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!)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Julie,

I'm happy to hear to made it to Thailand safe and sound. Thanks for keeping us a part of your experience by blogging. I really love reading about it too! Take care, and have a safe trip back.

<3, Tuyet

L said...

Julie,

It sounds like you are having a great experience. I am enjoying reading about your updates. Can't wait to see the pictures when you get back.

Marissa :o)