1. Hospitality Revisited - By Asia

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    The Thai girl on the left is Cartoon, my Mae Wang tour guide, care taker and basically mommy during our stay in her village. On the left is a very blurry (and slightly creepy) picture of Maria from Tanzania. She also took care of me during my stay with her- making sure I showered, ate and didn’t get lost. These two ladies were incredibly mature for how young they were. These two ladies dropped everything they  had going on that day to take care of me when I visited their homes. I’m in awe of their hospitality. 

    Claire, Rachel and I stayed at Cartoon’s grandmother’s house. Cartoon took us on a walk around her neighborhood, introducing us to her relatives and educating us on all the plant life around us. Who knew that there were plants for mothers, plants that closed when you touched them, dozens of fruit trees and medicinal herbs growing on the side of the road? Cartoon was aware and considerate of our needs. She made us put on powder before bed time offered her stuffed animals to us. She didn’t have many material things in her home, but she had the biggest heart I have ever seen. 

    I could say the exact same thing about Maria, my care-taker in Tanzania from two summers ago. Spending time with Cartoon triggered all these memories from my stay there and I began to think about the way I receive guests into my home.

    Then it hit me. These two ladies totally owned me in the whole hospitality thing. These two understood what it meant to give someone your undivided attention and efforts. These girls showed me through their actions what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. Even though there are slim chances of one day being able to personally repay Maria and Cartoon for their hospitality, I just wanted to tell someone that because of them, I have totally different standards for hospitality now. Thank you Cartoon and Maria for taking care of me. 

     

  2. A Growing Fire - Tyler Eidson

    These past three weeks have been absolutely life changing. In these three weeks I have:  played with more little kids than ever before, praised God at a Buddhist temple, sung ‘Deep and Wide’ in Thai about four-thousand times, managed and been responsible for the team’s entire group money fund, had a two hour conversation with a monk, grown significantly closer to my eight awesome team-mates, taken silly pictures with women teenagers in prison, seen beauty in a blind eighty-five year old leper, eaten many pounds of sticky-rice, worshiped God in Thai, prayed for prostitutes, driven a moped across an island, helped lead a church service at a Thai Church, slept a night on a wooden floor most importantly, I have deepened my relationship with my Creator.

    This trip I realized how much I people watch, just tonight I was walking down Walking Street (street with handy made craft and food stands) and I was literally trying to get a look at everyone’s face. I only realized recently that I do this and that I have been doing this all trip. Although this may make for an awkward eye-contact encounter, I believe that there is much to learn from just seeing people. Earlier in my trip I was hanging off the back of a Song-Teaw looking at the busy Thai people. I leaned over and told Zach how intriguing it is to think that regardless of whether we were driving there that moment; they would still be doing the same thing. If I was back in Texas, those people bustling around would still be living their life, doing that exact same life. For some reason I thought that life only happened when I was there, that’s silly but to have this thought was monumental for me. I probably saw thousands of people this trip like the little kids, elderly grandparents, lepers, mentally handicapped, women in prison and just normal people that I will never see again in my life, and this amount of people only makes a teeny tiny fraction of the world’s population. This is beautiful and depressing at the same time. So many perfectly, God-designed faces that I was able to see and will likely never see again. That is remarkable to have seen and interacted with God’s children all the way across the world. It gives me perspective that I am not so big after all. That people of all shapes and sizes matter. Lyrics like ‘red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight’ actually make sense now. This is also depressing because I know how many of these people are lost. Statistically, Thailand is 95% Buddhist and only 0.5% Christian. This is a place full of wonderful people that are living without having Truth revealed to them and that to me is depressing. This is a good sad though. As poster-like as this feels saying, I am now affirmed that I will strive to make a difference for good in this world at whatever cost.

    This was a short term mission trip, I am extremely pleased with the impact we had but we will likely be forgotten to most. We were certainly a great help and I pray that some of our scattered seeds will grow, but when we visit for only four hours our influence is limited. Ever since I began my relationship with God a fire was lit inside of me. This fire was little and knew truth, but had much room to grow. My fire has significantly grown through college these past two years. As I reflect on my experiences, spend quiet time with God and develop my relationship with Him, this fire gets hotter and larger. I am thankful for every small growth of my silly analogy of a fire. After grand new experiences this this fire grows tremendously and I feel as if I am a slightly new person each time. After this trip specifically I have come to a realization with this growing fire. I am going to be making many choices about my future and about which way I want to steer my life and I cannot live the way I want to without God. I want to live a life impacting people in a way that leads them to Christ, not forgotten. I am only beginning to realize what God has in store to me, but he clearly communicated his significance to me. I look forward to my fire growing the rest of my life.

    I love you Asia, Alex, Jack, Zach, Claire, Collin, Rachel and Ana! I will never forget how God blessed this trip and how much fun we had serving together. 

    -Tyler

     
  3. Pray for their flight!

     
  4. Collin leading singing with Ben

     
     
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  6. Zach and Alex Preaching About the Resurrection! Sunday Morning at Chueng Doi Church of Christ

     
     

  7. All to the Glory of God

    First off, I have heard of so many of you that have lifted prayers up on this team’s behalf. We have discussed how powerful all of your prayers have been in our work. Time and again, things that seemed like they wouldn’t work out as we planned turned out to be better when we placed our trust in God to transform our actions into something useful and effective.  I can’t personally thank you enough for the support you’ve given me and this team.

    Throughout our time in Thailand, I have noticed a reoccurring theme of how God is working to transform some of His people that we have met in Thailand. These people have faced either unexpected or difficult times in their lives. However, God has used these circumstances to bring His children to know His love through these events.

    Mrs. Todd (Asia’s mother) shared with us a story of how she met and fell in love with Mr. Todd. As she was preparing to leave Thailand to study at ACU, her mother went to a fortune teller to attempt to peer into the future of her daughter. The fortune teller proclaimed that Mrs. Todd “must run away from her white love interest at all costs”. A week later Pat and Sean went on their first date! By God working through their relationship, Mr. Todd converted P’Pat into a Christian that now ministers in the Chiang Mai community, at Grace International School, at Cheung Doi (the Todd’s church plant), and to her family. Her two kids, Asia and Ben, are and will be powerful instruments for the spreading of Christ’s love in the world.

    As we finished partnering with the Aggies for Christ Thailand team in an elementary school in a tribal village in the mountains above Chiang Mai, the two teams had the privilege of meeting with the Christian pastor of the Mong village. He told us that a few years earlier, his daughter had been playing in the street when a car ran over her. All of the Mong people declared the child dead. By chance (or what I would call God’s plan) a Christian group was in the village at the time. When they saw the  child, they surrounded the girl and prayed over her. By seeing the power of God, the girl got up from the ground and immediately her father believed in Jehovah God and became a pastor and now is spreading the name of God in a village that largely Animistic!

    Our team didn’t know what to expect as we were heading to the girls detention center. None of us had any experience with prison ministry, but we placed our trust in the ministry that Brownyn Coe has been building up for the past 7 years. It turned out to be one of the fun and easy experiences yet! One of the girls remarked that she was glad she was in prison, because she wouldn’t be doing anything useful with her life if she was outside of the prison. In prison, she was learning English, trade skills, reading the Bible, and had goals for her life. By their decisions that led them to prison, God used these circumstances to bring them into contact with Mrs. Coe and the opportunity to know Christ.

    A similar story can be said of the lepers that we visited. The leprosarium was started nearly 100 years ago by a Christian ministry for the mass numbers of lepers that had no place to live in Chiang Mai. With only about 10 lepers still on grounds, we got to sing worship songs over them. As we talked with them afterwards, they confessed that they were thankful to be in the leprosarium. Even though their bodies had been mangled by leprosy, they had received the hope of renewed bodies and spirit in Heaven by coming to the leprosarium.

    Throughout my time in Thailand, I have seen how God is working in a country that is largely Buddhist. He works in mysterious ways. We don’t always understand why God works the way he does as we go through trying times, but His love and sovereignty are always evident once we look with a bigger perspective of our singular lives in a singular moment. He is always working to bring glory to His Name. All we have to do is open our eyes to see Him. 

    -Collin

     

  8. Experience is Nothing - by Asia

    Experience alone does not change people. The reflection of experiences is the catalyst to the worldview/heart changes that happen on these kinds of trips.

    A million years later (it seems), I finally have time to sit down and reflect on the whirlwind of adventures this team has been on together. While we have had many songtaew convos combined with the debrief times every night, time spent in personal reflection hasn’t been as much a priority as it should have been for me personally. I have so many thoughts bouncing around in my head..so this will probably just be the first post of many.

    Being a part of this team has been a fun, stretchy experience. Fun meaning unforgettably awesome. And stretchy meaning, I grew a lot from it. 

    This trip has been humbling, because I’m often wrong and insecure in making group decisions. I’ve learned to trust my team and seek the input of others while being confident in whatever decision comes out of it. Many things did not go “according to plan,” but when you hold “the plan” loosely while living by the less common beatitude, “Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be bent out of shape” you get through it just fine. I am ever so grateful for my parents, my supporters, Gade, Bay, Jit, Jo, Pick, Meaw, P’Sun, Bronwen, Coey, Joel and my entire church who made this trip come to life.

    This trip has been insanely fun, because the tenth member of our team’s name happens to be “Laugther” or “Hua-roh” (Thai-version). If you want a good laugh, make sure to ask Tyler, Collin, Jack, Zach and Alex about tic-tacs and jade dragons. We had morning updates from Jack in the Crack of the twin beds and witnessed Zach charming the wild monkeys. We’re always playing random games or asking strange questions of each other (Kumcha Shoutout to Ana and Make or Break it to Claire). This team is also constantly making melodies. Acapella choral singing anytime. anywhere. Humming the theme from the Shire in a museum as guards and guests stand befuddled not knowing where the musics coming from. Bursting into Phantom of the Opera during meal times (yes, Claire can hit that high note). Every. Song. Sung. from the Moulin Rouge SPECTACULARLY reenacted with the help of Rachel (who actually knew all the lyrics). Sound effects by Tyler created for every epic happenstance. These people have become some of my favorites. 

    This trip has been a dream come true, because I’ve wanted to lead a team home since I was a little girl. After translating for many-an-AFC trip, I bucket-listed leading a mission trip one day. Things I wanted to make sure this team did were:

    • To not waste time. We did not have many free days. We didn’t spend the bulk of our time vacationing when we were in Chiang Mai. We worked hard and stayed flexible. I am so proud of how this team worked together.
    • To join in and support sustainable mission efforts that Thai Christians were already involved in. Anything we did, I hope and prayed that we were connected to something bigger than the activity itself. When we ran a camp at Chiang Rai, I prayed that it open up doors for the Sold Project to reach Thai kids. When we visited Grace and Compassion, I prayed that our team’s view of non-profits or missionary schools would become a tangible reality or possibly, an option for the future. When we went to the School of Promise, I prayed that Pick, Jo, Joel and the Christian staff’s influence on the school would bring that community to Christ. By trusting in God’s plan in all that we did, I really hope that we made spiritual type of difference in the long run (see Alex’s bowling ball analogy in some post below).  
    • To make sure my team knew someone they were going to see in Thailand, because hopefully, this makes the exotic “Thailand” become a place where actual people, with actual lives, live (not just a place people go to for vacation). Mission-Trip-Tourism is less likely to happen if the place being visited becomes a real home to people you know and care for. I remember, that during my internship in Mwanza, Tanzania the most meaningful experiences came from conversations with missionaries or the time spent sitting with my friend Maria at her village.The relationships were what photo albums couldn’t capture and what  State-side conversations stemmed from. So, I figured, if my highlights were meeting the cool missionary people I had stalked on Facebook, why not start building relationships with a Thai Christians through social media before we head out? The P’P matches were a humungo blessing because I have been blessed with a Church who is willing to support my friends and welcome them in. I am so proud to be a part of Chueng Doi Church of Christ. 

    So, humbling, insanely fun, and a dream-come-true would be my answer to Scott Eidson (who asked me to summarize this mission trip in a single sentence). Thank you for reading. I look forward to reflecting on these experiences on this blog with you. 

     

     

  9. Thoughts that come from the Waves… and Ana i guess :)

         So we made the long night bus trip to a tiny island off the coast of Thailand! Talk about a way to debrief! The bus trip was an experience all on its own. We hopped on at about 7pm; the seats were more comfortable than the plane which veryyy nice. After falling asleep on the bus, we were all awoken to the sound of a very famous Thai song. The music blared, and the lights were bright….. all at 3am. 7 eleven stop! Long story short, we all happily arrived in Pattaya City at around 6:55am. Known as “Sodom and Gomorroah” by our team (it’s a joke of course), this city is known for its parties, its lifestyle and its prostitutes. We haven’t spent any time there yet, however our last night we have are moving from the small island we are on to the northern part of the city (don’t worry, it shouldn’t be as bad as the south ;) ).

         So far the debrief trip has been amazing. The island is tiny and easy enough for our team to mo-ped around it in about 15 minutes. The white sand beaches and turquoise ocean is one of the most peaceful and beautiful sites I have been blessed to see. Yesterday we had our first seafood lunch at a restaurant right on the beach. The coconut water, the garlic fried fish, the giant fried shrimp, and sweet and sour fish were just some of the delectable treats our taste-buds got to enjoy as our feet touched the smooth sand beneath our table. Today we even tried crab after our snorkeling trip this morning! We have snorkeled, fed monkeys, tried fruit smoothies, swam, and explored the small island. All of these experiences have been a perfect blend of tourism, rest, and opportune time of conversation with our team. However we ask for everyone to pray for Rachel and Collin who have been feeling sick. Thankfully it happened at the end of our trip where it didn’t interfere with the mission part, however we are saddened to see them feeling badly and are constantly praying for them to allow the medicine to work and for the sickness to disappear.

        In our debrief last night, we were discussing some of the difficulties we experienced while on this trip. I’m pretty sure every single one of use said that this trip might have had small obstacles such as food, tiredness, and team dynamics at times. Yet none of those actually ever became such an issue that distracted us from the mission itself. This trip in my eyes was a success. I am so blessed and proud to be a part of this experience. Alex asked me today what I would miss the most about Thailand… as I was shoving yet another delicious bite of rice into my mouth… I didn’t say food (although it was delicious)… I didn’t say the view (although it was beautiful)…. I didn’t even say the people (although they are some of the most hospitable and genuinely Godly people I have ever met)…. I said that the thing I would miss most about Thailand was the fact that in America the availability of us to be able to do certain things. We can’t really walk in to a prison to hang out with 42 female prisoners with no prior intense background/ security check. We can’t simply go to an orphanage and take care of 5 sick babies with pink eye (which I did a few days ago)…. etc There are many regulations established in America that here we were blessed enough to get past because of the organizations and people we worked with. As many opportunities that there are in the states, and there are many, its just not quite the same in my eyes. 

          So yes, we obviously are having a wonderful time here at the beach. However while sitting alone watching the waves crash, I felt a clear message that I had not sat still enough to listen to until today…. “Ana… this is just a taste of the blessings I will give you if you keep doing My work… yes it might be difficult at times and not all smiles and white sand beaches… but it will be worth it… you need not worry about that”. This mission trip to Thailand was a leap of faith and an adventure. God truly blessed this trip as everything went smoothly. With the constant stream of prayer from the people that care about us, we were blanketed with God’s strength in our tired moments, family’s love in moments of homesickness, and each others’ words of affirmation to persevereSo thanks for reading and supporting our team everyone. I pray for each of you and I am so blessed to know how much each and every one of you care for all of us. God is amazing! 

     

    —-Ana

     

  10. Day 10: No, This Blog Isn’t Dead and Neither Are We - And We Finally Put the ‘Elephants’ in ‘God and Elephants’!!

    Well, folks, sorry for the 3-day delay of blog. The WiFi here is about as predictable as the spiciness of your Thai food when it’s described as ‘kind of spicy’ (this range includes anything from Taco Bell mild sauce to raging inferno of the devil’s saliva). As you’ve probably seen from the pictures, we rode elephants! They were INCREDIBLY awesome. My perception of an elephant has largely been crafted by such influences as ‘Dumbo’ and ‘The Jungle Book,’ so I was surprised to learn some new information: elephants can’t eat through their trunk, so shoving a banana up it is not a good idea; elephants are very very hairy; elephants’ trunks are strong enough to lift a grown person up in the air for long enough to take several pictures; elephants eat large clumps of unpeeled bananas in single bites. They had an awesome elephant show, during which elephants kicked soccer balls, played harmonicas with their trunks, painted pictures, and gave massages with their trunks. Needless to say, we were all immensely impressed, and many a video was taken. Also, we went rafting on bamboo rafts and went for an oxcart ride! Oxcarts are very bumpy and slow, and I now have a deeper respect for those people in Bible times who relied on them for transportation, and didn’t have kids running around behind them with shovels either (if you know what I mean). Enough about all that, check out the pictures.

    After getting all the tourist-ness out of our systems, we piled into our song-tao and raced off to the village of Mae Wong. Oh wow. I just realized that I haven’t really described song-taos yet, and that’s pretty important. I just googled it and nothing really came up, so we’ll have to get a picture on here or something. A song-tao is basically a Thai taxi, shaped like a van, with a front cab and a back consisting of two benches facing each other with poles on the ceiling to hold on to for the unpredictable Thai driving. The back is open, with two ladders on either side of the door, and we generally take turns riding out in the open, to have more room inside and to avoid carsickness. While here in Thailand, we’ve rented one to accompany us everywhere, rather than find one for every outing. Our driver is Na’Rim, and he doesn’t speak any English at all and just smiles and laughs when we talk to him. Ok so anyway, we rode out to this village called Mae Wong, about an hour outside Chiang Mai. Here we parted ways to spend the night with individual Christian families in the village - me (Zach), Ana and Collin in one house, Alex, Tyler and Jack in another, and Claire, Asia and Rachel in the third. 

    When we first got to Thailand, we were all commenting on and pointing out all the differences of culture, like “Ahhh, it’s so different!” and “Oh my goodness, such cultural immersion!” etc. These observations were definitely misapplied. Mae Wong was cultural immersion in full form. I’ll try to get Jack, Alex or Tyler to write a bit about their experience, because it’s a great example of one of those stories that’s hilarious in an I-feel-bad-for-you sort of way. To sort of capture our feelings, put yourself in these shoes (or flip flops, as the case may be): you’re staying at a house where you’re royalty, and it’s awkward because you don’t know them and can’t really communicate with them. At all. My repertoire of phrases - “Amah roi!” Delicious food! “Kop kun kop!” Thank you! “Ayou seep gao pie krup!” I am 19 years old! You get the picture - we didn’t have much to work with. Language barrier example story: we were sitting out on the front porch because they wouldn’t let us help prepare dinner, and the fourteen-year-old son kept walking out and saying a single English sentence, like “Where are you from in America?” or “You like Thailand?” or various questions about our lives and our trip. After he asked, he would listen to our responses and go back inside. After a few times, Collin went inside to get something while the boy (Tae) was on one of his mysterious disappearances, and solved the mystery: he had his phone out and was translating basic questions from Thai to English so he could come out and ask us. Such a nice kid.

    There were lots of understandable but unforeseen differences, too - open doors and windows means bugs in the house (and beds and food and everywhere), no A/C means you only get a short relief every time the fan oscillates past you, one shower, connected to the kitchen, means the mom walks by in a towel while you’re brushing your teeth (supremely awkward), no English means you can’t say “Stop bringing more food because I was full three bowls ago!”, and living where the day starts with the sun means everybody gets up at four in the morning (we skipped out on that part). Overall, despite the discomfort and difficulty, it was a great experience.

    Okey dokey, I’ll keep getting you caught up with another post tonight and hopefully we’ll keep our WiFi juice until then!