There’s a new drug being used around here, a so-called ‘legal high’ that gives a cheap confidence boost. A young man from a house opposite died after taking a large dose last week. He was at home alone and it is assumed he choked on his own vomit. Another person alone when it mattered in this sea of people. He leaves a baby behind and a large group of peers who now have even more reason to escape from reality. What has broken our hearts most is the casual acceptance of this death in the community. That young men die from drugs seems an inevitable thing, or at least nothing out of the ordinary. Every time we walk past the drink offerings left outside to appease his spirit we pray that the power of addiction will one day be broken forever as people encounter Jesus in this place.
Two sixteen year old girls with nothing to do at 9pm on a Saturday night. On a whim I invited them to the night market with me. I was heading home to bed but it suddenly seemed important to spend time together. My language is awkward to say the least but we had a fun time shopping and got home well after midnight! What drove me to change my plans was the concern of one of these girl’s Uncles. Her Mother has left and her Father is driven by his drug addiction. She is cared for by wider family who feel that she is slipping through their fingers; they don’t know what she gets up to or what she is thinking/feeling. The unusual thing here is that her Uncle cared enough to ask us to watch out for her and be positive role models. He cares that she is not alone and that she doesn’t take the path easily available to her. This is the opposite of the passive acceptance we’ve encountered this week. People like this make our neighbourhood beautiful even against the backdrop of another tragedy.
Above: Christmas dinner, Mary and Joseph arrive in Khlong Toey by motorbike and carol singing around the neighbourhood with local nuns! These were some high points from quite a homesick Christmas. We did have a fun week staying in a jungle hut over New Year complete with monkeys on the roof! We especially enjoyed exploring waterfalls and playing many rounds of Junior Monopoly!
With building work already happening nearby, we have had an opportunity to build a raised sitting area above the flood line in front of our house. Our hope is that this will become a shared space for neighbours in our immediate area to eat and hang out together. It was fascinating to watch concrete poles being pushed three metres deep into the swamp as the rubbish was compacted! Jon has been growing lots of hanging plants to brighten up the space. We continue to wait on ways that God might have us serve more formally in this community and pray for local people with dreams of change that we can participate in.
We want to thank our friends and supporters around the world for the way you cared for us while Sam was in hospital this month. It was a lifeline to us knowing so many were praying and Sam was really blessed by all the love he received. The incident was horrific and not something we want to play down or explain away. It has been the biggest test of our decision to move here. Yet there are already some seeds of hope. In processing and moving on we have all had to draw closer to Jesus. We’ve known him as comforter and healer and Almighty God. It feels like we’ve had growing opportunity to speak about Him with our neighbours and we’ve been able to extend genuine forgiveness to the owners of the dog. Our urgent need for medical care was met because we can pay for insurance. As we’ve thought through how the outcome would have differed if another child had sustained the same injuries we feel increasingly burdened to advocate for good access to healthcare.
This week sees the beginning of a period of fasting and seeking God’s will for our team and the communities we engage in. In two weeks time we have a retreat which will give us more time for reflection and discussion. While its been a long season of change and questioning for the team here, it has also been a time when we’ve experienced God’s grace in an exciting way. Christians in the house-church have been owning their faith and hungering after Jesus more and more. Two incredible women were recently baptised by our teammates. We pray that this is just the beginning and ask for your continued prayers!