(what i e-mailed everyone…for future reference)
Dear friends and family,
I can hardly believe that I’m already writing my final update to you after a whirlwind 7 weeks on the Trek! I was so encouraged to come home and read so many wonderful and thoughtful emails from you, especially in response to my sickness overseas. Your prayers and support have made this experience both possible and unforgettable.
So, I’m sure you’re wondering, exactly what did I do in Bangkok? And what did God teach me from my time there?
To start, I worked with a ministry called the Ruth Center that provides support and community for the elderly across ten slums on the outskirts of Bangkok.
- Watch a video describing the ministry http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neIfUuHSB_E
- Ruth Center website: http://www.projlife.com/ruthcenter/
The Ruth Center was founded in 2008 by one woman, P’Noi, a courageous Christian woman who truly demonstrated to me what it means to obey the Lord no matter what. She faced loads of initial financial worries, doubts from friends and family, and spiritual warfare in a community possessed by idol worship. Today the Center ministers to hundreds of needy elderly in neighboring communities, giving out bags of rice or toiletries, repairing homes, visiting and praying daily, and hosting various missionary groups from around the world. I saw firsthand how integrated the Ruth Center was in the communities. Everybody recognized P’Noi and knew where the Center was. It is truly a light in the darkness of an overwhelmingly Buddhist country with only 0.5% Christians.
our team, host grandmas, host friends, and ruth center staff
- See some more beautiful pictures of elders we met here
I lived for four weeks with a grandma, Kuhn Yaay (Grandma) Pensri, in the community of Bua Luong. She is 63, short, sweet and sassy. She lives alone, without much support from her daughter; she suffers from diabetes and poor vision, but she is very self-sufficient. She cooked us meals every day and denied my requests to help clean or cook.
We lived on the outskirts of Bangkok without many people or cars. It wasn’t exactly rural – we lived near a university and a busy marketplace – but our community itself, of about 100 families, was quiet, dusty, and close-knit. The homes are wooden with corrugated tin roofs and standing on poles above pitch-black water filled with trash. The streets are lined with trash as well. Living conditions were simple, but comfortable; we had electricity, water, a TV, fans. It took a couple weeks to get adjusted to, but by the end of the trip I was very sad to say goodbye to our small but cozy home…
Some challenges to living cross-culturally were: the language barrier (I picked up a lot of Thai in 4 weeks living with a host, though), adjusting to more difficult living conditions, and learning various customs of Thai cultures (not pointing your feet, greeting others with a ‘wai’, etc).
I learned that the ministry of “being, not doing” is much harder than I thought it would be. It was very hard for me to accept that our ministry in Bangkok was simply accompanying a grandma for an entire month. (A month seemed like an eternity but was over in a flash!) We didn’t hold a VBS, teach English, repair a home, or pass out evangelistic tracts. Instead, we loved our hosts as best we could, kept them company, got rid of loneliness at least for a month, and gave them something to give and someone to take care of.
Outside my grandma’s home
I also got to practice treating the elderly with respect and gentleness. I never knew my own grandparents, so the grandmas and grandpas I befriended in Thailand are truly God’s blessings and expanding my family. I learned to slow life down by being around elderly people all the time, savor the day more, eat slower, and literally, as Yaay Pensri walks very slowly. Interacting with the elderly on the Trek increased my awareness of their needs and forced me to think about, for the first time, concepts like growing older, sickness, death, and the cycle of life.
God gave me the privilege of experiencing a month relying more on God’s strength than I ever have before to get me through each day. He showed me the generosity of the poor through the huge amounts of food my grandma would give me each day! He showed me glimpses of his love and healing touch through the care of the people in my community when I was sick with a high fever and had to be sent urgently to the hospital. He also used my experience in the hospital to make the existence of spiritual warfare, darkness, and the stronghold of idol worship all too real to me.
hanging out in the hospital with my grandma
Lastly, God truly provides for those who have nothing and cares about the poor, the orphan and the widow so much. My grandma collects plastic bottles and paper for recycling as most of her income and lives in desperate poverty, but you would never know just by meeting her. She always has a big smile on her face, giggles like a little girl, and dresses quite fashionably. She’s been a believer for 3 years and is always praising God, saying “Korb kuhn Prajow” and praying that God will be with her. Her hope in Jesus exudes from her vibrant being. If I am never able to return to Bua Luong, I know that I will see her in heaven and rejoice in our reunion there, without any disease or old age or language barriers.
eating at a restaurant during the last week of ministry sites
If you can, please pray that I would continue having a growthful re-entry into American life. Pray that I will be sensitive to the Holy Spirit at this time, sharing my story with others and using it as a way to share the gospel with my friends. And if there is anything that came up for you while I was gone that I can pray for you about, or if you have any more questions about my trip, don’t hesitate to e-mail me as well!
Thanks again for all your prayers, support, and God bless.
ขอ ให้ พระเจ้า คุ้มครอง คุณ,
FOR FUTURE REFLECTIONS: trekkingbangkok.tumblr.com – my just-for-Bangkok blog!
TO READ BLOGS FROM OUR TEAM DURING THE TREK: http://globalurbantrek.intervarsity.org/track-the-trek?city=Bangkok (especially Ansell’s posts – he was on my team!)