You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.
– Thomas Merton
Leaving our community for any extended period is unsettling as established rhythms are interrupted and relationships paused. Knowing that we would be away for the best part of two months we wanted to do something to celebrate our house move (albeit two doors away!) and communicate that we are invested in the future of this little corner of Klong Toey!
When Buddhist families move to a new home it is common to have a house-blessing ceremony and we’ve taken part in enough of these to know that the main components are praying and food; two of the best things in life! So we followed this model but invited a Thai pastor to lead it. Since many of our neighbours fear ghosts and spirits, we prayed for Jesus to demonstrate his authority and to make our home a place of welcome for all. We sang together in Thai ‘the steadfast love of the Lord never changes’ and more people were drawn to the singing.
More significant than the words spoken was the underlying sense of hope and togetherness as people from all layers of our divided community gathered in the lanes around our house. A respected elderly teacher sat alongside a young mother who lives a chaotic drug-addicted life trying to make ends meet. Upright Catholic neighbours tolerated the presence of local mafia and rubbish-collectors who arrived just in time for the food! Then there were friends and work colleagues who came from different communities to help cater and to give their support.
In four years of learning incarnational ministry here, I think this day was one of the clearest realisations of our vision for community! Much of the time, believing in a better future requires a lot of faith, a long-term perspective and the capacity to hold difficult tensions. As we consider ways of loving and serving this community our heart is to see the most vulnerable and oppressed members of our community provided for and included and this hope is still a long way off. This day was a wonderful glimpse of what God is building here. He is risen and he is at work!
Our five weeks in the UK was both exhausting and hugely encouraging. We loved re-connecting with friends and supporters all around the country and meeting new people along the way! We had great opportunities to share stories of hope as well as some of our struggles on the theme of recognising the image of God in others. The way that we saw churches engaging with issues of poverty in a local context gave us fresh vision and reminded us that we are not alone! Thankyou to everyone who hosted us, listened and encouraged us.
Having our Thai friends Nut and Oui with us representing RoyRak brought a richness to the trip as two areas of our lives overlapped for a while! It was worth them coming just to share new experiences together but we were super proud of the way they stepped up and represented their communities. They spoke passionately about their experiences and their dreams. Most importantly their posh English accents are now truly perfected!
We made a good start at reaching our fundraising target for the next year with nine new regular givers coming on board and some extremely generous one-off gifts. Thankyou friends! We are still praying for a further 900 pounds a month to cover prospective costs for ministry and adoption; a slightly daunting figure. If you would like to hear more about these needs or feel able to join our support team, please contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow this link to ourÂ giving page.
We were welcomed back to the community with side-hugs from the ‘gatekeeper’ which, hilariously, feels like a milestone! There are new babies and new puppies and even our plants are still alive! Kids club starts back on Saturday and the excitement is real!
One long term dream became reality this week as we saw our hard-working neighbour Jee begin her small business selling food from her house. We have worked closely with Jee to consider options to supplement her income and make life more manageable. She was able to access a start-up grant from one of our projects and receive support in budgeting and making a business plan. Her food is delicious and there is not much competition in the direct area so we are hopeful it will be a success. It’s encouraging to see this becoming a gathering place, even though it means the noise levels outside our house have rocketed!
Jon continues to focus on relational ministry with individuals in our community. He is easily approachable and loves sitting and hearing people’s stories. That is probably why his Thai is better than mine! We wrestle daily with the tension between generosity in the moment and empowering people to make long term changes. We have identified that we need to improve our knowledge of the resources that exist locally so that we have more creative options for helping. But listening will always remain our starting point.
In the past week Elliot and Sam have settled happily into year 6 and year 4 respectively. They never fail to impress us with their courage and adaptability as they rise to new challenges! It was a joy to see them bond with their two tiny cousins while we were in the UK. They also loved making the most of safe outdoor space to explore and run off energy. Now they are back to 5am school swim training twice a week to keep healthy! The highlight of the trip was a visit to the Harry Potter studios on our final day; a reward for joining in more church services than they would have chosen!
The slow process of adopting Bow came to a bit of a halt while we were in the UK as a police check went missing in the post and there were delays with social workers collating her case in Chiang Mai. The ball is rolling again now and our case will be taken to the first of two board meetings at the end of this month. We all long for this approval stage to go quickly but we are very aware that it could drag on indefinitely and it may take numerous miracles along the way. We bought some little girl clothes in the UK and Sammy finds any excuse to go into Bow’s room and look at them – he even offered to dust the other day! Please see below for ways to pray.
Taking the project leaders to the UK was slightly risky but an opportunity to see how the other women in the RoyRak team would cope. They could easily have shifted gears and taken it easy while we were away! However, we were extremely proud that they not only completed all the work we had set but also surprised us by designing our range of 2018 Christmas decorations completely independently! This is huge and shows great progress in confidence and responsibility, something we only dreamed of a year ago.
Next month we have a weekend camp planned for our team. We are strengthening a partnership with a project in the north of Thailand called Daughters Rising which works with women from ethnic minorities to empower those most at risk to end trafficking. They have invited us to stay at their eco-lodge, a training initiative in the jungle outside of Chiang Mai. We are super excited, both for the opportunity to give our team some rest and also to see what this partnership could lead to!
We are preparing for Christmas sales already and would love to hear from anyone who could host a sale between now and December, either in Thailand or overseas. You can also support us by purchasing via our websiteÂ royrak.orgÂ and encouraging your friends to do the same. Until the end of October you can use the code ONLINE20 to receive a 20% discount!
There are lots of things you can join us in praying for this month, we’ve been saving it up! Your prayers make a huge difference!
- Please pray for strong and consistent friendships for Elliot and Sam this school year as well as opportunities for them to grow in love and care for others. Pray for confidence and release from anxiety as they settle into the school year.Â
- Our 17 year old babysitter is pregnant and has dropped out of both study and work. Pray for God’s hand over her future and for her to experience his love aside from the disapproval of family.
- The local builder who led the work on our house has had a heart attack at a young age and has just had surgery. Pray for him as he rests and recovers and for Jon as he tries to support him as a friend.
- Pray for UNOH International as we are scattered across different locations and yet commit to the same things. We gathered for meetings in July which were full of hope for new growth. Please pray that we will keep up momentum in moving forwards and that the Spirit will lead us in unity.
- Pray for our local team, many of whom have big decisions looming. Pray for peace and for ways forward that honour each person.
- Please pray for good and open communication with our office and project staff as we look at ways to improve and simplify the systems in our UNOH Thailand Foundation. Pray for clear thinking and and an openness to change.
- Please pray that the board considering our application to be an adoptive family will decide in our favour. Pray for clarity and understanding for them on the specific issues of our finances and our vocation. Pray that our social worker will present our case well.
- Pray that social workers in Chiang Mai will work quickly and effectively to collate the information for Bow’s file. Please pray for individuals within the system to show real concern for Bow and her needs and be willing to go above requirements to do what is best for her.
- Pray that we will use the waiting time well to prepare our hearts and our home for receiving Bow. That we will be well informed about the issues we are likely to face and receive answers to prayer about schooling at the appropriate time. Also pray that we will be able to live in the present and see what God has for us now without rushing ahead!
- Pray for Bow and her current carers. We are so thankful that she is safe and loved. Please pray for her continued good health, healing of past trauma and for breakthroughs with her speech and hearing.
- One of our RoyRak staff gave birth almost four months ago to a beautiful baby girl. She has come to the end of her paid maternity leave (we encourage new mums to bring their babies into the workshop with them) but she has disappeared and not been in contact with any of the team. We are afraid that she may be running from violence relating to an unpaid debt. Please pray for protection for her and her two daughters.
- Pray that churches and individuals we connected with in the UK will consider partnering with us and that we will be able to trust our budget shortfall to God.