Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Year in Review, a vulnerable post

I thought I would write a little about my thoughts on my first year in Thailand and experiences in Southeast Asia.

Now I could go any where with this. I could write about all the interesting things I have eaten in this part of the world so far. From snake curry to baby duck in an egg. I love the variety in Thai food. Thai food uses spicy, sweet, sour, salty, and flavors. Sometimes all in one dish. Street food has become very normal thing to eat since everyday Thai people, eat street food for the majority of their meals too. My favorite street food meal is probably rice noodles with, luuk chin(like meat balls), meat, with pigs blood. Before you think I am being gross I promise if you ate it and I didn't tell you what was in it, you would enjoy it. I also like other prepared rice noodle dishes as well. My times out living with families in the country side gave me full days of Thai meals. Which means you eat rice and egg at every meal. Plus your snacking all the time. Eating things like tamarind straight off the tree, or coconuts and bananas. Or if your up to it there are lots of bug like things to eat in your meals like; silk worms, baby shrimp, crickets, and geckos. Thai's love their vegetables too. They eat so many kinds of greens. One of the staple foods is papaya salad or som tom. And when you can eat this spicy with, lets say fermented fish, you are in! This was important to embrace this part of the culture since it is so much a part of life and people here. My stomach some days can't handle it, but my heart loves it, because I love Thai people. A way into Thai hearts is through your own stomach.

Of course I have seen very strange, well, not strange. Let's say different ways of doing things. I am not talking about just cultural differences, but also creative ways of doing things. Because I am so use to so many rules and laws in the States that when I see some thing like a car getting towed by some rope and tree limbs at first it's like you want to tell them how wrong it is, but after a while your like, "why not, there are no tow trucks here''. As far as I can tell anyone can set up a business anywhere. I have seen food carts open right outside of a seven eleven. People sell anything everywhere. I know where I can buy a sword, fruit, the first season of LOST, get my hair cut, and eat at a restaurant without taking more than 10 steps. Out in the country side the schools are so far for children to walk, but there are very few forms of public transportation. So here comes this little truck with like 12 people crowding the bed, and like 5 people of the roof. My last job in the states was working for a modular building company. When I see construction being done by untrained teens wearing flip-flops, no helmet, no gloves, or protective glasses using a jack hammer, I cringe. Traffic and the way people drive, by comparison to other developing countries, Thailand is pretty good. But seeing people drive the opposite way on a major street, or 5 people on one motor bike, or little to no traffic lights, still takes some getting use to. Precautions are great but a little too over the top in the states. Especially when you live overseas. But if there where all these rules it wouldn't work. All in all the way things work in this country works for me. Dangerous some times, yea depending on your point of view, but things get done here permit or not.

But what I really want to remember and share with everyone is that going after what God has called us to is hard, lonely at times, asks a lot of you, and is exactly as Jesus described it. Maybe your confused because we all know that, those of you who read this and believe in Christ as your savior. But this die by the day life, has become even more real to me. Please read the next couple of paragraphs with the understanding that I am being vulnerable of my real issues this past year and not just bashing people. I am always the first to be judged when I question others. I will now share some of my struggles in this past year:

Back home my family is going through changes. I have nieces and nephews now, but can't watch them grow up. They go out on family outings, eat Thanksgiving dinners, while I eat a can of tuna just me, myself and I. It hurts and it's hard. My closest friends celebrate weddings, babies, and birthdays. I hear about it, and look at pictures of them on facebook. I struggle some nights where I just sit alone in my apartment thinking of times of hanging out at Applebee's with friends, or playing in snow, or watching the Phillies game on t.v.. My last two years where full of traveling, but never settling anywhere until now. So it never settled in me that I would miss home. Now I do a lot. There I times which I think it would just be easier to be making disciples, helping the poor, loving my enemies back in Philly. I understand that culture. I speak the language. There are plenty of hurt people. But if it where suppose to be easy would it truly be giving up of something? What would I die to, if it was all nice and tidy?

And the spiritual warfare is alive. Spirits of perversion, greed, and power. People taking advantage of people because they are weaker or poorer. Teenagers piled into a room wearing miniskirts waiting to be purchased, homeless all over the streets and no aid, innocent children having their innocence stolen from them by men with sick pleasures, men transforming themselves into women because this world has tricked and hurt them, babies sleeping on the street with no playpen. But I am sure we have all seen these things, or experienced them. But most of you do not live there. Can you see their lives?

I almost forget sometimes that with all our great relief efforts, organizations and ideas, that none of that will change hearts in it's self. There is no NGO that has the power of GOD alone. Jesus needs to be there. Jesus needs to transform communities, build leaders, heal hearts, rescue lives. Good intentions do not saves lives from the gates of hell. I have become more cynical of would be do-gooders coming for just a peek of what life means here. Not willing to stay for the hard road ahead. There is a romantic, savior mentality with people coming here. You can't just kick a door down and save a child. Just because someone says a magical prayer in your week long mission trip, doesn't mean there lives are transformed. Are you sticking around to disciple and follow up? Did not Jesus ask us for our lives in serving him? If I am worth dying for is he not worth living for? You think it is suppose to be comfortable? The next struggle is yet the hardest.

I struggle with anger a lot here. When I see a young Thai girl or boy, hand and hand with a 50 plus year old western man, it burns me up. Or Thai women in the bars all over a customer thinking that "this white man is gonna solve all my problems", I really want to puke and punch someone. Because even this mentality is taught in some families. I can't stand the passiveness of a lot of the men here. How they take advantage of women and children. Yet they feel no conviction to take care of the needs of their families? They just drink and gamble money away. I can't walk into a brothel and just shoot the people running it. Or grab a guy by the hair and beat sense into him. It's not a movie, and Jesus would have something to say about that.

But along with the lows there have been great experiences. Things I never thought of being a part of. I have seen faces of children who were being sold by their parents to sex predators, now safe in an environment of love. I know people who sold them selves and now are sold out for Jesus Christ. And others who have never heard the gospel, whose faces light up when told and are filled with questions of, who is this Jesus? Communities untouched by the power of Jesus are now being transformed by a family who is standing for Christ in persecution. I have walked into really dark places. Places where only the devil and his workers would live. But I have come out safe only to share his love, good news, and to pray for people. And now as I continue to try to sew into the people here, I hope to see more miracles, more transformation, more hope, more sharing of his good news, more LOVE, more boldness to go, and never to look back. This new year I need to learn how to love sex tourist well, love ignorant rich people well, love those who oppress the weak well, love men in general without judgment well, love short term do-gooders well. So to not fight darkness with darkness, light can only light up a dark world.

Please forgive me brothers and sisters if I have offended anyone. But this is real for me. Everyone is accountable to God and not my opinion. I love all those who have been reading and following me, and even those who have not.

"Hate can not drive out hate, only love can do that..."
"Hate is just as injurious to the person who hates..."
" is the only force capable of turning an enemy into a friend..."
- Dr. Martin Luther King JR.