Doorkeeper, gardener, pet feeder, carpentry assistant, rubbish sorter, babysitter, storyteller, joker, expert-at-getting-the-washing-in-before-it-rains. This is our almost resident ‘Aunty Loy’ who sees nothing good in herself but has brightened our lives no end since moving to sleep on our porch. She has a room nearby but she is lonely and, with no electricity, prefers the breeze sleeping out under a mosquito net. The Thai concept of ‘krengjay’ or indebtedness means she goes way overboard to repay us for the use of our space and water.
Some evenings Aunty Loy is tearful. She talks about her experiences of prison and hospital and slum life. She worries most that no-one will find her when she dies. At fifty-something her liver is failing and we start to worry if we don’t see her for a day or two. Long ago Aunty Loy met some Christians on the street and was promised that her drug addiction would be broken if she attended an event at their church and waited for the Spirit to come. After two full days she got hungry and asked to go home. She feels she has tried ‘our God’, approached him as an intruder and he has not delivered.
This is heartbreaking. How do we point her to her own Maker? If only she knew the power of the One who can break chains, move mountains and yet turns back for the lost. She loves to hear stories about Jesus, laughs with a crazy cackle as the underdog in the story is raised up! Surely this upside-down kingdom is where Aunty Loy can find a real home. No more indebtedness but freedom to give and receive in the knowledge that she belongs.
She was convinced that a ghost pushed her off our bench whilst she was sleeping one night last week. She got up, straightened the wooden cross above our door and went back to sleep unafraid. We were confused too! Please pray that God will continue to reveal himself in ways that we may not understand but are meaningful to her. Pray that we can love her when we just want to get inside and shut the door as well as when it suits us.
In other news, it has been a stupidly hot month! The longest heatwave and highest temperatures in 65 years apparently, (although we can only compare it with last year which felt equally unbearable!) Just getting from place to place on the motorbike is tiring and we are finding we get grumpy even more easily than usual! Work on the community space has paused and we are generally frustrated by the enforced need to slow down.
The other day the weather finally broke with a storm bringing some welcome relief for a few hours. When the rain stopped I headed out for a run, keen to make the most of the temperature drop. I was stopped by two teenage girls who, inexplicably, wanted to join me. I reluctantly agreed and waited around for them to change and get permission from grandmas. It soon became clear that they had no intention of running. I would describe their speed as less than half a normal walking pace! When I got fed up of waiting at every corner I gave up and walked too hoping for a chance to chat. But they had headphones in and were watching their phones – I became more concerned with making sure they didn’t get run over! A thirty minute route took us almost two hours!
As I walked along feeling resentful at the change of plans, I realised what an accurate picture this was of living in community. Learning to go slow and be mindful of the progress of others was exactly what God was asking me to do. Especially as there are plenty of times when I am the one dragging my feet! Letting go of control again was hard but I began to notice people and places I would usually run past. I was told by a friend the next day that the two girls were proud of their running achievement(!!!) and pleased to have spent some time out of the neighbourhood. Next time I might suggest we go get our nails painted!
– We are thankful for a wonderfully restful week away at the start of April enjoying space and quiet at the beach. Highlight; sitting in hammocks reading novels. Low point; the car we borrowed overheating on the drive home and being towed for eight hours with no air con!
– Please pray for Elliot and Sam as they complete the last stretch of their school year. They are thriving in friendships and interests and new skills. They hardly seem to notice the heat! Health wise, they recently had dozens of small viral skin nodules surgically removed so are unable to swim until the wounds close over. Please pray for quick healing.
– Jon is preparing to present a case study on the challenges of Urban Healthcare at a CMF conference in London. As the challenge of collecting local data feels overwhelming please pray that he will be led to talk to the right people. Pray that this will give insight that he can build on and respond to in the future.
– I am taking on a support role in the running of the fair trade jewellery project ‘Roy Rak Creative’. This UNOH supported initiative provides employment for a growing number of women in the slum, you can read more about it here. I’ll be working on sales with the manager, Nut, doing some designing and spending time with the women in the workshop. I am excited but also quite nervous.
– As we take on a new child protection policy please pray that the process of registering children in our neighbourhood will go smoothly and the reasons behind it be understood. Pray that this will lead to new confidence for running activities and will open up wider awareness of respect for children in a culture where this is not the norm.