This trip to Chiang Mai was the first trip for Gloria to Thailand. I was excited that she was able to go with me on this journey. She has been involved with this ministry since it started in 2010 and we have enjoyed working on this together. Here is Gloria’s account of what we did and accomplished on this trip. -Mike
I wanted to give an update of our trip to Thailand the last two weeks of October. Some of you may have seen the updates on Facebook while we were there but we wanted everyone to know what was accomplished.
We left Sunday afternoon and arrived in Chiang Mai Tuesday mid-morning. Zeb, Rachelle (our two missionaries that moved over in September) and Terra (our Mission Consultant) met us at the airport. I remember how hot and humid it was when we walked out of the airport.
Day One (Tuesday October 20): We checked into the Baan Kaew Guest House and refreshed ourselves. We had a great Mexican meal at Miguel’s on the square and I (Gloria) had a quick view of the city as we ran errands (had to buy a Thai cell phone and exchange our USD for baht). We struggled to stay awake but finally had to give in and take a nap before dinner. We met Zeb and Rachelle for dinner at a cute little diner. We were in bed early and as we laid down we heard the rain (Zeb and Rachelle got drenched riding their scooter home).
Day Two (Wednesday 21): Enjoyed an early morning walk to the square and then a great breakfast, facebook and Skype time with our daughter and grandsons. The open air dining room at the Guest House was a great place to prepare for the day. We had a rental truck delivered to the guest house so we had transportation during out stay. Hope Bridges recently became a member of a Thai Foundation called Haven Foundation run by a group of Australians. They have been working in Thailand for about 25 years. We had the opportunity to meet with Jonathan Vickers, the Chariman. We asked a lot of questions about how to do mission work in Thailand. The foundation will be able to provide guidance in many areas of mission and Thai culture. They helped Zeb and Rachelle with their visas and work permits. We look forward to this new relationship.
Day Three (Thursday October 22): We picked up Sarah (our Liaison for Mission Ministry, she visits the children’s homes each month taking food and other supplies provided by HB) and then drove about an hour out of Chiang Mai to visit an intergenerational family living in poverty. Sarah is currently housing five of the children so they can go to school. Currently, about 32 people are living in a one room cement house with an outside room. There is the grandmother who stays home and watches the 23 kids before and after school along with one of the parents. The other 7 parents are picked up early in the morning by their employer and taken to a cannary and then returned late in the day. This is a very difficult situation for this family. We prayed over the grandmother and daughters as they are both experiencing health issues. We then returned to Chiang Mai, I to Sarah’s for a great Thai meal and Mike to another meeting at the Haven Foundation.
Day Four (Friday, October 23): Leisurely morning and then Teerapong (Pastor at Payap Church) and his two daughters picked us up and we had a quick tour of the museum about the first Christian missionaries in Chiang Mai, Daniel McGilvary and Jonathan Wilson. We then went to Payap Church located on Payap University campus. We saw the land where the new Payap church will be built and prayed that God would be present in the building of the new church. We then went to a great Thai restaurant where Kim (a member of Payap Church) met up with us. She has a business that contracts with municipalities to teach English to local children and to help empower low income persons. She is interested in providing a support system for young adults coming to the big city (Chiang Mai) to go to school or find work. Many come but have no one to provide life skills and spiritual support. Bui a Thai friend and our interpreter for the weekend met up with us for dinner and stayed at the guest house so we could leave early in the morning to go to the children’s home in Baan Mai.
Day Five/Six (Saturday/Sunday October 24-25): Up early and the three of us (Mike, me and Bui) headed to Sarah’s house to pick her up for the visit to Baan Mai. Baan Mai is about a five hour drive south of Chiang Mai. On the way we stopped at the local Big C store (similar to a Super WalMart) and bought chicken, pork, treats and some games to take with us. The scenery was beautiful as we climbed the hills and viewed the many beautiful sights from forrest to valleys. Once at Baan Mai we were greeted by the children and caregivers. We pulled out the treats and games and spent the late afternoon playing BiNGO and badmitten. That evening the boys prepared a great feast with the help of Sarah and the caretakers. The girls were on clean up duty. After diner we had a time of devotions with the children. The next morning we had the opportunity to worship with the children and several villagers who also attend. We left later that afternoon and headed back to Chiang Mai. On the way back we stopped in Omkoi and visited a children’s home that HB helped by purchasing mattresses for the children’s beds when Mike was in Thailand in January. We just wanted to see how they were doing and if there were any needs that we might be able to help with. Sineena, the caretaker, said new duvets and a rice cooker would be a great help. The children were not present as it was their “Spring” break and the kids usually go back to their villages (higher up in the hills) and parents or other relatives.
Day Seven (Monday, October 26): Had a quiet breakfast and Skyped with our daughter and grandsons again. It was so good to see and talk to them! I don’t think Wesson was quite sure what was going on. After the call we decided that I needed to ride an elephant while I was here and so Mike, Bui and I headed to the zoo (the closet place to ride an elephant). We saw some of the animals and then headed to the elephant ride. They took us up a hill and to a ledge that overlooked Chiang Mai where we could view the beautiful skyline of the city. I was a bit nervous as the elephants were very close to the edge of the overhang but the elephants seemed to know what they were doing! After that Bui and I decided to zipline across a large pond which was exciting too. Bui left us there and we went back to town and hung out until it was time to head to the Lighthouse Children’s Home were we would be staying for the remainder of our time in Chiang Mai. The Lighthouse Children’s Home is run by Terra Yito who also helps us as our Ministry Consultant. She is an American who has been living in Thailand for about 7 years and has been involved with children’s homes for most of that time in some type of capacity. That evening we had the opportunity to have a time of devotion with the children and also help them with their conversational English by allowing them to ask us questions in English and then we asked them questions.
Day Eight (Tuesday, October 27): Tuesday morning we met with Operation Blessing an arm of CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) to see what they are doing in Thailand. They had helpful information and told us of their plans for the future in Thailand. That afternoon we went to see about purchasing a truck for our missionaries Zeb and Rachelle to use while they are in Thailand. We need something that can get them up into the hills where the children’s homes are that we help support. Hope Bridges was a recipient of a grant to help specifically with the truck. It can be very difficult especially during the rainy season. We were referred by various people to Elijah who is an American and has a used car/truck business. He does a lot of work with Westerners (many missionaries) who live in Chiang Mai. Unfortunately, a truck we had seen on the internet and were interested in had been sold the day we left for Thailand. Elijah said he would keep an eye out for a Toyota truck preferably 4X4, four door, manual. That night we had dinner at Duke’s at the Promenade (great American food) with Terra.
Day Nine (Wednesday, October 28): Headed out early and picked up Sarah for a day trip to Nong Tao to visit with Jan Tip, his wife and a local school teacher about how HB might be able to help the children at the children’s home and the village complete their education. The Thai government is only required to provide school up to grade 6 so many romote areas only have schools with K – 6th grades which is the case for the children at the children’s home at Nong Tao. We learned that for the government to provide junior high or high school grades there must be at least 250 students in the attendance area. At this time Nong Tao doesn’t meet that requirement. It would be expensive and quite an endeavor for Hope Bridges to build a private school and pay teachers, etc. so we talked about other possibilities. Possibly helping with the cost of transportation from the village to the school for those who cannot afford it or opening a hostel near the school run by Christian adults to provide adult supervision. We’ll have to see where this leads us. We headed back to Chiang Mai and dinner with Rachelle and Zeb to talk about our visit to Nong Tao.
Day 10 (Thursday, October 29): Did some shopping at the Big C and purchased two rice cookers. Once for Sineena’s children’s home and one for Nong Tao. We had a nice lunch at a local Thai restaurant and then back to the Lighthouse to pull together our notes from our visits to the children’s homes, Haven Foundation and Operation Blessing. Put together the agenda for the Thai Team meeting tomorrow night. Dinner with Terra and then devotions with the children. We had another chance for the children to practice their English conversational skills and had fun asking questions.
Day 11 (Friday, October 30): Returned the rental truck and then went to the Thai market and found 13 duvets for Sineema’s children. We then went to lunch at a Thai restaurant that also serves some American items. We had three of the girls from the Lighthouse with us and two of them tried their first hamburger! Afterwards we treated them to ice cream Sundaes. We had a lot of fun. We spent the afternoon completing job descriptions for the Thai Team: Ministry Consultant (Terra), Missionaries (Zeb & Rachelle), and Liaison for Mission Ministries (Sarah) and finished preparations for the Thai Team meeting. The finish out the week we had foot massages and then went next door to the Better Butter Diner for dinner and our Thai Team meeting. It was great to have the entire team all together. We had a great time starting the night with the “get to know you” game Two Truths and a Lie and then went into our business meeting. We ended the evening in prayer and a team picture.
Day 12 (Saturday, October 31): Headed to the airport in the morning to start the trip home.
It was great to finally have the opportunity to go and see what Mike is so passionate about. It was eye opening to see the various children’s homes that we visited including the two homes that we help support on a monthly basis and two other homes (Sugasem (Sineena’s home) and the Lighthouse). Interacting with the children at Baan Mai and the Lighthouse and having the opportunity to worship with them was awesome even with the language barrier. It was interesting to see the difference in the cultures of Thailand and the US. Even though it seems that Americans have move away from being a Christian nation it was interesting to see the difference between the two countries. Although many Americans do not have a personal relationship with Christ they still live by basic Christian principals. In Thailand they do not live in a country based on Christian principals causing a different way of life. This is something that Westerners in Thailand need to understand and be aware of when working with Thai organizations and individuals. There is a great need and opportunity for us to provide a better life for the children living in poverty by meeting their basic needs and then working to take them further by helping them continue their education and learn skills or earn a university degree so they can be self sufficient and productive adults.