Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ebenezer... and I'm not referring to Scrooge!

What a wonderful weekend!
I hope that you had one too.
We celebrated Thanksgiving on Saturday with the other ZOE missionary families and had a really fun day.

After church today we enjoyed the only benefit of having a plastic Christmas tree {yes, still grieving} and that is being able to spontaneously decide to get it out and decorate it without any prior planning!

So I've been thinking today about a song we sang in church today, a hymn which I'd never heard before (not unusual) called 'Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing'. 
Well, when it got to verse 2, and the words were "Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come..." I felt a little bit confused. What on earth was it talking about?

I was so glad when the visiting speaker volunteered the information during his sermon and his explanation, combined with me doing some further reading when I got home, had me pondering this really interesting word.

You can read more about it yourself in 1 Samuel 7:12-14 but the word "Ebenezer" comes from Hebrew which literally means a "Stone of Help."

Samuel publicly dedicated the stone as a monument to God's help and faithfulness. And as the people got on with their lives, the stone stood there, visible to all who passed that way, a reminder of judgment and repentance, mercy and restoration.
"Ebenezers" might be something like a cross, a picture, a prayer journal or a song. Things which serve to remind us of God’s love, presence and assistance.

This Thanksgiving I want to give thanks to God for the wonderful "Ebenezers" that God has given me in my life.  I want to continue to share these with my children so that they too will grow up knowing just how much God cares for them too. 
I'm looking forward to my kids being strong enough readers to be able to go back through this blog and relive all the answers to prayers and 'help' God has given our family.  
I know when I get moments to read back through, I am reminded of God's faithfulness, provision and promises every time. 

Have a great week,
Andie :)

Samuel was a wise and godly man with a good idea. He recognized something that's true about human nature—we're forgetful. At Ebenezer, Israel could stand next to that big old rock and remind themselves, "Yes, we serve a living and faithful God, whose mercies are everlasting."  
Charles Lehardy 

What "Ebenezers" do you have in place to remind you of God's help and faithfulness?  Have you come through a difficulty recently that has you standing in a place right now where you finally feel hopeful again? 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Never EVER Too Young!

I sat at my computer feeling disheartened today. With close to 200 emails that needed attending to, whether to just be deleted or replied to; I just didn't know where to begin. 
I had a small window of opportunity while my youngest two had a "rest" {yeah, right} and the outcome ended up being fairy unsuccessful. 
As I sat staring at the screen, cursor hovering over the emails that needed the most urgent attention, my eyes fell upon an unopened email in my mailbox from a high school student back in Australia.
I opened it and began reading with interest:
We would like to say a huge thank-you for all the support you gave us as we ran the 'Love Life, Love ZOE' campaign.  This fundraiser has now reached it's conclusion, and we have received an impressive response. As well as raising money, we have also managed to raise an awareness of Human Trafficking in homegroups, and inspire students to continue fighting modern day slavery (through buying Fair Trade etc.).
We would like to say a huge thank-you for all the support you gave us as we ran the 'Love Life, Love ZOE' campaign.
Know that our prayers are with you, and we hope the money we have raised will make a difference in the lives of the children. Please use it where ever you feel led. We would love to see the money continuing your work at ZOE's and helping to rescue more children from human trafficking. (To see actual amount, see attached photo- we're clearly very excited about it!! )
We hope and pray the money will be able to touch many lives and make a huge difference :)
God bless you all, and keep up the good work!


Here's to a group of teenagers that will NOT be told they're too young to make a difference!  By the way the final amount they raised for the ZOE Children's Homes was a whopping $7459, just incase you missed the big signs they're holding up!  AMAZING!
What an extraordinary testament to their character and persistence. 
I love seeing and hearing examples of a generation who knows how to fight for what's right!
Flashing back, our visit to this school, on our last trip back to Australia, was the last 'event' that we had booked to speak at. We had left Spencer (our 2 year-old) at Dave's parent's house vomiting and we were leaving to fly back to Thailand the following day. 
After a month of appointments, speaking engagements, business meetings and catch-ups, Dave was particularly exhausted by this stage and I was praying hard for God's strength and energy for him as he spoke to the audience of a few hundred youth. 
After the presentation a couple of the girls approached us with their teacher and were eager to talk about how they could do some fundraising for ZOE. It was so inspiring to see their enthusiasm and passion.
After a few weeks of being back in Thailand, we received an email explaining how a small group of students had launched, what would be, a phenomenal fundraiser for ZOE.
Here's what they did:
At their weekly worship/prayer meeting at school, they committed their time to praying for the ZOE Children's Home.  
The meeting was advertised as "People Snatchers and a God who catches". It also advertised a free lunch (great tactic, I thought, for any hungry teens).  At the meeting, two students led an opening bracket of praise and prayer, followed by another student who spoke about her vision. They then showed a powerful 'anti - trafficking' DVD clip and then served each student that came a cup of warm rice to eat. (That was the 'free' lunch and was arranged to enable students to identify with others among the world's poor who have to make a range of difficult choices in order to merely survive). 
One of the students who has actually visited ZOE then talked about the ZOE Children's Home and gave a compelling talk to the other 60 - 70 students at the meeting. They also showed the "ZOE" promotional clip and broke up into smaller groups to pray for the children at ZOE's as well as the wider issue of orphans and human trafficking. 
They then went on to compete as home-rooms to see which group could collect the most 2 dollar coins= fundraising tubes and end up as the winning group!  What a great competition!
Thanks Maranatha!  You are just AMAZING!!!

I would also like to mention another school who, for the second year, collected two-dollar coins in the ZOE fundraising tubes.  Flinders Christian Community College outdid their huge effort from 2010 by raising {drumroll please} a massive $2257 this year!
And, I am talking about Prep- Grade 2 students now! WOW!
Don't you think their teachers are doing an incredible job of instilling in to these young minds and hearts how to show love and compassion for other children... children they've never even met?  Well, I do.  These two stories have left me with nothing else to say other than quoting these two verses:

Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 1 Timothy 4:12

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
John 13:34 NIV

What do you think?  Have you got a word of encouragement for these children and teens?  If so, leave a comment and I'll be sure to pass it on.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Year of Harvest- Reflecting Back

This is just like reading back through my journal and flipping through the pages of memories of months gone by and being reminded of all there is to be thankful for.
Continuing on with my "Thanksgiving" theme from yesterday, here's some highlights from my year just gone... And some of the things that I am grateful for:
Just being loved, even when I'm being {a bit} unlovely.  
The gals from Rockford who made me laugh.
Rainbows after the rain.
Mothers. Moms. Mums. Mae.
Visiting home (our Australian one).
Birthdays! Birthdays! Birthdays! Coffee.... and more birthdays!
And some good old school holiday fun.

What are some of the things you're most grateful for this year? 
Do share!!
thankful for: getting our washing machine fixed!

thankful for: protection during the floods

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Celebrating the Harvest

I'm excited!  It's nearly Thanksgiving Day.

Okay, I know it must seem odd.  An Australian living in Thailand and getting excited about an American holiday, right?

But when we moved here, we not only found ourselves landing, smack bang in the middle of the Thai culture and customs but a also a sub-culture of American volunteers who we work closely alongside.

And this is how we end up; with a blend of Australian, Thai and American celebrations sprinkled throughout the year.  What a privilege to have such an interesting and diverse place to live.

I imagine that reaping a harvest is not always easy, especially in conditions where harsh and unpredictable weather affects the outcome.

It is evident from just driving around during the planting and harvesting seasons here in Thailand, just how labor intensive the method and process rice production is.  Rice farmers very carefully plan their harvest and they need to know the exact time to drain the rice field and to harvest the rice. 

But when it comes time to harvest, to gather together and collect what they had spent so much time sowing in to... what had been such hard work...

then, there can be celebration!

And so as Thanksgiving draws nearer, and I am "googling" recipes and wondering what to make, I also begin to question, what is my "harvest"?  

What is it that I look back on from the past 12 months that I have been working on, planting, watering, praying for, putting effort in to, waiting for?

What "harvest" am I celebrating?

And so, my harvest is not wheat, seaweed, grapes or rice.
My harvest is my relationship with God.
My marriage.
My three children.
My family.
My friends.
My contribution to ZOE and stopping child trafficking.
My fitness and health.

These are the areas that I am working on.  
These are the things that I spend my time pouring in to, pursuing, fixing, loving on, supporting, correcting, mending, repairing and improving.

These things are what I want to celebrate this Thanksgiving.  

Is the season of planting easy?

Not all the time.  Sometimes it's back-breaking work to get up early enough to have a quiet time, to set aside time just to listen, to continually correct and discipline, to keep in touch across the seas, to make a difference, to go for that walk or to make a healthy choice... but ...  I will see a harvest.  I may not fully see it yet.  
But it will come.  And I am thankful for that.

What's your harvest?  Leave a comment!

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Lesson From the Slum

“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, 
how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. 
We will be judged by "I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me.  I was homeless, and you took me in.” ― Mother Teresa

About this time last year, Dave took a trip down to Bangkok to get our necessary paperwork verified at the Australian Embassy.  When he suggested that I go this year, I jumped at the chance.
After beginning the day at 4.30am and arriving home at about 10pm, it felt like I had been away from home for much longer than just one day.
Outside the Australian Embassy

The last time I had been to Bangkok was about 12 years ago, so I really didn’t remember that much about it. 
Having lived here in Chiangmai, for almost two years now, it was so wonderful to be able to go to a different part of Thailand and grow a bit more in my understanding about the country through this experience.  My friend Kaylee (new ZOE missionary) accompanied me before “officially” starting to work full-time on Monday.
Inside the embassy
What I wanted to share though was not about the deliciousness of the lunch we ate, the beauty of the paintings we saw in an exhibition or about the crazy traffic and millions of bustling people.  
It’s not about the heat of the day or about our chance to practice our Thai phrases on the locals, or the fact that due to the current flooding there was NO bottled water available in any of the shops that we went in to.
No, the absolute highlight of my day was visiting my friend Jodie MacCartney who lives in a slum with her husband and three little girls working with UNOH (Urban Neighbours of Hope) and “doing life” amongst some of the poorest people in Bangkok.
Jodie and I in her home

I already had so much admiration for Jodie and her husband Chris.  I remember hearing about what they were doing about 5 years ago through a mutual friend (long before we’d heard of ZOE) and being in a state of shock and total amazement.
But having been there now and seeing where they live and work… I have no words to describe how I feel about this precious family.
I want to be able to explain to you all that I felt, all that I experienced, all that was spoken but honestly I still feel overwhelmed by the whole experience.
What I will say though is that it left me with a lot of questions in my own mind that I will be doing some soul-searching about for a little while yet.
The "Second Chance Bangkok" op shop.
You know, there are a lot of people that are doing AMAZING work to help vulnerable people, children, the elderly, teenagers in need etc.

I am surrounded by them everyday.

BUT if I look at the life of Jesus and what he did during his time here on earth, I would have to say that, in my opinion, these guys are doing a pretty great job of replicating the ministry He had… through positioning themselves right in the middle of the poverty, disease, abuse, drugs, homelessness, helplessness… and opening up their hearts and their lives to help these people “practically” wherever the need arises, what ever that looks like AND all the while shining the love of God in to some otherwise pretty dark places.

In conclusion, maybe the most humbling experience of the day came when Jodie’s neighbor, not knowing that we’d been looking for bottled water all morning and hadn’t found any... maybe not even having many bottles left for herself, came over from her house and gave Kaylee and I an icy-cold bottle of water… for no other reason than just because… it’s the beautiful, kind, generous, loving nature that we see time and time again amongst the Thai people.  It could also be seen in the eyes of this neighbour just how much Jodie meant to her, reasons I can only imagine.

So many of us try to be generous and give out of the abundance of what we have.  But how many of us can honestly testify to giving generously when there’s nothing left to give?  This lady gave not out of her excess, but chose to bless a stranger in a very humbling act of generosity.

To Jodie and Chis, we think you are doing a sensational work where God has put you, and we will continue to pray for your family.
For more information about this AMAZING family, check out their blog……
Or, watch this short clip that shows pictures of the slum where they live and work.

NEW: And for additional footage from the ABC News, "Second Chance for Bangkok Slums" click here.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Aria Studios

Do you know how the crew from Aria Studios in Hawaii would describe themselves?  
filmmakers. photographers. writers. artists. dreamers. dancers. risk-takers. ridiculous. curious. cool. sappy. happy. stylish. hungry. addicted to dessert {huh?}

Actually, that last part doesn't surprise me seeing as though Christine, the team's chief photographer, just couldn't get enough mango and sticky rice on her final day here in Chiangmai and says of herself that her perfect meal is dessert!

But that's not the only sweet thing about these guys, oh no, they are simply some of the sweetest people you could ever meet too.
Christine and Kash

Focused on wedding cinematography and still photography, as their main income stream, the owners of Aria Studios (Kolby and Jay) really have a passion to use the gifts and talents they have to help children who are at risk or in abject poverty.  They understand that the use of digital media can be a powerful storytelling medium and so it is their aim to give a voice to those who don't have one.
You can check out their blog for more information and examples of their recent projects.

You can imagine we were all pretty excited at the prospect of their visit out here to the ZOE Children's Home, especially Dave who would be hanging out with them the whole time and coordinating the filming in and around the children's home.  It was a big task to ensure that approximately 100 people were positioned and prepped ready for shooting and making sure that everyone knew just exactly what to do.
I've had a sneak peak at the footage and it is just beautiful!  I can't wait for it to be finished.
Setting up some shots. 
Trying to set up a BIG family photo.

While they were here, we also managed to get some beautiful stills taken of the ZOE children, some of which will be used for the Guardian Alliance sponsorship program updates amongst other things and a big ZOE family photo too of all the houseparents and children together.

Christine even fitted in a little photo shoot just for our missionaries too- which was just ace. Our family found a cute, little, old Thai man who usually rides tourists around on his rickshaw through the city but was happy to have his rickshaw featured in our family photo! Hahaha.

And so on behalf of everyone here at ZOE, we want to say a huge THANK YOU Aria Studios.  We can't wait to see the finished product(s) of all your hard work.
You guys are sweet!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Food Shortages? Not at this party!

Thursday 27th October.
I was so excited.
Dave had been working lots... throughout the previous weekend... leaving early before anyone had woken up and getting home late each night but now,
NOW it was time for some fun!
The kids were all on their semester break and it was Spencer's birthday plus we had two days together to complete the finishing touches to his upcoming party.
You may recall last year Spencer had been so sick we had to cancel his party and keep him away from other children because his immune system was so low.
After a relaxing morning with Dave and the children, I added the last few items to my shopping list and headed out to the shops with a little extra spring in my step.  
I love organizing my children's birthday parties... can you tell?  
And despite trying to tone things down this year, I made an exception for Spencer's birthday- given circumstances surrounding his celebrations last year. {ah hem} What?
Anyway, you can imagine my surprise as I began searching for the items on my list, eagerly anticipating the fun I would have getting everything home and beginning to create tasty little turtle and frog treats for 9 small and excitable party goers when I was faced with this:

Shelf after shelf of emptiness!!

You may remember that I wrote a few weeks ago about the flooding here in Thailand and maybe you have heard about the situation in Bangkok at the moment.

in our big supermarkets, there is much less merchandise than usual and many shelves are empty.
In some stores, like 7-11, there is no bottled waters on the shelves (even the locals drink bottled water here as it is not safe to drink from the tap). 
Other dried foods, oil and canned goods are also scarce. This is due to supply chain disruption as many of the major factories are under water and parts of Bangkok are being shut down for at least a month.

At that point, I kind-of felt a bit strange purchasing potato chips and pastries when I suddenly felt the urge to be stocking up on rice, baked beans and long-life milk!

So what's a party planning girl supposed to do in this situation?  Why... think creatively of course!
I bought what I could find, scrapped the items that I couldn't find and quickly adjusted a few of my ideas to suit the available ingredients.

All in all, it went really well!  There was no food shortage at this party and we are still finishing off the left-overs!

Regarding the food shortages in general, we're not quite sure how bad it will get but at the moment it seems that different stores seem to be getting products in at random times and it's all a bit hit and miss with what's available BUT we are totally fine.  
There is no starving here so please don't start dropping us food parcels from the sky just yet!!

Comments please!  If there was one item on your shopping list that you simple could NOT do without, what would it be?

Oh, I almost forgot, "U.N. Conference Promotes Insect-Eating.  Crickets, caterpillars and grubs are high in protein and minerals and could be an important food source during droughts and other emergencies, according to scientists".
I'll keep that in mind! Not!