Friday, August 7, 2009

on the way home

Yesterday, while Jean slept at the hotel, the rest of us and Dolores Werkhoven got brave and took the water taxi back to the center of Bangkok. We had a map with which to find the grand palace, but silly us, we totally didn't think that there would be tuck-tuck drivers and swarms of people to accost us when we got off the taxi.
One man informed us that we wouldn't be allowed into the grand palace because some of us were wearing tank tops and flipflops; then he proceeded to arrange for 2 tuck-tucks to take us around to some other sites that we could see for the small sum of 100 baht (about $3.00). That seemed like a really good deal so we took it. Riding in a tuck-tuck is an adventure. They have little regard for the lines in the road. They and the motorbikes squeeze through wherever they can. We were hanging on for dear life, and there was never much between us and the car next to us.
We started by going up the golden mount. It's kind of a special Buddhist holy place, but you can climb a bunch of steps and get a great view of the city. Bangkok is huge!!! Thankfully the day was quite cool, and we had a great panoramic view. Next we crossed the road to see the biggest Buddah, and I think the oldest (789 years old) in Thailand. Some guy, who said he worked for the THai government, just happened to latch on to us there and talk with us about the Buddah and how he went to a Catholic school in NYC where they taught him to forgive and the Buddhist monks taught him never to be angry. On those two principles is the secret of life, according to him....He ended his time with us by encouraging us very strongly to buy sapphires--there was a sale on them today at a certain store>..
Wouldn't you know it! Our next stop was that particular sapphire store. We quickly found out that the tuck-tuck drivers get paid for bring us there (that's why the ride was so cheap). It was tempting to buy a sapphire or ruby ring (less than $800 American!) but we resisted. ..Our next stop was a tailor shop. You guessed it. Our drivers also got a kickback from this shop, in the form of free gasoline.
By this time we were getting frustrated so we asked to be taken back to the water taxi. After another harrowing ride around town we got back, took the taxi back upriver, and even made a diversion to a supermarket for supplies before going back to the hotel. I guess we might be able to do this without Roger!
I'm in the Seoul airport right now. We just got back from our city tour of Seoul. Seoul is a much more western city than any of the other Asian cities we've been in. It's very clean, the cars drive on the right side of the road, the drivers obey the rules, and there isn't an abundance of street people selling, driving little cars, etc...
Our tour guide took us around the city. We saw the 'blue house'--where their President lives, a changing of the guard at an old king's palace, walked through another market, and ate a Korean lunch sitting on the floor. Well, some of us did. Jean slept in a lounge chair at the airport the whole time, and Katy had some intestinal issues during the trip. We're all weary, but will soon be headed home. Jean looked much better when we got back to the airport. She had slept the whole time we were gone, and she's getting her color back. Thanks for praying.
It's definitely been an adventure!!!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

final day

We're all anxious to leave. Katy is feeling better today, but Jean got very sick during the night. Plese pray that she will be well enough to get on the plane tonight. Roger is doctoring her, but he thinks it's a she has to ride it out to some extent.
Part of the group is having trouble getting on their flight today. Five of them are flying Eva airlines. their layover is in Taipei. I guess there was a typhoon there for the past few days and our 5 people are getting bumped from their flight. They're being told it could be 3 or 4 days. Pray for them as well.
Yesterday we did our 'stuff' at a "christian" school run by the Global English School. I say "christian," because they've just taken this school over, and not all the teachers there are christian. The school also teaches mostly in Thai, so that made communication difficult. It is a school for rich kids; they act more like typical Americans.
In the evening we went out to a nice restaurant on the water--not fancy, but good food. We finished with ice cream at the mall. I think I've made more trips to the mall on this trip than I normally do in a year at home. Very tired of that!!
Again, please pray for the health of our team, especially Jean.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


We're on our last full day here. Tomorrow evening we fly home. Yea!!! It's been long, but good. The night train from Chiang Mai was an experience-- not too uncomfortable, but noisy. I didn't sleep that well. They never turned off the lights and I couldn't close my curtain because it got too hot. At 4:30 in the morning I remembered that I had an eye mask in my purse, dug it out, and did a little better, but I was very stiff in the morning.
We visited Global English School on Tuesday. It's a Christian school, full of Buddhists mostly. They have to pay for the education and send their kids there because it teaches English. They also teach Christianity. It was a big contrast from many of the other ministries we've seen thata minister to the poor and outcast. But, the rich people need Christ too. Thailand is a country that is about 99% Buddhist, especially here in Bangkok. We might try to visit a Buddhist temple tomorrow before we leave.
We also traveled down the main river by water taxi. Bangkok has its share of traffic issues, so water taxi is a much nicer way to travel. Ate dinner in a mall.
On Wednesday we taught English to some college students in half hour segments. Our group taught US geography and had them practice answering/asking questions. These college students were 20-22, had 3 more years of school, were mostly tech students, had never had jobs, and had horrible English, but it was still fun.
In the afternoon we visited a ministry that does gospel presentations in the schools and then follows it up with a correspondence Bible course for kids. The schools are open to these presentations, and they're having a small impact.
Katy seems to be at the end of her rope, not feeling well this morning. Pray for her.

Monday, August 3, 2009

last day in Chiang Mai

This afternoon at about 4:30 we'll be boarding the night train back to Bang Kok. Roger asked me if anyone in our group needed to get up a lot at night (how would I know?). I guess it's no fun to sleep on the top bunk if you have those issues.
Yesterday we spent the day at an orphanage. The pastor who runs this orphanage has a church right there, so we attended their service for the worship part and did a children's church during the sermon for the kids. Some of the older kids from the orphanage led the worship. They had a great band, and very interestingly, were able to project their songs in both Thai and English--should we look into the possibility of doing it in Karen?, or at least translating some of our songs into Karen? Sophie and Katy commented that their worship is much more lively. I told her that we Americans like control--is that symptomatic of all of our life, even our relationship with God? I need to think about this more; maybe I'm not the only one who has control issues!!
This morning at 9 a.m. we had a briefing from the media director of the Free Burma Rangers. I thought they were a para-military organization, but that's not really the case. They do operate secretly within Burma, however; their purpose statement says something like their purpose is to free the oppressed and stand for human dignity, justice, and reconciliation in Burma. They are a Christian organization. It's hard for me to do justice to his presentation, which was very helpful to me. He gave us 9 reasons why we as Christians should bother with Burma:
1. Freedom from violence; 2. Ethnic rights and lasting peace; 3. Freedom from forced labor; 4. freedom from religious persecution; 5. freedom from forced drug production; 6. public health acre is non-existent; 7. restoration of democracy; 8. environmental protection; 9. BECAUSE GOD CARES ABOUT THE OPPRESSED.
All these different experiences/presentations have helped me to better understand the refugees among us. It was interesting to hear again from Richard, our presenter, that they work within Burma to help internally displaced people (IDP's), who want to return to their homes!! They don't want to go to refugee camps, or even come to America--sometimes we want to solve their problems by bringing them home with us, but that's really not the best/easiest/or even preferred solution. Anyway, Richard began his presentation with a youtube video that you can watch, If that connection doesn't work do a search on raging forest. You can also learn more about the free burma rangers at
A note to Hannah: I haven't had any reception on my phone, so I'll have to read all your texts when I get back!! And a note to the fam in Kennewick: I think we want some of those big, juicy hamburgers for dinner when we get back:)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

more about the camp

We're back in Chiang Mai... I realized last night that it might have sounded critical or even rude of me to describe the Bible School like Dad's barn minus the cows. It wasn't meant that way at all. I just know that when I saw Jack's picturs of the Bible School, I didn't come away with an adequate understanding of what it really was like. These people are makiong the ost of a difficult situation, and even making improvements as they can. The men of our group slept above a stick-built garage that recently added 3 'western' toilets to the side of it. Most of the girls were grateful for that. I wasn't particularly fond of the squat pots at the camp--they're dark and mysterious looking, smell like out houses--but it's my theory that our bodies actually empty themselves better in a squat position--enough of that. Tonight we're in a decent hotel with a 'western' toilet!!
I was going to tell you about Dr. Simon. He was a pastor in Rangoon, Burma, in the late '80's and wanted to cross over into Thailand because it was becoming unsafe there. His wife didn't want to go, but when an uprising occurred in '88-'89 she agreed to go. They had people helping them across the border, but ended up having to leave much of their belongings behind so that his father-in-law could be carried (he was in his late 80's and could no longer walk). He took over this Bible School, it ended up being moved to the refugee camp, and has been there for over 20 years.
He spoke to us for quite a while, and talked about his love for his homeland. Most Karen people will tell you of their longing for a free Karen state, some are even militant sounding. He also talked about the Karen national anthem--I wish I had a copy. He said it's three verses, and very Christian. The third verse mentions how the Karen people are to take the good news and spread it throughout the world. Dr. Simon mentioned how this is happening now with the help of the UN, helping the Karen people become refugees. That's the first time I've heard a conservative Christian speak about the UN being a helpful aide in spreading the gospel!!
We're supposed to have a fun night tonight--go experience a traditional THai dinner and dancing. I'm eager to go home at this point. Please pray for endurance, and we're thankful that everyone hasremained healthy. There are a few kids who aren't too crazy for the food. I'm glad that Sophie and Katy aren't complaining. Of course, Katy knows that I wouldn't be too merciful. I consider it all part of the experience. Besides, Roger seems to find ice cream for us every day!! No one, including me, is losing any weight!!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Mae La Refugee Camp

We arrived at the refugee camp a little after 9 a.m. Thursday morning without incident. We went directly to the Bible School Chapel where we were escorted to the stage. As I was walking up there, it occurred to me that this building with the chapel in it was a lot like my dad's haybarn. The frame building is somewhat the same, it's fairly open, with at tin roof and part cement/part dirt floor. The roof has leaves over the tin to dampen the sound that the rain made. It even smelled a lot like a barn minus the cow smells. We sang for the students during chapel, and then were immediately humbled when they sang a song. These people love to sing, and they are incredibly good at projecting their voices. It made me think of Ni Doh Paw.
On our drive over from Chiang Mai on Wed I told Roger Butz that I'd be interested in working on conversational English if some students wanted to practice in a small group setting, like 10 or 12. Well, after chapel they said there were 85 students who would like to practice English. Unfortunately, I couldn't do it then because we had to do the Bible story that I helped tell and work with the kids. So another woman from the team went with Jean Murrow to do that. I was bummed but we had a good time working with the kids anyway. After lunch the other woman and I switched places and I got to work with Jean teaching English. It was very fun interacting with these students in their early 20's. Later Roger asked if we'd put together some ideas for future trips to do more English teaching. He said he gets requests from people wherever they go to do that but have never known how or what to do.
After class I was able to find one student who knew Ni Doh Paw's father. This young man had been a part of Pastor Eh Day Htoo's church. That was helpful because I needed to deliver some things to his daughter. His daughter lived by Eh Day Htoo's old home, and the young man said it would take an hour to walk there. The house was in zone A, and we were in zone C. I was advised not to go there; they said that often if you cross into another zone they won't let you back. So this young guy called her, and she and her family soon came on a motor cycle--actually they went to the road, hired a cycle, and drove to zone C and then walked in to the Bible School. It was nice to connect with them, and they would deliver the other 'mail' that I brought from other refugees.
We ate rice for lunch and dinner, and sometime during the afternoon it started pouring down rain. Jim M said it can rain at the rate of 10 inches/hour, but didn't think this was quite that hard. It kept raining all afternoon and evening. We watched dirt and water pour down the hills and the river that was at least 100 feet away from the Bible school began to rise. By evening it was waste deep near the school. You can't think of this place like an ordinary Bible college. The halls, or walking between buildings and even rooms or up to the bathroom, are all dirt. And when it started raining the dirt turned to mud and the river water was brown. But it never dampens the people's spirits.
Sleeping was interesting. The girls slept in the loft above the chapel, all in a row on two sides of it, each with our own mosquito net. About the time it got dark we began to hear the most interesting noises, extremely loud frogs and other night creatures. It was sweet music to fall asleep to and I did sleep quite well. I forgot to mention that Dr. Simon, the director of the school, shared his story before we went to bed. It was quite interesting and I'll share it when I can.
In the morning most of the group went to see a place right along the Burma border where some new arrivals are being placed in temporary shelters. They probably won't be allowed to stay where they are, but they've crossed over to be safe and so they've put up temporary bamboo huts and covered them with big plastic tarps. Roger said that the strategy of the Burmese army is to threaten a village, demanding that they provide porters or else pay money. If they can do neither they set land mines around the village, rape the women, and whatever else goes with it. These people don't want to stay in Thailand, but can't go back across the border, and can't go into the camps because there is no room.
Jean and I, along with Katy, Sophie, and a girl named Shannon stayed behind and taught the English class again. It was fun to have them ask the girls questions about life in America. Then we turned the tables on them and asked them questions. We also taught them some common idioms. The girls all said it was fun.
Before we left we got a chance to walk through the camp a little bit, only in zone C. We walked over to an orphanage. It looked like these kids were camping out in a fort, that's what the 'house' they lived in looked like to me. They sang for us, and again, they sang to the Lord with great joy and enthusiasm. It messes with my head to think of how that compares with our singing.
more later...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mae Sot

I wasn't supposed to be able to get on today because our plan was to spend tonight in the refugee camp. At the beginning of the trip we were supposed to split into 2 groups, 1 would go to the refugee camp and 1 would go to a Karen village. Because 2 people ended up not coming on the trip they decided to take us all to the camp. When we got to Mae Sot it seemed clear for all of us to enter. But by the time we got to the camp they refused entry to us. We came back to Mae Sot to spend the night, and have been assured by the people helping us that tomorrow they will let us in. Please pray that will be the case. Many of us would be very disappointed if we couldn't go to the camp. Thanks for your prayers.