Yesterday was a day none of us had expected. We were on a tight schedule in the morning in order to get to G.R.O.W. on time to eat a wonderful meal prepared for us by the cooks there.
After being treated to such a wonderful meal, as always, we cleaned off our tables and placed the dishes in their brand-new cleaning area that has been built over the past year. Some of the ladies participated in the cleaning all our dishes to put less work on our amazing hosts here in Thailand.
Quickly after a group prayer with the children and staff, we loaded up the GROW bus and Truck and started our journey to Chiang Mai to see a movie and feed the kids the meal they have been dreaming of. Pizza, KFC, and McDonalds fueled up the children before choosing to go see the new Nutcracker movie. Smiles grew wider and wider as they lined up for their unexpected popcorn and soda treats. After the movie, our team split quickly to find a breakfast snack for the following morning in order to make it to church service at the GROW home on time.
The plan was to follow up the movie with a picnic full of market food and treats from 7/11, but what was supposed to be a quick stop, turned into driving the 3hrs back to GROW to eat around 8pm. A long day of driving, eating, and goofing around, led to chowing down catfish on a stick with sticky rice in our fingers. We said goodbye, and jumped into the trucks that were loaned to the team to make it easier on the GROW staff. Randy and Allen, practicing their left side driving, landed us safely back to our hotel where we all went straight to bed excited for worship the following morning t’s hard to believe today is our second and last Sunday in this mission trip. How quickly the time has passed!
The Sunday in GROW started with glorious praise to the Lord. Pastor Jeff’s message about forgiveness was just perfect. Forgiveness is so foundational to being a believer. As Jesus forgave us, so shall we forgive our brothers and sisters.
Pastor John demonstrated the burden we carry by not forgiving our brothers and sisters. The children laughed as one of the GROW kids carried several bags representing carrying unforgiven sins. Though funny to see, this was quite a powerful way to teach the concept!
For our last afternoon and evening at GROW, the team was initially torn between having to choose between going to Abonzo coffee or the waterfalls. The choice was quite easy when we talked about the significance of what Patrick from Abonzo coffee is doing which is really following God’s calling and building a coffee ministry to help bring Jesus to the Akha people.
This is the team’s repeat visit to Abonzo for some who’s been here before yet it continues to amaze us to see how our Lord is working through Patrick.
Abonzo Coffee is in Doi Chang which just has an amazing landscape. Of course, they make the BEST coffee to go with the beautiful scenery. This is also where they sell Blue Latte - a yummy blue/lavender frappe drink.
Next we headed to the waterfalls but didn’t make it in time. The waterfalls will have to wait for next year as they moved up the closing time on account of the earlier daylight end. With the Cave experience of getting trapped, they are careful to keep places safe which we can all appreciate.
It’s a perfect time to head back to GROW.
As we headed back, we encountered road closures and found out the King’s daughter was passing through. We quickly found out there are several things expected with the passing of the Princess. For those wearing capri pants or skirts above the ankle, we had to go behind the vehicles, so we are not seen by the Princess. We could not use our phones or take pictures. Faa was clear in giving us guidance on what to do and not to do. Faa was following what the policeman was instructing her to do. The rules would even be more when the King passes. Faa shared times in Chiang Mai where the King passed, and all the subjects bowed down and stayed on the grounds for about 3 hours until the King has passed. One of the team members continued to have her phone out and questioned why she should follow when the policeman saw her and didn’t tell her to put away her phone. Several team members responded back to her advising we must follow as we have to respect Faa and it is the polite thing to do. The policeman told Faa what she should tell us to do as we were clearly foreigners in this part of the world. We clearly didn’t know what to expect when the King’s daughter passes by.
There was a sense of uncertainty and perhaps even a bit of anxiety and frustration with waiting and not knowing how long we have to wait. It made me reflect on what the Bible tells us about waiting for Our King. James 5:7-9. “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door.”
We ended the evening having a wonderful time with the GROW children and staff where we sang and danced for each other and exchanged gifts from our children’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) and the Thai children’s gift of art/drawings. I will forever treasure the gift of art from the GROW children.
This was a glorious end to our day. However, it also brought sadness as we said goodbye to the children. One of our team members said, “we do not have enough time with the kids...”. yes, there is never enough time with them.
November 7th, 2018
Today is the last day of our trip and this morning we spent some time reflecting on the journey we’ve been on while here. One of the things that struck us is the fact that, by looking at GROW, we have a blueprint of what the Safe House ministry can become.
They both began humbly: gathering children in extreme need—whether abused, starved, trafficked, prostituted—and providing a safe-haven in a home. GROW has been able to expand into an incredible organization by partnering with several churches in the US and being able to work with the Thai government. They have nine acres of land with separate dorms for the girls and boys, rice fields, chickens, a soccer field, play structure, dining hall and worship center. They have therapists for the children and are working on plans to have training for the children to prepare them to launch into the world once they graduate from high school. It’s a truly inspirational place with strong leadership by Faa, Ning and their team.
The Safe House, however, has different and significant challenges. They partner with Hillside only and are not able to work with the government of their country because they need to fly under the radar. The entire group lives in a three bedroom, two bathroom home with only a small cement yard and an extremely rudimentary kitchen. It would be easy to despair but instead it’s exciting to know that God has more in store for them and that this is only the beginning. They want to purchase land so they can expand in a similar way to GROW. They want to be able to take on more children who are at risk for being trafficked and help the kids in the program prepare for their future. There are so many obstacles, but instead of thinking of them as unpassable roadblocks, we can see them as opportunities to watch God at work.
So, a quick call to action in case you are feeling like you are being called to jump in: If you want to know how you can help in an immediate, tangible way there are two things you can do. The first is to commit to praying for the Safe House and the leaders, Leik and Irene. For their wisdom in knowing where God is leading them and for the ministry itself. The second is to become part of the group who gives financial support to them. There are two opportunities for giving. You can add to the fund that finances the ministry’s ongoing needs. The second is to donate to the land fund to help set them up for the future. (Please do not think of this as a pressure situation! This suggestion is simply an outlet for those who are feeling a specific call to do something now.
This blog is written by Victor and others from my church - I simply have not had time but wanted to share with your this amazing journey. Most of the team has now left Chiang Mai and are heading for home, however I am on my way to Cambodia~~~