We miss all the action! Our neighbours love to tell the story of one morning last month when police came to the neighbourhood for a drugs raid. There is one notorious drug house, an old man with a string of young girlfriends. One of these women has gained local celebrity status since outrunning the police. ‘Most people would just leave the kid and get out’ explains our neighbour the next day. Highly animated, she goes on to act out picking up a child and dodging through the houses.
Is this worthy of respect?
Until now I don’t think I’ve heard a single good word spoken about this woman. I’ve noticed that people look away when she walks past. Addict, Prostitute, Wanted but not wanted. I’ve also noticed that she treasures her three year old daughter. The two of them are never apart and we’ve seen this little girl flourish in the short time we’ve known her. There is nothing ideal about their situation. But nobody can be reduced to one thing and I’m glad that the Mother in her had a chance to shine; a glimpse of beauty, the image of the Creator in a story of brokenness. She has my respect.
Things like this make me realise how much my view of the world has had to change since moving here. My means of measuring and appraising situations has had to adapt to accommodate sides of life that I knew nothing about. In the same way I’ve found that my safe ideas about God have been rattled and tested until they have emerged wider and brighter. I am learning to know him as the God who cannot be confined by my fears, who is beyond my understanding but revealing himself in the most unlikely places!
A highlight last month was an Easter baptism. Our teammate Chris met this guy years ago on prison visits and, on his release, offered him work with UNOH Bangkok as a translator. Whilst translating Christian texts into Thai our friend encountered Jesus for himself. It was a privilege to share in this part of his story and the occasion was all the more special for being with our house-church. We were a mix of ages and nationalities; at one point there was three way translation taking place! One of the biggest encouragements is seeing the growth of individuals in this group despite some real hardship.
Life in the neighbourhood has its joys and its challenges. Jon has been doing an amazing job building the roof of our sitting area with plenty of willing volunteers. The shade is welcome for hot season and it is being well used by neighbours with one person even sleeping out there because it is cooler than her house! Interest in this space has widened our circle of relationships a bit and we continue to discuss our ideas for how to use the place next door. Jon is approached fairly regularly for his medical opinion and this feels healthy and unforced. We’ve taken some trips out with local kids who are on their summer break. This week we have a trip to a dinosaur exhibition planned!
Misunderstandings are frequent and remind us that tension is never far from the surface here. This week there has been jealousy over who we allow to use our outdoor tap and ‘respectable’ members of the community are bemused by the time we spend with rubbish collectors (who just happen to be the best company with fascinating stories to tell!). We are aware of our own desire to please and often feel the pressure of being watched. It’s good that we have the opportunity to think about our role here as longterm – there is no hurry and the high-points generally outweigh the lows!
- Our UNOH Bangkok director Chris is currently taking time off with bad health. He has lost vision in one eye and suffers ongoing back pain. Please pray for full healing and that we will care for him well as a team.
- A family befriended by our team who are seeking asylum from religious persecution in Pakistan. Please pray for miracles of provision and protection, particularly for health and housing.
- Language learning; we are both studying this month and next and also trying to do some language teaching with the boys at home. We could do with breakthroughs in confidence and in our informal language use, (i.e.sounding less like walking textbooks!)
- We have some time off next week and are heading to the beach! Prayers for a restful family time would be appreciated!