Saturday, February 24, 2007

Amanda's birthday dinner

I had a really fun birthday. Not only did we get to ride elephants, but some of our closest Thai friends came over and made one of my favorite Thai dishes for dinner….phad thai. Phad Thai is a very traditional dish and is made by mixing lots of ingredients with fresh noodles and stir-frying them all together in a wok. Then you top it with bean sprouts, lime, green onions and chopped peanuts, and spicy pepper, if you desire. Our friends brought all the ingredients to our house and we cooked together. It was fun to watch them in action….we kept asking if we could help and they kept saying “just sit!”

These friends are very special to us as we met them 4 years ago on our first trip to Thailand. We have kept in touch ever since and seen each other every time we have come here. It's really neat for us to have a friendship that has continued over many miles for many years.
We all enjoyed a delicious meal and I enjoyed a memorable birthday in Thailand!

p.s. we know there are some of you that have been keeping up with us via our blog....would you mind leaving us a comment to let us know you are out there??? sometimes it's hard to know is anyone is actually reading this :)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Reminders of home....

We found this reservoir on the campus of Chiang Mai really reminded me of Greenlake in Seattle and made me miss home!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A few pictures from the market

Tuk-Tuk Ride

Zara's first ride on a tuk-tuk....a very fun way to get around (but not the safest !:) She really loved it!

Yummy Brownies (by Amanda)

it's been a hard couple of days for me. i fluctuate between desiring to take in the moments that we have here, treasure our time and enjoy it all and just wanting to go home where things are more comfortable, i know what's going on, i speak the language well and have many friends around that know me well. i find myself living in this constant state of frustration with myself....never doing enough, or trying to do it all and feeling like a failure at everything. and then i get frustrated with myself for being this way! why can't i just go with the flow, relax, be thankful? often i find i need a bit of perspective and pictures of hope to pull me away from being consumed with my own world. i need to see things outside myself. i need my heart to be softened to care for those around me more than i care for my own comfort. i need to see my own heart and repent and be moved to action and to love out of the love i have been given. please work in my heart Lord.
i was able to see some pictures of hope today. it was a hard day for me with zara, she needed a lot and i felt like i didn't have a lot to give. but i was also able to step outside myself and it was life-giving. we met with an organization today called Hope for the Nations. they have opened a home where young girls who are single moms can live. these girls all come from desperate circumstances....being disowned for being pregnant, being forced to drink poison to kill their baby unless they ran away, being shunned by their communities, being at risk for being sold into prostitution....etc.....The couple who runs this home have a heart to see these girls become whole and to begin to break the cycle of poverty in their own lives. They are given a safe place to stay and they live in community with one another as they learn about Christ, learn how to take care of their babies, and learn to handle the responsibilites of finances and jobs. the goal is to open small businesses and to train the girls in different fields that they are interested in so that they will have means to provide for their children. the first venture is to start a bakery that will sell baked goods to local hotels and cafes. so today we had the privledge of spending time baking with the girls. they are just practicing and learning the basics and we had so much fun just being able to do this activity together. we made brownies, cookies and was really fun to have a taste of home and some of the sweets we have missed!

i felt hopeful as i was with these girls and as i looked at their babies....lives that could have been destroyed but are in the process of being redeemed. it showed me once again what a little bit of love and security can do to dignify someone and cause them to see the beauty and value in themselves. and it reminded me that while i often feel i have little to give, i can look into somone's eyes and smile and listen and let them know they are worthwhile and for that moment, that may be enough.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Chiang Mai (by Zach)

We've been in Chiang Mai now for a little over a week now. It hasn't gone quite as we expected it to go, but it's still been good. We've had a number of things planned that have either fallen through or have gotten moved back. There has been some frustration, but I really think that we're making the best of the situation. Our team has been able to meet quite a few people, which has been really fun. Tomorrow night we're inviting our neighbors over for an Ice Cream Social. How social of us...

We've been learning a lot about the issues of prostitution here in Thailand, and specifically the northern part of the country where we're located. I think I've learned more about this issue this time in Thailand than I learned my other 4 times combined. It was more of a focus for our team coming here this year, and so we've tried to make it a priority in terms of how we're spending our time.

Last week we met with two different organizations who are working with women coming out of prostitution. The first one is called Garden of Hope. It's an organization that provides training and skills for the women, so that they have other means of creating income. The other organization that we heard from was International Justice Mission. They are a large organization that does some incredible things around the globe. In Thailand, their work invloves rescuing women (and girls) who have been trafficked and are now being held against their wills as sexual slaves. Both organizations are doing great work here, attempting to be a part of the solution to an issue that is overwhelming here in Southeast Asia--the sexual exploitation of women. I apologize if the language seems graphic, but the issue itself is inherently graphic. There are no easy words to describe what is happening here.

It's been a very eye-opening week for our whole team. The issue of prostitution is a very obvious one here, as the city we're in is littered with bars proudly selling women. There are so many layers to the issue: Who are the girls? Where did they come from? How did they get here? Who's making the money? Why is it ok for men to purchase women so openly? What happens after the girls' value is diminished (with old age or disease)? One of the most disturbing things we learned is that the blatant prostitution that we see is only a very small part of the extent of the problem. Western tourists make up only a very small percentage of the overall number of people soliciting prostitutes here. (Thai nationals make up 95% of the customers)

The challenge for me personally is to continue to have hope in the One who is bigger than all these issues. It's too easy to focus on the surface circumstances and get completely overwhelmed by them. The issue seems too big to do anything about it. And the reality is that I can't "solve" the problem by myself. There's a quote from Mother Teresa that says: "In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love." That's what I'm seeing as the mission for our team here. We've done a lot of praying, a lot of learning, and had a lot of conversations. On some days that doesn't seem like enough, but we're doing all that we can.

Last night we went on a prayer walk with a couple people from Garden of Hope in one of the main areas of prostitution here. The two people we went with had spent quite a bit of time in the area, so they were very familiar with everything. As we walked down the street, girls in the bars came running out to see our two guides. It gave me a boost of hope/faith to see that happen. Our guides were loved and respected by the girls because they had been coming to this area consistently over a 6-month period. It helped me see the power of doing a few small things, and how those seemingly small things can make a huge difference.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Hey everybody... Our time here in Chiang Rai is coming to an end quickly. Monday afternoon we'll be getting on a bus and taking a three hour trip south to Chiang Mai. Our last couple of days here will be fun. Tomorrow (Saturday) we'll mostly just be around the Youth Center, hanging out with the kids we've gotten to know over the last month. It's been fun to see our team really get to know a lot of the kids. It seems like each of us has 2 or 3 that we've really clicked with. It'll definitely be a hard transition as we have to say good-bye to the kids. On Sunday, we'll be visiting a church up near the border of Burma. We'll take a brief visit across the border and visit Burma for little while. Gotta get Zara into as many different countries as we can!

The focus of the second half of our trip will be very different than the first half. We will have two main types of ministry that we're working with:
1. We're working with a couple different organizations that work with women coming out of prostitution. Most of what we'll be doing will be centered around education (us getting educated). Because we're only there for 3 1/2 weeks, our involvement will be somewhat limited. But we're really praying and hoping that our eyes would be opened to this enormous issue that is so prevalant here in Southeast Asia. The organizations we'll be working with help to provide education and training for the women, enabling them to get jobs. The issues surrounding prostitution here are myriad, so we're hoping to get a glimpse into this problem.

2. The other thing we'll be doing is hosting an English club for University students at a University that is very close to the house where we'll be staying. Basically all students here really want/need to learn English, so that's an easy way for us to meet people. Our desire is to build relationships with the students we're able to meet. When we came here 4 1/2 years ago, we met some friends that we still keep up with, and who we'll be seeing when we get to Chaing Mai. We hope that our team can also build lasting relationships with people here.

Thanks for your continuing prayers. We appreciate them. Things have been going really well. You can be praying that Zara does well on the bus ride Monday.