Happy Christmas to all our friends and supporters in different parts of the world! Wherever you are celebrating we wish you joy and peace and moments of wonder. We hear that the UK is very wet but with our rose-tinted specs on it is definitely snowing! It is now pleasantly hot in Bangkok which has come as a relief! We are missing family and friends loads and feel further away than usual. However, its Christmas Eve and we’ve all woken up feeling excited! It’s off to language school as usual but we’re going to skive off tomorrow!
We have ten year old Tan staying with us for three nights now which changes the dynamic slightly but is really special. Our neighbour ‘On is super artistic and she made a beautiful stable for our playmobil nativity scene Please pray that we can communicate well with these children and also find ways to share Jesus with them and Elliot and Sam amongst the business. Some things never change! The rest of the UNOH team are having their first Christmas at home in years. We love that they have the opportunity to switch off and will see them in Australia in three weeks. Already we are finding more need to speak Thai as we spend more time with Thai friends and build our confidence!
As we’ve reflected on our first three months in Klong Toey, theres been lots of change and excitement. But at times sharing life here has felt mundane; we smile at the same faces as we walk out each day, get out the same toys for the kids on our soi, buy our meals from the same food carts. Our being here makes no measurable difference but we fool ourselves when we begin to think (often!) that there is something more significant we could give than our lives in all their mundanity. Sometimes sharing the boredom is enough for Jesus to speak into our lives and the lives of others. When hope can be kept alive, it seems that boredom laced with expectation is a good place for heaven to break in as it did for the Shepherds on the night Jesus was born.
The contrast between Heaven and Earth must have been huge for Jesus; his first three decades probably involved a fair bit of boredom. The choir of angels that performed for the Shepherds is a glimpse at the life He left behind. When we’re missing family and marmite and baths, we’ve sometimes wondered what Jesus missed most about his home. The nostalgia evoked by Christmas time reminds us that we’re all longing for that same heavenly home. We long to be rooted in togetherness and when we celebrate well we again glimpse the wonder of Heaven. I enjoy remembering the past at Christmas but the thread running through all the years is the same thread that pulls us on towards heaven. I thought we’d let Christmas pass quietly this year but actually I’m finding comfort in recreating traditions as best I can. Our Christmas cake is an ice cream cake!
A few weeks ago Elliot and Sam walked round the corner from our house as Jon turned the motorbike round ready for school. They were hassled by three very drunk men who, probably joking, tried to take Elliot’s helmet. This really shook them up and for a while they were anxious about meeting these men again. Last week we went to the airport to wave off longstanding UNOH team members Rod and Lexie. There were three minibuses full of neighbours which spoke volumes about the impact this couple have had as they’ve lived in various parts of the slum over ten years. The boys quickly recognised that one of the ‘drunk men’ was there and tried to hide. Rod told us that Pi Nong had been like a brother to him and now asked him to look out for us. Although a bit wobbly on his feet this same guy made a special effort to chat with the boys and now greets us with a hug every time we pass him. All that has changed is our perspective but we are so thankful that God has allowed hope to blossom in this relationship
Sending the angels to announce Jesus’ birth to the shepherds was not the greatest publicity stunt – most people were asleep! But I love that God pulled out all the stops to share good news with a few and with the least. We take comfort in this as we live amongst the stigmatised in this city. We take comfort in this as we run out of time, energy, resources to invest in the lives of more than a few. There is hope breaking through here each day and if a choir of angels appears one day I hope we won’t be too busy to notice.
Have a wonderful Christmas! With love from all four of us xxx