Shades of Helping

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55: 8-9

“She told me to tell you that she’s in the hospital… you’ll find her on the 3rd floor and she really needs snacks.”

It was 6.30am, the height of the before-school rush, and our visitor just wouldn’t stop talking. It was as though she hadn’t disappeared for three years and we hadn’t gone to great lengths searching for her to no avail! Evasive and frantic as ever, we could understand about a third of what she said. We were no clearer on the narrative of the past few years but here was one immediate step we could take to support one of her two daughters who had caused us so much worry over the years.

Last time I saw Nong Pran, she was a skinny ten year old with her hair shaved short to save on nit treatments. We celebrated her birthday with cake at our place and managed to get mum along too. Back then Pran had been skipping school even though we covered the fees. We had such high hopes for her and her older sister Boo… but nothing we did to support them seemed to make any difference. As they started mixing with teenage boys it was like watching a car crash in slow motion.

Now here was Pran all grown up at 13, her leg in traction and a skull fracture hidden under beautiful long hair. I wouldn’t have known her if I passed her on the street.

“Just a motorbike accident” she grinned, “I borrowed my boyfriend’s bike but I can’t drive… did you bring snacks?”

We spent a happy half hour chatting but really she wanted her mum. Though I’ve always struggled to see her mum as anything other than a perpetrator of abuse, this was still the relationship that mattered most.

Conversation turned to P’Boo and I learned that she was pregnant, living with a man old enough to be her father. She was happy, her sister reported matter of factly. They had both been in residential care for a while, I learned, but were glad to be back in Klong Toey where they belonged.

When we were were appointing for our UNOH Apprenticeship Program last year I’d searched for Boo specifically and even got close enough to leave messages with her friends. I had it all planned out and was sure that this opportunity would be the thing to make all the difference for her future… sometimes when I see our current Apprentice smashing her goals, I feel a pang of regret for Boo.

But, if nothing else, this renewed contact with the family is a necessary reminder that ‘help’ can’t always happen on our terms. I can have all the helpful ideas in the world and still be way off even beginning to understand the complexity of a situation! I come back to the hope that our God, in infinite compassion and wisdom, steps into the very cycles of poverty that I am so keen to break out of. He is not distant in the details and I am staggered to recognise His image in the distress of an imperfect mother who nearly lost her daughter.

I’m so glad that Pran knew where to find us and asked boldly for what she perceived to be her need. May we be increasingly attentive to serving others on their own terms.

*Names have been changed to protect identity.

Family news

Bow Annasaewang Fletcher is officially a British Citizen! She is so pleased with herself! The paperwork came through this week and marks the end of a long process. Now for getting a British passport!

We will be getting on a plane to Heathrow later today God willing, and we can’t wait to see many of you during this brief trip! Elise and the kids will be around until the 18th April (returning to Bangkok for the start of school term) and Jon will stay on for a few weeks after that. We’ll be speaking at our partner churches, seeing family and beginning to get set-up for round 1 of our move in July. We’ll be scouring Facebook Marketplace for furniture and visiting a couple of possible schools for Bow; it all feels a bit too real!

Our household emerged from it’s first Covid case a few weeks ago. Remarkably, Sam was the only one to test positive for the virus despite us all being quarantined in the same space for ten days. He bounced back quickly and rejoined his class online! We are thankful for healing and that the rest of us got off lightly.

It was an anxious time as there is significantly heightened risk for Bow if she does contract Covid. Mitochondrial Disease worsens quickly when the body is put under added stress, as we’ve seen with other minor illness in the past. The stats for kids with her condition are a bit alarming but all we can do is take precautions and plan ahead. We now have a letter from her Doctor in both languages instructing what to do if she does test positive which puts our minds at rest a little.

When we booked this trip to the UK, the covid case numbers were not at the levels they are now! We’ve weighed up the risks and decided to go ahead with travel but we are aware we may be the odd ones out wearing our masks! Mask wearing is very normal for all ages in Thailand and doesn’t bother us anymore; certainly not as much as the prospect of spending our two weeks in hospital with Bow! We also have Elise’s mum’s health to consider. We’re praying for lovely spring weather so we can spend as much time as possible outdoors!

We’ll have RoyRak stock with us and be selling at many of the places where we’ve been invited to speak. Without international postage to factor in we can sell at a discount so why not check out the website first and then buy directly from us! The team in Bangkok are rooting for us shifting lots of stock!

Sunday 3rd April – am – St James Church Woodley
Sunday 10th April – am & pm – Holy Trinity Meole Brace
Sunday 17th April – am – Shrewsbury Baptist Church
Sunday 24th April – am – St James Church Carlisle
Tuesday 26th April – pm – Dawley Baptist Church
Wednesday 27th April – pm – Shrewsbury Evangelical Church
Sunday 1st May – am – St Andrews Malvern
Sunday 1st May – pm – City Church Birmingham

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