Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

A lot has happened since I last updated. We had a great Christmas in Bangkok. We got to spend some time with one of the other YWAM Oxford backpacker teams that was also in Bangkok at the time. We had a gift exchange and shared communion together. It's a lot different than what most of us are used to and for most of the students it was the first time being away from home for Christmas so there was definitely a little bit of homesickness going on but it was very good, in it's own way.
We spent two nights in Kanchanaburi and spent a day at the Erawan National Park. That was definitely my favourite activity that we've done so far. The seven teired waterfall was absolutely gorgeous. It was like a jungle trek to a tropical paradise that included a waterpark. It was great! The bus ride to and from Erawan was an especially good time for meeting other travelers and sharing the gospel. Another little treat that I got that day was getting to talk to a South African girl who is teaching English in Bangkok (one of four English teachers we met that day). Having lived in South Africa for three years it is always a joy to hear the accent again and I am reminded of how much I love that country and the people.
A couple nights ago we took a sleeper bus north to Chiang Mai, which arrived at 4 am. We have been absolutely loving it here so far and it has already become the place that we have had the most fruitful ministry. Tonight our hostel is having a free barbeque on the rooftop bar and supposedly there will be fireworks going for much of the night so we are praying that this will be a great opportunity for reflecting with people about the last year, talking about hopes and dreams for the year ahead and hopefully sharing a bit about what life is all about. (Jesus.)
Tomorrow, Jan 1, we are going to have a day of prayer and fasting for the nation of Thailand. We will meet at regular meal times and focus on three main prayer points: Religious (Thailand is 95% Buddhist and the rest is a mix of Hindu and Muslim), political (all of Thailand is united in their love for the King but he is in failing health and it may only be a matter of time before the clash between the red shirts and the yellow shirts comes to a bloody climax) and social (human trafficking and sex slavery have become rampant in Thailand due to a mix of poverty, greed, lust and lack of education and work opportunities for the lowest classes of society). It would be awesome if some of you would be willing to join with us in praying for these issues on the same day. Even a few quick prayers here and there would be greatly appreciated. God loves Thailand and He is eager to move on behalf of this nation.
Thanks for your prayers and support!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Alive and Thriving

Right now I am sitting cross legged in a free internet cafe, wearing the ubiquitous Thai fisherman pants, sweating profusely, waiting patiently for the banana pancake vendors to come out for the late night crowd and enjoying being in a room where half of the people have dreadlocks halfway down to the floor. Everyone on the team has been adjusting to Thai culture quite nicely. Well, technically what they've been adjusting to is backpacker/hippie/budget travel culture that just happens to be thriving in Thailand right now but, as they say in Bangkok, "same same". Luca may even be getting a little bit too comfortable as evidenced by the fact that the two of us decided to hazard the infamous 10 baht tuk tuk ride the other day in an attempt to find a cheaper market for buying Thai (tourist) clothing. The ride really should have cost 50-100 baht but the idea is that you can ride almost for free if you are willing to stop in at a few of the driver's friend's shops and pretend to be interested in their merchandise for a few minutes. This leads to good connections for the driver and sometimes even gas coupons or a small commission. When taken with a good attitude and a little bit of street sense it can be quite a colourful adventure but I definitely wouldn't reccommend it for most. The whole team took quite well to getting lost in Chinatown the other day, even after walking for hours in stifling heat wearing flip-flops that were falling apart. Taking the Phrao Chaya Express (a big water bus) back to our area of town was an added bonus. I was having such a good time that I may or may not have even frolicked down the street for a bit. We try to eat as cheap as we can so we tend to wander out into the sidestreets and head for slightly more authentic Thai food. Fruit salad and banana pancakes are still a staple but we've all tried some pad thai, various curries, mama noodle and of course lots of fried rice and stir fry dishes. Everyone has been in good health so far and the meals have been sitting just fine. (Although, at one point Luca was "dying... almost" while eating a particularly spicy red curry. You know it's hot when it makes his nose bleed.)
We are getting a little bit more into the swing of the backpacker ministry, although we are far from satisfied. We have had opportunities with different people each day and have met people at our hostel, on the street or at various tourist attractions. Mostly we have been meeting people at our hostel and then inviting them to join us in checking out the city. Sharing meals with people is always my favourite way to be able to take the conversation to a deeper level and we have been able to do that a few times over the last few days as well. I won't try and list over everyone's names right now but I'll highlight two real quick:
Jenny is from the States and currently living in Berlin, studying photography. She is in Thailand for three weeks and has about two left. We spent most of the day with her yesterday (she didn't mind getting lost in Chinatown too much either) and she left for Chiang Mai today. She is "not religious" but we were able to share a little bit about our faith with her and I'm praying that we might see or her again or that one of the other Thailand teams will bump into her and be able to continue planting seeds.
Roberto is from Spain and is nearing the end of his eight month travels, which he mostly spent learning English in Australia. We spent several hours with him today, checking out the Grand Palace together. He grew up going to Catholic school but it was "not for him"... understandably. He definitely seemed open to further discussion on spiritual matters and he will be in Bangkok for the next few days so I am praying that we will be able to meet up with him again as well.
Having traveled solo before, I how lonely it can get at times and how much it means when other travelers are friendly and take an interest in you. This is an incredible opportunity for us to reach people who may be more hardened to the gospel in their home environment. Pray that we will have open ears and eyes in the Spirit to be able to see those who are lonely, beaten down and oppressed. It is for such ones that Christ died and they are the ones that He has sent us out to call to His wedding feast.
Thank you for all your prayers and support! God bless, and merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

And so it begins...

We arrived safely in Bangkok on schedule and managed to get to our hostel by about 2:00 am local time. Thank God for good flights and a few mini miracles along the way. (Qantas airlines actually booked us a free flight back to New Zealand for Jan 10 just so that we would have proof of leaving Thailand within our 30 day visa restriction. It was quite unusual. We ended up not needing it at the border but it was a very nice gesture on their behalf and we can easily cancel the flight now that we are in the country.)
We all slept well and have had a great first day in Thailand. We definitely felt the spiritual heaviness when we arrived and some of the team were feeling particularly burdened. We started the day with some great fruit salad with yoghurt (only 30 baht!) and then went to a nearby park (the same one we spent Christmas in last year on our layover) and spent some time in worship. That was definitely the turning point in the day and it only got better from there (for me anyway).
We split into pairs and started exploring the city a bit and keeping open ears and eyes for whoever God would bring along our path. Malori and I were technically looking for a good hostel to spend Christmas in but we kept getting "distracted" by a whole bunch of great witnessing opportunities. I'm running out of time so I'll keep it short.
Pray for Guiton, from Sweden. He is heading home today after four months of travel in Southeast Asia. We had lunch with him and talked for about two hours. He was very touched when I prayed for him and asked for God's blessing on his return home. We exchanged email and he might be able to get us some contacts in Chiang Mai.
Pray for Maria, from Spain. We bumped into her a few times and she was practically begging us to stay in the same hostel as her. We didn't get as much time to talk with her but we exchanged email with her as well and plan to get together with her for a meal as soon as possible.
Pray for more open doors. Pray for good health and safety. Pray for spiritual protection and discernment. Pray that we would be united as a team and totally focused on obeying God no matter what the circumstances.
That's that for now. As we see signs all over Thailand saying... LONG LIVE THE KING!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Flight Details

Another week down and one more to go until we leave for Thailand!
We fly out of Christchurch on December 19 at 3:05 pm.
We arrive in Sydney for a brief layover at 4:25 pm and then fly out again at 6:05 pm.
We arrive in Bangkok at 11:10 pm.
All times listed are in their local time zone so I'll let you figure out time zone conversions if you want to pray at exact times while we're traveling. From when we leave Oxford to landing in Bangkok the total travel time is about 18 hours. It will probably take about another hour to get a taxi to our hostel, which we are planning to book online beforehand.
Check out the "Thailand Travels" link on the right to follow our team blog while we're there. (I will still be making personal updates on this site.)
Also, if you're interested, you can see pictures of our team on my facebook page.
Thanks for your prayers and support!

Friday, December 3, 2010


Week 9 of this DTS has just ended and we leave for Thailand in exactly two weeks! (Sat, Dec 18.) My team is getting really excited and the final preparations are starting to fall into place.
So much has happened over the last few weeks that it's hard to know how to summarize. One of the big highlights was week eight when we had Mark Parker teaching on the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Everyone had opportunity to lay burdens down at the cross, confess sin publicly, let go of shame and guilt, praise God without inhibitions and basically do whatever they needed to do to make Jesus Lord of every part of their lives. Six students were baptized in Ashley Gorge and we ended the week by having communion together. The change in people's lives is evident and has continued to be walked out. Not everyone is struggling less but everyone is more quick to repent and seek reconciliation. This is what discipleship is all about.

Here's a quick update on my financial situation:
Everyone on my outreach team is paid for in full but in the rest of the school as a whole there is still about $12,000 that still needs to come in. (That number was over $20,000 a few days ago so praise God for that.)
Through a series of mini-miracles that happened back home (car insurance refund, lost wallet found and some Christmas gifts) I have juuuuust enough money for my outreach. I also have a plane ticket as far as L.A. after the DTS is finished... beyond that I am waiting to see how God provides. All glory goes to the All-sufficient One for bringing the money in just when it was needed and I have complete faith in Him to do the same in the future.

Thanks for your prayers! Keep lifting up the students and staff on this DTS and the nations that we will be inundating with God's love two weeks from now.