Dan, Heather, Jeremiah, Tory, Emma, Tye, Claire, Levi, Josie, Jane and Ethan

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thailand Update

Examining a young boy with cerebral palsy for hip problems.

Jeremiah and Sutee, hanging out at the House of Love.

Jeremiah adeptly handles a "fish ball" with a pair of chop sticks.

Pickup truck ride to CDPD.

CDPD physiotherapy staff were well-trained.

Jeremiah and I returned Sunday night from our trip to Thailand and were so thankful for the opportunity to participate in the lives of children who would, according to Jesus, be rightly considered the “least of these.” During the week, Jeremiah and I did a study of the book of James, and we were struck especially by James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” There is a tremendous amount of paradox in this because the world completely rejects these kids at the House of Love…orphans, many HIV+, ethnic minorities, disabled…and accepts those who are strong, capable, “loveable.” But God promises to be a Father to the fatherless, the defender of the defenseless…He loves the outcasts and rejected. This is what makes Hope for Hilltribes (and other ministries focused on “the least of these”) so unique and “blessed” by God.

We arrived in Chiang Mai on Monday afternoon and after checking into the “M.D. House” (which proudly advertised itself as the 3rd best hostel in Thailand?), headed to the House of Love via a sweet, three-wheeled “tuk-tuk.” There, we met the kids, including Sutee, a 10-year-old boy who came to the House of Love about 3 years ago…deaf, mute, HIV+ and an orphan with no family, considered the “village idiot” because of his inability to communicate (perhaps the result of having been affected by congenital syphilis which can cause deafness, and the characteristic flattened nose which Sutee demonstrated) and with multiple scars marking the resultant abuse he suffered. According to Kim, the missionary who started the House of Love, Sutee was completely detached emotionally when he first arrived. But now, he is one of the most animated kids I have ever seen, almost annoyingly so, communicating with a self-developed, and fairly sophisticated sign language which included a lot of touching (no concept of personal space with Sutee, but that was just fine). God continues to teach me to love the way He loves.

The following day, we took the kids swimming at a “resort” with a very fine, slightly murky green pool, where there was much frolicking, slashing and cannonballs, as demonstrated by the master, Jeremiah. On Wednesday, it starting raining, and the temperature dropped into the 50’s (according to Kim, the coldest she had seen in Thailand during her 26 year stint), just in time for our 5 hour road trip via pickup truck stuffed with 4 adults and 6 kids into the hills of the ‘golden triangle’ region of Thailand, to the small town of Mai Sariang, the location of the Christian Center for the Development of People with Disabilities (CDPD). Jeremiah and 3 others rode in the back of the pickup, covered by a make-shift cap, but unsealed from the elements. They persevered the cold rain for 5 hours, the trip unbroken except by a short lunch of trademark Thai soup with noodles and “fishballs”(foul-smelling, gelatinous morsels that even Jeremiah -the teenage version of Andrew Zimmern - could barely stomach) at a road-side cafĂ©. At the CDPD, we met the incredible Thai staff dedicated to ministering to families with disabled children and we delivered the wheelchair Fred brought all the way from Columbus Ohio for a girl with cerebral palsy. We made the return trip to Chiang Mai the following day after staying a night at the “luxurious” Northwest Lodge, where I don’t think the sheets had been changed in at least a month, as evidenced by the strange scent and blood stains which prompted me to request they be changed.
On the return trip, Jeremiah developed a headache, fever and chills, no doubt the result of his cold ride up the mountain the previous day. He had no other symptoms however…no GI distress, no sore throat, no cough…just this recurring and high fever (mixed with a little delirium), held at bay by steady administration of ibuprofen. Finally after two days of worsening symptoms, I started him on antibiotics which I brought along “just in case” and the fever broke. Only afterwards, did he develop a sore throat with inflamed and purulent tonsils…likely strep throat. Thank God for antibiotics!

Overall, the trip was humbling, yet, simply, a lot of fun. Thanks for praying for Jeremiah and I and for praying for these kids. If you are interested in learning more about Hope for Hilltribes, I encourage you to visit Freddy’s website. Let us encourage one another to be involved with “religion that is pure and faultless”…and receive the incredible joy and satisfaction that accompanies it, all made possible by the Cross of Christ.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Mission Trip to Thailand

I recently received a phone call from one of my best friends in high school inviting me to travel with him to Thailand for a short, one week mission trip. At first, I thought we was joking (as Fred is so gifted), and I quickly dismissed the idea, thinking there was no way with our busy furlough schedule of traveling and work. As a background, a few years ago, God led Fred Haring to start a non-profit organization called Hope for Hilltribes with the purpose of raising awareness and funds for a home in Thailand for women and children affected by HIV/AIDs called the “House of Love.” (Click here for short video highlighting the problem). Following is an excerpt from his website:

The House of Love is a home for women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. This includes women who had been sold into prostitution, AIDS orphans, and children taken out of their homes by the Social Welfare Department because of abuse. Many of the residents do not have Thai citizenship and have few rights in Thailand. Now in its 16th year, the House of Love has been a refuge to approximately one hundred displaced women and children, most of whom have been affected by HIV/AIDS—and many of whom had been trafficked to brothels. While most children have been affected by AIDS, many children deal with the emotional scars from events surrounding their life at home or on the streets or feeling unloved because their family can’t care for them. It’s not just physical and medical needs that the ministry serves, the House Of Love staff also works to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of each child. The House of Love is a home—and, more importantly, it is a family.

After a few day of prayer and processing (and after realizing Fred was serious), I really sensed God urging me to go…and to bring my oldest son Jeremiah along. So, long story short, on March 12th, Jeremiah and I are headed to Thailand for a father-and-son short term missions trip! Our goal is to work primarily with the young boys who live in this home, many of whom do not have a father-figure, showing them the love of Christ. We will also be spending a few days on the border of Myanmar at the Christian Center for the Development of People with Disabilities (CDPD), working with disabled kids and doing some primary care medical work (I need to find my stethoscope – a tool not carried by an orthopod!).

Following is a brief outline of our rigorous schedule:
March 12-14 – Travel to Chiang Mai, Thailand (via LAX, Tokyo, and Bangkok).
March 14-15 – At the “House of Love” working primarily with the boys at this orphanage, hanging out, camping, swimming, connecting.
March 16 – Travel 4 hours by truck to Mae Hong Song Province on the boarder of Myanmar.
March 16-18 – At the Christian Center for People with Disabilities (CDPD), working with disabled kids and holding basic medical clinics.
March 18 – Travel back to Chiang Mai to the House of Love for one more day.
March 19-20 – Back to the U.S.

God is teaching me that prayer is the essence of our walk with Christ (as John Piper says, “feasting at His table of GRACE”). That is the only way we can survive as we press on to serve Christ, and finish this race well. So, here are a few prayer requests for this trip, and if you could join us in this, we are partners together in this work:

(1) That Jeremiah and I would be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we can truly show Christ’s love to the kids at both the House of Love and CDPD.
(2) That we are really able to connect emotionally and spiritually with the kids and staff at both places.
(3) For protection from attacks from the enemy who does not want these kids to find freedom and healing in Christ.
(4) For safely while we travel to remote areas in Thailand.
(5) For connection for Jeremiah and I, as we serve together as father and son.

Thank you for your ongoing support of our family as we are headed back to Kenya this June!