the Vernon Journal

Serving the Kingdom in Southeast Asia

Filtering by Tag: celebrations

A Heritage of Ministry

Paul and Lori VernonTen years ago this week was the first time we arrived in Thailand. As two young, wide-eyed, newlywed college kids we first set foot in the nation that we knew God had called us to serve. We had come to Thailand to visit a fledgling ministry to the Akha people and assist them with some land planning. But the reality was that we were taking the first step of obedience to the call that God placed on our life. We continued to travel between the United States and Thailand over the next five years; leading teams and growing in our relationship with each other and with the ministry to the Akha. Finally in 2005 we moved here full-time, and Akha Outreach Foundation had grown and matured in its ministry. By this time the ministry here was serving the Akha with three ministry focuses: House of Joy, a children's home for orphaned and high-risk kids; Akha Bible Institute, a training program for young emerging Akha leaders; Akha Outreach Services, a ministry to Akha villages and churches.

Earlier this month Akha Outreach Foundation celebrated it's 10th year of ministry. Nearly 2,000 Akha men, women and children came to participate in the event and to celebrate the heritage of ministry that Akha Outreach Foundation has fostered.

The 10-Year Anniversary celebration was a beautiful event that was well worth the months of preparation that we put into it by printing books, images, pamphlets and banners, editing videos, and coordinating visitors. It was amazing to see what God has done over the past ten years. Former drug addicts leading their villages in worship. Men and women who had been witch doctors and mediums smiling with the joy that comes with the freedom of the gospel. Christians from multiple denominations and backgrounds laughing, singing and eating together.

Akha Outreach - A Heritage of WorshipAkha Outreach - A Heritage of EqualityAkha Outreach 10 Year Celebration - A Heritage of FamilyAkha Outreach 10 Year CelebrationAkha Outreach 10 Year Celebration - A Heritage of Honor Akha Outreach 10 Year Celebration - A Heritage of CelebrationAkha Outreach 10 Year Celebration - Heritage of LearningAkha Outreach 10 Year Celebration - Heritage of Friendship

But as exciting as the look back was, and as encouraging as it has been to see what God is doing, the most exhilarating thing is that the vision for ministry to the Akha is just beginning. The barriers that have bound the Akha for generations are being broken, but this is just the start. As God leads the Akha into freedom, the barriers that exist between individuals, villages, regions, and nations are being broken. The rice is ripe and harvest is coming.

Introducing Izabel

On October 13th at 6:55 am we welcomed Izabel Ruth into our family. She was born weighing 3.9 kilograms (8 lbs. 10 ounces) after about 2.5 hours of natural labor and childbirth. Both Izi and Lori are doing great. Thus far (she's only 5 days old as I write this) she's been a wonderful baby; she sleeps well, she eats well, and we've never seen her cry for more than 15 seconds. She's already using the toilet a couple of times a day as we are continuing with our EC practices. Abigail loves her little sister and making the life adjustment well. Our family has been staying in our city home in Chiangrai for all of October and we will probably remain here until the month is over as we adjust as a family to our new addition. We're excited to get back into our normal ministry pace, but have really enjoyed this time in the city preparing for Izi, spending time as a family, and working on our city-side projects.

We have been tumbl'ing images of Izabel over on her own blog - Our Izi Ruth - rather than fill up this blog with tons of kid pictures (actually we all have Tumblr blogs if you would like to follow our lighter and more personal posts: Izi Abi Lori Paul) but wanted to share a few pictures here as well:

Just Born Izabel RuthHappy Mommy and DaddySweet SleeperCalling our Parents in America with the Happy NewsIzi AngelI'm getting hungry!Sister KissesIzabel, Abigail, Paul and Lori VernonFirst time Abi held IziSister SnugglesTen Ticklish ToesSistersIzi going potty : 5 days oldYou can see a little bit of Izi's eyes as she works the potty

A Happy Christmas

Since I spent the last week of 2009 in America, we ended up celebrating our family Christmas on January 2nd this year. Abigail is still young enough that the actual date doesn't really matter to her - but she is now old enough that Christmas is really fun. Living in Thailand we try to do a couple of holidays with more of an American flair, for ourselves and for Abi so she can have some connection with her American roots. Our biggest "tradition" holiday - by far - is Christmas. We start the day with an American breakfast cooked by Lori. This year she made an "Apple French Toast Casserole" which was so good that Esther actually ate it (she is generally a very picky eater, and especially adverse to western food). While we eat breakfast, we listen to the Christmas story - first in Akha, then in English - while discussing the characters in the story through our nativity scene.

Then we celebrate a new tradition, initiated by Abi. Since there are presents under the tree, Abi knew that there must be a birthday. For about a month, she kept thinking it was going to be her birthday again, but now if you ask her whose birthday is on Christmas, she will answer "Baby Jesus" or "God" depending on what she remembers of the story at the time. So, we all sing a rousing version of Happy Birthday to Jesus, led by Abi.

Then we open our presents and stockings. Lori and I love this time because we get to really spoil Esther. This year, in addition to clothes & food, the popular gifts were...

For me: a new netbook to replace my dying & incredibly slow laptop. Thanks Mom, Dad, Grandma & Grandpa!

akha-women-by-soe-winFor Lori: a beautiful, original oil-on-canvas (50" x 36") of five Ulo Akha women carrying bundles of roofing grass and corn in from the fields. This original composition was painted by Burmese artist Soe Win, who we were able to meet in Maesot where we purchased the piece.

For Abi: a custom-made traditional Burmese outfit that Esther bought from a seamstress in Myanmar (Burma) & a miniature blender so that Abi can make smoothies just like her mom!

For Esther: a huge bag of her favorite dried cherries, photos and a photo album, clothes from America and fabric, thread & sewing needles so she can learn how to sew Akha stitches (everyone has always given her a hard time because she didn't learn how to sew as a girl, now she can practice in the city. she's really excited to show her mom that she's learning to sew!).

After all the presents and playing, we enjoy a wonderful smorgasbord lunch of breads, vegetables, fruits, cheeses, crackers and summer sausage to round out a wonderful - if belated - family Christmas. Hope you all had wonderful times with your families as well!

Thank you Esther for this beautiful outfit!Modeling her beautiful new outfitEsther's new fabric, thread & sewing needlesAbi's second favorite Christmas toy - a shopping cart.A very happy Esther, and a silly snowglobe stocking stuffer.So excited about her new blender.Opening Christmas presents from OmaAbigail enjoying her new Christmas toys

Five Days, the Boys, and a Wedding

band-shot-san-diegoSome of you have seen my fb updates over the last month and have therefore heard most of this story, but if you hadn't heard:  I was in Southern California for the last week of 2009. A good friend of mine and his new bride flew me in and out of America to celebrate their wedding with them. It was a whirlwind of a trip filled with airplanes, car rides and jetlag. I spent as much time traveling to, from and around Southern California as I was actually at the wedding - but it was a wonderful time.

It was really special for me because I got to spend a lot of time with some of my closest friends. Including the groom, eight of the guys from our college days came. Unfortunately, none of the wives or kids were able to make it - but that actually made for a great time. And probably the last time that all of us guys would be together just as all of us guys.

weddingAfter the wedding we headed out into San Diego to see the aircraft carrier, mess around with photography, pay for parking without actually doing anything where we parked, and close down a microbrewery that had completely run out of it's house-brewed root beer.

It was a great time with great friends, and although I probably would never choose to make another quick round-trip like that again, I wouldn't trade the memories of those few days for anything in the world.

Thanks guys, it was a blast.



Two Minutes for a Two Year Old

We celebrated Abi's second birthday last month with a great crowd of people. Aje and Nancy hosted the party, the Chanda family was in from Kazakhstan with their three girls, and our missions supervisor Kelly was in from Bangkok with fellow missionary, Chris. For Abi, new friends and people from all over the world is normal life. She's a real sweetie at 2 years old. Sure, she's learning how to throw a temper tantrum as she learns that she doesn't always get her way, but she's a sweet little girl who loves to play and loves her friends, especially Mali and Apaw. She can say her "ABC's" and can count to ten in three languages - English, Akha and Thai! We'll try to get some videos up for all of you family & friends who might be interested to let you see our growing little girl, but for now here's a two minute clip of Abi's birthday - and the beautiful Elmo birthday cake that Lori made for her.

Christmas 2008

It has been FOREVER since I posted here... and so out of fear of letting this blog die, I'm finally getting a new post up! I'm really loving the Christmas season this year and so I thought this questionnaire would be a fun easy way to share my thoughts!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper, for sure! Actually, here in Thailand it's really hard to find Christmas themed paper and I'm a bit of a Christmas Nazi, so when ever I see a bin of wrapping paper for sale you'll find me pawing through it trying to find anything remotely Christmas-y.

2. Real tree or Artificial?
I'm from Oregon... so in my opinion real trees are the best! (Again that's part of my Christmas Nazi tendencies!) You just can't beat the smell of a Christmas tree in the living room! Every single Christmas until we came to Thailand I had a real tree. Of course, here in Thailand we have an artificial, but I don't really mind it too much. I'm just happy to have a tree at all!

3. When do you put up the tree?
As soon as humanly possible following Thanksgiving day.

4. When do you take the tree down?
Sometime in January. Whenever I get around to it.

5. Do you like eggnog?
Yes, but not strait; mixed half and half with milk is best!

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
I can't say for sure... but *one* of my favorites was a Playdoh Diner set. It had all sorts of gadgets to make hamburgers and icecream cones and the like.

7. Hardest person to buy for? one comes to mind. I guess it would be ME! Paul is always asking for a Christmas wish list and I can never think of anything I want!

8. Easiest person to buy for?

9. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes, somewhere in storage in the U.S. Unfortunately it's not here in Thailand. One of these days we'll bring it out.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?

Neither. I don't send out snail mail cards because I'm too lazy and I don't send out email cards because it's too impersonal. Go figure!

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Can't think of one... generally, if it's wrapped, I like it. :)

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
No question about it... White Christmas with Bing Crosby! I've already watched it at least seven times this season already.

13. When do you start shopping?
Whenever I think about it. Usually sometime in late November.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I'm sure I have...although I can't think of a particular instance at the moment. Apparently I'm a bit brain dead today; I can't seem to think of good answers for quite a few of these questions. (This is why it's been so long since I've written a blog here... I'm really this brain dead all the time! It's called being a mother!)

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Appetizers. I can do with out the the formal dinner and the Christmas ham. For me, Christmas is all about the finger foods... black olives, pickles, crackers and cheese, summer sausage, etc. And don't forget the sweets... cookies, fudge, candy... you eat those with your hands so they count as finger foods too!

16. Lights on the tree?
Again, this is an area where the Christmas Nazi in me comes out. I am very picky about my tree lights. They have to be interwoven into the branches so that you can't see the wires, not just haphazardly strung. Also, there should be A LOT... this year I used 9 strands of lights on our tree.

17. Favorite Christmas song?
"Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel" Or "The Hallelujah Chorus" (which could also be considered an Easter song, but my home church always sang it on Christmas eve.)

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Either is fine.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's?
Let's see..."You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen. Someone and Someone and Donner and Dixen. But do you recall..." Guess not!

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
I prefer star. In theory I'm ok with either, but more often than not I think the angels are gaudy and the stars look much nicer.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Growing up, our family opened all the presents on Christmas eve (except for the stockings and a present or two from "Santa" which we opened Christmas morning.) I never thought I'd change, but somehow Christmas morning has become our new tradition!

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
Trying to make an American Christmas in Thailand. It's hard to make everything "just right" here. We can't even buy proper candy canes! Also, I tried to make some candies that were dipped in chocolate, but the Thai chocolate won't melt properly and is all lumpy! :(

23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
No favorites really. My current tree is Silver, White & Blue themed, but those colors were only chosen because I didn't like the yellow, green & red ornaments.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?

If I'm choosing between a Turkey or a Ham dinner, I prefer Turkey. Although,like I said earlier, I don't feel too deprived without Christmas dinner (afterall Thanksgiving was just a month ago!)

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
Maybe a new watch? I dunno! Sorry Honey...wish I were more help!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone

As Lori is prepping the Pumpkin Pies, Green Bean Casserole and Jell-O Salad for our Thanksgiving meal here in Thailand, we remember all of you - our friends, family, support team, and church partners - with much Thanksgiving and Joy. We have much to be Thankful for this year - it has been a healthy year for us physically, a milestone year for us linguistically, a growing year for us in ministry and an unspeakably wonderful year for us as we have watched Abigail discover the world around her.

We are coming out of a busy season of village travel - having celebrated the rice harvest in four villages, attended a funeral and generally traveled to Akha villages throughout the region - building upon old relationships and forming new ones.

We are currently preparing for the next year, as I am sure many of you are, and trying to get our business affairs in order as we have a short break around Thanksgiving. There is so much we still want to update you all on - medical and dental clinics, ministry direction and future plans and general life happenings - but for now we want to wish you all a happy and healthy Thanksgiving filled with friends and family.

Thanks for following our adventures here in Thailand!

Abi's First Birthday

So our little girl is now 1 year old, and a wonderful year it has been. We celebrated a few days early at Aje and Nancy's home and to put an exclamation point on the party Abi took her first (completely unassisted, or spotted) steps!

The party had most of the usual American trimmings (food, birthday cake, and the song "happy birthday"), but we did miss our family from America on the occasion. To make up for it we had people from (at least) 4 different nations - Thailand, Burma, America and New Zealand. It seems like this international audience will be the norm for Abigail in this strange, wonderful life we lead.

Here is a video of the party, some antics at home leading up to the party and of course those famous first steps. Enjoy!

If you download the videos, I recommend using VLC player to view them. Download VLC for Windows | Mac.

The Akha Wedding

The Akha Wedding ceremony is a long process, beginning in the wife's family village and ending in the husband's family village. The big "wedding" event occurs in the husband's village with the "Wife Celebration". There is a lot to be told about this event, and for Lori and I there is still a lot to be learned about this event, but today I just want to share some pictures of a young Akha bride and groom from a wedding ceremony in our village. Specifically, I want you all to see the long, involved process that is the donning of the traditional Akha headdress and attire.

An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride An Akha Bride Putting on the Akha Headdress Putting on the Akha headdress Putting on the Akha Headdress Putting on the Akha Headdress An Akha Groom The Groom's Family An Akha Bride and Groom The young Akha Groom The Young Akha Bride

Beautiful, is it not? We were honored to take pictures for two weddings in our village just before Lori became sick, and promised to put together a video slide show of the pictures for both couples' families. We are planning to head back to the village this weekend to give out the finished videos.

It is a strange world the Akha live in today - they sit on dirt floors in their bamboo huts and watch family wedding videos on their televisions. Talk about an ancient-future experience.

Preparing the Feast

It's the season to celebrate the new rice harvest in Akha villages. It is difficult to describe all the sights and sounds and smells that you experience in the village, but we wanted to show you a small glimpse into the festival at Mae Salong. Here we have some of our neighbors preparing one of the dishes for the festival meal. They do everything in community, and here they are gathered around on a salah chopping up vegetables. Look at that young boy go! He's only about 11 years old, but he knows his way around a knife.


Akha New Rice Festival : video

The Akha Rice Festival

It is time for the rice harvest in Thailand, and to the Akha that means the celebration of the Haw Shui Dza (New Rice Festival). This celebration goes much further than the celebration of Rice, the staple element of the Akha diet, for they celebrate all of their harvest. Coffee, tea, corn, tomatoes, vegetables and fruits are part of the celebration. The harvest is a time of plenty, and though every year has its difficulties for the Akha, this is joyful time.

Yesterday we received a special treat and were able to go to Lawca Akha (Elephant Mountain Village) for their new rice celebration. This is the largest Akha village in all of Thailand and one of the most traditional Akha villages in Thailand, and we were honored to be invited to celebrate with them.

It's a rough road to Lawca, but it was worth it as we enjoyed singing, dancing, playing on the Akha Swing and - of course - the traditional Akha celebration meal of minced spicy pork (sa bieh), salsa (sa pi), soups, vegetables and new rice.

the Road to Elephant Mountainthe Firstfruitslaying out the feastLori and Jan enjoying the New RiceAkha Teenage Girls washing dishesAkha kids peering at the cameraAkha kids peering at the cameraAkha Swing FestivalElephant Mountain Akha Swing Festival

Thanks for a Happy Birthday!

My birthday was a few days ago and I just wanted to say "Thank You" to everyone who sent me birthday emails and e-cards! It was such a blessing to hear from you all!


Also, I wanted to thank my sweet husband for making my day so special! He woke me with breakfast in bed and my birthday present! He bought a dress for me while we were in America and has kept it a secret all this time! But it wasn't just any dress, it was "the dress". I saw it at the Silverthorne Factory Outlets and it was "love at first sight"! In the end, we decided it wouldn't be very prudent to get the dress since I don't have many occasions to wear such a dress in Thailand. Though I tried to be strong and mature, I secretly mourned the loss of "the perfect dress." Meanwhile, Paul had purchased the dress and with the help of family had successfully kept me in the dark. Needless to say, I was sufficiently surprised when I opened my birthday present and saw that dress!

After opening my birthday present, I received a few calls from friends and family thanks to the wonders of Skype. Then after lunch, Paul sent me off for a two hour Thai massage! (I am lucky aren't I?) For dinner, Paul took me out to dinner at a nice restaurant here in Chiang Rai (which gave me an excellent reason to wear my new dress!) After dinner, we finished off the night with a couple episodes of Lost and Scrubs on DVD.

All in all, I had a great birthday! Thank you to everyone who made it possible!

A Look at the Graduation

We wanted to let you all in on a few moments of the graduation on March 12th. It was a great celebration of twelve young men and women who are moving into their internships. Please remember them in your prayers as they have a large task ahead. The children sang worship songs in Akha waving banners brought by the Pearson's from Colorado. Akha leaders came down from their villages to show their support and to celebrate the first graduation, and American pastors and support team pray for the graduates.

Akha GraduationAkha GraduationAkha Graduation

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