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Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Prayer



“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient.” Abraham Lincoln 
January 11th, was Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  Many people all over the world made pledges to re-abolish slavery and bring attention to the fact that human trafficking remains a serious problem world-wide.
According to www.change.org, "Slavery is more affordable, more widespread and more entrenched in 2011 than it was in ancient Rome or the antebellum South of America. Modern-day slaves, also called human trafficking victims, can be male or female, from any country or representing any ethnicity."
Human trafficking is a multibillion-dollar industry worldwide.
The worst rates of the problem are in Asia, where the U.N. Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking estimates that more than 50 percent of slavery victims are found. The State Department says that in Asia, there are three human trafficking victims for every 1,000 people -- three times the rates elsewhere. 



... if you do nothing else this week, please... join with me in a prayer.  
Sometimes all we can do is to fall down on our knees with overwhelming conviction that we have no where else to go. 
That our efforts, whilst important, feel so inadequate in comparison to the problem. 
When we feel overwhelmed and we just don’t know what else to do, we can join in prayer on behalf of those who suffer.  Together, we will make a difference.
Please join me in praying for the following:

Poverty
  • Pray that those living in situations of poverty will be able to procure a sustainable income, without having to accept offers which look helpful but secretly involve trafficking.
  • Pray for governments having the responsibility of making decisions which have the power to increase or alleviate poverty in their country.
  • Pray for children in families where there are few resources. Pray that they will be protected from the lure of traffickers
Greed
  • Pray for those who seek to make money out of the trade of people. Pray that God will open their eyes to convict them that this is sinful.
  • Pray for those who operate or control networks of traffickers. Pray for exposure and an end to their schemes.
  • Pray that decisions made by governments will be based on justice and equality rather than greed and financial implication.
Demand
  • Pray that the demand for human trafficking will diminish and dry up.
  • Pray for the demand for sex workers to end, and that this will stop people being trafficked into sexual exploitation.
[Prayer: Salvation Army, Ireland and UK web site]

Photographer: Mike Thompson, Sanctuary Haven short-term team 2010



"Evil prevails when good people do nothing."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Simple Pleasures

You know those months when there seems to be a thousand things that have happened and you sit back and think …. my goodness there has been a lot on!

Well that sums up many of the months at the ZOE Children’s Home!

New children have been rescued, new ZOE parents have been hired, the water filtration system has been completed, our pig farm is coming along nicely (and I have helped eat a few of them too –yum!), plus hosting guests that have come to ZOE, conducting training for the staff … the list goes on!


Recently ZOE initiated a child sponsorship program to allow people to partner with the Children’s Home and assist us as we care for the orphans and children who were rescued from or at risk of human trafficking.   I have the privilege of getting together with each of the kids and asking them how they are feeling, what special moments they have enjoyed over the past couple of months and finding out any highlights or accolades that they have achieved.





For me this process has become such a wonderful time of encouragement.  The overwhelming things that stand out to me as I sit and listen to the children talk and reflect on how they felt about the last few months, is how happy they are!  For many of the kids, the thing they said they were proud of was being able to hand wash their own clothes, or being good at helping clean their room or family area.  They take such pride in their home, they take such joy in completing tasks that benefit those around them and they celebrate each other’s achievement along the way.

Coming from Australia and having been bombarded over the years with advertising to make us think we need to spend money on gismos that make us feel better, stands in contrast with living in Northern Thailand and not seeing any television or viewing advertisements!

What has happened for me is that I have begun to take more pleasure in the ‘simple’ joys of life.  I’m trying not to be worried about getting the next thing, but learning (very slowly) to be content with what I have and to keep looking for someone else to help, who really could just use a bit of a hand.

As I look over my notes from the interviews, most of the kids are not happy because of what they have, but they are excited about what they can do.

We feel blessed to be here.

I just wanted to say a BIG thank you to those that have been supporting our family in the work we are doing at the ZOE Children’s Home.  All the ZOE kids are experiencing the joy of being in a home that is safe and we are privileged to be working alongside the staff here to make ZOE a fun place to be!

I hope you also find some joy and pleasure in some of the ‘simpler’ things in life.

David

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thai Lessons

I’ll tell you one thing I admire about Dave and that is his determination to learn a little more of the Thai language every day.
For me, it’s been a journey of deciding between, “it’s too hard to learn” and “it’s too hard (to survive here) and not learn”.
I had to decide which “too hard” was harder!! 
Well it’s taken me twelve months but, as some of you may already know, I took the plunge a few weeks ago and began taking Thai classes two mornings a week at a little language school not too far from our house.
The first few days, my children were so sweet and kept asking me what words I’d learnt.  BUT before even beginning to learn words, I had to master the sounds of the Thai vowels, beginning and ending sounds and practice getting my tone right!
After two and a half weeks of “ahhhhh…. aaaaayyyyyyy…. ooooooouuuuu …. iiiiiiiiiiiiii’s” and making high tones instead of low and rising sounds instead of falling; I finally graduated from the practice sheets and began learning some real, Thai vocabulary!
Thankfully I have a really nice teacher who is patient with me and we have a lot of laughs!  I think it’s usually her laughing at me though and when I really stop and think about how I must sound speaking so slowly and messing up the tones just trying to repeat “Hello. My name is Andrea. How are you? What is your name?” it makes me laugh too.
I met a lady at the shops the other day who asked me whether I was the mother of ALL those kids (pointing to Tobi, Eli and Spencer)!! I didn’t think having three children was excessive but anyway, I am proud to say that I was able to have a five-minute conversation with her with my little bit of Thai and her little bit of English and it gave me hope… and encouragement to persist.
And, on that note, I must go and spend some time preparing for my dictation test on Tuesday morning.  Yikes!!
My cheer squad. I love these little guys!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Life, Love and Ugliness


I’ll begin by saying, “Happy Valentines Day”.

Our wedding anniversary is on the 13th of February so, for us, Valentines Day is a bit of a non-event.  
Mind you, it is nice to have everyone else feeling all lovey-dovey at the same time that we are and the commercialism is definitely a huge reminder so that Dave will never to forget when our anniversary is, ha ha!
So we’ve been talking a lot about marriage and weddings with the kids lately.  They attended their first wedding (that they can remember) a few weeks back and since then there’s been some interesting wedding chatter like:
Tobi says, “I’m going to marry Elstana.  I already know and well… I’m really excited about it”.
Eli says, “Yer well I get to walk down the aisle in a pretty dress” to which Tobi (thinking about Eli’s pretty dress now) says, 
“Eli your dress won’t even fit you then!”
Eli quick to respond, “Errrr I’ll buy a new one Tobi!”
Ahhh gotta love the way kids think and the things they come out with. I wish I’d remember to write them all down.

When we attended P Wit and P Milk’s wedding last month, I was feeling like an old veteran-married person.  Twelve years on from our wedding day and I was all ready to hand out some marital advice (if I could speak the language that is).  
Until… I remembered that Dave’s nana and granddad (Dave’s granddad recently past away) would’ve been celebrating their 62nd wedding anniversary this year.  When we got married they were already 50 years ahead of us on the marriage journey!
Therefore I will not be using this blog as a forum for any of my advice on marriage because, well, twelve years in comparison doesn’t really seem like that much after all!
Life has a way of doing that doesn’t it? In one moment, you can feel like you “know it all” and then just a split second later you realize that actually, you were wrong, you had no idea!  
Happens to me all the time anyway!
I judge someone’s choice or attitude and then “whoops” I see it from a different angle or perspective and then I kick myself for acting ugly and unfair.  Sound familiar?  
It’s like it with God too, just as I feel like I have him all sorted and I’ve put him in a box, I am suddenly brought back to the reality that my journey to get to know God will never have a tick next to it… or a “done”… or “accomplished”.  Because the more I get to know and discover, the more I realize I don’t know and I that I still have so much to discover.
So on love and life … I guess I still have a lot to learn!
I am grateful though.  
I have had twelve years where I have been loved, through not only the fun and the laughter and the sweet times, but through the sickness, the challenges, the parts that were tough and where I revealed my flaws and ‘ugliness’.  Thank you Dave.
Blast from the past-  2004.  Both had braces!  Eww!
So when I think about Dave’s grandparents and the fact that they remained together even after nearly 62 years of marriage... years that would’ve seen many imperfections, ugly moments, challenges… I’m inspired!
And it makes me ask, how can I show more love towards others around me - especially during those “unlovely” moments in their life? 

What more can I do this year to show kindness to my neighbors, that person in the street, that struggling mother, drug addict, those teenagers hanging around, that older person…? 

I want to learn to love people more instead of being a judge, and I want to say sorry more, especially during those times when I slip up and become their ‘judge.’ 

I recently read, “It is when we are at our ugliest, that love means the most”. True hey?

So I challenge us (me mainly), to reach out and find someone having an “ugly” unloveable moment and just ‘be’… a friend, accepting, non-judgmental or a listening ear … and see what happens. 

I am comforted and relieved to know that God’s not finished with me yet!
And as Ginny Owens sings in her song,  "If You Want Me To"

Now I'm not who I was 
When I took my first step 
And I'm clinging to the promise 
You're not through with me yet!



Andie :)


Saturday, February 12, 2011

SHOES


Hey, it’s Dave here!

I feel like it’s been so long since I blogged, that I could almost qualify as a guest blogger!

Well, I wanted to share with you one of my December highlights.
Now I know that you probably just checked your calendar and saw that it is now February 2011!! Okay, so I am a little bit behind in a few areas but I did not want to miss this opportunity.

In December the children at the ZOE Children’s Home were very blessed to receive new shoes!  And everyone loved them!  We’re talking bright AND colourful and because they’re slip-ons, they are the perfect shoes for Thailand.

What’s even more amazing is that Life Outreach International, who’s donors raised the money for these shoes, didn’t only just provide for the children at the ZOE Children’s Home but enough to bless hundreds of other children throughout Chiangmai.  
I was involved in this exciting project, helping to deliver shoes to children outside of ZOE and seeing their smiles as they received this great gift.

In the schools that I have visited outside of ZOE, all children were required to wear school uniform.  At a glance, you could be forgiven for overlooking a child in uniform and thinking that they must be “okay”.  

It only took me moments though, as I helped to distribute shoes, to realize that, in fact, many of these children were actually in high need.  Uniforms were discolored from several days of wear, and the majority of children also had gaping holes in their socks.  Some of the kids appeared to have sores on their feet too, so I could see that this gift was of high value to them.

One of the other wonderful parts to passing out shoes was that in the afternoon, some of the ZOE children, who had finished their school day early, offered to come and help.  

Without saying too much about the backgrounds of our ZOE kids, one of the girls who came with us that afternoon used to have to beg on the streets for money.  For a child that is involved in a ‘begging ring’ they are required to get their nightly quota of cash to avoid mistreatment or unthinkable punishments.

We know from our work here that 9 out of 10 children that beg on the streets of Thailand will end up working in a brothel, so I can say with some surety that her opportunities in life were, at that point, pretty limited.  
She sure had it tough before she came to ZOE.  

But, as I observed her from a distance, she busily began to organize her peers and make sure that every shoe size was displayed in its correct position, ready to match to the children who were about to arrive and receive their precious gift.  

As she slowly knelt to the ground, a position that I am sure she had been in many times, I watched a she gently placed a new pair of shoes on to one of the other little girl’s feet with large holes in her socks.  

At that split second, that tender moment, I saw the transformation of a life. 
A child that used to be begging, now so joyously and willingly involved in giving, by handing out shoes, to the poor children around her.   

I share with you just one, of the many transformed lives of the children at ZOE.    Every child has their own story and we are so glad to be involved in helping these kids to become all that they were created to be.

We exist as an organization to make a difference in children’s lives.

The way I felt that day when I saw the smiles on the children’s faces- from the ZOE kids that helped pass out the shoes, to the children receiving them, this will be imprinted in my mind for a long time to come.

As the day wore on, Andrea and Tobi met me back at ZOE to refill the trucks and head back out again, this time to a small village and children’s home. 



I am not sure yet if Tobi comprehended the work that he was involved with on that special day.  I don’t know if he understands the significance of giving shoes away to children that have so very little, but I hope and pray that his heart expands with love and compassion for other people and that he will grow up to be a man that loves to help and change the lives of those in need.


I have made a short clip that shows some of the photos from the day.

Note: I have removed the photo of the ZOE child who I made mention of in this article, to ensure we protect her identity. 
The child mentioned in the story above is not shown in any photographs.

Friday, February 11, 2011

photos from the i-phone

Back in September when my sister visited, she gave me her old i-phone. I have so much fun taking photos on it while being out and about here in Chiangmai. I even find myself grabbing it from my handbag to try to capture interesting things while I am in the car.
Click here for a few of the photos that I want to share with you this week.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Different Can Be Great


“Just as morning follows night and spring follows winter, there will be new beginnings: new people to meet, new things to do.” (Lois Rock)

The lifestyle here is quite different ... Not just the food, the language or the weather, but the way life constantly changes.  

We are learning to make friends faster and say goodbye to them more often.  We understand that although we don’t get to see our parents and family as frequently as before, that when we do, we hold them tightly and appreciate every minute that we share together.  And we’re finding out that often, when we say goodbye, we’re not even sure when we’ll hug them "hello" again. 

Throughout life there are always goodbyes.  Some are easy and some are hard.  I remember being so happy to saying goodbye at the completion of my four-year university course and departing overseas for my honeymoon.  But other goodbyes have been much harder like saying farewell to friends too young to die, robbed of their lives through terrible illness or accidents.

Here, in Thailand, it feels like we’re always saying goodbye to someone.  A family member going back home, a short term team leaving, a friend returning to their country on furlough, fellow ZOE missionaries heading to America to fundraise, children from the kid’s schools going to live in another country, teachers getting job appointments across the other side of the world… you get the idea.  

The lifestyle here amongst the foreigners is very transient and just when you make that friendgrow to love that teacher, or find a person that you really admire, it seems they’re gone… just like that.
I’m not sure exactly how we’re meant to handle it… Don’t make friends? Be closed off? Stop inviting guests over? Just don’t ‘commit’ to any friendships? Stay inside the house (LOL)?
I don’t believe so!

It’s just that life is different now.  And that’s okay.

The longer I’m here, the more I begin to understand that I have to change the way I view how life is ‘meant to be’.  I’m learning that life doesn’t follow a ‘rule book’ and that I’m not ‘in control’.  

And so… ever so slowly, when I feel like I want to hang on to my traditions and my way of doing things but instead I choose to see that life is and can bedifferent, I actually understand that I can be content with different
And actually, different can be GREAT! 
The sense of what ‘family’ means and what ‘community’ is, has definitely changed for me now.  These concepts extend far beyond race, culture, or traditions and I like that.

I want to accept difference and be open to giving up what I am accustomed to and be able to fully live the life that is here… goodbyes and all!