Wednesday March 6, 2019

Psalm 4:1 Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.

God has definitely had His hand in this journey, from changing dates to meeting people who point us in a direction we never imagined. I am so grateful for His intervention because without Him none of this would be possible. Our time here is a perfect example. We were not supposed to be here until May/June 2019, but we found out that they needed us sooner and everything worked out beautifully, just the way it was supposed to. They have many different needs which all of us as a family can help accomplish and it is so wonderful to know that we have the opportunity to make an impact on this community and the work this organization is doing here.

Jeff and I decided that I would take the first few shifts at the hospital this week and then he would start next week, so today was my first day. I was a bit overwhelmed by the need Firm Foundation Romania (FFR) is filling. They are working really hard to provide for children in the hospital and to be resource to the hospital staff. My role at the hospital will be to change diapers, hold and love on the babies, and to deliver diapers to all the children in the hospital without a parent there. Here in Romania when children get sick and have to be hospitalized the parents are expected to stay with them and provide the necessary clothes and diapers, as well as continue to care for the basic needs of the child (holding, feeding, diapers, etc). The hospital staff are unable to provide for the emotional connections these babies need because their primary focus is getting them healthy and there is not enough time in the day to be nurse and parent. The problem is that there are many parents who are unable/unwilling to stay to continue caring for their child, so they take them to the hospital when they are sick and then they leave. As a result hese children have no diaper supply, no clothes, and no attention. That is where FFR and its volunteers come in. FFR provides diapers and clothing for all the children whose parents don’t or can’t provide them and the volunteers are there to change diapers, feed them, and hold, snuggle, and love them. So that is just what I got to do today.

However, I will tell you that I never imagined the heartbreak I would feel hearing these children wailing as I put them back in their crib to go to the next room. They just wanted to be loved and held and while I wanted to stay, there were more children who needed the same thing. It was such a dichotomy of emotions. On one hand it was so wonderful to love and snuggles these adorable children, but on the other hand, having to spread the love over 15-20 children was just heartbreaking because I can only hold one at a time. This morning was very rewarding and I am so grateful that we are here to help.

The volunteer supervisor I have been working with today met with me after the shift to discuss the possible options to get the kids involved. I can’t believe all the options available to them. To start with they will be working on creating baby bundles, which is like a gift bag filled with clothing items for the child, and it is given to parents who stay with their child is in the hospital. They are also needing help to sort donations that have come in over the last several months in preparation for another truck load of donations to be delivered next month. So we have a lot of work to do and I am so happy that we were willing to listen and go where God needed us, not just where we wanted to be. We allowed God’s plan to lead us.

A big downside for Anjali is that she really wanted to work directly with the babies at the hospital, but all visitors to the hospital need to be at least 14 years old, so that is out of the question for her. And while she was sad about this, she understood and was glad to be able to help the babies in another way; I am so proud of her. I hope that when she sees the office and the work that needs to be done, she will understand that when we are volunteering and helping others we need to be focused on what they need, not what we want to do.

Jeff stayed home teaching the kids today and they did pretty well, especially since we have not had formal school over the last month. The kids had been getting hands-on and interactive lessons while working with the turtles and helping to lead tours at the sanctuary. Now that we are back to the grind with school work, I am hoping that the kids will get back into a rhythm and routine with getting their work done. It may also help that the family that lives below are expats from the states and they have been homeschooling their children from the beginning. Their children are usually done with their school work by 12 or 2 pm because, as they said themselves, they want to get their school work done as soon as possible so they can be done for the day as early as possible. I am hoping our kids will take a lesson from them, get their work done quick and don’t screw around so you will have the rest of the day to play.

Thursday December 13, 2018

Mark 5:34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Well this scripture today is spot on. I woke up feeling much better. I still was not at 100%, but it was a definite improvement. Not much happened during the day today, but this evening the carolers came back again. This time I got my kids out of bed so they could experience it and it just so happened that I was on a FaceTime with my mom, so I took her out with us too. She got to experience the Hindi Christmas caroling here on the mission with us and it was so much fun! David was pretty tired and only stayed for a bit, but Lucia and Anjali totally got into it and had a really good time dancing around with all of the kids.

A photo opp with some of the big girls here on the mission.

Anjali and Sheetal

Anjali holding one of the nursery kids

Kelly and a blanket monster

Dancing the night away
Lachlan, Lucia, and Rofika
Rofika and Jyotika with Lucia

Lucia with some of the small boys, Danny, Kevin, and Ram Pal!

Lucia and Kelly
A photo bomb by Ram Pal
Lisa and Kelly make a Lucia sandwich

The kids here on the mission are some of the sweetest and most loving children I have met. They have taken in my kids and accepted them as part of their family.

Monday November 26, 2018

Proverbs 24:10 If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength being small

Today was so hard. Our van picked us up for the last time to take us to school (just the preschool today). Several of the teachers from the primary school, including the Principal, also attended. The schools had planned the same ceremony for us as Wat had done yesterday. While we were waiting for the ceremony to begin, the children started to get a bit restless, so Jeff got up and we all sang our “Good Morning to You” song and the whole room was filled with the most beautiful sound, singing children!

The older girls from the preschool (all 5-6 years old) got up and did a traditional Thai dance for the school. It was beautiful. These girls practiced so hard and watching these girls brought tears to my eyes. This was such a special celebration. The “Doctor of Ceremony” performed the ceremony, followed by the principal and teachers tied strings around our wrists as a blessing and then presented with shirts from Nan, so we would always remember them.

Afterwards we sang our “Goodbye to You” song one last time, and again the whole room was filled with the sound of these children singing at the top of their lungs. We had lunch with Rinya, Emma, and Jonas. Before we ate lunch, our children decided that they wanted to share their Sour Patch Kids (which is their absolute favorite candy that we can’t get while abroad) with the children of the school. The thought was overwhelming for me, our kids wanted to share their favorite candy with these children. As a family we gave Rinya some photos of our time here, as a way for her to always remember us. Teaching at these schools has been a life changing experience for our whole family.

While we were sitting outside waiting for the van, we took some time to just visit with Rinya. However, our girls were not getting along at all. Actually, Anjali was being very rude to Lucia and Lucia just wasn’t going to take it. I walked over to talk with the girls and realized that Anjali was really struggling. As I sat next to her, she refused to look me in the eyes and when I asked her if she was sad, the tears just started rolling down her cheeks. I wrapped her in my arms and reminded her that it is okay and even healthy to feel sad about leaving; that we were all feeling this tug on our heart. This is when Rinya came over and sat with Anjali and before we knew it, all of us were crying. Goodbyes are hard and I realize now that at every place we will serve over this year we will have to deal with this grief and loss; it will be our reality. I took this opportunity to talk to the children about the constant changes in life and that grief and loss are intertwined with happiness and joy; we can’t have one without the other. We feel that sadness when we loose something we love dearly. If we do not love, we have nothing to loose. I am not sure if it sunk in, but it will be a conversation we will have more than once.

Here are some pictures we took with Rinya just before leaving the school, a nice way to say our final goodbye to her.

When we got home, Wat presented our children with soccer shirts that he had put their names on the back (but they spelled Lucia’s name “LUCLA” and Wat didn’t notice it until he got home). So we decided that we would be able to go into Nan a bit early tomorrow and get that taken care of before we head to the airport. After dinner, we gave Wat, Grandma, and Na Na some photos that we printed as a gift to them for their love, kindness and generosity. Again, the tears were unable to be kept back. These people are a part of our family now. I love that every two months my family just keeps getting bigger.

Friday November 23, 2018

Isaiah 40:29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.

Today was our last day of teaching and at the preschool Emma and Jonas were fine with letting us teach all of the classes. It was so much fun to teach these children one last time, well actually, we just sang songs and played games! We were also able to get a class picture with each of the groups, as well as some pictures of the kids during some of the songs and games.

Here are some pictures of the kids playing and singing today!

Playing Duck, Duck, Goose

Saying goodbye
Singing Let’s Go Swimming by Laurie Berkner

Here are the class pictures:

A picture with our driver, who picked us up faithfully, every day to drive us to each school and back again.

We were certainly feeling faint given this was our last time teaching these wonderful children and we were strengthened by how much they learned in the two months we were here. We are so grateful for God’s presence and His ability to give us the strength to say goodbye to these happy children. Every moment at this school was filled with joy and laughter, and how we always were lifted by their energy and spirit.

David also got in a little Muay Thai training today with Wat.

Wednesday November 21, 2018

2 Thessalonians 3:13 Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.

What an amazing day! We taught at the preschool with Jonas and Emma, sharing the 4 classes amongst us. It is great to have a break, but I am already missing the kids. Each time Emma and Jonas teach a class for me, it seems to be a mixed blessing. I am so happy we can help to provide a smooth transition for everyone, but I really miss singing and being with the kids, which makes me realize how hard it will be to say goodbye next week. I just can’t believe we leave in less than a week now, time just flies by.

I remember thinking that a whole year is a really long time for this journey and wondering how much impact we can have in just two months, but now that we are living this journey each stop seems to go by so quickly and yet each time it is difficult to say those goodbyes. We have become so connected to the people around us that we find it hard to leave. I didn’t have any idea the level of grief that my children would feel each time we had to leave our new friends. I notice it more with Anjali who, for whatever reason, has this idea that she is not supposed to feel sadness or that sadness is a bad emotion. This journey will give us the opportunity to not just teach her about the emotion of sadness, but also to show her how to handle it. I shed tears in Germany and I am certain that those times will repeat when we leave Thailand. We can hopefully show her that it is okay to cry and that sadness does not have to be a negative emotion; that we can use this emotion to feel closer to those people we are leaving.

I digress. During the last class at the preschool, the kindergarten children and teachers all made Krathongs. So I sat down with the kids and teachers and helped make roses out of banana leaves (which I had no idea could be done!). It was a lot of fun learning the different Krathong techniques from Rinya and watching the children make their beautiful floats. Tomorrow morning, the school will walk down tot the Nan River to release their Krathongs.

Teaching at the primary school was fairly uneventful. I have been teaching the 1st and 2nd classes (basically 1st and 2nd grades). The first grade class is very engaging and are actively participating in the lessons; however the 2nd class is only engaged during a game. So I have to get pretty creative with the lesson plans each class because if I don’t have a game to play the kids are falling asleep, staring into space, or playing with something in their desk. What makes it even more difficult is that I don’t have any idea what the teacher wants me to teach prior to getting to the class. When I walk into the classroom, she gives me a piece of paper with vocabulary words or her lesson plan for the day and I am charged with coming up with interactive games and activities to go along with the lesson she just handed me. Talk about quick thinking! At first I struggled with this, but I have gotten accustomed to it and I seem to be doing just fine. I have figured out that if I separate the class into 2 teams, I can make anything into a game–so that’s what I do. Today was pretty fun and the kids seem to be pretty engaged with our lesson of animals–we played charades, hangman, and practiced writing sentences with a/an/the (the kids had to fill in the blanks–2 teams made it a race!).

After returning home from school, we finished our Krathongs and made sure they were ready to go. We also talked with Wat about staying here in Wiang Sa for the festival as driving to Nan was just going to be too much and would mean that the kids were going to be up way too late. We wanted/needed them to be somewhat rested for our last day of teaching on Friday. I am really excited about the festival. I have been told that it is beautiful to watch all of the Krathongs floating down the river and the lanterns floating in the sky makes for a picture perfect evening.

Here are some pictures of the day, including the kids making the Krathongs at the school and then the ones that we made at home.

Making Krathongs at the preschool

Lucia and Rinya

David and Lucia holding the “rose” banana leaf I had made

Thursday November 15, 2018

Hebrews 12:12-13 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Today was so much fun at the schools; hot, but fun. The kids were great and were singing along and playing the games. Anjali was with me teaching the very little ones (3 year olds) and she led them in a song of ‘open, shut, them’. I think the kids really enjoy it when my kids lead the classes, probably more than when Jeff and I do.

All of us are really tired today and despite the fun we are having, I think we are all just completely exhausted. We have been starting school for our kids at 7:30 and working for 90 minutes before our bus picks up to teach, but today no one was up before 7:30. So we have been just rolling with what comes. Everyone got out of bed, reluctantly and ate breakfast in time for us to have about 30 minutes of school time for our kiddos. But even with starting quite late this morning, everyone got all of their work done before we even got home for the afternoon. It was wonderful to come home after a long and hot day of teaching to just relax. We took this opportunity to start gathering our clothes and items that we want to ship back to the US (souvenirs, clothes we don’t need any more, etc)

We also found out that we will have two more volunteers from England join us tomorrow, and they will be taking over for us after we leave next week.

Wednesday November 14, 2018

John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

Today in class, Anjali taught part of the lesson to the older kids at the preschool. She got up in front of them and led them through the lesson. It was wonderful to see her taking the lead in this project and enjoying herself. She even told us that she would like to come back to teach for a summer. To see her giving her time and enjoying it makes me so happy. I have prayed since we began this journey that they will find joy in serving and that it will somehow be instilled into our children and hopefully create a lifetime of serving others. This doesn’t mean that I only want them to volunteer, I just want them to understand the importance and the impact they make in this world when they are willing to give a bit of themselves to help others. We get so much more out of our life when we share and give to others. Winston Churchill nailed it when he said “we make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” I couldn’t agree more, and I have experienced this myself. My life becomes more full and joyous when I focus more on others and less on me.

Watching Anjali in this class leads me to think that we are doing the right thing for our children. This may difficult for all of us, but hopefully, we are showing our children, by example, how to give yourself in the service of others and they are feeling first hand what you get in return. I just pray this continues to make a permanent mark on their heart!

As parents, this is not an easy thing to teach our children and we need to be examples for them, just they way Jesus was for us. We don’t need to go on a year-long trip to do this, but rather every day and every person we come into contact we can give them some of the love in our hearts. This can mean a warm smile, patience to the barista at Starbucks, a conversation with the homeless person outside our office, serving dinner at the homeless shelter, restocking or donating to a local food pantry, the options are endless. It doesn’t take much, just a commitment to ourselves, to our children, and to our world. When we make this a priority, we change our focus from ourselves to our brothers and sisters. We will feel an immediate shift in our heart and see our world as a big family rather than us and them.

This is not a fail proof plan, but rather just another one of my random thoughts as I read this daily scripture my husband has created for me.

Tuesday November 13, 2018

Luke 3:10-11 What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

Jesus asks us to care for our fellow brothers and sisters in this world and this scripture speaks to just that. I may not have a lot to give at this time, but what I can give is myself and whatever skills others may find useful. In Germany, Jeff worked on a wall that saved the church a significant amount of money in repairs while I helped out at the elementary school, doing my best to use my social work skills helping special needs children who only speak German. Here in the northern rural part of Thailand they need native English speakers to teach and expose children to the language so they have a better chance at attending university. Even if it is not monetary or tangible, it is still our way to caring for our fellow brothers and sisters. Not everyone can or needs to do what we have done, but this works for us. Maybe your way of sharing what you have is at work by providing a comforting conversation to a colleague who needs a friend, maybe it is helping at the local food pantry or shelter, or volunteering at a school, a church or a nursing home, the list is endless. But the point is giving or sharing yourself with those who need it. Most of us can’t make a big difference in this world, but if we all share a small piece of ourselves, together we can make a great impact and truly change our world. I think the biggest piece of this comes in the form of sharing what we have been given with others–whether this is monetary, tangible, or just our time, these small acts combined with the small acts of others is how we make a change. 

Okay off my soapbox, today was such a fun day of teaching. I am so glad that we are here for 2 months because it is incredible how different the kids at the school are now compared to when we first got here. It seemed to take about 3 weeks or so before they warmed up to us, but now the kids are engaging, talking and singing along with us; it is so much fun. It is not just the kids we are teaching that have warmed up either, our kids are actively participating in teaching these kids, leading songs, and sitting next to kids to encourage them to sing and talk. It is such a blessing to see our kids giving so much of themselves in this process. Now there have definitely been some challenging days. I think we all are getting pretty tired and are ready for the break that will be coming as we change over to the work in India. All of the kids at one point (or maybe even several) have said that they don’t want to teach today, but once they get into the classroom they end up loving it and even tell us afterwards that they were happy they went. They really do seem to enjoy it and I am so happy because we are too!

Another riveting game of ‘telephone’ with the kids.

Monday November 12, 2018

Proverbs 15:8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is his delight.

We are now teaching at the preschool and elementary school every day, and we are going to be joined by two more volunteers at the end of the week. This is going to be a lot of fun and I am very much looking forward to seeing these fun kids every day for the next two weeks. They are so energetic and so excited to learn English. As much as I love teaching these kids and spending this time with them, I have a much bigger appreciation for all that teachers do. My voice is really feeling the impact of talking and singing all day long and there is no amount of water that seems to help. I would just like to say, “thank you” to all those teachers out there who do this every day for a living. I couldn’t do it.

Our kids are doing much better with their school work and are actually getting things done on time with little struggle. I sure hope this lasts and that we are more consistently having days like today.

I am also loving our time in Thailand, but just like Germany, I can’t believe it is already coming to an end. We leave here in 15 days and head for India. Time sure does fly. It takes us about 3-4 weeks to get settled and figure out a routine, and then we have about 4-5 weeks of routine before it is time to change things around again. I love it! We get a chance to get comfortable and enjoy it, and then move on to something else.

I have an observation regarding our first 4 months of this year-long journey, keep in mind that I am basing this observation only on the 2 countries we have visited thus far (Germany and Thailand). Everything moves at a different pace, a much slower pace. Plans made are pretty tentative until you are actually doing it. For example, our teaching schedule was not laid out for us prior to getting or even once we got here; it is a constant work in progress, changing as needed. The best way to describe the cultures both here and in Germany is a flexibility to change. I know that when I was home in the states, this would have been exceptionally difficult for me to accept; change was not easy and for some reason I took it as a person failure when I needed to adjust or change things. However, both volunteer opportunities, in Germany and Thailand, have been so incredibly fluid, constantly changing and evolving, and even more amazing is that both places seem to thrive with these constant changes. It makes me wonder, why is change so hard for us Americans? People here seem to be more relaxed and happier given the constant changes happening around them and I wonder if there is a sense of peace and serenity in all the change. I do not feel the same stresses that I felt at home to be constantly adhering to a rigid schedule, but rather a sense of peace to just enjoy the moment and move with the world rather than trying to make the world move with me.

Just a random Monday thought!

I just had to share this picture. I was teaching my 3-4 year olds this morning and we were trying to figure out the game of “telephone” using the word “cat”. You can see the kids laughing as their teacher was making her way around the room trying to explain the game to them. The kids didn’t get it all, but we all had a good laugh before moving on to something else. Flexibility at its best. No one got frustrated or upset, we tried something and it didn’t work, we all got a laugh out of it, and then we moved on to something else. It was wonderful!

 

having fun!!!

Friday November 9, 2018

Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety weighs down the human heart, but a good word cheers it up.

Today was our last day teaching the monks. We had three classes to teach today and they all did pretty well while we focused on common phrases that they would need if they visited an English speaking country. We went over phrases like, “can you please help me?”, “where is the ________?”, “what time is it?”, and “please” and “thank you”. They did pretty well, but as usual, it is difficult to get them to speak. I did not sleep much last night and I was completely exhausted. Thankfully Jeff came to the rescue and took over when I was really struggling. I am so grateful for his recognition of my struggles and his willingness to step in and cover for me. We (actually Jeff) finished out the teaching while I helped our kids with their lessons, then we said goodbye to the monks and got a few pictures.

We got home from teaching at the temple and the kids were all done with their schoolwork for the day, they even got ahead a bit with some extra work during our afternoon at the temple. It was awesome, when we got home from teaching their were done for the day and we just got relax. Wat, our host, took us out to dinner in Wiang Sa and it was wonderful. It was a very nice family restaurant. The only downside was that Lucia started complaining that her stomach was hurting and when I took her to the bathroom we realized that she is suffering from Traveller’s Diarrhea.

Otherwise, the day was pretty routine. There is not much I can say about the scripture, as I don’t have any anxiety right now., nor have I felt any recently. I am feeling very calm about my situation and my life, but I fully agree with the scripture, good words can surely cheer you right up when you are feeling low. Anxiety truly does weigh us down and makes our life really hard to get through each day and I feel blessed to not have this as a daily struggle like so many people around the world. There are so many people who are burdened with anxiety and it makes me wonder, if we started to say kind words to the people we come into contact with each, could we help to alleviate anxiety for our world? If we all spoke kinds words to the person in front of us at Starbucks, to the cashier at Target, to the mother struggling with her children at the store, or to the next person you see on the street, would this world be less anxious and more content? This reminds me of the movie Pay It Forward, where one kid does a nice/kind thing for 5 people and the only thing he asks for in return is that they do 5 nice things for 5 new people. Maybe if we all just took a few moments to make someone’s day a bit brighter our world would be a much better place.