Thursday, March 10, 2011

100 Days in Thailand :: Day 51 - Volunteering at Viengping

Today was our second day volunteering at Viengping Children's Home, and again, we found that the Suwadee Room (2 year olds) had the greatest need for volunteers. This time, they had 1 nanny and 2 volunteers - so with us added to the mix that meant 5 adults for 26 toddlers.

Again, we were swarmed when we entered the room. These babies are so desperate for someone to pay attention to them - to touch them, to hold them, to love them. We spent most of our time on the floor covered in children - holding and touching as many of them as we could at one time.

This time, it was a little less overwhelming (since we knew what to expect) and I could pay attention to details a little more. I noticed that many of the children had bruises, cuts, and knots on their foreheads and the back of their heads. It didn't take long to figure out why. If you're a parent (or if you've ever babysat a toddler) then you know the "terrible two's" are a real thing. Imagine what happens with 26 "terrible two's" and not enough supervision.....

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

100 Days in Thailand :: Day 50 - We're halfway there, livin' on a prayer!

Don't you love that Bon Jovi song? Makes me flash back to fond memories of Auburn's 2004 "Perfect Season" when we'd all sing that song, arm in arm, along with the band at football games.... *sigh.

But enough of the college flashbacks, today is DAY 50! I can't believe our trip is already halfway over!!!

I have mixed feelings today. In some ways it seems like the past 50 days have flown by.... in other ways it seems like we've been here forever. The truth is I am tired of a lot of things - I'm tired of being so far away from family and friends (and the late night/early morning phone calls that have to be made if we want to talk to anyone b/c of the time difference).... I'm tired of being sick.... I'm tired of squatty potties.... I'm tired of throwing away my toilet paper (& not being able to flush it).... I'm tired of trying to "think" in Thai to even understand 1/100th of what people say to me.... I'm tired of wearing stretched out clothes because there are no dryers here (wearing line-dried pants is giving me a 90's fashion flashback, and I can assure you "slouching" is not a good look for me!).... and lets not even talk about all the RICE! I love asian food, but if I didn't see another grain of rice for the next few months I don't think I'd complain. (I would KILL for some Chick-fil-a right about now ;)

But, in many other ways, I'm SO glad we still have 50 days left here in Thailand. There are so many beautiful things about this country and culture that I will miss (like our awesome partners/friends/family we are so blessed to work with!), so I'm trying to enjoy them fully while we are here. I'm also really excited about the time we get to spend volunteering at Viengping Children's Home, because it gives me a chance to connect with some of the most precious kids! And the longer we are here the more we're able to educate ourselves about the issues these children face - issues like forced labor (slavery), child soldiers, sex trafficking and genocide. We have been broken for the Karen people and the situation in Burma, and learning about it while we are so close to the source of information has been an incredible opportunity.

So, please continue to keep us in your prayers! Even though we're "halfway there", it seems some things are just beginning for us here. Please pray we will be able to live each day fully engaged and take hold of every opportunity God puts in our path!

100 Days in Thailand :: Day 49 - Health Update

If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm posting blogs that are back-dated, because I'm way behind (but still have lots I want to share with you about our time here!) Many of you have been so kind and supportive by checking in on me and my health, so I wanted to give you an update here. Day 49 was the day we got my test results back, but in this post I'll also update you in "real time" (as of April 11th).

This post is very vulnerable and honest, and the last half of it is mostly me "processing" all this... but I wanted to share it with those of you who care... and also with the hope that maybe it will encourage someone else out there who might be dealing with similar issues. 

To those of you who have been praying for me, sending encouraging messages, and writing supportive comments on facebook - please know how much I appreciate you and what a blessing you have been to me during this time!


Today, we went back to the hospital in Chiang Mai for the results of all my labs and bloodwork. After 11 months of being sick with what we thought (and several American doctors thought) were parasites, we were hoping for a final diagnosis and a treatment plan. Unfortunately, the results were not very encouraging.

Except for a slight elevation in my white blood count, my tests were normal. As good as that news may sound, it meant we still had no answer - no diagnosis and no treatment plan. The doctor told us that it was definitely not parasites, which again may sound like good news.... but it was our only hope for a "quick fix" of what was causing all my issues.

The GI specialist laid out the last 4 possible diagnoses: 
  1. Celiac's Disease 
  2. IBS  
  3. Microscopic Colitis  
  4. Ulcerative Colitis

And I felt completely defeated.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

100 Days in Thailand :: Day 44 - Viengping Children's Home

There are over 1.4 million orphans and vulnerable children in Thailand. 

As I've shared with you before, these kids are at risk of sex trafficking, drug trafficking, child slavery, and many other horrors that come with poverty and corruption. That's why we're passionate about the work we're doing to care for vulnerable children here - including building a Children's Home that will be used for many, many years.

Unfortunately, that home is still "in progress". We are actively raising money for it and things are happening - but without the project being finished, there are no children there!

We support another Children's Home in Thailand, but it is inside a refugee camp and our access to it is minimal. (It takes the approval of the Camp Government for us to be allowed in and even when approved, our time inside is limited).

So..... I found myself in an odd predicament. Here I am - a woman with a heart for orphans, in a country with over 1.4 million orphans in it, and yet there were no children for me to spend time with?!  This week, I decided to remedy that!

After doing some research, I was thrilled to find a Government orphanage in Chiang Mai that allowed volunteers! And even though it's not an orphanage we (The Sound of Hope) partner with, I knew I wanted to go! Even if I won't have a long-term role in these kids lives, the least I can do is go and spend time with them while I'm here!

So today, Rusty and I went to volunteer at Viengping Children's Home

Friday, March 4, 2011

100 Days in Thailand :: Day 43 - Michael & Kathy visit!

 Today was a special day for us.... because Michael & Kathy Hindes came to visit!

These two really mean a lot to us, and we were so excited to see them in Thailand! Michael and Kathy are our mentors and they are truly like family! They walked us through premarital counseling (and Rusty lived with them during our engagement), Michael married us, and then they were there for us through every up and down our first year of marriage. They know when to challenge us with "tough love" and hard words and they know when we just need a hug and some encouragement. Michael was a great source of wisdom and encouragement when we decided to make The Sound of Hope a non-profit, and now he sits on our Board of Directors. I don't know where we'd be without them!

Plus, we have a lot of fun together.... can't you tell?

When we were planning this trip last June, we met with them to seek their advice. At that point, we were considering a 3 - 4 week trip. Michael quickly informed us that was NOT long enough, and told us that God wanted to do some work in us and through us that required a longer trip. (We have often commented how thankful we are that we listened to him and stayed here longer!)  He then told us that if we'd stay at least 3 months, he and Kathy would come visit us. We booked a 3.5 month trip, and here they are - true to their word!

 The whole crew together after a dinner out!

We tried to pack as much time together as we could into their 3 day visit, and enjoyed every minute. Each time we are with them we are challenged and encouraged! Their visit was definitely a bright spot in our time here. Thanks for coming you two! We love you!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

100 Days in Thailand :: Day 41 - The Leaning Buddha

Today we stopped at The Leaning Buddha to take some pictures and video. Here in Thailand, 99% of the population is Buddhist, and only 1% is Christian. We're finding that it's more than just religion though... it's a part of their culture. They say, "To be Thai, is to be Buddhist."

Here are a few images from our visit....

As beautiful as the gardens and the golden statues were, they really made me sad. The whole place just felt so cold and empty.... it made my heart hurt for the Thai people who put their hope in these things.

But there was more to it than just golden idols - there were some really scary things around too! I don't profess to know much about Buddhism, but apparently (at least in Thailand) fear & intimidation are a huge part of the religion. All the animals we saw around the temples and buddha idols looked terrifying! Check out their red eyes and angry faces....

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

100 Days in Thailand :: Day 40 - The Salawin River, M-16s, & Bomb Shelters

Today was the day the situation in Burma became real to me.

It all started innocently enough - we were just going out to spend another fun day with Rapee & Pastor Banya. They had suggested we go to the Salawin River for the day - something Rusty had been wanting to do anyway! We were excited to spend time with them again, and I was excited to get my first glimpse of Burma.

Right across the Salawin River is Burma.....

They asked if we wanted to do the "boat ride" down the river and we excitedly said YES! We'd wanted to do it earlier in our trip, but some artillery fire across the river had made it unsafe. We were glad it was a possibility today because I didn't want to miss out on this experience!

So... we climbed in and went down the river....

 The ride was so peaceful, and the landscape was beautiful....

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How to Save a Life

Today on facebook I saw a blog from one of my friends titled, "IF YOU ONLY READ ONE BLOG THIS YEAR.... READ THIS!"
Naturally, I obeyed and clicked to read it.

Within moments my eyes were filled with tears and it was hard to see the screen. You see, this adorable little boy named Gabe lives in India. I immediately fell in love with his big brown eyes.... and then I read that he is suffering from life-threatening issues due to Spina Bifeda.

  • He has a lesion protruding from his back which contains his spinal cord, fat, and cerebrospinal fluid. He therefore can not lay on his back.
  • He can not properly pass urine or bowel movements which increases his risk of infection. 
  • He has no movement from his waist down.
  • Due to the cerebrospinal fluid in his lesion he has a high risk of developing meningitis 
  • He has a shunt in his brain which drains fluid into his stomach

As you can see, Gabe does not have the opportunity to function like a typical 1.5 year old little boy. 

Here is a picture of his back....

I hope by now your heart is breaking. I hope you are asking yourself (as I did) - WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?! The good news is, a surgery has been scheduled that will help this precious child, and YOU can help make it possible.