Saturday, July 23, 2005

July 17, 2005 (THAILAND)

We were busy and had a lot going on before we came out here so really we had no expectations and I am glad that we did not. It has been great to go day by day and just let the trip unfold. We knew that in a two-week trip we were not going to be able to make a huge impact, especially 6 months after the tsunami. But we figured even if all we do is help put back into the tourism industry we will be helping those struggling to get back on their feet. And every little bit helps.

If anyone is thinking of taking a vacation…Thailand is the place to go…they need it, it is cheep, beautiful and now is a good time to go and see some of the damage from the tsunami as well as how they are getting back on their feet.

Our first connection and relationship building was in Phang Nga. In the letter I wrote before our trip I mentioned that our friends, Ryan and Holly had taken a trip back in March and helped a single woman, Jan, rebuild her fence taken out by the tsunami. We were able to do more than just meet her; she was the bridge that connected us to many children who were affected by the tsunami. As Jan told me the story of how she battled and survived the first second and third wave, she said that because her life was spared she feels as though she needs to give her life to help others. So she is volunteering at a school.

We spent three days visiting the school and playing with the children. Our first day there was a weekend so we were able to get to know about 12 children who did not go home for the weekend most of which lost one or both parents in the tsunami. We brought them ice cream, played games, drew pictures in the dirt, practiced our Thai, and they practiced a little bit of English. Heath and Ryan played football (soccer) with the boys, and wow they were studying how Heath juggled the ball, I even saw one kid on his own practicing just what Heath had taught them.

Our second day at the school we were hoping to bring another swing-set. They only had one for over 300 students. Things in Thailand do not happen as quickly as here, so we ended up giving money for a new one to a missionary who will be able to access the necessary resources and deliver it to the school.

The last day there I learned how to count from this precious little girl who sat in my lap and went over the numbers over and over with me. Her name is something like Syphoon Ta Typhoon; I believe that she is one of the children they consider to be too young to know that she has lost her parents. She won my heart. It was rewarding to be able to give these children much-needed hugs and attention.

Our group sponsored a fishing village whose boats were damaged or destroyed by the tsunami. We were able to meet some needs of five families needing boat repairs. In one of the families, two brothers were dying of TB, we prayed with them for healing and peace for the family. We were able to share with this village why we were there and why we wanted to help them. Our heart is to do as Jesus taught to love our neighbor and bring goodness to the world. We tried to do this while being sensitive to their culture, it was a blessing to have Chris, the missionary there, and the Thai church act as a bridge so that we could communicate with the village and not offend them. We learned that even good intentions are not enough. We pray that our actions and our hearts will not be lost in translation but that they will be encourged and in turn desire to bring goodness to those around them as well.

What a beautiful island! No cars and very down to earth. We spent a couple days there sight seeing on a long tail boat, snorkeling around the various islands. One full day of manual labor, it felt good to know we were actually making a difference. We did beach cleanup. They had put a lot of the rubbish into piles along the beach so we took it from there. We divided it further into piles of wood to burn, tin and metal that they can get money for, bricks they could reuse and the rest we brought to the huge piles of trash. They had already taken 7000 tons of trash off the island and everyday were collecting more to get rid of. After beach cleanup we did snorkel cleanup along the beach. Everyday more and more rubble is brought to the surface.

Our last stop on the way out...
Lots of bartering and last minute shopping.
Toured the Grand Palace and saw the Reclining Buddha.
Received fabulous (cheep) Thai massages before a long trip home.

What a great experience, we are so glad we were able to go and see such a beautiful place, meet such beautiful people, experience a relaxed, relational and of course, beautiful culture, as well as to see how well they were rebuilding their lives.

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