Sorry for leaving the Thailand updates hanging, but I’ve been back in the United States for one week now, having gotten back late night August 1st.
My last week in Thailand went well. I completed my assignments and teaching practices for CELTA “to standard.” It’s pretty much certain that I’ll pass and be officially awarded the certificate in a month after approval by Cambridge. I’m so thankful that it worked out for me to get a TEFL certificate out of my time in Thailand. I spent my last weekend free with Gowin, whose home I stayed at during the month, and with friends from CELTA. I barely got back to the US on time, since my original flight Chiang Mai–Taipei was rescheduled so that it departed by the time I got to the airport. I was redirected to a flight to Bangkok then to Taipei to catch my flight in LAX in time. It was one of the most enjoyable travels I’ve had though. I met an English teacher and philosophy major who also missed the first flight, and had good conversations with him along the way. I also sat with a friend from CELTA on the flight to Bangkok, and the last flight with an American-Taiwanese woman who was returning to the US from a mission trip in Taiwan. My buddy Cameron Day picked me up from the airport after happily waiting 2 extra hours! Loyal friends like that are hard to come by.
This week has been an adjustment, getting back into American culture and life. Wouldn’t call it culture shock, but it’s close. I was really groggy from jet-lag and had weird sleep patterns, more than usual for me. It’s wonderful to see my roommates, other friends and familiar faces again. Going to the store is interesting – different kinds of stuff than Thailand and too many choices and brands! On the roads in the USA they drive on the right side of the road, there are more cars than motorbikes, and the motorbikes I do see are so colossal compared to Thailand’s.
Now I’m looking for a job, getting ready to start seminary half-time+ and trying to choose what sort of service and ministry opportunities I should take. Now after college decisions are numerous and wide open. I trust God will guide me.
Thanks to everyone who has been following and praying! Your support has meant more to me than you know. I’ll try to write up a summary to send out if anyone is interested.
Time for another update from Thailand – basically, things are starting to wind down. Brittani and Hannah left for America on the 18th the last interns to go besides me.
I’ve just finished my third week of the CELTA course. Class time runs from 11:30am to 8pm. For homework every week we have to write a 1,000 word or so paper, write lesson plans and prepare to teach two practice English classes. It is difficult but I’m enjoying it. The Thais who come to be taught by us every night are a lot of fun. So are my fellow student-teachers; there are twelve of us – 11 men and 1 woman! But there’s a good mix of nationalities – 1 Canadian, 1 Syrian, 1 Syrilankan, 3 British, and 6 Americans including me. Both the professors of the course are from the UK originally but have traveled widely and live in Thailand for now. I love seeing the different personalities and backgrounds come together with this group.
Comparatively, I have the least teaching experience in the whole class. Some people taking the course have been teaching for over six years. But I have so much gratitude to God for the course. I’m learning very valuable material on how to teach English effectively so students actually learn and enjoy the process. I also think it is helping me become better at teaching in general, skills I can transfer to teaching the Bible.
On the downside, all day yesterday and today I have had a bad headache, enough to make it hard to function. But God has unbelievably sustained me. It’s a joy to be in pain yet see God’s goodness through it all.
This weekend (besides homework) I will go to church, hang out Cynthia Edwards (who let the interns stay at her house) and with some people who just came to Chiang Mai from India, and visit the OMF missionary office.
Keep my health in prayer if you could. Also pray for those around me who need Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria.
In my passport, I have a visa. It’s marked type “ED,” for “Education.” When I applied, what I planned to do in Thailand didn’t entirely fit the category, but it was the nearest fit – going with the short-term team from San Diego Christian College for 16 days of jungle-village work projects, an “internship” for ITDP in June (but not for credit or even with a syllabus), and in July getting my TESOL certification at a Cambridge CELTA school.
But my time here has turned into something that the visa approver at the Thai consulate, nor myself, ever expected “ED” would come to mean to my stay here – I am being educated in God’s school. God is teaching me many, many things in a practical, eclectic school He built all of His own.
Things are going well with this education, but not without challenges. For example:
- I’m learning how difficult cross-cultural missions really are, but also its rewards and worthiness of making it a career. I miss my good friends and family back in the states, deal with illness, fatigue, miscommunication, language barriers, bad smells, etc. But the eternal value and good of what does happen here is breathtaking. God must be honored for Who He is among people who do not know Him, and His love is shown to the lost through missions so they may believe in Him.
- How foolish worry and anxiety can be. Things I have worried about extensively while over here have come to nothing. Statistically, most of what people worry about never happens, but beyond that, for the Christian who is held in the hands of God, even what does happen should not cause anxiety, but a greater dependence on our God who is more than strong enough to take care of it.
- Leadership! I don’t think anyone truly knows how to lead unless they do it. Even the “born leaders” out there (of which I am certainly not), need to experience leading to know what it is like and how to do lead and understand your people better. I had a leadership role on the SDCC team, and it was a much more in-depth and demanding role than I had been in before. I knew how it is vital to put those your leading first and serve them rather than serving self. I got to experience how important this servant-leadershp is! Learned my strengths and weaknesses during this time.
- How real poverty is. The areas we have been in are poor. I have never seen poverty like some of the areas I have seen, especially when we were in the village of Mae Long Thai – Low or zero-income subsistence farming, illness, lack of clothing even. And God loves them and desires they be helped. “The Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor.” (Psalm 140.12).
I am learning many other things – about God, missions, myself (which is scary), Asia as a mission field, the hilltribes, agriculture… God is a good teacher. I hope, while I’m in Thailand and for all my life, to be a good learner, a disciple of Him. That’s the whole point anyway, isn’t it?
Since my last post, things have gone well here in Thailand. First we had a little break from the long two weeks in the village. Dan and I drove up with Weetun and Wirasak to visit two youth hostels for children to live in while they are in school. The first we visited was smaller, maybe about 30 children. We had dinner together there into the evening. Dan and I didn’t realize until near the end that this Christian youth hostel was run by Wirasak and his wife. He said he started it to “show kids about God’s love.” We left from there with Weetun to a larger Christian youth hostel of about 80 children and spent the night there. That evening we joined them for worship and gave our greetings to them through Weetun’s translation skills. They were mostly Lahu children who were sent there by parents who live in remote areas and villages so they can go to school every day. You should also know, they have beautiful little voices! This hostel had help from ITDP for their agriculture project, which we had a tour of the next morning. That same day I had my phone interview for my TESOL school and was accepted into the program.This little adventure was about two days.
When we got back to Chiang Mai, we wasted little time in going out again. Dan, Adrienne, and myself came with Peyut, the ITDP staff member, to a new region ITDP is working in – Mae Long Thai. There are several villages in this area. The drive was long – the dirt road to the villages was well over three hours long, steep, and we drove it at night! We stayed in the home of the pastor of the church in the village of Kotah for five nights and helped with data-gathering surveys of families and photographs. We had good time with villagers sitting in his hut in the mornings and evenings. A highlight was Sunday, when we attended their church service and youth service, gave our greetings and answered questions through Peyut’s translation. Dan also gave an excellent sermon from Psalm 73. I was sick on Monday, but it was good for me to sit back at the hut for the day to pray and spend time with the Lord.
When we returned to Chiang Mai in late in the evening on June 8th, and I spent the next several days in Chiang Mai. Dan, Adrienne, and Cynthia flew to America on June 10th, leaving Britanni, Hannah, and myself still in Thailand. We spent time at the office trying to figure things out (at least I was) for a day, then had a weekend to relax a little bit and do things in Chiang Mai. I found out I don’t swim very well, and the girls like to shop a lot. Good times!
Monday the three of us left with other ITDP staff, Tawinsak and Jet, to Ma Oh Jo (where the team did work projects in May) to spend over a week there. Hannah taught English to students at the school from grades Kindergarten to fourth grade. Britanni talked to the villagers about the handicrafts co-op, gathered information and took photos of items the women – and a elderly villager named “Clay” – made. I did random things, like help with Weetun, Boonshu, and Suriyon on Agriculture testing, take video footage, and gather information for the Garden project (a project to give villagers, especially those who have volunteered their time on the building projects, supplies to start good-quality gardens). It was not as intense of work as when the May team was here, and we had some good relational times with each other, the teachers, and villagers.
Now, the 24rd of June, I’m at the guest house recovering from stomach ailment. I worked at the ITDP office yesterday and spent the evening losing lunch and sleeping. I am feeling better today though and trying to work on random things from here. Anyway, thank you all for your prayers and I will write more as soon as I can…
I have been in Chiang Mai for the past several days. I was in the villages before then. I planned to write a more detailed account than this, but I kept pushing it back. Now, I’m leaving for the the village of Ma Oh Jo tomorrow morning and will not have internet access while there until the 22nd of June. I will defer to Dan to tell the story of what happened since my last update in his well-written blog, including some great pictures http://dan-thailand.blogspot.com . It doesn’t have anything past June 10th, since he left for the states then, but that will have to do for now.
Thank you for praying for us. I will truly try to post more when we get back from the village; right now I need to get ready and go to sleep! But before that, I want to close with this verse. Steve Jenkins, the dean of San Diego Christian College and team leader for the American work-team in May, sent me this in an email. It really affected me:
“The weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have the divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretention that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we make every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10.4-5).
Grace and peace!