One of my favourite moments from Christmas was surprising a neighbour with a parcel of plus sized bras brought over from the UK! Stay with me a moment…
Bright and cheeky, she is exactly the Aunty figure that everybody needs. When I see her coming on her fluoro scooter I know that I will be late to wherever I am heading but I don’t care! I have been amazed by her positivity again and again this year. Her circumstances could so easily have created a bitter and self absorbed personality but everything about her is just the opposite.
From what I understand, her son, who is a similar age to us, suffered brain damage from a bike accident in his late teens. Home-bound, she cares for him every day in their one room (which is also a haven for all the stray cats of the community). As the sole earner, this determined Aunty works night shifts as a street sweeper while her son sleeps. We often pass her returning home in her overalls as we head out to school in the mornings.
I don’t think she wants pity; she has a close community around her and a strong Catholic faith. She knows that one day she will be free from suffering and, in the meantime, finds joy in the simple things. She is surprisingly optimistic about the slum relocation scheme which, within 5 years, will see our neighbourhood condensed into blocks of 25 storey flats being built nearby; the source of much local angst and questionable intentions from the authorities.
I have only ever heard her complain about one thing and it became a running joke between us – in Thailand you can only buy small bras! So she literally owned none and was getting a bad back. It was a no-brainer to use some of our donated funds to order her bras that would fit… but what a privilege to be placed where we could not only hear but respond to that need. We get to engage with residents of these slum communities not as numbers on a page or issues to be solved but as whole people to be known.
While we might not be affecting change at a systemic level our call for the time being is clear; practicing Presence is about engaging with the mundane.
It was such a treat to have all the Fletcher siblings together over Christmas and to spend time both at the beach and in the mountains. We were definitely ready to crash after a season of sales, celebrations and end of term school madness! It was good to have time to read and explore and enjoy the cool air outside the city. We spent Christmas day itself at home with neighbours which was pretty special as it was the first time we have cooked Christmas dinner in Thailand! Then we spent Christmas night on the sleeper train to Chiang Mai. I think we were the only ones on the train eating Christmas cake!
In Chiang Mai we were able to visit the social worker representing our prospective adoptive child. The frustration of waiting on paperwork has been quite overwhelming in recent months so we hope that we were able to make a good impression and move things along a little. Since we are not able to share much information about the adoption process in this context, we are planning to create an email prayer group which we will be keeping updated over the next few months. If you feel that you could offer prayer for us in this specific area pease let us know and we’d love to add you to the group.
- Please pray for the UNOH team here in Thailand as we navigate more change. Our Commissioner Darryl Gardiner will be spending time with us later this month as we discern what organisational structure best serves our work here. Please pray for bold and creative thinking!
- Longstanding workers Chris and Jodie MacCartney who run Second Chance have returned to Khlong Toey after a period of leave but will not be rejoining UNOH. We will miss having them on team but are grateful to have them as neighbours. Pray for their family as they readjust and for God’s blessing on their future ministry.
- Colleagues Camille and Derek have headed off on three months of sabbatical. Pray that they will be filled and refreshed and receive clear vision.
- Uncertainty has been exhausting this last year and there are still so many threads in our lives that feel unresolved. Please pray for increasing peace and the faith we need to keep in step with the Spirit.
- Please continue to pray for our next-door Aunty who is in prison. Pray that her health will improve while she is there and that she will encounter kindness.
- As the slum relocation plans become more concrete, pray that the voices of the weakest will be heard. Please pray that those in power will be merciful and that our communities will be united in making sure nobody gets overlooked. Pray that God will open ways for us to use our influence well.
- Air pollution in Bangkok is dangerously high at the moment, with smog settled over the whole City and forecast to stay for a month. The children are not able to play outside at school and by the end of the day we have sore throats and eyes. Please pray for protection of our lungs, especially as we try to get back into an exercise routine!