Is the Bible College a Mistake?

There is a question that persistently invades my mind. Since I have been back home for four months, failing to achieve anything significant at age 32, I have wondered if leaving my job at Compassion and going to the Bible College was a mistake.

In my head, I know it is not a mistake. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. My worldview has been widened. My understanding of God has been deepened. I have witnessed firsthand how a church should function, and how I can be a part of such church. To top it all off, I met the man of my dreams and got married at one of the most enchanted and magical places in the world. It was never a mistake. I left New Zealand on such a high note, with the idea of being the best person I could be in order to change the world. The applause, the flashing of camera, the speech, the glamorous dress and the certificate were the signs of success that I was proud of.

Yet in my heart, I doubted, because four months later, I found myself weeping on a faded couch in my stripey tank top and grey shorts with Joel sitting quietly, trying to comprehend what was wrong with his wife. The thing is – the strain of the effort to make a living and the arduous waiting period for my visa have got a better hold of me. Since I came back, I have been hopping between jobs as a freelancer trying to earn bits of money here and there, but it was not enough to cover two people’s expenses. Joel and I had to sacrifice in our own ways – him leaving the secure job in Australia to be with me while I had to put myself out there and find a way to earn this elusive income.

At the end of April, we had to make another momentous decision. As we were running out of money we had saved, Joel needed to get back to Australia to start work in order to support me and prepare for my arrival later on. Being separated this time is much harder because we have no idea how long we are going to have to wait. Joel, being the positive-minded person, always said, “You could hear from them tomorrow!” to which I scoffed, “Or perhaps in three months or more.” Our hope has been like mist, it hovers heavily on our mind but then it lifts and disappears. Day in. Day out.

Now I feel lost. I feel like I have been stranded in this place without a clear direction. My husband and I are apart. I have no full-time job. And I am waiting as I have always been  since August 1,  2015, when I submitted my partner visa application. I have begun to lose my self confidence and self respect as I am sitting around the house, doing a bit of work here and there while the rest of my family is chasing their dreams and climbing towards their goals. This waiting around makes it difficult to put my feet in the ground and say, “I am here to stay. Bring it on,” because deep down in my heart I know that I will leave again.

Someone recently asked me, “What do you see yourself doing in terms of a ministry in the future?” All I could really come up with was, “My grandest plan right now is to be settled in a home, in a community, where I can interact with people and take roots there.” Since the beginning of my Christian journey, I have always wanted to be a missionary. My idea of mission work has developed over years but one thing that remains the same is that it has to be lifelong. I want to get to know the people living next door to me. I want to invite them over for dinner and hear their stories. I want to introduce them to God. And I want to raise my children up to be the followers of Jesus.

So there is a dilemma for me – to pursue my worldly goals or God’s goal? Last Sunday, while reading the story of Jonah, Jonah 1:13 caught my attention. It was when Jonah told the men to cast him off the boat because he was the cause of the storm, but they refused. Instead, they were trying to row back to land with their own strength, yet they  could not because the sea was getting wilder. Finally, they had to submit and throw Jonah into the sea as God wanted them to.

In a way, I have tried to steer my own little boat with my own strength. My eyes are trained on the worldly prize, and I measure my success based on what everyone else thinks. But it is not fair. Sure, going to the bible college meant putting my life on hold. I was advancing in my career but I decided to advance in the knowledge of God. And, boy, did I strive and learn! It is definitely not wrong to doubt about my decision but the experiences are incomparable. What I did at work with Compassion and what I had learned at the Bible College have shaped my belief and passion in ministry – justice and mercy administered in daily life.

So to answer the initial question – no, going to the bible college was and is NEVER a mistake. It was a rich experience that challenged and nurtured my faith through hard work and loving support. It is just this period of waiting in quietness that tests my faith and trust in Him. It is definitely easy to take the self-pity road because that is what I have been doing.But a friend of mine sent me a message, encouraging me to look for ways to hear God even in the storm. She reminded me of Elijah’s story – how he searched for God in the earthquake and in the storm. Yet, to his surprise, it was in the “still small voice” that he found Him.

So I press on in trying to see where God is leading me and what He wants me to do. I do not want to waste away my precious time here in Thailand with pitiful thoughts. I want to rise up and “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

I may be on a desert road. I may have been forced to walk in loneliness and silence. Yet I am not alone. There is a place of rest and reward at the end. I must keep walking, and not giving up on hope.

 


The Man in the Shadow

It was around 7 o’clock. The night was balmy. The street was lively with commercial neon lights, fast scooters and tourists. The smell from food stalls wafted into the air, inviting many hungry people to stop for a bite. Joel and I were walking hand-in-hand along this busy street of Chiang-Mai that has become home to so many. Then I spotted him – a man with hair like a bird’s nest wearing dark grey-green shirt, tattered shorts and no shoes. In the midst of the vibrant community, this bearded man stood still in the middle of the road, lost in the world he was trapped in. He was a man in the shadow. People looked at him but passed him by. No one stopped to speak to him. No one had the courage to. And I was one of them.

We were on the other side of the road. When I spotted him, I pointed him out to Joel, who quickly asked if we wanted to see if he was doing okay. Instead of saying yes, I hesitated. You see, the culture that I have been raised in paints a stereotypical image for the homeless – dirty and dangerous. As Joel prodded me for the answer, my fear gradually increased. “What if he attacked us,” a voice in my head sneered. So slowly and hesitantly, we walked away from the man in the shadow.

The silence between us as we strode home was so loud that even my attempt to chitchat was futile. We both knew what we should have done. Had this happened in New Zealand, while we were at the bible college, our response would have been much different. Somehow the strain of trying to survive and fear implanted by cultural misconception had gotten a better of me. Finally, I asked Joel, who had been quiet for a long time, “What are you thinking?”  He replied, “Nothing really. Just that guy.” I looked at him and knew that he was hurting for the shadow man. So with conviction, I made up my mind. We held hands and almost ran back to the way we had come from.

With eyes like a hawk, Joel spotted him easily enough as he was making his way to the other side of the road. We followed him as quickly as we could until we saw him stop. It was in front of a closed restaurant. He was staring at the food pictures on display while his hand instinctively went over his stomach. The man was hungry, and I was afraid he would attack me earlier! Since I can speak Thai better than my husband, I had to be brave and talk to him.

“Excuse me,” I said shyly at first. The man was startled that someone noticed him.

“Are you hungry?”

He shook his head silently. Then he nodded.

“Do you want us to go get you some food? You could even come with us,” I was a bit more keen to talk now.

But that made him scared, “Um, no, um, I’m not hungry anymore.”

After a few attempts to offer with him halfheartedly trying to walk away, we decided to just go and grab him some noodle in hope that he would still be there where we left him.

We ran to the restaurant, ordered swiftly, and ran back….only to be greeted by silence and darkness. He was gone. My heart could not contain the guilt, the shame and the pain of seeing this God-sent man being so alone anymore. It was there in the shadowy street and in my tears my heart opened up to the Lord. The scripture from Matthew 25 came up to my mind, “‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”

This poor man with matted hair and dirty clothes was not dangerous but much-loved and highly valued by Jesus. The words from my husband and another Australian teacher, Stuart Penhall, rang loudly in my mind (and I’m paraphrasing), “It is so much easier to love and serve people like ourselves, but how many of us REALLY care about people on the margin, those who don’t seem to fit anywhere in the society?” When our comfort and safety are at stake, what is our reaction? Are we willing to dispense ourselves for the sake of the Gospel? How has God’s redemptive power transformed us and prodded us on to act righteously and administer love and mercy? The true test of our faith is not in a church or a classroom, but it is in the dark alleyway with a homeless man.

Thankfully, the story of the shadow man did not stop there. Joel insisted that we kept looking around. We asked a street vendor, looked into a shady corner, and walked the length of the street to make sure that we did not miss him. At last, when it was near our apartment, I suggested we ran past the main road one more time “just in case”. I felt despair because I realized that we probably had lost the opportunity to feed this homeless man. The noodles and water in my hand were going cold. So I prayed for God to guide us to him and to forgive me for my hesitance and fear. Then I heard Joel’s voice excitedly, “I saw him!” There he was, just like before, bare feet and tired. So I called out to him in Thai, “Pi Ka,” meaning “brother” and gave him the bag of food and water. He looked surprised, smiled and walked away. In that moment, like scales fell from my eyes, I saw him for who he truly is – a man with stories who God loves very much.

The Shadow Man’s stories are probably very different from mine. I got to come home with my husband, took a long hot shower and slept in a soft bed with air-condition whereas he was still on the street, sleeping in a dark corner somewhere. I wonder how he came to be where he was yesterday. How many more days will he have to lurk and hide? And I wonder if the gesture we showed to him would make a difference at all? If all people can do good, what makes our deeds different from any other people? Does it have to be?

Ravi Zacharias suggested that there is a sequence – redemption, righteousness and worship. When we are redeemed from the bondage of sin and death, we no longer live our lives in the same way anymore. A psalmist wrote,  “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.” (Psalm 89:14)  God has given us a new standard of living – the one He deems “righteous.” To do righteously is to do what He tells us to do, including loving our neighbors as ourselves. The act that we do in obedience to God, therefore, is an act of worship. Joel and I believe that at the end God is going to restore all things, to make the world the way He intends it to be. God is in the business of restoration, and we are parts of His plan. Whether the deeds are big and small, we are individually responsible for our own vocation – to live out the Gospel as we are meant to do.


Inconvenient Life

We were sitting with our bowls of steamed rice and stir-fried veggies on our laps, looking at the beautiful orange sky as the sun was setting over Chiangmai city. Moving has become something we are used to by now. Two days ago we were surrounded by the sounds of roosters’ crow and dogs’ relentless bark. Now all we can hear is the loud humming of air-condition in our condo room and the cars’ engine when we step outside.

As I watched my husband shoved down the food I prepare, I was filled with gratitude for God who gave me more than I could ask for. Here we are – husband and wife, braving the world together. When we said our vows – in sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth – we were not sure how life was going to be like. But almost 11 months later, we have been tested and tried in many fronts. Visa. Rejection. Prolonged wait. Death of a parent. Numeral moves cross-country and within the country. And sudden financial debt that caught us off guard. Of course, one has to wonder out loud what God is up to.

If I were to be transparent, I have been ridden with anger, anxiety, frustration, sadness, envy and depression. I felt so small in this big city where everyone else seemed to have it altogether. When I watch people’s “reel of happiness” on Facebook (not the best place to seek for comfort), I sometimes feel resentful about what the other people get to have and enjoy. My self-pity only shows me what I pathetically want to see – we are poor and homeless.

But then as I looked into my husband’s eyes at dinner, I realised that this is not too bad. This is what we signed up for when we said our vows, exchanged rings and kissed. In all circumstances of life, through the high and the low, we do not desert each other but draw strength from each other and pick the other one up when she is too weak-willed to get up. I realised that this is the richness I can never get from anyone or anywhere else. Though it is mostly painstaking and hard, God is redefining my understanding of love, life and discipleship.

You see, our marriage is based on love for each other but, deeper than that, it is the love and commitment we have for God that draws us together like a magnet. When we were single, we followed Him separately. Now when we are bound by our vows and physical intimacy, it is no longer my plan, my desire, and my future. Everything is ours. We follow God as a couple now.

As in the days of Jesus, the act of following does not ever guarantee comfort and conveniences. That is what we have been experiencing – discomfort and inconveniences. But are we exchanging this for something far more glorious? Absolutely. If there is one thing I learn while trying to get back up every time I get knocked down is this – the attitude I choose to have needs to be one that reflects the characters of the Master whom I follow. We may ask what is the purpose of going through all these troubles and maybe wonder if He has a grand plan for us here…But perhaps the one purpose He wants us to look for is to learn to trust Him in all circumstances and to display the attitude of Christ even when someone just knocked the wind out of my body.

I am thinking of the Apostle Paul – the scholar, the respected religious leader, the true nobleman of his days. His life was drastically changed as he began to follow Jesus. He was beaten, flogged, deserted, shipwrecked, imprisoned, but his attitude was humble and joyful. He wrote,

“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13‬ ‭ESV

Paul’s secret is knowing Christ, who is his ultimate joy and life goal. It did not matter how life sucked for him, Paul seized every opportunity to tell everyone of Jesus.

I don’t think we have had anything near Paul’s experiences, let alone Jesus’. So it would be too lame of an excuse for us to say, “Give us a break. We have had it rough.” Instead, my prayer is for us to faithfully, closely, and obediently tread after the footsteps of our Lord and forefathers who were not afraid to live a life of inconvenience for the sake of the Gospel.


Lesson on Gratitude

After a long eventful week, it is relaxing to just sit on the floor with my legs stretched and listening to music. This moment of quietness and reflection is so special to me because I can pause from our chaotic life situations and simply be. To dwell in this moment. To let words and tunes I love take me into a place of quiet water and green grass. To venture into the heart of God and listen closely to His words.

Today marks the beginning of our third week in Chiang-Mai. We have done a lot together – exploring the  city, going to the cinema, riding elephants, visiting temples, shopping  for groceries, trying out different cuisines, catching up with friends, lounging in coffee shops, traveling to a nearby province called Chiang-Rai, experiencing a village life, etc. We have discovered new-found love for local food and drinks. Joel is the Thai ice tea; and mine is mango smoothie.

All in all, we have found our pace here. We know rough directions of places we want to go (and if not, we ask our GPS); we have settled into the house we are staying in (although we will probably move out in a week or two when our friend gets back from her trip); and we do not fight like madmen like when we first got here anymore (we still argue and all that, but the fight is more fair). Life has been a little better for us.

One lesson we learned this past week is about thankfulness. Since last year, having been thrown into difficult circumstances and changed plans, we have become somewhat pessimistic towards life in general; more so me, in fact. We tend to recall the bad memories or the mishaps in our lives and dwell on it. We count them on our fingers how many times this week we have fought or got lost on the road. We talk about how things never go right for us – broken phone, upset stomach, no wifi internet at home, postponed job, etc.

Then the Spirit reminded me this past weekend while driving back home that, instead of complaining, we must start counting our blessings. We need to stop holding grudges and begin saying, “Lord, I thank you for the gifts that come to us in various forms, both good and bad.” Yes, we still live off of our suitcases, but we have a shelter over our heads and comfortable beds to sleep on every night. Yes, our money may be tight and income irregular, but God continues to provide sufficiently for us every day through work and people who put their faith in Him. And yes, ending up in Thailand means that Joel is not able to work and starts his role as an evangelist, but we have had different opportunities to make connections and speak into different people’s lives just by being here. Yes, life is hard but it is also GOOD.

This picture below was taken while we were creeping  slowly behind the big truck up the mountain on the way to Chiang-Rai. The road was narrow and windy. We could not look past the bend. All Joel could do at the moment was to follow the truck along ever so slowly. Before I could get frustrated, I was reminded that this was a perfect opportunity to look out the window and enjoy the scenery, to ask Joel if he wanted any water and to strike conversations. It was the time to create memories, to cherish and to care.

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In a sense, this is our lives now. We are obliged to follow this big truck called God and we cannot see past the month ahead – what we are going to do and where we are going to live. But instead of pouring foul words into my prayer and complaining about how life is not what I expect it to be, I am learning to enjoy every moment of goodness and hardship. I am keeping my ears open just in case someone needs a person to listen to. I am looking for ways to serve my husband in the ways he needs, and not what I think he needs. And I am doing my best to enjoy the ride with grateful heart even though sometimes I will slip into the monster mode (Joel can testify that I do have that side) and call people’s names.

Life is so much richer with gratitude. A repentant heart knows how sweeter God’s grace can be after being bogged in the mire of anger and bitterness. May thanksgiving ever be on our lips and pour out of our hearts daily.


Companionship

It was a quiet morning, and I was almost ready for work. I tied my hair up in a tidy pony tail. While I was putting my earrings on, I heard a voice behind me.”Hey, Mink.” I turned and looked – in his hands was a small navy blue box with some silver letters on it. Joel said, “I know you’ve been missing New Zealand a lot lately so I wanted you to wear this,” and he handed me this beautiful necklace with the dark green stone pendant that he got from New Zealand.

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His observation and thoughtfulness made me realize that I have been blessed with the most wonderful gift of all – the companionship of my husband. The necklace means a lot to  me because it is a symbol of my husband’s care and love but the greatest gift on this Valentine’s Day is this wonderful man I can call husband. He is the person who encourages the wild side of me but who also stills me with his warm embrace. He is the one who always challenges me to keep stretching myself but accepts me just the way I am. He is the man who has patiently listened to my rant, danced with me in the kitchen, hidden love notes all over the house, chased after me when I am angry, seen the ugliest part of me and still does not love me less.

So today I give thanks for this beautiful gift that God has blessed me with. It is mind-blowing still that I get to keep this present for the rest of my life. This marriage. This companionship.

Even though we did not celebrate the Valentine’s Day with roses or candlelight dinner (in fact, in our tired state, we just lied on the couch with chips and beer), I am thankful for so many meals that we get to sit across each other, all this spare time we have so we can spontaneously go to movies or coffee, and this adventure that God has taken us to different places so we can explore together and learn about each other.

Here’s to the man who knows me in all her glory and shame – I love you, Joel. You are a man of strength and resilience. You have endured more hardships that I can ever imagine going through yet you still face the world with such joy, liveliness and excitement. Thank you for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th chances that you have given to me; and thank you for bringing positivity and new perspective into my life. May we continue to depend on God and follow him together in obedience. May we enjoy this togetherness for as long as it lasts. I look forward to many more laugh, dance, fart and even tears, fight and argument…because I get to do it with you.


A Couple of Nomads

Tomorrow we are going to Chiang-Mai. I should be excited to reconnect with my old friends and breathe in the fresh  cool air, but right now I am sitting on my couch, nose sniffing and eyes puffy from crying. I have been in Nonthaburi for almost a month and just begun to feel TRULY at home –  to be able to handle the humidity and the heat without losing my temper or cross the busy road full of cars without panicking; to walk down the footpath and enjoy watching street vendors searing, grilling, and frying their food with smokes billowing over their heads; to be suddenly satisfied when I sip iced “Cha Yen” or milk tea from a tall cup in the middle of the day; and to have real conversations with my family members about what’s been going on in their lives. I just started to feel like I belong…

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Visiting my grandma or “Khun Yai” with my mom, Nonthaburi

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On a river taxi to see the flowers market in Bangkok

Despite saying this, Chiang-Mai has always been my home away from home. It is one of the reasons we have to go there – to revisit people and places as well as to look for an opportunity to maybe take root while our time in Thailand lasts. I am looking forward to introducing Joel to the people I call friends and to different ethnic groups I have come to love and respect. I am excited to show him different aspects of Thai culture and way of life. There are old rituals that I want my husband to be a part of, like strolling along the Ping river at night, shopping at Rimping supermarket, going out for coffee on Sunday afternoon and riding scooters around the old town.

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Nawarat Bridge and the Ping River at night, Chiang-Mai

It is a cliche to say, but it’s still the truth – we always leave a piece of our hearts wherever we go. Whether it is Nonthaburi, Chiang-Mai or New Zealand, it is impossible to not shed tears because these are the places that we make fond memories with different people and communities. It is funny how I never feel fully satisfied. Just this afternoon, I was homesick for Tauranga where I spent my last two years studying. And I bet this will always take place – the longing for some place else.

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Though I desire to take roots and to establish a home, it seems that God has something else in mind. We will probably be on the road and have to pack more times than we want for a little longer. Though I long to settle in a place and build a nest where Joel and I can start our little family together, we have submitted our lives to being nomads for the time being because we believe that God is sending us to different places for his purpose. This constant relocation will mean that we may not have regular income, work benefits or government support, but we are comforted by the fact that God is on our side.

We will go wherever He goes; and stay where He stays. Like the Israelites following the pillars of cloud by day and fire by night, we are following His footprints on the desert sand. Like Paul, we want to penetrate into cities and villages the way he reached the Athenians with his awareness of the local religions, the Philippian jailer with humbleness and understanding, and the prisoners on the ship to Rome with boldness and no shame. Being followers of God does not mean comfortable living. It is to follow him with obedience. And in spite of hardship, we are comforted because God is our peace.


Reunited!

Joel and I are finally together again! Yeah! It has been good to reunite with my man. Our plan was for me to pick him up from the airport and drive off to a town three hours away for a little get-away. But since we are the Goughs, mayhem and mishap tend to be a norm of our lives.

When Joel bought his plane ticket, he told me that he would arrive at Don Muang airport, which is closer to my home. So a day before his arrival, mom and I went on a test drive to see if I could remember the way and how to anticipate the traffic in different intersections. After the drive, I felt pumped and ready to pick up my husband! When we were in New Zealand, we were teasing each other about doing a slow-motion run like in the movie…just for the drama effect, when we see each other at the airport. Monday came. I left my house four hours early because I did not want to get stuck in the busy-hours traffic. I packed my bag, took a shower, said goodbye to mom and drove off to Don Muang airport where I could greet Joel with a big bear hug. An hour and a half later, I arrived with plenty of time on my hands before the flight landed. So I grabbed a cup of iced-cappuccino and my Bonhoeffer book…and relaxed.

Fifteen minutes before Joel’s flight arrival, I walked over to the arrival board to check the schedule. I scanned it once, twice and three times…but I saw nothing that looks remotely similar to his flight number! Having gone through so many ups and downs in the past few months, my mind assumed the worst. I must have come to the wrong airport! I ran to the information booth, where a kind staff checked the flight number for me. She looked at me and said, “I’m sorry but we can’t find your flight number on our system here and we can’t cross check with the other airport. The best bet is to go to Suvarnabhumi.” My jaw dropped and my heart sank. It is another hour drive to the other airport, granted that the traffic is not too dense, but I had no time to get panicky. So I shook all my nerve and fear off; and drove as fast as I could to reach Joel. The problem was – I had not driven in Bangkok for so long that I was not sure of the direction. I relied on my GPS at first but it took me on a route with traffic lights. Frustrated and desperate, I called my mom for the direction. Things were getting crazier as my phones (both of them) were EXTREMELY low on battery; and I was trying to reach Joel who had not contacted me yet.

So I prayed and tried to recall the things mom said on the phone. I also kept my mind sharp and focused on the road instead of things that could go wrong. Then slowly I was making progress to the other airport. Joel finally was able to reach me just before my phone died. I had enough information where he would be. As I slowly slid into the arrival terminal, my heart began to beat faster; and there I saw, standing by the side of the road, my Australian husband who I had been longing for the past two and a half weeks. I was jumping out of my skin; and literally did jump out of my car when I saw Joel. It was a moment of joy and of being rushed because we could not linger there long.

After the airport adventure, we drove to Hua Hin, where we could relax by the beach and catch up. It was delightful to see Joel taking in every sight and sound. He has not had any troubles with jet lag or culture shock, YET. In fact, we have been eating mostly Thai food for every meal. He has been learning heaps of conversational language. AND (he would be so proud of me to put this) he has been driving all over the place, including Bangkok. I am very proud of my husband, who is doing all he can to get himself adjusted to this foreign and unfamiliar place. Sometimes I get frustrated at him because he doesn’t always listen to me when I think I know best (it’s my own culture after all). But I have to remind myself to cut himself some slack, especially when this is JUST the first week of his time in Thailand.

So please keep praying for us. We are trying to get used to each other in this new environment while learning to interact with others as a couple. With all the excitement and happiness, I have been quite overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted at times because of my own reverse culture shock that I’m currently experiencing and of the need to translate for my husband and my family (which I love to do…it’s just hard sometimes). When I’m stressed out, I get really emotional and snappy at the ones I love. I am always left feeling remorseful. We are also looking for work  and praying where God would send us to. There have been opportunities presented to us but we are just not yet sure. Pray for our spiritual walk…and for this time to draw nearer to God. We know he has got a great plan for us here in Thailand, for however long…he only knows. Instead of worrying, pray that we would follow where he leads.

Thank you for keeping up-to-date with our journey. Please do not leave us yet. This is just the beginning of another experience of a lifetime for us. Below are a little bit of our time at the beach.

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Joel’s first bus trip to a local mall. We got photobombed!


The Detour

Joel is going  to be in Thailand in exactly 24 hours from now. I cannot be more excited! This is the moment we have both been waiting for and praying about for the past several weeks. Clarity and direction. Even though it has not turned out in the way we wanted, we are able to accept that this is God’s plan.

During the time I struggled with God, a friend of ours posted a thought-provoking comment on one of my Facebook’s status about going on a detour. He mentioned the story from Acts 16 about how the Spirit prevented Paul and his companions from going into Asia to preach the word. Instead, Paul had a vision of a Macedonian man asking him to come and preach the Gospel to them. So they went. Now we are reading letters to Christians in Philippi and Corinth and accounts of people’s conversion in Berea, Athens and many more.

My friend told me that sometimes God intentionally brings us on a detour journey and leads us through the scenic route for the purpose that He will only reveal when the time is right. So now we find ourselves almost thrown into this big Land of Smile, where people everywhere need to hear the Gospel. And it is not going to be easy.

Thailand is a Buddhist country. Even though there is freedom to worship in any religions, the spiritual environment is oppressive. Buddhism may teach people to do good but it does not provide the answer that most people are seeking – the meaning of life. It teaches followers to renounce everything that they have and basically pursue the state of nothingness. It says that there is no god; and our “self” is just an illusion. With nothing to hope for or grasp, many combine Buddhism with superstition. The perfect outcome for hopelessness and oppression.

In Paul’s account, he inserted himself in the culture wherever he went to and reached people where they were at. Some of them became followers of Christ but all of this came at a cost. Imprisonment. Jealousy. Accusation. Indifference. Rejection.You name it. Paul had it all. One thing he never did, though, was giving up. He used every opportunity to speak about Jesus even when it cost him dearly.

I suppose the reason why we are directed here is because there is so much need in Thailand. I am not saying this proudly or thinking that we have got all the answers. In fact, we barely have it all together. From our past experiences in New Zealand, we learned that ministry is hard and complex work. But the one thing we know and are sure about is that God is with us; and that he is going to use us in some ways.

Thus is our conviction – to share the Gospel where we are. New Zealand. Australia. Thailand. We are God’s missionaries. We are his hands and feet. We are his light. We may not know our exact destination now but we can travel with God, enjoy the scenery and take every opportunity presented to us to make his story known.

And fingers-crossed, we’ll finally get to go back to Australia because I want to see some kangaroos.:)


The Reverse Culture Shock

 

Before leaving New Zealand, Joel and I sat through a weekly meeting with a couple, who are now our good friends. This couple had spent years as missionaries in Ukraine but God called them out of the country, and they had to move to different places for a while until they are settled in NZ, for now. They told us that reverse culture shock is to be expected.

Well, this evening, I realized that I am probably experiencing the said reverse culture shock. After a long week in the humid weather, aggressive driving, coarse language and visiting with a couple of people from church who are going through hard times, I finally had a longing to go back to the cooler New Zealand and the classroom where I was protected from the chaos of life. I wanted to travel back to our flat in Tauranga and hide under the blanket for a few days without having to meet anyone but Joel. Basically, I wanted to have my own space where I feel settled and safe.

Goughs and Nelsons

Joel and I with Olivia and David- we met together weekly for 2 months. It was a blessing to spend time talking and praying with these two godly people, whose cross-cultural experiences are so much of value for us now! 

With that said, I am not, by any means, implying that Bangkok is a bad place. I was born, raised and have lived in this city my whole life. If anyone is to claim she is a true daughter of this city, I am one. This is my stomping ground, and I love it to bits. However, having been gone for several years, a lot have changed including me. There are things I view or do differently BUT it does not mean that my way is right and the others’ is wrong. My body will eventually get used to the humidity and the heat. I will finally have the guts to drive on the busy road (in fact, I need to be able to do that in two days when Joel arrives!). Hopefully, I will soon be able to give a big smile to those people who are probably having a bad day. And maybe when I am ready, God will use me to help these friends or others who are in desperate need of kindness and tangible support.

But for now, I need to be patient, to allow myself some time to get adjusted to the groove of things, and to give myself grace when I seem to be losing temper over silly matters. It is okay to not feel satisfied with the lifestyle here straight away. It is not that bad to have to eat out almost every day because I am not yet used to the kitchen at home. It is fine to lounge and lay around in bed at home while everyone in the house has gone to work because it is not yet my time. In fact, this is a perfect opportunity to rest and to catch up with my mom. During this transitioning period, it is important for me to remain positive and to establish some kind of routine, even though it is just waking up early to go for a run every morning and going to sleep early at night.  God does not expect me to get it all together in the first instant of arriving. He moved us here for a purpose but there is time for everything.

So here I am, taking time to get used to things, to heal from the stress of the past several months and to pray for direction in the future. One of the Psalms that has spoken to me recently is from Psalm 131:

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.

Joel and I are going to need this sense of calmness when we are reunited because the culture shock will be doubled…and who knows what can happen? I know for sure that we will need to cling on to God our Rock and Anchor more than ever before.


Back Home at Last

So some of you might not have been aware of what has gone on in my life. Here is a little heads-up. Joel and I were married in April 2015. I applied for the partnership  visa, which took 9-12 months to process, in August. We wanted to be together while the visa is processing so we applied another visa to get into the country short term. We got rejected. We tried again. And we were told we would be rejected again if we didn’t withdraw the application. At the end of the year, we graduated from the college. We were going to travel together but Joel’s dad passed away. So we were separated – he in Australia, I in Thailand.

Basically, things never really went our ways.

——————————

I have been home for a week now. The weather has not been very kind to me. It is so HOT and HUMID that, after I stepped out of the cold shower this morning, I started sweating profusely straight away. Adjusting to the weather will definitely take time. Another adjustment is going to be driving on the road. I have been driving for about 6 years now but I have never driven in Bangkok before. My mom taught me how to drive in Chiang-Mai, a city up north, where there were lesser population and the streets were not as busy. Then I went to New Zealand for two years. The town I lived in was so small that it took me only 5 minutes to go to the nearest store and 30 minutes at the most to go to the farthest part of the town. This past week I have tagged along with my mom to different places. Sometimes I found myself sliding further down in my seat with two palms on my face because I was so scared that someone would run us over. Drivers are reckless and, sadly, selfish here.

But there is the plus side. Since being home, I have been able to indulge myself in Thai food, speak Thai language and drink the true “ice coffee/ tea”. I said “true” because every time I ordered something “ice” in New Zealand, I ended up having some kind of thick shake with ice-cream on top. It was not so bad but there is so much sugar in those drinks. And there is NO ice, not the visible ones anyway. So I am very happy to be chewing on the crunch of these ice cubes in my drink.:)

Anyway, those are my little updates on my one week back in Bangkok, Thailand. I have gone through the lowest of low and the highest of high in these past several months. I graduated from the bible college with Excellence at the end of last year and received the student award of the year. Then we plunged into the valley when Joel and I had to part ways temporarily because his dad passed away; and I could not be with him because I did not (still don’t) have the visa to enter into Australia. Soon after I arrived Thailand, I had a spiritual meltdown. I was so angry at God for “causing troubles” in our lives, and not giving us what we wanted (duh). Then, slowly and with difficulty, I am climbing back up again with the help of family and friends. I have been reminded that nothing, not even my vilest words and ugliest thoughts, will ever stop God from loving me and giving his best for me. I am learning to put my  trust in him daily, to not give up hope and to obey him at all costs.

The good news to top all this is that Joel and I are going to be reunited in 3 days! Because I had to withdraw my visitor visa application, we are now going to live in Thailand until we hear of my partnership visa (and we hope it is a yes from Australia). Joel is flying in on Monday night; and we will be spending 4 days on a beach before plunging ourselves into the culture. It will be a huge shift for Joel. Thai culture is opposite to Australian in almost every aspect. It is going to be a challenge and a learning curve for both of us.

At this point, we are not sure yet where we will end up living, whether in Bangkok or Chiang-Mai. It all depends on where I get a job. I am beginning to feel stressed out again because there is so much that is unknown…and a lot we have to prepare for. I am also feeling  a little sad because this concept of “leaving and cleaving” has become a reality now. When we were in New Zealand, I was already away from home so it was not as difficult. This time I will have to make a choice of leaving my family to be with my husband, wherever it will be…and being a mama’s girl, it is undeniably hard. But, at least, we will all be in the same country. And that makes traveling much cheaper and easier!

There you go! A little update from us. Giving you a sweaty and sticky goodbye for now. Until my next post.:)


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