Day 46-55: El Salvador

El Salvador. Yeah buddy.
El Salvador. Yeah buddy.

Day 46-47: Travel days

Day 48-49: Painting Houses

Chicken on the paint can cant dance Josey...
Chicken on the paint can cant dance Josey…

After a full day and a half of traveling, we made it to El Salvador!

So first a little fact about El Salvador:

There are no orphanage in El Salvador. Anywhere.

When I first heard this I was like, “Wait, huh? Why?” El Salvador passed a law saying that all orphans must live with the nearest relative, which may sound nice on paper, but has caused a great deal of financial problems for the families trying to support the orphans. On top of that, El Salvador currently has the highest gang violence out of any country in the world. That being said, the orphans are taken away due to violence related reasons and then they are passed back to close relatives, where the cycle of violence is often repeated.

Now onto Project RED! There is an organization called Project RED, the organization we will be working with, that brings hope to these families struggling to provide for the orphans and builds relationships with the children coming out of difficult situations.

So Wednesday and Thursday we got to paint houses for two of the families supported by Project RED! It was amazing to paint the houses, provide lunch for the families, and to build relationships with the children by playing games afterward.

One of my most amazing interactions was on that first day, but I want to share it with people in person. Please ask me about how God led me to talk to one of the girls in the village and what happened!

Paint on my face... And in mah mouth.
Paint on my face… And in mah mouth.

Day 50-51: Water Parks with the Project RED kiddos

The second water park we went to with the Project RED kiddos.
The second water park we went to with the Project RED kiddos.
Pool fun!
Pool fun!
New friends!
New friends!

This was WAY fun.

These kids were great.
These kids were great.
Water park fun :)
Water park fun 🙂

We spent two days playing with the kids at the water park. The first day we spent time with the San Salvador kids and the second day we were with the Santa Ana kids. Both days I got to lead a Bible Study for the kids and staff on Matthew 13 over the parable of the seeds, which was a wonderful opportunity to speak to the kids about God’s Word.

Bible study at the water park.
Bible study at the water park.

That Saturday there was about an hour were we were all played a beach all game in a circle in the pool. We essentially tried to see how many times we could set the beach ball to each other and it was hands down one of the best hours of the summer. It sounds so simple, but we were all crying with laughter (we added a rule where whoever missed the ball would get splashed by the rest of us) and despite the language barrier we all bonded.

Random Aside: I only spoke in Spanish these two days though, which was super fun as I haven’t taken Spanish since college. That was fun!

Through this simple game and my interaction with the staff and kids, I was reminded of the importance of being kind to foreigners. I love meeting and getting to know people from other cultures, but it meant so much to me experiencing the other side. In a lot of countries that we’ve been to, the missionaries and the people there knew and spoke English well. Even though we learned a good deal of phrases in Thailand for example, we were still able to speak English. Here however a lot of people, especially the kids, only spoke Spanish so we only spoke in Spanish. That in combination of the fact that we haven’t been in the United States in almost two months now, made me feel more like a foreigner than ever before. However, everyone was so kind to me at the water park and I got to bond with both the kids and the staff through this fun game.

Background: I am an elementary music teacher in the states, where my schools has about 1,300 students, that at one point covered the span of 110 different countries. (Another aside: I love that God has allowed me to teach the nations. It’s awesome.) And even though I love teaching and I love the kids, I sometimes forget that a good deal of them feel as if they are in a foreign land. They too might miss parts of their culture, family members, friends in other countries, ect. and after this summer I can now connect with those feelings and emotions. Even though I love the work that we currently get to do, I have people that I miss back home and the kindness poured out to me this day was overwhelming and comforting. Now I even more so want to love on my students and make music fun for them so they can receive kindness and feel at home in my classroom, even to the ones who feel as if they are in a foreign land. The Project RED kids and staff did this for me.

You never know impact a kind word or a brief moment of laughter can make!

“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.”

Day 52: Sunday church, surfing, and David Platt study

Food.
Food.

We went to a Church service in Spanish and I now want to get a Spanish Bible and learn Spanish from reading it. I’m all inspired!

It was also Cara’s birthday and so we went surfing. It’s funny because I’m terrible at almost all board sports (skateboarding, wake boarding, ect.) but I made it to the shore on the very first try! It was hilarious because my surf instructor asked his friend where his student went and he pointed to the shore. Apparently that was a first for him!

We also did our last David Platt study on the beach talking about religious freedom and the persecuted Church.

“As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62

“I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:35-37

It’s radical passages like these that show the vitality of God and the urgency in sharing the Gospel. It comes down to:

Are we going to choose comfort or the cross? Are we going to settle for maintenance or sacrifice for mission? Will our lives be marked by indecisive minds or undivided hearts?

When reading passages and contemplating questions such as these, Christ should come first. No possession of mine (not that anything is truly mine), no relationship, no societal standard, nothing, comes before God. David Platt writes, “Following Jesus doesn’t just entail sacrificial abandonment of our lives; it requires supreme affection from our hearts.” And when we seek after His will, we will ultimately have our hearts broken for what His heart is broken for, which should lead us to radical action in tending to the needs of others.

The last chapter titled, “The Most Urgent Need: The Gospel and the Unreached,” informs that two billion people live and die without hearing about Jesus. In knowing about the physical and spiritual needs of the unreached, this should lead us to action whether that’s going out or living more simply so that others can be sent out.

Platt also writes, “God alone is able to bear these global burdens… But God loves us too much to allow us to live with indifference or inaction.” We aren’t God, but we can share in one another’s burdens through prayer and action of seeking out the needs of others.

If homelessness comes upon following the will of God, then so be it. If we must deny accustomed comforts of daily living so that the basic needs of others can be met, then so be it. If we should be persecuted as a byproduct of proclaiming the good news, then so be it.

Even if the daily thorns of my flesh cry out for me to return to my sinful nature and to leave the God I love. May we die to self in every natural way within to be used by a God who loves us and desires us to care for others. Even when those thoughts of, “What can you do Ruth? You’re just one person?” creeps up within me, may I fight that and take the next step in obedience. Whether doing God’s work in China, whether visiting HIV families in Thailand, whether cherishing an orphan in Uganda, whether sharing the Gospel in France with those that have never heard about Jesus before, or painting houses in El Salvador, may we always step in obedience by the grace of God. We are not called to only obey if we see fruits of our labor, we are called to step out in obedience through faith.

May I be faithful to God this day.

Day 53: Putting on a retreat day for the Project RED staff

Leading devo.
Leading devo.

We put on a retreat for both the Santa Ana and the San Salvador staff at a beach house by the ocean. We opened with a game, a body of Christ skit put on by our team of six (Yay for Kathryn joining us!), and then I got to lead a devo/Bible Study over 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 on spiritual gifts and how we all make up the body of Christ. After reading the passage, everyone was split up into small groups of about 3-4 and we answered questions on what gifts we identified with, how we can use those gifts in the Church, and how we can best use those gifts for Project RED. Then the floor was opened up so that the staff could share which parts of the body they most identified with, and why, and then allowed for time for the staff could encourage one in their giftings. I was almost led to tears by the encouragements of the staff and how they serve one another and the community.

We then had lunch, allowed for free time, and lead some camp type team bonding games. We were all dying laughing at various points and I think the staff had a lot of fun.

Global Joureny with the Project RED staff.
Global Joureny with the Project RED staff.

Day 54: Long hike to the family to paint the house and bring supplies to make a roof.

There is a family that lives up in the mountains of El Salvador and our Global Journey team and the Project RED team went on a two hour hike to bring this family a roof and paint supplies. Let’s pause there for two seconds.

Fact about me: I love hiking. I will go hiking and backing in a heart beat and have been camping many times. I can also walk/hike pretty much all day. That being said, this hike was quite challenging. I loaded up a backpack, grabbed some heavy bags of groceries, and a jug of water and began our journey. We hiked up a legit mountain, hiked down said mountain, and then hiked up half of another one carrying all that was needed. About twenty minutes in, I almost started doubting my abilities, but quoted chapters of Scriptures throughout the rest of the journey. In trials such as these, you really have to rely on God and focus on the end goal of serving others.

It was amazing getting there, meeting the family, painting the house, making lunch, and then hiking back up and down the mountains of El Salvador.

Also, I have now seen first hand that some of the poorest people in the world live amidst the most people landscapes.

The beautiful El Salvy.
The beautiful El Salvy.

Day 55: Last Day in El Salvador

Well, it’s our last day in El Salvador and we’re now off to debriefing in Florida! I am thankful for my time here and I’m ready to debrief all that we have encountered and learned over the past few months.

I’ll see ya in the United States!

Gold team.
Gold team.
Overlook after one of our house painting days.
Overlook after one of our house painting days.
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Day 36-45: France

Day 36-37: Getting to France!

France.
France.

After a full day of travel, we made it to France!

Our super fancy free upgrade.
Our super fancy free upgrade.

First we were greeted by Igor, a full time missionary here, at the airport. Then all of us went straight to the car dealership to pick up our rental cars, only to find out that we got a free upgrade to an outie convertible and a spiffy BMW. At first I laughed about it, because we came here to do mission work, to serve the Church, and live minimally (we are even camping out in the woods) and then we got upgraded with two super fancy cars. We were all excited about it though, because we haven’t ridden in cars in over a month, let alone nice ones. Later when we told Jill, another one of the full time missionaries here, about the cars she also told us that “just because you’re a missionary, doesn’t mean that you have to suffer all the time.” It was then that I realized one of my primary lessons in France was going to be the balance of prosperity and suffering. Often times as Christians we tend to side more on the side of prosperity or suffering, seeking one, or the other, more than we ought to. I tend to lean more on the side of suffering, which can be unhealthy at times. The Bible clearly talks about suffering and how it’s a guarantee in our lives, but it also talks about it as a byproduct and not a goal. Sometimes without knowing I make it a goal and in addition I also often feel guilty in receiving blessings. My initial reaction to a good gift, relationships, ect. is “Oh my goodness, this is awesome” and the second reaction that shortly follows is “Oh my goodness, I don’t deserve this.” The third reaction varies, but often times I flat out don’t receive it. In the same way I don’t receive grace from God easily either. He blesses me with so much and I find myself feeling unworthy and reasoning out why I don’t deserve it. Then it hits me in times like these, that we’re all born into sin. ALL of us. Our sin and struggles might look different from one another, but it’s the same grace from God that covers all sin. Even though it’s good to acknowledge that we are all broken and get on our face before The Lord, it’s also important that we accept grace, which is a gift from God. Some people have no problem accepting gifts from God, but often don’t acknowledge sin or the repercussions of sin, and then some people, like me, acknowledge sin and it’s reproductions, but in doing so have a hard time accepting God’s grace. What I’m learning is no matter the natural bend one way or the other, people should be wary in seeking out suffering OR prosperity. We should seek God. God’s will is the end goal and that will include both, but that’s up to Him, not me.

If He blesses us with prosperity, let us give it away and be a blessing to others; if suffering comes, let us praise God and find joy in Him despite our circumstances.

Day 38: International Church and Church in Nice

After an orientation the day before, buying groceries, and getting a good night’s sleep at the camp site, we went to International Baptist Church in St. Paul for the morning and a Church in Nice in the evening. One of the greatest parts about all the international Churches we’ve been to this summer is meeting Christians from around the world and coming together in each other’s burdens in worship and prayer. Here I met a lot of Christians from Europe specifically: Great Britain, Ukraine, Ireland, and Portugal to name a few. This particular morning at the International Church, I met a lady from Portugal and she opened up her heart with me and we got to pray about various events going on in her life and her home country. I love that God allows for moments like these where Christians of different cultures come together and get real about life, turning to God and joining in prayer.

Day 39-43: Kid’s Camp!

VBS!
VBS!

We just left Africa and now that we’re in France our VBS theme is (wait for it) African Safari! We were prepared for the theme for sure 🙂

We were put into tribes and I had the largest, but youngest tribe, the Swahili tribe, full of four and five year olds. A lot of them only spoke French, but we got to teach them some English, while learning French to communicate. Luckily I’ve already gone through a portion of French Rosetta Stone, so I was set with some basic French.

I also taught a drama class where we played drama games and put on a skit for their families at the end of the week. We put on a cute skit about listening to the voice of God and some kids explained the message to the audience afterward. It was neat to share the Gospel in drama class when we had multiple children that had never heard about Jesus before.

I loved getting to spend all day with kids sharing the love of God through music, art, drama, science, story time, and games.

A side note: We stayed late Monday and Wednesday to clean the Church. Cleaning always relaxes me 🙂

Side note Dos: On day 40 the Church through a beach party in the evening, which was absolutely amazing. We got to spend Bastilles Day on the beach of Nice France eating pizza, gelato, and watching fireworks. That was an awesome moment to be sure…

Beach in Nice France on Bastilles Day.
Beach in Nice France on Bastilles Day.
Fireworks.
Fireworks.

Day 44: Monaco

After a full week of VBS, we drove up to Monaco (yay for adding another country to the list!) and saw part of Grace Kelly’s castle and looked around some little shops. I can talk more about this day in person as I’m running out of time to blog 🙂

Day 45: Last Full Day in France

We went to Church, a going away party for Mario, and then we said goodbye to our new friends here. Goodbyes are always hard, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with the Church here in Nice France. I’m also excited for all of the lessons I’m learning. Even though I have so much to learn, I’m thankful for God’s patience in teaching me in mercy and grace. I am His and He is mine.

Camping out in France.
Camping out in France.
Mediterranean Sea goodness.
Mediterranean Sea goodness.
Overlook of Nice.
Overlook of Nice.

I’ll see y’all in El Salvador!

Day 26-36: Uganda

Day 26-27: Precious Souls

The precious Ian. I wives him.
The precious Ian. I wuv him.
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The kiddos! These were some of the children in my Bible Study 🙂

Clay houses, banana trees, bumpy roads, my heart at ease.

Free reigning livestock, long braided dreads, women with baskets balanced perfectly upon their heads.

The heart of the Nile, the smell of fresh air, men cutting grass with a blade, at the muzungus they stare.

Our bumpy journey now to an end, chanting music now near, stepping out on red dirt, moved by love I fight back a tear.

Our bumpy ride ended as our van drove up to the Luwanda Children’s home. We all stepped out to a tunnel of all 120 orphans singing to welcome us all to their home. My foot hit the red dirt and I couldn’t help but be moved by the joy of these precious children. Our team paraded down the eilse of angelic voices and once we got to the other end I was almost involuntarily brought down low to the ground to take a breath from the beauty before me. Before I knew it tears of love swelled my eyes, like I have never quite experienced before, and a little boy came running at me with open arms and the biggest smile on his face. As he came running at me with full force, I scooped up a precious soul and the tears flowed down my check. Needless to say I held little Ian for well over an hour.

I wish I could share Ian with everyone. He's the best. Like ever.
I wish I could share Ian with everyone. He’s the best. Like ever.

This first day was filled with getting to meet the missionaries of Uganda, the Thrasher team, which came to build the library from the states, and getting introduced to all the precious children. We also started on organizing the books for the library at the orphanage and I enjoyed separating out the books between easy, fiction, and nonfiction and then organizing all the sub-genres from there. As an aside, I have a further appreciation for librarians!

Day 28: The library and first day of Bible Studies with the kiddos

Today was our first day of Bible Studies with the children and I got the privilege of working with Auntie Kathy and Rick in teaching the baby, middle, and top preschool class! The overall theme was John 15 talking about how He is the vine and we are the branches. We started off by planting beans to demonstrate how God’s love is planted in us. I also got to teach them some songs and hand motions to go along with the those songs, which we later performed at the end ceremony.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing.” John 15:5

The Day 29: Leading worship on the djembe and meeting the high school students

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In addition to working on the library, teaching Bible Study, and holding the little ones in my spare moments, we met the high school students today!

For our whole time in Uganda we stayed at the home “Tindo,” which homes the high school students on the weekends when they aren’t away at school. We rearranged a little bit for the weekend so everyone could fit and then got to meet the students.

We also went to a Muzungu, which means “white person” (and was all of our nicknames for almost the entirety of our stay,) coffee shop, where a local church band played worship music the whole time. I also couldn’t help notice the open seat and djembe that just happened to be in the middle of five Ugandans and a random Muzungu. I asked Natalie, one of the missionaries that we got to share a bit of life with and who graciously helped us with a great many things, if they minded if I join. The pastor was totally on board with it and I got to jam out for Jesus all evening. It was amazing. Not only did I get to praise God in this random coffee shop, but I got to help lead worship, which I’ve missed, and I got to make some pretty cool new Ugandan friends!

Friends!
Friends!

Day 30: The Fourth of July and Buckets of Hope

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Buckets of Hope

A local church put on something called buckets of hope, where the Church provided things like Bibles, soap, flour, sugar, ect. and we put them in buckets via assembly line. We them split up onto teams on adults and children, which is awesome that the children get to give back to the community, and we went out into the village to houses to give the buckets and share the Gospel. I got to share the Gospel for my group and a lady translated for me. We also prayed over them and one family in particular really opened up. I can’t type up their full story here, but it truly touched my heart and they were moved as well by our being there. Even though they had next to nothing the woman there darted into her clay house and came back with a bag of avocados to show her appreciation. Both her act and the act of the villagers in Thailand giving us fruit when we shared the Gospel was truly humbling. I want to be giving even more so. What I have isn’t mine anyway.

While we were up at the orphanage a lady braided our hair right after lunch, and because it was the weekend, our schedule had a window for her to do it! That being said, I spent part of the Fourth of July in Africa getting 10 black cornrows done in the back of my head. It was a memorable Fourth of July for sure.

We also fellowships over burgers with everyone from the Thrasher team to Natalie and we all got to know the missionaries a lot better.

Me and Kevin. I love him so much...
Me and Kevin. I love him so much…
Gold.
Gold.
Food. I'm a fan of the food here.
Food. I’m a fan of the food here.
Jackie and I blowing bubbles with the kiddos.
Jackie and I blowing bubbles with the kiddos.
Me leading the little kiddos in their music performance.
Me leading the little kiddos in their music performance.
My groups science project for the science fair. We made bouncy balls out of borax, warm water, glue, and corn starch.
My groups science project for the science fair. We made bouncy balls out of borax, warm water, glue, and corn starch.

Day 31: Church in Uganda

Something I learned from talking with a missionary in Thailand, was that when you’re planting a church in another country, don’t try and transfer over all of the familiar structures, transfer the heart and the love for God. It’s easy to transfer over “three worship songs, 30 minute sermon, ect.” but it’s much more important to transfer the heart, and let me add that this church in Uganda has it right. There is a Church right within walking distance right behind the orphanage that the children go to. We went on Sunday morning, where we worshiped for a solid hour and let the message run as long as it needed to. It was awesome. I understand why American Churches do it the way it the way they do and that’s perfectly fine, but there’s something about saying, “let’s just worship God for four hours.” And then on top of that, “Wait no air conditioning? We don’t care. (As an aside we didn’t have any air conditioning while in Africa, which was fine by me.) Wait, no seats left? I’ll just dance in the isles. Wait, there is an orphan without a chair? I’ll hold them the whole time.” Best. Day. Ever.

“Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth!”

I also got to help lead a Bible Study with the little ones, where we talked about the story of Moses and then used props to act it out with all the children. Have I mentioned that I love these children yet? Perhaps I haven’t said that quite enough.

JARIS. I definitely held this baby for many hours during my time here. That happened.
JARIS. I definitely held this baby for many hours during my time here. That happened.
Church at the Uganda!
Church at the Uganda!

Day 32: Choir rehearsal at the orphanage

In addition to Bible Study, I also got to help lead choir rehearsals throughout my time in Uganda. Teacher Francis, the music teacher there, walked my through their rhythmic notation system and since I already know solphege, I was able to figure our their western piece and help teach three part harmony. I also loved watching the rest of their rehearsals, Especially the piece with the percussion ensemble and dancers. So much fun!

I also had kitchen duty where the main cook, Abu, taught me how to make chapatis, which are like African tortillas. I can’t wait to make Ugandan food when I get back to the states!

Day 33-34: Faith Breakthrough

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Rain at the orphanage.

So a lot happens each day. I honestly wish I could blog each and every story, but I have limited typing time and resources on our travels. Since we are currently flying out of Ethiopia at 2:30am and I’m typing this all out with two fingers on an iPad mini, I’m just going to skip to one story for these two days combined. But before I do that, I need to back it up to Thailand.

I learned a lot in Thailand, mainly about what it means to be fully surrender to God in faith. I want to obey God’s call upon my life whatever that is, whether I’m married or single, rich or poor, whether in America or Uganda. I know that much. But there is also so much I don’t know, like how peace is a factor on God’s calling.

In Thailand I meditated on stories like Moses and Jonah, where men frankly didn’t want to obey what God called them to do. Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh, Moses didn’t want to lead the Israelites, and even some of the various missionaries I met had similar stories. It was hard for me to wrestle with what I had been told in my early college years once which was, “If God wants you to be an overseas missionary (or do anything else for that matter), then He’ll give you a peace about it,” which doesn’t necessarily add up with multiple stories in the Bible.

I then had a slew of questions: Where is peace a factoring God’s calling? Where do I have peace? Where is there fear? How I am I not fully surrendering? I also see multiple missionaries with a heart for a specific country or people group, but I’m not that person. I’ve also been someone who loves people and connecting with people at whatever walk of life or culture, but I’ve never been someone with a “heart for a specific country or people group.” I even wrestled if that ruled out being called to somewhere other then America. I never reached a conclusion. Not in Thailand at least.

Now back to Uganda. We invited the Palmers, missionaries in Uganda, over for dinner and John shared his story about how he came to Uganda. He never specifically felt called to Africa, he just saw a need, prayed about it with his family, and went. He said something so simple and shared a verse that also was in one of my letters I got in Hong Kong (I think), where it talks about the voice of God.

“The Lord said. “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountain apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came. A gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out at the mouth of the cave.” 1 Kings 19:11-13

John also said that following God is about about listening to Him and being obedient in the next step. Sounds so simple, yet I often complicate it to trying to be obedient in the future somehow, which even sounds silly even as I type it out. I don’t have to worry about tomorrow. Who knows where I’ll end up! I just want to wake up in the morning and cling to who God is, who I am in Christ, and be obedient to His calling for today.

Day 35: Last day at the orphanage

Who knew that goodbyes could be this hard. I started this leg of the journey with tears of joy and I left with a handful of hand written notes, fighting back tears of this chapter closing for now. They sent us off with song and dance, but cried in our arms shortly after. I held everyone’s much as I could.

I didn't want to let Kevin go. He will always have a place in my heart.
I didn’t want to let Kevin go. He will always have a place in my heart.

Day 36: Traveling

We have been traveling all day and it’s currently 2am and I should get some sleep on this plane while I still can as we land for another plane at 5 something am. Before I crash now to post this later, it’s cool to note that we will in four counties within 24 hours: Uganda, Ethiopia, Rome Italy, and onto Nice France!

Sarah and our awesome guard man.
Sarah, Lin, and our awesome guard man.

Good night all.

Day 20-25: The Rest of Thailand

Riding in style.
Riding in style.
Riding elephants!
Riding elephants!
Feeding the elephants.
Feeding the elephants.

Day 20: Elephants Soooo, today we rode elephants. That happened… Bill and Susie picked us up and took us out to experience Thai culture, first by letting us ride elephants! Then we ate at the Hungry Wolves and went on a scavenger hunt on Tuk Tuks through the city of Chaing Rai. We met Monks, compared currencies, met school children, and took pictures with people of the village. ‘Twas a good day!

Rice patties.
Rice patties.
Visiting the HIV families in the village.
Visiting the HIV families in the village.

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Lindsay and me :)
Lindsay and me 🙂

Day 21: Visiting the HIV families Today we left at 8:30am and went to go visit four families suffering from HIV. The man we visited, from the Acca tribe, lives alone and greeted us at the door with some magic tricks. We all took off our shoes and sat in a circle on his porch and watched as he did various tricks and taught us some of his ways. We also talked about who Jesus is and we prayed together in a circle on the ground. We also brought recycling for him so he could sell it in the market. The second family was a man and a woman and their niece and nephew, also from the Acca tribe. The little girl had on blue flip flops with the strap between the wrong toes and the little boy had shoes on the wrong feet, both were completely adorable. We brought eggs, rice, and various other foods and prayed with them. The third lady was also from the Acca tribe and she is an encouragement to her village! She is a believer and people of her village come to her with prayer requests. She also greeted us with various fruits and I got my fill of watermelon. Watermelon = a happy Ruth. After lunch we made our fourth stop to visit a man and his wife and mother. I have to confess that grandma was way super sweet! She hugged me five times and a geared up while leaving, because I didn’t want to leave. They also greeted us with fruit and some of us bought the daughter’s paintings for 300 Baht each. We also talked and prayed with them and I feared up when we left this home. I loved getting to meet the different HIV families supported by Shoulder to Shoulder!

Day 22: More Holes! Today was another holes day! We dug more holes, filled up all seven with good soil, and then each of us got to plant a tree and have it named cuter us. So Shoulder to Shoulder officially has a mango Ruth Felder tree 🙂 Then we facilitated games at the Hilltop Schoo

The gold team at the golden triangle!
The gold team at the golden triangle!
The golden triangle.
The golden triangle.

l where we played various outdoor games, soccer, made bracelets with the little girls, and I had a good long talk with Angela, one of the full time missionaries that lives in Chaing Rai. We also ended the day spending time with Bill and Susie eating pizza.

Prayer over the Golden Triangle.
Prayer over the Golden Triangle.

Day 23: The Golden Triangle We went up to Go’s village in the mountains and prayed with various families there. Then a family friend of Go’s invited us into her home and fed us lunch. Almost every family gave us food of some kind, which was humbling to see people who have so little, willing to share all that they have with us. Some were also moved to tears by us laying hand and praying for the people in multiple various tribes. I will never forget their faces or their kindness to us. We also went to the Golden Triangle and saw where Burma, Laos, and Thailand come together. Laos, Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia, and mainland China are all closed countries, but Thailand is the only one where you can be an openly professing Christian. We prayer walked and thanked God for the opportunity to come to Thailand. Laos, Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia, and mainland China are all closed countries, but Thailand is the only one where you can be an openly professing Christian.

Day 24: Thai Church We went to Thai Church in the morning, Go preached on the start of Exodus, we ate lunch at the Church, and then we went to the early construction site of the new Shoulder to Shoulder house and prayed. I’m excited that they have the opportunity to build a new home for 20 college students! Then we had a sad goodbye to Rebbekah no Lindsay at the airport and packed up our stuff at the hotel.

Fancy median.
Fancy median.

Day 25: Last Day in Thailand We went on a temple tour/prayer walk in the morning, at lunch with Susie at a bagel place, packed up our stuff, and left for the airport. Now we have 29 hours of travels and layovers ahead of us and then our next stop is Ethiopia and then Uganda! Final thoughts on Thailand: Main transportation: Back of the van/truck, tuk tuks, walking. Weirdest food I ate: Congealed blood Primary religion: Buddhism Primary purpose: Dig holes for fruit trees, teach English at the Hilltop school, help Shoulder to Shoulder students practice English, pray for people in the villages, and to visit the HIV families. Hardest factor: the language barrier Coolest moment: Riding an elephant! What I read: Two chapters in Counter Culture, Exodus, Numbers, and Luke What I’m taking away: I surrender everything to God. Whether in singleness or in marriage, whether living in plentiful or in want, whether in Houston or Chiang Rai, I submit to God. I did not create myself; I am not an authority over myself. I turn to God and the Bible as an authority in my life. I always want to be willing to go where He sends me.

The new Shoulder to Shoulder house.
The new Shoulder to Shoulder house.
Where we stayed in Thaialnd.
Where we stayed in Thaialnd.
Eating with the college students!
Eating with the college students!
Thai Church.
Thai Church.
Thai food!
Thai food!
Piano lesson :)
Piano lesson 🙂
Me teaching piano to some college students who wanted to learn.
Me teaching piano to some college students who wanted to learn.
My new favorite flower.
My new favorite flower.

Day 18/19: Holes

On our way to dig some holes!
On our way to dig some holes!
Holes diggin up up holes dig it...
Holes diggin up up holes dig it…
Hole number one.
Hole number one.
Prayer over the land.
Prayer over the land.
The names of our trees! And us clearly...
The names of our trees! And us clearly…

First off I am overwhelmed with joy in this moment. About this time last year I knew that I wanted to do overseas missions with my entire summer, but I never imagined this. I kept trying to get on trips to India, but multiple ones fell through and I got discouraged, all the while waiting for the right organization to get involved with. Now I’m here in Thailand, the second stop of our journey, getting to know the people of Thailand and serving in various ways.

First off the organization we have are working with is building a home for some university students to give them a place to live and go to school. Most of them are from poorer tribes in the mountains and it would take them two, to two and a half hours, one way just to go to school. Bill and Susie are now building a house for them and the students to offer up a good home and an opportunity to get a greater education than the ninth grade. (School is free up till ninth grade in Thailand.) They are so good to the students and to us!

Now as far as what we’ve been doing the past two days, well, we’ve been digging holes. No I’m not kidding. We dig giant four foot long/wide by four foot deep holes from 9am from 3pm, not including our lunch break of course, and it’s been awesome.

If you’re asking “Wait, why holes?” I’ll tell you. We are digging a total of seven holes for a foundations for seven fruit trees for the new home. This will help with food yes, but more importantly will help stabilize the grounds (there is a thirty foot drop off a ways over that we are using the “extra” dirt for.) It’s been neat to do manual labor for Jesus!

Then for both afternoons we taught English, but with different students.

Day 18 we dug holes and then went and helped out the Shoulder to Shoulder students with English. First we ate dinner, had worship time, and then helped out with English games. And for the worship portion, I got to play the keyboard and lead in English while a student from Thailand played the guitar and lead singing in Thai. It was neat to heard two languages worshipping at the same time! Then we played games and helped all our new Thai friends practice their English.

Today, day 19, we dug holes and then went over to the English school in the afternoon and I got to help teach two beginning English classes! I loved getting to work with the students and getting to meet the missionaries there at the school.

And both days have involved amazing food! I’m getting spoiled here for sure… I keep getting watermelon coconut smoothies with my extra money for 20 Baht, which equates to about 65 cents. It’s kinda amazing…

So both day 18 and day 19 were full of solid good work in the sun, teaching English, working with students, and great fellowship and food.

Now time for sleep 🙂

Day 17: Thai Church and International Church

(Again, posted day 21…) Brief recap: In the morning we went to Thai church and I read the first 30 chapters of Exodus (I’m reading the Torah this summer), then we had lunch with the Shoulder to Shoulder students, and later we went to international Church where I met people from, wait for it… Ghana Nigeria Cameroon Burma Iran Korea The States Switzerland It was awesome. And I’m so glad I memorized all 196 counties last year, because now I can connect faces and even cultures with places on the world map! The geography/history/culture nerd part of me seriously needed out today! I also got to teach Sunday school with Caitlin, Lindsey, and Cara as they needed some people to jump in, which we gladly did. It was fun! We did a skit about the body of Christ, talked bout Noah, and then played a trust game and talked about how we needed to trust in God. It was a good day of worship and meeting new faces!

Day 16: “The Land of Smiles”

Thailand!
Thailand!

(I’m posting this on day 21 because we haven’t had wifi, but you get the idea.)

We have officially arrived to “The Land of Smiles” and I have loved our first day here! Yesterday we got to meet the missionaries we will be working with. Then we got in the van and drove down to see the new home they are building for the college students here. It won’t be finished till October, but it looks awesome!

After we got back we studied our next section in “Counter Culture” and got together with Bill, Susie, and the students of Shoulder to Shoulder. Rebbekah and I got paired with two sweet Thai girls that we ate dinner with and walked around the street to go shopping. (I got some gifts for my people back in the states: Andi, Nora, Matt, and Grace to name a few.) It was neat to practice my Thai, meet lots of new people, and experiencing northern Thai culture first hand!

First impressions of Thailand:

I am quite tall in the culture… Haha
The beautiful warm weather
Bugs
People drive on the left side of the road, but the steering wheel is on the right side of the car
Pentatonic music
Signs everywhere in Thai
Lots of super cute dogs everywhere
Caged porches
Fridge in the bathroom

Today we also learned about the six different Thai tribes and I got to meet people from three of those tribes!

I’m so excited for this second stop!

P6190428.JPG
The view from my bed.