Just a number

“Why is it that nobody seems to know their age around here?”

During our time at Thai language school I remember being tasked with conversation homework of asking people their age. We were prepared for it to be awkward (it’s an awkward question in a first language!) but not prepared for the responses that we actually got…. you see, a lot of people genuinely struggled to answer the question…. much counting backwards, asking family members or just plucking a number from the air, left us baffled!

It’s a pattern that I’ve continued to observe. I’ve heard different explanations over the years; people don’t mark birthdays with the significance that I am used to, people count their age from the time of conception, people round up their age to the next birthday, people consider themselves the age that suits them for whatever purpose is at hand (when RoyRak brought in a much needed retirement policy I noticed that some of the staff shed a few years overnight!) Basically, age is very fluid in Thai culture and that intrigues me!

Jon turned 40 at the start of January. Very quietly.

In truth, I think that we have both felt 40 for years and got any midlife crisis out of our systems early with a full change of career and country! Most of the time the Thai model of trusting the journey and being less caught up on times and dates has served us well. However, seasons of life are important and we want to stay alert and aware of what God is doing in our lives.

So we won’t dodge it and jump straight to 41 as I’ve known a few of my neighbours do! I would like to tell you a few of the best things about Jon at FORTY.…in an acrostic!!! One of the few perks of living in different countries is that he won’t read this newsletter until you do – no power to veto!

Faithful. When he commits he really means it. He is not easily swayed by circumstance or even failure but continues to build with all the beautiful broken pieces he gets dealt and to serve others without need for recognition. He knows himself well, is deeply grounded and regularly calls me back to goodness, to hope and to the heart of God.

Organised. He makes lists! He knows what he wants to achieve and he breaks it down into steps that mean it will most likely happen. He takes the big picture view and makes it a reality by working hard day after day. The lists are a work of art in their wonderful mix of family and work and everything in between – hanging the washing out sits comfortably alongside a government meeting. Everything is made to count.

Radical. He speaks up for the poor and oppressed in places that he probably shouldn’t even be speaking! He names the elephant in the room even when his inner peacemaker is desperately willing him to brush it under the rug. He won’t bow to tradition or accept any status quo without thoroughly examining its roots. He balances contemplation/ranting(!) with positive action and maintains high integrity. He is radically generous.

Tender. He is soft hearted and not fixed in his ways or his understanding. Many people show a tendency to harden with time, holding increasingly tightly to what they have known, but Jon actively widens his experience and grows in his understanding of the world. His faith can accommodate uncertainty and inconvenient realities and is all the stronger for being stretched. He faces pain and challenge with bravery and compassion.

Yep, he is Awesome! Even taking into account the dad jokes, the late skating ambitions and the pyromaniac tendencies, it is pretty clear that he is worth celebrating every day! My husband is awesome and I want to be like him when I am middle aged.

40. It is definitely just a number, but it’s a great number to shout about!


Jon and Sam hit the ground running after visiting the UK for 3 weeks over Christmas. They hosted some International UNOH meetings in Bangkok and were energised by the contact with likeminded team. Sam had to get over jet lag fast as he was straight back into school with lots of school play rehearsals and catching up on lost time at the skate park! He is a great traveller and takes it all in his stride.

Whilst in the UK we received news that a former neighbour had come back to visit. She moved to live with relatives in the countryside after a few years in prison, a sensible move but we’ve missed her a lot! She was literally waiting for Jon on arrival and they spent a lovely afternoon catching up. It’s a reminder that we’ve been rooted in the same place for a long time and seen many people come and go.

In other neighbourhood news, there are moves to get a local kids club back up and running at last! Thailand has taken a lot longer to relax covid measures so these kids have not had much to do. It looks like we might be able to reignite a partnership with an International school to use their pool and provide volunteers. We are really keen that ‘Kids Club take 2’ is locally run and doesn’t rely on our presence, though we are excited to be there when we can.

Our partnership with the Child Adoption Centre continues to be encouraging. We have just launched a piece of research that will inform the content of the website we are collaborating on. Relationships are good but progress is slow. Better this way round than the other we tell ourselves! Jon was contacted out of the blue for help with translating a child adoption centre document into accessible English. It’s great to be in a position to help and improve the information that is put out to potential adoptive families.

On February 7th, the Alternative Care Thailand group that Jon is a part of will be hosting a national one-day conference to present Thailand’s national roadmap for alternative care titled “A Shared Destination: A Caring Family for Every Child.” Jon was tasked with preparing a leaflet in Thai for 150 delegates to summarise the medical evidence that children aged 0 – 6 are harmed by institutional care and that some of this harm can be reversed by family based care. There will be lots of government officials, academics, media and prominent social workers there so we pray it will be a formative event.


The pictures of the two houses, above, were taken just a few days apart and highlight the very different worlds that we move between! The differences go further than the weather but it is definitely the biggest shock to the system!

The boys arrived in Shrewsbury for the last day of the cold spell and we basically hibernated for the next few weeks! It was really special to be together and to celebrate our first UK Christmas in ages! Highlights were having all of my (Elise’s) side of the family together for the first time with new additions and a few nights away in a cottage for Jon’s birthday.

Life is quiet here now with just three of us but we enjoy the contrast between ‘normal’ time and ‘holiday/ together’ time. The highlight of our week is going to the chip shop on a Friday night! We are attending two of our supporting churches and enjoying the ways we are able to reconnect with caring friends. The kids are settled in their respective schools although Elliot continues to struggle with anxiety for which we would value your prayers.

I am continuing the pattern of early morning zoom calls to stay as connected as possible with the work in Bangkok and the wider UNOH team. I am also taking an online writing course and trying to skill up on various things while I have the time! It has been harder than I hoped to keep serving the RoyRak project from a distance so Jon and I have decided to swap our locations for 7 weeks at the end of Feb in order to spend some intensive time encouraging and equipping the RR team. It will also be a precious opportunity to spend time with Sam and the same goes for Jon with the other two.

This week I have had a whole new experience of booking two cats on a plane in the summer! I would not recommend it as there are a lot of hoops to jump through! Our thoughts are turning towards Jon and Sam moving over for the next school year. A lot needs to happen between now and then but, as Sam says, if the cats are there it will all be ok! Poppy the dog has declined the offer of International travel and indeed any excursion beyond the end of our path!

Pray with us

  • Please continue to pray for God’s peace and protection to be over all our travel and the separation times in between. While there is a sense of rightness (especially that each of the children are exactly where they need to be) there can stil be a discomfort to the whole arrangement on the day to day level – often we are not as bold or confident as we would like.
  • Bow is thriving at school and has made a ‘best friend’ for the first time. She is coming home exhausted and blames that mostly on the unfair existence of maths! With covid cases on the rise locally we are taking precautions to protect Bow but we know that any public place is risky. It’s a tricky one to navigate as parents. Please pray that Bow won’t catch covid a second time and that any illness she does have would be mild and not cause the lasting affects of last time.
  • Bow is getting good NHS care but hates missing school for appointments in Birmingham! The doctors want to do more genetic testing which is a bit of a puzzle but we are pleased that they want to build up a good picture. She also received an upgrade of her cochlear implant (worth thousands of pounds!) that has better sound quality, with a function to help her pick out voices in a noisy environment. Praise the Lord for this provision!
  • We are making preparations for a young woman from our Khlong Toey neighbourhood to come and stay in Shrewsbury for a while during the Easter term. She is the daughter of a good friend and is studying English at University in Bangkok. We are really keen that she has this opportunity and that it benefits her future – please pray for the logistics and that it is mutually encouraging – she is one of Bow’s favourite people in the world! If you have any contacts for language learning or work experience in Shrewsbury we would also appreciate it.
  • A Christian friend from another local slum community has reached out to the UNOH team in crisis and we would like to ask for your prayers as well. Her husband has left her and her financial situation is pretty bleak. Please pray that she is able to find a full time job soon (she has always done informal work before and needs a breakthrough opportunity.) It is hard seeing a friend in trouble. Pray that members of our team can help to support her through a challenging time and that she will know Jesus draw near in the pain.

Thankyou for keeping up with our news, for praying and for travelling alongside us in this season of life. If you get a moment to click ‘reply’ we would love to hear from any and all of you. X

One thought on “Just a number

  1. What a birthday tribute – it totally lit up my heart as I recognised Jon in so many of those statements which jammed down into print – LOVE.
    Now I can go back and absorb the rest of your blog …….xxxxx Sheila

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s