‘Don’t think that every gift of grace, every act of kindness, isn’t a quake in a heart that moves another heart to give, that moves another heart to give, that grows into an avalanche of grace. Don’t say this isn’t what a brokenhearted world desperately needs, don’t say it isn’t how to change a broken world’ Ann Voskamp ‘The Broken Way’
Do you still have the bracelet?’ she asks me every few days. Of course I still have the bracelet – a few wooden beads on elastic, it doesn’t look like much but it means a lot to me and she knows it!
I first met P’Mon by accident. Our team had the opportunity to take a bus full of local women for mammogram testing at a breast cancer clinic. Not the most appealing of offers, it took a fair amount of home visiting to drum up interest! This not only pushed me out of my comfort zone but quite literally opened doors that I had never knocked on before. Behind one door was P’Mon, her face purple with bruises and creased with fear.
Way out of my depth before even speaking a word, I just stood there feeling as helpless as the woman looking back at me. She whispered sadly that her partner wouldn’t let her join the trip to the clinic. I felt that she wanted to say more but suddenly he was blocking the doorway. Somehow I convinced him that this was an opportunity that she shouldn’t miss, I didn’t fully believe my argument but I knew that time with this woman was important.
On the day I called for P’Mon repeatedly as she battled her fear of leaving the house. After numerous changes of clothing and keeping the coach waiting for 15 minutes we had jumped the first hurdle together. Through the day she swung between ecstatic and tearful. She poured out her life story, bitterly familiar and yet so far from my own experience. Despite the abuse, she had no intention of leaving the situation.
There was something incredibly unifying about sitting together as women of all ages in hospital gowns going through an undignified procedure together. The clinic had arranged for beauty treatments too. P’mon had her nails painted but then insisted it was wiped off before she went home. She ate ice-cream that was too frozen and lost a tooth. She giggled all the way home even though the air-con was broken and the bus felt like a sauna; you would think we had been to Disneyland!
We walked reluctantly back to her door that afternoon. I gave her partner leftover food and stressed to him how lucky he was to have her. I knew that saying too much could have painful consequences for P’Mon yet I felt the tension of being complicit in a culture that stays silent. Discouraged, I made sure she knew where I lived and asked her to call by anytime. She assured me that she would not be doing that – too many scary dogs along the 2 minute route! She pressed the bracelet into my hand as I left.
I so often anticipate a neat outcome; I want to fix people, my desire for justice racing ahead of all the messiness in the here and now. Yet here I was once again, walking away wondering if I had been more blessed by this brief interaction than the person that I had deemed ‘needy’. The words of Jesus rang in my ears ‘ Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the Earth…’ (Matthew 5:3-5). Even when the climb towards transformation is slow, I am assured that there is blessing here in the ache and the mess at the bottom of the mountain, these wooden beads like precious pearls of hope.
So I take small steps to extend love as she did to me, a different route to my motorbike in the mornings which passes P’Mon’s house and allows a quick chat as she washes the dishes out the front. I long to affirm the image of the Servant King that I see so clearly in her.
Watching the film ‘The Shack’ (twice!) this week has been a beautiful reminder of God’s presence in and through the most unimagineable human pain. The depiction of the Trinity fitted our family’s experience of God’s tenderness and helped us to once again let go and embrace mystery. At the end of the film the protagonist, Mac, asks if our actions can possibly make any difference and is assured that they make all the difference; ‘Every time you love, or forgive, with every act of kindness, the universe changes, and nothing is ever the same again.’
In The Neighbourhood
The rebuild is coming on amazingly! We really feel for the workmen who are working through hot season with temperatures around 40 degrees. The building methods are innovative and fascinating to watch! The trees in front of our house were chopped down last week to clear way for 15 new two-storey houses. It is going to feel very different being surrounded on all sides again but we are excited for having new immediate neighbours.
We are deeply saddened by the death of our 48 year old neighbour P’Lert. He shared a tiny shack adjoining our house with his sister P’In. He was doing heavy labour on a building site and suffered a burst blood vessel in the brain, possibly linked to his amphetamine use. P’In is distraught as she had argued with him the day before he died. She is terribly afraid of his ghost and the false rumours spreading that she refused to pay for an operation. Please pray for peace and comfort in this sad situation.
It is a busy time with the jewellery project preparing to get online sales up and running, hopefully by the end of June. The logistics of this are pretty daunting and the future of the project is resting on sales being a success! We would value your support as we begin raising our profile on social media in preparation for the launch of the online shop. Please like and share and encourage your friends to buy our fair-trade jewellery!
I’m encouraged by the growth of individuals on the RoyRak team and the level of motivation at the moment. We recently took a large and complicated order for a regular customer which involved threading multiple strands of tiny seed beads and then knotting them together with wax thread. There were 30 of these time consuming pieces ready to send, the wax just needed neatening up with a hairdryer. Nut, our manager, usually does this herself but she asked another member of the team to do it. Unfortunately the heat was left on a bit too long and when the jewellery was lifted the wax thread broke and the beads went everywhere! Not so long ago this would have been a disaster leading to all sorts of fallouts! But the team pulled together and worked through the weekend, taking it in turns to handle childcare until the order was finished. I couldn’t be more proud!
UNOH International Retreat
Our UNOH teams across all locations meet to plan and reflect together every 18months. This time we were hosted in and around Auckland and got to soak up some stunning scenery. We hardly saw our boys for a week as they ran wild wild enjoying the company of friends! It was a special time of discerning together where God is leading us as a larger body and hearing where each person is at. We really love these likeminded co-workers and are humbled by the sacrifices they make to see God’s kingdom come in hard places.
We followed this retreat with a week of Air BnB in the Bay of Islands. After narrowly missing the worst of Cyclone Cook we had glorious sunshine and spent most days in the sea. It was long enough to relax and realise how exhausted we had been! The constant heat, noise and general chaos of Bangkok puts our bodies under huge stress and it is helpful to stop and acknowledge that sometimes. Returning home, we feel refreshed and have more energy for relationships.
- Elliot is growing up fast and we are needing to spend more one-on-one time with him. He is lovely company but super sensitive at the moment. He has been teased at school for not owning as many gadgets as the other children and this has opened up all kinds of discussions at home. Please pray for parenting wisdom and also that Elliot will grow in confidence. He is training with the pre-squad for swimming which is a great acheivement!
- Sammy turns 7 on the 7th and is looking forward to a painting party and ‘not being cute anymore!’ He is remarkably settled at school and home and amazes us with his perseverance at most things. He ice-skated for the first time at the weekend and totally mastered falling headlong at high speed and then jumping back up! He doesn’t like change so please pray for him as he experiences big changes to our neighbourhood and the end of a school year coming up in June.
- A member of our house-church is getting married at the weekend! We are hosting the wedding at the office with very short notice…nervous laugh! Please pray that our team will navigate the cultural stuff well and grow in relationship with her family.
- We have a British couple coming to stay in three weeks with a view to joining our team here. Pray that their discernment time will be clear and life-giving. Pray that they will have good health and safe travels
- Jon’s sister Beth is expecting a baby anytime! Please join us in praying for a safe delivery and for Beth and Tim as they adjust to new patterns of life.