Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shake Rattle & Roll

And, that's exactly what Southern CA did early this afternoon. Myself and one of my other co-workers were sitting up at the HR Lobby front desk covering lunch and we were just chit-chatting when it hit. For those of you who may not have experienced an earthquake before, it's a pretty unique experience. I've found that I notice noises before I actually feel the earthquake. I hear the shaking and rumbling and shortly thereafter, I start to feel the vibrations and then, this one, it really started to shake. At work, our buildings are on rollers (as are most buildings in CA), so rather than feeling sharp jarring movements, it's more of a rolling, seasick kind of a feeling. You could tell that we've lived in CA all our lives... minimal reaction to the fact that the earth just moved. We both just looked over at one another and said, 'huh, that's actually a pretty strong one' and I just sat there waiting to find out if I was going to hear something fall or break and, if it did, that would be my cue to dive under the desk. That didn't happen, so I just stayed in my seat and waited for it to pass. Almost immediately after it ended, I was on the internet searching sites trying to find out where it was centered and the magnitude. I actually found myself to be getting irritated that within 5 seconds of the earthquake, there was still no information on the web about it :-) Shows you how used to immediate communication I am! Turned out to be a 5.8 and then it was downgraded to a 5.4, with an epicenter of Chino Hills. Irvine, where I work, is further away from Chino Hills than where I live, so I called home to see how everything was and I guess that it was fairly bad in our town. No injuries or major damage, but it was just felt much more strongly. My sister said that she couldn't even keep her balance and that she could hear things crashing in the room next to her (my room, fyi). Turns out a lot of things fell, but nothing was broken. When I came home, the Pavilions near my home was closed, so I couldn't get groceries and there were some challenges with trying to call on my cell immediately afterwards, but other than that, no harm done. But, I know that there were a number of people at work who were really shaken up (no pun intended) by it.

It kind of got me to wondering about fears and how they differ for every person. Having grown up in CA, you'd think that it would be normal for me to be afraid of earthquakes... while nothing particularly bad has ever happened to me, personally, I still have pretty vivid images of strong earthquakes when I was a kid and, of course, from the 1989 San Francisco/Bay Area earthquake. I still remember those images of the section of the Bay Bridge that came loose and partially fell down onto the lower level of the bridge and the video of the car, unaware that the bridge was damaged, driving straight for the hole in the bridge, falling down into it and then the front end of the car coming back up on the other side. I remember the horrible images of the Nimitz Fwy, where a chunk of the upper level of the freeway, literally, came crashing down onto the bottom level- during rush hour traffic- crushing the people in their cars below. Then there was the fire that broke out, as a result of the earthquake, in the Marina District of San Francisco, burning countless homes to the ground. That earthquake was measured at a 6.9. I just remember it all being very surreal. So, for seeing, firsthand, what an earthquake can do, it's kind of ironic that they don't really phase me much at all. I just assume that it's one of the prices you pay for living in CA and I'd much rather experience earthquakes than a tornado or hurricane. So... I don't fear something that has happened and is, pretty much guaranteed to happen again; yet, my greatest fears are typically of things that have never happened to me- some of which probably have a lesser likelihood of happening than an earthquake, yet those are the things that can paralyze me. So, this simple earthquake that happened today has got me questioning my fears and if they are even worth my time at all. We all spend so much of our time worrying about something that might never happen.

"Worry gives a small thing a big shadow." Swedish Proverb

"It ain't no use putting up your umbrella until it rains." Alice Caldwell Rice

"Worry does not empty tomorrow of it's sorrow; it empties today of it's strength." Corrie Ten Boom

"Don't worry if you're a kleptomaniac, you can always take something for it." Anonymous

Friday, July 25, 2008

OC Register Article

My friend, at work, forwarded me this news article that was posted on OCRegister.com today. It's about law enforcement cracking down on so-called "massage parlors" located around Orange County.

My only objection to this article is that it refers to the girls as 'prostitutes'. I think that word automatically leads people to think that the situation is voluntary- that these girls are choosing this lifestyle. Now, this may be the case with some of the parlors, but a large portion of them are modern-day slavery operations. These girls are being trafficked through these brothels against their will. But, it's an interesting article none-the-less. I'm still having issues with posting links, so copy and paste this link:


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Can God use "Evan Almighty" to teach me something?

I was thinking back on the movie 'Evan Almighty' tonight. I know that there are critics out there who boo hoo such movies because they think that they somehow mock God; but, I truly believe that our God has a good sense of humor and that He probably doesn't get half as riled up over these movies as some of us Christians do. Personally, I thought that Bruce Almighty was hilarious and Evan Almighty, while not as funny, had a really good message behind it. My thought on the whole thing is that if either of these movies get people to think about our God or gets them curious about the stories in the Bible, then I'm all for it. We hardly have any movies out there, much less blockbuster movies, that even bring up the topic of God, Jesus or Christianity. Everyone is soooo concerned with offending someone or pushing our beliefs onto others. I figure, if you don't want to see it, don't buy the movie ticket. That's the great thing about America... you have the freedom to choose. Besides, I can't even count how many movies have offended me on the basis of violence alone; but, that doesn't stop anyone from making violent movies and you never get quite the uproar that you get when a movie about God or Jesus comes out in the theatre. I mean, regardless of your beliefs, I think that anyone would agree that the Bible's teachings are moral and that if people were to follow those teachings this world would be a better place (i.e. defend the widow, feed the orphans, love others, etc.) Even people I know who are of another faith, or no faith at all, believe that the Christian teachings are morally correct and that it's a good way to live your life.

Okay, so I've totally gotten off of the topic of Evan Almighty. I seem to have a tendency to do that- I start off on one topic and it carries me off into a completely different direction. Anywhooo... the reason I was thinking about that movie is because there is a conversation that "God" (Morgan Freeman) has with Steve Carrell's wife. A little background: Steve Carrell's character has accepted that he's the new Noah for this century and that he's to build an Ark and he's building it, regardless of what anyone else has to say. His wife becomes overwhelmed with not only her husband building a boat in their front yard, but he's also started wearing this brown tattered robe, his hair has gone white and it's grown long. So, she's taken the kids and left and she's at this restaurant, alone, and "God", looking like a busboy, comes up to her and asks her what's wrong. She explains the story to him and says something to the effect that she had prayed to God for her family to grow closer and they had just drifted further apart than ever before. "God's" response to her was:

"Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?"

Honestly, that moment in the movie was one of those 'aha' moments for me. I had never thought of it that way. I figured, I pray for faith, trust in God, patience and I just expected that God would automatically give me those characteristics or feelings. I couldn't understand why, when I pray for those things, things in my life wouldn't get better. If anything, I'd have more things to cause me anxiety, more things to cause me to feel impatient. I felt like, "God, was I not clear? I didn't ask for IMpatience, I asked for patience." (just in the event that He heard me incorrectly, I thought I should clarify :-) I was realizing that, typically, that is not the way God works. One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the account of Abraham and Sarah's life. Abraham was promised to be the father of many nations and Sarah, although older and supposedly barren, was going to have a son named Isaac. But, God didn't immediately grant that promise to them. They had to wait year after year after year, and they had to make several mistakes along the way (one major one involving getting Sarah's maidservant Hagar pregnant to 'speed up the process', before they arrived at that time when God's promises to them were fulfilled. They had to develop their faith and trust in God's promises before those promises came to fruition.

"Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping- believing that he would become the father of many nations..... Abraham never wavered in believing God's promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham's faith, God counted him as righteous." Romans 4:18 & 20-22

God doesn't make us wait to punish us or to cause us anxiety. He does it because waiting, meaning you'll need to have patience and faith, develops our character. It makes us more Christ-like. If everything were to be handed to us as soon as it was promised, there would be no reason to have hope or faith because you don't need to have hope or faith in something that you already possess. But, by sharing with people, what we believe God's promises to us are (even when we have no reason to believe so), we are able to glorify Him when others see the 'impossible' become the possible - they have to admit that this promise couldn't have come true without God being right in the middle of it all.

I can say, personally, that I've prayed a long time to have more trust and faith in the Lord and, at one point in time, I thought that He wasn't answering those prayers. Now, I know that He is answering those prayers through those "opportunities" He places in my life. Opportunities to be more patient, to have more faith and to be more trusting of God and His perfect plan for my life. Sometimes (probably more often than not) I wish that He would just 'zap' me with those characteristics, but it would be pretty hard to have more faith in
God when I've never had to have faith in the first place, rather, it was just handed to me. Besides, I have to admit that most of those 'opportunities' that have come into my life, to help me grow in character, have actually resulted in getting closer to my family and friends, developing completely new friendships, and going places I never thought that I'd go and that's really not so bad :-)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Couple of Odds & Ends

I keep remembering these random things from Thailand and they really aren't stories or significant events, but they are things that I remember, and want to remember, about my trip and this blog is almost just as much for me as anyone else because I always think that I'm going to remember something, but time goes on and I'll forget.

Odds & Ends:

1. 'Thailand' literally translates into "Land of the Free". Ironic considering thousands upon thousands of people are victims of modern-day slavery in Thailand.

2. Most food items are significantly cheaper in Thailand. For example, you can buy a good sized back of cut up, fresh pineapple for approximately 75 cents, but Starbucks prices are the same as U.S. They don't have as many drink options (i.e. they don't have the Chai Tea Latte or Strawberries 'n Cream Frappucinos I love)as in the U.S. and they also don't have any "Thai" Starbucks drinks... no papaya 'n cream fraps or anything unusual. I think that they are there to cater towards the tourists and that's why they can keep their prices the same. But, there are also other food/toiletry items that are much more expensive. Pretty much anything that they have to import from the U.S. is marked up significantly. So, whereas we could buy a Betty Crocker Cake Mix at Target for @ 1 dollar, in Thailand, they are at least $5 a piece. I was in 7 Eleven one day and they had Pantene Shampoo and this bottle couldn't have been too much bigger than a Target travel-sized bottle, but it cost $7.

3. One night four of us girls decided to go to one of the local hotels and have dinner at a buffet. It was recommended to us by a couple of locals and so we figured it couldn't be too bad.

We figured wrong.

The hotel seemed nice enough. High rise hotel and it was a bit 'Vegas-ified' in that it had a bungee jumping area, they had a couple of roller coasters (never saw any of them running)and then, of course, it had a buffet. The buffet was located on the top floor and we went over and asked if we could go up and see what it looked like. We were told that we could not and you had to pay for your meal first and then they would let you up on the elevator. Looking back, this really should have been a red flag to us. So, we figured, how bad could it be? And, we purchased the dinner tickets and rode the elevator up to the top floor. Now, to focus on the positives... well, really there was only one positive... the view. It was on the 53rd floor and the restaurant overlooked the city of Pattaya. Plus the restaurant actually rotated, so you were able to see all of the city. And, that's where the positives stop.

It was almost cafeteria-style seating in that there were a bunch of long tables with chairs and, I'm assumming, that if it was busy, you'd be sitting with a bunch of strangers at your table. It wasn't busy, so we did have a table to ourselves. We got up and went to look at the buffet. Let's just say that I just came back with fruit on my plate. It really was pretty bad. If Super 8 Motels had buffets, this is what they would look like. First of all, next to every hot dish they had a cartoon picture of the animal that was 'in' that dish. So, they had these cute little cartoon pictures of pigs and chickens and rabbits, etc. So, I look at these pictures and feel guilty about eating the food; but, all guilt aside, I couldn't eat it anyway. It really didn't even resemble food. It was probably one of the only times in Thailand when I really wondered if I was going to be taken to the hospital with food poisoning later that evening. Then, to top it off, right above the seafood was a sign for the patrons that read, "Eating large quantities of seafood can cause stomach upset and diahrrea" It's as if they know people are going to get sick off of this stuff, so they put a disclaimer up on the wall, in front of the food, so that should anyone come back complaining that the food made them sick, the restaurant can say, 'we posted a warning that seafood could do that to you'. No no no... seafood does not do that. Undercooked, week-old, kept-at-the-wrong-temperature seafood can do that and I'm thinking that was what they were trying to serve.

Did I mention the 'lounge singer'? They had a guy at a piano who had this slicked back hair and he was singing 60's and 70's hits from the U.S. All I remember is hearing "Hotel California" and at that point, I just started laughing and couldn't stop. I mean, the experience was so horrible, that it was comical. We never should have paid for a meal without seeing the restaurant first. Lesson learned.

4. One afternoon we were working at the Tamar Center and they asked us to be guinea pigs for a couple of the girls who were being trained on facials (Tamar Center has a beauty shop). I know what you're thinking... 'oh, poor girls... they go on a mission trip and they 'have' to have facials'. Hold that thought. Trust me... you will not be jealous of me in a moment. So, we lay down on these mats and they start applying all of the product to our faces. I actually am not a huge fan of facials to begin with- I don't like a bunch of product put on my face and my skin tends to be sensitive, so it's not a fun thing for me, but, I know that they need practice and I'm thinking that maybe I'll walk away with 'glowing skin'. After rubbing in several lotions/moisturizers, they apply an exfoliator. I'm all for exfoliators- I use them twice a week at home. BUT, I rub them on for a few seconds and wash it off. I must have been laying there for a good 10 minutes, at least, while she rubbed this exfoliator on my face. It actually didn't feel that bad, but I just remember thinking that she was doing it for a long time. Next came a clay mask. She got it on pretty quickly and then we had to wait 5-10 minutes for it to dry. It turns out that it was one of those peel off masks vs. wash off.

Here's where things started to go wrong.

She began pulling it and it kind of hurt. I didn't want to say anything because I didn't want her to feel bad, but I could tell that it was, essentially, waxing my face as it was being pulled off. I also didn't say anything because I was going by the 'band-aid theory'. The theory that it's more painful to slowly take it off vs. just ripping it off in one quick motion. So, I let her get it off as quickly as possible and I could almost feel the skin on my face pulsating and stinging all at once. I was the first one to get it done and one of the girls next to me asked me how it was and I just told her, 'just let her take it off quickly'. The other girls weren't as quiet as I was. For the next 10 minutes or so, you just kept hearing 'ow ow ow ow ow'. Finally, all masks were off.

Get this... after all was said and done, we found out that 'ow' in Thai means 'more'. So, as the girls were trying to verbalize the pain they were in, the only thing the Thai girls were hearing was 'more more more'.

Remember how I said that I have sensitive skin??? Within about 2 hours after the facial, I had small red welts all over my cheeks. I looked so pretty. :-P That night, I seriously prayed that my skin would clear up and, thankfully, by morning, you couldn't even tell that anything was wrong.

The thing of it all was that it really wasn't the girls' fault. The product they were using was just way to harsh, but it had nothing to do with their technique. We mentioned to one of the directors at the center that the masks had caused some 'discomfort' and that maybe they might want to check out a few other products that would work well on sensitive skin. She mentioned that, after we had gotten our facials, she had gotten one as well and she agreed that the mask was quite painful. Hopefully, they'll be able to find some better material to work with.

Here's a 'before picture' of us all getting ready for our facials. We had no idea what lie ahead for us :-)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sharing Your Faith Without Seeing the Results

This morning it hit me...a year ago today, I was in Africa on my first ever Missions Trip. I never thought that, in the course of less than a year, I would be going on two of them. Just goes to show you that a lot can happen in one year! A few years ago, I remember feeling that I had never traveled as much as I thought I would have by that particular stage in my life. Well, I guess God heard me because I've done more traveling in this past year than I have in my lifetime!

Mexico (2 times)
Washington DC

No wonder I feel so worn out :-) Or maybe my age is just catching up with me :-P

I got off track... I was talking about Africa...

Realizing that I was in Africa last year at this time, got me to thinking about that trip and the experiences and what I took away from it. I remember going into the trip feeling like "I" had to do something big for God. I had to walk away from my trip knowing that "I" had changed at least one life. I remember getting home and feeling like "I" had done absolutely nothing to make a difference. In some ways, I felt like a failure... like I had failed God and myself. Aside from my team members, our translator, our Pastor and our driver, I didn't really form any lasting relationships with anyone. We stayed in the same village most of the time, but we were going from meeting to meeting to orphanage to hospital to one of Rick's speaking events to another hospital to a court hearing and even to a wedding. I never felt that we stayed in one place long enough to connect with anyone. I felt like one of those 'drive by missionaries'. We'd attend a church service, toss a few Bibles their way and we'd be off. Or we'd attend a showing of "The Jesus Film", lay hands on people and pray for them and then off we'd go. We were definitely 'doing' a lot, but I didn't feel like we were accomplishing much. (Now, let me say that I have absolutely no regrets about going to Africa, and, looking back, I know that God was able to use us... I just wasn't able to see it at the time.)

So, when the Thailand trip came to a close, I wasn't surprised, at all, to hear that a few of the people on my team were feeling that way. They felt that we were doing a lot, but not really accomplishing what we set out to accomplish. There was talk of how another person, on a completely separate trip, had led someone to Christ and there was the thought that, because this hadn't been done, that they hadn't been successful in some way. This really got me to thinking about the whole idea of 'leading someone to Christ'. Does anyone really hear the Gospel, for the first time in their lives, and immediately accept Christ into their lives then and there? I'm certain that it does happen. The Holy Spirit is very powerful and I know that God can have that effect on people. But, what about the majority of the people? I'm not trying to be pessimistic, but I tend to have doubts about those people who hear the message once and that's the be all and end all for them and they become a Christian, just like that. I worry about how deep that person's belief truely goes. Do they really believe it with all of their hearts, or are they just looking for acceptance from the one asking them to accept Christ? Or, do they feel pressured to do so? Or, are they just going along with what everyone else is doing, simply to fit in? This is just my opinion, but depending on the person receiving the message, I believe that it takes numerous attempts over the course of time before a person is ready to truely accept Christ into their lives.

I think that this is really what we have to pray about and focus on when we head out on these trips. Don't go into it with the goal of 'leading someone to Christ'. I mean, come on, we're giving ourselves WAY too much credit. We aren't 'leading' anyone. It's God, dwelling in these people, who is leading them to Himself. We are foolish if we think we are 'saving someone'. We can't save ourselves, much less anyone else. Only God can save people. But, we do get the privelege of having Him work through us in sharing His message; and, that's really what He calls us to do. Not to preach a sermon or use scare tactics and threats of hell to get someone to accept Christ. We are to share our experiences and how our life was before Jesus and how it has been after we accepted Him into our hearts. We are to share how He has worked in our lives and how we've witnessed Him working in the world around us. I think the 'Christian-ese' term would be 'planting seeds'. And, like any seeds you plant, some will stick and grow and produce fruit, while others will be snatched away by the birds, for lack of a better phrase. We aren't responsible for making those seeds stick. Only for planting them and then handing that person over to God to do the rest. We are there to show consistency in our faith, to show love to these hurting people and to see these people through God's eyes of compassion.

I do know that when you set out on one of these trips, you really want to walk away having something tangible to hold onto. Realistically, that's not going to happen everytime. More often than not, you are going to go back home not knowing what effect your words may have had and you really have to be okay with that. Truthfully, I don't believe God looks any more favorably upon the first person who shared God with Jane Doe versus the twentieth person who shared God with Jane Doe versus the person who helped lead Jane Doe, through prayer, in accepting Christ. Each person who did so, was being obedient and I think that God smiles down on each and everyone of them the same.

If you have any doubts, you should read the testimony of William Fay, author of "Share Jesus Without Fear". I finished this book just before leaving for Thailand and God really used it to give me such a sense of peace in that all I was called to do was be obedient and that I needed to be okay with not being that 25th person who, ultimately, led someone in the prayer. The cliff notes version of William Fay's testimony is that he was the CEO of a multimillion-dollar international corporation, he had ties to the mob and owned one of the larger houses of prostitution in the U.S. He, admittedly, mocked anyone who dared share their faith with him. Ultimately, his house of prostitution was raided and the only people who showed concern for how he was doing, was a Christian couple. Needless to say, it was NUMEROUS years after having first heard of Christ, that he accepted Him into his heart. What I loved was what William Fay had to say about the people, over the years, who had shared their faith with him:

"Through the years, many people came into my life to share their faith, but I would not receive it. I sent these people away, discouraged, because I either insulted them, antagonized them, or persecuted them. And if they walked away from me believing they had failed, they believed a lie. For I never forgot the name, the face, the person, or the words of anyone who ever told me about Jesus."

If that doesn't encourage you in sharing your faith, either here or overseas, regardless of the 'seen' result, I don't know what will.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More Orphanage Photos...

When we went to the Pattaya Orphanage, I had taken along a bunch of little knick knacks and toys that had been collected over the 5 months prior to the trip. One of the only regrets, on my trip, that I had was not being able to be there when the toys were handed out to the kids. Unfortunately, the timing just didn't allow for it. The orphanage was fine with me handing everything out, however, the kids had just gone down for a nap and they weren't going to be getting up for 1 1/2 hours and we couldn't wait around because we had to get to Bangkok :-( BUT... I was checking out their website a couple of days ago and they actually posted pictures of the kids when they received the gifts. I haven't been able to figure out how to copy and save them myself, but if you copy and paste this link (sorry, I'm experiencing technical difficulties (surprise) and cannot get the actual link to post) --------->


you'll be able to see the pictures. I may not have been able to be there, in person, but these pictures just gave me the biggest smile!

Thank You!!!

This week I went about the business of getting out my 'thank you' letters to the people who supported me on my trip. However, personally, I only have a record of those people who financially supported me and I know that there were many more people supporting me through their prayers and I, by no means, wanted to neglect to thank all of you as well. Your prayers were essential to every part of this trip and God, absolutely, listened and answered your prayers and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Here is the thank you letter I sent out:


Thank you all for your prayers! We made it home, safe and sound, late last Thursday night. Even though it’s coming on one week since I arrived back home, I’m still trying to figure out what to write in this letter. Trying to process this trip has been much more difficult than I had anticipated and it’s difficult to readjust to life back in Orange County. My list of things that seemed so important 3 weeks ago, don’t seem as important anymore. But, on the other hand, I’ve developed a whole new list of what really matters to me and I think that the new list is much better than the old one!

Thailand is definitely a different world. Having been accustomed to being in environments, both inside and outside America, that are primarily Christian, I was now in the minority; and, I mean the minority. Less than 1% of the population is Christian. Ninety-some percent are Buddhist, with the remainder, growing population, being Muslim. You’ve never seen so many idols in your life! Little Buddha statues all over the place and shrines are everywhere. Then, along the beach, you even encounter shrines that are more voodoo-based. At the base of every shrine you’re sure to find open bottles of Fanta soda with straws sticking out of them- they act as some form of offering to the Gods/spirits so that the spirits won’t become angry with them.

To find a Christian Thai person was rare. When a Thai Christian man/woman would notice our cross necklaces, they would be all excited, pointing to our necklaces and saying, “You Christian? Me Christian too!” It was pretty cute how excited they would be to find us. They had such a light shining from their faces!

However, in other of the areas of Thailand, you can almost feel the darkness and oppression surrounding you. But…light shines brightest in the dark and we were blessed to be witnesses to areas where God’s light is shining and prayers are being answered.

• Kaek is the head baker at the Tamar Center in Pattaya. She grew up in Northern Thailand and in her early years, she became a single mom. Now, in Thailand, it is tradition that the youngest daughter is the one who takes care of the family. So, as soon as she is old enough to work, she is responsible for any children of her own, her parents and her siblings. That meant that Kaek was going to have to make a decent amount of money. She had heard that you could make a lot of money working in Pattaya, in the bars. At first she didn’t understand what working in the bars meant, so she picked up and moved to Pattaya. She soon realized what ‘working in the bars’ really meant. She didn’t want to do it, but there is no other job that pays nearly the same amount (about 4X more than any other job). She tried to work in the bars for one night, but she couldn’t go through with it. She had heard about the Tamar Center, so she went to them for help. Initially, she was told that they couldn’t help her because they were there to help the bar girls and she wasn’t a bar girl. Kaek started sobbing and walking away and the Tamar Center employee called her back and asked her where she was going. Kaek said, “well, I guess I’m going to go work in the bars so you can help me”. The employee, obviously, did not want her doing that, so they made an exception to their rule and she started working there. It was at the Tamar Center that Kaek first learned about the Gospel and Jesus Christ. She said that she was at a point in her life where she had hit rock bottom. She had no money, no husband and she had tried to kill herself a few times (she showed me the scars running up and down her arm). She figured that she was at the end of her rope, anyway, so why not try praying to Jesus. She said that was a turning point in her life. She said, from then on, her heart was filled with joy and she felt purposeful. To spend one minute with Kaek is to truly see the embodiment of joy. You see a light in her eyes, she always has a huge smile and she laughs all of the time.

• The night we were working with the Nightlight Ministries in Bangkok we went out to the bars to talk to the girls. Our team lead ended up buying one girl out of the bar for the evening for 100 Baht (3 U.S. dollars). She did that because the girl was visibly upset and obviously not wanting to be there. As soon as she started talking to our team lead, she completely broke down crying, so she got her out of that situation. They ended up going to a coffee shop and talking and they got her phone number from her so they could follow up with her and see how she's doing. On our last day there, one of the girls spoke with her and she had made the decision to leave the bars and go back up north to live with her parents. One of the best parts of this story... I'm not sure how it's spelled in Thai, but the girl who left the bar, her name is pronounced "Prayer".

• We heard Apple’s testimony at the Sunday church service in Pattaya. Apple was a Muslim wife and mother. She thought her life was great, but then she started to become ill. Ultimately, she was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS- her husband had, apparently, been unfaithful. She was so sick at the time that the doctors told her and her husband that she had three days to live. Her husband, being the loving man that he is, told her that he was going to go home and that he’d be back on the fourth day to pick up her body. While in the hospital, Apple’s health continued to deteriorate and she felt completely alone. One of her friends found out she was in the hospital and called her. Her friend started telling her about God and Apple made the decision to pray with her. Well, the fourth day came and went, the fifth day came and went, and, much to the doctor’s astonishment, Apple’s health was improving. She became stronger and stronger and eventually was able to leave the hospital. She has accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior and she now lives, with her daughter, at the HIV/AIDS Hospice.

• The entire time we were in Pattaya, we had taken the Song Tao’s to get around (open air taxis… really, they are just covered truck beds). Several nights into the trip we were in downtown Pattaya and we had to get over to an all night Prayer Session at the Tamar Center. Andrea tells us that she’s going to get a taxi to take us (an actual car). A few of us girls looked at one another and thought, ‘what is she doing?’ Taxi’s are too small and, oddly enough, we felt safer in a Song Tao because if the driver attempted to take us somewhere we didn’t want to go, we’d just jump out. It wouldn’t be that simple in a car. We all had to sandwich ourselves like sardines in the car and we were still muttering to ourselves, ‘now why didn’t we take a Song Tao?’. But, then we started chit chatting and the driver asked Goie, our interpreter, why we girls had so much joy. He had never seen people so happy. I really didn’t think that we were acting any differently than normal… just acting like girls act, but he saw something different. One of the girls told him that we were joyful because we had Jesus in our lives. She asked if he knew who Jesus was and he said that he knew who he was, and it made him sad because he didn’t understand why he had to die. Well, our team lead just breaks out into this conversation and by the time we reach the Tamar Center, she’s shared the Gospel with him and he’s in tears. He did not take the step to accept Christ that evening, but each of us had absolutely no doubt why we ended up taking a taxi instead of a Song Tao.

• One other thing that made me smile was when we were walking down ‘Walking Street’, the red light district in downtown Pattaya. It’s pretty much bar after bar after discotech after bar (you get the idea)… all with very young girls standing outside trying to get the men to come inside the establishments. There are also a couple of souvenir shops and one, in particular, caught my eye. They had a display out in the front of their store of a bunch of black and white t-shirts that had phrases or sayings printed on them. Things like, “Good Boys Go to Heaven and Bad Boys Go to Pattaya” and other juvenile crude statements. I’m scanning the t-shirts and smack dab in the middle of the display is a t-shirt that reads “Jesus is My Homeboy”. I couldn’t believe that a souvenir shop was selling a Jesus t-shirt, given that the Christian population is less than 1% in Thailand. It’s like God was telling me that even in this dark area, God was still in the middle of it all.

Additionally, when we went out to the bars, there were very few men. You’d see, maybe, 5-7 men, tops. Team members who had gone to Thailand in the past said that they had never seen the bars so empty- they were typically busting at the seams. This is very promising because, like in any other business, it’s the law of supply and demand. If the men stop going to the bars, there won’t be any customers to warrant the bars staying in business. I know that it is a sign of God moving, not only in Thailand, but in these men’s lives.

I have no regrets about going and, who knows what the future holds. Maybe, one day, I’ll be back in Thailand. I’ll just have to wait and see where the Lord guides me next. I will say this though… I am not the same person I was when I boarded the plane in LAX three weeks ago. I still don’t understand the ‘big picture’ of my life but, day by day, God is faithful and, while He doesn’t show me the end of the road, He does light up the next step I need to take. Through this experience in Thailand, God’s broken heart for these people has become my broken heart, and I am more certain, than ever, that God has a plan and purpose for my life that far exceeds anything that I could ever dream or imagine. I’m confident that He’s doing the same for you as well.

With Love,


“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-6

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

God of this City, Part II

I found this video on YouTube. It's the song "God of this City" that I've referred to a few times in my posts. Thought I'd just post it here in case you haven't heard it. This song was written and inspired by Pattaya Thailand.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


No, no, no, I'm not talking about 'haunted' as in ghosts and haunted houses. :0) I just thought it was a cool picture of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland and having worked there for so many years, it brings back good memories.

But, I would say that I am feeling a bit haunted. I've tried to come up with another word to use because I feel like 'haunted' sounds a bit melodramatic, but that's the best descriptor I can think of with regards to how I've been feeling. I haven't posted since returning, not because I didn't have the time, but because I couldn't even formulate words to describe what I was thinking or feeling. I couldn't eat, sleep and I just felt like screaming (and I think that I may have done that in the confines of my own room :-) I felt so hopeless and angry and fearful. I was (and am) 'haunted' by the faces of the people who I met in Thailand. The faces of the bar girls, child prostitutes, lady-boys, the homeless, even all of the uncared for animals roaming the streets with injuries and diseases. How could I go back to my 'normal' life? How could I get up, get gas in my car, go to work for 8 hours, come home, hang out with friends, watch tv... how could I go about those daily activities knowing that, at the sametime, halfway around the world (and, really, in our own backyard)someone else's work involved having their bodies sold to complete strangers; or, it involved sitting on a filthy street corner holding out your hand, depending on the kindness of others to feed you, when, in reality, 99% of the people who pass you by, avert their eyes, turn up the volume on their iPods and the only way you know that they notice you is because they either maneuver around you or step over you. When did these things become acceptable? They're not. It just breaks my heart and what strikes fear in me is the understanding that I could be them. I certainly didn't do anything to deserve the life that I have. I could have just as easily been born into that situation. Then how would I feel? Would I be okay with people looking the other way? I mean, I cannot even imagine living that way for 24 hours, much less years on end.

I haven't completely re-read through my blog, but I'm pretty certain that I didn't share a couple of stories about my trip.

This first one isn't so much a story as it's just another thing that shocked me. In Bangkok, we did quite a bit of walking and, like in any big city, there are homeless people. I wouldn't say that there was an abundance of homeless on the street, but those who were on the street were very noticeable. Noticeable because they were all either mothers rocking their small sleeping children or they were horribly disfigured- missing or twisted limbs, or both. Some were sitting, one or two were in wheelchairs others were face down on the street, literally, with their arm outstretched, holding a tin pan for money collections. I began to wonder, especially about those who could obviously not walk and didn't have wheelchairs... how on earth did they get around? Or did they spend their days/nights in that same spot the entire time? I asked our team lead, who had been to Thailand several times, what those people would do. What she told me has made me physically sick. There are Cambodian and Thai Mafia in Bangkok. They specifically pick out people who are noticeably disfigured in some way. They then cart them around and strategically place them in different, heavily trafficked, areas of the city. Then, at night, they come back and take most of the money that person received from passerbys. They do this day after day. And, those mothers with sleeping children? 99% of the time, those children aren't even theirs. They are children whose parents sold them out of need for money and the mafia uses them to play on people's emotions. Why are they always sleeping? Because they are drugged is why. They don't want any problems from an undisciplined child and they solve that by drugging them so they sleep the day away. ?????? How can one person do that to another? I'm completely sick over it.

ugh... okay... I need to move onto a couple of happier stories...

The day we went to the Nightlight Ministries to have an orientation and tour, we were given the opportunity to purchase jewelry that the girls had made. Aside from the jewelry,they had also just started making little velvet gift bags for the jewelry. Each bag was completely handsewn and had some sort of design on the front. I bought a couple pieces of jewelry, but I had decided that I didn't need to buy the bags because, well, I just didn't feel that I needed them. We left that building to go to another and almost the entire time, I kept having this nagging feeling that I should have purchased a couple of those bags. I couldn't logically think why I would need those bags or what I would even use them for, but then I remembered that I was purchasing a couple of things for a friend and she makes jewelry and gives it out as gifts, so maybe she could use a couple of the bags. The group was ready to head back to the hotel and I couldn't fight the nagging feeling anymore, so I asked if it would be okay to run back to the other building and buy a couple of things. They said it was fine, so off I went. I ran upstairs and asked one of the supervisors if I could buy a couple of the bags. She just gave me this look and then got this huge smile on her face. She told me that they had just got done praying that someone from our group would come back and purchase more of the bags. (the reason being that this was, essentially, a new product and they really wanted to offer the girls encouragment and show that their work was valuable) She then told the girls, in Thai, why I was there and they all started laughing and clapping. Rebecca (the supervisor) told me that this encouragement was so important because most of the girls are either brand new Christians or not Christians, so showing them that God answers prayers is a huge determining factor as to their beliefs. Isn't that amazing? Who would have thought that conceding to the 'nagging voice' in my head would have actually been God answering a prayer? I really hope that is an encouragement to all of you... when you feel like you are supposed to do something, but it doesn't make sense and you don't know why, just do it (if it's safe of course :-) I would have missed out on such a blessing had I not obeyed. Not only was I able to purchase a couple of really cute bags, but I also met one of the girls who made the bag I was purchasing and she was so happy that someone liked her hard work.

The night we were working with the Nightlight Ministries in Bangkok, as I previously mentioned, we went out to the bars to talk to the girls. Our team lead ended up buying one girl out of the bar for the evening for 100 Baht (3 U.S. dollars). She did that because the girl was visibly upset and obviously not wanting to be there. As soon as she started talking to our team lead, she completely broke down crying, so she got her out of that situation. They ended up going to a coffee shop and talking and they got her phone number from her so they could follow up with her and see how she's doing. On our last day there, one of the girls spoke with her and she had made the decision to leave the bars and go back up north to live with her parents. One of the best parts of this story... I'm not sure how it's spelled in Thai, but the girl who left the bar, her name is pronounced "Prayer". When I heard that it was just one of those 'wow' moments and evidence of God working.

So, although Pattaya and Bangkok are very dark places, it's changing. And, anyway, light shines brightest in the darkness, right? Just reflecting back on these couple of stories, it fills me with hope and the despair is snuffed out. I know that things are changing all over the world. And, just because I'm not in the same city as those people anymore, that doesn't mean I can't pray everyday for them (and possibly visit them in the future- who knows - I certainly never thought I'd ever take this trip, so who knows what the future holds) and I will continue to pray for them because God answers prayers and our hearts break for these people because of God's heartbreak for these people. I cry over them because He cries over them. These perversions aren't of God. Everything that is good is from God and He loves us so much that He has given us the free will to make the choice if we are going to love Him back; and, isn't that what true love is? Unfortunately, some people have abused their free will and that's why we live in the world we live in. The Lord doesn't desire any of these horrible things that are happening around the world and because of that... because I know who I belong to... I am pushing aside the fear, anxiety and depression and I've been given a renewed hope. After all, the ending to the story has already been determined. God wins.

Friday, July 4, 2008


Myself and my team are home safe and sound! On our way to the Bangkok Airport, we stopped at YWAM (Youth with a Mission) to pick up the other half of our team who had opted to spend the night there. YWAM acts as almost a hostel for students who are traveling on mission trips. It's a very simple, plain building and they have Discipleship Leader Training courses and they have Worship Services 3 days a week. The people who run it seem very nice and one of the male leaders is one of the men who took the boys on our team out to the bar areas to conduct the surveys with the men who go to those places. They ask if they'd mind participating in a survey and they ask them pretty simple, non-threatening questions... i.e how long are you visiting Thailand, how often do you visit, what is the purpose of your visit, do you think prostitution is right/wrong, etc. But, they do seem to get a few people who are not too happy to see them- telling them that they need to leave because us Christians are trying to ruin everything for them. We're trying to stop girls from working in these bars and we're ruining their fun. It's almost laughable that they are getting mad at us and accusing us of 'ruining their fun'. Well, maybe you need to find another idea of 'fun'.

After leaving YWAM, we arrived at the airport in plenty of time and we ended up splitting up into groups and deciding to meet at the gate at 6:30pm. My group and I were about 15 minutes late, but there was still no one else from our team there. We waited another 15-20 min and still no one. Finally, they announced that they were going to start boarding and then we saw two other people arrive. We decided that we weren't going to risk it and wait any longer for the other 5 people, so we boarded the plane. Fortunately, about 5 minutes before they closed the doors, they all walked in. Bangkok does things a little differently with their airport security. You first go through the xray machines and take out any liquids you may be carrying on board. Then you go through a second security checkpoint right at your gate where they pat you down, have you empty your carry-ons and, for some of us, take off our shoes. So, you really have to allow a lot of extra time and, of course, our gate was at the very far end of the airport, so you had to allow travel time for that as well. Because of the time difference, we essentially had a dinner meal, then breakfast and then another dinner. We completely skipped lunch altogether. The food was okay. I think that I liked Virgin Airlines meals better last summer. For the first dinner you had your choice of fish or veal and I eat neither, so I had white rice, vegetables and whatever other extras were on the plate. The breakfast also had veal in it - veal sausage - so, that was out of the question and I just had more rice and then the last dinner was some sort of noodle dish and it was fine. Although, I have to say that I'm done with Thai food or noodles for a long time. I've had way too much over the past few days and I could go for some Nachos :-) As with the trip going to Thailand, the plane ride went exceptionally fast considering it was 14 hours long. They have plenty of movies and TV shows for you to watch and I didn't have anyone sitting next to me, so I was able to make myself comfortable and get quite a few hours of sleep and we actually arrived into LAX 45 minutes early. We didn't have any problems getting our shuttle and didn't hit any traffic going back to Saddleback Church and my sister was waiting there for me to pick me up and now I'm home. I've actually pretty much unpacked everything (didn't take much effort considering I pretty much just dumped everything into the washer) and I've already downloaded pictures onto my computer. Now, I'll just have to download them onto KodakGallery and send them out, hopefully this weekend.

I'm too tired to write anymore now, but I know that I'll have additional posts in the next week or two just to wrap everything up and to fill in any gaps I may have missed.

Thank you all for your prayers and support! I could definitely feel them!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

On Our Way Home

We are just hours away from saying goodbye to Thailand. It's gone by so quickly and I know that I haven't even begun to process all that I've seen and done... that will probably take quite a few days to do.

I just got back from taking a Tuk Tuk to MBK... a ridiculously huge shopping mall in Bangkok. Six levels. And not small levels either. The past two days I've only gone through 1 level and I was able to get more than enough souveniers to last me for quite a while. Prior to that, I walked down the main street and found a bakery that sells really unique donuts... green tea infused, pumpkin, etc. I ended up getting a carmelized macadamia donut- really yummy, but very sweet. I was really excited because I had been searching for a particular picture frame for a few days and the last place I looked at the mall, I was able to find it! I was disappointed, previously, because I thought that I'd have to leave without getting one. I have to go upstairs and pack up my new purchases and then I'm good to go!

Yesterday we had a great day! A very long day too. We got up and took a van at 6:30am out to the Floating Market. You board these long boats that almost look like canoes only they are motorized. It takes you through all of these marshy areas and homes that are built over the water. When I say 'homes', they are more like a bunch of plywood nailed together- so, not the OC waterfront homes by any means. Basically, they are poor fishing villages. I keep relating things back to Disneyland, but several people made the comment that we felt like we were on a Jungle Cruise/Pirates of the Carribbean ride... especially the bayou area at the beginning of the Pirates ride. People were floating by us with small boats full of fresh fruits and some people were fishing. It was a lot of fun, definitely. The marketplace itself, sells a lot of the souvenier type of merchandise and it's all over-priced. Even when you bargain it down, it's still way too much money. After the marketplace, we reboarded our van and took a ride on an elephant. It was about 30 minutes and they even take the elephants down through deep water so that it's almost touching your feet as they hang over. Me, being an animal lover, of course sat back and watched how they treated the elephants and they seemed to be nice to them and they seemed to be getting a lot of bananas. They were also rotating the elephants out so that they weren't going all day long. I have to pay attention to these things because I don't want to help fund anything that would be cruel to them.

We made the 2 hour drive back and then went to the MBK shopping center for a couple of hours and we also had lunch there. I found pizza and was SO happy. I cannot eat anymore noodles. I'm done. Watch- that's what they'll have on the plane ride home :-). After shopping, we came back and went out to dinner at one of the local hotels, just something nice for our last night, and they had an amazing buffet. I, of course, made a beeline for the desserts- SO good! After that we went to a Night Bazaar... again... more shopping :-) Then we came back and crashed for the night.

Well, I'm being told I need to go... I'll fill in more of the gaps later!

Pray for safe travels! Love to you all!

Last Night in Thailand

Wow- it's all gone by rather quickly, but I'm on my way home tomorrow evening! It's been an amazing experience and I have no regrets about coming here. I've learned a lot about the Thai culture/customs and, as is usually the case with mission trips, learned a lot about myself in the process.

Yesterday we went to the Nightlight Ministry and had a tour of their facilities and were given an orientation as to what they do in the Bangkok bars. Then we had to sign a release form saying that we wouldn't hold them accountable should anything happen to us... I hate those things. Then we went out and it was to this 3 level plaza filled with bars, Go Go Clubs and the higher up, in level, you go, the more perverted it gets. It goes from simple bars all the way up to, basically, sex shows, S & M, etc. We didn't go into any of those places, but we did do a quick prayer walk before going into our bar and, all I can tell you, was that I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. It's just so dark and you just have this oppressive feeling when walking through there. The girls in the bars in Bangkok wear numbers. They wear numbers so that should a man want to "select" a girl, he can tell the mamasan, "I want girl number 102". They don't even have names. I really think that is all part of the dehumanization process which allows them to justify what they are doing because these girls aren't people just like them. One of the more disturbing things to see was a father bring in his son to the bar. His son couldn't have been more than 12-14 years old. It made me sick. Seriously, how warped is that child going to be as they grow up? What are they going to think of women and how are they going to treat them? On our team, we really didn't have an opportunity to have long conversations with the girls- the music was exceptionally loud and it was hard to hear anyone over it. When we left, I told one of my teammates that I felt completely ineffective in that I don't think I did anything to help. But, then I remembered that I had seen a few men come into the bar, see us, and then leave. And, the father/son team left without taking a girl with them. I know that God can use us even when we don't think we are being used, so maybe we were just there to deter those men from the bar, or from taking a woman back with them. Who knows. I just have to trust that there was a reason and a purpose we were there that evening. I did meet a few girls from England that were staying with the Nightlight Ministry for 1-2 months and they had completely come on there own, without knowing anyone. What courage they have- I really admire that, especially, considering they aren't even 20 years old yet.

I'm going to sign off for now as my time is running out on the computer, but I'll try to update one last time before I get on the plane and let you know about our R & R day today. Please pray for safety and good health and safe travels these next two days.

I have to say that I can definitely say that I feel that I'm leaving Thailand having been given more than I gave and God has truely blessed me.