Decisions, Travel, and Home

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Well my friends once again blogging has been neglected far too long. This message is much overdue so with it I send my apologies for the delayed update. It is amazing how much can happen in such a short time where do I begin!?

BASICALLY… the last two times I have been in Thailand I have always felt a desire to be better equipped to help the people and organizations I have worked with. So I decided to apply for grad school in Portland for this coming fall to study social work. I found out around April 30th that I was accepted. I was given 15 days to accept this offer. However, the next week on May 6th, I was flying out for a three week visa renewal/ministry visit/sight-see/volunteer trip to India and Nepal. This meant I basically had one week to decide what to do! I also knew I had a job back home if I went back in June. So feeling quite torn about the matter but with some good counsel, prayers, and a step of faith forward I decided to buy my plane ticket and make the move back to Oregon for grad school in June in my one week time crunch!

Only a couple days after this decision, I then headed off for a CRAZY three week adventure with a friend around India and Nepal. God knocked my socks off with this amazing gift and opportunity for which I was so grateful. I was blown away by the poverty we experienced in Calcutta but my heart was nourished as I was able to volunteer at Mother Teresa’s missionaries of charity and see people experiencing the Kingdom of God. I can’t explain how much I loved it there. After our time in Calcutta God showed me there ARE good men in India when some good Samaritans took care of us and gave us much needed help as we tried to make our way to the Taj Mahal while battling heat stroke and missed train stations. In Nepal, after being overwhelmed by the majesty of God’s creation in the Himalayas, we were absolutely blown away by some amazing individuals we met serving God in Kathmandu. We brainstormed, dreamed, and fellowshipped with awesome believers who are literally rescuing little girls being trafficked on the borders of Nepal and starting clinics for AIDS victims.

After this whirlwind trip, I hit the ground running in Bangkok trying to get as much done as possible before I left. In short, I helped them continue to implement the case management system I put together during my time in Thailand. Though at times very emotionally draining, I loved this. I felt privileged to hear their stories during assessments. It was also amazing to be able to sit and brainstorm with these women ideas to help them heal and reach their goals by writing down action plans. I loved seeing their faces light up as they talked about their passions and desires.

After a couple weeks of finishing up projects and meetings, I climbed back on a plane and headed home with a heart full of mixed emotions. My heart feels so torn not being a direct part of the ministry in Thailand now. I am so excited for what God is going to continue to do in and through these women in the future. Transitions are always a bit… tricky…of course I miss Thailand, The Well, and all my friends that are there. However, I know the future holds new adventures that will be good too. I can’t imagine never returning to Thailand. But for now, and the immediate future, I will be here studying hard. Thank you so much for all your prayers and support. Truly, I could not have been gone without them! To God be the glory!

A bit of tapastry

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There are moments in my life like last week while I played in a nationwide annual water fight that I find myself laughing and thinking, “How do I get to live this life?” Do I have moments I find myself feeling miserable or struggling not to envy others? Yes, of course. But there have been so many moments over the past few months that I have felt so alive from the everyday tasks like riding a motorcycle way too fast down small streets to crazy adventures traveling across Cambodia to explaining the importance of good assessment interviewing skills (I admit that last one shows what a nerd I am)!

I have also felt so blessed to be able to use my education and giftings here. Over the past few months, I have spent countless hours researching, writing, re-writing, and designing a case management system for The Well. What does this mean for all you non-social work people? Basically, I have been helping design system that includes applications, orientations, assessments, schedules, counseling, goal setting, etc. This has also involved meeting with many local and international organizations learning and networking. I have also been attempting work myself out of a job by helping to train up Thai staff to be case managers. I have loved being able to use this perhaps cumbersome or unnecessary seeming system to reach the women at The Well better with God’s love. My heart hasn’t been case management for the sake of more paper work or for professional appearance but for the sake of each woman better being reached, valued, trained, developed, and discipled.

Recently, a young student went through our new student orientation and decided that she wanted to follow Jesus. Another finally found the opportunity to share about the abuse she was enduring in her own home. Yet others found a platform to share their future desires. Things are still a far cry from perfect working order, but as we stumble through designing and implementing this system we are seeing signs of our goals being met and that is exciting.

There have been many things I have had to learn while here, primarily being flexible and patient. What I came here originally to do has morphed into a slightly different task. Funny how that always happens. But as I look back over the past few months I almost feel as if I have been in school all over again because of the amount I have learned not only about what I am doing and the population I am working with but also about myself. I see this sort of crazy tapestry coming together. I won’t bore you with all the details but basically I feel like being here has been just as much for me as it has been for The Well… probably more. It’s funny because that is how my God works. He doesn’t call us to crazy places on the other side of the planet just to allow us to be part of his plan of redemption and restoration for this world. He calls us… for us…He wants me to know how much he cares about me and loves me… just so happens, that for me, being over here is a great place for me to see that. He is writing my story… revealing more and more what the story will be about. As I look towards the future, I am excited where He will take me and who he will make me!

Selfishness and Sabbath

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I am sorry to say it has been almost 2 months since my last blog. That is never good… even with friends reminding me I still have had a hard time pulling away enough time to blog! I have started about four different blogs over the last few months but without success…where to begin??

January and February have brought with them a major shift in my house. I gained five new housemates. Two of which are the teenage daughters of a student who previously worked at The Well. Sadly she is making some very poor decisions and is unfit to care for these girls. This has left The Well staff scrambling for solutions. Two girls I live with who are in their upper twenties have volunteered to be their primary care givers for two and half months while we search for hopefully a more long term care solution. However, taking care of them has of course been a household ministry.

With this shift in my house has come a few humble pills for me. Shortly before I came to Thailand I watched a documentary on Netflix about Mother Teresa (which I highly recommend). I was deeply moved and inspired by this woman’s life. One thing that especially inspired me was her love for those with no one to love or to care for them. She always had room for one more in her home. I thought to myself “I want to live like that opening my home to the poor and needy!”

Oh how naïve I can be. As beautiful and wonderful as this sounds on a documentary and how truly admirable it is… living it out is an entirely different story. When I was told that these two teenagers would be moving in with us, I was shocked at how difficult it was for me to face losing just some of my independence. I knew there would probably many nights I would have to “watch the girls”. Surprised at my inner reaction, I realized I have been used to almost unlimited independence for years! I struggled with feeling like “I don’t want to be a mom yet… especially not for teenagers!” This is humbling to admit. Because the ironic thing is because of my schedule over the last two months, I actually have less responsibility with the girls than some people in my house. I am almost always busy with other responsibilities. So I haven’t really had time to play mom at all! But I still sometimes feel that selfish pull in me when a chance comes up to hang out with my friends in Bangkok but I need to stay at home for “family time”.

And with all this I realize (and you probably are realizing too) that yet again that I am faced with the ugly truth that I am not nearly so selfless and self-sacrificing as I would like to think I am. Darn. Yet, despite this humbling realization…it is through these circumstances that reveal our weaknesses that we are stretched and pulled until slowly they change and can miraculously through Him even become strengths. There is a greater love that our Lord promises to provide and I am so grateful for a chance to grow in that… because I definitely need and want it.

I am also learning, however, that this love does not mean that you don’t take care of yourself. It has been a battle to find time alone to just rest. This I believe is absolutely essential. God COMMANDED… not suggested… a Sabbath day to REST. Not only that, it is essential as a follower of Jesus to spend time each day jealously guarding your time alone with Him. Serving and working all the time can seem  like the “holy” or “selfless” thing to do. But actually if we don’t rest it will not only affect us but also those we are ministering too. I sometimes feel like there is so much going on and I have so much to do that I don’t have time to rest but actually I don’t have time NOT to rest. My ministry, relationship with God, my body, my emotions, my relationships with others will all be so much healthier if I take the time for Sabbath and spend time alone with Him.

Living this out is difficult… in America… in Thailand. I want to live in this balance of being selfless and taking proper care of myself. I have so few responsibilities compared to those around me… if I struggle with this now I can only imagine how unhealthy I could be if I don’t practice this now.

This is a bit longer of a blog. But I feel this is so important to each of us to check ourselves… are we too busy that we actually aren’t being as effect as we could be because we aren’t resting? Or are we being selfish and lazy with our time? Somehow I have a tendency to struggle with both… *sigh* lol

Please be praying for these two girls and for a permanent home for them!

The God of the City

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Do you ever have moments where you are overwhelmed with a deep love and appriciation for life? Where it feels like you are so alive and full and free? I think God is bursting with excitement to share those kind of moments-those kind of lives- with us. But the problem often is we are scared to surrender to him and trust him with our lives. We feel like we know best for ourselves and worry our lives will end if we give him too much control our lives will be ruined and miserable. As I have been adjusting to life here I have been so blessed and God has been reminding me that this is one reason he brought me here. He wants my life to be lived to the full. Which sometimes requires me stepping outside my comfort zone or doing things that seem in my small human mind to be formulas for disater not abundance!

One of those moments came last week I had the priveledge of being able to travel with two women from The Well-one staff and one student- to Pattaya City on the gulf of Thailand. Pattaya is known for boast of being the “sex toursit capital of the world”. The roads are filled with bars full of prostitutes, strip clubs, and go-go bars. But each year, in the midst of the craziness, there is an event called Pattaya Praise that is thrown by many different organizations and churches from Pattaya. Basically for 4 days they hold praise and worship in different locations in the city all day. The even relocated to different parts of the city throughout those four days. One day we would be in the middle of a big town square with a big stage and the next day we could would find ourselves praising God in the middle of a slum.

It was an awesome sight to be in the middle of a city singing praises to God and be joined by Muslims, tourists, prostitutes, and Christians from all over the world. I was reminded of the ministry of Jesus how he invited everyone to come to him and here truth no matter the background- he loved and desired all of their hearts. As we sang and worshipped God “Apun” the student from The Well would grab my hand and pull me up to the stage to laugh, sing, and dance with joy before the Lord (no shame right? ;).  When just a block away I walked down streets filled with men and women with what seems to be such an overwhelming emptiness. So many faces that seem weary and hard. I want to see them come join the “dance”. To be free from their present and their past.

Back in Bangkok as I see women who are taking that step to enter that dance, I know it is scary and frightening to imaginine and hope that life can be different. Some of them immediately join excited and exuberant. Others hesitate and others even give up. Those are the hardest to watch. But I pray and hope they can learn just like I am learning, that God has the very best in mind for them. He is bursting with excitement to share his joy with them like he is with me and you, if only we will trust him.

This is the story of a song  that was inspired a few years ago by this event I went to… enjoy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXh_tgjnYJw

and the song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=HgQccYki-9Y&NR=1

Also I have been asked for an address while I am here in Thailand. On the right hand side of this page click “prayer and financial” support. On that page you can find my address! Thank you!

This is why…

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Hello Friends!

I am determined to be a better blogger than I have been in the past and so with resolve and determination I reenter the world of blogging…. At the gentle encouragement of some fellow bloggers I have been informed more frequent short blogs are the most effective. Hm. Problem. Scroll down to my previous blogs and you will see I tend to do quite the opposite… long winded, infrequent blogs. But nevertheless I march forward hoping for a brighter-blogging tomorrow…now I’ve already used 85 of my short 500 word blog… I best get to business!

First of all… I want to thank so many of you for your support and prayers. What a difference that has made in my experience already. Even the parts of the trip I dread most such as long plane flights and adjusting to a new life were overall very smooth. Thank you. Already I have been able to go on outreach, modify and restructure a case management system, visit the flooded areas, master riding side saddle on the moto (this is an accomplishment let me tell you…), and fall in love with Thailand all over again.

It is funny how often I start to second guess myself and God’s call on my life during its approaching hour. I definitely struggled with some doubt and worries in the weeks before my departure. Battling those fears and doubts I came to Thailand anyway trusting God that even if I was somehow messing all his plans for me up, he could redirect me. How silly I am and how good God is… I already feel so at home here. I received such a warm welcome, especially from the women at The Well. But what has made me feel at most home and has confirmed God’s calling me to come has actually been the “opportunities” here. I’ll explain what I mean.

There is a deep, deep brokenness in the lives of so many people in Bangkok. I find myself thinking of this constantly as I sit talking with bar girls, as I watch a child beg for money in the red light district, as I hear of a child being kidnapped to be used to smuggle drugs, as I almost step on a legless man lying face down on the sidewalk with a beggar’s bowl in his mouth. I want to know their stories. I want them to know that someone cares about them…loves them….sees them. This quote by Mother Teresa has leapt across by heart countless times these first two weeks:

“The greatest disease in the West (world) today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love…. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

This is why I am here. And…this is why you are too.

(Word count 517… better luck next time ;)

do not fear…

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(So I wrote this right before I left for home… I just didn’t quiet have a chance to finish it up and post it… )

It is just as I suspected… two months after my first blog I am finally sitting down to write my second with only  6 days left of my time in Thailand remaining. Not that I ever planned blog weekly… but a little sooner than this probably wouldn’t have hurt anything… Though… I did try blogging one evening only to end up with a case of writer’s block which is how Bethany (my roommate) came to write my previous blog… and I hers… funny how its easier to write for someone else… But here is the real update on my adventures… straight from the source… sorry for the delay… if I ever blog again I will be sure to get a blog accountability partner ;)

Ah! I am not sure what to say. I would much prefer to sit down with each of you in a cozy coffee shop over hot cocoa and share my heart rather than write a mass message. But since my budget- both time and financial- doesn’t allow for that, I suppose this will have to suffice.

 I must start off by saying that this season has been one of unexpected joy and peace. Its funny in coming here I kinda braced for the worse. I think sometimes I start to buy into this weird picture that I think has been a picture painted back in the states o f the “outside” world… particularly countries outside of the west… that causes a great amount of fear among people or at least an assumption of guaranteed misery. I am not sure how it formed… perhaps through media… the news… movies… or perhaps because we only tend to remember the exciting and frightening bits of the stories we hear… however it came to be constructed, I think it exists unjustly. And though some of it perhaps has a rightful place… I mean there are fairly dangerous places in the world… most of it really is not merited. I also think we expect life to be so much more difficult overseas…. Thoughts of living without hot water… flushing toilets… or a car… seem to be not only inconvenient but unpleasant. Now I fully agree that there are places in Bangkok I shouldn’t go to alone at night to and not to mention I am counting down the days until I get a hot shower… but none of these things are really (or whatever ever else we associate with living overseas or as a missionary) as terrible as we make them out to be. There really aren’t men around every corner trying to kidnap me or spiders the size of my head pouncing on me every night. Life is actually quiet enjoyable over here and most of the inconveniences normally end up as little adventures or funny stories to laugh about later.

 Furthermore, I think there is a glorification of overseas work that is also a little out of balance. Don’t get me wrong- I don’t really have a place to begin talking about sacrifice. I have been over here three measly months. However, I have met people that have given their entire lives to be here… sacrificing what looks like so much to me. Yet, they don’t see it like that. They instead say things like “Wow I can’t believe the places and things God has led me and allowed me to do!” Seeing the sacrifice I have seen in people here coupled with this attitude has thrown me for a loop. Because on the outside I think “Look at all they are sacrificing” but they say “What a blessing and privilege to live for God.” This seems strangely similar to what Jesus had in mind when he said “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39. These are the verses God has continually challenged me with while I have been here. They are so contrary to man’s way of thinking. Yet when we live this out… we find what we have been searching for. This doesn’t mean life is easy. William Barkley said “Jesus came not to make life easy but to make people great.”…. We can’t have both… ease and greatness. Yet, I confess… so often I want them both. All too frequently I want the shortcuts but there really are none…I always tend to think of it like health…. You have to work on it… everyday. There are things that are sacrificed…. And at time all the work- soy milk, Pilates, Jillian Michaels- feels like it might kill you. But in the end… you are healthy and… I have noticed that most health “nuts” seem to love it (though I confess I haven’t really experienced health nut thing personally). Anyway my point is… that in the same way… being a Jesus “nut” seems crazy and unpleasant… and perhaps a bit odd to those outside… to those inside there is an almost secret knowing. The kind of knowing a parent has at Christmas watching their son or daughter unwrap a present they have given them… looking on quietly with a half smile and twinkle in their eye… but are filled perhaps with an even deeper joy and enjoyment than their small child. Maybe this all sounds a little cheesy… but I feel like this a bit… the answer to the mystery of life and purpose… is mine. And I love it…or rather Him.  

What He will do with each of us is different. For some the best way he can make us great is to send us to Thailand for 10 years… or to Wilmore, Kentucky… or maybe back to Oregon. I have wrestled whether or not to come back to Thailand. I am not sure what the answer to that question is yet. However, I am learning that although the “where” at times is important… it is not as important as the “who”. Who am I? What am I living out? Am I living a life of love- slow to anger, quick to forgive, preferring others above myself? Or am I seeking my own life… my own happiness… my own way? What I have been doing in Thailand isn’t necessarily glorious. It’s me living life in Thailand…hopefully looking a little like Jesus.  Life has looked different here than perhaps what it looks life for you or what it has looked like in the past for me. I spend most of my days rubbing shoulders with women who have been exploited in the sex industry but are trying to build a new life. I have spent a lot of my time with their kids to keep them off the streets and out of trouble.  During my last month in Thailand I have spend a lot of my time doing behind the scenes work on computer writing an addiction class to help these women work through their drug and alcohol addiction and piecing together other mental health curriculum. I spend some of my evenings in bars with women and transgender men, talking to them, learning a bit about their lives…and their heartaches. Sometimes we take them out for the night for Karaoke or to just chat over a smoothie. I have seen prostitutes varying in age from 11 to 70 just trying to survive and spent time with fellow ministry partners racking our brains trying to figure out how to reach them. And in the midst of all this I have been living with seven other diverse people who are just as imperfect yet in need of love as I am.

That has been my life… and while in a sense it isn’t anything glorious…in every sense it is… because God is changing me … and I trust using me to change others with his love. And that is a miracle. I have fallen on my face many times trying to love people… When I try to love people in my own strength or to please God I end up not only failing but overwhelmed and exhausted. But God has been giving me a deeper glimpse of the meaning of the cross. Jesus experienced so much sorrow, rejection, loneliness, and pain… but all willfully for me. Think of the times in your life you have felt these emotions the strongest. Wouldn’t you have given anything to escape them? He could have. He simply could have got up and left the garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion… but he didn’t. He went to the cross anyway because he loved me… and you. Imagining the pain Jesus willfully endured emotionally and physically for us seems unbearable to me. I don’t have that kind of love in me. Yet… when I see the goodness of Jesus… the love that he had… the love I have for him grows. Have you ever seen someone do something so loving and selfless that it made love for them rise up in you so much that you wanted to do something for them?  It’s not a burden to sacrifice for them. This love is what is behind some of the people I have seen here. That is how people can come around the world and live lives that look like huge sacrifices but they don’t really pay much attention to that… because they love Him so much that it is their pleasure to serve.

There are stories I could share with you that are heartbreaking. But we have all heard countless heartbreaking stories and sometimes I think we feed off that drama… but really don’t care much past the drama to the actual people involved …I don’t mean to say that stories don’t have their place and a time to be shared but I guess what I hope to somehow convey to you through this painfully long and overdue blog is: fear not He is with you. Don’t be afraid to step out… the United States doesn’t have the ticket to the best life… Jesus does… follow him… its hard at times… but good… I struggle to believe this all the time… I am nothing special or noteworthy…I have only been over here a very short time… and maybe I will live the rest of my life in the States… I doubt it but maybe… and even if I do… it is not the key to a fulfilling life: He is. 

Please continue to pray for me as I seek direction in the following months. Thank you to each one who has prayed for me… supported and loved me… I know I have done a terrible job at blogging… but I am grateful for all of you more than I can express…. And with that… I leave you with the words of a song a friend and I wrote while I was here in Thailand… they are the words of God from Isaiah and have been an immense comfort and challenge to me:

“My Son, do not fear;

I have redeemed you and you are mine.

I will strengthen, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my hand.

When you walk through the river,

When you pass through the fire;

The waters shall not overwhelm,

The flame shall not burn.

You are precious in my eyes,

You are honored and I always will love you.”

 

Lawn Gnomes and Cockroaches

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Hey everyone! Some of you may know me…some may not…but you all should. I am proud to be Darcey Bever’s roommate while she does ministry in Thailand, and that alone makes me unique and worthy of respect! I am hijacking her blog because…I could not write my own and wondered if my juices would flow better were I to write about Darcey’s Bangkok Adventures.
Let me start off by giving a brief history of my relationship with Darcey…Once upon a time Bethany had an uncle who was a respected evangelist. Said uncle visited the state which is known as the cherry atop the ice cream of all God’s beautiful creation: Oregon. Legend has it that Darcey first heard about the quaint village of Wilmore through said uncle. Voila! Darcey moved to KY to attend Asbury College, and it is here that she ended up in Social Work classes with yours truly. Through a series of fortunate events, Darcey and Bethany both became aware of the opportunity to minister to women-at-risk with a ministry called The Well. Voila! They booked their tickets and the rest is history!
It wasn’t until we arrived in Bangkok that I got to know Darcey’s goofy side. Boy howdy, have we had a lot of laughs! I think the first time we really lost it was when we went to the Bangkok mall and saw some of the most hideously ugly looking lawn gnomes that ever graced the planet. These lawn gnomes were wiry children with bubble heads and hair like twisted spaghetti. Darcey and I were still laughing about these visually repulsive bubbleheads when we got into the taxi, and we laughed all the way back home. Cheesy as it may sound…it was then I knew that I had a kindred spirit in Darcey Bever. Since then my laughing fits with Darcey have brought life and light into some of the more serious times here in Bangkok. I really appreciate the joy that she finds in tough situations and that she sometimes even laughs at my jokes just so I don’t have to laugh alone!
One of my favorite Darcey moments occurred when she was cleaning out the bathroom in our room. I was standing outside when I heard a shriek and saw Darcey come running out of the bathroom in terror. “There…was…a…cockroach.” she gasped. “Or…maybe it was just some hair.” When she mustered the courage to reenter the bathroom she discovered her cockroach was nothing more than a clump of hair that had been attached to her cleaning brush by another strand of hair and had moved when she pulled the brush towards here. Hahahahahahaha!
All in all, the time I have enjoyed here with Darcey has been fun and exciting. I’m sure my ministry here wouldn’t be as fun without her! We have great conversations, and we also love to pray together and discuss what God is doing in our hearts. I am blessed to minister with someone like Darcey and am thankful for our friendship!