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!

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