Monday, February 23, 2009

Leaving Thailand

Bangkok to Chiang Mai to Mae Seriang to Phuket; our time in Thailand has been eventful and wonderful, to say the least. I just remember as we were leaving India, we really had no idea what our time in Thailand would look like and really what we were going to do. Matt Parker had emailed us a tentative plan we could follow but it was more of an outline to look to if nothing else came up. He encouraged us in emails to really allow the spirit to lead us in our time here. However, in his original itinerary, he did not include the fact that he was going to be joining us in Thailand. When we arrived at our first nights hostel in Bangkok, Matt Parker came walking down the stairs to greet us. It felt unreal, like a dream almost. As strange as it was, seeing him was like a breath of fresh air.
The time spent with him has been so encouraging and he has spoken wisdom into all 3 of our lives. Asking God to lead us through our time in Thailand really meant completely giving up the itinerary that Matt had already put together for us.

So after a good night's rest, we got up the next morning and checked out of our hostel. At this point we had no clue what we were doing but we headed for the bus station anyways. After taking a half day to get across bangkok and reach the bus station, our idea to travel to Mae Sot (northwest thailand on the border of Burma) was not in God's plan. We felt like we were supposed to take a train to Chiang Mai. That evening we hoped aboard a 16 hour train ride to the north. God's plan for our time there was not even close to what we thought we might do.

Matt had previously been given some info on a pastor that lived in the area and so through our quiet times, Matt felt really pressed to call him. His name is Pastor Lu. What was so cool is that Pastor Lu had already heard about Matt from a mutual friend back in the states, and earlier that morning Pastor Lu had been thinking about and praying for Matt. Matt contacts Pastor Lu and we arranged to have dinner with his family that evening. We really had no idea who this guy was but we soon found out.
After sharing a meal, we learned that him and his family were Burmese. They now lived in Chiang Mai and were the head directors of an orphanage there. They had also been doing relief work in Burma where a tsunami in May 2008 had taken over 600,000. Pastor Lu and his family were currently discipling over 200 Burmese people, including Buddhist monks that had converted to Christianity. The next day, we visited his house and he talked to us more about the kinds of things he does. He showed us pictures from the tsunami damage, and it was devastating. Everything was washed away. But at the same time, there was hope. The Burmese people were very open to the Gospel and peoples lives were changing as they chose to follow Christ. That day we told him that we came to Thailand with not much of a plan and that we just wanted to follow after the Spirit. He encouraged us to visit some of the local villages in the mountains more or less to get a glimpse of the way of life in this part of the world. We would have loved to go into Burma, but we would have needed to contact Pastor Lu a while back and that is not where God wanted us in this time.
The next morning, we boarded a bus and that afternoon arrived in Mae Seriang; a small mountain community near Burma. On the bus we met a couple from Germany named Olaf and Anita. We ended up staying in the same guesthouse that evening and decided to go on a 3 day trek through the jungle to some of the rural mountain villages together. As we were leaving for the trail head the next morning, we were joined by another westerner from Quebec named Sara. So the 7 of us, plus our guide 'Kiddy' were on our way. Other than seeing the jungle and all its beauty, we had a great time with our new friends from around the world. We spent 3 great days hiking through the jungle, sharing stories, talking about lives, talking about God, and riding elephants! Please pray for those relationships built with those people that they continue to grow even being apart now.
To back track a little, some of you may be wondering, "How did Matt Parker get in the picture?" Well, back in November, our families and a few friends suggested that Matt meet up with us in Thailand for 2 weeks. The point was really for Matt to talk with us and help us figure out what life was going be like as we got back in the States. So, when we left Mae Seriang, we headed south to the beach. We wanted a relaxing, peaceful place to be able share and learn from Matt, and plus, we all love the ocean! So for the next 3 days, we swam and saw God's beautiful creation. Each of us individually met with Matt and shared with him what God had really shown us over the last 5 months. He helped us figure out how to take what we've learned and apply to life back home. It was great to have Matt help us get clarity with what things will look like.
On our last day at the beach, February 22, I (Christian) was baptized. I had been praying about being baptized for a while. I knew that I wanted Matt Parker to be the one to do it, but I also wanted to do it while on this trip. I felt like I was probably going to have to choose one or the other. Well when Matt shows up in Thailand, I knew that was God's way of saying, "Here's your chance, take it." So that evening, out in the ocean, the 4 of us stood by some fishing boats and Matt baptized me. It was sweet. I look back at when I became a Christian in 2001 and my life was very different. I was not devoted to Christ and kept the fact that I accepted Christ very private. My baptism was really a redeeming time for me. It was public and I had 3 brothers to witness.

Now we are back in Bangkok. Its been 2 weeks since we arrived and we fly out for New Zealand today. Our prayer coming into this was that our time would be led by the Holy Spirit and that we would continuously be in God's will. Looking back on the last 2 weeks, we know that we have done what God called us here for. We are looking forward to New Zealand and sad to see Matt Parker go back home.

Thanks for following us and reading about our experiences.
Christian (v-team)

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