Saturday, July 16, 2011

home sweet home.

We are now home... and reflecting, refreshing, and rejoicing.  God was good.  God has more in store for each of us.  God must be honored.... we are thankful.

We will post some of the best of the best pictures this next week.... so keep checking back to check them out!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Airplane team reflections

Team reflections on our flight home...

It was so good to return to Thailand, and see how God has worked in me since last time. I was also reminded how much I love these students; each of them is so special and makes me so proud.

I'm sad to leave my new friends in Thailand, the wonderful food, the laid back lifestyle,  and Lindsey.  I'm excited for the weather in SB, to see my family, to be in the AC at home, and for my bed!

It's amazing how evident God's work and activeness is in Thailand, a country that is less than 1% Christian. I will always remember how extremely generous everyone was, especially the people we met in the leper colony who seemed to have so little to give.

This has been a really good experience that will last a life time. I will miss Thailand and all of the friends I have made.

I can't believe that this trip is over; I feel as though it went by so fast, but looking back on it we did so much. I have really seen God over the past few weeks, in the people that we meet and also how all of us as a group grew. I am so thankful for this amazing experience!

I can't believe our trip is over but it feels like it has been forever since we have been home.  I'm going to miss the relaxed lifestyle of the Thai people and all of there smiles.  A huge thanks to everyone who helped make this trip possible through financial support and prayer!

This trip to Thailand has been some of the best two and a half weeks of my life. I have learned so much about myself and my peers and specifically that Gods love is so universal. Thank you so much for your prayers and financial support, we could not have done it without you!

What I'm going to miss most about Thailand is the relationships we made with the people we met throughout the trip. Everywhere we went we were warmly welcomed into their communities and shown great hospitality. You could really see God working through these people.

This was definitely a life changing trip! I could feel God's presense through the kindness of the women of ALC, the joy of the people in the leper colony, and our work in OmKoi. I have learned to be more vulnerable and open and I can feel God's love and  power working in my life. I thank God for this experience. 

As this trip comes to a close I know I'm going to miss all the friends I made in Thailand but also all my friends that joined me from Santa Barbara on this awesome adventure. I'm probably only going to see these people only a couple times this next year as I go off to college and I can't imagine a better group of friends that I got to experience this trip with.

I am never going to forget this incredible opportunity to serve God. What struck me more than anything during our time on the trip was the incredible kindness and generosity of the Thai People. I can't wait to return to share countless photos of the bright, smiling nation who's people so well reflected God's love. Thank you so much to everyone who allowed us to carry out this mission trip.

My first trip to Asia and I was not disappointed.  As with many other mission trips i have been on, the beauty of the Lord was shared in smiles of his children, through the brokenness yet deep faith of those in sad situations, in the laughter and songs of new communities of friends growing together, and in the SIMPLE things of the world.   God was with us and took care of not just the team, but also for me as the leader in some cool ways that were not expected.  I'm thankful for the pieces and people and effort and prayers and encouragement and finances that made this trip happen!  I'm looking forward to see  how we can now live out what was experienced in Thailand.  To God be the Glory, now and forever. 

I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to be apart of this this trip. It's going to be strange to not be living with what must be the coolest group of high school students around. I'm going to miss it. We were family. We shared everything together: meals, beds, baht, laughter, joy, encouragement, and especially what God was doing in our lives and in the lives of the amazing Thai people we met. I don't think we could have experienced more in the time we had.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday - Leprosy Colony & painting leprosy colony church & completed bags from ALC women!!!


pics continued

pictures from the last week

We got a surprise visit back to the women at ALC... and this also means we can load up pictures to share with you!!!!  Enjoy them!!!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Back in Bangkok

We are back in Bangkok, but this time we are staying right downtown in the midst of alot of activity. Much different neighborhood than all of our previous stays. Karen Groot and her daughter Bethany and 2 nieces Mari and Kirsten joined up with us for dinner and worship tonight. This was a huge treat for our kids as they all bonded so much while we were with them at ALC. We had Korean BBQ for Aaron's birthday dinner along with a cake and all you can drink soda and all you can eat ice cream. Kids loved it.

Tomorrow we will go to BLS which is a leprosy colony here in Bangkok. We will visit patients in the hospital, sing to them, pray for them, and then head to their village where we will help paint their church, do crafts with the kids, and encourage the pastors who do ministry there.

So sorry we can't get our pictures onto the blog. Here is a link to a Facebook album that will give you a taste of our lives here...again, sorry that these pictures are the only ones we can get up since they were taken on the iPad.

Everyone is doing well. Those who were feeling sick are feeling much better. Our team dynamics are really great!! God is good. Spiritual growth is happening. Love is shared. Joy is had.

Love to all. We are off to bed.
Team Thailand

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Happy Birthday Aaron!!!

Today is Aaron's 17th birthday. We love Aaron!!!

Flying from Chiang Mai to Bangkok today. Will stay at the Bangkok Christian guesthouse. Have a great Monday!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

And on Sunday we....

Ride elephants AND water buffalo!!!!! We are also going to learn to plow with water buffalo in the rice patty areas. They told us to wear flip flops so if we step in poo we can just wash our feet off. Haha. Wish us luck!

This evening is the Chiang Mai night market and also the pool here at the eco resort. Clean laundry is hanging in our bedrooms just like they do in Italy.

Again, can't get pictures up on the iPad, so we will be working on that. If you want to see some pictures from recent, check out Lisa Holmlund's Facebook.


Last full day in OmKoi - Friday

OmKoi description
As a team, coming to OmKoi was what most of us were most nervous about. We were told this is where we would get Malaria or Japanese encipilitis or dunange fever.  We were told it would be very different than life in Bangkok and Chaing Mai.  We were told the people here didn't even speak Thai.  We just found out that they started using actual thai baht just about 10 years ago.   We expected squatty potties and no toilet paper and sleeping on cement and dusty floors.  We expected super dusty blankets.   More than one person on the team would have just voted to not come at all.  We expected down pours of rain and the Mosquitos to be as thick as clouds always around us. We were told to bring huge rubber boots some can work and not get our feet wet.  We were planning on working in conditions of 5 inches of thick and nasty mud and water.  

The reality of our time here is different.  we are staying on the property of a church that has a gate.  We have the girls in one guest house with a kitchen, 2 western toilets, a ping pong table and even extra mattresses to put on top of our beds we have here.  Boys are in a second house.  All our meals are together in the girls larger house.   Our boots are still brand new and in the plastic wrap.... It has only rained here once or twice and each time it didn't rain enough to have to change outfits or shoes.  Each of us has only used the squatty potty once or twice our whole time here.  The mosquitos are not too terrible and we aren't even really using the nets since our houses have screens on them to keep the Mosquitos out.  We do put on bug spray twice a day and this seems to do the trick. 

We are eating really good and Authentic thai food and having good old western cereal and nutella on toast for breakfast.   There are pictures of the King and Queen everywhere here in Thailand.   They are on every calendar, framed in large photos in each house.  At the beginning of the movie we went to, the whole auditorium stands and is silent as listening to the kings anthem. It is very strange.   Even when we were at the train station, the anthem played and everyone stopped why they were doing and stood in respect until it was finished. 

Tonight we are going to do a dance party with the kids at the hostel where we are building the bathroom.  We have glow sticks and are going to try our best to get music to play through the sound system.  I have made about 150 chocolate chip pancakes to share with them.  Our American kids are so excited. 

The hostel is here in OmKoi because all the mountain towns don't have a school for kids past age 11.   So all the mountain kids come here to OmKoi and they live in a hostel with a set of house parents.   There are about 45 kids aged 9 through 19 at this hostel.  One girl lives 3 hours away and she is only about 11 years old. 

I was asking about marriage the other day and I was told that the woman proposes to the man.   I asked how this happens and the response was "she prepares the pig".  We were a bit confused, so I probed some more.  I guess a woman has to raise a pig and present it to the man she wants to marry and they use the pig for the wedding meal.  The whole village is invited to the ceremony.  

The kids in town have loved the crafts we have brought and also playing soccer with us.  Thankfully, the 7-11 here in town has everything our hearts desire.... Jello cups for Aaron, iced coffee for Lisa, ham and cheese flavored chips for Brian, fun-o cookies for Lindsey, chocolate milk for Ryan, starburst like candy for Lauren, Fanta soda in different flavors for Brandon and Nathaniel.  Spray on Axe deodorant sadly was not what Ben and Ali both were hoping for in terms of more deodorant, however.  Both decided to pass on that option. 

The new bathrooms we are building are with concrete and bricks.  There are 4 stalls on each of the two buildings with a metal roof. In the corner of each bathroom stall is a hole in the ground to collect the water from a hose of water that hangs down from the roof.  This is how they shower and how we have been showering for most of our time here in Thailand.  Majority of the showers are cold showers, which we don't mind.  The weather is much cooler here than Chiang Mai.  Bangkok was the hottest of any of the places we have been. Here in OmKoi we even cover up in the evenings with long pants or long sleeves. 

Be sure to ask us about the different fruit we have been eating:
 - dragon fruit which is pink and green on the outside and white with black specks inside.. Reminds me of kiwi
- butt fruit.   Honestly, we don't know the name of it, but this is what it looks like when it is peeled and ready to eat... A bare booty. 
- papaya
 - mango
 - rose apple - same texture as a bell pepper
 - fried plantains
 - small pinkish/ purple spiky fruit called

OmKoi on Thursday

Day 10 devotional - Tanner (Thursday July 7)

Every day on our trip we have been doing devotionals centered around a key verse.  Each of us on the team was asked to write one before we left the US.  Our verse for today was Philippians 4:12-13 and it says this:

"I know what it is to be In need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in every situation, wheather well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all things through him who gives me strength".

  I was asked to share my response to 3 questions pertaining to this verse so they are:

1. What has Thailand taught you about what you have?
Thailand has shown me what i have through the attitude of others.  I see that the people that have so little seem to have the strongest faith.  The challenge for me seems to be to rely on God even when I feel like I can take care of myself.

2. What Has Thailand taught you about being content?
This place has taught me a lot about being content.  I have so much more than all the women ALC but they are still joyful and gladly accept us into their homes.  Also, I realized that I dont need that much to feel fulfilled.  I loved the way we lived and found peace living with so much simplicity.

3. Do you feel like God has given you strength in Thailand?
God has given me more courage then strength.  I always was ok with doing the physical labor or having the energy to go play soccer with the kids, but I never really engaged spiritually.  This has changed for me this on this trip and I have begun to be more open about my story and faith.  I feel like it has has helped me make great strides in my walk with God.  I also felt strength after a little small group made up of kids from california and missionary kids lived in community for a week together.  This showed me that kids who live very different than me still go through the same struggles that i do. 

OmKoi on Tuesday

OmKoi Thoughts by Lauren and Lindsey
This morning we left the Eco hotel, got in vans and drove 4 hours to the gorgeous Karen village of OmKoi. When we arrived at our new homes, we were pleasantly surprised to find beds, fans, and windows with screens. After settling in and enjoying some tasty pad see yew for lunch, we headed to our building site. In these next four days we will be building a four stalled bathroom for a children's hostel. These kids are at this hostel because there is not school past 6th grade in their own villages, so they stay here in order to attend the school here. There are 42 kids ranging in age from 10 to 19, and they are cared for by a pair of hostel parents. The current bathroom is bamboo propping up sheet metal siding, there are two tiny stalls, and this is where all the kids shower, go to the bathroom, and do laundry. A group last week built the boys' bathroom, and we will be working on the girls'. Today we mixed cement and laid the floor of the bathroom. This evening we went back to meet the children at the hostel. We got to know them and asked each other questions. They were all so welcoming and interested in talking with us and practicing their English. Plans for tomorrow consist of laying the brick for the outside walls of the bathroom, which will take some precision and patience. Please pray for our time here, that we would be full of energy for working and spending time with the kids.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Culture shock...

Tonight was one of our hardest and best debriefings we have had. We had the conversation about culture challenges and specifically cultural conflict. We wrestled through aspects of being in another culture and not realizing we were coming across as rude and pushy. We dealt with emotions of how the thai treated us and how our feelings were hurt because they were so blunt about the way we appear. We dealt with the frustration of wearing things or not wearing things (bracelets in our case that were significant to us with meaning attached), yet we didn't understand why it was such an offense to other thai Christians. I know that these conversations are what will change us in the long hull, but tonight we are tired. We ask for prayers for a few things:
- a few are starting to feel worn down with their health and bodies. Prayers for restoration.
- for our hearts as we all REALLY miss the Groots and our ALC friends in Bangkok. It was so so good to be with them and we loved our connections there!!
- for our new relationship with Youth For Christ who we are now with for the rest of the trip... That we would be able to grow in our friendship with them and that we would be able to encourage them here as well.
- for our time in OmKoi for the next 5 days. We leave tomorrow morning and go north to the Karen Hilltribes. We are nervous for getting malaria or some other disease. We are nervous about the living conditions. We are nervous that the only 7-11 in that area will run out of candy and soda for us. (they are special ordering more milk to 7-11 for our group so we can have cereal each morning. Funny but true.)
- for god to keep at work in our team and in us individually as we are on this trip. We have already noticed how we have grown together and we have pointed out individual growth in some members of the team that we see God working in.
- for the next 5 days as we won't be able to communicate too much with any of you. There really isn't any Internet connection in the town. You will have to wait to hear from us until we get back on Saturday.

In other news:
- we celebrated the 4th of July by going to 7-11 together tonight after dinner
- the pool here at the Eco lodge in Chaing Mai is so so fun. We have loved it today!
- we are getting air conditioning AGAIN tonight!!!!
- we are not taking the public bus tomorrow... We rented vans. With air conditioning.
- our average cost for dinner tonight was $3.15 For example, you can get about 6oz of grilled steak with a coleslaw and some fries, a 16oz glass of fresh squeezed juice, and two new water bottles all for $3.15
- we did laundry today... And we have both the guys and gals room strung with drying lines and clothes on them. It was funny to do debriefing with underwear just hanging around.
- they sell seaweed flavored lays here. The green bags here are nit the sour cream and onion like at home. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way.

Blessings on the week!!! Will write more on Saturday!!

In Chaing Mai

We made it to Chaing Mai! The night train was awesome. We all loved it. We are staying at a nice resort tonight and have even heard fireworks here to celebrate the 4th of July here in Thailand. We are going to an HIV/AIDS orphanage that Lindsey had worked at 2 years ago for the afternoon. Here's a big shout out to my sister Linnea for her birthday!!!
Happy 4th!!!