Sunday, June 26, 2011

Counting Down...

We are getting so excited about our trip back to Australia... and we are all counting down...

Many people have asked us when and where we will be sharing about our work at the ZOE Children's Home while we are back.  

We are so happy to have been asked to share at schools, small groups and churches as well as spending precious time with our supporters, family and friends.

Here's where we'll be sharing/ visiting on the weekends:

Bayside Church                 Sunday July 3rd         
(Big Buddies children's ministry)

Berwick Baptist                Sunday July 10th        
(Sharing at the morning service)   

Antioch House Church      Sunday July 17th    
(Sharing at the morning service)
Winepress                        Saturday July 23rd      
(Sharing at the night-time service)        

Village Church, Dingley    Sunday July 24th                
(Sharing at the morning service)                 

We'd love to see you there!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The ZOE Family at the ZOE Children's Homes

The ZOE Family at the ZOE Children's Home

It's Sew Great!

Remember when I wrote a few months ago about how I was asked to go and purchase fabric from the day market suitable for making some fitted sheets for the girl’s and boy’s rooms at ZOE Children’s Homes. 

Well with the sewing room in full swing now and lots of new material to play with; sewing classes are proving to be a lot of fun!

We recently had a short-term team here at ZOE from Evergreen Baptist.  Some of the wonderful women on the team were able to run sewing workshops for the ministry school students, parents, staff, children and youth.

ZOE_33 by ZOEChildrensHomes

ZOE_330 by ZOEChildrensHomes

The skills that are developing through having a sewing room and the sewing machines available to use are invaluable.

Learning to sew is a skill that even children and teenagers can be taught. Sewing can develop into a hobby or even a life-long passion.  

Learning to sew develops a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with being able to make something on your own and one of the biggest benefits to learning to sew is the fact that it is teaching our young people here at ZOE to become more self-reliant.

ZOE_354 by ZOEChildrensHomes

Isn't that just SEW great?

Andie :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Goodbye Lauren!

After breakfast this morning, I asked the kids to go and brush their teeth so that we could leave for the airport... I love the simplicity of children (despite knowing that it's still a week till we leave) one of them still asked, "Are we going to Australia today?" Hee hee.
The Tang Gang: Stephanie, Rob, Lauren, Cori-Anne, Denise and Kelly
We were actually heading out to say goodbye to the Tang Family (heading back to America for the summer), but more importantly Lauren, the eldest of their four kids.  Lauren just finished Year 12 and is spending the next two months with her family but then, when they return to Thailand in August, she will remain in America and begin college.

It's a huge transition for her but we just know that she's going to be okay.
Tobi and Eli both shed their tears at different moments during the morning goodbyes.  Lauren has been like a big cousin to them for the past 18 months.  She is such a delightful, beautiful, gentle young lady with a quietly spoken way that people are just drawn to.
She is intelligent, musical and creative.  Her younger siblings also adore her.  
I had the pleasure a month or so ago to take some of her "senior" photos before graduation night.  My reflection: She really is the sweetest girl.
And so to Lauren, it is with some sadness that we wish you farewell but we know that you will be back to visit and we wish you all the very best for a wonderful 'first year' as a college freshman... is that right?  Trying to use my American English LOL.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Evergreen Short Term Team

We have team here at the moment from Evergreen Baptist Church in the USA. 
I only got to meet the team for the first time last night which is kind-of sad since they seem like a really nice bunch of people and they leave tomorrow.  I am hoping to get back out to ZOE tonight, with our kids, to see them one final time before their departure.

I find it encouraging to learn what 'short term teamers' get out of their trip as well as hearing how some of them get to be here. 

When I meet these teams, it reminds me also of our journey to get to be here and the amazing way that God orchestrates situations, bringing everything together for His purpose. 

I was honored to sit with Pam Noritake at the traditional Thai dinner restaurant last night.  It was so wonderful to share some conversations with her and also enjoy a couple of laughs.  Despite coming from totally different parts of the world, we actually had quite a lot in common.
Here's what Pam recently wrote about just a day after being here in Thailand:

We’ve only been in Thailand for slightly over 24 hours and God has already revealed what breaks his heart.  As short term missionaries, we blow in, blow up and blow out...but to see what breaks God’s heart will stay with us for a lifetime.  Our desire is to share this “burden” with you our family, friends and supporters so we can understand more of who He is and why we’re here.
 Last night as we were adjusting to our jet-lag, we saw a child on the streets who had fallen victim of a beggar’s ring where the child was drugged until she was unconscious.  As this child is lying on her “mom’s” lap, the woman was actively asking for money and portraying herself as being homeless. As we walked passed them and rounded the corner to where we’re staying, we saw a little boy with his sibling also on the streets with their mother.  This second scene was different.  This truly homeless mom was taking care of her children and not asking for money.  The poor and vulnerable have a real need here in Thailand and yet there are those who will use this need to fulfill their own greed.
Seeing what breaks God’s heart first hand gives us such a better understanding how to fight human trafficking.  He commands us in Matthew 12:29 to “take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.” We want to help those who have fallen victim to human trafficking so that they may find rest in Jesus. This fight is vast and dangerous…being here, seeing with our own eyes can be overwhelming. This “burden” is not impossible with God.  He promises in the same breath in the following verse:  “for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Our team is here to do all we can that is humanly possible and then God will do what is impossible!

I want to say a big "thank-you" to the Evergreen team.  Thanks for your encouragement to the missionaries, willingness to serve and for your commitment to keep Thailand in your heart and prayers.  Bless you guys!
Andie :) 

And I thought I re-post this old video of a short term team here about a year ago.  I can't believe how little Tobi and Eli look! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Our Home Away From HOME~ Thailand

it's bustling yet relaxed
hot and mainly sticky
crazy but peaceful
dirty and yet so beautiful
complicated and simple
at the same time
a mixture
a blend
a land full of smiles

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Inner City Slums

Photographer: Noelle Shumer (ZOE Short Term Team)
Author:  David Cross    
I still can’t get the images of last week out of my mind.  I was trailing through one of the many inner city slums here in Chiangmai with a local social worker.  As I was following along in the slushy mud, I looked down to see a crippled boy dragging his body through a dirty puddle that I had so easily tiptoed over just seconds earlier.

The evidence of recent flooding brought the frustrations of the heavy rain at my own home briefly to mind.  It had been inconvenient to me, but as I viewed this situation from the perspective of another person, who also calls this city their home, my concerns flailed in to insignificance.

It had rained a lot in this slum.  It had rained so much that the nearby river had risen and blocked the narrow entry/exit for two days causing many people to feel isolated and uncertain.

Poverty is complicated.  And it’s confronting.

People boiling their water in used oil tins, heating it on tiny coals.  

My thoughts raced.

In one of the slums I visited, the area designated for all the children to come and do their homework, was smaller than a 1 metre x 2 metre rectangle.  It was pretty much just a bamboo platform. Children would come and sit there each night to complete their schoolwork and afterwards go off to work at a nearby cultural show as child dancers.  I remember going to that show over a year ago and I recall wondering what circumstances had occurred to allow these young children to perform in an evening show, seven nights per week.

The social worker, that I was with, has a rotating schedule so that he can get around and help as many children as he can with their homework. Volunteers from local universities also come and sit with the children to help them learn and assist them with their homework.

It was as we arrived for one of these ‘homework shifts’ that I’d found myself staring down at puddles, awkward and confronted by the young crippled boy before me.

As the children gathered with their homework, my hairy arms and white skin quickly acted as a distraction.  And soon enough, I was “the entertainment” for the kids who did not have any homework that night. The children were happy just to pat my arms like I was a Persian rug (something I have now got very used to) but not before too long, I noticed an animal poster hanging up.  So, with that, I became a stand-in teacher and did what I could do to help them with their English pronunciation as well as run some simple games and show them all how to play with the video device I had in my pocket.  

The boy, who had dragged himself through the puddle earlier, now pulled his body up the steps and came and sat in the room to see what all the laughter was about. Playing with the kids was fun.  Seeing them laugh, temporarily lifted me out of the environment we were in and in to another place.  But each time I met eyes with the crippled boy with the wet mud on his legs, the harsh reality was felt.

My heart continues to break for these children.

And I just wish I could somehow fix the problem!  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Orphan Summit

On May 11, 2011, ZOE founders Michael and Carol Hart, traveled to Louisville, Kentucky for the Christian Alliance for Orphans conference called “Orphan Summit VII.”  
Tammy Morrell represented  ZOE’s USA office at the conference.  
Check out what she had to say after the summit on the ZOE Children's Home blog.
Founders: Michael and Carol Hart

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Rain Came Down...

and the Floods Came Up!

Water bed!!
We have a basement in our house.  We don't go down there very often but it's a great place for storing things: baby items no longer needed, Christmas decorations (including our plastic tree!), Dave's tools and his guitar... you get the idea, oh and, our guests!  It's a good space for guests to sleep when they stay. Hahaha!

Well, I should say, it was a good place to store things and sleep guests- until last weekend!

We drove home in some particularly heavy rain last Saturday night and it just didn't let up... it rained and rained and rained!  Dave and I had sat up in the kid's bedroom for a while until they fell asleep because not only was the rain very loud, there was also heaps of thunder and lightening and on top of that, the power went out AGAIN!

Shortly after the children had all fallen asleep though, I headed to the kitchen to get something and I was hit with a really strange smell.  I wondered what it could be so I started to walk down the stairs to the basement when I saw it... a big flood of ankle deep water!  Spare mattresses floating around, our friend's desks that we were storing until they moved house sitting in water and cardboard storage boxes soggy and falling apart... "Dave!" I called.

We worked moving everything we could either up or out and collapsed exhausted at just after midnight.  We'd called our friend Les earlier to see if he could come and help lifting some of the heavier things but he was unable to leave his house due to the depth of the water in his street! 

In this photo below, the ground level outside is well below the bottom of the window, however, you can see the water is about a third of the way up the glass at this point and gushing in through the fan and the window!

Below: Dave rescuing his guitar!

Our landlord's rug completely under water.

The paint under the windows bubbling with the water coming in.

On Saturday morning our landlord sent around someone to pump all the water out so that we were all able to get down there with our mops and buckets to finish soaking up the last of the water.

Thankfully only a few things were beyond saving.  The clean up is slowly progressing and we are finding different spots around the house to store things.

We were so grateful that this happened when it did... imagine it had occurred while were back in Australia or while we had guests staying.  When we first moved in, we actually had our study set up down in the basement but we decided to move it due to the humidity down there.  So once again, our computer was spared!

There are so many things that "could've been" that would've made this a lot worse and whilst it does feel like a big inconvenience on top of several other things happening lately like the electricity saga; we thank God for His peace and joy through it all.

Have a great week,
Andie :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Finishing Strong

Tobi's first day of school.
Tobi's last day of Prep
Our little boy Tobi, 5 years old, just finished Prep last week.  
Many of you may remember when he was born and it really has gone very quickly.
Thinking back to First Term (August last year) Dave and I wondered whether we’d made the right choice putting him in school as opposed to holding him back another year.  Would he cope being the youngest?  Would he adjust after so many changes?  
We had moved countries 7 months prior, visited Australia a few months earlier, moved him from a kindergarten that he loved and relocated ‘home’ again just the week before school commenced!

There he was, the smallest fish in the deepest of oceans and for the most part of that term, I would imagine that he probably felt very much out of his depth.  
From the start, there was the issue of left-handedness and now that ‘formal’ handwriting had begun, this proved very challenging for him.  There was also new teachers, new friends and a whole new way of life to cope with. 
You know, I think, deep-water experiences have the potential to either drown us or make us very strong swimmers!
And, as a parent, you just do your best.  You try to be supportive and understanding.  And, like in swimming, there are times where, as the stronger swimmer, your job is solely to keep your child afloat.
At other times, when they seem to be doing okay, you just stand on the side of the pool and you yell encouragement at the top of your voice.  But then there are also times when it’s just too much for them to keep swimming and so you wrap them up in a big fluffy towel and you pin their arms down and you just hug them so firmly that they know that everything is going to be okay, no matter what…
This week however, we watched as our little boy whose arms had been flapping and head had been bobbing just to stay afloat, finish his school year with strength, determination, strong strokes, a huge smile on his face and as someone who had conquered so many of his challenges and now has his eyes set on the next event… going in to Grade 1!
Last Monday I visited Tobi’s classroom to watch his class play and see the grade each receive an award from their teacher.  There was the art award, acting award, show and tell award… you get the picture, well I was so shocked when Tobi got his award for penmanship and for having the neatest handwriting that I almost forgot to click the button on the camera poised in my hand.  What a great lesson in never giving up!  I remember Tobi commenting to me mid year that he preferred the week-long standardised test-taking as opposed to doing handwriting!  But despite this, he would come home and color and draw and write and ask me to help him… and it finally paid off!  I couldn’t have been more proud.

Then on Wednesday, it was the elementary school concert.  Well after arriving early and securing front row seats, we were once again blown away by our boy.  He sung and danced his little heart out that morning and we sat there again just flawed!   It’s moments like this that you say, “Thank you God.  You brought him through.  You care about this little one more than I ever humanly could but I thank you for placing him in our family and choosing us to be his parents.  Please give us wisdom and strength as we raise all three of our precious children”.
We are really looking forward to coming back to Australia in a little over three weeks time.  We can’t wait to share with you some more of the stories that impact us here, that keep us on our knees in prayer and that increase our faith. 
We also can’t wait to hear what’s been happening in your life!  I can’t even begin to imagine how much all the little ones have grown in our absence as well as getting to meet many new little friends for the first time (so many of you have been busy growing your families this past year!)
I’ve attached a short movie of Tobi’s songs to finish… enjoy!
From one very proud and very biased mother LOL! 

PS You may've noticed the patch on Tobi's face... he fell off our swing set the weekend before his last week of school... a trip to the hospital but thankfully no stitches required!

PPS Just FYI, no, the uniform didn’t change mid- year, they have a mix and match uniform at Grace with a choice of navy or tan coloured shorts/ skirt as well as about 5 different coloured t-shirts.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

On Our Way To Becoming Locals

Okay so we established back in the Odd One Out blog post that our family is never going to blend in based on our physical appearances however there are a few signs that indicate to us that our kids are becoming more like the locals day by day.  Especially Spencer, (who has now lived more of his life in Thailand than he did in Australia) really has become accustomed to this way of life.  

Let me explain by running through this list: 

Signs To Indicate that Your Child Is Settling in To Thai Culture.

~ When given a choice between using a western toilet and a squatty potty, your child prefers the squatty!

~ When asked what they want from the menu at a local restaurant, your child listens to the options, (pancakes, hotdogs, fries etc) and chooses rice soup!

~ When discussing their favourite fruits with a friend, your child stops to ask you what the name is in English because they only know it in Thai.

~ When faced with a choice between Vegemite toast and muu ping (pork skewers and sticky rice) for breakfast, they would choose the latter EVERY time.

~ When putting socks on your child causes wild excitement (because they can’t remember the last time they wore socks).

~ When you are horrified to discover that your child hasn’t been wearing a seat belt for the entire trip and they can’t understand why that’s such a big issue!

~ When they point to the picture book asking “What’s that?” at a platypus but seeing an elephant walking down the main road is no biggy!

Well, they are just a few examples, but it has left us wondering whether we need to pack some sachets of Spencer’s favourite rice soup with us for the trip back to Australia!  And funnily enough, our kids are really looking forward to being cold and getting to wear a jumper!  Go figure.

Have a great week,
Andie :)