Wednesday, July 16, 2008

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