He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away
This aerial photo shows the Khlong Toey area almost fifty years ago. The road layout and many of the big buildings are the same but everything else has changed. On first glance I was struck by the large areas of water which are now flats and warehouses with a huge express-way crossing overhead. I thought that it looked less densely populated back then but, comparing it to today’s google maps, I saw that there are now far fewer pockets of slum housing despite the slum population rising. It is only from this perspective that I see quite how ‘squeezed in’ the lives of our neighbours are.
From the ground looking up, nothing feels insignificant. Lying awake at 4am listening to an argument that I don’t understand, I realise that tears are a language we share. This month I’ve sat more often than usual with a friend who drifts in and out of our lives periodically. Her boyfriend recently died next to her in bed and she both misses him terribly and is terrified of his ghost. This is the same man who hospitalized her with a stab wound a few months back. Her tears are raw and desperate and confused. She has ‘tried praying’ but it still hurts.
More eloquent still are the tears of two girls that we are teaching to swim. They don’t want to cry and the older one covers her face with her long hair as we sit on the floor of the red truck that takes us to the pool. The younger one can’t cover her face as her hair has been cut off to treat a nit problem. They were hit this morning and called all kinds of names that nobody should hear from their mum. Their mum is probably crying now in the mess of their home. These kids are hardier than me; within 30 minutes they are running around with wild abandon and they will not let tears define them.
The pace of change is faster than usual here as the physical environment is constantly shifting and changing. We moved here exactly four years ago this week and have seen so much change in our surroundings and in ourselves. I notice how older neighbours are sentimental about old structures and landmarks within the slum that have survived floods and fires. It seems like they hang on to signs that their existence is not disposable. One neighbour can remember when her current house was surrounded by trees and swampland on all sides! There is definately identity found in having grown up here and reminiscing over the times when fish lived in the water and it was clean enough to swim.
It must be disorientating to have experienced so much change and to feel at the mercy of development on all sides. The forces at work to keep the poor downtrodden here are significant. When a whole house can disappear into the swamp within a year and a community be wiped out by bulldozers in just days, its easy to feel that tears go unnoticed. The bible gives us a different aerial view that is crucial to staying afloat in the here and now. This ‘old order of things’ is not ok and it is not how things will always be. God knows the pain intimately and is bringing about a good future where nobody is ‘squeezed in’ and there is no crying in the night.
It was great to get back to kid’s club after the long school break and to re-connect with our fabulous group! There are some very sad family situations faced by these kids and the short time we get with them outside the slum is precious. We have an exciting term ahead! Please be praying for these kids.
We currently need wisdom to know how to support neighbours who are in debt to local lenders and face threats of violence. In several cases we have given interest free loans to tide people over and the relationships have become complicated when they don’t pay it back. There are no easy answers and sometimes all the best principles in the world aren’t enough! We want to respond with love and generosity but are more aware than ever that money complicates relationships. Please pray that we will use money wisely and understand the cultural implications in each case.
Elliot and Sam are rocking their new caps and generally being too cool for school! Having said that, school is going well and they both have ‘food’ projects on the go which involve researching, sourcing and cooking recipes from their chosen countries. We are thankful for creative teaching that captures their imaginations! Elliot is making a speech to apply for head boy this week and taking it quite seriously. Pray that his heart will cope with either outcome! Sam is really coming into his own at school and is part of ‘eco-club’ where they are using the rubbish disposal problem in his community as a case study.
RoyRak had the amazing privilege last weekend of a trip to stay at the eco-hotel run by the charity that my sister-in -law works with in Northern Thailand. It was a world away from Bangkok and a real adventure to be staying in the jungle with elephants for neighbours! We did bamboo rafting, visited a waterfall with a hidden cave and washed elephants in the river. Our stay was beautifully hosted by the Karen staff in the training project.
At times the group were very much out of their comfort zone and struggled to try new things. The camp was really significant for taking us into a liminal space where we could find new perspective and understand each other better. I was struck afresh by the huge contrast between rural and urban poverty.
- Thank God for a social worker who really cares and is working hard on our behalf! We are encouraged that she has received permission to take both our case and the child’s case to the same meeting (this cuts out one step). Our case is ready to go but there are delays with preparing the child’s case that are mostly due to inefficiencies in the system. Please continue to pray for progress and for favour with officials.
- Pray for the RoyRak team as we enter a busy season of sales and events. Pray that in all the selling and talking with customers, God’s heart for the people and place of Khlong Toey will shine through.
- Pray for the individuals that I wrote about in the reflection above; that when they call out through their tears they will be met by Love. Pray for the two children living in this less than ideal circumstance. Pray for the protection and affirmation that they need to come to them in physical and supernatural ways.