Reflections on 5 years!

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Five years ago today our family of four left our home town of
Shrewsbury and stepped into a future that felt very unknown. There was a sense of calling and a sense of adventure that held us. Today we celebrate that neither of these things have left (or when they do they always come back!)!

 

 

10414888_10153230141704418_7513783568483082386_nIt is also a time to reflect on how experience has matched up to expectation. On arriving in Khlong Toey, I remember being bewildered by the noise and the smells and the overwhelming newness of my environment. Different language, different food, different transport, different values…every new experience was a reminder of my foreignness and I longed for familiarity far more than I could’ve anticipated. The feeling didn’t go away quickly. I sat in the discomfort and God worked a slow transformation, teaching me to open myself to brokenness and to embrace difference.

As a child my favourite storybook was The Tiger who came to Tea. We now have a framed illustration on our wall! The implied risk of inviting a hungry tiger into a family home, combined with the extravagance of lavishing this tiger with cakes and sandwiches (and the entire contents of the store cupboard) thrilled me and epitomised my life values! This was radical hospitality in practice! More recently I have aspired to be like the mother in this story but, more often than not, my tendency has been self-preservation, a scarcity response that I recognise all around me. Only the welcome and love that I have received in the role of foreigner has begun to change that. I had to be the Tiger before I could begin to be the radical host! In the places that are unfamiliar, uncomfortable and strange, the light of Jesus shines brightly.

The journey has been different for each of us but just about everything has changed in five years. The things that were novel then are part of normal life now! We were very idealistic although we professed to be clued up! Nothing we could read in a book (even deep stuff like The Tiger who came to Tea!) could really prepare us for living in a culture so different from our own. We knew a lot of mission theory but when it rubbed up against our new reality we struggled to back down. God has been faithful in this extended time of listening and learning and being formed for service in Thailand. Here is a concise summary!

The biggest lessons:

  • Forgive reality for what it is, embrace the mess.
  • Hope in any form is very powerful.
  • Wounded people need wounded healers.
  • Presence alone communicates worth.
  • How we tell stories and present our neighbourhood matters – words create worlds.
  • Don’t lose the sting of injustice; be broken as many times as it takes to stay soft.
  • Think Trinity – when something isn’t black and white there is usually a third way.
  • Sacrificing family and denying our own needs doesn’t model kingdom values.
  • Make plans but expect the interruptions to be the real work.
  • God really does provide for our needs in extraordinary ways.

The high points:

  • Gaining a new girl Fletcher!
  • Building deep friendships that have survived stress and crisis.
  • Getting to dream and be creative alongside others – UNOH and RoyRak projects.
  • Seeing the few we invest in the most grow over time.
  • Reciprocal generosity, being blessed by people who supposedly have nothing.
  • Listening to people’s stories, being invited into joy and pain and being trusted to advocate for them.
  • Getting to feel at home/connected in our small part of the vast city
  • Learning the value of our support network in the UK and elsewhere.

The low points:

  • Depression, disappointment, longing, comparison and self-doubt.
  • Mourning the loss of our closest neighbour and friend.
  • Hospital stays with Sam and Bow mostly involving ears.
  • Navigating the bureaucracy, corruption, injustice inherent in parts of the culture.

 

IMG_4643We are not sure if we will still be in Bangkok in five years time. We are not even sure if our community will still be standing in five years time or whether a new shopping mall will stand in its place. We look to the future with confidence that we will see God do good things in our lives and the lives of our neighbours. May his Kingdom come here!

 

Family News

IMG_4592It has been a big adventure for all of us to adjust to life with Bow wearing her cochlear implant. She hasn’t had any of the reticence that some children have and can actually hear most sounds! Every week she goes to the hospital to have the settings adjusted and increase the volume a little. It hasn’t been an overnight transformation and we are beginning to understand that just because she can hear a sound doesn’t mean that her brain can make sense of it. There are words that she can confidently lipread and even use herself, that she can’t understand by listening alone. It is fascinating! She is learning to distinguish between different speech sounds and to rely less on visual stimuli.

Because communication was so important in ensuring good attachment, we have used a lot of signing/miming to make sure that we understand each other since becoming family. It is hard for all of us and especially Bow to rely less on this. However it is a vital part of re-training her brain to listen.  Thankfully, she has settled in brilliantly at school where teachers follow the AVT method of intensive listening activities. She is much more cooperative for them, which we can understand! On her own terms she has been attempting conversation with us from different rooms or without looking up from what she is doing! She gets about 50% of what we say in both languages which is so exciting!

We are well into term time and all three kids are exhausted with their busy school routines. Elliot has taken up Rugby at his school and, hilariously, had a skills session at Shrewsbury School Bangkok! He is attending his first Model United Nations conference on Sunday and officially knows more about International relations than we do! Sam is teaching himself guitar and we have lost him to reading the Chronicles of Narnia! He isn’t loving the teaching style of his year 5 teacher but we are proud of how he is coping and rising to the high expectations. He is the Eco-team rep for his class, something that he has aspired to for years!

We just had a long weekend away at the beach to reconnect as family – we feel more like taxi drivers than parents some days! Life is settling into new routine and we are picking up some of the team and neighbourhood responsibilities that we had set aside. Things are hectic but hopeful. Thankyou for your prayers and support.

 

 

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August

 

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.  

2 Corinthians 9:12                                                      

How many people does it take to fit a cochlear implant? One surgeon, one anaesthetist, one specialist nurse, many extra pairs of hands…one dad who stayed and fought for good care through all the tears, a Barbie with an undercut and a cuddly koala with it’s own cochlear device!

fullsizeoutput_9624We only found out the extent of Bow’s hearing loss three months ago. To get to this point in such a very short space of time took 138 separate donations. That’s 138 of YOU!; individuals, family units or other groups showing support of Bow by giving your own money towards her future ability to hear and communicate! We know how easy it is to scroll past appeals for funding, especially from people already living on support, and we are deeply appreciative of the generosity and the effort required to make this operation possible. At a time when we have been feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed by change, and far from family, God has reminded us of the vast support network in place for us.

BE0B96BB-0EF5-4810-925E-0B11B1A52845-630x840One week on from the hospital admission, Bow has absolutely bounced back and is proudly showing off her rather unimpressive behind-the-ear bandage! She has had to be very brave, again, and we hope that the time is coming where life settles down and she has less need to be brave. The switch-on of her cochlear implant processor will hopefully be this Thursday. The results are not usually instant and it takes months of rehabilitation for the brain to learn how to interpret sounds. Initially sounds can all merge together and sound very strange! We are very hopeful for a good outcome; if anyone rises to a challenge, it is Bow!

Reflecting on the journey of the past few months, we are taken back to some of the important lessons that we learnt during our early time adjusting to life in Bangkok. In our recent experience of being powerless to navigate the healthcare system and being mystified by the symptoms of Bow’s metabolic condition we are driven back to greater dependance on God rather than dependance on having all the answers. Life here holds much uncertainty and we are still learning to live in that space rather than retreating to familiarity.

Holiday!

Our time in England was exactly what we all needed! With Bow’s visa coming through at the very last minute, we had already resigned ourselves to the possibility that the trip might not happen. It was so exciting to finally board the plane together! We loved time with parents and grandparents, reconnecting with nature and with each other. We were not able to travel to see as many friends as we had intended because Bow was quite sick for the second half of the trip. This forced us to take things slowly and spend more time in Shrewsbury than we have since leaving! Despite being unwell a lot of the time, Bow connected beautifully with all the people we love and was a joy to be with.

We found ourselves super grateful for the NHS which waived our overseas patient fees and treated our girl with such dignity. We also had the opportunity to meet with a top metabolic geneticist and dietician who gave great advice and shared some of the burden of not-knowing! We also found ourselves super grateful to parents who lavished Elliot and Sam with fun and adventures, did our washing and fed us whilst we focused on getting Bow well.

Highlights of the trip were Jon and the boys climbing Snowden on a perfect-weather day, attending the opening of ‘Aunty’ Beth’s solo art exhibition, celebrating our best friend Helen’s 40th birthday, introducing Bow to warm baths, BBQs and gorgeous baby cousins!

Elliot and Sam

Elliot and Sam took the big step of getting baptised at our home church! It was very much initiated by them and was a celebration of how God has drawn close to both of them to protect and sustain them through some significant shaping experiences. Their testimonies drew many tears (and giggles!). As parents we have loved watching them grow in the compassion and confidence that comes from knowing Jesus as friend and king. Please pray for their spiritual growth and that they will be radical disciples wherever they are!

Elliot began secondary school last week and this has come with a huge increase of responsibility including being contactable on a phone! He has thrown himself into new learning opportunities with great enthusiasm as you can probably imagine! He is at an in-between age where his desire to be treated as a teenager doesn’t always match his actions. We are needing lots of patience! He also began attending a youth group at an English-language church in Bangkok and loved being out late… our Friday nights will never be the same!

Sam has had a good start to year 5 although he has struggled to get over jet lag. We were noticing yesterday that his Thai language ability has jumped on massively since having Bow in the family. He has put so much effort into learning to communicate well with her in both languages as well as through signing. Though they can fight like anything, it is a very special relationship! Our family is so blessed to have this sensitive boy sandwiched in the middle!

 

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We celebrated Bow’s 7th birthday during our time in England. What a distance she has come in those years! She is pictured above in traditional Hmong outfit, the people group that she originates from.

The specialist school that Bow will attend from next week, uses clever techniques to optimise listening ability and will give Bow the chance to meet other children with cochlear implants. The gogetfunding  page will remain open for another month or so as any additional donations will go towards funding this. We are excited for Bow getting back into schooling though we have loved these four months of taking her along with us; the UNOH office will be very quiet! Bow has made huge strides in English language, especially with the use of signing (her enthusiasm has earned her the title ‘signing police’ since she is so quick to point out our mistakes!). It will be a challenge to keep this going as her school learning will be in Thai. Please pray for miraculous language learning ability!

RoyRak

The RoyRak team continue to push themselves out of their comfort zones. After expressing a desire to learn more English for use at sales, Nut was able to organise for a team of volunteer teachers to deliver two week-long intensives tailored for our context. This also included some optional Bible teaching which was really well delivered and  received. Though far from fluent, it is an exciting beginning and those that participated worked extremely hard. It was an emotional presentation celebration on Friday; many of the women never completed school and this success meant tons!

Sales of jewellery have been slow but the calendar will begin to fill up as Christmas approaches. Please consider ordering gifts from Royrak.net (now fully functioning and updated) and helping to keep our amazing staff in work! The delivery fees are kept very low and you can be sure that the. items are high quality and made following fair-trade principles.

 

 

Pray with Us

  • Jon’s sister Fran recently got married and the ceremony took place at Che’s home village in the mountains north of Chiang Mai. It was an amazing day to be part of! Please pray for Fran and Che as they adapt to married life as well as a new home and work. Our family is now tied even more tightly to Thailand!
  • We have lots of new children wanting to attend kids club as we kick off the new term with swimming on Saturday. Please pray for safety for all these kids and for a great outlet for fun and friendship. We have been less active in the neighbourhood recently whilst we’ve focused on our growing family, please pray that this will be a positive way back into loving and serving those immediately around us.
  • For new routines as we drive the kids to school in three directions and feel more and more like a taxi service! Our week will become more timetabled so please pray that we make time for all the important things whilst not spreading ourselves too thinly. Pray for vision and for efficient use of time.
  • Please continue to remember our neighbour Joy in prison on unjust drugs charges and pray that God will meet all her needs.
  • Pray for our Khlong Toey communities under constant stress with the prospect of eviction/ relocation to make way for a new shopping and business district. Pray that those with power to make change will be given fresh perspective and act compassionately.
  • Pray for the dire situation of hundreds of Pakistani Christians in Bangkok who continue to be held in dire conditions at the Immigration Detention Centre. Pray that families will be reunited, that those inside will be encouraged and be used for the Kingdom, that those fighting for change will have great influence and that officials will have a change of heart.
  • Pray for our wonderful teammates here in their various ministries. Please pray especially for Dave, boyfriend of Lish, who has moved over from Australia this week to volunteer for UNOH Bangkok. Pray for him as he starts language school today and adjusts to life here.

 

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June 2019

 

There are days when communication goes well; on these days we can make ourselves understood and Bow can make herself understood. We are gradually learning each other’s distinct languages. We know the danger zones for misunderstanding and try hard to anticipate them, especially anything regarding time and place and distance!

After one miserable weekend hospital appointment we found ourselves caught in rainstorm on our way to the motorbikes. We ducked into a Lebanese restaurant and had a meal that was all the more lovely for being spontaneous. For once there was no ordering drama and the kids all found something they enjoyed eating! There was a sports channel playing on the TV and we noticed that Bow was enthralled by the women’s tennis. We asked her if she would like to play tennis one day and she lit up.

Taking the opportunity to encourage her to dream big, we talked about how she would be able to play tennis at school when she is older, and if she trained hard she could be really good. Following the conversation there was lots of excitement and pretending to swing a tennis racket around, we thought we had planted some hope and done good!

When we eventually got home, Elliot and Sam went off to prepare their school stuff for the next day and Bow followed. We found her rooting through the school clothes and looking confused: ‘where is my uniform?’ Somehow, from the conversation in the restaurant, she had concluded that she was going to be starting school the next day in order to play tennis with her brothers. We were heartbroken.

This is the most memorable of our miscommunications, but they are frequent and hard to avoid. All it takes is a bit of distress/excitement or something outside of our normal routine for Bow’s listening skills to disappear. It feels like the times that we need her to understand reassurance most are the times when she is least able to comprehend.

We are therefore thrilled to announce that Bow has been approved for Cochlear implant surgery and been given a date that is sooner than expected – 27th August! While this won’t be a magic cure, there is the potential that Bow will be able to hear speech sounds clearly and her language ability is expected to progress rapidly.

We have the daunting task of raising a huge amount of money upfront for the surgery to go ahead. Please visit our campaign page here to read more of Bow’s story and find out how to donate. The response so far has been amazing!

 

Bow has continued to collect friends in all kinds of places. She has certainly brought a lot of joy to the UNOH office where her clear preference is watching the women make jewellery in the RoyRak room and building up a collection of her own designs! She is fascinated with the daily life of our community, especially the pigs that are butchered in the back of a truck and the process of steaming and selling rice. It is wonderful to see these friendships growing (until we are in a hurry and don’t want another demonstration of the anatomy of a pig!)

We recently took our elderly neighbour to visit his wife in prison again. Bow was not allowed in to the visiting room but enjoyed ordering ‘presents’ for her from the list of basic supplies. This ‘Aunty’ of ours is coping well in prison and looking healthy which says a lot for the quality of life that she had outside. The conversations we have through the glass panel are significant and we continue to pray that she will know her value and encounter God’s transforming love.

 

The RoyRak team have done spectacularly well at developing a new range and re-launching the website for online orders. The Paypal facility is finally up and running again after a frustrating 10 months of being investigated. This has led to a real knock in our sales and we would love for as many people as possible to check out Royrak.net and get shopping! We’re seeing a lot of growth in the women employed by this project and want to see them recognised and encouraged!

 

 

Elliot has had a big few weeks completing his primary school journey! International school has been a wonderful opportunity for him and fed his thirst for knowledge and variety. He currently wants to be a politician or a journalist. There have been various rock band performances and speeches keeping him busy, as well as a year 6 prom!  He goes from being head boy to being at the bottom of the ladder when he starts at his new school in August! We will be driving to three different schools so are not as excited as he is!

Sam has loved year 4 and was sad to reach the end of term. He will miss his friends over the long holidays when everyone seems to disperse. He is looking forward to our trip back to the UK in a few weeks and is hoping to climb a mountain at some point during our stay!

 

Please join us in praying for the following:

  • Applying for a Visa for Bow to visit the UK was more complicated than we anticipated and we won’t hear for certain if she gets it for another few weeks. Flights are booked so please pray that those processing the application are favourable. It feels really important to see our families!
  • The fundraising for the cochlear implant – please pray that word will reach the right people and that God will provide in good time. Pray for us as we prepare Bow for the idea of surgery. She is currently freaking out over her first wobbly tooth(!) and has so much hospital related trauma that this will be hard.
  • We still don’t have a firm diagnosis for Bow’s metabolic condition and it is worrying to see symptoms and not know if we are doing everything we could be to treat it right. We are now giving two night feeds of cornstarch and seeing a general improvement in growth and stamina but it feels a bit like guesswork. There are a few pathways for getting a diagnosis but they are complicated and need a lot of factors to line up first. Pray for Bow’s health and for some answers!
  • Pray for the five of us surviving without school for two months!
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Special Bow Edition!

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In the course of six weeks, the rhythm of life in the Fletcher family has changed irreversibly! Four entrenched introverts have undergone a change of pace and a raise in volume… and are emerging exhausted, but much better for it!

Bow has brought to our home much singing, dancing, questioning, observing, laughing, frowning, protesting, accepting and loving. She is an extraordinary girl who wins hearts everywhere she goes and we still have to pinch ourselves to believe we have the honour of being her forever family. She is a much longed for daughter and sister and she is beginning to relax into that knowledge.

The handover of care has to be one of the hardest things we have ever done, I think her foster family at Hope Home would agree. Navigating our emotions, hopes and insecurities against the unpredictable backdrop of a foreign system was heavy stuff. Through lots of tears, we leant on God’s sustaining and guiding as we worked together to protect the most vulnerable and aid Bow’s transition. The more we get to know Bow, the more we realise how much we have to thank her previous carers for.

 

Much of what we had been preparing ourselves for regarding early childhood trauma and attachment disorder has just not shown itself to be a big issue at the moment. God is good! With enough consistency and explaining, Bow takes most things in her stride and, despite language limitations, is very perceptive. She likes to know what’s what and keep a close watch on us but we can relate to this anxiety.

For us parents, it has been surprisingly similar to our previous experiences of adjusting to a new family member. Thankfully, this one sleeps!

Some of the best shared experiences of the time spent together so far have been:

  • Learning to swim – Bow is a fearless and determined water baby! We especially enjoyed a long weekend at the beach.
  • Making new family routines – singing ‘Captain Clean Plate’ at the top of our lungs every time someone finishes their food (in Bow’s case after at least an hour but she has decided it is worth it for the song!)
  • First trip to the cinema to see Aladdin; distracted by popcorn, totally captivated, uncontrollable sobs through the finale, constant requests to go again!
  • Learning some basic sign language together to widen communication and enjoying Bow’s sense of humour as she signs ridiculous sentences to make her brothers laugh: ‘Elliot is a baby goat, Sam is a baby pizza!’
  • Riding on the motorbike together – she loves it! Everyone hears us coming and gets out of the way as Bow sings at the top of her voice… and then falls asleep! We now have a special harness!
  • Making friends; our team, church family and local community have been wonderfully welcoming and Bow has slotted right in. She is much more sociable than us and already widened our circle of acquaintances in the neighbourhood!
  • Sharing dance moves – Elliot and Sam have taught Bow to floss but she has taught them so much more! We have no idea where some of her more unusual moves come from!!
  • Taking it in turns to help Bow choose what to wear in the morning! She is a very adventurous dresser but pink and pom-poms tend to take precendence!
  • In the past week or so, seeing Bow start caring tenderly for the doll that has been in her room since she moved in but didn’t initially elicit much interest. She must be feeling increasingly secure to pass along some nurturing!

 

Managing Bow’s health has taken a lot of our time and energy and it is good to be getting a clearer picture of her metabolic condition so early on. We are thankful that our UNOH team here have freed us up to attend literally dozens of appointments and given us the time and space to adjust our expectations. Bow is now registered at 6 hospitals in Bangkok and has been compensated with more coffee-shop dates than we care to count!

She was admitted to hospital for an overnight stay at the end of her first week with us after developing a mild cold and some vomiting which reduced her calorie intake. This was a bit of a wake up call as we saw how quickly she can deteriorate into hypoglycaemia. Her bloods showed some anomalies with the working diagnoses that she received as a baby. This necessitated further testing and led to a new (not entirely conclusive) diagnosis of Glycogen Storage Disease 1a, a rare genetic condition that means Bow cannot regulate her glucose production. It has some severe implications that we are still getting our heads around. She takes regular cornstarch solution, avoids fasting, and follows a strictly controlled diet as she did previously.

 

Bow’s audiograms and language assessments, required for school registration, have confirmed that she is profoundly deaf in both ears (although she was almost certainly born hearing) and has the receptive language ability of a child age 1.5 years. Hearing aids help a bit but not enough for noisy environments and certain pitches. She fools most people that her hearing is better than it is because she is so motivated to communicate and so attuned to visual cues. Huge respect to her! She is picking up new words in English even when many of the sounds are out of her hearing range. Mummy is still ‘Puppy’ though and I don’t want that to change any time soon!

The big news is that Bow has been approved for a cochlear implant operation. This is an expensive business even in the government healthcare system and we have approached a Thai charity for help towards funding it. We will still need to raise a lot of money for the operation to go ahead. Ideally it could happen in a couple of months time since language acquisition gets so much harder after the age of 6 and Bow could get off to a good start at school.

 

We see the image of God reflected clearly in our beautiful Bow and embrace the grief and brokenness knowing that it is part of a beautiful pattern of mystery where all things will be made new. We also commit to fight for her as others have done before us. She is teaching us so much about trust and persistence every day.

Please pray with us for:

fullsizeoutput_7dbdElliot! He is doing great at life with a little sis but also possesses the capacity to totally switch off from her when he needs to. Sometimes I think he is the only person within a square mile who hasn’t noticed that she is calling his name for the tenth time! It is a significant time for Elliot as he transitions from primary to secondary school and gains greater independence. He is showing signs of being ready for this and has had to be patient as we re-introduce ‘childish’ things at home. He has regular band practices with friends and school responsibilities which balance things out. He recently won first prize in a country-wide short story competition and is glowing. Pray that he feels understood by us and that we remain available and approachable. Pray for increasing depth of engagement with Bow. Pray that he experiences the faithfulness of God for himself at an impressionable time.

IMG_2849Sammy! Sam has felt every up and down of the rollercoaster ride and made a deep connection with Bow. He rose to the responsibility of being her first safe attachment in the family, even sharing a bed to help her settle for the first few nights. While the two of them have a lot of fun together, they also get fed up of each other easily! We’ve had to work quite hard to make sure Sam gets his fair share of attention and processes his emotions. The routine of school and the straightforward friendships that he enjoys there have really helped preserve some normality. He is enjoying playing football, writing stories and being an eco warrior! Please pray that God’s love will anchor him and that his depth of empathy will be a blessing to everyone around him. Pray that he will have increased patience and know his worth.

 

Other things for prayer:

  • We are feeling incredibly torn between work and family responsibilities. We didn’t take official leave as we wanted to stay connected. We’ve really needed our team and colleagues but feel guilt at how little we are able to offer of ourselves to them and to our shared work. Our days are take up with appointments, admin and entertaining Bow. There is very little energy leftover. Please pray for RoyRak in particular as Elise is less active in supporting the staff and pursuing sales opportunities. Pray that God will provide enough income for the project and preserve good relationships.
  • We have been asked by the child adoption centre to do a media interview this week as they begin a campaign promoting adoption in Thailand. Elements of the process have been good but there were also a lot of delays and inefficiencies that we passionately want to see removed. We are taking the opportunity to advocate on behalf of children like Bow and perhaps gain a voice within the system. Please pray that our words will be represented accurately by reporters and that we can draw the right line between encouragement and challenge. Pray that the kids won’t be distressed by cameras or unfamiliar faces but that God will use the whole encounter for his purposes.
  • Pray that God will protect Bow’s health as we consult and settle on the best ways to manage it. Pray that we will make decisions that will set her up for the best possible future whilst also trusting her future fully to God. Pray that Bow will have good immunity and not need any more hospital stays as we get more attuned to signs that her body is under strain.
  • Please pray for provision of the money needed as we fundraise for Bow’s cochlear implant device. Pray that God will give us wisdom in decision making around the technology/cost/compatibility of the investment. Pray for the surgeon driving this procedure and for timing that is right for Bow. Pray that she will have God-given peace and understanding when we start to talk with her about the op. She will have an initial CT scan on the 12th June. In the meantime please pray for improved communication between the 5 of us as it is a source of much frustration.
  • Pray that our neighbours’ interest in Bow will be a good opportunity to strengthen relationships and witness to God’s love as Father. Pray that we will make the most of new opportunities to chat, usually initiated by Bow!
  • We have received permission from the child adoption centre to take Bow to meet her new extended family in the UK this summer whilst still in our 6 month probation period. This still depends on getting her a visa but our hope is to be in Shropshire for 3 weeks at the end of July and start of August! Family have blessed us with flights and are so excited to meet Bow. We are excited to meet our niece India for the first time and to be in the same country as Elise’s brother Adam and his partner Babi who will also be visiting from Cuba.

 

 

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March 2019 Big News!

 

In the middle of last week we received a call from our social worker alerting us to a problem with our adoption case which needed urgent attention. We dropped everything and drove through traffic for an hour in the blazing sun. We were praying the whole time, trying to trust God but knowing deep down that we couldn’t face another hurdle.

Our social worker was very straight faced and told us that our case had been taken to the board meeting and there was nothing else she could do. She was returning our file and hoped to see us again in the future. Our hearts dropped! I think one of us stuttered something about not giving up… then she asked if we were going to open the file. Halfway down the second paragraph of the covering letter we read the words ‘you have 30 days to accept this child’; our application to adopt six year old Bow had been approved!

Still not sure if it was the best prank or the worst prank ever played on us but it had its desired effect; we were totally shocked and over the moon! As the news has sunk in we have been through a full range of emotions and not really slept! Just the week before, we took part in a difficult process of debriefing and emerged ready for new challenges. There is a sense of rightness about the timing.

We will go to Chiang Mai in two weeks time to spend supervised time with Bow before an official handover. She will come back to Bangkok with us just before we need to report together to a board meeting on 24th April. This is really soon. We have jumped into action preparing practical details for her arrival (order a pink motorbike helmet, a blood glucose monitor…),  but the difficult job goes to her carers at the foster home.

As I sat and read the wedge of confronting medical reports in Bow’s background file I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Firstly that she is still alive. But ultimately that she has spent four formative years of her life in a loving and nurturing environment. She has had foster mothers who have fought for her tirelessly in hospital clinics and classrooms, loved her just as she is while insisting that her medical conditions do not define her. She has had precious time to heal and grow and learn. She has a whole extended family of people who will miss her and continue to want the best for her. The story of God’s transforming work in Bow’s life starts well before she met us.

So right now its joyful and messy at the same time – its not all obvious to us how we fit in and Bow will be feeling the same. The concept of a new family will provoke a lot of anxiety. We are confident that this adoption is a good thing even though it will be a hard thing. God is in and above the immediate circumstances of transition. We adore our girl already and have so many hopes for our family moving into this new phase.

Please join us in praying for Bow, for deep-rooted understanding and peace in the face of  big change. Pray for her friends and carers in their grief as they prepare her to move on from the foster home. Please pray for Elliot and Sam who have processed the news really well but need to feel valued and involved by us along the way. Pray for team and colleagues who will need to adjust plans because we will be more useless than usual for a while. And pray that our capacity to love will expand as our family expands!

(The photos in this newsletter bear no relation to the content but give you a glimpse of what else happened this month before our lives got just a little bit turned upside down!)

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Our Feb Update

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For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children 

Romans 8:22-23 NLT

There was tension in the air as we waited for news. The family gathered, like every other night, as food was cooked in front of the house but the usual joking was noticeably absent. We had all expected the baby to be born that day when our young neighbour went into hospital in the early hours of the night before… but the labour didn’t progress as predicted. She was not permitted company for the birth and the nurse on the phone said she was getting too tired; they were considering a Caesarean section.

Thank God for medical intervention. Only it wasn’t as simple as making a decision to keep mother and baby safe. The welfare card allowing almost free hospital care would not cover an operation. The family would have to pay – or at least this is what they were led to understand at the time. There was a panicked discussion about how to get the money. Being the end of the month we could offer some, but not enough. This was an injustice that we had never experienced for ourselves and it was confronting.

To everyone’s great relief, the baby was born naturally within the hour and, 48 hours later, our neighbour brought her beautiful new son to visit us for the first time. The shadow of the birth had already lifted and we just sat and adored him. It was a mountain top moment! It will be an uphill struggle for this young mum but this was a time to focus on the fruit of pain rather than the pain itself. Pain is inevitable but what we build with our pain matters.

Another neighbour has phantom pregnancies. She experiences some of the joy and struggle of growing new life inside her, but the hope is all in her head.  There is no sense of arrival or making it through the pain. As she rants and raves, escaping into a world of drugs to ease her disappointment, I see the labour pains of God’s creation waiting to be renewed. Some people have a rougher ride than others and this is confronting too. I can only trust that their sense of release will be all the greater when this waiting period is over.

As Jon and Elliot train to run up 61 floors for their vertical marathon next Sunday they will (hopefully) endure the pain because they are running for a reason! They want to do something physical to express their commitment to a six year old girl and to an adoption process that keeps knocking us back. The past few months have held patterns of pain on many fronts but we are trying not to channel that pain into higher walls or thicker armer. We want to allow it to break us and soften us, show us when to embrace painful circumstances and when to walk away, and above all lead us into greater reliance on Jesus, our wounded healer.

For Prayer

  • We are so thankful for parents who take the time to visit and share our lives – Elise’s parents this past month and Jon’s parents next month.
  • Please pray for the little girl that we are waiting to adopt. Pray for miracles in the approval process if this is the best timing for her. Praise God that she is well loved in her current care setting and for the relative peace of mind this allows us as we love her from a distance.
  • Praise God that Elliot and Sam are both in a great space. Sam is loving play rehearsals at school and perfecting a fab French accent! He is very proud have won a short story competition this week. Elliot is playing guitar in a rock band and is currently away on an adventure filled school camp. We are so grateful for school!
  • We begin a new season of weekend kids club activities through hot season. It kicks off with swimming at the boys school on Sunday. Pray that we will give our small group of kids the time and attention that they deserve and that relationships with their families will deepen.
  • We have a group of 14 students arriving from Australia this week for a two week mission exposure programme. Pray for deep connection with the issues as they face new experiences. Pray for fun and health and energy for all those involved, especially our teammate Lish who will be leading.
  • Pray for RoyRak as we look at new selling pathways to be able to offer greater job security to our staff. Pray for each of the women who work so hard to support their families, that God will meet them in the everyday busyness and that they will know their own worth and extend worth to others.
  • Pray for our elderly neighbour in prison that she will never feel forgotten. And for the health of her partner as he is getting frailer and needing more hospital stays.
  • Jon and I will go away for 4 days of debriefing later this month in order to process some traumatic stuff before we embark on new challenges. Pray for healing and hope for the future. And for our teammate Dianne who will be taking care of our kids!
  • Please pray for the General Election approaching fast – March 24th. As we move a step closer towards democracy pray for a peaceful and non-corrupt vote day. Pray for those seeking power to remember the poor and to act justly.
  • Donate to Jon and Eliot’s hearing aid fundraiser here!

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Happy New Year!

 

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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.

 

Our News

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.

 

For Prayer

  • 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!

 

 

 

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November 2018

‘She won’t be needing those, she’s gone’; with these words another neighbor swooped in to claim the plastic bottles that we always leave out for Ba’Saa who earns her meagre living from recycling and sorting rubbish. We look out for her, and fight her cause when others want the rubbish out of sight. She is quiet and unassuming, an easy target.

‘Gone?’ Apparently the police had picked her up for possession of methamphetamine the evening before. A small-time drug user struggling to get through each day at a time, people like Ba’Saa are targeted for arrest whilst those at the top of the supply chain buy their protection and walk free. By the time we got to the police cells, visiting hour was over but we could call through the bars from the doorway. 56 year old Ba’Saa looked small and scared.

Her partner was not informed which prison she was moved to and after an anxious two weeks of waiting for a letter to arrive we decided to track her down ourselves. We set off early and waited six hours outdoors in a queue to visit her.  I couldn’t imagine myself in her position, alone with nobody to speak up for her even in court. I was nervous about what state we would find her in.

Behind the glass screen, we were met with the biggest grin.

We were reassured. She is ok. She is getting on with the other 10 or so women in her room. She is awaiting sentencing. She is a survivor. We pray the judge will show mercy.

Our only physical weapon against corruption and systemic injustice is Presence. It holds no guarantee of results but the only cost to us is time and the emotional space to put ourselves in difficult places. Presence stands in witnessof injustice, stands with the oppressed and stands up to speak truth to power. When Jesus announced his Nazareth Manifesto in Luke 4 we see what he had come to do – his mission statement, the intention for his incarnation:

IMG_0876The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

This is so rich in meaning at so many levels, but the simplest for us right now, is to follow Jesus’ way and be present to proclaim the Lord’s favour to those that need favour.

The pictures above are from our celebration of the Thai festival of Loy Kratong with our Housechurch. We took a picnic to the park and lit our Kratongs together and let them out onto the water, watching them burn brightly and float away. This festival has themes of saying sorry, and then letting go – allowing the past to float away. The park was crowded with thousands of people. Everyone needs this. Everyone needs the Lord’s favour. For us, a timely reminder of the need to seek forgiveness and of the true Light that shines in the darkness of our hearts and our communities. Hope does not burn out even when we do! As we transition expectantly into Advent may each of us be transformed by the Presence of Jesus and be renewed to walk closely with Him.

In The Neighbourhood

Puppies, puppies and more puppies. 14 in just a few months, and we now need to spend time intentionally socialising them so that they don’t turn into a vicious pack that we will need to sneak past every day on the way to school! Dogs here are mostly managed with violence, so our approach of friendliness is counter-cultural for our neighbours.. but also for the dogs – many are not used to human kindness, so it is great to see them respond with wagging tales to our approach, rather than the usual barking or cowering.

Weekend kids activities continue to be well received and offer a great point of connection with families.

Family

During October half term we were able to get some time away in the North of Thailand. We enjoyed re-connecting with nature and finding some stunning scenery that we had not experienced here in Thailand before. During our time in Chiang Mai we had a precious few hours visiting Bow, the girl we are in the process of adopting.

Elliot was recently chosen to be head boy at school – we think staff and pupils made a great choice! However, the responsibility is bigger than any of us expected and takes up a lot of his time. Both boys are ready for a break! They have been overhearing a lot of violence in the evenings as tensions boil over in the relentless heat. Pray for our children as they process this and indeed children who are at the receiving of domestic violence.

RoyRak

It is a busy time of  Christmas sales and fairs for the RoyRak team. We have been selling well but have been hit hard by our PayPal account being ‘under investigation’ during the busiest season for internet sales! You can still view products on the website and then email us with an order that takes around to weeks to ship!

An exciting development has been the launch of our new ‘Stories of Hope’ programme; a day of workshops and community exposure designed to showcase some of the great things happening in Khlong Toey! Expat guests have had their eyes open to the realities of slum life and been very supportive. Staff from RoyRak and other social enterprise projects have been wonderful hosts and risen to the challenge of sharing local knowledge, skills and stories.

Prayer requests

  • Learning to allow for the incidental and unplanned elements of life in community is hard. It means saying no to other things to keep ourselves available and attentive to the Spirit. It means drawing deeply from the Source to resist getting overburdened. As we plan for the future please pray that we will know our capacity and stay true to our calling.
  • We are tired. Teammates are ill. Cool season isn’t cool. There is so much work to do! Please pray that God will sustain us and heal us. Pray that we will find rest as we holiday with family over Christmas.
  • Pray that the adoption happens, sooner rather than later.

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September 2018

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He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away

Revelation 21:4

This aerial photo shows the Khlong Toey area almost fifty years ago. The road layout and many of the big buildings are the same but everything else has changed. On first glance I was struck by the large areas of water which are now flats and warehouses with a huge express-way crossing overhead. I thought that it looked less densely populated back then but, comparing it to today’s google maps, I saw that there are now far fewer pockets of slum housing despite the slum population rising. It is only from this perspective that I see quite how ‘squeezed in’ the lives of our neighbours are.

From the ground looking up, nothing feels insignificant. Lying awake at 4am listening to an argument that I don’t understand, I realise that tears are a language we share. This month I’ve sat more often than usual with a friend who drifts in and out of our lives periodically. Her boyfriend recently died next to her in bed and she both misses him terribly and is terrified of his ghost. This is the same man who hospitalized her with a stab wound a few months back. Her tears are raw and desperate and confused. She has ‘tried praying’ but it still hurts.

More eloquent still are the tears of two girls that we are teaching to swim. They don’t want to cry and the older one covers her face with her long hair as we sit on the floor of the red truck that takes us to the pool. The younger one can’t cover her face as her hair has been cut off to treat a nit problem.  They were hit this morning and called all kinds of names that nobody should hear from their mum. Their mum is probably crying now in the mess of their home. These kids are hardier than me; within 30 minutes they are running around with wild abandon and they will not let tears define them.

The pace of change is faster than usual here as the physical environment is constantly shifting and changing. We moved here exactly four years ago this week and have seen so much change in our surroundings and in ourselves. I notice how older neighbours are sentimental about old structures and landmarks within the slum that have survived floods and fires. It seems like they hang on to signs that their existence is not disposable. One neighbour can remember when her current house was surrounded by trees and swampland on all sides! There is definately identity found in having grown up here and reminiscing over the times when fish lived in the water and it was clean enough to swim.

It must be disorientating to have experienced so much change and to feel at the mercy of development on all sides. The forces at work to keep the poor downtrodden here are significant. When a whole house can disappear into the swamp within a year and a community be wiped out by bulldozers in just days, its easy to feel that tears go unnoticed. The bible gives us a different aerial view that is crucial to staying afloat in the here and now. This ‘old order of things’ is not ok and it is not how things will always be. God knows the pain intimately and is bringing about a good future where nobody is ‘squeezed in’ and there is no crying in the night.

 

The Neighbourhood

It was great to get back to kid’s club after the long school break and to re-connect with our fabulous group! There are some very sad family situations faced by these kids and the short time we get with them outside the slum is precious. We have an exciting term ahead! Please be praying for these kids.

We currently need wisdom to know how to support neighbours who are in debt to local lenders and face threats of violence. In several cases we have given interest free loans to tide people over and the relationships have become complicated when they don’t pay it back. There are no easy answers and sometimes all the best principles in the world aren’t enough! We want to respond with love and generosity but are more aware than ever that money complicates relationships. Please pray that we will use money wisely and understand the cultural implications in each case.

 

Family

Elliot and Sam are rocking their new caps and generally being too cool for school! Having said that, school is going well and they both have ‘food’ projects on the go which involve researching, sourcing and cooking recipes from their chosen countries. We are thankful for creative teaching that captures their imaginations! Elliot is making a speech to apply for head boy this week and taking it quite seriously. Pray that his heart will cope with either outcome! Sam is really coming into his own at school and is part of ‘eco-club’ where they are using the rubbish disposal problem in his community as a case study.

RoyRak

RoyRak had the amazing privilege last weekend of a trip to stay at the eco-hotel run by the charity that my sister-in -law works with in Northern Thailand. It was a world away from Bangkok and a real adventure to be staying in the jungle with elephants for neighbours! We did bamboo rafting, visited a waterfall with a hidden cave and washed elephants in the river. Our stay was beautifully hosted by the Karen staff in the training project.

At times the group were very much out of their comfort zone and struggled to try new things. The camp was really significant for taking us into a liminal space where we could find new perspective and understand each other better. I was struck afresh by the huge contrast between rural and urban poverty.

For Prayer

  • Thank God for a social worker who really cares and is working hard on our behalf! We are encouraged that she has received permission to take both our case and the child’s case to the same meeting (this cuts out one step). Our case is ready to go but there are delays with preparing the child’s case that are mostly due to inefficiencies in the system. Please continue to pray for progress and for favour with officials.
  • Pray for the RoyRak team as we enter a busy season of sales and events. Pray that in all the selling and talking with customers, God’s heart for the people and place of Khlong Toey will shine through.
  • Pray for the individuals that I wrote about in the reflection above; that when they call out through their tears they will be met by Love. Pray for the two children living in this less than ideal circumstance. Pray for the protection and affirmation that they need to come to them in physical and supernatural ways.

 

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August 2018 Update

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You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.

– Thomas Merton

Leaving our community for any extended period is unsettling as established rhythms are interrupted and relationships paused. Knowing that we would be away for the best part of two months we wanted to do something to celebrate our house move (albeit two doors away!) and communicate that we are invested in the future of this little corner of Klong Toey!

When Buddhist families move to a new home it is common to have a house-blessing ceremony and we’ve taken part in enough of these to know that the main components are praying and food; two of the best things in life! So we followed this model but invited a Thai pastor to lead it. Since many of our neighbours fear ghosts and spirits, we prayed for Jesus to demonstrate his authority and to make our home a place of welcome for all. We sang together in Thai ‘the steadfast love of the Lord never changes’ and more people were drawn to the singing.

More significant than the words spoken was the underlying sense of hope and togetherness as people from all layers of our divided community gathered in the lanes around our house. A respected elderly teacher sat alongside a young mother who lives a chaotic drug-addicted life trying to make ends meet. Upright Catholic neighbours tolerated the presence of local mafia and rubbish-collectors who arrived just in time for the food! Then there were friends and work colleagues who came from different communities to help cater and to give their support.

In four years of learning incarnational ministry here, I think this day was one of the clearest realisations of our vision for community! Much of the time, believing in a better future requires a lot of faith, a long-term perspective and the capacity to hold difficult tensions. As we consider ways of loving and serving this community our heart is to see the most vulnerable and oppressed members of our community provided for and included and this hope is still a long way off. This day was a wonderful glimpse of what God is building here. He is risen and he is at work!

 

UK Trip

 

Our five weeks in the UK was both exhausting and hugely encouraging. We loved re-connecting with friends and supporters all around the country and meeting new people along the way! We had great opportunities to share stories of hope as well as some of our struggles on the theme of recognising the image of God in others. The way that we saw churches engaging with issues of poverty in a local context gave us fresh vision and reminded us that we are not alone! Thankyou to everyone who hosted us, listened and encouraged us.

Having our Thai friends Nut and Oui with us representing RoyRak brought a richness to the trip as two areas of our lives overlapped for a while! It was worth them coming just to share new experiences together but we were super proud of the way they stepped up and represented their communities. They spoke passionately about their experiences and their dreams. Most importantly their posh English accents are now truly perfected!

We made a good start at reaching our fundraising target for the next year with nine new regular givers coming on board and some extremely generous one-off gifts. Thankyou friends! We are still praying for a further 900 pounds a month to cover prospective costs for ministry and adoption; a slightly daunting figure. If you would like to hear more about these needs or feel able to join our support team, please contact us directly at jonandelise@icloud.com or follow this link to our giving page.

 

Back Home

 

We were welcomed back to the community with side-hugs from the ‘gatekeeper’ which, hilariously, feels like a milestone! There are new babies and new puppies and even our plants are still alive! Kids club starts back on Saturday and the excitement is real!

One long term dream became reality this week as we saw our hard-working neighbour Jee begin her small business selling food from her house. We have worked closely with Jee to consider options to supplement her income and make life more manageable. She was able to access a start-up grant from one of our projects and receive support in budgeting and making a business plan. Her food is delicious and there is not much competition in the direct area so we are hopeful it will be a success. It’s encouraging to see this becoming a gathering place, even though it means the noise levels outside our house have rocketed!

Jon continues to focus on relational ministry with individuals in our community. He is easily approachable and loves sitting and hearing people’s stories. That is probably why his Thai is better than mine! We wrestle daily with the tension between generosity in the moment and empowering people to make long term changes. We have identified that we need to improve our knowledge of the resources that exist locally so that we have more creative options for helping. But listening will always remain our starting point.

Family

 

 

In the past week Elliot and Sam have settled happily into year 6 and year 4 respectively. They never fail to impress us with their courage and adaptability as they rise to new challenges! It was a joy to see them bond with their two tiny cousins while we were in the UK. They also loved making the most of safe outdoor space to explore and run off energy. Now they are back to 5am school swim training twice a week to keep healthy! The highlight of the trip was a visit to the Harry Potter studios on our final day; a reward for joining in more church services than they would have chosen!

The slow process of adopting Bow came to a bit of a halt while we were in the UK as a police check went missing in the post and there were delays with social workers collating her case in Chiang Mai. The ball is rolling again now and our case will be taken to the first of two board meetings at the end of this month. We all long for this approval stage to go quickly but we are very aware that it could drag on indefinitely and it may take numerous miracles along the way. We bought some little girl clothes in the UK and Sammy finds any excuse to go into Bow’s room and look at them – he even offered to dust the other day! Please see below for ways to pray.

RoyRak

 

Taking the project leaders to the UK was slightly risky but an opportunity to see how the other women in the RoyRak team would cope. They could easily have shifted gears and taken it easy while we were away! However, we were extremely proud that they not only completed all the work we had set but also surprised us by designing our range of 2018 Christmas decorations completely independently! This is huge and shows great progress in confidence and responsibility, something we only dreamed of a year ago.

Next month we have a weekend camp planned for our team. We are strengthening a partnership with a project in the north of Thailand called Daughters Rising which works with women from ethnic minorities to empower those most at risk to end trafficking. They have invited us to stay at their eco-lodge, a training initiative in the jungle outside of Chiang Mai. We are super excited, both for the opportunity to give our team some rest and also to see what this partnership could lead to!

We are preparing for Christmas sales already and would love to hear from anyone who could host a sale between now and December, either in Thailand or overseas. You can also support us by purchasing via our website royrak.org and encouraging your friends to do the same. Until the end of October you can use the code ONLINE20 to receive a 20% discount!

For Prayer

 

There are lots of things you can join us in praying for this month, we’ve been saving it up! Your prayers make a huge difference!

  • Please pray for strong and consistent friendships for Elliot and Sam this school year as well as opportunities for them to grow in love and care for others. Pray for confidence and release from anxiety as they settle into the school year.Â
  • Our 17 year old babysitter is pregnant and has dropped out of both study and work. Pray for God’s hand over her future and for her to experience his love aside from the disapproval of family.
  • The local builder who led the work on our house has had a heart attack at a young age and has just had surgery. Pray for him as he rests and recovers and for Jon as he tries to support him as a friend.
  • Pray for UNOH International as we are scattered across different locations and yet commit to the same things. We gathered for meetings in July which were full of hope for new growth. Please pray that we will keep up momentum in moving forwards and that the Spirit will lead us in unity.
  • Pray for our local team, many of whom have big decisions looming. Pray for peace and for ways forward that honour each person.
  • Please pray for good and open communication with our office and project staff as we look at ways to improve and simplify the systems in our UNOH Thailand Foundation. Pray for clear thinking and and an openness to change.
  • Please pray that the board considering our application to be an adoptive family will decide in our favour. Pray for clarity and understanding for them on the specific issues of our finances and our vocation. Pray that our social worker will present our case well.
  • Pray that social workers in Chiang Mai will work quickly and effectively to collate the information for Bow’s file. Please pray for individuals within the system to show real concern for Bow and her needs and be willing to go above requirements to do what is best for her.
  • Pray that we will use the waiting time well to prepare our hearts and our home for receiving Bow. That we will be well informed about the issues we are likely to face and receive answers to prayer about schooling at the appropriate time. Also pray that we will be able to live in the present and see what God has for us now without rushing ahead!
  • Pray for Bow and her current carers. We are so thankful that she is safe and loved. Please pray for her continued good health, healing of past trauma and for breakthroughs with her speech and hearing.
  • One of our RoyRak staff gave birth almost four months ago to a beautiful baby girl. She has come to the end of her paid maternity leave (we encourage new mums to bring their babies into the workshop with them) but she has disappeared and not been in contact with any of the team. We are afraid that she may be running from violence relating to an unpaid debt. Please pray for protection for her and her two daughters.
  • Pray that churches and individuals we connected with in the UK will consider partnering with us and that we will be able to trust our budget shortfall to God.

 

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