a very different way. In the States it is used to let someone know they made you angry or did something wrong, but here, the horn is used as a way to let people know that you are there and are about to pass them. So horns are used all the time.

Always carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you. Not all bathrooms have toilet paper and soap to wash your hands, so if you are prepared for this it won’t be a problem. Unfortunately, we had to learn the hard way!

Internet access is very simple and cheap. Purchasing a SIM card at the airport is a piece of cake and very cheap. It was wonderful to have unlimited data on our phones for the entire time we were there, especially for the kids.

Pack light. Clothes are very cheap and very nice. We stocked up on Thai clothes and ended up having to send several boxes home because we had too much to carry with us to our next stop!

Be flexible and patient. A schedule or plan is more of a suggestion than a set structure. More often than not, we would adhere to the time table we arranged, only to find that the people around us just flowed with life. It was a bit of an adjustment at first, but to be honest, it was a much better way to life for us without the stress of being somewhere at an exact time. It taught us how to just roll with the day.

–The medical clinics and medication are great and cheap. We had to take our son into a local clinic for a really bad case of hives. The cost was very minimal, as were the medications, and he received excellent care.

–Definitely bring anti-diarrhea medication with you, but if you don’t you can get it there for really cheap. We used Azithromycin and it worked like a charm. We all had to take it at one point, and I would definitely recommend taking it the first day you develop the symptoms because within 24 hours we all were feeling better. We were also able to use this medication for other infections, so it is very versatile and accessible here (we stocked up before we left in case we needed it in other places).

Don’t drink the water. Stick to bottled water (its cheap).

–If you have children, be prepared for people to just come up and give them hugs and tell them how beautiful they are. This attention did go to our 5 year old daughter’s head a bit, but the people are just so loving and kind, how could you ask them to stop. They just loved our children and treated them with nothing but kindness and gentleness.

–Smile. A smile goes a long way and the people of Thailand are perfect examples of how to be kind and friendly. Everyone smiles. Thailand is known as the “Land of a Thousand Smiles” and we were not disappointed. You actually have to try really hard to be in a bad mood here because everyone around you is so happy.

Easy on, Easy off shoes are a must. You will be asked to take your shoes off anytime you enter a building or a house, so have shoes that can be easily taken off and put back on is a must and will make you life much easier (especially if you have kids)

Brush up on appropriate clothing (especially for the temple). The Thai people are very conservative. Dress modestly and you will be just fine. In regards to the temple, be dressed very conservatively–no shoulders showing, long dresses/skirts/pants for women, long pants and a nice shirt for men. Kids have the same requirements. It can be very hot and humid in Thailand, so I do recommend a shall for women. That way you can easily wrap it around your shoulders if you end up in a temple. I tried to carry one with us when we went out because we never knew if we would end up in a temple! This is a good website for reference (https://www.kohsamuisunset.com/what-to-wear-in-thailand/).

If I think of others I will update the list, but this is a good start. If you are ever afforded the opportunity to travel to Thailand, especially outside of Bangkok, you will not be disappointed. Also if you are looking for something to do in Thailand rather than just travel, you should definitely look at volunteering with Volunthai. This experience was one that we will never forget. We were able to meet and live amongst the wonderful people of the area, and to see places that we would have otherwise looked right past. You really get a full view of the area when you are living there rather than just visiting. There is so much more to see and experience beyond the tourist destinations.

Friday November 23, 2018

Isaiah 40:29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.

Today was our last day of teaching and at the preschool Emma and Jonas were fine with letting us teach all of the classes. It was so much fun to teach these children one last time, well actually, we just sang songs and played games! We were also able to get a class picture with each of the groups, as well as some pictures of the kids during some of the songs and games.

Here are some pictures of the kids playing and singing today!

Playing Duck, Duck, Goose

Saying goodbye
Singing Let’s Go Swimming by Laurie Berkner

Here are the class pictures:

A picture with our driver, who picked us up faithfully, every day to drive us to each school and back again.

We were certainly feeling faint given this was our last time teaching these wonderful children and we were strengthened by how much they learned in the two months we were here. We are so grateful for God’s presence and His ability to give us the strength to say goodbye to these happy children. Every moment at this school was filled with joy and laughter, and how we always were lifted by their energy and spirit.

David also got in a little Muay Thai training today with Wat.

Thursday November 22, 2018

Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Today’s scripture is one that is relevant every day of this journey. Jeff and I have clung to each other and relied on each during the entire process of planning and now during this time of service. I have commented before how much we have leaned on one another during the planning process, but I also see it happening now that we are in the midst of the journey. During the planning process (which was almost 2 years ago), there were times when I was strong and Jeff needed to rely on my strength and then there were times that the tables turned and I needed that support. What was most amazing about these times is that these shifts were almost palatable, both of us could just feel a shift in confidence, faith, trust, anxiety, fear, etc. When one was strong the other relied on that strength. This carried us through the process, but now, here we are, living this journey out every day and experiencing the same things. I am so grateful for his patience and strength, but most importantly, I am thankful for the wonderful communication and understanding we have with each other. He can see when I am struggling, whether with aspects of the trip or with our own children (it is more often this!), and will gently put his hand on my shoulder and tell me to take a break. He is able to sense my frustration, anger, fear, etc. and supports me through it and I do my best to do the same for him. This is not an easy tasks, but we have both committed ourselves to God and to each other, and I believe that because we put God first, we are able to better understand what the other needs; we are not just looking at what we need. We have been able to balance each other and I truly believe that this is what makes our marriage so strong. We think of the other before ourselves and we rely on the other to help when we need it and provide the support and encouragement when needed.

Today was the Loy Krathong Festival, a celebration of the water spirits and a time to let go of the sins, mistakes, and regrets of the past to prepare and make room for the blessings of the new year. After making the Krathong floats, we all headed to the river to release them and make a wish for the future. Shortly after arriving at the preschool we found the kids to be dressed in beautiful traditional Thai dress, all holding their Krathongs they made yesterday. We all walked down to the river together, which took about 10 minutes and then set the Krathongs downstream after making our wishes. Rinya was kind enough to make one for each of our kids and one for Jeff and I to set off together. We had made ones that were still at home for tonight’s festival and she wanted us to be able to participate with the kids! It was so thoughtful and sweet (and very beautiful!). We came back to the school in time to teach the last two classes (Jonas and Emma taught one of them) and then lunch and off to the primary school.

Our kids did their schooling during classes and they did quite well. We seem to have made some progress with getting them to do their work a little more expeditiously, though today they had a much lighter load because we knew that they wouldn’t get as much done with the festivals and celebrations. Once we got home, we added some final touches on our Krathongs and a quick dinner. We knew were going to the festival here in Wiang Sa, but we didn’t know that Wat had arranged for the girls to ride on the parade float! Anjali was not interested in this, but this was right up Lucia’s alley. We ended up having to rush out of the house to get to the parade in time for Lucia to ride on the top of the parade float with 5 other girls. We got to the parade to wait for the rest of the floats and then proceeded to walk slowly in front of the float through the main street of Wiang Sa down to the Nan River. As we were walking down the streets of Wiang Sa I couldn’t help but smile and softly chuckle to myself. Never in a million years would I ever have imagined walking in parade celebrating Loy Krathong in northern Thailand with my family. I have never been so far from my extended family and yet I felt at home with the people of this community (as I did in Germany). These wonderful people have taken us in as part of their family. When we got to the Nan River, there was music playing, food vendors, and lots of people with Krathongs and lanterns walking down to the river to set off their floats.

So we joined the crowds of people down by the banks of the river to send our Krathongs off with a small piece of ourselves (a finger nail clipping) and a wish for the future. This was such a meaningful experience and nothing like I have ever seen in the states. I am forever grateful to these wonderful people who guided us through this process and allowed us to participate in their culture so willingly. Here are some pictures of this amazing experience.

Wednesday November 21, 2018

2 Thessalonians 3:13 Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.

What an amazing day! We taught at the preschool with Jonas and Emma, sharing the 4 classes amongst us. It is great to have a break, but I am already missing the kids. Each time Emma and Jonas teach a class for me, it seems to be a mixed blessing. I am so happy we can help to provide a smooth transition for everyone, but I really miss singing and being with the kids, which makes me realize how hard it will be to say goodbye next week. I just can’t believe we leave in less than a week now, time just flies by.

I remember thinking that a whole year is a really long time for this journey and wondering how much impact we can have in just two months, but now that we are living this journey each stop seems to go by so quickly and yet each time it is difficult to say those goodbyes. We have become so connected to the people around us that we find it hard to leave. I didn’t have any idea the level of grief that my children would feel each time we had to leave our new friends. I notice it more with Anjali who, for whatever reason, has this idea that she is not supposed to feel sadness or that sadness is a bad emotion. This journey will give us the opportunity to not just teach her about the emotion of sadness, but also to show her how to handle it. I shed tears in Germany and I am certain that those times will repeat when we leave Thailand. We can hopefully show her that it is okay to cry and that sadness does not have to be a negative emotion; that we can use this emotion to feel closer to those people we are leaving.

I digress. During the last class at the preschool, the kindergarten children and teachers all made Krathongs. So I sat down with the kids and teachers and helped make roses out of banana leaves (which I had no idea could be done!). It was a lot of fun learning the different Krathong techniques from Rinya and watching the children make their beautiful floats. Tomorrow morning, the school will walk down tot the Nan River to release their Krathongs.

Teaching at the primary school was fairly uneventful. I have been teaching the 1st and 2nd classes (basically 1st and 2nd grades). The first grade class is very engaging and are actively participating in the lessons; however the 2nd class is only engaged during a game. So I have to get pretty creative with the lesson plans each class because if I don’t have a game to play the kids are falling asleep, staring into space, or playing with something in their desk. What makes it even more difficult is that I don’t have any idea what the teacher wants me to teach prior to getting to the class. When I walk into the classroom, she gives me a piece of paper with vocabulary words or her lesson plan for the day and I am charged with coming up with interactive games and activities to go along with the lesson she just handed me. Talk about quick thinking! At first I struggled with this, but I have gotten accustomed to it and I seem to be doing just fine. I have figured out that if I separate the class into 2 teams, I can make anything into a game–so that’s what I do. Today was pretty fun and the kids seem to be pretty engaged with our lesson of animals–we played charades, hangman, and practiced writing sentences with a/an/the (the kids had to fill in the blanks–2 teams made it a race!).

After returning home from school, we finished our Krathongs and made sure they were ready to go. We also talked with Wat about staying here in Wiang Sa for the festival as driving to Nan was just going to be too much and would mean that the kids were going to be up way too late. We wanted/needed them to be somewhat rested for our last day of teaching on Friday. I am really excited about the festival. I have been told that it is beautiful to watch all of the Krathongs floating down the river and the lanterns floating in the sky makes for a picture perfect evening.

Here are some pictures of the day, including the kids making the Krathongs at the school and then the ones that we made at home.

Making Krathongs at the preschool

Lucia and Rinya

David and Lucia holding the “rose” banana leaf I had made