the Vernon Journal

Serving the Kingdom in Southeast Asia

Filtering by Tag: AOF

My Girls Eat Worms

Life with our Akha friends has been full of adventures, from arriving at a funeral covered in mud to extracting teeth, from naming children to burying loved ones. Each of these adventures has been a part of the history we have built here over the past seven years. As we have patiently earned relational equity, God has continued to change and challenge us in ministry, and most recently He is challenging us to oversee production of Akha language media - movies, clips, music - and empower the Akha people to share their own stories and lives. We're doing this in partnership with Project Video and Akha Outreach Foundation under the banner of Akha Outreach Media. We are in the middle of dubbing a major production, the Book of Acts, into Akha, but because it is the season for bamboo worms we paused the Acts project to put together a short video to teach the lesson of James 1 which teaches about our path from Preperation to Pain to Perseverance to Perfection. The video is centered around a typical Akha experience: the gathering of bamboo worms in the early fall.

Our entire family went up for a weekend to work on this film with our Akha team of actors and production crew. In our 7 years here, we have grown comfortable eating what we like to call "exotic" foods, but can still relate to the many people who would simply call them "gross". Intestines, fat, skin, hair, blood, fermented meat, raw meat, birds, dog, bugs and worms have all become common encounters. A few of these items have become favorites, but some still require a big breath before I dive in. Bamboo worms fall in this last category.

But our girls have grown up in a world where a bamboo hut is more common than a skyscraper, and where bamboo worms are as much of an annual experience as a turkey at thanksgiving. So it is through their eyes that I want to share with you the joy of eating bamboo worms:

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Akha Women's Retreat 2010

Regardless of what corner of the globe or what ethnic group, it's important for women to have the opportunity to retreat from their usual daily routines and be with other women for rest, encouragement and spiritual renewal. In January I had the privilege of joining with many women for the annual Akha women's retreat at Akha Outreach Foundation. This year was especially exciting for me because a large group of women from the villages around Mae Salong came down for the retreat. Everyone (about 20 passengers total) piled into our truck for the 2 hour drive down to the city. Upon arriving, they quickly embraced the freedom of being away from the duties of children and work. It was awesome to watch women hug and reunite with friends from other villages (most of whom they don't see except for this one time each year).

The sessions included some amazing speakers and worship. During one session in particular, the healing presence of the Holy Spirit was so rich and the worship was so beautiful that most of the women were weeping (which is quite unusual, as Akha rarely show this kind of emotion.) There were also plenty of times filled with joy & energy ; everyone enjoyed many silly songs, games and dancing (check out the pictures below!)

Last year I merely translated, however this year I was honored to be asked to teach one of the sessions. I taught on parenting, mostly encouraging the mothers that God has prepared them for job he has set before them. Too many Akha parents believe the lie that they are not equipped to raise their children because they haven't had any formal education. This is the reason that many Akha children are being sent to be raised in boarding homes unnecessarily, which, in turn, is slowly destroying the family system. I taught in Akha (though admittedly, it was rough at times) and tried to use several examples from daily Akha life to further convey that God values the Akha people and way of life and that they have something so valuable to offer their kids!

One of my favorite parts of the women's retreat every year is the craft time. I've lived in an Akha village for 5 years, so I'm fairly accustomed to seeing Akha women working on their various sewing projects, but there's just something so awe inspiring to see so many women, so much skill and expertise, so much culture all in one room! This year they introduced a new aspect to the time. During this craft session, the Bible students (aged 18-25) living at Akha Outreach Foundation were encouraged to join in and learn from their elders. While most young women know how to do Akha cross stitch, some of the more uncommon skills are being lost to the younger generations. The female students sat amongst the mothers learning how to make pom poms and sew applique, while the young men sat with the grandmothers (whose eyesight no longer permits them to do the intricate work) and wrote down Akha proverbs, Akha stories, and the stories of their lives. It was an awesome sight to witness the passing down of traditions from generation to generation!

We made it!

Hey, everyone. Well we've made it through our first two weeks in an Akha village. It was amazing! We've just returned to Chiang Rai for a week or so to help with an Akha Youth Camp and to rest a little from the rigors of village life. We have so much to tell you about our time, but we don't want overwhelm you with an enormous blog, so I've written several shorter blogs. That way, if you're in a hurry, you can pick one or two to read instead. Also, we've put new pictures on our Photos page, so be sure to check out those as well.

Mmmmmmmm... Illiteracy!

Oh, the joys of illiteracy! Take our experiences yesterday. We were looking for breakfast and ended up in a 7-11 (finding this to be the least "risky" of the available options... we're still pretty new at all of this). We settled on two strawberry yogurts and a bag of plain white dinner rolls. But I digress. Back to the joys of illiteracy. What is it like not being able to read anything around us? Sometimes it makes life fun, just guess and hope that what you get looks like the picture.

muffinsOther times it can be rather humbling, like today when we went cell phone shopping. The best and cheapest way to communicate here seems to be with a cell phone, but the cell phone system is totally different than the one we have in the states. We were completely lost and surely would have been ripped off if not for the help of our friend Neng. He taught us everything we needed to know about buying a cell phone... and we taught him a little about the importance of communication in marriage (example: when Lori wants the pretty phone and Paul wants the phone with all the gadgets).

We have met a number of Thai and Farang (the Thai call western foreigners "Farang") friends here at the Good News Study Center in just a few days time. This area is teeming with the young adults that we seem to click with. While we have enjoyed our time in Bangkok (which is a first for us), we look forward to getting out of the city and up to the North. So now, armed with a cell phone that does not work (we have to buy a "little microchip card with a telephone number" when we get to Chiang Rai) and all 300 pounds of our luggage, we're on the move again.

We leave for Chiang Rai this afternoon and hope to settle in a little before guests begin to arrive for graduation on March 12th. Please continue to pray for us - as we know that these first few weeks will be crucial to our adjustment to life here. Pray that we would be especially attentive to the leading of the Holy Spirit – especially in what we say. Continue to pray also for our marriage and devotional lives as these next few weeks will be especially busy.

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