the Vernon Journal

Serving the Kingdom in Southeast Asia

Filtering by Tag: travel

Into Indochina

We recently traveled north into the largest country, by geographical area, in Indochina to join in the dedication celebration for a local Foursquare church. As with each time we've traveled into this country, the border crossing and weaving through the crowds of "tour guides" and taxis can be a stressful experience... but once you've crossed that initial boundary of sellers, smugglers and scams typical of many border-towns, the people are truly wonderful. Despite the difficult conditions they live in (or perhaps because of those conditions) there are few other places that possess such a richness of cultures and an appreciation of the simple pleasures of life. We woke up very early in order to cross the border in Maesai by 7 am. After going through Thai customs, we crossed the bridge over the Mekong river, which divides the two countries. Once that bridge had been crossed, we found ourselves in a different world. The language, the customs, the people, the food, the vehicles and even the time have all changed. That's right, having left Thailand at 7:00 am we found ourselves in customs at Tachileik at 6:30 am, as the entire country has set it's clock 30 minutes off of the rest of the world's recognized time zones.

Abi playing with the Kids Once we had worked our way through customs and the crowd of sellers, we hired a Tuk Tuk to take us to Esther's home village to see her parents. As is typical in any Akha village, Abi quickly made herself at home, "helping" fix breakfast and playing with all the Akha kids, and (as is also typical) the villagers were all amazed to see a little "foreign girl" speaking Akha and interacting in the Akha world.

An American from Singapore showing Akha kids a Russian toy in Burma.Abi cooking breakfast with Esther's momAkha boys travelling to the fields on bicyclesEsther's grandma and and Akha girl talking with Lori and AbiEsther and her parents

After the delicious breakfast and great time in the village, we headed off to the dedication celebration for the new church. It was beautiful, and over 500 people from the various Foursquare churches in the region came down. A majority (probably 80%) of the attendees were actually hilltribe members - most of them were Lahu but many Akha were there as well. We enjoyed speaking with the pastor and Bible students from the church, but Lori and I especially enjoyed connecting with the Akha and Lahu people who came down. (The Lahu are a group related to the Akha, and although the two languages are unique and distinct, most Lahu speak a little Akha and vice versa.) Abi put on the traditional Burmese outfit that Esther had tailored for her as a Christmas present, and even wore Thanakha - the traditional face-paint of the region.

The new Foursquare churchLittle Lahu boy wearing ThanakhaGirl wearing Thanakha face paintAbi with all her new friendsAbi with her Thanakha makeupThe church celebration

In the middle of the service I (Paul) was asked to come up and give thanks for the offering, I was planning on speaking in English with a translator, but when I got up front there was no translator, so I decided to just stumble along in Akha. Once I finished, the reaction of the crowd told me that most of them could in fact understand Akha, and it was great to connect with everyone in a language they could understand - although they were extremely gracious overlooking the ineloquence of my words.

We really enjoyed our time and look forward to some great opportunities that are on the horizon to continue to build into the new relationships we have with these Foursquare churches.

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.

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In the Middle of Mae Sot

I received a phone call in the middle of September from Kelly, our Foursquare supervising missionary from Bangkok. In his typically subtle way, he asked me "So, are you guys interested in taking a little break?" Knowing that there was a much larger backstory to this question, I asked Kelly what he meant and he shared the following story: The Gilberts, Foursquare missionaries to Mae Sot, have been in America since August visiting churches and fundraising. Mason and Virgene Hughes were overseeing the ministry, but Mason had some health problems that required them to return to America. Now there was a home, two dogs, and some ministry activities that needed some bodies to fill in for about a month.

I began telling Kelly all the reasons we couldn't make it, going down my list of activities and opportunities that would make it impossible for us to be away for that long. However, every word I spoke felt like it was more and more incorrect. Soon I found myself stopping mid-excuse and saying to Kelly, "You know what, let me talk to Lori and I'll call you back."

Immediately after explaining the story to Lori, she confirmed the check in my spirit, saying "We're supposed to do this."

A week later (after hosting Sarah Smith - a short-term Foursquare missionary serving for the summer at Our Home Study Center in Bangkok), we were packed up and on the road (a 7-hour drive) moving to Mae Sot.

Our time in Mae Sot has been interesting. There are many Aid organizations working in the region, including the Mae Tao clinic - an incredible medical facility we were able to visit and exchange information with that "provides medical services for Burmese migrants in Thailand and for the thousands who come from Burma each year seeking medical help". They have suggested that they might be able to partner with us by sending doctors our way to do mobile clinics along the border in the north, and might also have training options available for us and for nationals who are serving their villages as "barefoot doctors".

The Foursquare church in Thailand also has a significant presence in Mae Sot. The National Leaders of Foursquare Thailand, John & Sarah Srivichai, pastor the church here and there is also a children's home, an elementary school, a coffee shop / english school and village churches. We are especially excited to have learned that there is an Akha village about 48 kilometers (30 minutes) from town, and plan on visiting it later this month.

But, as we have found in Thailand and understand to be true in most of Asia, you just can't pick up and start ministering immediately in a new area. Relationships are slow and history is important. So, although we've been to the church, the coffee shop, the children's home - we are still strangers and visitors, not active parts of the community. We've been able to work with the ex-pat community, and Lori has taught some English classes, but for the most part we're just house-sitting, dog-sitting and sitting around.

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This has been difficult, as we've been going non-stop for so long that we don't know what to do with ourselves. Lori and Esther are especially stir-crazy coping with the minutia of daily life and with the culture-shock of a new region and new food options.

However, despite the difficulties, we have found that "just being" and "physically being" here we can still be used as tools for God's Kingdom. Here are some quick examples:

Rusty, Lynette & Olive: as many of you are aware from our Facebook updates and Journey Notes, Rusty and Lynette had a baby girl, Olive Hope, 2.5 months early.  She is still suffering complications and is hospitalized in Chiang Rai. Rusty and Lynette have been staying in our city home (about five minutes from the hospital) ever since Lynette was released from the hospital. The family are all still in need of our prayers, but we have seen God's hand providing for them every on step of this difficult journey, the least of which is getting us out of town so that Rusty and Lynette could have a place to rest between their vigils with Olive. Our relative inactivity here has also allowed for us to be constantly remembering Olive and lifting her little life and body up in prayer.

Sang: Sang is a Jingpo, or Kachin, woman from Burma.  Neil and Diana have helped her get paperwork to live and work in Thailand and she has been caring for their home daily as her full time job. Her husband, however, has recently been hospitalized and is very sick as he battles progressed stage-3 stomach cancer. In the last week he has been unable to eat solid foods and has been put on IV nutrition. Sang was running herself ragged trying to care for the dogs here, her husband at the hospital, and her children at home. Since we arrived she has been able to pay much more attention to her husband and family, and is only coming over here for a few hours each afternoon. Esther has also been able to really minister sympathy to her as the two of them sit and share with one another in Burmese.

Paul, Lori & Esther: we're probably doing the worst of everyone on this list, but we're trying to just be. To be with God, to be with family, to be with ourselves. We rarely get opportunities like this, and are really blessed to have them (just pray that we appreciate this time for what it is, rather than wishing we could be somewhere else!) Attending church here has been restful. Esther has been fed by great Thai worship and sermons, and we have appreciated attending a church as visitors without any additional responsibilities.

Abigail: this has been a great time for Abi and for us to focus on her. We drag her all over the globe  (she flew on 33 different airplanes before she turned 2!) and she is a sweet, precious little girl. This time has been good for us as a family to set a good schedule for her naps and nighttime sleep and we have finally weaned her at night (again!). She is a two-year old with a huge personality and a very strong will, so this has also been a great time for us to set good boundaries with her and gently correct her when her will turns into a tantrum.

We're leaving Mae Sot tomorrow for about 10 days, and are planning on returning here on the 19th or 20th of October for the remainder of the month. We will be going up to Mae Salong to reconnect with our church and village this weekend.  Then Paul will be going to Singapore to attend a seminar taught by Beth Barone while Lori, Esther and Abi will be attending the annual interdenominational Akha Christian Youth camp next week.

Pray for us as in our travels and as our family is separated that we would stay safe and open to what God has for us in this strange season of our lives.

Thanks for following our Journey Notes online!

Moving to Mae Sot

Moving from Chiang Rai to Mae SotWe are moving from Chiang Rai down to Mae Sot today and will spend the rest of September and most of October there. The foursquare missionaries who live in Mae Sot, Neil and Diana Gilbert, are currently on furlough in America and some health complications with the couple who was watching their home and ministry have forced them to return back to America as well - so we are filling in for a month and a half, helping with the home, coffee shop, English classes, English fellowship and local church ministry. Mae Sot is a border town between Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand. Historically, many Karen refugees have come into Thailand seeking asylum and live in refugee camps in the area. Like many border towns, it has a mixture of languages and cultures packed densely into a small area.

It is a little daunting to move from a region where we can speak a very common language, Akha, to a region where there are very few Akha and the majority languages are Thai, Burmese and Karen. We are looking forward to the opportunity to increase our Thai language skills, and are grateful as always for the huge blessing that Esther is for our language needs. We speak to her in Akha, and she can translate it to Thai or Burmese as needed.

We don't really know what to expect in Mae Sot, but know that the National President of Foursquare Thailand pastors the church there and we are honored to get a chance to get to know him and his ministry a little more. Here's an excerpt from the Worldbase Thailand website regarding the ministry in Mae Sot:

The main church in Mae Sot is the Mae Sot Foursquare Church. Pastor John Somphon is the National President for Foursquare Thailand. We have several Hill tribes churches, an orphanage and a Refugee School for Burmese children (Elpis School). Pastor John has a heart for the many Karen refugees in the region and has started many churches in the Mae Sot area and in the surrounding Hill Tribes villages. Pastor John also oversees our church in Pitsanulok.

Surprise!

We are very proud of my younger brother, Jeremy, who is graduating from college this morning in Kassel, Germany. He has been studying at the International YMCA University of Applied Sciences, with the lectures, papers and oral exams all in the German language. We had been hoping to come out for the graduation, but the tickets to Germany were so expensive we couldn't justify the trip. Then, about three weeks ago, we found some discount tickets on Sri Lankan airlines and decided to make the trip, but we did not tell my mother or grandma that we were coming. We haven't seen my parents for a year and a half, and my mom has been pretty sad about not seeing Abi or my brother's son, Sem, for all that time.

A happy grandma and grandbaby.When my parents and grandmother arrived, we left my brother's home to go shopping and to spread out the joyful moments for my mom. After the hugs and greetings with my brother's family, we snuck back into the house and out onto the porch where my mother was sitting. When she saw us her eyes grew big, her jaw dropped and... she was speechless.

For those of you who know my mom, that's really saying something.

Once she was convinced that she wasn't hallucinating, and the shock and suprise of seeing us wore off there were tears and hugs and a very sweet time with everyone. Since then we have been going to graduation events, enjoying the wonderful food here in Germany, and seeing sites like the castle and forest that inspired the Brothers Grimm to create all of their creepy tales.

Most of all, we are simply enjoying a wonderful time with family in a beautiful corner of the world.

Night Ambulance

I'm writing this update on my phone from our hut in Maesalong as Lori is driving to the hospital with a woman from our village. A few minutes ago (about 10 pm) we were called on to come see a woman who is having severe stomach pains. It was quickly obvious she needed hospital care so Lori is racing off with her to the nearest hospital (about 45 min away) while I stay back in my recent role of night caretaker for Abi (who, we are happy to report, is night weaned!).

Please pray for this woman and for safety as they travel to town!

In other news, day 1 of our village VBS has been a huge success. For our village and surrounding area we have 40 children participating in the event! This has been a long time coming and it is wonderful to see the fruits of the labour. Please remember us in prayer as we hope to do a total of 3 vbs's in different villages this month.

Thanks to everyone for keeping us covered in prayer and for all of your love & support!

January Travels: Bangkok, Hat Yai & Mae Salong

In January we were blessed to have my (Lori's) parents in country for a visit. Their arrival coincided with the Grand Opening of the new Foursquare church and ministry center in Bangkok. We flew down to meet them in Bangkok and while there took the opportunity to see a few sights. Can you believe that this was their fifth trip to Thailand and they had never been to the Grand Palace! (We must not be very good tour guides, eh?)

After a few days in Bangkok, we headed down to Southern Thailand for a few days at the beach! We ended up staying in Songkla (just outside of Hat Yai) for 3 nights. Our little hotel was right on the beach and we had such a nice relaxing time!

Esther (who has lived with us for almost 2 years now) and one of her friends came along as well. Neither of them had ever flown in a plane or seen the ocean, so it was exciting to be with them as they experienced these new things. It was also Abi's first time seeing the ocean (Although, it certainly wasn't her first time on the plane... she's been on nearly 30 plane rides thus far and she's not even two yet!) and, of course, she loved it! (Some photos of her at the beach are bound to show up on the baby blog sooner or later. So stay tuned!)

After we made it back up north, we all headed up to the village for about a week. My parents were troopers, braving the cold showers and hard beds with ease. We stayed pretty busy pouring a concrete pathway and building a deck as the finishing touches to our "new" village home. My dad, the builder, loved getting his hands dirty, working alongside the Akha men and noticing all the differences in how things are done here. And my mom, (not so keen on getting her hands dirty) was the resident baby sitter and kept Abi and her village friendsoccupied and out of harms way.

Mom & Dad... thanks so much for coming! We can't wait for your next visit!

On the Road to Elephant Mountain...

A couple of weeks back we had the opportunity to accompany a missions team from Singapore to the Akha village of Doi Chang (Elephant Mountain) to attend the Christmas celebration there. We had a great time and even enjoyed the cold cold weather (temperatures in the 40s), but the trip was not without adventure! On the way to the village, after driving for about an hour up the dirt road, we heard a loud "clunk". A rod used to brace the frame had jiggled loose and simply fell off. Our poor truck, it has a hard life, driving on such rough village roads all the time! Luckily we were able to locate a couple of tools and Paul with his "MacGyver-like" skills was able to re-attach it. We finally made it to the village and finished the rest of the trip without incident. Needless to say, we got the truck into the mechanic as soon as we got back to the city. Luckily, he re-attached the the rod (with all the proper tools) for free! Here are a few pictures from our Singaporean friends! Thanks guys!

Truck driving through waterDriving up the mountain roadsThe broken partPaul underneath the truckThe men talking about a solutionPaul & Lori working on the truck togetherLori helping to fix the truckTalking by the truckElephant MountainPaul & friends eating dinnerPaul translatingPaul and Abi

We Have a Visa!

Our Family in Singapore with the Merlion.
We are happy to announce that we have recieved our visa for Abigail from the Thai Embassy here in Singapore. The process was amazingly simple since we already had our work permits and visas (and having all the paperwork from the foundation we work through really helped). The bad news is that outside of Thailand you can only receive a 3 month visa, so we will have to begin the 1-year application process for her as soon as we get back to Thailand. But she is on the "official grid" now and the process, though long and expensive, is achievable.

 Abi and the Singapore Merlion.

Since we had to come to Singapore anyway, we are enjoying our time here. We have some friends who have a daughter just a few months older than Abi who have graciously played host for our impromptu trip. We have seen the Singapore sights and eaten of the numerous food options here in the Lion City while little Abi and Maya have had a great time playing and interacting with one another.

We are heading back to Thailand on Sunday afternoon and plan on getting back to the village this week once we have begun the application process for Abi in country.

Thanks for all your prayers! We'll (try to) keep you posted.

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Technical Difficulties and Updates

I need to apologize to all of you, especially our new readers from the recent issue of Foursquare's Missions Advance magazine (see article here), for the current state of the Vernon Journal. We recently had some server changes which have required some coding updates on all of our pages, and a complete overhaul of our news feeds on the right side of the page. Unfortunately, I just do not have the time right now to completely update all of the pages on the site (the entire site has needed design and code changes for some time), but I have been able to get our ministry blog (Journey Notes), our prayer and praise blog and our personal blogs (Lori's, Abi's and Mine) up on crutches for the time being.

As for the rest of the site, our info, media updates, partner pages and the upcoming Mae Salong Project pages, they will not be updated for a little while. We are heading back to the village today and will not be back in Chiang Rai for any significant amount of time until the end of the month.

We are also waiting for some developments from the server over at Foursquare Missions which will allow us to begin receiving online contributions toward our ministry. As these features become available over the next months our site will be updated accordingly.

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Here are our current updates...

We are planning on building a new home in our village in Mae Salong: This was actually not our idea, and was difficult at first, but as we have thought more about it we are getting very excited about the prospect. The village leaders want to move us away from the center of the village and use our current house as the village home for cooking, hosting and storing things as needed. Actually, our home has always been used for these purposes, but now that we have a growing family they want us to move to a home with a little less foot traffic.

We are hoping that we will get an internet connection in our new home: We still will have a bamboo house and grass roof, but because of the proximity to the Chinese town of Mae Salong we might be able to put DSL into our new hut. It's still just an idea and there are a few development issues that might stand in our way, but if we are able to set up an office with full internet connectivity in our new home it will allow us to more effectively communicate with all of you as we spend more and more time in the village compiling the data we collect from the Mae Salong Project.

Visa Travel: After we receive our 1-year visas at the end of this month we will have to travel to Bangkok to apply for a 1-year visa for Abigail. If we cannot get this visa in Bangkok we will have to travel to Singapore to purchase a visa there. We are planning on traveling to Singapore at the end of April anyway, but would love to have all our visa issues worked out before that trip.

School Break Plans: School break has begun in Thailand and will continue through the beginning of June. Other than our visa needs and ministry travel plans (we have some exciting developments in the works that we will update you on if they work out) we have some plans to minister in our village as we build our new home and settle in again for the year.

Around the Thai new year we will treat our entire village for stomach worms (ourselves included). Although we will all be sick for a few days, the village is really looking forward to this medication as they understand that when the stomach worms are dead, the food (and therefore, the money) goes much further for the family.

We will also be "teaching english" through some sign language videos that John donated for the deaf family in the village. This way the kids will all learn sign language while learning english words and will be able to communicate with the deaf children as they are learning to sign.

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Thanks for your patience with us as we deal with the site changes and please keep our energy and health in your prayers as we enter these very busy months.

A Day With My Sister

Last week I took my sister Esther to Myanmar without my parents. She did very good and walked exactly where I told her to. She didn't cry and neither did I.

After we gave money to the policeman for a special stamp we went back to see my parents in Thailand.

They were very excited to see me again, but I was indifferent.

I think I will take Esther to Myanmar again next month. Maybe my dad can make a better movie about that trip, because the only thing I like about this video is the song.

Goodbye, I love you all! -abigail

Affordable Airfare

Please join us in praying that my parents would be able to find affordable airfare to Thailand so they can visit for the birth of our first baby in July and August. A few days ago they found a pretty good online fare, but unfortunately it sold out right away and they were not able to take advantage of it in time. Now, it seems, all the available fares are double or triple the price of that "pretty good fare"... in other words very expensive. We are praying for God's extravagant provision in this matter; we pray that they will not only find an affordable fare, but one that is even cheaper than the original fare they missed.

Praise Update :: Grandpa and Visas

We are happy to share that my Grandpa is doing much better, and though his body is still retaining water, everything else seems to be coming under control and we are hoping he will be released from the hospital in the next week. Thank you for all of your prayers. In other family news, we were able to speak to my brother, sister, dad and grandma (from Germany, Texas, Colorado and visiting from New Orleans) over Skype last night and are all looking forward to seeing each other at Christmas!

As for our visas, we were able to procure a 30-day visa extension as we are waiting for approval from Bangkok for another 1-year visa. It took 3 round-trips from Chiang Rai to Maesai, and a lot of apologies and wais, but as of early this afternoon everything is finally in order. Please keep our visa situation in your prayers as we hope to receive the approval from Bangkok in the next week.

All that driving between here and Maesai really wore Lori out, so we will probably spend the rest of the day at home in Chiang Rai and then this weekend we will join the celebration of the 2007 Akha Bible Institute (ABI) graduation. This is always a fun time, as hundreds of Akha come down from the villages to join in the celebration each year. This year we will be honored with the presence of Dr. Paul Lewis, the linguist who first created the Akha script, wrote the Akha-English-Thai dictionary, and translated the Bible into Akha. We hope to post more on all of these festivities next week.

A Souvenir of Extravagance...

An amazing thing happened to me while we were in Bangkok last week. It all started on the final night of the conference at the banquet dubbed "Cultural Night". Everyone wore the traditional dress of their country; and with over 600 people representing countries from all over Asia it was certainly an amazing sight. We saw Japanese Kimonos, Korean Hanboks and jewel-toned saris, to name a few. Adding to the festive atmosphere of the evening, many of the delegates were generously passing out small trinkets and souvenirs to anyone and everyone, proudly representing their countries!

Pink Sari

Towards the end of the evening, we met a couple from Sri Lanka named Dinesh and Dinu who struck up a conversation with us asking about the Akha clothes we were wearing. Dinu was wearing a beautiful bright pink sari and I told her that I had been admiring it all evening (which I had.) We probably talked for less than 5 minutes before the evening ended and we all headed up to bed.

Lori in her sari

The next morning, Paul and I were sitting waiting for the session to begin when Dinu came and sat down next to me. She said, "I have a gift I want to give you, but it's up in my room. At break I'll go up and get it for you." After the session, she found me and asked if I could go to the room with her so that we wouldn't lose each other in the crowd.

When we got to there, Dinu pulled out the beautiful sari she had been wearing the previous night. This was the gift she wanted to give me! I was awe struck! With tears streaming down my face I told her how I had said to Paul, "If you ever want to buy me a new dress, I want one just like hers!" When I had composed myself, she explained that after the banquet she felt the Lord prompting her to give this sari to me. She didn't know my name or our room number, so she said, "Ok Lord, if I see her again tomorrow, I'll give it to her."

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the flowers of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the unbelievers run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

-From Jesus' Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 6:28-33

In the past, whenever I heard those verses I always tended to focus on one word: need. I've heard enough sermons on this passage in my life to remember the lesson that God provides for all our needs, but I've always been left with the vague impression that His provision applies only once we've hit a certain level of destitution. Even then, that provision is only what we "need" and nothing more. But as I read this passage today, all I can think about is God's amazing extravagance. By no meaning of the word did I "need" that sari, but the Lord poured out his extravagant love for me and fulfilled the desires of my heart. Today, I feel like a lily of the field adorned in God's finest!

Goodbye Denver, from Trevor and I

Sitting in a Sacremento I have just been floored by a news article from the Rocky Mountain news article:

Cap hits Broncos hard

The cap sacked veteran Broncos defensive line stalwart Trevor Pryce on Wednesday, along with Mike Anderson

I know what's important in Denver, and that a sad as you all are about my leaving, you are devastated to hear this news. Such is the salary-cap age of the modern NFL.

Expanding our Map

As you come down the road from Mae Salong you reach a military checkpoint. From there you can go east towards Chiang Rai or west towards Chiang Mai. On the road to Chiang Mai is a little town called Fang (Rhymes with Dong, not Tang). When we were last in Bangkok we met a couple named Jim and Eda who are serving as Foursquare Missionary Associates who were about to leave for Fang to work with Pastor Timothy and his church in the area. During our most recent time in Mae Salong, they called us to let us know that a book they had ordered for us ("Where there is No Dentist", we're coming across more and more abscesses and teeth problems) had come in. So off we went to get the book and spend a day looking around Fang. It's a great little town, mostly fruit orchards and national forest and we really enjoyed our time there. Pastor Timothy and his wife are wonderful people, very welcoming and hospitable. Their English is very good and we really enjoyed talking with them as we ate wonderful Thai food, visited their home, saw Grace church and went to see a hot spring. Jim and Eda are settling in well and are busy with language classes nearly every day. They are living above the church in a very nice apartment and had a friend from their home church, a girl named Tanya who Lori really enjoyed talking with, visiting them.

Great things are happening with Grace church, they have seen many churches come out from them and are purchasing land for a future church site and orphanage. Be praying for them as they are working on the price for the land and looking to make these expansions.

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.

Here in the Land of Smiles

Well we're here! As I write this it is 5:00 am on Friday, February 25th. We arrived shortly after noon yesterday and made it through customs and picked up all of our baggage with no problem. We might have a little problem getting all of our luggage from Bangkok to Chiang Rai, however, so please keep us in your prayers. Kelly Hilderbrand and a number of the staff from the Good news Study Center (this is what the Thailand Worldbase is called) were at the airport to pick us up. When you walk out of the baggage area in Bangkok you are greeted by a sea of faces looking for tourists, sightseers, taxi fares and those in need of a hotel. It can be a little overwhelming and it was a welcome relief to have someone there for us. We were further encouraged when we arrived at the Good News Study Center (GNSC) to find George Butron there. We met George in LA - he's originally from Golden, CO with an FBCI background - and were able to share our story with him. He is now the Regional Coordinator over Southeast Asia for FMI. He was on his way to Myanmar, but we made tentative plans to meet him in Chiang Rai when he comes through next week. We had a great time with the staff at the GNSC and a very good talk with Kelly about Foursquare and its ministry in Thailand. The church here is really exploding, especially among the younger generation. It's an exciting time to be in Thailand!

Around 4:30 yesterday is when we were hit with a ton of bricks - jet lag. We managed to tape our eyelids open until about 7:30 when we finally had to go to sleep. We should be adjusted in a day or two.

The GNSC is a really great place. It is a five-story building located very near the University in Bangkok (the largest university in the world - 400,000 students). They have three church services on the weekends, a Friday night service, a Sunday morning service, and a service in Burmese on Sunday afternoons. They spend a significant amount of time in the surrounding area ministering to everyone from the university students to the prostitutes. They also teach English language courses, currently they have 550 Thai students who are learning English in a Christian setting.

Today is the "day off" for the GNSC. We expect to make some phone calls & emails this morning and then get a personalized tour of Bangkok - which should be MUCH better than our original experience in this city. Later this afternoon we will go down with some of the University students for "UNO ministry". Apparently, they sit in the "Free Speech" park at the university and play UNO. Students are especially drawn in if there are foreigners (apparently, we're the "bait") and will come and play cards and just hang out. We will go to church this weekend and then plan to head to Chiang Rai on Monday

Thanks for all of your prayers! We have been encouraged again that our time here for the first 2 years will be a learning time. We are excited to learn new cultures and language, but it is a little overwhelming 20 hours in. Keep us in your prayers that we might build strong relationships and adjust well to new ways of life.

Off we go

Well we are on our way - today is our last "office day" (Lori and I huddle around dimly lit tables in a little coffeehouse in Salem - coffee house cafe - and work on our paperwork, communications, and the general business of leaving the country). We have a few more appointments this weekend - but we will spend much of the next 48 hours packing for Bangkok. We are *also* going to spend tomorrow morning trying to teach me (Paul) how to ride a motorcycle. If I can learn on a dirt bike here in the states, the little 30cc scooters in Thailand won't be any problem at all. We want to thank you all again for your support and your prayers. We are jumping headfirst into all of this and your encouragement has meant the world to us.

Please join us in this time praying for the Akha people, for A-Je and Nancy and everyone at House of Joy and for Foursquare Thailand that we would be a blessing to them.

We love you all!

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