A few weeks ago we packed the Subaru to the gills and pointed our rusty, I mean TRUSTY, steed south to the warm embrace of The Diocese of South Carolina. We had a number of appointments set up with youth leaders, rectors, and missions minded folks around Charleston, and enjoyed our time there immensely. Except for the fire ants. Lesson learned: don’t place a sandaled foot or bare hand within their reach. Lesson number two: Camp St. Christopher is a beautiful place and the people there are amazing hosts. We made some great new friends/contacts, were prayed for and ministered to in needed ways, and left encouraged and buoyed in our call to launch Agape Year. Now we are prepping for May recruiting trips that will see us in Texas and California. Being on the road with a 3 year old and a 5 month old has its challenges, and a side-of-the-road temper tantrum has a way of stretching my patience.
There are times in my life when I really need an Ebenezer, a reminder of God’s faithfulness. As Erika and I dive headlong into starting Agape Year, building a program, recruiting students, and raising our financial support there a times of great doubt that we are on the right track. But God has given me an incredible reminder of His faithfulness: my health.
Most of you know that I have Crohn’s Disease, and many of you know how debilitating it has been at various times over the past 20 years. And a few of you have seen me hospitalized or bed-bound for months on end. But just a few. Most people don’t know my story of healing (its a miracle and I’d love to talk to you about it!) so when I talk about running a half marathon, the miracle of that is lost on them.
By the grace of God I’ll run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon on May 7th. We are raising donations here with all of the money going to Erika and my financial support. Getting up early to train on Pittsburgh’s city streets, or running in the dark on unfamiliar South Carolina roads, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness with every step. Thanks for coming along side of Erika and me on the road and on the run!
This will be our last post as a result of our mission to Bangkok. The headline refers to both a poem by Kipling, and a literary term for drawing a meaning or conclusion at the end of a poem. I suppose it is too soon to deeply reflect upon what we did, whom we met, and what we saw, but here goes anyway.
I just reread what I wrote when we returned from our mission to Lithuania these five years ago, (Reflections on return). Much of what I said then would apply now – except for the part about how similar Lithuania was to any other Western country. Except for shopping centers, which are the same all over the world, not much in Thailand was like life and culture in the States. As you’ve been following our blog, you have noticed what I mean, and I won’t rehash here.
A mission, at least in our experience, is like a stage of life. You put down roots, establish relationships, get in the groove, so to speak, and then it’s over. This is very obvious to those of you who, as Bonnie and I, have moved frequently over the years. For those who’ve stayed put, however, think how many people – friends, family, neighbors – or institutions have left or changed beyond recognition. It is with a profound sense of loss that this takes place, and even though we were only at the Centre and our neighborhood for about five weeks, nevertheless bonds were formed.
Memories, however, last for a very long time. It is unlikely that we will ever see any of the folks we met again, at least not until “Earth’s last picture is painted”, but Bonnie and I are much the richer for having had the opportunity. On our first mission trip, to Jamaica in 1998, to an orphanage, a kid named Charles asked if I would ever forget him. I said no – and obviously haven’t. If you’ve ever considered a mission journey, take it. No matter what you may contribute to others, no matter the time, expense and often discomfort, you will be the gainer.
Although we should all bear in mind that day “When only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall blame . . “, in the meantime there are some wonderful experiences to be had, and some wonderful people to meet.
Bangkok is a huge city. Every time we went downtown we were amazed at the number of skyscrapers on every side. The traffic was continually like rush hour at every hour of the day. It is very densely populated–about 15 million people, a figure we question since it must be impossible to count all the people living in little shacks of corrugated metal which line the railroad tracks. It is obvious that business is good in Bangkok; there are business from around the world there and construction was evident everywhere. Despite the booming economy there were so many very poor people living in deplorable conditions. Following are some photos I took, some from the windows of the train, which should give some idea of “a drive through Bangkok.”
Pictures of the recently deceased king are everywhere as well as pictures of other members of the royal family. The black and white bunting shown above is draped everywhere throughout the city–even out where we were–who knows how many miles of this have been hung. He passed away in October and there will be a year of mourning. The Thais love their royal family.
I loved these Thai “Fuller Brush men”
Our transportation of choice downtown—a tuktuk.
Eateries line the streets–some just food wagons and some with a few tables like these.
Life along the railroad tracks:
Of the 3,272 pictures we took while in Bangkok, I have shared with you a little of all that we saw and experienced on this amazing visit. We feel very lucky to have been able to see all these things and hope that we were able to make a little contribution to the mission here. I think we received more than we gave.
Sa Wat Dee Ka,
We considered “our neighborhood” to be be the area which was walk-able distance from our lodging. Looking back through these pictures of our neighborhood already makes me feel a little sad that we will probably never again see these streets which became so familiar to us during the five weeks we were there. Once again I must say we are very happy that we had the chance to experience this very different place in the world and meet the people there.
Typical students in their uniforms walking down our street.
Most are not walking but riding motor scooters. One day I counted 32 motor scooters going in or out in just five minutes.
At the end of the street is this place where you can grab a ride on a motor scooter or, occasionally, a cab. One day Chuck and I took a motor scooter to church together. It was just a bit harrowing, especially when our driver was going against the traffic (which is very heavy here no matter where you are) and when we went over this little pedestrian/scooter bridge pictured below. Whee! Wish we had a picture but we were busy holding on.
The 7 Eleven dogs. These two were always lying in front of the doors to the 7 Eleven. They found a way to beat the heat this way as whenever anyone went in or out, a blast of the very cool air conditioned air would come out. I fed them scraps sometimes although they were not starving and one wore a collar. At another 7 Eleven across the street from our church there were two other dogs (also 1 black, 1 brown) who had discovered the same way to keep cool.
Here’s the guy who supplies the fruits and vegetables to the food stands along the streets. There is always an array of fresh fruit and Chuck and I often bought some for our breakfast the next day.
I’m amazed he can balance his scooter with all this hanging from it.
We referred to this woman as “the chicken lady” although she also cooked fish at her little street-side grill. Chuck always stopped to greet her on his morning walks (which I did not do because of the oppressive heat–I only walked when there was something I really wanted to see as when we were touring.)
Chicken Lady’s “kitchen” up the stairs. We ate here (at the one and only table) one day–just chicken, no sides, and no drinks. When we wanted a Coke they went next door to purchase one for us.
We discovered this place the last week and ate there four times. It was almost like home. They had a wonderful pepper gravy on either steak or pork chops. Very tasty.
The sweet waitress (owner) of Steak For U.
My lunch. It looked so good after eating mostly Thai dishes for weeks. It was more expensive though–Pork chop -$2.99 and t-bone steak $ 5.07 – the most expensive item on their menu. We usually spent about $ 4 total for lunch for both of us with drinks in the Thai restaurant on the ground floor of our dormitory.
This open-air food court was just around the corner from us. In the evenings, the little “restaurants” around the perimeter would begin cooking and the tables would fill with mostly students.
Along the street in the evenings. Time to eat.
A couple of blocks up the street was a side street where fish were trucked in and prepared for sale. Notice temple in the background.
Along the streets were several micro-businesses such as laundromats, usually with 2 or 3 washers and no dryers. People dry their clothes outside on their balconies (as we did) or right on the street. Across from us was a small hotel where you could stay for $15 a night. There were tiny drug stores, internet cafes, and sewing shops. Everywhere the Thais seemed an industrious people always working hard.
Our last sight-seeing venture was to the ancient capital of, then, Siam. This involved getting up very early and catching the 6:28 train near us to the main station in downtown Bangkok, then catching the train to Ayutthaya, a trip of about two and a half hours altogether. There we hired a tuktuk to drive us about to the various ruins of interest. It was quite an interesting place. We visited seven temples, each somewhat the same but a little different. Enjoy the photos!