Heartache on the Homefront
Abraham Lincoln was once quoted as saying, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” We have spent the last year and a half, in one very real sense, “sharpening the ax” as we have been living and serving here in Thailand. As Anglo Americans, we have hurdles we have to get over—our “mother-tongue” and our cultures are very different from those of most Thai people. That doesn’t mean there is no hope; it just means it takes time to settle into effective and far-reaching impact in this culture. Over these years, we have tried to focus on that which is most important—investing in the people God has put in front of us, and sharpening the ax. We have exciting plans for the near future but for now, now is the time of sharpening. That’s why we study Thai language, and that’s why we study and explore Thai culture to try to better understand how to serve here. As we continue to work in the roles God has placed us in during this season, here are some updates about what is going on:
My Brother’s Passing
At the end of January, I saw this post from my aunt about my older half-brother, Jeff.
Not long after that, I found out that my brother was on life-support but was really gone already because he had been “brain dead” for over 24 hours. I jumped on the internet to read up on what it meant to be “brain dead” and on life support and the consensus was that to be “brain dead” was to be truly deceased (no one has ever “come back” from being brain dead). Out of nowhere, my brother was gone. I got on a plane as soon as I could and went back to the U.S. to be with my family during the funeral and for a week or so afterwards. Even as I write this update, a month later, it is still hard to believe that it’s real. I am praying for his wife and kids every day. Just a few days ago, the question popped up in my mind, “What if his wife was Liz, and she was grieving over my sudden exit from this world?” and I began weeping. It’s difficult for me, in the sense that I regret how much of a relationship I didn’t have with him, but what hurts me the most is seeing how difficult it is for his wife and children. Please keep them in your prayers.
However, as sad as that situation was, there were rays of hope shining behind the clouds. First, everyone that knows Jeff knows that despite his battles with addiction over the years, he had truly been born again, that he loved Jesus and loved to share the gospel with people. I didn’t know the pastor who spoke at his funeral, but I was so grateful to him, because he spent the largest portion of the time sharing with people about how they could have a relationship with God through Jesus—which I believe is exactly what Jeff would have wanted.
Second, I was able to spend some much-needed time with my family. It has been a year and a half since I have been back, and I know that I needed that time with them. I was also blown away that by the time I got back to Chiang Rai, that the total expense for the whole trip had been covered with donations from family and people from Adamsville First Baptist Church. I didn’t expect nor ask for this, but God worked in people’s hearts to help us out with that unexpected expense.
Chiang Rai International School and Grace Language School
Our normal schedule for the week include teaching at Chiang Rai International School (CRIS), teaching at Grace Language School, and me hosting two English Corners (one at both local universities). We continue to touch the lives of over 200 students, ranging from first grade all the way to university aged (and older).
Language Training and Staying Sharp
Our language skills continue to develop, and we continue to have more opportunities to have deep, significant conversations with people in their own language. It’s amazing how much understanding Thai now makes living in Thailand less stressful—who would have thought that being able to read street signs and get your oil changed by yourself would make things easier! Nonetheless, we are still not where we want to be, and we continue to study little by little every day so that we can one day truly say we are “Klong Klaew” (คล่องแคล่ว)—fluent! I will even have an opportunity in the coming weeks to teach a Bible study in Thai for the first time!
On the topic of education, we continue trying to challenge ourselves to continue studying and growing in an understanding of both God's word and God's world. We want to always be growing in our understanding of the Scriptures and our understanding of the world around us, so that we can faithfully apply the teachings of those Scriptures to our lives and let them bear their weight on our minds. During this season, John Frames's book, "The Doctrine of the Christian Life" has been impacting me, and Liz has been slowly making her way through a book called, "The New Jim Crow," about the adverse effects of mass incarceration on black communities in the United States.
Something to share:
This song has been on my heart a lot lately. One of the things I have discovered about learning a new language is how it has enhanced my experience of worshiping through song. I love to sing and worship Jesus in the Thai language. No, I don’t always understand every single word, but there is something so special about seeing how God transcends the English language when I am in a time of focused worship. This song is one of my favorites because it is a prayer that God would open the eyes and hearts of the Thai people and would give them hope. I don’t know if it will resonate as much in English as it does in Thai, but I wanted to share it nonetheless. Maybe you can listen to it, and pray with us for a spiritual awakening in this country.