Easter Saturday. Today is the day in the middle, the day of waiting, uncertainty and fear.. and perhaps the day to most hold on to hope. I share some of the swirling reflections that have been shaped by these last few weeks in between difficult decisions, guilt for fleeing our neighbourhood, fear for our children’s health, home-schooling, zoom meetings and, to be honest, too much anxiety. Bear with me.
Celebrating Easter in lockdown, in the middle of the worldwide COVID-19 crisis, we are encouraged to hold on to the hope of Easter: Through death comes resurrection.
Through the suffering comes the new life.
For once, this suffering is collective suffering, everyone is affected in some way. Usually some people suffer and the rest of us hide away from it. We can divide up in our mind who deserves suffering and who doesn’t, who ‘brought it upon themselves’. We can defend our safety and security with antioxidants and insurance policies and reserves of wealth and power. Suffering still comes to each of us, but we kid ourselves that we have some control. COVID-19 has taught us, together, something that we all needed to hear. We are not in control, suffering is inevitable.
But Easter takes that message one step further. Through the suffering comes the new life.
16 century mystic, St John of the Cross, said “The endurance of darkness is the preparation for great light.”
We don’t choose suffering, but maybe we can be open to it, learn from it and allow it to transform us. The transformation of our world start with ourselves.
How can we let go of a little bit of our scrabbling for control and allow descent into darkness, into the tomb (the womb) to be ready for the great light of rebirth, resurrection, new life? I don’t have an answer to that question. Perhaps holding the question before God is enough.
Let’s remember those suffering most, and therefore, we can say with confidence, closest to God’s heart.
Those low wage essential workers, (name the ones you know).
The majority of the world, too poor to be able to stock up and hide away.
Remember our neighbours here in Klong Toey where life effectively has to carry on as ‘normal’ but with two extra new anxieties: who will die from the virus, and how we will survive the increased poverty.
Through the suffering comes the new life. What resurrection, what New Life can we be hoping for? What great light do we long to see?
- Perhaps the government’s increasingly selfish and elitist policies have been shown up for what they are? Perhaps this crisis will help policy-makers again see the value in caring for all people? Pray.
- Perhaps we will each have some moment of oneness or connectedness with all of humanity as we realise that we are all in this together – that oneness is our identity as one of God’s children – imagine if we lived like that all the time? Pray.
- Perhaps as the restriction on life are loosened we will approach simple things with great gratitude; meeting a friend for a coffee, going to the cinema, throwing a party. Pray.
- Perhaps we will fight harder for equality as we see who takes the larger share of the suffering from this crisis. Pray.
In The Community
It is hard to get a hold on the reality of the Covid situation here in Thailand. At the start of March we were definitely aware of people in our locality getting coughs and fevers… We closed down our office and business premises when an increasing number of staff were coming in sick. A day later the government declared a state of lockdown with progressively stricter measures to contain the virus. It looks like it could be working, but it also looks a bit too good to be true.
A test costs upwards of 3,000thb here (almost 100 pounds) and is only given free in the case of hospital admission or proven exposure. We know of many neighbours who have presented at hospital with symptoms but, without testing, been given the all clear. This certainty then means that less precaution is taken… We expected a full-blown outbreak in our crowded community but it hasn’t happened. This is amazing!
There is some talk of Covid not peaking here until cool season (Nov – Jan). Like everyone everywhere, we will be looking at ways to adapt for the immediate future and adjust to new information as it is available. For us this will mean moving back to our Khlong Toey home in two weeks, picking up aspects of our work and finding appropriate new ways to engage in loving our Community.
Of course, sick or not sick, life has changed immensely for our neighbours. Many jobs have been lost and more people are relying on charity for food and essentials. Schools are closed until July and have already been off for two months with the ‘hot season’ holidays. Its not easy to stay home when your home is the size and heat of a sauna. Low wage jobs like delivery drivers are in demand but offering this service requires considerable personal risk.
The RoyRak Jewellery not-for-profit is primarily an opportunity to journey closely with a few families; to empower the most vulnerable and be a sign of hope in the community. It is a UNOH project that currently employs seven strong and determined women on a full time basis.
Since the end of January and for the foreseeable future all of our sales and events have been cancelled. This includes significant overseas sales opportunities in three countries for which we had been building up stock. Our plan to focus on online sales was frustrated last week when Thai Post stopped most International shipping.
We feel a lot of responsibility for the employees of RoyRak and desperately don’t want the business to fold. We have recently employed a new member of staff from our community to help us grow the reach of the project through a youth apprenticeship scheme. We were also in the process of appointing a Marketing Intern. It is hard to hold onto vision when the future is so uncertain, but for now we want to be good employees. We continue to set full-time work for staff to produce at home.
UNOH Thailand is requesting financial help to bring RoyRak through this year. Please, please take a moment to read this appeal:
There are several concrete ways suggested to help individuals in the project. Even the smallest donation or purchase will help! It is a great way to #rememberthepoor
Just the week before borders began to close, our team were privileged to host a fabulous team made up of many nationalities but all wanting to learn more about Urban Mission. We begin these exposure courses with three days farming in rural Thailand so that participants experience the poverty that drives people to cities and slums. On this occasion the group were harvesting and planting cassava alongside those who work the fields every day.
Elliot and Sam took part for the first time and had their minds blown! They couldn’t believe how hard the work was and how minuscule the pay. The first day they dragged their feet and really struggled in the 40 degree heat. That evening, back at the farmhouse where the group were camping, they listened to the stories of their hosts (the extended family of some of our closest Khlong Toey friends). Elliot and Sam were overwhelmed by the injustices they had faced through life and connected with the family in the most beautiful way. They found the strength to work hard on their behalf the following day. We pray that the experience has been transformative for the boys in the long term.
It is an example of God meeting our needs before we knew what we needed; for the boys to have three days of fresh air, exercise and reconnecting with nature right before we became housebound was perfect!
Another perfectly timed provision was the addition of two little cats to our family. They are bringing us so much joy and distraction! Sophie (white) and Tiger (stripy) have slotted in well and love having family around all day. They seem very well tuned to emotions, of which there are plenty right now, and are always ready with a hug!
Elliot and Sam’s school has provided full-time home learning for them, including regular zoom calls with teachers and classmates. It is good but also quite a big job to keep them organised and equipped for each day! They are not exactly overjoyed by it all, especially having to register online in the morning and submit work through the day. However, they are also taking the time to be creative; Sam is painting and Elliot is writing songs.
With the school closure, Bow missed the last of her school visits for the assessment process. The admissions department were almost certainly preparing us for a ‘no’ and we are thankful for the extra time to focus on English and do some home schooling with her. It’s been good to get back to basics with numbers and language and try to fill in some other gaps that can cause Bow to lose confidence and be reluctant to ‘just have a go’. Please continue to pray that the best option for Bow’s schooling will become apparent/possible.
On the 19th April we will celebrate one year since welcoming Bow into our family! We recently received the documentation that ends the probation period and makes the adoption official. She continues to be extraordinary and we can’t imagine life without her! Look out for some very soppy posts on social media!!
For now we are hugely grateful for the month long airbnb stay. Especially that the owner discounted it by 60%! We would’ve gone crazy by now in our small house and it has given us the space to process things with a bit of distance and perspective. We are grieving for the UK and following the news closely. There are just no easy answers.
Please stay safe wherever you are and know that we are all in this together. May each of us know that the Kingdom of God is near during this weird ‘in between’ time and be renewed ready for whatever is coming next. More than ever we get to be Easter people!
Much love from Jon, Elise, Elliot, Sam and Bow xxxxx