‘Despair is global. Hope is local.’ – Jonathan Cornford #tearconference2017
A friend passed on these words recently and the more I dwell on them the more they have impressed their truth into my soul. I’m learning that Hope is a precious seed that needs tending with care as it breaks through parched ground. It can’t be hurried or imposed and its growth looks different in every setting. Real Hope does not take root in denial but embraces the suffering of the world while choosing to dream of something better starting right here and now.
Where do we see Hope taking root in our Khlong Toey Community? There is Hope in the brightly painted new homes springing up in the swamp around us; under the ever-present threat of eviction some people are choosing to believe that the future is worth investing in. There is Hope in the noise and bustle of the local school where teachers do their best in hot classrooms, taking jobs with very little pay because they believe in these kids. There is Hope in the glimmer of understanding from a friend who seems at last to ‘get it’ that we share our water supply with drug addicted neighbours even when they cause us hurt. There is Hope when someone who regularly comes asking for food wants to ‘repay’ me with a nail varnish in my favourite colour. Blink and you might miss it but it is here!
A lot of the time it is hard to recognise Hope, and despair creeps in with the fighting and the rumours and the rats. There are shattered dreams; a fifty year old neighbour believing she is pregnant and carrying a doll around, fourteen year old boys willing time away in the gaming room, dulling their disappointment with cheap drugs. There is a choice to look away or to look more closely and tend the small seeds of Hope.
Our family committed to an initial three years serving with UNOH in Khlong Toey slum. As we approach the end of this period we’ve given some time to looking back over the journey and to discerning what God is asking from us in the future. We have a strong sense that God is still calling us to love the same place and the same people. We have more insight into how he has shaped us and how our calling can be outworked here, but essentially nothing has changed. We are excited to recommit for a further four year period.
I doubt that comes as much surprise to anyone! The surprising thing for us is that it has been harder to weigh up the cost second time around. Staying put, we face a lot of uncertainties and, once again, grieve the loss of a more ‘normal life’ (I doubt that really exists but it is still a big pull!). We’d value your prayers as we dream for the future and find ways to sustain our family life in the next phase. We are confident that God is faithful and he will continue to bring Life to us and direct our witness here. Thanks for standing with us in prayer and giving!
In the Neighbourhood
A highlight last month was taking neighbourhood kids to The Festival of Friendship at Harrow school. Once again the boys walked away from the football tournament with the cup! All the kids had a blast and are eager for International School term to start up again so we can resume swimming trips on Saturdays! Please be praying for these children, some of whom are supported through school by those of you who give to us financially.
We are working with members of our community to improve access in the neighbourhood. Pathways are broken and rotten due to flooding and proved inadequate as escape routes in the January fire. The Port Authority, who own the land and originally allowed labourers to settle here, have taken some responsibility for rehousing victims but they do very little upkeep of the infrastructure. The work is quite extensive and we are seeking funds to make improvements. Alongside this we are hoping to fund toilet facilities for three households who currently have no toilet/water supply. If this is something you would specifically like to support please get in touch.
Thank you to those of you who supported the RoyRak team by trying out the new website! Sales have been slow but feedback from customers has been positive so I’m hopeful the online brand will catch on! The last month has been spent designing so look out for new products being added soon. If you know of any retailers that might be interested in selling RoyRak products, we also offer wholesale prices.
This month we made enough sales to be able to take on a new employee from the Rong Moo community. P’Appen is a delight to work with and has some previous jewellery making experience which is a bonus! She lost her job at the local fish canning factory when she had to miss work to care for a dying aunt. She approached me in desperation, little knowing that she was exactly the person RoyRak was looking to recruit!
Puppies and Parents
Poppy and Patch have slotted right in to the family and bring us lots of joy! Caring for them is a community affair as their kennel is outdoors and both doggy parents live right on our doorstep! Trying to convince well meaning neighbours that chocolate milk and fried eggs is not a suitable diet can be hard work especially when the Puppies contradict us! It’s been great to see Elliot and Sam enjoying their new playmates and being happily occupied through the long school holidays!
My parents have just returned to England after spending three weeks with us (including some wonderful beach holiday!) They particularly loved the opportunity to conquer their fear of motorbikes by being our passengers as we wove through Bangkok traffic! It was good to give them an updated taste of our normal lives so they can picture the people and places we talk about. It was also good to get some quality time out of Bangkok as we hadn’t been all together for a full year.
For Your Prayers
- We’re so excited for UNOH’s Second Chance team to be opening a second shop on the ground floor of our office building! Not only is this a great opportunity for Khlong Toey residents to buy good quality second hand clothes, it will provide a public space where neighbours can come and chat over a coffee during the day. Pray for the Second Chance team as they get this up and running and for great relationships to come about through it.
- Pray for the health of team members and colleagues which is often under strain. Pray that those who are burdened will know the rest that comes from God and that broken relationships will be healed beyond expectation.
- Nothing is straightforward, we’ve encountered lots of obstacles in the house-buying process and it’s a big weight at the back of our minds. We are all increasingly frustrated by the current lack of space and by rats in the bedroom. It is hard not to pin our hopes on the two-storey house that came available close-by at the same time as a church approached us with Capital funds. Please pray that we will trust God’s timings and that there will be a way through all the complications even if it is not the outcome we expect.
- The boys are halfway through school holidays and it has been a blessing to reconnect with them and see them wind down. We have planned in some one-on-one time and pray that it will be fruitful, especially as the boys process what it means to commit to a longer stay in Thailand.
- Pray for our good friend Buey and her five daughters who are members of house church. Pray that they will know God’s comfort and leading in the upheaval of seeking out suitable new housing and considering moving to live next door to us.
- Jon and others will be running a Missio Dei discernment course in a few weeks time to coincide with visitors from the UK. This is open to anyone approaching a time of decision-making or evaluating God’s call on their life. Pray that it will be a really profitable and Spirit-led time.
- Please continue to pray for safety, especially from people or powers who dislike our presence here. Pray that we can live in freedom from fear.