Well, it has been awhile since I have written a blog or let anyone know what is going on with me or my work, so here it is. I would also like to add that I am not a blogger (I guess I am now) or a website designer, so please forgive me for any mistakes. I hope and pray that as I do this more and more the website and blogs will improve. My goal is to create at least one blog a month and to take pictures so you can see what is going on here in Thailand!
In the past few months our church went from a Catholic school, which we were in for church only, to our own building! That is an amazing answer to prayer that we have been praying for since we started going to the On Nut 49 church. We have been in our new building for about 3 months now and everything is going great! Our church was in the middle of the slum which created some problems; the children were able to control the flow of the service by banging on the windows, yelling in the windows, and doing whatever they could to disrupt and distract our service. It was incredibly hard for us to figure out how to deal with children who don’t obey or have parents who care how they act. After about a year we have figured it out, somewhat.
We have had a dip in the amount of kids that come every Sabbath since we have moved, but in the last few weeks we have been getting a good amount of kids to show up. It is hard when we have 25 to 30 kids with 2 teachers, and one cannot speak Thai very well, to keep them all under control. But after a lot of prayer and planning, by the grace of God we have been able to keep even the worst behaved kids under control. We are in the process of preparing for a Christmas play and party. It is already proving to be a formidable task but as we practice more and more we are rewarded by the children’s dedication to the play and songs. We are hoping to get at least 50 new people to our church this Christmas.
We are also blessed to have Nut, our first scholarship student. Kelvin, another church member, and I went up to Chiang Mai Adventist Academy and spoke with the principal and administrators and were able to receive a 25% discount for any students we send there, cutting the cost from about $1200 to $900 for one year. When we factor in all the costs of travel, uniforms, and supplies it comes to about $1200 again, which gives us enough to send him to CAA for 2 yrs. Everyone at our church is very excited for him to go and start his first year of high school there.
We plan on sending him to CAA for his high school, and then when he completes his high school, sending him to Asia-Pacific International University for his college. We plan on adding at least one new student every year so we are moving forward in faith the God will provide the money to give kids with no opportunity, the opportunity to learn, to learn about God, and be successful. When we went to CAA we were able talk to the students, view the classes, and see the curriculum. I was very impressed with everything! Students at CAA have their time planned for them and are taught discipline; they are very respectful and have jobs around the school, after school sports, devotions, and a book selling program in the summer. Nut will not be receiving this scholarship completely for free he will have to work to earn money that will go towards his tuition and in the summer sell books to help the costs as well. Personally, I am super excited for him. I cant believe that God has chosen me to be the one to help these kids get education and tell them how important education is. I am a high school dropout and went to college only to party and sell drugs. When I think about it I can’t help but laugh because I was always the bad kid, the loud kid, the annoying kid who only went to school to get in trouble and now here I am. It reminded me of 1 Corinthians 1:25-27:
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
I read this and cannot believe that this is my calling. When my friends and family hear about the things that I am doing, spending all of my money and selling all of my things to come to Thailand to tell people about Jesus Christ and Him crucified and trying to spread the love that He has given to me, it is foolishness to them. Some like the things that I am doing and think that it would be better if I left the “religion” out of it, but they don’t understand that it’s not because of religion that I am here, it is because of the sacrifice that Jesus made for me, the love and the grace that He gives me so freely, that’s why I’m here and that’s why I’m doing this, to give the love and the grace that He has given to me. To some people that is foolishness, if you looked at my life before I was weak and worldly and unfit to do any of the work that I am doing now. Even now I feel totally unqualified to do the things that I am trying to do, but, I keep remembering that God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called! Which is to me a rough translation of that verse. Even though I am not the most qualified God has provided and made things that even I didn’t think were possible, possible. I thank Him every day for this opportunity!
Our church was blessed two weeks ago with the chance to go on a church camping trip in Nahkon Nayok. We took about 17 people from the On Nut area about 2 hours outside of Bangkok. Some of our church members are disabled, some are handicapped, and most of the members are old but we don’t have a shortage of kids. We were only able to bring 4 kids with us this time but we all had a blast and enjoyed the time we were able to spend together. The camp we went to was a family camp and we were able to play soccer, freeze tag and all kinds of games with them. It was awesome that one of our older church members, Worachai, who is 60 yrs old, enjoyed playing soccer and freeze tag with us and was actually really good! We all had a blast and then on the way home we went to a dam and then to a water fall which was very fun. I had to carry the old man in the whee chair, Lumchanat, down some old, old, old stairs in the forest and plant him in-front of the waterfall in his wheelchair; then I went with a few others and the teens and explored the more dangerous parts of the waterfall.
There have been so many things, good and bad, that have happened. So many things that I can’t even remember everything, but I will leave you with one last story that will hopefully open your eyes to the reality of the slums. I was there a few weeks ago with the woman who helped start the church and we were talking and giving a Bible study to Nut and we stayed a little too late. It had been dark for about an hour and we decided that it was time to leave, but before we left we thought we would visit another old lady. It was about 10 p.m. as we drove into the slum in the dark to her house; a bunch of motorcycles followed behind us. I figured it was just a bunch of kids getting ready to go party but I was wrong. As we pulled up to her house and started talking a mob formed around the gambling den and they started to beat down two guys. As we stood there in shock about 30 people were kicking and punching these two guys, who were laying unconscious, while the mob pummeled the two of them with feet, fists, and bottles. People were coming out of the woodwork with knives and all kinds of weapons while the old ladies grabbed them and pulled them away. I was worried about what this was about and that me, being the only white person down there, might be a target too, but I came to find out that one of our old students, a young girl, Nong Nan, went into another slum with one of her friends. While they were there somehow they were taken somewhere and were taken advantage of by 6 guys! I could not believe what they said and it made me sick to hear that. Her friend was able to get away and come back and tell someone; when the people in the slum heard they formed a posse and went and got her back. They also grabbed two guys who were with her and brought them back to their slum and gave them some street justice. With the state of the police and how acceptable rape is in Thailand nothing probably would have been done. It is scary to think about a place where the police do nothing when something bad happens, but that’s what it is like here. A year ago I was all for moving down into the slum and was convinced that my wife was just afraid and wasn’t trusting in God enough. After this I realized that these feelings that I had to move directly into the heart of the slums was my desire and not God’s will. After witnessing this I realized that right now I don’t fit in yet and that I would probably not fare too well there. From now on I will avoid being there after dark and be extra careful when I am.