Monday, June 30, 2008


Well, we made it to Bangkok yesterday afternoon. This will be the last leg of our trip and we leave back for America on Thursday evening and arrive in America on Thursday evening... very weird.

Bangkok is a busy city. Lots of traffic and high rise buildings. If you've never been to Thailand, I'm telling you, you have NEVER seen so many scooters! They are more popular than cars and I think that it's because they can zoom in and out of cars and that is exactly what they do! As far as the rules of the road in Thailand, the rules are that there are no rules. If there's an empty spot ANYWHERE on the road, someone is going to go there. I road in a Tut Tut (not sure of that's right) last night and it's like a golf cart on steroids. It goes super fast and he just wove in and out of traffic, didn't slow down for people (pedestrians do NOT have the right of way here), and, at one point, was going the wrong way down the street with scooters coming at him! You don't here anyone, for the most part, honking their horns here because everyone drives crazy! It seriously felt like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland. It actually was a lot of fun, but I don't know that I'll do it again :-)

We experienced our first thunderstorm last night at dinner (thankfully we were inside). There was thunder and a lot of lightning and the rain just came down in sheets for about 20 minutes and then it let up and didn't rain the rest of the night. The rain does, however, make for a lot of humidity. After dinner we went to a shopping center in the same area and I was dying- so humid. I really do miss the California weather! I also miss not living out of a suitcase. That's one of the only things that I really hate about traveling... trying to find where I put something and something as simple as a shower, that would normally take me 15 min, takes me 30 min because I have to gather up all of my stuff and get situated.

Yesterday morning I ended up back at the orphanage in Pattaya and had a great time! I was able to drop off a bunch of toys and Goie and I spent all morning there. We first went in and played with the toddlers again. It was so cute because the baby that Goie had been playing with the afternoon before, actually recognized her. Her face lit up when she saw Goie and she toddled on over to her. Thankfully, I did not get peed on this time, but I did bring an extra shirt with me, just in case. After the babies were put down to bed, we were taken over to the building that boards the deaf children. I would guess that the ones we worked with were 5-7 years old. I loved it! It's really not something I probably would have chosen to do on my own, but one of the manager's suggested it and I can't tell you how glad I am that I did! All of the kids wanted our attention and we got to see them learn how to sign 'morning activites' i.e. getting up, brushing teeth, getting dressed They all wanted their pictures taken, especially this one boy. He was such a ham for the camera. Always striking a pose for me :-) One thing that really struck me... a long time ago, I took a sign language course and I have a few books on it, and American Sign Language is SO similar to how they teach in Thailand. During the whole lesson, I actually only noticed one different sign. So, I was actually able to communicate with some of these kids! Not a lot, but a little at least. It was funny when we couldn't communicate, because it was almost a three-way interpretation. I would ask Goie something, she'd have to translate it into Thai for the teacher and then the teacher would have to translate it into sign language. One of my favorite parts was when the teacher asked me if I would like to teach them to sign the alphabet. So, I was able to take these blocks that have letters on them and teach the kids how to sign their ABCs and they picked up on it SO quickly! Next, the kids washed up and went over to the cafeteria for lunch... they had some sort of vegetables, rice (you get rice with EVERYTHING), and fish dish. They also had fruit and an ice cream cone for dessert. One of the little deaf girls had me sit with her and feed her. I think that she just really needed the attention because she is definitely old enough to feed herself. I'm sure that they do need a lot of attention, though... they are one amongst 200 children and there, of course is not a 1:1 ratio between the kids and the teachers/nannies.

Goie and I were picked up by the rest of our team around 1pm and we made the 2 - 2 1/2 hour trip to Bangkok. Stopping at a Starbucks along the way, of course :-) Once we got situated in the hotel (not a horrible hotel, but myself and the other girls did spray a whole can of Lysol between our two rooms), we went out to dinner, as I mentioned, did some shopping (you have to barter here at most places) and came back and went to bed.

Today we'll be going to the NightLight Ministries. They do similar work as the Tamar Center in that they go out to the bars in Bangkok and minister to the girls. One difference between the two ministries is that NightLight teaches the girls how to make jewelry, so I'm excited to see what they have to sell! Tomorrow is the day before we leave, so it will be our R & R day. We are getting up super early and going to the floating market. The floating market is a market that is all on boats (I've heard) and you have to take boats between the shops. It's apparently very well known. We'll probably do other touristy things and then tomorrow our plane leaves from Bangkok around 7pm at night, and I'm not sure what we'll do in the day.

Thank you all for all of your prayers and support!

Love you!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Church & HIV/AIDS Hospice

Wow- two updates in one day! I'm sitting at the Glory Hut, a coffee shop a couple of doors down from our hotel. Andrea, my team lead, has a friend who owns this coffee shop and she's letting us use her computers and phone to touch base with home.

One thing that I think I've failed to mention in other posts was the 'Lady Boys' in Thailand. You won't believe this, but when boys are going through puberty, some parents will fill them up with Estrogen, to turn them into a dual-sex. They start treating the boy like a girl- painting their nails, calling them by a girl name, etc.- then the estrogen causes parts of them to develop that shouldn't and they end up being kind of a dual sex person. The parents do this in the anticipation of being able to sell their boys into prostitution because there's actually a demand for that here. So, they actually have a child with the intention of selling them into prostitution to make a profit for themselves. I'm telling you... this is all so surreal and I think that, at this point, I have a wall up in my mind because it's just way too much to take in and try to comprehend. So, you have male/female prostitutes, lady boys, pedifiles, child prostitution and sex trafficking all in one city. And, those are just some of the problems. Pattaya really needs your prayers. I've been told that there have been definite changes over the years, so you can see God using people to change this city, but more needs to happen, so please do pray for the people here. One cool thing, though, when we were out driving the other night- we saw a huge crowd of people along the beach and they were handing out flyers and there was someone speaking... turns out that it was a Korean organization/church and they were educating the public on Human/Sex Trafficking and what they could do to stop it- great to see that people are taking action directly in the city where all of this is happening!

We did make it to both of the church services today and both were 'same-same, but different' :-) The first one is the church of the couple who owns the Mercy House Orphanage/Shelter. It's held at the Royal Palms Tower Hotel, in a conference room. It amazes me how many English Christian contemporary songs they sing. Today they did the entire service based on the song "Indescribable" and how amazing God is and what He is doing in Thailand. They did this whole trivia thing where you had to get up and move around to different areas of the room, depending on which answer you were choosing. Definitely not something that I'm accustomed to, but, then again, if you tried to do that at Saddleback, it would take 20 minutes for everyone to get out of their chairs and move around. These were much smaller services- probably 50-60 people. We went through the sermon and sang songs throughout the service and then at the end, they had a family come up to the front. They are leaving to go to Australia to minister for 6 months and so they had all of the congregation pray for them. This service and church is more of an international church, meaning that they cater more towards the 'Farongs'... us :-) So, it was all English speaking. After the service we walked, I don't even know how far... I'm sure with the heat and humidity I looked super pretty when I got there. This service was also held at a hotel and this hotel was more in the bar area, but a very nice hotel. This service catered towards both English speaking and Thai speaking, so they had someone translating the entire time. There were a lot more worship songs at this service... probably about 8 or more and then they ask people (whomever wants to) to come up and share their testimony or how they see God working in their lives. I really liked that part of it. I loved hearing and being encouraged by these people's stories. Some of them had children in prison, others had HIV/AIDS and some were people who just requested prayers. The Pastor then spoke and that part of the service was pretty brief... probably 30 min or so (out of a 2 hour service). Then they excused us and, over the loud speaker, they started to play the "God of this City" Passion Conference CD. I'm seriously loving it! The music, alone, makes me feel so at home.

Next, we ran over to a mall across the street to pick up a couple of things and Karen, Kim and I made a run for Starbucks and as we were standing in line, I noticed that they sell packages of coffee from Rwanda! My mission trips have come full circle :-) They took a picture of me holding the coffee. Speaking of pictures, I have been taking quite a few. I think that I'm up to 350 right now and other girls have been taking pictures as well; so, I will have visuals to help you get a better picture (no pun intended) of Thailand.

Next, we took the girls who run the HIV/AIDS Hospice out to lunch and then took a ride over to the hospice. I was told that the hospice had just been renovated and it was ten times better than it was. Now, don't get me wrong, they had brand new beds and equipment and the interior was brightly painted, but it's still not what I was expecting. Very humble building with the bare minimums. It's, I think, only 3 rooms and they all have bunkbeds, they have a refrigerator, fans, a freezer and a TV in one of the rooms. I actually am not even sure if there were doors. We are really so spoiled in the USA. These accommadations were considered great, by the Thai standards, but if you were to take and put that building into America, it wouldn't fly. It would probably be considered... you know what, they wouldn't even let hospital patients live in those buildings. But, these are very humble people with meager means and they really have done a tremendous job given what little support that they have. It, once again, just makes me realize how truely spoiled we are and how we are ALL obligated to get out and do something. Myself included. There is definitely much more that I could be doing and I just need to do it. It's not right to let people live like that. Especially people who aren't well. The girls and one guy who were patients there were AMAZING! Just such genuine people who find joy in the simple things. They love the Lord and, even though they may have a disease, they are still doing their part to make this world better. They are all a tremendous example. They are all super sweet and gracious and hung out with us while we were there and took pictures with us and laughed with us. I loved them.

Tonight, we ran by the local grocery store to pick up supplies for PB & J sandwiches to take to the local prison tomorrow morning. I wish that I could have spent 2 hours in that grocery store just looking at the different products that they have. They have Lays potato chips, but not the flavors we are used to at all... they have Bratwurst flavor chips, seafood mayonaisse flavored chips and short rib bbq flavored chips... oh, and I think that they had a seaweed flavor chip. Seaweed everything is very popular here. Kids actually eat it as a candy. (no thanks) The fresh meat is just sitting out for people to pick out the pieces that they want to take, they have a huge selection of fresh fruit for dirt cheap, oh, and squid. The Thai people love their squid. I almost gagged walking down the section that has the squid. Smells like rotting fish. But, smells are something that you have to get used to here. Everytime you walk over a grate in the street, you will always get a wiff of something not so pleasant. I've learned to just hold my breath; but, if you have a sensitivity to smell, Thailand is probably not the place for you.

Back to the squids... there are seriously vendors on bicycle carts driving up and down the street with a small, almost, clothesline looking thing and they just have these small squids air drying on clothespins. Oh, and I didn't even mention the bug vendors. Yes, you can purchase grasshoppers and some other nasty looking bugs, just as a snack from a local street vendor. Yum.

So, we've finished making the sandwiches and now we are just hanging out for a bit and then I'm off to bed.

OH!!!! Thank you to anyone who prayed for me about the orphanage. I'm going back tomorrow instead of going to the prison ministry. I really was feeling that God wanted me to go back and spend time there, but I just didn't know, logistically, how that was going to work. I couldn't go by myself, nor would I want to try and travel in a Song Tao (open air taxi) by myself, and everyone else seemed to want to go to the prisons. I prayed about it last night and this morning that if God wanted me to go, to open a door for me. As soon as I finished praying, I thought about our Interpreter, Goie (sounds like Joy). She had loved being at the orphanage and the other group wouldn't be needing her to interpret for them at the prison because they were going with an English speaking Pastor. So, I hypothetically asked her this morning that if she had her choice between the two, where would she rather go and she immediately replied that she would choose the orphanage. Now, I just had to get approval from my team lead. I explained to her that I really felt I should be going back to the orphanage and before I even said anything more, she's all "absolutely. If that's what you feel God wants you to do, then you do it." Then she reiterated what I had already been thinking about in terms of taking Goie with me. Perfect. I get to spend a few more hours with the kids tomorrow and take toys to them and I am SO looking forward to it!

Pratchow Oui Pawn! (God bless!)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pattaya Orphanage

It's about 7:15am on Sunday morning and I got up early to have a little bit of time to myself (and with you :-) before we leave for breakfast at 8am. Today is Sunday, so we are obviously going to church. But, not just one church service. We have two Pastors who would like for us to visit their churches, so we are going to one service at 10am and one at 1pm. I'm very curious to see how the church services are here. They were very different in Rwanda last summer, so I think that it will be an education on Thai culture today.

After church, we are going to the grocery store to pick up a bunch of supplies (no Target out here :-( to make PB & J sandwiches and we'll also pick up a bunch of fruit and shampoos and other daily essentials to take with us to the Prison Ministry tomorrow. We'll be visiting the local jails and handing out food. The prison's here are very different. They obviously rely on outside help to feed the prisoners and when you go into the prisons, the people are separated by ethnicity (Cambodians, Vietnemese, Thai, etc.), they are also separated by male/female and you'll see babies and kids in prison because they are with their mom/dad. But, I suppose prison is safer than the kids being let out onto the street where they can be picked up by a mamasan and sold into prostitution. Later tomorrow, we will be traveling to Bangkok for the last 3-4 days that we are here.

Yesterday, we went and walked the local beach and talked to the boys living on the beach. They really have absolutely nothing except for the clothes on their back and most of them are probably in their late teens/early twenties. The one we spoke with yesterday, Bui, was there because his Farong (Thai word for foreigner) boyfriend had broken up with him and kicked him out. He said that he was very sad and didn't want to talk about it anymore because he didn't want to cry in front of us. One of the girls gave him some money and we all prayed for him.

In the afternoon, we went to the Pattaya Orphanage. Okay, I have to say that this has, by far, been one of my favorite things this whole trip. It's a Catholic-run orphanage and the lady who showed us around, Ah, was the cutest thing. She was so short and petite, but she had SO much energy and she obviously felt strongly about what they were doing at the orphanage and she has a real passion for the children there. It's a rather large facility and they have a small soccer field and playground and a number of buildings. They also house deaf children there- the deaf children, however, haven't necessarily been orphaned... they are just being boarded their while they go through school. They also had a couple of developmentally disabled adults in their 20's and 30's living there also. We were first taken to the playground where the young kids were playing and as soon as we approached, several of the kids ran up to us, grabbed our hands and pulled us over to the playground. They all wanted to be held and more than one of us was called 'mama' while we were there. The kids seemed to be really happy- they looked like any other kids that might be at recess in school. After that we went over to the nursery and toddler building. We spent most of our time there. We didn't spend time with the babies because they are just too suseptible to any germs we might have, but we could look in and see them. There were a lot of them. Two to a crib and at least one of them looked premature and several of them looked like they were newborns. Ah said that a lot of the children come from young un-wed mothers who cannot take care of them. When a mother wants to give up her child, they put them through counseling sessions to ensure that they are aware of the decision they are making because, in Thailand, once the papers have been signed, that's it. They've signed over their rights and they have no chance of getting that child back. The toddlers were all way too cute. There was one girl who we were calling 'monkey' by the end of the day. She was crawling all over the tops of the cribs and up on dressers- anything that was high off of the ground. We had to run several times and pick her up off of high dressers that she had managed to get herself up onto. One little girl, we were told, had no hope of adoption (she was probably less than a year old). The reason is because, for whatever reason, they had absolutely no paperwork on her and without paperwork, I guess they cannot adopt that child out. Currently, Thailand is working with the USA to come to an agreement so that US citizens will be able to adopt from Thailand. As it is, at this one orphanage, alone, they have over 200 children and, on average, only 12 adoptions per year. At this particular orphanage, they do not have HIV/AIDS babies. They test the babies as soon as they come in and if they have HIV/AIDS, they are automatically sent to an orphanage that specializes in that because that is where they will get the best care.

I REALLY want to go back- I met one girl from England who was there volunteering for 5 months and the orphanage is paying for her food/lodging. I don't know if I'll ever end up doing something like that in the future, but it's something to pray about! You can know that I really enjoyed it because, these kids are all in cloth diapers, which do absolutely NOTHING as far as keeping the kids dry. So, needless to say, I was pee'd on not once, but twice. And I was okay with it! I just went to the restroom and washed myself off. :-)

I hope that all is well at home and I hope to be able to update you all soon!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Same-Same, but Different

This is a very common saying in Thailand. When you are comparing something between America and Thailand, and it's a similar custom, they will say 'same-same, but different'.

I've done a bit of baking the past couple of days- we taught a trainer at the Tamar Center how to make Lemon Meringue, Apple and Pineapple Pie, bread, and pizza dough. They all came out really well (phew) and the trainer seemed really excited to start selling pies and pizza dough in her shop. We had a lot of fun spending the day together... although, I forgot that a pie pan was hot and I grabbed it. I spent the next 30 min with my hands in ice and I only have one small blister on one finger, so I fared pretty well.

Last night we went to another bar, Robin Hood. For the first time, I really didn't feel good about being there at all. I felt very uncomfortable with the guys looking at us and I felt like I needed to go up and explain that we weren't for sale and to get lost, but I didn't :-) Plus, I kept getting the chills while I was in there- I haven't gotten the chills since I stepped off of the plane- it's too hot!!! We met up with an American pastor who runs an HIV Hospice and the Mercy House- prison outreach and orphanage. He's a really amazing person- very grandfather-ly. We'll be going to both the orphanage and prison ministry later this week. At the end of last night, we went to part of an all-night prayer session at the Tamar Center for Pattaya Praise (Christian Festival) that takes place in November. I loved it because I walked into it and they decided at that point to take a break and the musicians come up to the front and start playing a song. They were playing "How Great is Our God" in Thai. Then they switched over to English. It was really incredible!!!

Today we are doing a beach ministry- ministering to the beach girls- same as the bar girls only they work the beaches. We are then going to a baby orphanage in the afternoon and going to an area that has pediofiles this evening - yay!! :-) We're probably just going to drive through. Thank goodness.

Well I'm running out of time on the internet- 2 min to go! Please keep praying and love to you all!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bar Girls


I'm so glad that I've had the chance to update everyone so often. I pray that these opportunities continue to present themselves!

Last night, as mentioned in the previous blog, we went out to the bars. I met a couple of girls in this one bar and sat down and talked with them for a little over 1/2 hour. One was there because she had to support her mom, sister, brothers and 5 year old son back home. She is hoping that she'll meet a good man who will take care of her... when you talk to the girls, 99% of the time, this is what they are hoping for and believing is going to happen from the 'dates' they have. Another girl was visibly upset while speaking with us. She shared with us that she didn't want to be doing this, but that someone was making her do it. She didn't elaborate further, so I'm not certain of the details.

So.... I never thought that I'd say this, but I bought the two girls out of the bar for the night. In order for them to go to dinner with us, I had to pay the mamasan a fee to take them out for the night. Do you know what a girl is valued at in Pattaya? Approximately 300 Baht. 9 US dollars. Our group took them, along with 4 other girls out to dinner and just spent time talking with them and sharing our faith. One of the leaders had a polaroid camera and she took pictures of us with the girls and gave them to the girls to take with them. The girl whom I spoke with said, "I'm so glad to have this photo. Now, when I miss you, I can just look at it." That just about broke me down into tears. The other girl who was so upset early was actually laughing and smiling by the end of the night. I know that we didn't fix their situation, but I pray that God used us to give them some hope that God does love them and He does have a perfect plan for their lives and that no man will ever love them as much as Jesus does. We also went to "Walking Street" last night- the red light district- more details later as I am running out of time.

Today I went with one other girl back to the Tamar Center and we taught one of the bakers how to make pies. We made a pineapple pie today and tomorrow morning we will make a lemon meringue and apple pie and we'll also teach them how to make bread. Then in the afternoon I believe that we are going to the HIV/AIDS hospice to minister to the people who are living there. I'm hoping to go to the Mercy House sometime soon or to the slums to visit the children, but I'm going to trust that God knows what is best for me and where I need to be and if I don't end up going there, then I don't end up going there. I've been taking a TON of pictures, so I'll have pictures to back up everything I've been sharing.

I keep saying it, but, again, this is SUCH a humbling experience. It puts things so much into perspective and makes me realize how much God has blessed me and how just small acts of kindness can go such a long way. Please continue to pray for me and my team and I will continue to keep all of you posted as best I can.

Love to you all!


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

God of This City

Well, we've made it half way through our second day and things are going great! I've got a good night sleep last night and feeling much more rested today. This morning, after breakfast, we headed our to the Tamar Center for their Wednesday Worship Service. I was a bit delayed getting into the room and the service was already underway; but, when I walked in, they started playing this song (hadn't started the lyrics yet) and I'm thinking to myself, 'hmmm, I know that I know this song. I sat down and then it hit me what song it was- 'God of this City'. I think that my jaw practically dropped to the floor and not only that, but they sang it in English and this was a room that was 90% Thai speaking and they were all singing it in perfect English. It was truely one of those God moments. Especially, considering the first time I heard the song, at the L.A. Passion Conference, was when I was trying to make a decision to go to Thailand or not, and that song and that conference were key in God telling me He wanted me to go. There really aren't words to express what I was feeling- it was, again, such a God moment and it gave me, again, confirmation that I was exactly where God wants me to be at this time. Truely amazing.

Afterwards, we received a tour of the center and watched a video on what the center is all about... I'm going to try and post it when I get home. It's such a great organization and they do such selfless, sacrificing work. Next we had the opportunity to teach English to a few of the bar girls. My girls' name was Wei and she was so sweet and she learned how to say "She is brushing her teeth. She is washing her hair. She is eating breakfast." and numerous other everyday phrases. At the end, I prayed for her and her family and she held my hand for a while and gave me a big hug, which is fairly uncommon for Thai people as they usually don't show affection. She asked us if we'd be coming back on Friday to teach again and it looks like God heard here because not 15 minutes later our schedules freed up on Friday and we'll be able to return and teach English again.

We continue to have amazing food. Today we had more Thai food (surprise :-) and we had this fruit, Queen's Fruit and Leeches and, oh my gosh, we have to find some way to get them imported to America- the best fruit I've ever had!!! In about 20 minutes we are meeting up with the rest of the team and we'll be heading back out to the bars, but this time, we'll be going into the bars and actually sitting down and talking to the girls. I just continue to pray for protection and that God would give me the words that He wants me to share with them. Tomorrow I'll be working with our Trip Leader to teach a baking class amongst other things. There are so many details that I just don't have the time to write, but you'll hear probably more than you ever wanted to hear when I get back! And, when I do get home, I'll have more time to fill in the blanks. Love to you all!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

We're Here!!!!

Hi, I don't have a whole lot of time... we just stopped briefly in an internet cafe (and to get out of the sweltering heat) to check our emails. Everything is going great!!! The flight was 16 1/2 hours long and, oddly enough, it didn't feel like it was that long. Slept for part of it, watched movies, journaled and read my book. We hit a little turbulence over the Pacific Ocean because of a tropical storm, but my anti-anxiety pill had already kicked in, so I was doing GREAT! :-) We landed in Bangkok Airport around 5:40 am this morning and we've been going every since (it's 3:37 pm on Tuesday here). We checked into our hotel Jomtien 12, which is nice and clean and across from the ocean, so it's pretty cool weather there. We had a group lunch... I had the cashew chicken and it was REALLY good and now I'm eating fresh pineapple... also really good. This is not a trip where you're likely to lose weight, that's for sure. We just got done going through downtown Pattaya in the bar area, handing out invitations to English classes at the Tamar Center and information on Christianity. All of the girls seemed to be really receptive to it and we ran into a couple of business owners who were Christians (there are less than 1% Christians in Thailand- about 99% Buddist, so you see shrines all over the streets- decorated small, almost like birdhouses, and they are colorful and decorated with flowers and people put their semi-full coke bottles down next to them (some sort of worship to Buddha). As I previously mentioned, it is pretty hot downtown. I think that my make-up melted somewhere around 3pm. Not entirely sure what we'll be doing the rest of the day. I think that tomorrow Andrea and I will be going back to the Tamar Center to teach a class on baking. That's the plan for now... that could change in two minutes. Our interpreter Goie is great- very sweet girl from the northern part of Thailand and she's the only Christian in her family. She said that before knowing Jesus, her life was terrible and then a friend invited her to church. She accepted Christ and, in her words, her life is so much happier. I really admire her- she goes out and evangelizes to others and she works with YWAM (Youth With a Mission) to share the love of God with those who are seeking/lost. I just think that it takes so much courage for her to go against her families beliefs and to stand up for what she believes in.

Yes, I've seen the old western men walking around with the young (way young) Thai girls and actually as I sit here in the internet cafe, the man next to me was looking up different locations to find Thai women. It's really hard to believe that this is the reality for some people. But, amongst all of that darkness, you do see lights. There are those people out there, such as those who work with the Tamar Center, who are devoting their lives to helping girls get out of this awful situation- true heros and servants of God.

I can guarantee that I'm forgetting to write down a ton of other details, but I'm sure that I'll get to them at some point.

Please continue to pray for me and my team- you all are just as much a part of this trip as I am and I couldn't do it without God's strength and your prayers.

God bless!!!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

And I'm off... (Prayer List)

In 30 minutes I'm leaving to go meet up with the team at the Saddleback Church parking lot where we'll board a shuttle to LAX airport for an 10:55pm flight straight through to Bangkok, Thailand. We'll be landing in Bangkok at 6am Tuesday morning... it's still so weird that Monday will actually not exist for me :-) I can't thank you all, again, so very much for all of your encouragment, calls, emails, posts, and, above all, prayers!!! Please keep your prayers coming- they make all the difference in the world. I love all of you so much and I hope to have the opportunity to keep everyone posted while in Thailand. Regardless, I can't wait to have the chance to share my experiences and how God works in our lives, as a team, and in the people we come in contact with. Thank you and God bless!!!

Prayer List:

- God's will to be done
- Team unity- we'd all get along well and give one another grace
- Safe travels
- Flights - Thai International Flight 795 from LAX to Bangkok
- Thai International Flight 794 from Bankgok to LAX
- Shuttles/buses/transportation while in town
- All luggage to arrive
- Safe/clean hotel w/air conditioning
- Jomtien 12 in Pattaya Beach June 24-29
- Ruacmchitt Travel Lodge in Bangkok June 30- July 3rd
- Good health before, during and after the trip
- Safety- prayers for God to place a hedge of protection around us
- Prayers for those family/friends at home- for peace of mind, good health and safety
- We maintain humble and service-oriented hearts/attitudes
- Protection from spiritual attacks
- Good weather- low heat/humidity
- Plenty of food/clean water
- Opportunity to communicate with people back home using phone/email
- We'd have down time to relax and have quiet time reading/praying/etc.
- That we would allow ourselves to be the hands and feet of Jesus
- We'd listen and be receptive to God's still small voice
- Courage to follow God's leading
- Wisdom on how to handle any situations that may come across our paths
- We'd maintain an attitude of flexibility and compassion for each other and those around us
- God would speak through us
- The people of Thailand- that their minds and hearts would be open and receptive to the message God will speak through us and that God would use us to change lives for the better

Saturday, June 21, 2008

24 hours to go...

Really busy day today. It seems like it doesn't matter how far in advance I start getting ready for a trip, I still feel like I'm scrambling at the last minute. Lots of washing, ironing and rearranging clothes to make everything fit. As you can tell from the picture, my friends came over tonight around 7 and we ordered pizza and watched old episodes of 'Friends'. Dana brought over these Jet Lag pills that I had wanted to buy, but hadn't had the time to do so and she also bought me my favorite perfume, Philosophy's 'Amazing Grace', in a travel size. It was really nice of her- thanks Dana! :-)

It's so funny how our topics of conversation are so all over the place... traveling, VGL (lol), food, homelessness, the pros and cons of the Mama Mia Pizza Hut pizza crust versus the traditional Pizza Hut Pizza crust - we all have very strong opinions about our food choices :-) and about how all of our diets will start tomorrow, (me not so much) so that we can feel free to eat as much pizza and pie as we want tonight... which is good considering we each got our own pizzas to eat. Okay, well I feel like I'm going to get to the point where I'll start rambling, so I'll end it now, but here are a couple of other pictures from the evening.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Amazing People

Today was my last day at work before leaving. It was more emotional than I thought. Last year I thought, for sure, that I was going to break down before leaving work, but I didn't. This time I thought that I wouldn't have a problem and low and behold... waterworks. I think that it was just because everyone was being so great. Everyone at work has been so supportive and encouraging and they are all excited for me and they've told me they'll be checking this blog (hi girls!). It's just overwhelming the response I've received. Some of the things people have said, either in person or in email, have just been amazing. Very humbling.

On a lighter note, we were talking at work about the weather in Thailand and how it's supposed to be very hot and humid (yay!) and everytime I think about humid weather, I think about that episode of 'Friends' when they go to the carribean or some tropical island... maybe the Bahamas... and Monica's hair reacts to the humid weather. Let's just hope that the humidity doesn't do this to my hair...

In this episode, ultimately, Monica ends up putting her hair in cornrows to stop having to deal with her hair. I do not care how humid it is... I will NOT be putting my hair in cornrows :-)

After work I ran over to the Soccer Post. As the name suggests, it's a store in Yorba Linda that specializes in soccer equipment. The assistant manager had told me that I could come in and pick up some soccer balls and she would give me a discount because they were being bought to take to an orphanage. We had initially talked about a price of $5 per ball, and that's a pretty good deal in itself; but, when I arrived today, she gave them to me for $3.00 a piece. I bought 10 and then she said that she was going to throw in an extra 7 for free! Here's a picture of the pile of them (they aren't blown up for traveling purposes- will pump them up when we get there).

When I got home, I had another surprise waiting for me. My sister had bought me a hat from Disneyland to wear ...

It's very cute. It's a brown courderoy material with pink embroidery. She also had gotten me a ring that I had lost a couple of months ago. It's a simple silver band and it has "Faith, Hope, Love & Peace" engraved on it. I was so bummed when I lost it (and I still have no idea where I lost it) and I was just thinking last night that I wish that I had the ring to take with me so I was really happy to have another one. I should glue this one to my finger. I'm a clutz and if I don't break it, I lose it. Tomorrow I think that I'll be finishing packing, going to church and then a few of my bestest friends :-) are coming over for pizza, salad and lemon meringue pie. Really, their coming over to keep me sane and to distract me. Knowing them, they'll do just that. My stomach will probably hurt from laughing by the end of the night and I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Time to Pack

I'm realizing that it's not the actual packing that I dislike, but it's the anxiety of what "can't-live-without" item or items am I going to forget at home. That's probably why I started packing Sunday night. I need to make sure everything fits and that the suitcase is within weight limit guidelines, which, in most cases, is a HUGE irritation that I have with the airlines. The overseas flights I took last summer limited you to 45 lbs. Now, 45 lbs sounds like a lot, but that's before you take into consideration that the luggage, alone, without anything in it, can weigh 18-20 lbs. Last year I actually had to return my suitcase to Costco and buy a lighter weight one. And, even then, at LAX on the day of departure, my carry on item was 4 lbs too heavy (15 lbs weight limit) and so myself and a couple of other girls are sitting on the floor of LAX check-in, shifting items around. Thankfully, on this trip, Thai Airlines has very relaxed limits. We can actually check in two bags at 70 lbs a piece and take a carry on plus my purse. That may actually be too relaxed for someone like me because, then I feel like I really should take enough stuff to get close to that 70lbs limit. And, really, I'm a girl... that's not hard to do :-) Here you can see me with the fun job of packing all of my shampoos/conditioner/toothpaste etc. in those glad ziploc bags...

Now onto the fun items... I get to take one whole suitcase full of toys/donated items. These will be going to the Mercy House orphanage and to the Slum Ministry.

And, even better, the Quilting Ministry at Saddleback Church donated about 20 homemade quilts for us to give to the kids. Here are a few pictures of them:

This is the backside of one of the quilts and I had to take a picture of it because one of the ministries we'll be working with in Bangkok is Night Light Ministries, so this is very appropriate :-)

If you'd like to read more about the Night Light Ministry, here is a link to their website ---------->

They employ girls who have been rescued from sex-slave trafficking. They teach them skills on making jewelry and they sell it on this site to raise funds to further their ministry. I think that their name, Night Light, is so appropriate as they really do create light, in the form of hope, in such a dark place.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Flip Flops

No, I'm not talking about the sandals. I'm referring to my stomach because that is what it's been doing ALL DAY LONG. Sometimes it's the good, I'm-excited-to-go flip flops and other times it's the what-the-heck-am-I-doing flip flops. I've had to ask people to repeat things to me numerous times because my mind is racing 100mph and it just doesn't have room to retain any additional information. So, if you've had to deal with that side of me, I'll just apologize now and ask that you bare with me cause it's not gonna get better these next few days :-) Besides the forgetfulness (although you really can't call it forgetfulness because in order to forget something, you have to have remembered it at some point in time), it feels like every emotion is amplified 100x. When I'm excited, my heart is racing and I can't stop smiling and that's great. No complaints there. But... the reverse is true too... something that might normally be a minor disruption or a small irritation, has, all of a sudden, become a big production and it's going to have serious implications and somehow it's 'the end of the world'. Prime example: I've been having allergies these past few mornings and today I was in a meeting and there was a slight twinge in my ear. Now for the next couple of hours I'm trying not to freak out because this slight twinge could explode into a full blown ear infection and we all know that you can't fly with an ear infection, or if you do, you could seriously damage your ears, so I wouldn't be going on the trip. See? Psycho. Definitely, a huge prayer of mine is for peace. I need to trust God more and turn all of my worries over to Him. I need to just settle down. I need to just relax. I need to go to bed... that's what I need to do. Have a good night- talk to you soon.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

On a lighter note...

Wow. Less than a week to go. By this time next week, I'll be on a shuttle to LAX to catch my flight to Bangkok. I woke up this morning thinking about that and feeling a little overwhelmed and feeling the anxiety creeping in. Then I turned around in bed and this was what greeted me...

That's Jackson (or Jack), my sister's cat.
He's definitely a little snuggle bunny that's for sure.

I had a fun weekend. Went to a Bridal Shower on Saturday for Danielle, a girl who used to be in my small group. We all had a good time catching up and hanging out. Then I came home and, amongst other things, I put together these foam sunvisors that I had bought off of Oriental Trading Company. They're just sunvisors made to look like an animal's head on top. I thought that they might be fun things to hand out to the kids while we are in Pattaya.

This is what they look like when they come out of the box:

This is what they look like once assembled (try not to be jealous of my amazing crafting abilities :-)

And if that wasn't enough, check out how cool they look on :-)

And we CANNOT forget the princess (don't worry- you too can be the proud owner of a foam tiara)

Now, where in the heck is that prince???????????????

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Not so fond of the ducks anymore...

It's ironic that a place that is known for being so beautiful, could harbor evil just around the corner from it's picturesqe beaches.

Slowly, by word of mouth, people are finding out that I'm going to Thailand and everyone comments on how beautiful it is; and, based on pictures, it really does seem to be a beautiful area. But, then you Google "Walking Street" in Pattaya and the pictures aren't so pretty. Girls standing out in front of bars, holding signs to try and entice customers to come into their bar. Some of these girls couldn't be over 15 years old and their clothes are barely covering their bodies. It's so odd how things aren't always what they seem.

Speaking of things not always being what they seem... today was upsetting at work. We have a reflecting pool at work and the past couple of months there have been a few ducks that have made it their home. At least two males and one female. Most of us always got a kick out of looking out our windows and seeing ducks on our campus. Then the ducks disappeared for a couple of weeks and it was kind of a bummer... we kept looking everyday to see if they'd come back. Then, earlier this week one of the ducks, a Mallard, was back hanging out in the pool. Couple days later the female and the other male were back. I just thought that they were all so cute.

Until today.

I come into work and find out that, apparently, the two male ducks ganged up on the female duck and killed her. It was really so sad. She was just laying there in the water with her head draped over the side of the reflecting pool. The two male ducks kept coming over to her and pecking at her and staring at her until finally, one of the gardeners came over and took her away. But, I still noticed, throughout the day, that those two jerks would go stand over where she had been laying and just stare. I had heard that, apparently, Mallards are pretty violent when they are trying to mate with a female and they push them under the water, so the poor thing probably drowned. So, me being me, I had to google the mating rituals of Mallard ducks and, sure enough, that's what the male ducks do (according to Wikipedia). They, oftentimes, gang up on the female and peck at her and essentially rough her up until she's too weak to fight and then they mate with her.

Lovely. I will never look at those stupid ducks the same. My image of them is shattered beyond repair. =P But, it's not just the ducks that upset me... it was just what it got me thinking about. I mean, why are we so cruel to one another? Why do we behave so violently towards others? It's something that I struggle with a lot because I just can't even begin to understand what is going through someone's mind when he/she purposely and willfully hurts another person. I mean, what goes through these sex-traffickers minds that allows them to sleep at night. How are they rationalizing what they are doing??? What is going through their minds that trafficking would even have entered their minds, in the first place, as a means to earn money? What's even more scarey to me, is to know that I have that capability in me. I have the capability of committing horrific acts of violence towards another and I would be kidding myself (and you're kidding yourself too) if I thought that I'm above that. Realistically, I'm one bad decision away from doing something horrible to another person. I mean, look at 'road rage'. People who, typically, have their tempers in check and would never think to intentionally harm someone... one day they are cut off on the way to work and suddenly they snap and they tear off in their car after that person- probably not even knowing what they want to accomplish by doing this, but just to let that other driver know that what he/she did was not okay and they should be sorry for it.

Wow- this is kind of a downer blog posting, isn't it??? lol. I'll have something lighter next time. I plan on sharing pictures of my amazing artistic abilities, as demonstrated through foam animal sunvisors (no ducks) I've been making to take along with me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

12 days to go

I can't believe that it's been since May 25th since the last time I added something to my blog. 3 weeks. That's crazy. Time goes by so quickly.

So, when I started all of this, I had forty plus days before I was leaving for Thailand and now I'm at the less-than-two-week mark. Again, time goes by ridiculously fast. I am (finally) looking forward to my trip. I'm still apprehensive and definitely feeling inadequate for the job, but I'm finally excited about it. Yay! :-) It's been really great to see how God is pulling this whole trip together. It seems like we've had changes happening left and right, but they've all brought our team to a place where I feel like we can really use our gifts to make a difference.

To kind of give you an idea about what I mean, I'll explain it a little further. One of the Team Leaders, on a previous trip to Thailand, had promised to revisit the southern part of the country to paint a few murals at a church. She feels very convicted that this is what she is supposed to be doing; however, to travel to the southern part of the country would mean that we would have to spend almost two full days traveling by bus... one day to get there and another day to get back. When I had heard about that, I wasn't all that thrilled. I feel very strongly that I want to form relationships with some of the agencies and girls in Thailand and I was really excited about working at the Mercy House and the Tamar Center. I really didn't want to be traveling all over the place- I wanted to have some focus on this trip. And, especially when I found out that the Tamar Center was wanting us to teach the girls skills on baking- I mean, talk about God's timing for this trip! These baking classes are a brand new addition to their curriculum and they 'just happen' to be rolling them out during the two weeks that we will be there. So, to hear that we'd be gone for four days to southern Thailand (on an already short trip to begin with), I was upset and disappointed. But, I prayed about it and just had to trust that God would put me where He wanted me to be.

A couple of weeks ago I was having dinner at Downtown Disney with some old Disney co-workers and a received a call on my cell phone from the Trip Leader and she was sharing with me that she would really prefer not to make the four day trip to southern Thailand and she asked for me to pray that God would create a way for us to stay in the Pattaya area. The only glitch in our plan to do so was that the Team Leader still really felt called to go to the church in Southern Thailand and we didn't want to prevent her from doing that; but, in order for her to do that, there had to be at least one other person for her to go with and, at this point, most of the team would prefer not to make the trip. So, fast forward a week... I get an email from the Team Leader telling me that, last minute, her husband has decided to join our trip. He said that he felt God was calling him to go and that if he wanted to get any sleep anytime soon, he had to agree to go.


Problem solved.

Now Suzanne can go to Southern Thailand with her husband and we can stay in Pattaya. And, now I'm finding out that the baking program they are rolling out is an even bigger deal than we originally thought and I may be spending a good portion of my time working on that project/training. We'll have to wait and see. Only God knows what He has planned for us. I keep talking about Pattaya and Southern Thailand, so here's a map of the country:

Pattaya is pretty much in the center of the map, just south of Bangkok. The southern part of Thailand I was referring to is a town called Nakhon Si Thammarat... find Vietnam on the map and look to the left of it. As you can see, that would have been quite a drive... I'm told 8-10 hours each way.

God's been working on our behalf in a lot of ways these past few weeks. The leaders found out that money we thought we had, we actually didn't and I just found out last weekend that I was still owing more money for the trip when I thought that I had well paid for the entire thing. And, wouldn't you know it... these past couple of days I've had a couple of people come up to me and say, "I'm sorry that this is late- I hope that it's not too late to contribute to your trip" and they've each handed me checks to help support me. I am now at the financial goal I had to reach and my trip is all paid for. I can't help but think to myself that they both thought they were late in getting the money to me, but it was quite the contrary because they money arrived just in time and just at the right time because it was God's timing- He may take longer than we'd like, but He's never one second late.