Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Closure in Thailand: Prison Salvations, English Teaching and Radio

Our team (with Thai-additions) at the Ratchaburi Prison
Over the past 7 weeks, there is no way to explain away the way God has moved in our lives and in the lives of others in Thailand. We've had incredible opportunities, plenty of laughter, compelling conversations and a fairly complete geographic tour of the country. It would turn out, however, that God was just as interested in our last week of ministry in Thailand as ever: after a few short days in Bangkok working with a textile ministry called the Ruth Centre (read about here) and visiting/praying with NightLight (read about here), we felt God was re-locating us in the west Thai city of Ratchaburi. After a unanimous confirmation from the Lord that we were meant to journey away from Bangkok, we packed our bags almost immediately and drove off to see what the Lord had in store.

the simple gospel in a school
Our visit to Ratchaburi was very fast-paced and evangelism focused. We had team members singing and being interviewed on live Thai radios, running assemblies in Christian and non-Christian schools alike to audiences up to 800 students, teaching worship songs and the gospel in classrooms, preaching in churches, and even leading an altar call in one of the major Ratchaburi prisons -- a call to salvation that saw 10 men give their lives to Jesus! In all of these opportunities and scenarios, God was bringing closure to our time in Thailand -- rewarding our obedience to His call and letting us get a giddy little glimpse into some of the more gratifying fruits of ministry. It's been wholly apparent that God has been moving and has been perfectly dynamic this entire time. Here are a few photographs to tell some of our stories in words I myself cannot muster...

an elaborate barbecue meal on our last night
Pete giving a sermon in the prison
fun with a childrens ministry
Hayley teaches a song in a school
Joshua in prayer for men in prison
Radio show guests, two weeks in a row!
And just like that, our time in Thailand drew to a close. The day after we saw God move mightily in prison, we had a big barbecue altogether, returned to Bangkok and flew out of the country. With closure in Thailand, we all made a pact, or covenant if you will, to give as much of our energy to the ministry in Belfast as we did in Thailand. Eager to see what outreach would look like on the other side of the world, we boarded our plane (singing 'Doxology' in the flight cabin before take-off, much to the amusement and chagrin of other passengers) and bid farewell to the beautiful country that made us feel at home this winter. May the Lord bless you and keep you, Thailand.

the beginning of a 40 hour journey to Northern Ireland -- already knackered!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

2013: New Digs, Hill Tribes and Chiang-Mai

Hannah with a floating lantern
Happy New Year, from Chiang-Mai, Thailand! 

Well, not really. The new year was, by all means, a memorable, joyous occasion but it's impossible to ignore the fact that it was about three weeks ago. I figured we'd best precede this chapter of our outreach with another apology for our inconsistent reports... sorry to leave you in the dark so long! 

After our departure from The Home of Blessing, we hit the ground running with a church service we were inextricably involved in: Hayley and Josh shared powerful testimonies, Tiffany and her children's crew ran the Children's programme, the whole team sang a worship song for the church and Andrew gave a compelling message on 'the Un-offendable Heart'. We then celebrated the new year with a huge Thai barbecue and a traditional releasing of floating lanterns into the night sky. It was incredible to watch our lanterns join a fleet of hundreds upon hundreds of others lanterns on the black canvas sky, as foreigners and Thai alike set adrift their new years' offerings. It's not hard to recognise, in retrospect, how much God has already blessed the year of 2013. 

We then departed into a remote and incredibly inaccessible hill tribe in the mountains of northern Thailand; a place we were welcomed into for three memorable days. The village of 30 odd houses had never seen a vehicle nor electricity a decade ago and had since been exposed to the truth of Jesus Christ (a message they had never heard the like of) and the village is now majority Christian -- the witch doctor himself had given his life to the Lord! Serious community development work had gone into this village during the past 12 years and while it was a very bumpy, unorthodox ride via pick-up trucks into the village, it was clear by the stories of past teams braving huge rivers and mountain treks by foot to reach the people that we had a very easy journey into an only recently accessible destination. 

a glimpse into the hill tribe
What a humbling experience to live among these beautiful people. We, despite our embarrassing lack of linguistic knowledge, were welcomed warmly into their houses. We purchased, in a joint effort with the local pastor, a very large pig from the village for them to eat in celebration of the new year -- typically, they have to sell their own pigs to make ends meet so it was an incredible treat for the village to be able to reap the harvest of their own hard work! Everybody came out to help prepare the animal and pork filled many satisfied bellies and smiles adorned village faces. We also ran a children's programme for the village kids, went to pray in each and every home in the village for needs (so humbling and incredible!), and shared three testimonies and a message during a night meeting with the villagers! We spoke of God's faithfulness and sang worship songs in Thai and English with such great and newfound awareness that truly - truly - God is the same God as He is in England, in North America, and in Thailand. We left the hill tribes exhausted from the cold nights and the squadron of roosters that woke us all up faithfully at 4am but incredibly touched by the experience, the testimony of an unreached people group finding God and the people we had the immense privilege of encountering. 

We returned to Chiang-Mai for Sunday morning, as Karen shared her testimony to the church gathering and we attended a fellowship meeting; giving testimony about our time in the villages and meeting with the Chiang-Mai church-goers. And so we began 2013! 

Oh, and we also rode elephants. When in Thailand...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Christmas in Thailand

Hello blog world,

This is Kristen, giving an update about how life in Thailand has been. We are a little bit behind (understatement of the year) so, let's go back to where we left off!

Merry belated Christmas!
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we were in a High School teaching English. The first day, we took over every English class in the department -- having conversations with the students to help them practice their English. Although the students know quite a bit of English grammar and writing, they do not speak it often. We tried several tactics, but ended up playing a lot of Pictionary and other word games. It was a great deal of fun to be in that setting!

Elana with Home of Blessing girls
Christmas Day was certainly one to remember. I still don't know exactly how to explain it, but here goes: we were not sure how much we could share the gospel and speak about Jesus, being that the school is a Buddhist high school, but God opened the doors! The day started with a parade lead by a Thai Santa Claus and reindeer. We followed close behind, lead by Caleb with his guitar singing 'Jingle Bells'. Behind us followed about 50 Thai students trying to sing with us while the loud speaker plays Jingle Bells in a totally different key. There's no way to describe the confusion in these moments! The gears switched, however, when we introduced the team to the student body gathered in front of us (a few heads short of 1000 Thai students!): Andrew shared the gospel on a loudspeaker to the attentive audience. Christmas day had begun! We later sang Christmas and worship songs on the campus for the students. During our lunch, the girls from the Home of Blessing that go to this particular school performed the 'Everything skit', while others danced to a Chris Tomlin worship song. It was really cool to see them present the gospel in that way and share it with all of the school! A great act of boldness for Christian high school students in a Buddhist school!  Elana and Corin finished the afternoon off by performing a worship dance they had choreographed earlier that week -- students gathered in huge groups around the performance; huddled in the balconies and common areas. It is a Christmas I will never forget.

The week was difficult for several of us, it being the first Christmas away from home -- yet even with the homesickness, I wouldn't have had it any other way. Sharing the simple gospel with a school of 1000 Buddhist high school students is a where God wanted us and I know that God will use what little we did there and our small sacrifice in a great way! With the girls for Home of Blessing being there and the doors our involvement opened for the Home of Blessing's future ministry to the school, it became clear that God had great plans for our school!

Jade turning 20 -- last day in Chiang Kham, Thailand
Later in the week, we had a day off and on Friday we celebrated Christmas as a team. On our day off, most of the team got massages and just relaxed. With how busy we were being, the rest was much needed. Our team Christmas consisted of a competitive game of Pictionary, a Skype call from our DTS sister outreach team in Liverpool, and a Thai barbeque. It was a great time to hangout and eat some of the most amazing food! The very next day, we bid farewell to Chiang-Kham, Thailand and set sail (in a coach) for Chiang-Mai!

There are more updates to come! Stay tuned...


Friday, December 21, 2012

Chiang-Kham Week of Action

non-negotiable waterfall visit
More greetings from Chiang-Kham, Thailand -- bringing you a fresh report on our first week of ministry here at The Home of Blessing!

Now that we've been here for nine days, there's almost too much to report -- we've gotten so much closer to the girls on the property, grown in unity on our team and have made it half-way through the weekend-long bible camp we're running for the Home of Blessing! We've also managed to give devotionals at the girls' daily morning prayer at 5:30am! What an admittedly tiring privilege!

Our week started with the painting of the property's masssive worship hall. From Monday to Wednesday, we were given the chance to lather on two coats of yellow paint on the exterior of the structure and inside the washrooms. Much attention to detail was required, as team members fearlessly cut paint around urinals and gave a new sheen to high-ceilinged walls with paint rollers (extended by bamboo stalks, nonetheless).

 Later in the week, we also got the chance to load dozens of dozens of 40kg unrefined rice bags to a silo for emptying -- the girls at The Home of Blessing plant and harvest their own rice! Additionally, every evening our team has put on a session for the home's girls to learn various dances our team knows. It's been incredible to watch how quickly the girls learn the songs we've brought to them and it's been with incredible energy that we've been able to share some of the most memorable moments yet with one another.

emptying unrefined rice bags

Currently, we are into our second day of the bible camp we're putting on. We started with an afternoon of games, separated by stations. In the evening, we had a time of dance and worship, followed by a drama our creative put together specifically for this camp -- an encouraging and rousing message by Elana Swartz came shortly thereafter. We began the morning sessions today with a message by Nicole Recalde on courage and spent the rest of the time crafting lion masks for everybody! Later tonight, Hannah Root will be giving us a talk on unity (with some illustrations, rumour has it) for our evening session. The camp will have three sessions on Sunday.

Prayer points: 
- that the girls would receive the teaching and heart behind our weekend sessions
- that overall team health will continue to be restored
- for energy, as a demanding schedule in a new culture can be exhausting!
- a desire to continue looking to be more like Jesus in every way we live our lives!

Thank you for keeping updated with our team with your reading -- your prayers continue to mobilise and enable us to continue serving and no words in a blog post could ever thank you enough!

Monday, December 17, 2012

We made it!

Hi, blog world! This is Kristen, from the Thailand team, reporting from Chiang-Kham, Thailand!

We are glad to announce that we have arrived! We landed in Bangkok on Tuesday morning at 7:00am and had a very short lay-over in India, where we rushed through the airport because our flight had been delayed in London!  I will never forget sitting in the bus waiting to go to the plane and praying that God would bring everyone else through customs quickly.  Besides those few minutes, our travel went very smoothly.  The rest of Tuesday was spent trying to stay awake, trying new foods, and going to the mall.

bangkok skyline via temple roof
On Wednesday and Thursday we had orientation at the YWAM Thailand base in Bangkok where we were staying. We were introduced to the technique of the "squatty-potty" (a new, special kind of toilet) and learned about Thai culture. We did a scavenger hunt that helped us grow accustomed to the area and foods --  one of the activities on this adventure was to try eating kind of insect from the local market! Though this is not a normal Thai diet, it was fun to see the team experience this new treat...  I personally tried a cricket and found it tasted a lot like french fries.  The maggot on the other hand was a one-time experience.  On Thursday, we went on a prayer walk in central Bangkok, where we visited two temples -- an interesting, but challenging experience.

On Thursday night, when we were almost over jet-lag, the team boarded a bus for Chiang-Kham, a city in northern Thailand. The bus ride was 12 hours long, but the bus was the nicest bus I have ever seen!  The seats reclined three times further than a plane set and there were blankets and pillows! We will probably take this same trip in a few weeks when we head south again.

The last few days we have been at The Home of Blessing, the primary location of our ministry for the next few weeks.  This video below explains The Home of Blessing...

We are staying at the Home of Blessing campus for the next two weeks and have been spending a lot of time with the girls. I already love them so much!  This morning we helped lead the church service by doing a drama of the story of Esther while Pete, one of our team members, talked about we each are chosen.  It was fantastic to worship with the girls in Thai! We will be doing some painting around the campus and continuing to love on the girls. Next weekend, we will be putting on a weekend-long Vacation Bible School for the girls here at The Home of Blessing.

public transport via river boat in Thailand
 Prayer points: 
- if you could pray for us as we put the VBS weekend together, we would be so, so grateful.  God has already started to orchestrate that time, but your prayers make a world of difference.
- prayer for health would also be appreciated -- there are several people, including Sam (our youngest team member at 8 months) that are not feeling well.
- lastly, please pray for our struggles with the new language. As we excitedly try to learn the language, it still remains difficult to break through the language barrier

Thank you so much for the prayers, they are absolutely crucial to this trip! We will continue to keep you updated as things progress!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

We're going to Thailand and Belfast!

Hello! On behalf of the YWAM Harpenden September 2012 DTS's outreach team to Thailand and Belfast (that's quite a mouthful, I know), welcome to our blog!

We're glad you've found your way here -- whether you're family, friend or an internet-meandering YWAMer, this blog is for you. Whilst we're serving and loving communities on our continent-hopping voyage, we want you - as parents, supporters and loved ones - to know what we're getting up to! It's our way of keeping in touch during this undoubtedly busy season. 

We fly out to Thailand tomorrow morning (10/12/2012) and will be hitting the ground running as soon as we land in Bangkok. As far as a rough outline of our time is concerned, we'll be spending the first six weeks of our outreach in Thailand and the last three weeks in Northern Ireland's beautiful capitol, Belfast. We'll have more details on what we're up to and what God is doing in both of these lovely nations as we move into action, and we're thrilled to invite you to read, what will hopefully be, weekly updates on our journey. Thank you for mobilising us and making all of this possible! 

We've only just begun this outreach and are excited to keep you updated on our adventures. Please tune in often or send this page to people you think might find this helpful!