It's been awhile folks! Time for an update...I apologize in advance for the length...lots of catch up to do! You have my permission to skim...:)
Two months ago, this is what I wrote BEFORE I headed back to the States...
It's probably a miracle I'm still standing. It's been a LONG few weeks. Thank you to all of you that have been thinking of me, sending me words of encouragement, praying me through this rather difficult time.
All in one week-
packing up a classroom, packing up a house, teaching the final week of school, last report cards, final Continuation ceremony, moving across town on the last day of school and hosting my mom and two friends.
all the goodbyes of people leaving for good and of people who all meant a lot to me for a time. So many things.
I am currently drained. Void of any energy. I am thankful to have this week to "recover" and gear up for the next 6 weeks of life in the States. Saturday I will make the long trip (3 flights, including a 16 hour one) back to the US of A. I will start my time off with a week in upstate New York before heading to Colorado for the remainder of my time. I am looking forward to some speaking engagements, share times, breakfasts, lunches, dinners and desserts with many of you. Basically, just really excited to spend some time on my home turf. I need it so bad,
Please pray for me, specifically, this week as I prepare for the coming month. Pray for rest. Pray for my weary heart and all the processing going on of so many new changes.
I am happy to report that by the end of July when it was time for me to get on the plane to return to Thailand, my heart was in a much better place and I arrived back to my second 'home' filled, energized, and ready to jump into the unknown.
I praise the Lord for his faithfulness to me during these months of anticipation and change. It hasn't been easy. There have been many moments where I don't feel strong enough to lead the life God is calling me to. In those times, I continue to rely on Him and trust He will equip me and empower me to do "every good work". This summer has been very confirming for me...that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be for the time being.
I've now been back in Thailand for a month already! Time flies. I arrived ready to go, but as usual, the Lord allowed plans to change to bring me rest and a time of adjustment. I was supposed to leave for my first trip with Partners to the Thai-Burma border 4 days after getting back. The night before I was supposed to leave, I got a call from the team lead that she was sick and the trip would be postponed until Thursday. Immediately I felt frustrated, constant change of plans again even though it's out of my control. I realized it was MY expectations that needed to change. The Lord's words to me, Let Go. No, not the song...:) although that was in my head too...
SO I thought, "what will I do for three days?" Then I realized that it's been so easy for me to throw myself into my work the past 6 years, teaching. Non-stop go. All of the sudden, my life has halted and I have a lot to do still, but the daily responsibility not as intense or urgent---it all looks so different and I'm just figuring it out...which means a lot of random meetings, spontaneous errands, odd jobs, and trying to learn to rest.
Additionally: There are visa and work permit troubles between the Chiang Mai immigration office and work permit office. Basically, where I am at now with this legal process, every 90 days I would have to leave the country (to Laos) and re-apply for a full 90-day visa again. It's a lot of time (at least a 3 day trip) and money. Many foundations and NGO's are hoping that the disagreement between the offices will be sorted out soon, especially since Chiang Mai is a hub for many non-profits and volunteer workers...this affects many people, foreign and migrant alike, having to leave the country.
In the midst of this uncertainty, I have peace. This is all out of my control, like so many other things. Again, the words are Let go.
It's definitely been a season of learning to live in the moment, releasing expectation, leaning in trust and walking by faith, not by sight.
Delay aside, my trip to an IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp was quite the experience and fueled my energy and excitement for what I'm stepping into.
The camp is situated in Shan State Myanmar that is a small area of mountainous land, a cease-fire zone in between the two countries. This zone is where groups of Shan live. It is a difficult to reach area...situated in thick, mountain jungles and is quite a trip to get to. We traveled for hours in a van on one of the famous roads in Southeast Asia, known for it's steep switchbacks (thankful for dramamine and peppermint oil). Then traveled in the bed of a pickup for hours on rutted, muddy, steep roads through the jungle-4 wheeling like I've never experienced before.
In this rural place, there is a clinic and school. Partners is the main support for development there, providing necessary equipment and supplies to these villages. Not only supplies, but the most important provision are trainers and teachers. There was a group of us from SEED (the language center I am teaching at in Chiang Mai) involving a group of native Shan women and only 2 foreigners including me, our goal for the week: teaching health education to medic students and high school students.
I came primarily as an observer, although teaching some on health. It was an experience I'm not soon to forget. We spent lots of time with the students, who are mostly in their early 20's. All who are being trained to become Community Health Workers (CHW). I've learned that the impact of CHW trainings are extensive and changing the outcomes for so many that have no access to first aid of any kind. After lectures during the day, we spent the evenings hanging out with and encouraging students through hosting a game night and movie night.
One evening happened to be the Thai Queen's birthday/Mother's Day so we rode up the mountain to attend a prayer ceremony. Let's just say, it is one of the few times in my life where I've felt "famous" and only for being ฝรั่ง farang or a foreigner. Everyone clamoring to get a picture with us. Overall, this was quite the cultural experience watching as the whole village packed into a large concrete room on top of the mountain. We all stood in lines in front of monks and lit little wax-candles, like the size of birthday candles, but holding them like candles at a Christmas Eve service. They melted so fast and the wax burned our hands, not very pleasant. Twice we were told to light them, only to be told to blow them out because it wasn't time yet. I was just waiting for a fire to break out from all the candles and no space. Finally, when all the candles were lit, people everywhere knelt down and chanted the prayers of the monks for the Queen. I stood quietly praying to the Lord to bless the Queen and make her a great influencer for the nation and people of Thailand. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to take part in this ceremony.
The entire time we stayed in the village, it rained...no, poured. Mud everywhere, water dripping into the small tin-roof, bamboo homes of the villagers. One of the most impactful moments for me was touring the conditions of the clinic. This village is blessed to have a clinic, even if it has only old, outdated equipment. One night I was invited to meet the patients there. Wandering the open-air hallways while rain fell and visiting with patients that laid under mosquito nets, huddled beneath scratchy wool blankets on squeaky, cold metal hospital beds in concrete rooms...not necessarily a comfortable place to heal. The least I could do was give them a smile, words of encouragement, and pray with them. Some of the patients we visited and gave snacks to, were "out back" in little concrete rooms apart from the clinic, quarantined because of tuberculosis or mental illness. It was eerie and so heartbreaking at the same time. Thankful that they have some access to basic care in that village, which is better than many other villages. I've heard so many stories of healthcare in these rural places and at times patients have to travel being carried through the jungles, to trucks like what I experienced, and then paddle boats to cross rivers, just to receive basic care. If it is serious, they might not make the trip. That is why it is so critical to train these CHWs.
When the trip concluded. I arrived back in Chiang Mai...jumping right in to all-staff meetings, job orientation and teaching at SEED. I also had the opportunity to visit the Partner's demonstration farm and see SRI (System of Rice Intensification), which doubles rice production, in action. This means I got to see lots of rice being planted!
Living in transition, I've had to remind myself it's ok to give myself grace each day because it is a lot of new. I've begun adding one new thing to my routine each week or tackling one big project at a time. Last week I starting teaching at SEED. This week I joined a gym, and started making myself meals at home. Next week, hoping to get a better motorbike/cycle...just in time for my birthday. Then start Thai lessons again. I would like to paint some rooms in the house and start an herb/flower garden before grad school begins the end of September...but we'll see ;) Adjustment isn't easy, but I know that God is walking with me through it all.
I am teaching level 2 English to 25 adults three nights a week at the SEED language center in CM. It is conveniently close my new home. My students are mostly Shan migrants from Shan State. They have been a joy to teach so far-so inquisitive, alert, and excited to learn English so that they can have better education and job opportunities and provide for their families. My first night, we were stuck on the 3rd floor of the center in the computer room (small-comfortably fits 12). I was told we would have 20 students. I cleaned, moved computers off tables, organized furniture and thought, "there's no way we can fit 20 people in this room", but we got 25 and somehow we all fit ;) I'm looking forward to seeing how my SEED students and I grow where we are planted through this experience! A highlight of teaching this class is that I am piloting a new culturally-appropriate curriculum, specifically for people from Myanmar, learning English. This is a big step in the right direction for educating our students in the context they are in.
Also: I've written my first blog for Partners...it will soon post! Check this site, for stories from other volunteers and staff. Click here.
If you would like to support me and become part of my team: click here to give---Quick, Easy, Safe!!!
Here is the giving newsletter I sent out in July with more info: click here
1. I had a wonderful, fulfilling summer and was so blessed to spend time with many of you! Thanks so much again. I wouldn't be able to do this work without your love and support.
2. I've got an awesome housemate and we are, so far, living well together. She's already been such an inspiration and encouragement to me in this season.
3. SEED classes are going well! I'm enjoying teaching in this context, my students are so fun and getting to know the staff at Partners and hear their stories and what this incredible organization is doing is really exciting.
4. I was able to successfully register for the grad classes I wanted :)
5. Financially, the Lord is graciously sustaining me. I have not been able to raise enough for a car, but hope that a more reliable motorbike will be sufficient. I've been so encouraged by so many of you giving financially, blessing me so I can pour out your gifts further.
1. Continued grace with adjusting and transitioning and that I wouldn't have any anxiety over things out of my control.
2. That I would receive a work permit (that will hopefully be for a year) within the next 2 months.
3. Building community. It takes a lot of courage for me to step out and meet new people and join a new community here, especially since the GIS arena was my "safety zone" for so long. It can be daunting at times. Pray I am affirmed and encouraged in the new community I have just joined.
4. I start my online grad program Sept. 24! Pray I would be able to manage my time well and that my learning would be constructive as I engage in conversations and hope to become more effective in work I'm called to.
5. Safety in travel, as there is potential for some work trips in the coming months. Also, continued financial provision.
Every-other week, I will be sending out much shorter updates and stories via email. I will continue to use this blog, however photos and specific stories involving my new work will be sent via email for sensitive purposes and for the protection of the people I am working with. If you would like to receive those, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll gladly add you to the list. If you are receiving blog email updates, you are already automatically added :).
Please let me know how I can pray for you! Appreciate you taking the time to read this. Sorry it's so long. I hope to provide shorter and more frequent updates in the future!
Be blessed :)