The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity. And there is much to be thankful for! I celebrated my birthday on Nov 11, and received lots of kind cards and gifts from friend in the States. I also had a birthday party, and invited some friends. It was a fun mix of people from Japan, America and Thailand!
My vacation in Uganda was a thrilling adventure. I got to catch up with some old family friends, the Kisekka family. I stayed in their home, and met neighbors and friends. I had some good time to talk with Evans Kisekka, the bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Luwero. And I had the honor of attending their son, Dennis' college graduation. He is like a brother to me, and it was a joy to be there for the graduation. Dennis and I also had the unexpected opportunity of going to a game park and seeing lots of exotic animals! I also had a chance to preach in a little Baptist church while I was there. But the best part was having a chance to pray and do Bible study with my African brothers and sisters. Their spiritual depth, and passionate love of our Lord was a real encouragement to me, and I came home strengthened and rejuvenated. Praise God for this wonderful blessing.
Since I got back from my trip to Uganda, one of the New Life Center staff has been down to Bangkok several times to sell their crafts at some Christmas sales. I went to the sales to assist her, and spend time with her. During these conversations, we spoke about a new problem that has arisen. I would like to ask you to pray for the New Life Center, as there will be some difficult decisions ahead for them. The government has recently changed the laws regarding adult education. They are proposing to close adult night school programs such as the one the New Life Center girls attend. This upcoming year, the girls who have completed 6th grade or 9th grade will not be permitted to continue studying, and the other grades will also be phased out within the next 2-3 years. The girls are too old to go into the grades that are appropriate for their current level of education. Please pray that God will intervene in this situation and provide a way for the girls to study. Basic schooling is a crucial element of the New Life Center program, and the Center staff is currently discussing how they will deal with this difficult situation.
The evangelism seminar I went to at the Muang Thai Church was well worth the time and money. There were 10 missionaries who attended the 40-hour seminar, from all different backgrounds. The teaching focused on how to have an attitude of meekness when doing ministry with Thais. I had to reshape many of my assumptions about mission work, and especially about Buddhism. The pastoral couple who led the seminar are brilliant, and authentic Christians who love the Lord, and have such a heart to reach their people. We had some interesting and vibrant conversations! On three successive afternoons, they set up for us to have 2-hour meetings with a group of about 14 bright, young Buddhist high school students. These were students that the church has developed a long-term relationship with. The kids were currently at the church for a month of English camp during their school break. They had a list of all kinds of good questions about Christianity, such as "When your God forgives peoples' sin, where does the sin go?", and "Why didn't God prevent Al-Qaida from blowing up the World Trade Center?" and "How do you know you will go to heaven?" We also got to ask the kids some questions about Buddhism. After much good discussion, one of the pastors asked the kids to each say one thing that was good about them. One by one, each of these kids began to cry as it was their turn to speak. No one had ever asked them such a question. No one had ever affirmed that there was anything good about them! A few said, "I try to obey my parents", or something to that effect. But the vast majority of them said things like, "I know I am not a good person. I try, but I can't be good enough. Sometimes I say bad things." They each knew in their hearts that they need a Redeemer to help them.
So as each child started crying, one of the missionaries or Thai church leaders moved to sit down next to that child, held their hand, and gave them tissues. The kids cried for about an hour and a half. We each prayed for the child we spoke with, and those of us who could speak Thai heard the kids' stories. The girl I sat next to said, "My name is 'Dee', which means 'good', but I don't think I am good." She went on to tell of how her father physically abuses her mother. She talked about the turmoil in her home, and the ways she rebels. I prayed for her and her family. I explained that the problems in her home are not her fault. And we talked about how she is so precious, and loved and important in God's eyes. We talked about how she can talk to God when she is afraid, and doesn't know where to go. Afterwards, I also talked to the pastors about her situation in her village home, and they said they would try to do what they could to help her. Please pray for "Dee", and all of the kids who were there that day, that God would protect and care for them, and that the truth of God's love that they heard at the church would sink deeply into their hearts.
A few weeks ago, I went up to Chiang Mai to look for a place to live. The missionary fellowship I work with says that it can sometimes take people months to find a home. But miraculously, I found a place within just 4 days. God was so kind in providing the perfect place at a rent that is under the stipulated limit! The landlord's nice. And there's a neat little Thai style guesthouse on stilts in the front garden!! (With air conditioning, and a bathroom with hot water!) The main house is a clean and spacious one story place, but not too big for me. (The other places I looked at were humongous.) There are 3 small bedrooms - one will be my study. The kitchen has an oven and a refrigerator. There's a nice living room area. In the back, there is a big, open room with lots of windows. I think I'll make it into a dining room. Plus there's a laundry/storage area. There are two gardens. A beautiful one out front, and then another one just behind that with all kinds of Thai herbs and spices for cooking! I will be heading up there on the 17th of December, and will enjoy Christmas in my new place. Thank you to those folks who prayed that I would find a place to live...our prayers were answered even more generously than I could have hoped for. And I look forward to welcoming guests in the pretty little guesthouse.
I would also appreciate your prayers for this new transition. I feel like I have moved so often in the last few years. It seems like every time I begin to get to know neighbors, find out where to do the shopping, and develop a routine, I'm off to somewhere else. Each new change brings both frustrations and joys. But it's always painful to say goodbye to friends, and tear up my roots once more. It's also nerve-wracking to not know exactly what my job will entail in Chiang Mai over the next few years. Please pray for God to guide my steps, and show me where He is calling me to serve. Pray for Him to provide the wisdom and resources to do the tasks ahead. And pray that He will build a new network of friends for me there. Also, as I approach the second Christmas without my mother, and so far from the rest of my family, please pray for God's comforting love to surround me.Christmas is the hardest time for me to be away from home.
Thank you so much for your prayers, and notes of encouragement. And thank you for the way you give so generously to support my ministry. I also want to encourage you to round out your year-end giving with an extra offering to International Ministries to help reduce the serious deficit we are facing this year. Many blessings to you. And may you have a joyous holiday season this year.
Your Sister in Christ,