Two weeks of hotel quarantine with this view and meals delivered three times a day turned out to be a great way to transition between countries! We had dreaded the confinement but were given a suite double the size of our house where we lived like kings! It was a great space for reflecting and processing (and skateboarding incidentally!)
We arrived back in the neighbourhood with a bump; the electricity was out that day and we had no water or gas. As we sweated through cleaning up three months of dirt and reclaiming our space, we were acutely aware of some of the contrasts in our world. That night we ate the shortbread biscuits that were meant to be put away for Christmas! Readjusting was going to be hard.
Early the following day, Jon took Sam to Immigration to argue for an extension of his visa since his passport was renewed whilst in the UK. The old visa expired whilst in quarantine so he was technically an ‘overstay’ and we’d been given very little assurance over the phone. It was a reminder that there is nothing automatic about our being here. *Spoiler – Sam was not deported!
In the meantime I had two tasks – stock up on groceries for the week and collect online learning materials from school. With two children I didn’t think we’d fit a lot on the motorbike so I decided to attempt an online shop for the first time. However, it required three separate deliveries just to get in the basics and my phone was ringing every few minutes with confusion about the delivery address! I had given a pin out on the main road but it was still apparently hard to find.
As Elliot and I rushed in and out of the neighbourhood to bring in shopping, I was accosted each time by different people wanting to tell their covid stories. All the good intentions about not hugging went out of the window as the time came to weep with those who weep. Elliot did most of the carrying.
We were a bit frazzled but there was just an hour left to get to the drive-through collection point at school. I tried to look presentable but knew I’d be the only parent queuing on a motorbike, and a battered one at that. The sky looked ominous but we didn’t have much choice. We were only halfway there when the rain started and we were drenched within moments!
In the afternoon we attended the funeral of a friend’s nephew with just an hour’s notice.
This kind of inconvenience is nothing new but it was crazy how quickly we had become desensitised. We had to choose to accept it again; to remember that being inconvenienced is all part of the package of being the Body of Christ where God has placed us.
Appreciating Inconvenience is a Spiritual Discipline (though possibly one that we made up!). We’re not very good at it but life is better when we practice it. The myth of convenience puts ‘self’ at the centre and has an inward focus. Living in community requires a willingness to be inconvenienced and even a willingness to inconvenience others as we work together for the mutual good.
Yesterday marked seven years since we moved to Thailand! What a surprising and transformative ride it has been! Change has been the constant theme and yet we’ve been blessed with deep roots and deep relationships. There is not much we would change! Please pray that God will reveal purpose and plans for the next season as we re-engage.
Elliot, Sam and Bow have been total stars slotting back into online schooling in year 9, year 7 and year 4 respectively. The lessons keep them busy and they appreciate seeing friends on the screen. Bow has been going to a friend of ours for support with lessons which gives her some routine and allows us to be parents rather than teachers. She is also lucky that her best friend in the world lives next door so play dates have resumed!
Elliot is getting out running as often as he can after classes. Sam has taken up skateboarding at weekends so we spend a lot of time at a nearby skate park! Bow is keen to follow in his footsteps and is suitably fearless! It’s always nice to see that they have missed Bangkok even when they have mixed feelings about coming back. Elliot has his first Pfizer vaccination tomorrow, organised by school, which is a sign that things are heading in the right direction. Published covid numbers are certainly lower but we’re still seeing a lot of it around in Khlong Toey.
In very positive news, it looks like my mum is on the list for surgery in October. She is making the most of the time off from chemo and sees the surgeon this week. Please continue to pray that the progression of the cancer will be stalled, especially if the wait is extended. Pray that Mum will stay well enough for surgery and have deep peace.
Unoh thailand and royrak
We are slowly re-opening operations now that lockdown regulations are easing. We still have a curfew but can open our premises during office hours with mask wearing, ATK testing and air filters. One staff member is currently hospitalised with covid but most others have recovered. Vaccination availability and uptake is low and the system seems quite arbitrary.
It’s a challenge not being free to share space with people but our team has adapted creatively, helping to deliver food to those who are isolating and even activity packs to neighbourhood kids. This week we begin a scaled-down version of our apprenticeship programme. Of the three young women we recruited, two have moved out of Bangkok during the last lockdown. This has been a pattern as extended families have lost work and the means to survive in the city.
We’ve decided to support one apprentice well in hope that the programme can be expanded when the outlook is more stable. Please pray for Onanong beginning her training year with UNOH. Pray that she will grow in skills, confidence and love for her community. Pray for meaningful relationship with existing team and a great foundation for a meaningful working life.
The RoyRak Team have been hard at work launching the Hope Collection this week. The business is struggling but we’re impressed with the initiative and determination of the group, not to mention the talent! My job was just the photography and I had a couple of helpers for that! These photos combine a couple of my favourite things! Can you support us with a purchase from https://www.royrak.org?
It is a very practical way to impart dignity to hardworking slum residents. You should see the celebrations in the workshop when an order comes in!