Last week marked one year since we first arrived in Thailand. If you read our posts from the past year, you’d probably get the impression that we primarily visit waterfalls, struggle with fixing our truck, have had quite of a bit of unfortunate experiences while acclimating to the tropical climate and spend a lot of time at the farm. I’m thankful that the snapshot that our posts give is only a small sample of what this past year was been like.
Arguably, the primary reason for us being here is to be a part of the Charis Project and its ministry efforts. I say arguably because, while God has called us to Thailand, and our place in The Charis Project is secure, I don’t dare to assume that this is the only reason He has our family here.
More than half our ministry time has gone to the Charis Teaching Farm over the past year. This includes time spent researching online, experimenting and getting hands-on experience in the fields, forming relationships with the farm staff, managing the decisions of farm plans, giving tours and mini-farming lessons to our visitors and providing produce from the farm to the at-risk families that we support through the Charis Community Engagement program. I’m thankful for the past year as I’ve learned much about farming, had to take over management of the farm far earlier than I’d expected, increased my Thai language acquisition as a matter of necessity, and generally became a more responsible adult. As a bonus, after sharing with one of our visiting farmers about how the Gospel speaks to farming, I have been invited to preach at a small church south of Maesot. I am honored, excited and humbled as I begin to prepare for this meeting. My hope is that a strong, mutual and nurturing relationship will develop between this community and our farm for the spiritual and agricultural betterment of both our family and their community.
As it is generally expected that Farang (westerners) will employ a Mae Baan (housekeeper), we quickly took on a woman upon our arrival to Maesot last year. Over the past year, we had the honor to become close to her, support her family and champion her as she took on an incredible job opportunity at the Charis Project. She, along with four other women, is now offering education and spiritual care to the villages in Maesot. She has an amazing heart and contagious joy to all she encounters. Her taking this job meant that we would need a new Mae Baan, and our needs for a housekeeper have increased because we recently moved into a larger house. To this end, we took on two women in the past two months, which has brought on a whole new level of ministry for us. Not only is their level of experience rather novice, but their own social and spiritual lives contain opportunities for us to offer God’s wisdom and grace. We look forward to the fruit which will come from these relationships.
Relationships with the Farang community in Maesot is rich and alive. There have been many opportunities for us to minister at the home church through worship leading and offering general service to our friends as needs arise. Moving forward, our vision is that our new home will become a fixture in the Farang community where worship, prayer and life will be fostered.
Life in another culture offers a potential for stress, to say the least. This primarily takes a toll on family. After being here only a few weeks, it became quickly apparent that we need to heavily invest in ourselves in order to keep our relationships healthy so that we can continue to operate and have lives filled with joy. For Shannon and myself, this means going out on dates. We are thankful for the friends we’ve made who make these dates possible. We also have seen the need for regular counseling and family vacations. Our trip to Hua Hin in late March was immensely helpful in restoring our overall spiritual and emotional health after a particularly difficult time of loss and stress.
There are far too many stories of missionary children (or pastors’ kids) who walk away from God after years spent in ministry due, in part, to the bitterness the children feel over the time, energy and sacrifices made by their parents for the sake of the work. We aim to make sure that our children receive the attention, nurturing and resources necessary to create a thriving environment for them. In Thailand, this manifests itself through homeschooling, the occasional western restaurant, playdates with friends, trips to sources of water fun, playing games and watching English movies/tv shows together (we are currently on season 3 of Avatar), as well as including them in the ministry work when appropriate. The regularity, occasional treats and reminders of our former home serve as a testimony of our love for them and bolster their overall morale. We also arrange for regular Skype times with their grandparents which, I hope, mutually serves both sides of the ocean.
Every part of living here has been beneficial. Not a single tear spent on missing America, unexpected vehicle expenses or marital argument has been wasted. As my wife recently said, “We are so much better off for being here the past year.” Every member of the family has matured emotionally and spiritually. We’ve been pushed beyond our previously-conceived limits and found that we are capable of so much more. I’ve had to increase in my administrative skills. Shannon has taken on mentoring roles with our new Mae Baans and become an advocate for the work that the Charis Project does to empower at-risk families to stay together. Our children have had the difficult honor of leaving their culture and learning to exist in a culture different than the one to which they are accustomed. This stripping-process has brought out the best in them as we have been able to parent them through the tough parts and encourage them to focus on gratitude and finding joy in helping others around them.
The Next Year
Speaking with our director and reflecting on ours and others’ experiences, it is evident that the first year abroad is the most difficult. But more than that, it served as a time of preparation. Moving into the next year, we are stronger in many ways and look forward to having increased effectiveness. The effectiveness of the farm and the reach of its ministry will be extended. Our relationship with our Mae Baans and the Charis Project ministries will increase. And our ministry to the Farang community will expand as we are able to open our home more frequently and create a space for mutual encouragement which will benefit the many ministries our local friends serve. But most of all, we look forward to the pursuit of the Good Life. The Good News of God is meant for us all. The more that we realize it in our lives, the more it will extend to those we serve.
Please continue to follow us over this next year. If you would like to become a financial support, visit our Donate page.