Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Yes, I'm home...

So I went a little "under-the radar", "incognito," "m-i-a", or some sort of similar descriptive word to explain my absence of blogging since my departure from Phuket. The two weeks after I left were spent in Bangkok and India with little to no Internet, followed by re-entry to the US, which has involved lots of sleeping and face time with loved ones, Thanksgiving, the fabulous visit/roadtrip/intro to the family with Dan, and then a week of "catching up" on mail, bills, banks, car repairs, etc.

And so now I'm here, entering back into normal civilization. I'm not gonna lie - this is not an easy transition. And to be honest, even with the best explanations and descriptive words, you will never really understand. That is part of the difficulty of what I am experiencing as I return to US soil and my US life. I have changed. You have changed. All the best pictures and videos and stories of my time away will never allow you to experience what I have experienced. And the same goes for all you have been through. And I feel like I'm trying to fit back into a mold that I no longer fit in. It's like going to long without wearing your retainers. Things have moved and changed and it's no longer a comfortable fit.

And then there is the dreaded questions: "So what are you gonna do next?" Boy, I wish I knew. I'm gonna keep striving to love people like Jesus loves. Beyond that, I just don't know. I know change is on the horizon, but as to what exactly that is, I'm not sure yet. I'm in a season of waiting. I have a brief plan that lasts for about the next month, but even that could change at any moment. I am waiting on His voice and His leading, but also continuing with what I was doing before and also implementing the changes that happened in me overseas into this life. It's messy and frustrating. I'm sure there will be more updates as the days go by, but at this point I am taking one day at a time, seeking to hear His voice and take the opportunity to love as many people and share Jesus with them as I can each day. I believe that in that He will speak.

Pray for me if you think about it. I need it just as much now as when I was in Thailand, maybe even more in some ways. I need your support and encouragement as well in trying to adjust back to this culture. I need finances to come in during this transition time. Don't forget about me during this time. I would love to share conversations, stories, pictures, and coffee with you if you are willing to hear the good and bad, the joy and the pain, the laughter and the tears. There are both stories of triumph and success, and ones of defeat and disappointment, but it's real. And I think that is what God wants of us. To be real, and to risk loving even when it's messy.

And that's all I know to be right now.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bye Bye Phuket!

In about 4 hours I say my goodbyes to everyone at SHE and leave for the airport and fly to Bangkok. I'll be meeting up with a few people from GI there - we'll stay there a few days, go to India for 6 days, and then back to Bangkok for a couple days before flying back to the States. Pray for safety as I/we travel and have an eventful last twelve days overseas. God is gonna do some big things! More updates to come soon. :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Needing Direction

17 days now...it's really flying by.

My last post was talking about how I don't know what the next step is when I got back, and now another short-term opportunity has come up. Please pray with me as I decide about going on another short-term trip to a different Asian country the end of January. It's a new country that we will be traveling to with GI and is just a 1o day trip. I want to go if that is where God wants me, but I want to be sure. I know missions is always in the will of God, but I obviously can't go on every trip. It would be just under $2000 and I would definitely need the money to come in to purchase the plane ticket. I really need direction about this, and need to make a decision quick as they are planning to purchase airfare in the next few days. Please pray with me about this, and share any words the Lord gives you for me about this decision. Thanks! :)

James 1:5 "If any of you lacks wisom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

This is whats up...

28 days. 28 days and I will be back on American soil. Home. Or is it? I struggle more and more with that word. I think I follow more to the "home is where your heart is" mantra, although at the moment I feel like my heart is in at least 3 different places if that's the case. There is my "home" of Phuket, and more specifically SHE, where I have lived and loved for the last 5 months more deeply and purposefully than I have any place ever before, then there is Tampa, where I still consider to be "home" with all my beloved family and friends, Tennesse - both Cleveland and Knoxville could in some regards fit the bill for "home", and now there is this fabulous man running around with my heart in New York, so even though I've only been there once, my heart is already at "home" there now, too...
So what will all this mean? I see the 28 days drawing closer and closer and I have about 6 weeks planned out from there. Now, after living this "missions" lifestyle, advanced planning for 6 weeks out seems like a pretty long time in my mind, but I know it's gonna go like a snap of the finger. And then what? Well, to be perfectly honest, I have no idea. The options are limitless at this point. I could continue with Global Infusion, I could move to one of the various "homes" listed above doing any number of jobs that I could look for, or it might include someplace new - like the new home where my heart is waiting in NY ;), or even some place completely new. Have I mentioned that I have no idea? Cause I don't. But I'm not worried. God will not cease taking care of me as I search out the answer, and I honestly believe He's gonna speak and make himself clear in those 6 weeks. You can believe with me for this, and for the resources to sustain me as I figure it out. God is so good.
A quick testimony: I was extremely low on funds and in need of an airline ticket home and the money for expenses while I finish here, and I bought my airline ticket by faith. Within the next 24 hours after I bought it, over half the money was coming in through various supporters who contacted me. Now, just a couple weeks later, all the money is in! Praise God! (And a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who gave to help get me home!) He is so faithful, so I know He'll take care of me as He reveals the next step. He always has. He always will. I love that He's the "yesterday, today and forever" kind of God. The One you can ALWAYS rely and put your hope in. "Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is unfailing love..." Ps 130:7. Wow. What a good God. So that's whats up. :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Just at the right moment

So I've been struggling with my "ministry" here at the moment, wondering how much of a difference it really makes that I sit and talk to girls while they are drinking and don't really know the language I speak and just feeling generally frustrated at this current place I'm in, and then I read this is the book "The Wounded Healer" and it really touched me, so I'm gonna pass it along. Hope this is for someone.

One day a young fugitive, trying to hide himself from the enemy, entered a small village. The people were kins to him and offered him a place to stay. But when the soldiers who sought the fugitive asked where he was hiding, everyone became fearful. The soldiers threatened to burn the village and kill every man in it unless the young man were handed over to them before dawn. The people went to the minister and asked him what to do. The minister, torn between handing over the boy to the enemy or having his people killed, withdrew to his room and read his Bible, hoping to find an answer before dawn. After many hours, in the early morning his eyes fell on these words: "It is better that one man dies than that the whole people be lost."
Then the minister closed the Bible, called the soldiers and told them where the boy was hidden. And after the soldiers led the fugitive away to be killed, there was a feast in the vollage because the minister had saved the lives of the people. But the minister did not celebrate. Overcome with a deep sadnes, he remained in his room. That night an angel came to him, and asked, "What have you done?" He said, "I handed over the fugitive to the enemy." Then the angel said, "But don't you know that you have handed over the Messiah?" "How could I know?" the minister replied anxiously. Then the angel said, "If, instead of reading your Bible, you had visited this young man just once and looked into his eyes, you would have known."
While versions of this tale are very old, it seems the most modern of tales. Like that minister, who might have recognized the Messiah if he had raised his eyes from his Bible to look in the youth's eyes, we are challenged to look into the eyes of the young men and women of today, who are running away from out cruel ways. Perhaps that will be enough to prevent us from handing them over to the enemy and enable us to lead them out of their hidden places into the middle of their people where they can redeem us from our fears.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The ups and downs...

I think I'm seeing the differece between short-term missions trips and longer-term ones. I'm having a lot of trouble finding words right now. Things have changed here. Unfortunately, the financial situation here at SHE has not been great lately. I'm sure the state of the world's economy has taken an effect as jewelry sales were down, donations were down, etc. It got to a point that Sharon and Mark had to do something about it. Something drastic. There was a downsize. More than half of the girls working here had to be let go. I found out on a Monday, Sept 28th that Wed Sept 30 would be the last day for most of the girls. More than half of my Thai family was leaving. I understood and I know that they only came to this decision after no others remained. But that didn't change the pain it caused, for all sides involved. The girls responded well to the news though, immediately jumping in with suggestions of places to go for work, etc. The day came and went, seamlessly, except for some tearful goodbyes at the day's close.
And then the next day it was back to work with the 5 that remained. Five. It feels so quiet, so empty. And yet it's peaceful. The leadership feels confident this was the right choice. And other choices are being made, changes keep happening.
Unfortunately, not all the girls who left are responding so well. See, I've crossed over some type of line in the last few weeks where I went from being around the Thai women, to being among them. I don't know how else to explain it. They really are my sisters, as much as I am one of theirs. The shift of having all other foreigners gone might have precipitated that. I'm not totally sure. But I'm grateful for it... In some ways, that is. I now know the real people. I know what they really do in their free time. I see them after work, in their down times, and I love that I really know them, yet at the same time, it's breaking my heart. Because I see all the choices, good and bad.
Remember the story of Hosea in the Bible? God asked him to do the unthinkable and marry a prostitute, portraying faithfulness and love to her as a picture of God' faithfulness to an adulterous Israel that played the harlot against their God. And if you've read Redeeming Love, you were no doubt affected by the expanded example of how this would probably flesh out. It's not always pretty. I feel like I'm living in that now. I was with many of my Thai sisters the other night, eating dinner, just being together. I asked about one of the women who wasn't there, and we decided to call her and see how she is. She answered and told me quite honestly that she couldn't find work, and so is back working at the bars where she was before SHE. I had no words. A thousand thoughts flew through my mind in only a fraction of a second - I have to get her out of there, how could she do that? were there really no other options?, among many others - but she must have noticed a pause and she went on, "I know, Eliz. I know!" And she does know. She knows exactly what she has walked right into. This is what she knows. When the pressure came on, this was where she knew she could go, one of the only skills she feels she has to offer. And a piece of the blinders fell off for me. A bit of my naivety was crumbled. I wanted to cry, to scream, to get on the floor like an angry 4 year old and throw a tantrum, I wanted to do something, to not just sit there feeling like the whole last 4 months I've been here have been for nothing. But that was exactly what I felt. Defeated. Betrayed. Broken-hearted. How must the Father's heart be breaking every day with this pain... Here I am bearing one tiny little fraction of it and ready to throw in the towel, to put up my white flag of suurender, close off my heart and go home. I did go home shortly after - to my SHE home, that is, and I had a package waiting for me from Dan. :) There was dark chocolate in it so I quickly broke that open while I examined the other parts. Among the treats was ann encouraging card. He said in the card that he had prayed for God to give him a word for me and this was what he got: "I am always faithful to you, remain faithful to me. Keep asking, keep seeking, and I will answer!" I talked to Dan later, and he was slightly exasperated, "it FINALLY got to you - that package should have been there a long time ago!", but then I shared with him what happened and we knew that package got to me at exactly the right day. I'm learning alot about the faithfulness of God. Him being faithful does not mean that He faithfully works everything out, because there's this whole "free will" thing going on, but He is faithfully there. And His Word is faithful, and it never returns void. I know that there were deposits of Truth, the Truth of God's Word deposited into her heart. Now it is God's turn to call her home. I trust that His Word will not return void, even though right now my eyes aren't seeing that reality. And it's harder to see this setting then what I would see as a two-week, enthusiastic missionary would, but this is the reality right now. And so now I pray and I fight in the spiritual, leaving the rest up to God. I remain faithful, cause He is still faithful. Always faithful. Never changing. This is our God.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

So there's this guy...

I realize that I have been inept. I have had an incredible story develop for me over the past few months, and I have yet to share it. Now, I will cut myself some slack as it was developing during the same time of the car accident and my head wound...but there's no time like the present.

So here I am in Thailand minding my own business, happy and content, knowing that I'm doing what God wants, and doing it contendedly single, and then something happens...

This is Dan.
Dan is from New York. He came out to Thailand after completing his YWAM DTS in Montana. He spent a month in India before arriving in Thailand in July (just a mere 3 days or so after I would have left had I kept my original plan and left in July).

Dan is a worshipper/worship leader.

See Dan worship. Worship, Dan, worship! (haha I couldn't resist - this was sounding like one of those Dick and Jane books...)

Before Dan came to Thailand, the Lord prepared his heart that He might ask Dan to stay longer after his team left. He did. He stayed for an extra month.
Dan and I hit it off immediately. We found ourselves talking for hours every time we ended up around each other. I was intrigued by this man, as we found we had more and more things in common. I wasn't sure how he felt until he shared that he felt "compelled to get to know me more." I was equally compelled.
We participated in ministry together, worshipped together, ate Thai food together, laughed together, cried together, sat on the roof talking for hours together, and kept desiring to spend more and more time together. I saw him in so many situations throughout our two months here. I know 2 months doesn't seem like that long, but it's amazing how long it really is when you are on the missions field. And what's that they say about when you know, you know? Cause I know. And it's a very good thing.

Here I'm gonna steal Dan's words. When I came here, I expected to fall in love WITH Thailand. I never expected to fall in love IN Thailand. But I got both. What a tremendous blessing! There are so many more parts of the story unwritten here, and many more still to be written in our lives, but this is quite the beginning. And I know it is just that - only the beginning of a Divine romancenot yet fully written. I'm all in, though. :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

God's Mercy and Faithfulness

Isaiah 43: 1b-2
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."
4-9
"Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.' Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth - everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf. All the nations gather together and the peoples assemble."
10b-13
"Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed - I, and not some foreign god among you. 'You are my witnesses', declares the Lord, 'that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act who can reverse it?' "
16-21
"This is what the Lord says - he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 'Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise."
25
"I, even, I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Home Sweet Thailand

No it's not exactly home here, but it's the closest I've got at this point and it definitely holds a special place in my heart. Maybe it was the struggles of the India trip, or the fact that I almost wasn't allowed back in to the country, but whatever it was, I was overjoyed to return to Phuket. My last few days in India after the team left were somewhat fun, although my objective was to get another 60 day tourist visa for Thailand and that did not happen. Random Thai holiday meant the embassy was closed and my extra days there were then without purpose. Just adds up with all my visa struggles all along. Oh well, it will work out. It always does.
Then at the airport, the worker at the Thai Airways desk wouldn't give me my airline ticket. They had a problem with letting me on the plane without having a ticket to leave Thailand in my possession. I have entered Thailand twice already on a one way ticket, but this time, this particular person wasn't having it. It is apparently against the law and they weren't budging. I had a brief moment of panic, but wouldn't back down and eventually convinced them I would sign a waver releasing them of responsibility in case immigration stopped me and wouldn't let me in. And then I started praying. Upon landing in Thailand I had no problems getting in. I was not however able to get immigration to stamp me for 60 days like the man at the embassy in India had "assured" me they would do. I can't say I'm really surprised. I'm growing accustomed to misinformation in the visa department.
But I'm back and the countdown is on 38 days until the GI team comes out here to meet me and 51 days until I return to the US! Can you believe that???? So my plan is to finish out with a bang. This is the last leg of the marathon and I want to finish well. Please keep me in your prayers. Pray for finances too, cause things are really tight right now and I need money to get a return ticket and also to pay for the rest of my time here. If you'd like to help with that, leave me a comment or send an email and I'll let you know what you can do. Thanks! Love and miss you all. :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Highs and Lows of life in India

Wow...India...Where do I even begin?...

For starters, we arrived at the airport after I was praying away a fever on the plane (it went and they let me into the country - no problem. yay!). Then one of the team members bag was lost. This isn't normally such a problem but where we stay in India is in a relatively remote place about 5 hours from the airport. And we didn't have an address for it... So that took some work as they told us they would (somehow) get us the bag (eventually if it turned up...lol).

So we stayed in Chennai overnight (which ended up being about 5 hours of sleep) before the drive in the morning. About half way through, I looked up to see a herd of goats run out right in front of our car, and though our driver tried to miss them, it was inevitable, and we plowed over maybe 5 or more goats. Goat pieces went everywhere and an angry Shepherd shook his fist at us as we drove on without even stopping. Until the scraping sound of the car got to be too much for the driver and he pulled over and saw the whole bumper had been torn off and was dragging under the car. Don't let that stop him though - he just ripped it the rest of the way off and kept going! We did have to stop about every 20 minutes afterwards to pour water in the radiator as I think a goat took that out as a parting gift. Poor goats...

I should have taken that as a sign of what was to follow. The rest of the trip was misfortune after misunderstanding. I got sick with an intense fever on the second full day there and was out for 3 full days. (Was out for two, but then a 17 hour nonstop day of ministry put me under for another day). We were without power and water for a majority of the trip as well. Everyone got sick at least once. It was a rough time.

But despite all the logistical and circumstantial difficulties, the Lord still moved. Through our weakness, brokenness and exhaustion He flowed His life giving power. When we thought we could not go on any longer, He used us. We did 9 nights of outreach services in the villages and local churches. We did 3 different district pastors meetings (with 2 sessions each). We loved on kids at both Sarah's Covenant Homes, a Church Children's Home, a Hope Child Development Center, and a monthly children's meeting of kids from several churches. We spoke at church services, visited villages for door to door prayer, and handed out bags of rice for HIV/AIDS patients. We must have each preached at least a million messages (ok that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it felt like it). And through it all we got a taste of life for the many people working with our contact's ministry. Because as exhausting as it was for us, this is life for them. They are plowing away at the darkness, working tirelessly to bring the Kingdom of God to India. And we got to share that with them. We shared in the stories of church pastors seeing people healed of HIV, seeing many converted, seeing many mighty miracles. We shared meals with them (with the biggest portions you have ever seen...seriously, how can any one's stomach hold that much rice???), shared laughter and tears with them. We heard their hearts and the heart of the ministry there. And it moved us. It shook us and humbled us. It broke our hearts with the compassion of the Lord. The Bible tells us that whatever we've done to the least of these, we've done unto the Lord. We must have done a lot unto the Lord, because anyone would have classified the people as "least." But that's the cool thing about God. "Least" has a way of turning into "greatest", darkness turns into light, humility and servanthood turn into exaltation, the losing of a life results in the gaining of a better one.

So though we received exhaustion, weariness and brokenness, we were also refreshed encouraged and used despite it all. Only One could do that.

His name is Jesus.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

In India again

So I'm in India again. I've been super bad about updating the blog lately, but it's been a pretty rough and busy month. I left on Wed to come back to India for two weeks with a GI team from the States. It is so incredibly hot here, and we are keeping really busy with services or outreaches - 3 a day! Please pray for me, cause I've come down with something here and am running a really high fever. I had to stay behind from the outreaches today. Also I just got word back from my family that my grandfather passed away this morning. Please keep praying, as this has been a really hard time for me lately.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Return to Normalcy

Well, praise God I made it through a relatively uneventful weekend. After the last month or so, I am relieved that things seem to be returning a bit more to normal. Friday morning I met with the men from the accident and the Thai insurance agent for the last time and fully settled everything from the accident. This was our third meeting, and a lot of time and hassle (and money) have been spent to get everything taken care of. Thailand has this "Thai culture" thing that if you are in an accident with someone, it is culturally expected that you give the party in the accident a "gift" as a way of apologizing and taking care of them. If two Thai's are in an accident, this is a relatively small amount of money. However, if a foreigner is in an accident with a Thai, the amount that you are expected to give jumps significantly. I had to pay 10,000 Baht to each of the two Thai guys who were in the accident (about $650) for this "gift." It is slightly frustrating, but what are you going to do? Otherwise they talk about taking you to court, and that could drag on for an indefinite amount of time, meaning I would have to stay in Thailand until the whole thing was resolved. So I shut my mouth and decided to be "culturally correct" and just pay the "gift". I'm just happy it is resolved now and I don't have to mess with it anymore.

Saturday involved a fun day of avoiding the rain by staying indoors all day. Dan took me to a music store that has piano practice rooms and I got to play the piano with him for an hour and just have some good time of worship. Then we went to another shopping area to walk around and enjoy some ITALIAN food for dinner. So incredibly yummy...

Sunday, Dan and I had to go on another visa run, because they've just recently changed the rule that a border run only gets you 15 days extra in your passport and not 30 days like it used to. So we got picked up for the 4 hour drive to the Myanmar border at 6:45 Sunday morning! Then when you get to the border you stand in a line, get your passport stamped to exit, hop in a 20 minute boat ride across to Myanmar, stand in a line to get your passport stamped that you've entered Myanmar, jump back in the boat for 20 minutes back to Thailand, and stand in another line to get your passport stamped that you can stay in Thailand for another 15 days before riding 4 hours in the bus back to Phuket again! The whole process is very silly, but I couldn't have asked for a better person to do it with. :) Dan has gotta be one of the most fun people ever, so I never mind any time I have to spend with him.

My favorite thing Dan and I did over the weekend was our Sunday night dinner. Almost every night, we walk down to this small "hut" restaurant that makes some fabulous cheap Thai food about 5-10 minutes from the SHE center. Along the way, there are always Thai people out on their front steps or just talking and hanging out in the streets, and we've been able to make friends with some of them. One lady we've met is named Joy and she speaks very good English. She invited us to come eat dinner with her one night, so we went and sat on her front porch Sunday with her and her neighbors and enjoyed a fabulous time of food and fellowship. I was a bit nervous about what we were going to have to eat, and was not relieved when I saw them bringing this WHOLE CATFISH they'd roasted on a stick over to us. But it was surprisingly very good with the sticky rice and spicy Papaya salad. And I think I would have eaten almost anything just to get that time with our new friends. I love people. I love talking with them, laughing with them, and just sharing life with them. I was pretty well beaming when we walked away, because I just really feel like this is what Jesus would have us to do with our time. I'm so grateful that Dan is passionate about loving people as well, cause it is just so much fun doing stuff like that with him. I think I'm gonna have to keep him. ;)

Monday night Dan and I took two girls who are currently helping out at SHE for their first night of outreach to the bars in Patong. It had been nearly 3 weeks since I had been down there, and I think was a much needed break to refresh me for that type of ministry. We didn't stay for too long, but were able to talk to a few girls in a couple of bars, and give the new girls a taste of what the nightlife is like in Patong. It is such a dark place in need of revival. I desire so much for it to happen. Phuket is such a beautiful place, and I would love for it to be known for its beauty more than its commercial sex industry. All in all, though, it was a good time, and I'm happy to be back involved in this work after my forced sabbatical because of the accident and the flu I got right after. God is good. :)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Goodbye my friend



Today is a sad day for me. Laurie, the English lady that I've lived and worked with since I've been here in Thailand left to move back to England. We both got to Thailand the same week in June, and have shared a room together while also sharing life together these past 3 months. She has become one of my best friends in such a short amount of time. The Lord knit together our hearts as we loved on the women of Thailand together - both those at SHE and the ones still working in the bars. But Laurie's health has not been good the past couple of months, and she needs to return to England for proper medical care. Tonight she boards a flight that will take her there, and this afternoon I had to say goodbye to her - at least goodbye for now. We both have the feeling that the Lord will bring us back together again in the future, at least for a couple of roadtrips if nothing else.

Laurie, I love you so much. I will miss having a sister here with me in Phuket to share life with. I am praying for wisdom and a miraculous recovery for you, and that the Lord will reveal exactly what this next step holds for you. My heart is selfishly heavy as I think about carrying on here without you, but I am excited for what is waiting just over the horizon of your life. May God truly bless you, my dear friend.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Much needed update

It's been a while since my last post, and that has been for good reason. A lot has happened over the last week or so. I'm going to attempt to catch up on some of it now.

Last Thursday I was going around Phuket with one of the Thai girls, same as we had been doing for the last couple of weeks, to talk to local businesses about carrying some of the products we make at SHE in their stores. We had some sample boxes to deliver to some interested places, and as we dropped off the first box, I had to pull out of the business and make a U-turn on a relatively busy road. I looked, didn't see anyone coming, pulled out and was smashed right into my drivers side door by two Thai men on a motorbike. A lot of the next few minutes blurred together or are gone from my memory. I don't remember seeing anything until the glass shattered. I remember checking to see if everyone was ok - they all seemed to be. I remember the pounding pain of my head. I remember that the Thai girl I was with seemed really concerned for me. I remember looking in the rearview mirror to see the blood running down my face. I remember feeling like I was blacking out...
The next thing I remembered was the smell of something like menthol being rubbed under my nose. Slowly my senses were returning, all but my sight. I heard Mark's (director of SHE) voice. I asked him, apparently very calmly, if I was going to be blind for the rest of my life. Only later did we chuckle about that. After a few minutes, my vision started to return. The ambulance was there by then. They couldn't get me out of the drivers side, so they had to move the glass to get me out on the passengers side. They strapped this annoying brace around my neck and put me on a stretcher, rushing me to the ER while starting to clean up the blood now caking all down my face and clothes. Once at the ER, they went to work on locating any damages I sustained. One by one they checked my body parts. Remarkably no pain anywhere other than the wound on my head. They injected my head what felt like a hundred times (really probably more like a dozen) with painful needles to numb the area so they could clean and stitch my wound. Then off to X-rays. Nothing broken. No major problems. Praise the Lord! Before long I was free to go.




I spent the next couple days laying around at SHE with a headache, but not much else wrong with me. I went over the accident in my head, amazed that things weren't worse, as they seemed they should have been. Clearly the Lord's hand was on me protecting me. The Thai girl I was with didn't even have a scratch on her. A few days later the Lord dropped Psalm 91 into my spirit. "He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all of your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone." I know His angels were guarding over me. I know He was there with me. Thank you all so much for your prayers through this experience. Now, only one week later, I've had my stitches removed and there is very little physical evidence left on my body of such an intense collision. Praise the Lord. Only He could do that.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The other side of the hurdle

Today is a significant day for me. I've passed the halfway mark. As of today I have been gone from my home for 109 days, and although I don't have an exact return date, I plan to be back by Thanksgiving, which is 108 days from now. This fills me with a wave of so many different emotions even as I type the words. In some ways, 109 days have flown by. That is nearly a third of a year. And it seems like a blink and it was over. On some days at least. Other days drag by and I feel like I've lived at least 3 for every one. But that is definitely the exception. Laurie and I (the girl I live with here) keep finding ourselves in the same familiar conversation.
"I can't believe it. It's Sunday again, " one of us will muse.
"It's always Sunday in Thailand," is the response we invariably send back.
And it feels like it's true. Each week melts seamlessly into the next one with Sundays being one of the few noticeable markers between the quickly passing weeks.
In those ways I start to think, wow, I'm gonna blink and this whole thing is gonna be over. But in other ways, the thought of reliving this whole 109 days that I've been gone all over again before returning to the US seems painful and slow. That's another nearly third of a year still remaining. Surely I've been gone for way more than half my time here, I find myself thinking. How will I possibly have the energy to make it another 108 days?
Something about counting in days seems to keep things in an overwhelmingly long time period. However, when I think that in just 4 weeks I will head to meet a GI team in India, stay there for two weeks, and then return to Thailand for just 6 short weeks before the GI team that will return me to the US arrives for a two week Thailand/India trip, the time seems inexplicably short. Either way, I have a goal. And as Paul says, I press on towards that goal. But I do not want to let today fall from the foreground as I focus on the end.
I will try to remain fully in each day, living out the present as if it is my only concern, and only on those days I am truly longing for home will I break up my time remaining into months, weeks, and days (eventually maybe even into hours) to see the impending closeness of my return home...Home. That's almost funny to say now.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Knowing God's love

I stumbled upon this while searching online and wanted to share it:

"I can easily believe that the atom-holding, earth-spinning, galaxy-sustaining, life-giving Source of everything wonderful can do whatever he likes. Even the devil believes God’s power.
My difficulty is believing that God’s special love for me makes him long to use that power on my behalf...
Few of us doubt that God can do amazing things. The weak link in our faith is believing that he would do such things for ordinary, inconsequential you and me. We suspect we are not sufficiently special in the Almighty’s eyes to warrant such attention. Oh yes, ‘God loves everyone,’ but we have a hunch that by the time that love reaches us it has spread pretty thin. I’m just one of millions. Why would God want to focus his omnipotence on me?...
Awareness of how much we are loved is forever slipping from our consciousness. Partially in sight for a few days, it begins to fade again...
When you feel like a tiny blob in the seething mass of humanity, see the shepherd of a hundred sheep frantically searching for one. If he can be personally concerned for one, the omnipotent Shepherd of our souls can love all humanity and still be devoted to you. In the beautiful words of Isaiah, ‘As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you’ (Isaiah 62:5)...
No matter how you feel, you are the focus of God’s attention; doted on as though you are the only friend God has. If ever a man wanted to shower his bride with love, or his son with gifts, God longs to lavish you with his extravagance. Expect great things from God. Anything less is an insult to your almighty Savior. With your Lord impossibilities are playthings...
Let faith mushroom by seizing the fact that the Omnipotent Lord is powerful enough to use you – over-riding your every inadequacy - and loving enough to want to. Everything God touches is destined for glory. Even now, you are God’s ‘filthy rags to heavenly riches’ success story...
Christ’s shed blood proves God’s pledge of total commitment to me. Am I to pronounce that sacrifice inadequate and demand additional proof?...
Our life needs not spectacular confirmation but spectacular commitment. What more could the One who died for you do to prove his love? Let’s not slander the Holy One by imagining infinite love is so fickle that it fluctuates according to a person’s physical attractiveness, popularity or talent...
Whenever we eat, a child smiles at us, or we find shelter from the blazing sun or biting cold, we are experiencing God’s provision. Each day we receive literally millions of love gifts from God, and yet our hard heart and dull mind rarely overflows with awe at each expression of God’s personal love for us. If we could only open our eyes and begin to each day notice just a few of God’s innumerable love gifts to us, our enjoyment of life and awareness of how special we are to God would rocket heavenwards, bursting through the clouds into endless sunshine...
God’s love toward you is perfect. God is for you. He’s cheering you on. He’s on your side!"

I know sometimes I needed reminded of God's love for me. I'm encouraged by the verses in Ephesians 3:17-19
"...And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New Definitions

When I first left the US I had some ideas of what I thought missions was and was not, but after being gone some 3 odd months now, much of that has changed. Here's what I'm learning:

Missions is taking THEM on a 30 minute jog, for the 5 minutes of quality conversation it buys you.
Missions is using the money you would have spent on a coffee to buy some strange fruits to share with THEM.
Missions is hanging out with THEM in bars and red-light districts.
Missions is playing badminton after work with THEM everyday, even if it means missing out on a shower or dinner.
Missions is letting THEM put seafood on the pizza.
Missions is telling THEM boys are stupid when they are crying over a lost relationship.
Missions is embarrassing yourself by learning to do a Thai dance (even when you're not sure what exactly it means - something about a BBQ chicken and a kabob) just because it makes THEM laugh everytime you do it.
Missions is continuing to play Connect 4 with THEM, even though they beat you every time.
Missions is giving THEM your new shoes, becuase you saw them sneaking around wearing them when you weren't looking.
Missions is falling asleep with a Gecko under your bed, so as to not appear too squeamish to THEM.
Missions is watching Thai soaps with THEM, even if you can't understand a word of it.
Missions is loving THEM even when they don't deserve it, cause who of us ever really does?
Missions is about making THEM one of US because of HIM and HIS love for US.
Missions has nothing to do with ME.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Planting...Sowing...Harvest

Sterling Thailand, I hope you are still reading my blog as this relates directly to you. :)

A couple weeks ago while the Sterling team was here, they met some girls at one of the bars that came back for lunch one day at SHE (the three girls from Soi Easy - Soho Bar, I believe). They seemed to enjoy the lunch, and each made a piece of jewelry while here (which they are wearing every time we see them now in the bars), but that seemed to be the end of it. None of them had this quick revelation to change their lives and come work at SHE. Sad...

Sterling students went back to visit those girls before they left, and the 3 girls told us about a friend of theirs at the next bar over that might be interested in SHE. Last week (Thursday)Laurie, Mawn and myself were walking through Soi Easy and one of the girls grabbed us for a hug and to tell us that their friend was working and we should talk to her about SHE. We did - Mawn got her number and called her the next day (Friday) for lunch. She brought two friends with her (one of them is a girl who works free-lance on the street), was deeply touched by what we do here and was hired on the spot. She started work here yesterday (Monday).

If I'm not mistaken, the friend she brought with her is planning to start working at SHE the first of the month, too. :)

It is so good to be here and see the whole process of the seed being planted, watch and help with watering it, and then reap the harvest! Thank you Sterling students for your obedience and service here! The work you did will continue to grow and multiply far after you are gone, and this is just one example of that, which I am so happy to be able to report back to you! Yay God! :)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Requests for Prayer

Well, here I am three months in to all this and so I'd like to update you on some of the things you can be praying with and for me about:

1. I am hoping to stay here until the first part of November and then head back to India to meet a two-week GI team there before heading back to the states, but my tourist visa for Thailand will expire before then. Pray for favor in getting my visa extended.

2. Since I am spending so much time in Patong, I am getting pretty easily identifiable - even to some of the bar owners and managers, which at times is not the best thing. Pray for some new ideas and ways to remain effective in the bars.

3. I've been having a lot of pain in my hips. All the floors here are tile, and there aren't really any chairs - everyone just sits indian-style on the floor all the time, and I think that plus my not so great bed here are giving me some joint problems. (I feel like an 80 year old woman complaining about my hip pain...) I'm guessing this is what's causing the pain, although I dont really know. I'm struggling to sit on the floor though, which makes life challenging here.

4. Renewed vision and purpose for my time here. The two GI teams have now came and left so the rest of my time here is just focused on whatever SHE wants me to do or needs help with. They are giving me a lot of freedom in this though, so just pray that I'll have wisdom and direction about how to make the best use of my time and that all the right doors will open with the things I want to do.

Khap Khum Ka (Thank you)! Your prayers are greatly appreaciated!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bittersweetness

The team from Sterling College has already headed back to the US (well they are in transit there right now). It seems like they just got here yesterday - it was quite a whirlwind - and now they are gone. Hard to believe it. It was an incredible time with them. We went on 6 night outreaches into Patong, worked on community projects here at SHE from pulling weeds and clearing overgrowth in the back garden, to caulking windows and helping a lady in the community with her garden and practical needs. We went out probably 6 or more times to prayer walk, and led devotions at SHE in the mornings, while also helping with baking and jewelry-making projects here. We kept them busy...and the feeling was mutual. I was completely and utterly worn-out when they left - the combination of now nearly 3 months on the missions field, with them being the 3rd team I've lead (of energetic college students, no less) - and I have spent much of this weekend resting and "recovering". :)

What's also hard to believe is that I had originally planned to head back to the US with their team. Now that the time for that has come and past, I could not imagine leaving now. There is still so much I want to accomplish here. So much of my time so far has revolved around planning for teams, having teams here, and sorting everything out from teams that left, that I have done little of what I had originally hoped to accomplish. Don't get me wrong - much good is being done here. I'm building fantastic relationships, have gotten to see some girls I've talked to in the bars come to see SHE, and even one so far has come to work here as a result of my meeting her and talking to her. And I've gotten to do some teaching with the women during their morning devotions. They just aren't quite set-up yet for some of the counseling stuff. I'm beginning to think this trip will be preparing the way for that to come later, and is more information gathering when it comes to the actual counseling work. Other ministry opportunities have been abundant and more urgent at the moment, so I am glad to help wherever I can.

That being said, I am planning to try to stay here and learn and help all that I can until early November (as long as I can get my visa extended for that long - fingers crossed and here's praying!), and then meet up with a GI team in India the first part of November, and travel back to the states with them then. I just feel like my time here is not yet over. This is quite a bit longer than I had originally planned to stay, but it just seems right. This all, of course, will come at a bit of a price, so if you would like to sponsor me financially (I know some of you already do - and thank you for that!), it is always greatly appreciated and allows me to fulfill the Great Commission call that some of you are not otherwise able to be apart of at the moment. Financial gifts can be given through Global Infusion: www.globalinfusion.org either online or through the mail.

I just really feel this whole expereince is my "for such a time as this" moment referenced in the book of Esther. Now is the best time for me to be here, and I know that it is completely God-ordained. Keep praying for me for energy, stamina, wisdom and direction while here and for my future steps once November arrives (it seems the Lord is moving me in some different directions than I had originally planned on -as He always does - and I want to make sure I'm obedient). It will be the longest and shortest next 3 months of my life, I'm sure. And bittersweet as I love fulfilling this role, but so much miss all my loved ones back in the US. Even here, I build relationships with teams, and then have to send them away. I'm instituting a new policy where I will pick up people from the airport, but won't take them back to the airport to leave. Think that will work? ;)

Thanks for all your love, prayer and support while I've been away. Please do not let it dwindle now that I have been gone for some time! I need you and your encouraging words, support, and prayers now more than ever! (And for those of you that inquired about sending me packages, you can send those to the address listed on the SHE website: www.shethailand.org.) I look forward to hearing updates about you all as well, and I'll keep adding more pics on facebook too, so keep up with those. Love and miss you!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Thailand Express is Rollin on...

Well, it's been quite a busy week with the team from Sterling here. They landed safely in Bangkok on Monday and we spent a couple days there doing some orientation and education on Thai culture and Buddhism before heading down to Phuket. We've been able to do 3 night outreaches while here and spend time with the ladies at SHE during the daytime. The only downer has been the rain for the last 2 days! But even that the team has made the most of. It didn't even dampen their spirits for the beach day yesterday. We just played in the ocean in the rain - so fun! :) I think teams should be here all the time. I love the energy that they bring, and they are able to accomplish so much because of their numbers and enthusiasm. Plus I love having all these people to spend time with - and they are AMERICAN! haha... Normally I'm the minority to the Thai's and the British here, but now all 14 of them join with me in mocking my British roommate and her quirky sayings (poor Laurie)! They are here with me for another 5 days, and we have another 3 night outreaches planned with a lot more prayer walking, community outreach and time with the ladies at SHE to fit in. Keep praying, and you can keep up with Sterlings trip by following their blog at www.thethailandexpress.blogspot.com - they blog everyday, unlike me, who is lagging on the blogs while the team is here. I'll try to work on that... :)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

My prayer

Tomorrow I fly to Bangkok to meet a Global Infusion team that's coming out from Sterling College (along with my good friend Anne). They are actually in the air right now, so pray for their travelling mercies and a safe arrival. We'll spend Tuesday and part of Wednesday in Bangkok before heading back to Phuket Wednesday evening. I'm believing for great things while they are here!

Here's a passage that's been on my heart lately. The first few verses are very familiar to us, but I like the verses that follow as well:

Jeremiah 29:11-14
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the Lord, "and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the Lord, "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile."
Jeremiah 30:17
"But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds," declares the Lord, "because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares."
Jeremiah 31:3-4
The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful."

This is my prayer for the women here. Will you believe with me for this?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Moving forward

Well, things didn't end up so great in KL. I went back the second day after getting the paperwork they needed scanned and emailed to me from Thailand, but got the same woman again, who said there was nothing that could be done - they were already processing my visa for a 60 day tourist visa, and it couldn't be changed. Blast.

Oh well. At least now I'm back in Thailand, and can stay for sure for 60 days, then should be able to do a visa run for at least another 30 (hopefully I can do that twice for 60 days each though, and not have to worry with it again...). But I'll concern myself with that when the time comes. Now I focus on what lies ahead. Monday I leave for Bangkok to meet the second GI team that is arriving. We come back down to Phuket on Wed. (I'm getting tired of all these quick trips and am ready to be settled here for a while). I'm so ready for the team to be here!!! :)

When I got back from Malaysia, Laurie had gotten some furniture from her friends that are moving back to England and, after scraping the mold off of it (haha, I love that the phrase" scraping off the mold" involves things that are now living in our room!...), had it all set up in our room when I got back. It really feels homey now. Thanks Laurie! :)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Things are not going well...

Well, we need to up the prayers... Things are nor going well, at least as far as the visa is concerned. I got to the Thai Embassy first thing, was the first person in line, and the lady asked me for my documents. I gave her everything I had, but she just kept asking for my documents. When I asked her what I still needed she said I needed the registration for the foundation in Thailand (which is not listed ANYWHERE on the website or any of the other MILLION websites I checked as a requirement for the Thai visa, nor has Mark ever had anyne need this when they were applying for the same visa as me). She said if I couldn't get them that all she could give me was a tourist visa. Time then was almost 10:00am and the visa window for applying for a visa was only open until 11:30. I raced accross the street to a hotel, asked if I could receive a fax there, called SHE from some calling center at that hotel (because my Thai number doesn't work here, not to mention I can't charge my phone and it's dead because the plugs here are different and I don't have a Malaysian adaptor), told them what I needed. SHE doesn't have a fax machine, so Mark had to go off site to fax it. Told me it could take a while. I realized I had very little cash left, and all these extra things (faxes, phone calls, etc.) were gonna cost money, so I raced to the nearest ATM, which wouldn't allow me to take out money (darn Regions, I think they only have me registered for being in India and Thailand, not Malaysia). So then I had to find a currency exchange. Found one, but no one was there. Found the worker, got some cash changed. Raced back - still no fax. Called Mark back - they couldn't get that fax number to work. Verified the fax number with the hotel. It's correct. Called Mark back (every one of these calls costing money). Can you please try again. He said he would. It's now 11:05. By 11:20, still no fax, so I just had to go back to the embassy. I hoped and prayed I would get someone else who would just approve me for the visa. Nope. Same girl. Same answer. So I'm getting a 60 day tourist visa. That's all she will give me. She said it can be renewed once for another 30 days. Not very helpful. That puts me to the end of Sept. So if nothing changes, I will not be able to stay until November. I'm so frustrated. I'm still praying for a miracle that when I go to pick up my passport they will have given me the ED visa. I know it's a longshot (especially since I didn't pay for an ED visa), but I am still believing for it! Otherwise I will believe for favor that they will extend it for longer after the 60 days are up. The only bright side of this is that the 60 day tourist visa doesn't cost anything, compared to the 550 RM's (about 150USD) that the one year visa would have cost me. Of course I've had to purchase a flight, two nights in a hotel, several trips in taxis, food, etc.... :(


So frustrated.

Monday, June 29, 2009

K.L. Survival

I'm in Kuala Lumpur now. Got up at 5 am to catch my taxi to the airport (grrr...I don't like the day before 7 am), and had a smoothly successful flight, after a much needed cup of coffee. I had the nicest taxi driver from the airport, which was great since it took almost an HOUR to get from the airport to the city (apparently they thought the middle of nowhere would be a good place for the international airport, go figure...). I got to my hotel early, they let me check-in and upgraded me to a nicer room! How thoughtful. :)

I walked down the street to some type of restuarant (still not really sure) where I was met at the door by a woman who handed me a huge plate of rice and told me to scoop what I wanted onto my plate (not the everyday restaurant greeting, but it worked). There were several different buffet style dishes (not sure what any of them were), so I "eenie-meanie-miney-moe"d my way through it and ate a pleasant collection of unidentified things, paid my 5 Ringgets? (ringlets? something like that...they keep saying it, but have accents, so I'm not entirely sure what the money is called...but it was about a buck fifty USD) and went back to the hotel to nap, where some Indian sounding child kept thinking my room was his room and he would repeatedly try to open my door. Oh well, the nap was a good idea at least... :)

That brings me to now, when I plan to find the Thai Embassy (at least on a map) maybe explore until it gets dark and get ready for visa fun in the am. Keep up the prayers - they are working thus far! (as if they wouldn't ;)....)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Be flexible, cause the plans will change

I have an unexpected trip that has come up in the next few days. As some of you know, I want to stay longer than I initially thought, and my time allowed in country as a tourist is almost up - my first 30 days here is up on July 4th (hard to believe). So I thought I was just gonna do a quick visa run so I could have another 30 days to figure out the visa process, but was advised to not blow the $50 or so dollars on a visa run only to still have my longer term visa to sort out (which costs a lot more, and I don't have $50 to waste).

So Monday I am flying to Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia to apply for a visa. I booked the airfare and hotel today, cause unfortunately the trip isn't as simple as jumping the border, getting a stamp and heading back. The Embassy part takes 2 days, and with flight times you can't get an early enough flight to get you to the Embassy at 9 am the first day, so it turns into a 3 day journey. Which means I'll be staying 2 nights in a hotel there, and will have some down time to check out the sights while I wait. To say I'm just a little nervous would be an understatement. For some reason, traveling to India and Thailand by myself was not as scary as this, maybe since I knew I'd have people waiting for me on the other side that could help me if any issues came up. Maybe because I knew it was for a mission, so I just bit the bullet and did it for the greater cause.

Not for this though. I have to navigate a new country and city on my own as well as hoping I have all the visa stuff correct that I need (there are some conflicting reports on the web). And entertain myself those 3 days. ( I know what you are thinking: "You're an only child - you should be great at entertaining yourself..." and I am, but I've done my time alone, and now want to be with people! :) )

I am a big girl, so I will go and do it, but I would appreciate your prayers for my safety and for favor in both managing to get around and get what I need in country and with the visa. Also, combining flights, 2 nights of hotel stay, transportation and food while away, and the $150 visa makes this a rather expensive process (about $500 USD), but worth it when I think of all that will be gained by being able to stay in Thailand longer.

If you would be interested in supporting me financially while I am away, you can give securely online at www.globalinfusion.org (just specify my name when you give), or by mailing a check to Global Infusion, 4422 Timberlake Dr., Louisville, TN 37777 (put my name in the memo section of the check), and they will be sure the money gets to me. The costs of being here, especially for a longer time period are adding up, so any gift would help! I know that I am called to be here, though, and the Lord will make a way for it to happen! The harvest truly is plentiful here, and I want to be one of the workers in this vineyard.

Also please pray as I've been in a bit of a funk here the last couple of days. The emotional toll of all this travel and what I'm experiencing has been catching up with me, and I am missing friends and family from back home a lot right now. There are great people here, but they aren't familiar people. So just pray for renewal and for the Lord to meet my emotional needs, because I know He can and He will. Any type of encouragment you can post is also appreciated! :)

Friday, June 19, 2009

The danger of "comfort"

So I've decided that Thailand is a very interesting place to do a missions trip, especially when you are doing it in Phuket, a world-famous tourist destination. At times I feel like I am here on "holiday" and other times I feel like I am walking around in the pit of hell. If India was like being in the church in the book of Acts, I think that being here is sometimes like being in Sodom and Gomorah. And the modern amenities and tourist attractions make it that much more subtle in it's deception.



I googled Phuket, and more specifically Patong, the area in Phuket known for it's red light district (and where we've been ministering), and it was interesting to see what came up. Nestled in talks of the beaches and nightclubs on wikipedia is the sentence, "Prostitution is culturally acceptable, especially on Bangla road where you will find many older Western men drinking and flirting with much younger Thai women and transvestites." As if this is just normal, acceptable behavior.


And I find that this is the overall atmosphere of Phuket. Perversion and sexual misbehavior is slipped almost discretely in with the beauty and relaxation of this island community. One must keep their guard up at all times here, and especially while in Patong, where it is so easy to get distracted by the 3 STARBUCKS, large shopping centers, and even the Cabaret shows of the "lady-boys" (transvestites). And then you walk past a sign like this:






as if a woman is a fair prize to be won, like a goldfish or a stuffed animal; or you get offered a pornographic flyer inviting you to a "ping-pong" show, and you are forcefully snapped back into reality. I was waiting on our team (that just left) one night to use the restroom in the mall across from Patong and saw this T-shirt displayed:




It seems as if the community is starting to realize that it is more than just coincidence to have so much devastation happening in one place. I think the Lord is trying to send Patong a message. Do you know that when the tsunami hit in 2004, Patong was one of the hardest hit areas? All the bars were destroyed. But they built it all back up again, and almost immediately. How many times will it take before they get the message to wake up and repent?


So here I am left to drink my Starbucks and go to the beach on my days off, but to also spend hours awake interceding in the night for all the horrors I have witnessed, and even worse, the ones I haven't but still know are occuring. I sit back at my, though modest, safe and happy "home" at SHE after leaving Patong, knowing the girls I just saw and shared a soda and conversation with may be living out their own personal hell on earth. They don't have the luxury to just go home to a peaceful place feeling whole and well-loved.


And that is the reason that I am here. Not that I am anything special, but I can't just sit by and have the knowledge that this is happening, and know the only One who can really fix it, without doing something about it. I know it often feels just like "chipping away at the darkness," but it has to mean the world to the ones who hear the message and make a choice to get out as a result. It's easy for me to be discouraged when there are well over 1,000 girls just working in that one strip of bars on Bangla Road soley as hostesses. But it is so worth it when I talk to someone with a team and the very same week she leaves that life and comes into SHE, and her entire countenance and world changes. Not to mention all the other girls who never end up at SHE, but after having a conversation with one of us realize they have a choice, and they leave the bars and go back home to start businesses or work at hotels or factories, or anything else, just to not be in that environment anymore.


Yes, the darkness is dark, but we are the light of the world; and even our one seemingly small light drives out darkness wherever we go, because darkness can not exist where there is light. And so I choose to shine my light in the darkness of Patong, because (as Jonathan always quotes),


"Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell."
— C.T. Studd

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Unbelievable God Story

Ok, so I have chill bumps right now.


Last week, there was a new girl that came into SHE. She said that someone had talked to her at one of the bars about getting out and coming to SHE, but none of us recognized her, so we just figured it was one of the teams before us. We'll call her Soy. Soy has been super sweet and has connected well with the girls at SHE and our team.


Fast forward to today.


We are hanging out with the girls at SHE, and Marilyn and I were here last November, so she pulled up the pictures from our November trip on her laptop to show a few of the girls here. I was upstairs, but they started hollering my name to come downstairs because I needed to see something. Some of you will recognize this picture as it was taken the same night as the pic on my prayer card. Same group of girls - this shot just shows a few more of the ladies we had been talking to that night.


To refresh you on that story, we had been walking around the streets and got into a conversation with these ladies. The power of God was really strong and we got to talk to them and even pray with them. While we were praying one of the ladies (the one on the far left) started to cry and we could tell the presence of God was really moving on her.


Marilyn had this picture up on her computer when I came downstairs, and her and Soy were looking at it. As soon as I saw it, what they had already noticed hit me. The lady on the far left of the picture was Soy!!! We had sowed the seed into her life 6 months ago, and had been praying for her ever since, and now here she was sitting at SHE after just having left the bars last week! It is no coincidence that she came the same week we were here! She was crying as she looked at that picture and heard us say that we have been praying for her since November. What an amazing opportunity for us to see the harvest come from the very seed we had sowed 6 months back. Praise the Lord! How amazing!

r

Friday, June 12, 2009

Reaping the harvest

Today was a really good day. On Wed, we met some girls when we were ministering in one of the bars and the Lord really opened some good doors with them to share about SHE and the work they are doing there. More and more the women we talk to are so quick to share how unhappy they are doing what they are doing. So these 3 particular girls at one bar were really interested in leaving their current work and coming to SHE so we gave them contact info and invited them to call and come have lunch with us. No calls on Thursday. :(

So today, I just felt like we should call one of the girls - I'll call her Penny. We called, and she answered and agreed to meet us for coffee that afternoon. Coffee ended up becoming lunch with her out at a restaurant, but she was so interested in getting out and coming to work with SHE that we brought her back to the center with us, and she was offered a job on the spot working mainly in the office with SHE (a real blessing for them as well, as this has been a great need for them too). This girl is sharp - degree in business and bery professional, plus a great sweet spirit. She only recently started working in the bar (for about a month only) as the economy has been bad and she has to take care of her elderly mother and desperately needed the money. When she found out she got the job she was grinning from ear to ear, and looked so thrilled, as she had shared how horrible she found the work in the bar and wanted to get out of it so bad. She is moving in to the center or Sunday and starts work on Monday! Praise the Lord that this girl got out before she got more heavily engrained in it all. This was such a fast process of planting a seed, watching it grow right before our eyes, and reaping a harvest, all in just a 3 day period. Also, she was supposed to be working in the bar tonight, but we were out ministering, went by to see her and they said she didn't come in (another huge answer to our prayers!), so we were thrilled that she really is done with that life! Let's pray it's this easy with more of the girls we minister to!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Some Thai Pics

Here are some pics so far from Thailand:


Some of the Thai girls and I took a walk from SHE to this nearby dam - very pretty. I need a tan. haha



Helping the ladies at she bake cookies (their newest business addition is baking)



Leading morning Bible studies with the women at SHE




Praying over the bars when they are closed


The beach at Patong - part of what pulls in all the foreigners...
Prayer walking the streets during the day when the bars were closed.

The ladies at SHE making jewelry.


Playing Jenga at one of the bars with our new friend. She's 20 years old, and she works at 2 bars. She told us that her mother works down there in the bars as well. She has a 9 year old sister, and I feel so burdened to pray that her sister does not follow in their footsteps as well. We will continue to go back and visit her during our stay in Thailand.

More to come! If you like this, send me a comment!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Battle for Thailand

Well, we just got back from another night of ministry down in Patong, the Red Light District area of Phuket, Thailand. Our time here has been intense and different than expected. This was our 3rd full day at the ministry site in Phuket. Let me explain a bit of what we are doing here.
This area of Thailand is well-known for its beaches and sex-tourism. There is a ministry here started by a British missionary family that reaches out to the girls working in prostitution in the bars that gives them an alternative to what they are doing. The ministry is called SHE (self-help and empowerment) and offers them training in making jewelry, chocolates, and baked goods, while also offering them a place to live and Biblical teaching.

Right now there are about 18 girls working for SHE, about 7 of which live at the site, and the others travel here each day to work. While the team is here, we have been getting up in the am to lead their morning devotions at the start of their work day. Then we help them do their work - making the jewelry or baking the cookies (yum! my favorite job...), etc. While we are doing this we have the opportunity to have conversations with them. Many of the girls who work here are not yet Christians. The only condition for them coming to work for SHE is that they aren't working in the bars. So there is quite a mix of spiritual conditions here. Some of the girls have become Christians and have been baptised, some have gone through YWAM Discipleship Training Schools, others have just left the bars a few nights or weeks ago (we got a brand new lady who moved in today!).


Then some afternoons we go to Patong (the red light area) and prayer walk through out the areas.


In the evenings we have more chances to talk with and disciple the ladies who live at SHE. Many of the later nights (9-12 or so) are spent out at those same bars, engaging in conversations with the girls.
The bars have "bar-girls" that are employed by the bars and they are basically hostesses. There job is to get people into the bars and to spend money. Most of these bars do not pay the girls a salary, but they are provided free housing that indebts them to work as hostesses. They rely on other things to make any money. They get comission off of certain drinks they sell, or get to keep their tips, or they can arrange to go with the men that want to purchase them. The sad thing is though, that without doing those things, they aren't making any type of a salary, so the girls often seem to feel really trapped. Most of them have children that are living with the girls parents, and Thai culture says that these girls need to financially take care of their parents. Add that in with taking care of their children and themselves, and these girls feel a lot of pressure to do whatever it takes to make money.


So we go into these open-air bars (nothing behind closed doors - many awful things happen in those places and this ministry doesn't feel released to go there yet) and sit down for a soda with one of these girls. Their job is to talk to people, so it's easy to have conversations with them. They have lots of games they play, like Jenga, Connect 4, etc to help break the ice too. So it is easy to converse, and you just look for openings to talk more meaningfully to them. One easy thing is just asking them if they like their job or are happy doing what they do. 9 times out of 10 they say no and start going into reasons. We can then tell them about SHE, invite them to come for lunch here, etc. Whatever the Spirit leads.
We've seen some amazing things come out of those conversations. But we see a whole lot of really hard stuff down there as well. The atmosphere is just so dark and perverse. So many strongholds and demonic activity. And as we are combatting all of that in the Spirit, it means a lot of personal spiritual attack. I feel it a lot more than I did in India (not that it wasn't there in India too, but for some reason it is felt more here). I know we are doing so much good for the Gospel, but it just looks really different than many other traditional types of ministry. And the things we are exposed to open us up to a lot of attack. So please pray hard. I will talk more about the spiritual warfare soon in another post, as this one is getting really long. :)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

First night on the street

Just got back from Bangkok where we had our first night ministering on the streets to the Thai girls. We met these young girls and were able to share the love of Christ with them as we treated them to a meal. Got about an hour of time with them talking and sharing. Such bondage and perversion in that area. It is hard to describe all that we saw in just a few minutes...


This was when we first saw them, just working the streets. I just so happened to take this photo not knowing we were gonna have a convo with them.


These girls said they were 18 but looked much younger. The one furthest from me has a one year old baby boy. Please pray for them. My heart breaks when I see all this happening everywhere. There is so much more for them...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Welcome to the Land of Smiles!

Well I arrived in Thailand after a very long day yesterday. We were doing things in the hospital for Sarah's SCH kids until time to get my stuff and head to the airport, for my flight at 8:45 at night (was what I thinking when I booked that one?). Connected in Mumbai at 1:00 am and landed at 7ish am Thai time. I was up for over 24hours before getting to the YWAM base, where I got just a 2.5 hour nap before lunch and running some errands with the translator. Boy am I gonna sleep well tonight. All in all though, life is just so much smoother and calmer in Thailand (at least so far). It doesn't have the same kind of business that comes with over a billion people roaming around all the time. And I forgot how clean it is here. Plus that motto "The Land of Smiles" - makes me smile when I read it...the mental image I get is quite humorous. So now I am trying to catch up on a few GI things (see Jonathan?) before Marilyn's team gets in around midnight (we'll have another late night - there's no rest for the weary...). I am so excited to see her! Forgot also about the mosquitos here too, but got to the store and picked up more of my baby bug stuff (lol) - I love that stuff. Haha. Well there's the latest. Maybe you'll get something more intelligent out of me when I've had more than 2.5 hours of sleep. :) Maybe...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hyderabad

I'll keep posting about the village services, but what's happening in "real-time" is that I travelled to Hyderabad on Sunday (about an 8 hour ride on bumpy roads) and am here until Thurs when I fly out for Thailand. I am helping Sarah with more stuff for her SCH kids and getting them surgeries. Her kids are also up here as well as her mother-in-law, Diamond, so some of the time I am spending with them as well. So far so good. We've had two days of some hospital stuff. 2 of the kids that were up here last time came for some post-op stuff, which seems to have gone well and they are done here now and heading back down tonight. A whole new load (I think 7 more kids) are on their way up here tonight, so it will be a busy time here! 2 more says in India and that's all! Can't believe it.... It's so bittersweet. I'm trying to transition my mind to Thailand now, but am struggling to do so. Please pray for me to get some refreshment and renewed vision for Thailand as I am heading out for round 2 (I think my body thinks it's done and heading back to the states - it's in for a shock). Also pray that the Lord gives me wisdom and direction about how I need to stay connected with India in the future. I'm not sure that my work here is done.

Village Outreach #3 - The night I wore pants

So it may not seem like that big of a deal that I wore pants to a church service, but in India it is. Sarah took me shopping though for some Indian shirts and assured me it would be fine to wear them with pants even to a church service, as I am a foreigner and no matter what I do, they will look at me funny. Haha. She also says they need to be broken out of some of these things. So I happily listened to her and was so comfortable! :) This service was on outdoor one under a tent - a three night mini-crusade of which this was the second night. I spoke on prayer and the way the Bible tells us we can use it - for forgiveness, provision, faith and revival. The Holy Sirit was there in a tangible way. A couple women got saved, several (probably over 100) prayed for, and one woman got released from some demonic strongholds. The pastor's family fed me, as usual, along with the team and were so greatful for the service. They kept saying why can't "the woman of God" be here every night of our crusade? This made me so happy but was so humbling as well. Who am I for them to call me "the woman of God?" I don't feel like anything special, especially as I am surrounded by these pastors that are tending these flocks on the front lines of battles every day. God is so unbelievable to use me and have it make such an impact on them. Maybe it was the pants... ;)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Village Outreach #2 - Diamond

The second village outreach was smaller and more subdued, but still a wonderful time and anointed. I spoke about faith, and doing whatever it takes to get to Jesus. I used the story of Zaccheus and the man who was lowered through the roof to be with Jesus. Such good time of ministry and prayer.

My favorite part though, the ultimate highlight, was having James' mother Diamond there to translate for me. This mighty woman of God has done so much for the Kingdom, and I love to soak in all I can whenever I am around her. She is like the female Billy Graham or equivalent here, and I am so humbled by HER coming to translate for ME. Seems almost backwards. She should be speaking, and I should be serving her. But the Lord uses the weak to show His strength. After the service, she told me that she had gone into a village the night before to share and had used the exact same story of Zaccheus. She said it seemed the Lord was speaking a word to the villages about faith. I was thrilled that I had discerned this as well. I love getting confirmation!

She also gave me quite the compliment at dinner - told me I eat well with my fingers (an important thing in India, with no silverware - plus I here she is the Queen of Manners, so I must have been doing something right.) :)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Village Adventure #1 - The Locusts

Ok, so I'm going to do my best to recap each of the village outreach services, as they have all been special and unique in their own way.






The first night was probably the most awkward in many ways, as it was my first real ministry venture without the team under the fearless leadership of Doug (main contact for teams here). Doug flew back to England, and so I was venturing out on my own... Not quite on me own, though. Me and 8 Indians (7 ministry people plus driver) piled into one car and set out for the village. Only 2 of them spoke any English, but it was pretty minimal (humorous considering one of those two is my translator! haha) About 3 hours and many bumpy roads later, we arrived at the village. And if you know me at all, you know my bladder is pretty small, so I did what we did when the teams were here and asked if there was a "sister" who could take me to the bathroom. Next things I know, I'm wisked away to a hut where the WHOLE pastor's family came out (I guess to witness the white girl who needed a bathroom?) and the pastor's wife took me by the hand, put me in the car and we (me, the pastor's wife, a male staff member and driver) all set out on an "adventure" to find me a bathroom. We drove to some "houses" and were walking all through people's homes and property, all the time hand-in-hand with the pastor's wife, until we landed at an actual squatty (better than the side of the road, or a field, which was what I expected)). Then, wisked back to the car and back to the church, where I walk in and notice...


(look at the wall and floor - this was after a ton were swept out)

BUGS! Everywhere! I notice first because they start landing on me the second I walk in! And not little bugs - these were small grasshopper type bugs. I think they were locusts. And I think the plague in Egypt had come upon this church, as they were ALL OVER. Good thing I don't have a fear of bugs. (A few of you would have freaked!) Good thing also we have to wear head scarves. Never quite been so happy to have that hot fabirc covering my head as at that moment.










The service went really well though. Ministered are treated with such honor here in India. There are men who carry all my belonging for me. I am brought sodas everywhere I go (not my fav, but the gesture is sweet), and they typically present guest ministers with a flower garland to wear around their necks. It is made of fragrant fresh flowers, and is beautiful and heavy! This church thought that Doug would be there, so there were two garlands. Because of his absense, they gave me both. I felt like my little body was weighted down with flowers. Haha... It worked well though for my sermon illustration about taking Jesus' yoke rather then our heavy yokes, because his is easy and light (see Jonathan? I do listen when you talk about making things culturally relavent! :0) ).





At the conclusion of the service, probably 15-20 people resonded to the altar call for salvation. Hallelujah! And then I was able to pray for everyone individually (I just love this part!). I even held it together as I felt bugs crawling up my legs under my dress. Talk about practicing your poker face...


(these were the people who stood for the altar call)



And then, they always want to feed you after the service! :) This was probably when my awkwardness came out the most because I didn't have anyone's lead to follow. And since I am the "honored guest", I am served first and expected to eat first, etc. So I was hoping not to make too many large faux pas. I think I did a couple. haha. Oh well, as Sarah always tells me, we get away with a lot since we're white. :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

village services

I just got back from another village service. The last 3 nights I have been in different villages preaching and praying for people. I have 4 more nights of village evangelism and then it's off to Hyderabad to help Sarah with more surgeries for her little ones, and I fly to Thailand from there on the 4th of June. Hard to believe that my time here is coming to a close. I feel so at peace and fulfilled here that it makes me sad to think about leaving. I don't know what all the Lord is doing in me, but He is definitely stirring some things. I will share more when I know more and when I feel a release in my spirit to share. I'm gonna put more about the village services, but for now I go to bed. :)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My morning surprise

I got up this morning, looked outside, and look what was there to greet me!

video

Monkeys! How crazy is that! For all of you that asked me to bring you back a pet monkey, I think I got pretty close to making it happen this morning! haha. Wait a minute.... do monkey's eat lizards? If so, I think I may have found my lizard repellant I've been looking for! :)