‘So where exactly do you live? Elliot mentioned something about Pigs…’
It’s the dreaded moment when I collect one of the kids from a playdate with a schoolfriend and, after admiring the condo, the talk turns to us! When I’m standing in this expat world, the other world just down the road feels so far removed. It’s disorientating moving between the two and not fully belonging in either. When I’m at home it makes perfect sense to be living here but right now I can’t find the right words and this parent looks horrified!
Elliot and I drive the motorbike back into the slaughterhouse slum behind a pig truck. I wonder if he feels the weight of contrast as he treads over a limbless doll brought up by today’s flood. He thinks that probably his friend won’t be allowed to play at our place but he’ll keep inviting. People fear this place simply because of its ‘otherness’. Yet our kids move freely and unapologetically between worlds in a way that inspires me to be more open.
When my sister-in-law Beth came to stay last month she wrote a wonderful description of this neighbourhood [I’ve copied some of it below with her permission!]. She saw beyond the confronting sights and smells to a deeper hope reflected in the landscape. She didn’t ignore the pain and the danger but explains how small, promising things take on greater beauty against this backdrop. Now I remember why we live here!
‘It’s a strange landscape right outside the front door. The ‘ground’ all around is black water, teeming with rubbish. It’s essentially a giant swampy rubbish heap – it’s perfectly natural to toss litter out of the window or just push your unwanted furniture out of the house and off the concrete walkway. You ‘ting’ it into the little piece of land right outside your window, which you look at every day. That’s strange to me. But this is a place where people feel that they themselves have been thrown away by the rest of Thai society.
Yet in the midst of the slimy plastic bottles and old motorbike helmets and coconut shells and everything else, there are spots that have been reclaimed for beauty. Bright pink flowering bushes in pots arranged where the straggly chickens hang out. Tilting at an angle in the black water, huge decorated earthenware urns filled with floating lotuses. The discarded and the cultivated exist side by side, and they may seem mismatched but it’s a good thing. It’s taking brokenness aside and making it beautiful.’
Today we received the keys to the almost identical house adjoining ours. We were upset when our kind neighbours left a few months back saying they were tormented by spirits every night. Unsurprisingly, nobody is queueing up to rent the place after them, so we have decided to take it on to develop into a community space. At the moment we have lots of ideas buzzing around in our heads; an art studio, a library, a bakery, an indoor garden, a vocational training centre, respite accommodation, a clinic, an empty space!!! Ultimately the inspiration needs to come from our neighbours if the concept is to hold any value. We’re very excited to begin exploring ideas together!
In the meantime we are prevented from rushing ahead by the small matter of three more language modules in three months before we visit the UK (at the end of June and through July – hopefully not long enough to forget everything we learn!). We are so thankful for the prayers and kindness of friends around the world and look forward to seeing lots of you in the Summer.
- We are thankful to God for continued healing of Sammy’s ear and head scars and of the emotions surrounding the injury. Please pray for physical and spiritual health for our family and for our team.
- Please pray that we will have wisdom in identifying local partners for working on the community space. Also that whatever it grows into will meet real needs and draw out talent/ affirm inherent value in the more marginalised members of the community.
- Tomorrow is the last day of the Thai school term – meaning two full months of bored children and the onset of hot season. Please pray that we will have extra love and patience for the children in this community.
- In a few weekends time we are taking a group of teenagers from an international school to stay in the rice-growing region of Thailand where the family of a neighbour will host us. This is a an exposure course that UNOH runs frequently to help people understand firsthand the backbreaking work of planting, where our food comes from, and why so many people are flocking to the city for work that pays. We pray it will be a significant time for us too.
- Our neighbour who is in prison for possession of drugs has just had her sentence extended for fighting. We worry about her failing health and are not permitted to visit. Please pray God’s protection over her.
- Our teammate Jo goes on sabbatical soon and is discerning different options for her future. She will likely continue in similar work either here on the team or elsewhere. It is an uncertain time and we’d love you to join us in praying for clarity and confidence for Jo.
- My parents Anne and Kevin are moving to start new jobs in Wells at the end of this month and it is hard that we can’t be there to help at a busy time. Please pray for God’s peace and provision as they gear up for a big change.
- As already mentioned, our immediate neighbours moved back to their home village in the North of Thailand after 20 years working in Bangkok. Would you help us pray that they will be freed from the control and the fear of spirits as they settle into a new life. That they and many others here will encounter the superior power of Jesus firsthand.