Sa Wat Dii! What a crazy and unpredictable start to our cross-cultural experience! Back in May of last year we posted about the “yay duck and the yuck duck” outlook: the paradox (pair-of-ducks) that both the positive and negative perspectives in life are there, and the importance of seeing and accepting both. Here in Thailand, society is slowly, and with restraint, making a return to “normal.” Stores and restaurants are opening up, so this seemed like a good time to let you know what we have been up to with our yays and yucks of social distancing. Remember, as humans we often have a tendency towards pessimistic or optimistic – so the challenge is to experience both.
YUCK: “Adventure” – is our theme word for the year. We were planning on setting a mindset of boldness and adventure by being intentional about exploring Thailand and going out of our way to meet new people. About six weeks after we arrived here, right when we were starting to get settled into language learning and a routine of “adventure” the government shut down all non-essential stores and requested everyone to shelter in place like most countries. This put an obvious barrier to our mindset of adventure.
YAY: While our expectations of “boldness” and “adventure” are challenged, not being able to go to parks or hiking has allowed us to focus on walking around the neighborhood – and meet lots of people. We live in quite the international neighborhood – there are families from England, Sweden, and Detroit as well as many Thai families. Since the evenings are cooler, and with better air quality, many people are now outside. This gives us an opportunity to meet some new people and practice some Thai phrases we are learning.
YUCK: When we were at language and culture training in Colorado, one of the key suggestions they gave was to get outside as much as we could; to engage people and experience the culture as much as possible – not to stay at home where we can feel “comfortable” away from culture. (The complete opposite of what we have had to do the last two months).
YAY: We have had an opportunity to connect deeper as a family: we have had a lot of discussions about things that are similar and things that are different than our life in the USA. We definitely have really hard days, but we see God working in our marriage and in our family…(and even in our homeschool battles, like many of you!)
YAY: Once the air quality improved, we have been able to spend more time outside in our yard. The property here has several fruit trees including banana, guava, papaya, two types of mango, and rose-apple. Between all of these fruits, we also have been working in the yard with all the orchids, bamboo, plumeria, etc. For us, working in the yard has been relaxing, stress-relieving, and food for spiritual thought.
YUCK: The whole family started going to Thai Language school a month after we arrived in Thailand. We were able to go in person for only two weeks and then the schools suddenly closed.
YAY: We are thankful for technology and have been able to continue our language studies online. It’s not always easy to hear the tones…but we are getting it! One thing we have appreciated is that since our teacher is also at home, we have been able to connect with her on a more personal level as we hear about her friends, family, and Buddhism. If we were in the school setting we don’t think we would have had an opportunity to talk more openly.
YUCK: One of our top priorities to get settled in Thailand is to find a church community where we can receive God’s Word and be fed. Finding a new church can be intimidating, especially finding one where everyone in the family can make connections. Of course, under Covid restrictions all the churches are closed and we did not have time to connect with a church community…yet.
YAY: While we have not been able to connect with a church in Chiang Mai, our home church in California has shifted to online services which we have been able to watch as well as participate in an online Bible study group. In terms of cultural integration and finding community for the kids, online will not be a viable long-term solution. However, it is nice to study with friends and be a part of a worship community online.
This social distancing, especially in a new country and culture, is not something we can control. What we are trying to do is focus on what we can control, how we respond and use our time. The biggest takeaway from these past few months has been to spend more time looking inward and developing our personal relationships with Jesus and with each other.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalms 139:23
Here are a few updates, praises, and prayer requests from Kim Brown and the staff of House of Love and House of Blessing:
We praise God that all of our House of Love family has continued in good health. We would ask for continued prayer for them, and also for wisdom for the staff as we start looking at what the start up of school might look like in July. We are grateful we will have the personnel for helping with homeschooling, if that is what is needed, but we would need to buy extra computers or devices (our students are in many grade levels at 8 different schools).
Please also continue to be praying for all of our House of Blessing students, who would normally be starting back to school this month (but school is out of session until at least July 1) Our students all live in densely populated slums with little hope of being able to socially distance or self-quarantine themselves, putting them at risk for contracting the COVID-19. These children used to have a healthy hot lunch when they come to school, so we are trying to make sure our families have rice and other food as the parents are unable to work right now.
Can you also be praying for the health of our children at the CDPD project? Having disabilities, these children are often more medically fragile, and we would appreciate prayers for their health and safety. We also are sharing rice and other food with our CDPD families. Some (like the students who are blind) board at their schools, and so receive 3 meals a day there, but with no school, families are finding that feeding teenagers can put a strain on their food budgets!
Pastor Tim Dee representing the Thailand Karen Baptist Convention (TKBC) and Pastor Thra Chirasak representing the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT, District 19) met with us for an introductory meeting.
How do you get mangoes from the tree? Use a really long pole with a basket on the end.