The Jetlag is Strong with This One

The plane touches down in DFW airport. It’s been 36 hours since I left India, and my emotions are all out of whack due to jet lag and lack of sleep. On the verge of exhausted tears, I make arrangements to have my delayed bag delivered to my apartment.

The next day is a blur of catnaps and puppy kisses and phone calls to family during hours of alertness.

I wake up early the next morning to get ready for work. Everything seems surreal, as if I am still asleep in my bed in India and dreaming of home. Driving down the highway, I keep expecting other drivers to honk at me as they pass…but this is not India, and honking does not mean “hello, I am passing you; please don’t move over” here. “Namaste!” I greet my coworkers. No one notices the mehndi on my hands or the jingling anklet on my foot.

Was it just last week when I was singing silly songs with a room full of children? Was it just last week when I sat around the dinner table with my friends, talking about the craft for the next day? Was it just last week when I was boarding a run-down bus to go into town to eat lunch, and watching all the cows and dogs and goats wander down the road?

“How was India?” The inevitable question. As if I can sum it up in a sentence or two. “Awesome!” I always reply. “I had a lot of fun spending time with the kids.”

I don’t tell them about the darkness that has reigned over the subcontinent for thousands of years, the spiritual oppression you feel all day every day.

I don’t tell them about how unvalued women are there, how I avoided the eyes of every man to reduce the risk of unwanted advances.

I don’t tell them about the overwhelming grief I felt when I would see a woman kiss her fingers and touch a passing cow, as if it could save her.

I don’t tell them…it’s too soon.

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Trusting God in the Small Stuff, or Why I Hate Big Cities

I should have posted this before I left for India, but preparations kept me busy up until I left for the airport. So, here it is now, with a post on India to follow in a few days or so. I don’t know about you guys, but for me it seems easier to trust God with the big things, the things that you know you can’t handle on your own, like a long period of unemployment or failing a class or living paycheck to paycheck, than it is to trust him with the little things. Now that I’m commuting to work every day, I get to deal with big city traffic. I’ve noticed myself getting annoyed and angry when I hit a traffic jam or when I have to change my route to avoid an accident and have to wait through lights. I’ve been thinking lately, though, that I need to change my attitude about minor setbacks and start trusting God with them. Getting ready to go to India has been an exercise in faith for me. Not because I don’t think I will make it, but because there are a thousand little things that have to fall into place before I can leave and I’m also worried about a situation in my family. Every week, it seems like one more thing has gone wrong and has to be fixed. Every week, I feel like Satan is throwing everything he has at me to keep me from going to India. Through all these things, though, God has shown me that I have not been trusting him with the everyday things, the things that I can theoretically handle on my own. I prefer my independence. I prefer chugging along by myself until something big comes along that I can’t handle alone. But you know what? That is not a good attitude to have. I need to maintain a daily dependence on God, because without him I can do nothing (John 15:5). I have to stay connected to the vine, have to keep getting those nutrients, have to keep trusting and leaning and depending, or I will wither and die spiritually. So, I’m going to try harder to realize my daily dependence on God. I’m going to try harder to seek him in everything instead of just the big things.

So, What’s Your Story?

Last weekend, I went on a retreat with my church’s singles group. It was out in the middle of nowhere near a small lake (where I grew up, we would call it a tank) and the weather was nice, so basically I stayed outside the entire weekend. I got to see several shooting stars (a rarity when you live on the outskirts of a metropolis), sit by a fire, and listen to the rain hit the roof of the back porch as I sipped a cup of herbal tea. It was a good weekend, for sure.
The singles pastor based his retreat talks on Joshua 24, mainly on remembering what God has done for us and where we came from. He talked about how this chapter encourages the Israelites to remember their heritage, their heroes, their hard times, and their high points, and encouraged us to do the same on Saturday morning. He also encouraged us to find one person and ask them about their story, and in turn tell one person about your own story (seriously, I’ve been asking people what their story is upon meeting them long before this retreat, so this was kind of amusing to me). So, I thought I would share the story of how God broke my heart for Asia and adoption with my blog readers.
People always ask me how I became obsessed with Asia and why I want to adopt so many kids from there. I’m going to back way up to elementary school to answer that one. I moved to a small town with my mom when I was in first grade. I don’t know if I was just an odd child or if the other children had already formed their cliques at age 6, but I didn’t fit in and had few friends. I was bullied a lot (like until I graduated high school) and the teachers did nothing about it.
Life went on like this until I went off to college, got called by Jesus, and started making real and lasting friendships. One of these friendships was with another freshman named Daniel. He gave me a book called Revolution in World Missions. I didn’t read it until the summer, but it lit the spark that would eventually ignite into a full fledged passion for south and southeastern Asia.
I didn’t really do much Asia-wise until the summer between my junior and senior years of college. I didn’t realize until I started taking upper level classes that any organization needs marketing in some form or another to stay afloat, and that includes non-profits too. Energized by this new discovery, I applied for a summer internship with Gospel for Asia and was accepted. I spent 5 weeks praying for the countries where GFA works, spending time with people who were passionate about seeing the people of Asia come to know Christ personally, and using my marketing abilities to help get the word out about GFA. You know, there is something magical about praying for a people group; you fall in love with them. Really. It only took a week or two before I was completely and utterly obsessed. I even went back to college and went crazy decorating my dorm with all things Asia. And watching K-dramas. And listening to Bollywood music. And making my own curry. It’s only gotten worse since then.
I can’t really put my finger on what specifically about Asia draws me in. Is it the emphasis on family? The laissez-faire approach to time? The rich history? The delicious food? I don’t even know. Maybe it’s all of the above. Maybe it’s just God.
I do think my childhood experiences had a lot to do with my desire to adopt. I really wanted (and still do) kids to know that they were loved and accepted and that they belonged. Even as a child, my desire to make others feel welcome drew the misfits like moths to flame. I think that’s part of the reason why I was drawn to the Karen people during my mission trip to Thailand; they’re not recognized by their own government as citizens, and many have fled the civil war raging in Burma and become refugees, an even more stateless position. I really have a soft spot for them.
This all came together during Passion 2013, where God reignited the passion to adopt from Asia and introduced a new passion: loving those who were rescued out of sex slavery. I watched the story of one young woman in the Philippines who ran away from home and was tricked into the industry at the age of 9, believing she was unlovable and worthless and deserved nothing better in life. As a teen, her brothel was raided by the police and she was taken to a halfway house run by a Christian organization. There, through the sacrificial love of counselors and the healing power of the Gospel, Christ restored her. As I listened to the story of how she ended up on the streets, my heart cried, “I would love you, little one!”
That’s when it clicked: this is what I was made to do. It all fits. The childhood bullying. The inexplicable connection with misfits. The longing to make others feel like they belong. The internship at GFA. The mission trip to Thailand. It’s all connected.
That’s one of my favorite things about God. His plan for his children was formed before we were formed. He guides our steps before we take our first.  He uses everything for good, even bullying. He takes the broken and makes it beautiful. I am so thankful that my little story is a part of His master story that goes all the way back to creation.

The Last Day

Today we started the morning with a Bible study with the orphanage staff. Everyone on the team shared a short sermon on whatever God laid on their heart. Some talked about loving one another as Christ loves us, some talked of God’s sovereignty, some talked of God’s faithfulness, and some shared their stories and offered encouragement through their experiences.

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After the study, Ricky took the team, Belle, and some of the older kids from the orphanage to eat at a local restaurant. It looked almost like a tree house; the people who built the restaurant used existing trees and the landscape as part of the architecture and even put lots of wood carvings everywhere.

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We really enjoyed spending more one-on-one time with the missionaries and a few children from the orphanage. Plus, the food and location were both wonderful.

We also took a Thai Bible to Kanonit, whom we met on our first day. She wanted to know more about Jesus and set up a time for someone to come do a Bible study with her, so we visited her family again to fulfill her request and pray for her.

Tonight we will help with our last chapel service. We will share the story of Noah and talk about God’s faithfulness.

Our flight back home leaves after chapel. It’s a bittersweet feeling for us; we are excited to come back and see all of our family and friends, but we are also sad to leave those sweet children and our new friends in Chiangmai.

The Lord has done mighty things both in the people we met in Thailand and in ourselves. We look forward to sharing more about what God has done on this trip when we get back.

Fun Day: Elephant Ride, River Rafting, and Night Market

Yesterday we had a fun day to rest and relax. We rode elephants and rafted down a river in the mountains, ate in a Thai restaurant, and explored the night market. Midway through the afternoon, the guys split off from the girls to go with Ron and minister to a group of young men in the Thai military.

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Before we rode the elephants, we went to look at a mother elephant with her newborn baby. She was very friendly, but her baby was still very shy.

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The elephant ride was really fun, but going down those hills was pretty scary!

After the elephant ride, we rode down a river on a long bamboo raft. We sat down (as water splashed up from between the bamboo poles, of course) and enjoyed the scenery as our guide stood at the front and pushed us along with a long bamboo pole. The ride was very relaxing and the foliage on the riverbanks was gorgeous.

After lunch, the group split off. The guys went with Ron to lead a Bible study with about 30 cadets and a few officers in the Thai military while the girls went to see a temple and explore the city.

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The temple was very big and ornate, but spiritually dark. I managed to make it inside but could only stay for a few minutes before I had to leave because I wanted to cry so much. It was an eye opening experience for all of us; so many people worship in that building thinking if they a good enough, the Buddha can save them. It was heartbreaking.

After the temple, us girls had our feet cleaned by those tiny fish that eat dead skin and drove around to see the old city.

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After the guys were done leading their Bible study, we met up at a Thai restaurant on the river for dinner.

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Lizzy got to launch a sky lantern into the air.

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She was pretty excited about it.

After we finished dinner, we all went to the night market to find souvenirs. The streets were filled with stars selling all kinds of different things from tapestries to clothes to handmade crafts to food.

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Today we will lead a Bible study with the older children and staff in the orphanage, help with chores, and get ready to leave.

The Thai Schools – Teaching English and Spreading the Gospel

Today we went into two Thai schools and taught English to children of various ages.

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The first school had children in the classroom from ages 6-14. We sang a few songs, preached the Gospel, performed a skit about the prodigal son, and taught a few basic English phrases.

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The second school we went to had us teach 13 and 14 year olds. We broke up into small groups and practiced conversational English.

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After practicing English, we taught “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” with hand motions and sang it with the kids.

Today’s Chapel service was about how God is provider. We did a skit based on the feeding of the five thousand, sang songs, and did crafts/Bible study just like the night before.

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For me, today was the most rewarding day because we got to spend more time talking to the children about Jesus. It was great interacting with them and learning more about them.

I spent a good deal of time talking to a woman named Gai at the second school. She said she believed in Jesus but was also Buddhist. I talked to her about how important faith is and how Jesus is the only God and how we can never do enough good works to reach him. I don’t know how much she believed, but I pray that I planted seeds today that God will grow in her heart. – MD

Tomorrow we get to have a day of rest and recreation with Ron and Belle, our two missionary friends from Fort Worth. We’re looking forward to a time of good fellowship.