Behind Closed Doors
She wouldn’t eat today. Too weak to do anything but lie there, this is a slow, cruel death. As Jo and I wash and dress Grandma we strain to catch what she is saying. Her words are barely audible, just raspy breaths today. How desperate we are to understand her, to know the person inside this fragile body and respond to her with care. Language defeats us again but the rawness of being human connects us. She doesn’t want us to leave. This is only my second visit to the little room with the yellow door. As we leave Jo tells her how much she enjoys visiting and I realise what a privilege it is to be invited into this sacred space. My mind turns to Grandma often through the rest of the day. In this busy place so full of noise and people, how can a person be so alone?
There is a constant tension between affirming the strengths of our neighbourhood and searching out the dark corners. My reflection is that the strengths are hard to miss; there is life, love and potential visible here which fuels hope and sustains vision. The media would have people believe that a few widely reported incidences of crime characterise Khlong Toey slum. They are wrong. The darkness here is far more hidden. For our team, the symbol of a closed door has become a picture of hidden pain in a place where life spills over into the streets. Our neighbours fear suffering and keep it out of sight; the elderly, the terminally ill, those with drug addiction or disabilities are often locked up at home. They are invisible. Very few choose to look into this darkness; better to hurry past the closed door.
Calm after the Storm
We entered the rainy season with a bang last month. Here are some photos of the morning after the huge storm that had the house shaking and most of the community up tackling floods during the night. As rain forced its way in sideways through the tiniest cracks in our upstairs walls, our thoughts turned to the thousands of houses around us that are less watertight. Sure enough, the swamp level was the highest we have seen it and it took days to go back down. Elliot and Sam slept through all the commotion despite being moved when their beds got soaked!
Our Kiwi Adventure
Our time in New Zealand was wonderful and restorative. Who knew it would feel just like being in England but with better mountains! We were grateful for heating in the camper-van (it was freeeezing!) but totally enjoyed the adventure of waking up each morning somewhere new. As we usually pitched up at a camping spot after dark it was exciting to open the curtains each morning and be greeted with stunning views. We were able to Freedom Camp on beaches, in forests or mountainsides without paying a dollar! It became a routine for Elliot and Sam to go out exploring before breakfast and enjoy the novelty of open space. Other highlights of the holiday were a visit to Hobbiton, seeing bubbling mud and geysers in Rotorua, camping at Fletcher Bay and then overlooking a very snowy Queenstown.
All the UNOH teams met in Auckland (where there is a team based in Manurewa) for the last of three six-monthly gatherings. This season of consolidating vision and relationships has been a great introduction to our time with UNOH and worth all the extra travel. As a result we feel connected to our UNOH family in other locations and better understand the contexts in which they serve. We received a traditional Maori welcome and felt honoured to learn more about the indigenous Church in New Zealand. Over the week each UNOH team shared the results of our neighbourhood research projects – swampland being a common theme! On our final evening we took part in a commissioning service where we re-affirmed our vows of Service, Simplicity and Obedience. It will be eighteen months before we all gather again – thank goodness for Skype!
The Road Ahead…
We come back to what feels like an in-between phase… attending language school will become less all-consuming though we need to get in some serious conversation practice! The race is on to get our home in Rong Moo ready for the end of September and we are beginning to envision what living and working there might involve. Elliot and Sam are only halfway through their never-ending summer holiday – the plan to let them paint the new house has already backfired with more paint on the floor than the walls! However they are loving the string of visitors passing through this month. Our friends Tim and Helen were with us last week followed by close family over the next few weeks. It is wonderful to have others see for themselves the places and people we have come to love.
Please join us in praying especially for:
– A season of vision and goal setting for our team. That God will speak clearly into our future role here and direct our energies.
– A vulnerable friend who has just come out of prison and is back in our lives. We pray that she experiences acceptance in our home and begins to trust us enough to be more open and honest. Please pray for wisdom in knowing how to love her well, set boundaries and see her real needs.
– Elliot who continues to get stressed out. Please pray for peace and comfort when he is unsure of the world around him and fights to be in control. Pray that when the new school year begins there will be people around him who understand him and bring out the best in him.
– Steps forward in 0ur ability to understand conversational Thai and for people in our new neighbourhood willing to teach us informally.
– A group of disillusioned Thai Christians who are no longer part of our house-church or projects but have formed their own close-knit community (long story!). That God can bring healing and that sustainable expression of Thai church can be free to blossom. May revival begin with them!
– Safe travelling and valuable rest for our families visiting.