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."
"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."
"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?' "
"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."
"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

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. :)