Wednesday, June 29, 2011

You Are Here

I had been in the United States--I had been home--for only six days after being gone for two months, when I found myself standing with my family in our second row spot during worship at our church. Standing there for the first time in two months. I felt like that bloke, what was his name? Rip Van Winkle, right? The one who wandered up into the mountains, drank liquor with some hoodlums, slept for over twenty years, and then returned to his village to find that no one knew who he was, believed what he said had happened to him, and everyone he loved had either moved away or died. Honestly, I felt a little like Rip Van Winkle that first morning in church; a little bit like a traveler returning after being gone way too long.
That day, I signed a paper saying that I was now an official member of our church. Which basically just means that I'm serious about going there, about investing in our church body, and whenever they need help with a ministry they can ask me for assistance. I wouldn't have signed my name if I didn't love my church, or prayed about it first--but I do love my church and I did pray about it first, so I crossed all my 't's and dotted all my 'i's and signed my name quickly and answered all the questions. However, with that said, I still felt a little melancholy while doing it. That penned signature made it real, that I was actually back. And for a while. Thailand was a short season, I know that, and now the Lord is leading me to spend a season or two just pouring into my church family. But still, watching that first season fade away as the days pass is a little sad. Like the heart sinking when the first burned orange leaf falls, signifying the End Of Summer. The leaf is beautiful and the season it brings in with it is gorgeous--but we all miss summer just a bit, deep down.
I miss the season I spent in Thailand. I miss how it was almost like for two whole months, I was all His and He was all mine. Up on an Asian mountain, motorcycling through a valley, praying underneath the vast night sky and constellations--I was able to just spend time marveling my Maker's creation and my praise song to Him wasn't interrupted by Big Life Decisions or Make-up Biologys or This Girl Said That And What Are YOU Going To Do About Its. He was there with me, like Moses on the mountaintop with the Lord for forty days and forty nights. Except, I had fifty-eight days and fifty-eight nights in which the Lord showed Himself to me. I miss my Thailand season.

Seasons may change, winter to spring, but I love you.

Um, was that God using the lines from one of my favorite songs to soothe my sinking heart? I do believe it was. You know what? God was there that first Sunday, in that church, in me. He was there with me just like He had been with me while I was in Thailand, and He is the same God here as He is there. He is the same, and He is here.
No matter what season He leads me to walk through--winter, spring, Romania, Thailand, high school, etc.--He will still be there, and He will still be showing Himself to me. How could I possibly think that our Father would be constrained and controlled by the changing seasons, or two months, or the sea separating land when He created each one?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Everything I've Been Missing Without Your Eyes

May 27th (Friday) 2011
3:36 p.m.

Yesterday, Pii Phet and Kara and I visited someone in Chiang Rai's government hospital. Translation slip ups and language barriers gave me the impression that we would be paying a call on a grown man; I was utterly unprepared to end up wandering through the children's ward. To visit a girl hardly younger than myself that was diagnosed with the life-stealing disease of HIV/AIDS.
Like I said, it was the government hospital, so treatment for all patients was free. Bad bit was that the patients would wait, sometimes days, for that free treatment. And there they were, the sick, lining the corridors with their blank, hopeless gazes and dirtied sheets. Absolutely no privacy, and--a lot of times, it appeared--absolutely no company. In pain, alone and humiliated--my heart ached with compassion.
Grandmothers with lifeless eyes; old men with black gums and black soles. Kara was upset because of the conditions: swarms of flies ruthlessly bombarding the patients, soiled sheets, dirtied hospital robes, etc. etc. What upset me was how unmistakably familiar it all was. I saw, and I remembered mornings spent walking the hallways of nursing homes back in the States with my family and/or homeschool group. I always secretly hated those visits. The weird, old people lining the rooms in their wheelchairs, just staring at you. Some of them were hateful, some O.C.D., others just...senile. I was always selfish, snobby, and awkward during those visits... Yet, the people I waled past yesterday--the skeletal frames, gappy mouths, and sad eyes--, I wanted to help them?

But they're just like the people back home. This is nothing new, you've seen this before. Why do you care now?

That's all I could think about as I made my way up the stairwells. Not the flies, not the living conditions, just how everyone was so lonely--and how I never cared before.
Why? Why have I never cared before? I wanted to grab a good Jane Austen novel, right then and there, and plop down among all those old, sick grandmothers and grandfathers and read to them until they didn't feel lonely anymore. I wanted to dance into the children's ward with a bright skirt, bells along the hem jangling around my bare feet, and maracas in hand and bring some joy where there was so much remorse, so much sorrow. Why? Why have I never cared before? How could I not care? How can I even claim to be a Christian (a "little Christ"), like Christ, and yet have so little compassion for so long? How could I go there, and then just...leave? How could I not leave completely changed from who I was just a few hours before?
I was not prepared for yesterday. I have never seen so many lonely, sick and hopeless children before. I pray it brought joy to at least one of them, or else my heartache would be in vain. The girl, hardly younger than myself, and her mother who we visited--did we encourage them? The Buddhist couple whose ill infant we prayed over--did that mean anything to them?
Well, it meant a lot to me.

"Give me Your eyes for just one second
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me Your love for humanity"

Friday, June 10, 2011

Greater Things

Last night, I stood in the center of Chiang Rai's Night Bazaar--a sea of handmade crafts; sketch tat shops; postcard racks; and young men selling their dignity up on a stage every night for the public's enjoyment, boys raised from childhood to be girls. Lame, maimed women and men curled up on the sidewalk, begging for their living, for life; precious salespeople and artists with heartbreaking, hallow lives; Christians on vacation who forgot to pack their compassion--this is Chiang Rai, this is the city I'm living in right now. I stood amidst it all last night, and a trio band sang through two huge speakers and over the entire square, describing the despair they were witnessing with the help of the Eagles.

"Welcome to the hotel California
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the hotel California
Any time of year, you can find it here

Her mind is tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes Bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, that she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget

Welcome to the hotel California
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
They livin’ it up at the hotel California
What a nice surprise, bring your alibis

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
’relax,’ said the night man,
We are programmed to receive.
You can checkout any time you like,
But you can never leave!"

I felt neck-deep in evil, in injustice. Despair was in every face I saw, hopelessness impregnated the air. The beggars without a future, without self-dignity; the lady boys, stripped even of their God-given self-identity. Oh God, my heart ached, and I nearly wept for the tragedy that was alive around me. But, I know that it is man that looks, sees, and sings the ballads of hopelessness, of giving up. I, in my lack of faith, also look and see and feel overwhelmed in hopelessness. But God, God--I know He sees and sings another song, and He is teaching me to sing it over Chiang Rai, Thailand, and to believe in it.

"You're the God of this City
You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation
You are

You're the Light in this darkness
You're the Hope to the hopeless
You're the Peace to the restless
You are

There is no one like our God

There is no one like our God

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City

There is no one like our God

There is no one like our God

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here

There is no one like our god

There is no one like our God

Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here."

God has greater things in store for Thailand.

Monday, June 6, 2011

You Know You're On The Mission Field When...

Your mom clicks "like" on every single picture/comment/status you post on Facebook.

You know how to mismatch ten different clothing items into twenty completely different outfits. Yay for recycling clothes!

Peanut butter is a cuisine.

And Nutella? Nutella is heaven on earth.

Skyping your family is something you crave (even more than the lack of peanut butter in your diet).

Letters from home--even ones talking about who's dating who and who got their hair cut such and such way--make your month.

You realize that you have forgotten what it feels like have a seat buckle securely around you. Seat buckles? Pretty sure I've basically forgotten what those are. I think maybe the king of Thailand wears one. Maybe.

Everyone stares at you. And talks about you. And they think you don't notice.

You no longer seem to care about personal hygiene. Things like showering on a regular basis and oh, say, applying deodorant daily suddenly just aren't that big of a priority.

You find yourself driving an elephant. Not a car, those are so yesterday (or I should say 21st century).

Using newspapers (or blank journal pages, if you forget tissue) make for smashing toilet paper. Or leaves. Leaves are nice, too.

You avoid the mirror like it's your ex and things did not end well. I got a love/hate relationship going on with mine. Needless to say, most days it's hate.

Being super pale is super attractive. Got to love the Asian culture.

You see a white person and immediately assume that they're American, making them your very best friend of the moment.

You stay up till 3 a.m. and wake up at 7 to work. Hey, when you have a TV and your favorite TV show in English, you take advantage of that.

You simultaneously discuss your body functions and personal baggage. All in the same conversation. It's impressive.

You only have 50% of the things you started out with. But it's okay because all your important things like jeans that don't smell like squid juice and tank tops were replaced with essential things you need to have to live. Like stone elephant trinkets.

You look at pictures with remorse and remember the days you used to actually try to look nice.

You plot super complicated and absolutely foolproof plans on how to kidnap little orphans that steal your hearts.

You want to blow up pimps. But you have to remember grace, so you pray for them instead.

It's normal to have five geckos chilling out with you in bed and while you use the bathroom. Or bats. On the mission field, it's normal to have bats throw a slumber party in your bedroom.

You catch the bats hiding in your room and keep them as pets for a day. And name them.

You miss your family so bad it hurts.

MP3Player worship sessions... Did you ever have anything else?

Crying out of compassion and pain for the hurt around you is okay. Sometimes crying daily is okay.

You love your life, you love being alive, you love just life more than ever before.

You love the Lord more than ever before.

You are humbled daily, and you learn daily. When you start to learn to love the Lord's plan more than your own life.

When every single day is an adventure.

You're only fifteen and you're teaching English classes all. by. yourself. four days a week.

You rely on your cool, older sister's Tumblr to keep you posted on the fashion scene back home. Hey, that's important.

You see boys younger than your baby brother committing their lives to serving Buddha.

You camp out in churches on the tops of mountains so as to pray for the believers on said mountain village.

You start downloading popular Korean stuff to your MP3Player. (Or maybe that should be on "You Know You're On The Asian Mission Field When...")

Being a Christian makes you less than one percent of the population.

You can buy handwoven scarves for $3 dollars.

Foot massages become a whole new currency of their own. On the mission field, you'll do anything for a free foot massage.

You crave trashy gossip magazines.

You know the names of all the clerks at the Seven Eleven down the street and their college major and are basically their best friend because you see them, like, twice a day, every single day. Seven Eleven and their packs of Oreos become your anchor.

You can no longer remember the days when you thought romantic, fleeting love could compete with God's overwhelming, all-consuming love.

You learn to finally see the hurt the Lord has always been able to see in the hearts of those around us, and to have compassion.

Even if you fight it, you will never be the same.