What a busy and wild start to the year! As we are already almost to the half-way mark of February, I will share what I've been up to and some other recent developments with this next year.
Teaching at GIS
The first weeks of January after holiday break were LONG. It was especially difficult to step back into the working world after a nice few weeks of rest in Lao and Chiang Mai. My students are maturing in some ways and in others, regressing back into immature, behaviors...which is typical of this age as they are in the midst of the "crisis" of the preteen years--"I'm not a child anymore, but I'm not a teenager or adult, so I'll just do what I know is safe and comfortable...act like a little kid". So daily, I've been working with my students on how to navigate this strange stage of life which can be a challenge for us both.
The decision to end Diakonia was a really obvious one, but very difficult for me personally. When sign-ups came along, only 3 kids signed up when we really need 8 or more consistently. Additionally, my team member who co-lead it with me, was unable to anymore and no one had stepped up after months of praying and asking around. I was sad about ending a program and ministry that has meant so much to me over the years, but had felt last semester, that it might be coming to an early end. Diakonia positively impacted our GIS students lives and the lives of those we served. It's been a good go...3.5 years and lots of cross-cultural friendships! Secondary has a program that is similar and actually started out of Diakonia, so those opportunities might still be available to students as they enter middle school. I have many moments and memories that I'll cherish and hope will spark more excitement for future ministry. Not to mention, this provides me with a bit more time to focus on what's ahead...:)
Visits From Friends
Such fun times were had this month with a friend from my Greeley days who was visiting Chiang Mai while on a visa renewal for her job in Myanmar. We explored some of the hills in the area and enjoyed catching up! Also, some other friends from Greeley who are teaching in China were in town and it was so good for my soul to exchange life happenings with them! I'm looking forward to some more visitors in the months ahead!
Here it is! Many of you have been gracious in asking me what my next plans are. I've responded delicately because nothing is set in stone and what I continue to plan for myself becomes disrupted...
After much prayer and discernment, I have decided to stay and serve in Chiang Mai another year! I will not be teaching and serving at Grace International School, but instead I will be working with Partners Relief and Development an organization close to my heart that I’ve supported over the years. I will be teaching English and life skills at their refugee and migrant center in Chiang Mai. It is definitely an upset from the plans that I was "sure of" and had/have told so many people. "It will be my last year living in CM 110% blah, blah blah." I apologize to all those I said that to...apparently I need to learn, again, to not make plans or to be so sure about directions. :)
How did this come about?
In December, I was beginning to feel challenged about my reasons for leaving CM and questioning why I felt so anxious about returning to the U.S. right now. Was it only because of grad school? Or was there more here in CM that offers opportunities for what I have a passion for? I love living overseas. I've always admired Partners and that they are one of the main organizations on the frontlines of refugee crisis around the world, namely right now in Bangladesh with the Rohingya. There are connections and opportunities to work alongside their efforts in Chiang Mai. For the past few years I've always thought if I were to work with an NGO at some point, it would be with them.
So, when I was contemplating other routes, I thought "why not pursue working with Partners and see where it takes me?" After visiting the center where I'd be working and having many encouraging conversations, it just seemed clear. This is a step in a direction that could potentially opens doors for dreams that I have for future work and ministry.
What seems to be ahead:
I am thrilled to be working with Partners for multiple reasons. I will not only get to teach and develop friendships with ethnic minorities from Myanmar, but I will also have opportunities to advocate and travel to villages, refugee camps in Thailand, Myanmar, and Bangladesh (Rohingya) to further help and support the many people I have a heart and passion for. I am hoping this experience will also benefit my continued education and experience as I write and do research for my graduate degree. So all in all, it just seems to be the right fit for the time being.
I still hope to begin grad school this fall to earn an MA in Intercultural Studies through Fuller Seminary, and the program is flexible so I can do it online if I choose. So basically it looks like I’ll be finishing up teaching at GIS in June and then returning home to Colorado for a bit to raise support and share with people before returning to Thailand in August.
This new position will continue to be support raised as I will be volunteering under this non-profit NGO. I am having conversations with TeachBeyond right now to see if I would be able to stay on with them as my sending organization. This would be a huge blessing so that I don’t have to completely change over to something different and I can continue to receive support and benefits through them. So I’m currently praying that I can get approval from TeachBeyond. If you are a financial supporter of mine you can feel free to email me about any questions that you might have regarding future support. I have been immensely grateful for the ways so many of you have supported me over the years.
I know this is BIG news and probably not what many of you were expecting (neither was I), yet it is another way God continues to disrupt our lives when we choose to follow Him. The paths He leads us on are equally daunting and exciting...what a journey it is!
Praise Him for what He is doing not only for the wisdom and revelation He’s given me, but also to others’ about His sovereignty and direction even though we don’t know where it leads.
Please continue to pray for me as I go this new direction and my life in Chiang Mai “flips”. There are many details such as moving to the other side of town, how to balance grad school and ministry, and a transition to new relationships and community that I’ll be experiencing.
I’m excited in the way God is leading, but it’s definitely a bit crazy!
So there you have it!
Writing this, I am ecstatic with anticipation for this new venture, but I'd be lying if I didn't also didn't say I MISS so many of you and my Colorado home. The sacrifices continue to add up but I'm finding it's a risk worth taking. Living overseas has truly WRECKED me, but in the best way! It has and continues to be the Lord's leading in my life that surprises me but always shows me there is more ahead than what I leave behind. May He be glorified!
Sara Gurule c/o