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Saturday, July 18 Check-in at LAX on Thursday night was amazingly efficient, taking only about 15 minutes for all of us to get our boarding passes. There were at least 30 family members and friends there to see us off. As she has done the last couple of years, Judy Hui prepared gift sacks of snacks and candy for each of us. Pastor Dan Harmon prayed for us and we had no problems getting through security, allowing about two hours to enjoy the new LAX departure area. After a long 14-1/2 flight, we landed uneventfully at Guangzhou a little before 6 AM on Saturday, local time, and had about a two hour wait at the airport. Most of the young people slept on the airplane and are quite energetic at this early hour.

We boarded the plane at 8 AM and arrived in Chiang Mai at 10:20 AM, local time. Chiang Mai is 14 hours ahead of LA, so we landed at 8:20 PM Friday night, LA time, only about 24 hours after first checking in. As we tried to clear customs, we were stopped due to the three boxes of blankets Jenny's sewing group made for us. The customs official said that even as the blankets were not for resale, but for donation, we did not get prior customs permission and wanted us to pay a customs tax of about 2000 baht for the 100 blankets (about $67). Fortunately, Sue Utadache, who arrived in Chiang Mai from Bangkok an hour earlier, was able to sweet talk the official to lower the fee to 1173 baht, about $40. Ching Ngaihte, our OMF contact who arranged our trip here, met us with two vans and we were all safely transported to the OMF Guest House, Mekong House, our "home" for the next two plus weeks. We walked a short distance to eat lunch made by a Karin Christian lady. We also paid her to cook the meals we eat when at "home". During lunch, we received a text from Eric Lee who told us his flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was cancelled (Eric had just flown in from Manila). Thank God he was able to find another flight which arrived about an hour later than the original flight. After lunch, Ching briefed us on the details of our schedule for the next two plus weeks and we settled in. Meiring, Sue, Katie and Rachel went to the local supermarket to buy food for the next few breakfasts, while Jason, Jayme, and Hannah went to pick up Eric from the airport.

Eric arrived home at about 5:15pm. We ate dinner followed by our first group devotions studying Phil. 4:4-19. After devotion, it was obvious that everyone was pretty tired, so we went off to shower and get ready for bed. Most of us were asleep by 9:30 PM.


Vision send-off at LAX


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Sunday, July 19
It is quite comfortable here in Chiang Mai with a high of about 82, lots of cloud cover and rain at night. And we have A/C in our rooms, so almost everyone slept very well, 8 to 10 hours. Therefore, everyone looked refreshed this morning, praise God. Last night, we prayed especially for Samantha, who had a tickle in her throat and she says she is all well this morning. Praise the Lord! We met for breakfast at about 8am and spent over an hour doing our group devotions from 1 Chron. 16:28-36. Afterwards, we left to attend the Inter-tribal church’s Sunday service. After worship singing, Vision sang five songs and Joshua shared his testimony about his journey of learning to say yes to God. Right after singing and Josh’s sharing, we switched rooms to teach Sunday School to about 20 preschool and young elementary aged children held at the back of the church, missing out on Thang Ngaihte's message which he preached in Thai (so we couldn't understand him anyway). Katie led the children in several activity songs which were the songs taught in FECG's VBS earlier this summer. Jayme taught a short Bible lesson about how Jesus loved children and afterwards, Hannah led a craft of the five color beaded bracelet, explaining that the five colors, yellow, black, red, white and green, respectively, stand for God's love, sin separating us from God, Jesus dying to redeem us, forgiveness through Jesus, and receiving eternal life. We then gave each child a bookmark with the same color scheme in which each child can share with their parents. We were treated to a delicious lunch cooked and served by the church members, then left to join the youth service at the First Thai Church of Chiang Mai.

At this service, we joined about 40 young people, mostly in their teens and early twenties in worship. We sang for ~20 minutes and Katie shared her testimony. Then we listened to a message from Pastor Golf on how to follow Jesus' example to grow in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52), sharing in small groups as he taught in Thai and English. We hung out and fellowshipped with the youth through the afternoon. Then, in the late afternoon, attended the worship service at the Chiang Mai Community Church, which rents the First Thai Church sanctuary at 4:30pm. This is an all English service attended by missionaries from all over the world who are ministering in Chiang Mai, so we had a chance to just enjoy the service. After service, we went to the Big C mall and ate at the food court for dinner, returned back home to debrief, and thank God for a good day. We are all quite tired since we are still partially jet lagged, so we went off before 9 PM to clean up and sleep.
 
 
Vision with youth from First Thai Church

 
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Monday, July 20
- Marshall and Mei woke up around 3 AM, feeling the effect of jet lag while all the young folks slept well (Sue has been here over a week and also slept well last night). Since Mei woke early, she cooked congee (rice porridge), using the left over soup, rice, and chicken from Saturday, and tea eggs. We all enjoyed the breakfast. After group devotions on abiding on the vine (John 15), we spent the day visiting Partners Relief and Development ministry (not to be confused with Partner's International ministry). Khup Ngaihte, Ching and Thang's son, has been working for this ministry for the last two years since he returned to Thailand 2-1/2 years ago after getting his Master's in Intercultural Studies from Fuller (Khup had been an intern at FECG while he was studying, working with the elderly homes).

Essentially, we attended the Partners' staff meeting and were awe struck by the terrible situation among Myanmar refugees, where they have focused their work. We sang four songs, acapella, to bless their staff of about 30, consisting of foreign nationals who (like Khup) have to raise their own support and the paid national staff of Thai, Karin, and other minority tribes. After we sang, we prayed together in small groups for their work and what we are going to be doing the next two weeks. Khup then gave us a more detailed briefing of their organization. We were amazed to hear about one minority group in Myanmar, the Rohingya, who are an unwanted persecuted people living in horrendous conditions with basically no hope (but there is always hope in our miraculous God). You can read about their plight in the Partners website, http://www.partnersworld.org/save-the-rohingya. This is something that perhaps our church's social concern ministry can consider supporting.

After eating lunch which we ordered (at 40 baht per person, about $1.30), we then drove out to the Partners ministry farm in pouring rain (much needed in Bangkok as in California). Several prayed for the rain to stop and it certainly did halfway into the drive. Located on the outskirts of town, this farm is farmed by a Karin Burmese Christian assisted by another couple. The farm grows various food and fruit plants, rice, as well as chickens, ducks, fish, pigs, cows and who knows what else. What is very interesting is how they use and reuse everything. For example, the chicken house is built on top of the fish pond, because the fish feed on chicken poop. They mix chopped up banana leaves with various products, let them compost for three days and use it to feed the pigs. They then use the pig poop and mix it with ground soybeans to compost and create methane, which they collect in a plastic covered tent, pipe it to a storage tank to cook their food. They run this farm to teach Burmese refugees, who escape to Thailand, how to farm and provide for their families - this is development, the next step after relief (which they do for the Rohingya). We prayed for this farmer and also for the rain to resume, which is needed for the farmer to plant rice. As we left, it started to sprinkle.

We returned home about 3:30pm to process what we heard and saw at Partners and practiced some skits for the schools we are visiting the next two mornings. Marshall and Mei stayed home while the rest of the team went to teach English to refugee teens and young adults at a place Partners calls “seed”. There were about 30 people there, ranging in age from 14 to ~30. We had fun playing games and really did not teach English except by trying to converse with them. Putting 40 some people in a smallish room was quite stuffy and warm so we went up on the rooftop to play games, at least until it started to rain. Rachel led them in the "do you love your neighbor" game and they really seemed to enjoy it. We left at about 8 PM, arriving home at 8:30pm, since tomorrow is an early start.

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Tuesday, July 21 - Because of early morning traffic, we had to leave at 7 AM from home to get to Prince Royal College to sing at their 8 AM chapel service for many of their eleventh and twelfth grade classes. About half the group woke up early enough to eat a light breakfast beforehand. We arrived at this prestigious Christian school (but only maybe 20% of the students and teachers are Christians) with enough time to warm up in a very nice auditorium that seats about 609 and an in-tune midsize grand piano. When the students filed in, the whole downstairs was filled and about a third of the balcony, so there were well over 400 students there. Because our time was limited due to midterm season, we only sang 3 songs sandwiched around Rachel's testimony and the "heart skit". Sue Utadache, as usual, did all the translating but this time she also gave a brief message using Kat and Rachel to illustrate "the bridge between God and man". Unfortunately, we did not have time to give an invitation, but we did sing "Yes, Lord, Yes" as a closing song to challenge the students.

After the students left, we were treated to sandwiches and coffee, tea, or hot chocolate for breakfast and had time to talk to the Chaplain, as well as some of the teachers. We were gratified to find out they have five paid staff whose job is to evangelize among the students and another fifty or so students who follow up and disciple new believers. They even have an Alpha group study for students that meet on Friday’s at noon (they used to meet on the weekends but many of the non-Christian parents would not permit their children to come back to school on weekends, so they moved it to Friday's). We found out that they had 300 conversions last year among the students and four staff became believers. Praise the Lord!

We returned home and talked about the outreach this morning and last night's Partners' activities. Then we did our group devotions on the parable of the lost sheep and lost coin (Luke 15:3-10) and ate our lunch, delicious pad thai freshly cooked and delivered home by our cook. After a short rest, we headed out to Remember Nhu orphanage. We arrived before 4 PM and were briefed by Mike and Elsie, CMA missionaries from the U.S. who lead the work in Chiang Mai for Remember Nhu. There are fifty some girls who live in this orphanage led by a house mother, a couple, and some additional staff. The children returned from school at about 4:30pm and when they finished their chores, played various games with Vision and their staff (volleyball, badminton, soccer, card games, etc.). We found these children to be wonderful, well behaved, very happy, and very supportive of each other (imagine having fifty plus siblings and not fighting with them), so we were most impressed with how this orphanage was run. We ate dinner together, cooked by them, and we sang a couple of acapella songs to them (they had no piano). Then we taught them the orchestra song along with singing and dancing to "Do Lord" from VBS. Sue encouraged them with a short sharing (we did not understand what Sue shared) and we gave each child a T-shirt. We then returned home and it started to pour as we drove back. Praise the Lord for the much needed rain.


Vision at Prince Royal College

Vision at Remember Nhu Orphanage, girls dorm #1


 
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Wednesday, July 22 - We left early and arrived at Dara Academy and found out we were to minister in a large auditorium which seats about a thousand people. The room was empty and microphones had to be quickly set up since we could not be heard in a place that large with noisy fans and A/C blowing without electronic aid. Praise God everything was set up just as close to a thousand nicely uniformed students got seated. We sang several songs, Hannah shared her testimony, we did the heart skit again, and sang our Thai song "Churn tahn tung lai" (Come take the water of life) just before Sue came to share the bridge message as she had done yesterday. This time, following the advice of Ching, Sue asked the kids to close their eyes and bow their heads before she gave the invitation (so that the kids would feel freer to respond without fear of harassment by their peers). Praise God, we counted at least 40 students who raised their hands to accept the Lord for the first time! We were given small gifts by the school and refreshments (like at Prince Royal yesterday), as well as a tour and short history of the founding of the school in the late nineteenth century.

Then we drove to the OMF office and were briefed by Monica on the AIDS/HIV Care ministry, which we will be going to next Thursday. We returned home to debrief last night and this morning's activities, ate lunch, had group devotions, and spent quite some time in silent meditation and prayer before getting some rest and leaving at 3:30pm to Remember Hnu orphanage #2, this time a boys' home with about 20 orphans. Tonight, we had to leave Jayme home as she was running a slight fever this afternoon and we thought the rest would quicken her recovery.

Since we will be spending the next three days (four total including yesterday afternoon) with Remember Nhu, it is worth sharing about these orphanages. It was started only nine years ago when an insurance salesman named Carl from Ohio visited Thailand and learned from a missionary from Cambodia about the plight of a young lady, Nhu (who was then about 18) who had been sold to a Japanese man as a sex slave. Carl was so shocked that this could be happening that as he pondered what to do while sitting in a Starbucks shop, he heard the words "remember Nhu" so he adopted Nhu and started an orphanage (www.remembernhu.org) to prevent at risk young girls from being sold into the slave market (verses other organizations that do intervention to rescue them out after they are already sold). Remember Nhu now also rescues young boys who are at risk of being sold into a rapidly morally degrading slave market who cater to the homosexuals. In only nine years, Remember Nhu has orphanages in 9 countries with a total of about 900 children in their orphanages. There are now 11 orphanages in Thailand alone; two for girls and two for boys in Chiang Mai. Nhu is now a young lady who shares her story and helps raise funds for this orphanage. Indeed God can redeem even in the most desperate situation (as He will surely do for the Rohingya people if we continue to pray).

We basically did what we did at the girl's orphanage with the boys, singing a few songs, teaching them some VBS songs, and Sue gave a short message. Again, we found these children to be happy, warm, and well adjusted. We returned by about 9 PM to find Jayme sleeping well and we all retired for the day, tired and rejoicing at the harvest the Lord gave us at Dara this morning.

 
Vision at Dara Academy
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Thursday, July 23 - A few of the girls prayed for Jayme's healing before we left for the orphanage last night. This morning, Jayme is smiling and her fever is gone! Thank you, Lord. We ate breakfast and started our group devotions at 7:30am from John 16:19-24, because we are not sure how much time we have later in the day. We left at 8:20am to go to the Projects for Asia orphanage (www.projectsforadia.com). This is a wonderful holistic orphanage and home schooling ministry for hill tribe children, started by a lady named Lenora and her husband nine years ago (they did similar ministry before in the Philippines and also have work in India). Because the children come from the hill tribes, they learn English in the morning and Thai in the afternoon. The children, a total of 71 kids, range from preschool to high school, including 6 graduates, 5 who are now taking college level correspondence classes and serving at the orphanage to teach the younger children. One graduate is going to Bible school in Bangkok on scholarship. This ministry focuses to making disciples for Christ starting when they are children, so they bring their kids on mission’s trips back to the hill tribes, where the children are able to share the Gospel in their mother tongue to their own people. They are currently renting the buildings for their school and dorm, but may lose their lease anytime. We remembered that the first location (where we went Tuesday night) is for sale or lease since Remember Nhu wants to consolidate their orphanages at the location we went to last night (an eighty acre site with three buildings/orphanages on it. Perhaps God brought us to help make the connections for these two ministries.

At 9 AM, the preschool and first/second graders came for their English lesson. We divided them up into a dozen or so groups and taught them in groups of 3-4 kids. At 10am, the 4-5th graders came in and again we taught them in small groups so they received a lot of personal tutoring. At 11am, the high school-ers (12 years and up) came and we spent one on one time with them, while testing them on their school work. We then ate box lunches Ching ordered for us and prayed for Lenora that a mole on her leg would prove to be benign as she is going to see the doctor this afternoon. We then returned home to process what we saw last night and this morning as well as do some laundry. We prayed for these two orphanage ministries during our debriefing time. We see there is a great need in Thailand for Christian teachers (only about half the teachers at Projects for Asia are Christians and Prince Royal College only had 20% Christian teachers, for example).

After some rest, we returned to the third Remember Nhu orphanage. This is also an girls orphanage with about 50 girls, our program has been about the same the last three nights, after dinner, sing a few songs, teach VBS songs and dance, and Sue gives a short homily, but tonight, Sue asked how many of the girls know Jesus as their savior. A majority of hands shot up, but not everyone, so Sue gave the bridge message again. About 17 girls responded with a desire to accept the Lord. Thank you Lord!

After closing, we passed out gifts for the children, T-shirts like the other girl's dorm two nights ago (and hats for the boys last night). Unknown to many of us, until later, a miracle had occurred. Hannah shares with us that before each ministry, shirts/gifts are pre-counted to insure the correct amount of shirts in various sizes are available the next day. The afternoon before we left for the orphanage, Hannah and Jayme counted shirts with Ching into four bags. Fast-forward to tonight. Hannah notices that the time for presents is near and that there are only three bags by the door. She quickly asks our driver if there is anything left in the van, but he says there is not. Hannah is distraught. She clearly remembers the fourth bag, as she is the one to have put it in the vehicle, she says she feels responsible and upset for the girls who may not receive a shirt tonight. Trusting fully in God, Hannah and the team begin to hand out shirts, all the while Hannah tells us she is praying desperately for God to multiply the shirts. She tells God that she knows that if He can multiply fish and bread then He can surely multiply these shirts. As she continues to pass out shirts she sees there are only a few remain and yet, they have yet to run out. That is, until she sees the last little girl. She reaches inside the bag and there is nothing. Hannah is crushed. She was so sure that God had miraculously provided for every little girl and yet we were one short. Soon, she sees Gentle merely holding one shirt in his hands. She excitedly asks him what it is, he replies “oh, it’s just an extra shirt”. Hannah is blown away. She grabs the shirt and gives it to the little girl. God had provided exactly the same amount of shirts as there were girls. God is good and all powerful indeed.



Vision teaching at Projects for Asia

Vision at Remember Nhu Orphanage, girls dorm #2


 
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Thursday, July 24
- Our schedule today is like yesterdays', quick breakfast and group devotions from the last few verses in Zephaniah. Then we returned to Projects for Asia, breaking into two groups, one to teach music and one to teach arts and crafts. Each team taught two 45 minute classes to different aged classes. After this, we joined them in chapel service. They led about 30 minutes of heartfelt worship with a lot of interaction among the worshippers; many of us could sense the presence of the Lord here. Vision then sang a few acapella songs and Michael gave a spirit-led testimony and encouraged the young children how much God loves us even if we feel inadequate or disappointed with ourselves. We sang "In His Time" and did the heart skit, sang our Thai song, and Sue gave a short message addressed to the younger children. The Spirit took the message and called 14 children to receive the Lord for the first time, including two older children. Praise and thank you, God. Before we left, we found out that there are 6 children who still need full or partial sponsorship. Living costs are $60 a month and schooling $40 a month, so full sponsorship is $100 a month. There are 5 girls, ages 9, 13, 14, 14, 17 and a 17 year old boy. More information how to support or sponsor a child can be found on projectsforasia.com. We ate box lunches and 12 of our group left to visit an umbrella factory. The rest of us went to a discount warehouse store called Makro to buy food for the next several days' breakfasts.

After the umbrella factory group returned, we debriefed our experiences last night and this morning, thanking God for the precious lives who have become God's children. Indeed, Vision is so fortunate to be used by God to harvest what so many other short term teams, teachers, and the house parents have done to cultivate and plant the seeds of new life in these youngsters, so when we give the invitation, they are ready to respond. After practicing a few songs to correct some mistakes, we then went to the fourth Remember Nhu orphanage, their newest one with 20 boys, mostly younger kids. After dinner, we played frisbee, badminton, etc. and gave a short program. Terry shared his testimony and when Sue gave her bridge message, 11 boys raised their hands to receive the Lord. After the meeting, when Sue prayed for several of the boys who accepted the Lord, two other boys came up to her and said, “I want to accept the Lord too, but I didn't want pray with everyone else”, so 13 of the 20 boys became believers tonight! Praise God! Mike and Elsie gave each of us a purple Remember Nhu, Thailand T-shirt and we returned home. Tonight marks one week since we left LA and we also thank God for this has been the healthiest trip for Vision ever, with only one person sick with fever (and only for less than 24 hours). Thanks to the excellent accommodation here at the OMF Mekong Guest House and your prayers.



Worship time at Projects for Asia

Vision at Remember Nhu Orphanage, boys dorm #2
 
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Saturday, July 25
- We woke up a few minutes later since we are not in much of a rush today; it is kind of a half day's work for us with the afternoon to rest and sight see a bit after a heavy week of ministry. We had a luxurious breakfast of home cooked mushroom omelet, cooked partially with the eggs we bought from the Partner's ministry farm last Monday. Then we had our group devotions, studying Romans 5:6-11.

We then headed out to Agape Home, a ministry we also visited 3 years ago. This is a home for children with AIDS/HIV, usually contracted from their sick parents. There are currently about 100 kids there, the youngest being one month old. It was started almost 20 years ago by Avis Rideout, a Canadian volunteer, when she first met Nikki, a three year old with full blown AIDS, not given a chance to live. She asked God to allow her to take Nikki home, impossible under Thai government rules, and that if God answered her request, she would open a home for unloved, uncared, or abandoned babies. Miraculously, God granted her request, so Nikki's Place Agape Home was started, caring for unwanted, untouched children. Avis discovered the miracle of human contact and holding these babies, allowes so many of these children, like Nikki, to actually survive, grow to young adulthood and hopefully beyond. You can find out a lot more at their website, www.nikkisplace.org. We sang to maybe 70 children, Allison shared her testimony and we did the heart skit, somehow appropriate at a place called Agape Home. Katie again taught the children some VBS songs, and Sue encouraged the children.

After we sang a closing song, we prayed for the kids in small groups of about 5 children per Vision member. Meiring, Marshall and Ching prayed for a blind girl of ~12 years old, who lost her eyesight due to AIDS when she was about two. Tears dripped from her face as we prayed; Hannah and Rachel joined us, as well as Kosin, one of our van drivers. She said she felt better, but did not receive sight. Avis also brought another girl who is losing her sight, but can still see colors and shapes. Hannah, Rachel, and Avis prayed for her and she could read the time on Avis' watch after prayer. After all the children left to eat their lunch, we went to view a short video and learned the history of this place. Avis would make an excellent speaker for mission or social concern at FECA!

We left to eat at an all you can eat Thai buffet restaurant costing 79 baht (~$2.40) per person, but actually less since our two van drivers ate free. We then visited Doi Khom Temple and saw many idols, some serious worshippers, many tourists, many businesses selling flowers, incense, lottery ticket numbers. Psalm 115:4-8 and Isaiah 44:9-20 come to mind.

We then took a tour of the Royal Park, a garden below the temple built to honor the current King of Thailand. Many flowers of all kinds are found here. It was like a garden version of Disneyland, with different sections having different themes and a tram shuttling guests to various locations within the garden. We returned home, hot and sweaty (today is the hottest day so far), and ordered some simple box lunches for dinner.



Vision at Nikki's Place Agape Home

Vision praying for Avis


 
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Sunday, July 26 - We pretty much followed Saturday morning’s schedule, group devotions on Psalm 5 after breakfast and we planned out today’s program, since we are given 40 minutes instead of our usual 15-20 minutes this morning. Jayme and Samantha felt a calling from the Lord to share their testimonies and we decided to do the "Distracted from God" skit we learned last year, which depicts how many things in the world keep us from a genuine relationship with Jesus.

We arrived at the Heaven's Gate church about ten minutes before the scheduled start of service and found the church had a short keyboard, but quite playable. The pastor here is Hmong and his wife and some of his children along with others led about 15 minutes of worship to a congregation of about 50 people. Then the eldest son of the pastor and his wife-to-be (they were getting married at 4 this afternoon) came forward to ask forgiveness because the pastor's father had married his grandson in the Hmong manner; this couple wanted to be married in the church, so the church leaders prayed for this couple and blessed their forthcoming nuptials. After the offering, we presented our program of songs, skit, and testimonies. It is interesting that both Jayme and Sam's testimonies centered on God's power. Thang spoke after we sang and we all ate lunch at the church, cooked by their members (much like FECG). After lunch, Ching led the thirteen Vision singers off to watch the elephant show and ride the elephants at Mesa Elephant Camp. Ching also brought us to Tiger Kingdom, a place where visitor can get up close and personal with real tigers, varying from babies to full-grown. Thang drove the old folks to buy groceries, which we cooked for dinner tonight (soy sauce chicken drumsticks and winter melon soup).

Ching and everyone else returned by 5 PM excited because we not only saw, hugged, and rode elephants, but also got to touch and pet three large Bengal tigers. After we came back, we washed some clothes, ate dinner and debriefed our day. Since we are about half way through on our mission trip, we also went around and shared our personal highlights so far. Interacting with the orphans at both Remember Nhu and Agape Home was mentioned by several members as their highlight. It has been a busy first week, but satisfying and deeply joyful. We turned in early because we have an early call tomorrow, leaving at 7 AM to the refugee camp at Thai-Burmese border.


Vision and Elephant fun

Vision with real tigers!

 
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Monday, July 27
– We got up early and ate our usual breakfast of toast with butter and Nutella (sometimes peanut butter). The meals have not been extremely memorable; the best meals are the ones we cook ourselves (like last night's chicken and winter melon soup or the congee we eat with tea eggs). Otherwise, the boxed meals are usually cooked with MSG, very heavy in carbohydrates (rice or rice noodle) with little meat, an egg or a morsel of chicken, so polishing off a plate loaded with 40 drumsticks last night was a real treat (and about the price of a catered meal), but we usually don't have the time to cook ourselves.

At 7am, we met with Ching and an OMF missionary from Singapore, Florence, who works among the Shan people and frequently ministers to the Burmese refugees, and Rachel, on a six week short term mission here from Singapore. By the time we loaded everyone and the gift blankets (remember the duties we had to pay at customs?) we brought from Jenny's sewing ministry, it was 7:20am. We left with our drivers, Boy (who we remembered from our trip here in 2012) and a new driver, Chan, because Kosin's van is older and we were concerned about being able to climb all the mountains. Boy and Kosin have been a great support to us as they are both believers who attended most of our meetings, hung out with us, ate with us, and occasionally joined in the prayer ministry. Chan is a new believer who was baptized last year. We stopped after about two hours for a break at a 7-11 for potty and snacks. The rest of the drive is up and down curvy hilly roads, climbing up and down a couple of mountain ranges, even passing through low lying clouds on the road.

We arrived at the refugee child care center about 11:15am, and they were already eating lunch, so we drove a couple minutes more to the Shan refugee camp and met the headman of the camp, an ex-Burmese soldier who deserted from their army. He speaks English very well. We also met the Shan pastor, his son and the youth pastor there. We sang the Aaronic blessing to them, and three other ladies from the village as the rest of the villagers were out at work. We were very surprised by how nice the refugee village is, nothing like we had pictured of squalid miserable crowded tents, but instead we saw neat bamboo houses typical of a farming village.

We visited the village gift shop and bought some native handiwork as souvenirs and headed back to the child care center where we saw ~90 cute children 3-7 years old. We sang a few songs, taught them a couple of VBS songs, and Sue shared briefly. Most of the children raised their hands, but we were not sure if they understood and the pastor told us the kids respond to any invitation all the time. But praise God, one of the five teachers did accept the Lord and Sue spent several minutes talking and praying for her. We then handed out the blankets we brought.

Florence then phoned ahead to a local restaurant to order lunch and we drove a few minutes to the church, the latest church built by Singaporean believers and includes both a medical clinic, pharmacy, dental clinic, and dorm rooms for short timers to stay. We prayed for the pastoral team of this church. They want to reach many more Shan villages in the area and asked us to pray that when the medical teams come, these villages will welcome them.

We then drove to the Shan temple, located just on the border to Myanmar. From this side, we could see the bamboo fence marking the border just on the other side of a ravine. We sang "Majesty and Glory", knowing that praise to God drives back spiritual darkness. We then prayer walked around the Shan temple, claiming the ground for the Lord.

We drove a few minutes back and ate a nice lunch at the local restaurant. We left at about 3 PM, stopped at a beautiful view point where we bought some local pears (kind of hard and sour), fresh bamboo shoot (large, about 18 inches long and six inches wide at the base, like a newborn baby, but when cooked very delicious although a little bitter). Further down the road, we bought some orange persimmons (wonderfully sweet and tasty). We returned back by 6:30pm, met to debrief the day's activities, ate a boxed dinner which Boy ordered and delivered to us, then did our group devotions from Luke 10:18-24 and called it a day, rejoicing in God's grace to us today.


Blankets for refugee children

Vision near the Myanmar/Thailand border

 
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Tuesday, July 28
- We ate a congee and soy sauce egg plus left over bamboo shoot cooked in soy sauce for breakfast and met up with Miriam Kumdee at 8 AM. She came over to brief us about the juvenile girl's prison we were going to visit later this morning. It is a minimum security prison and we were cautioned to “not bruise the fruit”, so we planned a light program with a lot of interaction with the inmates. We arrived at the prison at about 9:30am and waited a few minutes as the girls finished their ethics class. There were 21 girls there with most of them in their teens, but one girl said she is only 12. Most of them are there for drug use or stealing and we were told not to take photos of or with them. We sang a couple of songs and played some ice breaker games, forgetting within a few minutes that these girls were in prison and interacted with them like some old friends, as we laughed together. We taught them a few VBS songs, then divided them up to four groups and taught them conversational English. Then Katie and Katherine shared their personal testimonies, we sang some more, performed the "distracted by the world" skit we learned last year in Cebu, since it was especially relevant to these inmates, and gave the gifts of toiletries we brought which were donated at FECG and FEC Arcadia. We then went to the food court at the mall for lunch and bought some more groceries. Next, we visited Pastor Gampon Kumdee, who hosted Vision three years ago, at his new temporary church since he had sold the building we stayed in. We sang a couple of songs to several German young people who had been volunteering at his church for the past year and learning Kairos, the abbreviated Perspectives class his church is giving. Afterwards, we went to see their wonderful new building, about 80% complete (photo shows Vision praying at the new church's fellowship hall; Gampon is in blue, Miriam is looking out the window and our van driver, Boy, is on the right).

We returned home to do our group devotion and begin our trip debriefing. We are debriefing early because Ching and Thang are in Bangkok for three days starting today, so we are debriefing much earlier than usual. We had shared Sunday about our personal highlight so far. Today, we recalled Bob Pierce's quote "Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God", and started our debriefing by sharing what broke our hearts this trip. For the majority of the group, it was the plight of the orphans, whether at Nhu, Project for Asia, or Agape House. For others, it was the Rohingya's, the young girls in prison or the refugees. Thank God for the tender hearts He has given our young people.

 
Vision praying at the new site for Citygate Church

 
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Wednesday, July 29
- We had bought pears at the roadside stand on Monday when we were in the cool mountains. Turns out the pears were hard and sour. Mei, who never wastes edible food, cooked the pears with sugar and cinnamon, transforming them into a delicious topping for the French-Toast which we all enjoyed this morning for breakfast. After group devotions, we started our debriefing at 9 AM. We focused on what God is teaching me, what I can rejoice about (since our theme is rejoice always), and what I can bring back home to LA. After each individual shared, the rest of the group affirmed them and also shared what they thought could improve their ministry. We then had two others pray for this person. All sixteen of us completed the process by 5 PM, including taking a lunch break and several water and potty breaks.

Florence had called and said she wanted to cook Shan rice plus a full dinner for us. She came at 5:45pm with a Shan lady who helped her cook, bring a huge pot of Shan mountain rice, a delicious mushroom dish made with mushroom she had bought at the roadside stop (where we bought the pears and bamboo shoot), a Shan salad made with carrots, cabbage and peanuts plus Shan spices, a tray of baby chicken drumsticks, and a Shan soup. Meanwhile, since we thought Florence was only bringing one dish, Mei had cooked a big pot of northern vinegar and soy sauce spare ribs (over ten pounds of ribs), a tray of vegetables, and Sue had made a Thai mango salad, so basically, we had enough food for two normal dinners. We ate up everything except the soup, some of the two salads and a little bit of rice! This was the first meal everyone had enough to eat since we came to Thailand (since the servings are so small here). We were all so happy after the meal.

Florence then shared the amazing story of her conversion in 1992 and of being called in 1997, which includes a miracle healing of her migraine. She prayed with us for several individuals among the team with various physical infirmities. Though we did not experience instant healing, we believe God will heal. Sue asked for prayer for Marshall's brother Bob, so we all prayed too for Bob. We also prayed for Florence's ministry among the Shan, that whole villages would come to Christ and that many of the Shan will return to Myanmar to bring the Gospel back to their own people. Florence encouraged us to prepare a testimony to share when we returned to LA and taught us the four I's, Inform, Involve, Invest and Intercede for missions.


 
Auntie Florence prepares Karin-style dinner

 
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Thursday, July 30
- Today began with a simple breakfast, then after, we discussed group devotions from 1 John 1, spending a lot of time studying the link between joy and fellowship. Our group was then divided into two teams. Team one, consisting of Sue, Katie, Jayme, Sam, Kat, Josh, Jason, Eric, and Gentle, was led by two ladies from OMF, Ohn and Tomiko. Team One went to Doi Lo to minister to various homes in the area, specifically those with adults infected with AIDs. A total of seven families were visited and prayed for today by team one. The second team consisted of Rachel, Allison, Hannah, Terry, Michael, Marshall, and Mei. Team Two was led by a third OMF coworker named Oon and one of the van drivers, Boy, who ended up doing all the interpretation and a lot of the praying. Team Two visited six families in the Chiang Mai area, the last being Oon's mother, who has not been able to walk for the last five years after awaking one morning and suddenly finding she could no longer stand very much. Both teams left the OMF home at about 10 AM and returned home around 5 PM.

Team One drove 40 minutes out of Chiang Mai to Doi Lo, a rural area filled with many many logan orchards, rice paddies, and various other greenery. Our first stop was at the home of an elderly lady whom the team sang and prayed for with Sue closing. At this home, team one picked up another local volunteer, Rojina. Rojina has been living with HIV herself for 20 years and has spent the time since she has come to the Lord helping others with HIV learn healthy behaviors. She joined us in visiting the other homes after this point. The second stop was at the home of a mother who has been living for seven years with HIV and has recently been diagnosed with stage two cervical cancer on top of the HIV virus. Sue and Ohn spoke with the woman in Thai. The woman shared that she has already received Christ into her heart after Sue asked and she cried during our singing and prayer. Ohn then closed the time of prayer in Thai, as she would continue to do the rest of the day. The third home we visited, belonged to a family with an aging grandfather, dying of old age. Grandpa was not HIV, but dying, already unable to stand. We walked into the home and prayed for peace and comfort for grandpa, as well as healing and blessing for the daughter infected with HIV/AID who was out at work. We then took a break for lunch at a local beef noodle soup shop on the side of a quiet street. The beef noodle soup was delicious, a few boys even spent their own money to buy second bowls! After lunch, team one headed to the fourth home. This next man was evicted from his house after he contracted HIV due to his inability to work after the infection. The AIDs Care office learned of his case and set him up to live in a teacher's rest home in an abandoned school. The man and his wife now live at the abandoned school, which is being converted into an after school program center. We sang a couple songs and prayed for him and his wife. The next stop was the home of a mother and her two children, a daughter living with her and a son living and studying in Japan. We sang a handful of songs and asked what we could pray for. The sister asked for prayer for her brother's welfare and safety, as well as blessings in his studies. The mother asked for prayer for her daughter in her senior year of high school and for continued health for herself. We surmised that the mother was the one infected, but still retained joy and a good relationship with her daughter. We returned to the van and after a short ride arrived at the home of another mother and her young daughter. The mother was at work, leaving her daughter to play and stay with the neighbors. We delivered rice to her as we did in each house and sang a few songs. The girl shared that she dreams about building a new home for her mother and herself as they the small home they were currently situated in was only a renovated kitchen. While they have the land to build, they are unable to do so due to a lack in monetary supply. Team One lifted up the dreams of this little girl in prayer and Ohn closed the time once again. The last home we visited was nestled in the midst of a logan orchard. The lady who lived here was a grandma who made a living selling the logan she grows. She specifically asked prayer for her injured knee and we lifted up her requests to God. After praying, we asked if we could buy some logan from her. She replied that unfortunately the logan were already technically sold, but while we stayed in the orchard we could eat as many logan as we liked, they were fantastic! She was very thankful for the visit and the prayer and we were thankful for the opportunity and definitely the logan! After this, we headed back home to the OMF house to meet up with the rest of the team.

Team two first visited an older lady living in a fairly nice house. We listened to her story, sang a song and prayed for her all together, with Boy closing in prayer. Then we gave her a 5 kg sack of rice and Oon gave her a small gift and some tracts. This procedure was repeated at each place we visited, taking about 20 minutes per home. We then drove to the next house, which is ten to fifteen minutes away. We next visited a late seventy year old widower who lost his wife almost two years ago. He was so sad when his wife first died but we found him full of joy because he knows he will see her in heaven soon. We next visited an elderly widow (in her eighties) who lives in the slum area, with gangs, prostitution, drugs being dealt, she is the light in this dark place. Her son had died of AIDS and she is so grateful her grandson is in a government orphanage because she used to not be able to sleep worrying about his safety. The fourth home we visited was built on stilts next to a six foot high wall. We had to climb a rickety wood ladder on the wall to get to her house. She greeted us warmly with her daughter and the daughter's son (about ten years old). It appears her daughter has AIDS, but tests have not revealed the disease in this boy. We were able to have the mother read the bilingual Peace with God tract we brought and she said she wanted to pray to accept Christ. Her son also said he understood what his mother read and he too wanted to accept Christ, we felt so joyful that two lost sheep were found this morning. When we climbed down and walked to our van the boy ran ahead of us with a wide smile to say good bye to us. We then went to lunch at a nearby restaurant. After lunch, we visited the lady Marshall and Mei visited and prayed for three and a half years ago when they visited the Ngaihte's. At that time, they prayed for this young lady dying of AIDS, emasculated and so weak she could only lie on her bed. Today, we saw she was robust, able to work and remarried (she was a widow who contracted AIDS from her husband). But we found out her new husband drinks a lot, so we prayed for her and her husband. Lastly, we visited Oon's mother and prayed for her by laying hands on her leg. She said she felt better after we prayed, but when we asked her to stand, she could only get up half way with help and sat down again saying it was painful. We continue to trust God for His healing for this dear lady.

We rested for a short time and then joined the OMF team for dinner (we paid 45 baht, about $1.36) and then joined them for their weekly prayer meeting from 6:30 to 8 PM. We had a wonderful time of worship and prayed in small groups for OMF and then for our supporters (all of you who donated and/or pledge to pray for us). We also sang four songs to the OMF'ers (Our Lord Reigns, Majesty and Glory, Lamb of God, and The Lord Bless You and Keep You). We then reconvened to debrief and shared what happened when we divided up to visit these AIDS families and retired for the night.



Mei climbing ladder into a family home

Praying during home visits
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Friday, July 31
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We started a half hour later than normal and ate a luxurious breakfast of scrambled eggs, Mei's special homemade sausage patties made from ground pork, and hash brown potatoes. Then we did our group devotions from Psalm 139. Ching returned last night from Bangkok, so she met us at about 10:30am and we left shortly after that for the Chiang Mai Hospital. We ate a quick lunch at the hospital food court and headed to the children's ward.

We divided into two groups since they did not want such a large group going in at once. The first group visited three wards. Each ward had four to five children ranging from babies to early teens. Most of these were cancer patients. We sang softly, and asked if we could pray for the sick kids (as most had their mother with them, some had fathers). We did some crafts with the older children who could handle a scissor, making snowflakes. The first team was able to share Christ with a lady at the hospital and she accepted Jesus as her savior. Praise the Lord! The second group waited downstairs and prayed a while and talked to some passerby. After over an hour, we switched groups. The second group visited wards which had heart patients and stomach problems (most are recovering from surgery). One Buddhist mother whose husband is Christian carefully read the tract we left with her when we left.

We then left for Light for Kids orphanage, which we visited 3 years ago (www.lightforkids.org). This orphanage tries to be as self-sufficient as possible. They grow their own rice in the fields behind the orphanage, they are able to provide about 30% of their Healy rice consumption every harvest. They raise their own chickens, ducks and fish (they just ate up their last pig), which provides eggs and protein for their diet. The children are integrated into life outside the orphanage by attending regular school.

They have about 50% more kids than three years ago, totaling 48 children. Some have graduated and some left, but we found many we met before, just a lot more grown. They have built a new girls' dorm over the chapel/dining room so the kids are a lot less crowded. They still live day to day trusting God to provide their needs as they have no long-term committed supporters. The girls performed a traditional Thai dance for us in their new donated Thai silk dresses. We then played with the kids until dinner time.

Dinner was excellent, cooked by their staff, and we were pleased to see plenty of chicken for the kids to eat. After dinner, they led in an exciting, energetic Spirit-led worship. We then taught them three VBS songs and did a short program for them, with Jason and Eric giving strong testimonies to encourage the children to trust in Jesus. We also did the heart skit before Sue gave a short message. Nine of the children were ready to accept the Lord and only needed someone to ask them so we had the joy of seeing these kids pray the sinners' prayer. All the kids lined up by the road to wave goodbye as we drove off to return home.



Sing & Play with Light for Kids Orphanage
 
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Saturday, August 1 - We only had time to eat our breakfast this morning before leaving at 8:30am to Connie's Home, a home with about 30 young children from a few days old to about five years old with the purpose of preparing them for international adoption. We met Connie, her husband, and three of her five children who were in Thailand for summer break (the other two are married and live in the U.S). The youngest is about fourteen, who was the first child in Connie's home as they adopted her thirteen years ago. You can read more by going on Facebook by searching "Connie’s home". Without raising any of her own funds, God has provided them the finances for three buildings located on a large piece of land on the outskirts of Chiang Mai, which Connie's cousin from the States bought and gave to her. The first building is where Connie's family lives with most of the younger children; the second houses some younger and older children; and the third house is where the helpers and nannies live. Volunteers and interns also live in the second house.

Behind the third house lays their hydroponics garden where they grow vegetables for their own consumption. In fact, they have grown so much food, they have expanded their ministry to feed poor widows. As with Light for Kids, they try to be self-sufficient, raising chickens for meat and eggs, and all kinds of fruit and vegetables. They also grow their own tilapia for food and they recycle the water with the fish poop into their hydroponic garden to fertilize their vegetables. They then teach these techniques to the minority farmers so they can become self-sustaining as well.

As their ministry grew, Connie also realized they needed more help to take care of more orphans, so she reached out to the juvenile prison (where we visited on Monday) and went through the court system to approve their taking some of these girl inmates to teach them to become nannies. Now they also train girls as "au pair" who then find jobs overseas to care for young children, so their ministry has slowly expanded and become more holistic. After touring the grounds, Vision sang four songs to the children and nannies.

Then from 10 to 11am, we (along with Connie's three children and an eighteen year old girl who is volunteering for three and a half months named Sara) took care of all 30 children, playing and holding them while Ching and Sue talked to the seven nannies. Four of these girls had already received the Lord. Praise God, two more received the Lord today while the third girl was not yet ready to do so. The photo above shows some of the kids with Sara in the top corner in green, Connie's son with the beard in the middle, and Connie in white with her head bowed. We reluctantly said our good byes and returned home to eat lunch, do our group devotions on John 14:15-21, and rested before heading out to Ching and Thang's home for an afternoon of fun, swimming, and dinner.

We left at 3 PM to the Ngaihte's rented house. God blessed them with a beautiful place that the owner rented to them at about 1/3 market price. About half the Vision members went swimming at the community pool while the rest hung around the pool while the three oldies took naps at the house. We had a scrumptious dinner with lots of meat. Then, we completed our tour debriefing and various members pledged to hold accountable the promises each person made. Notable in the sharing was that two different individuals said they were open to being called by God to missions in the future. Two others were considering returning to Thailand in the future to serve a longer internship at one of the orphanages we visited during the last two weeks.

Ching and Thang shared about how God called them to the mission field. They also shared how God led them to meet and marry and what their current and future expanded roles are with OMF. We then prayed for this wonderful couple and servants of the Lord and returned home.


Connie's home

Dinner at Auntie Ching & Uncle Thang's home
 
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Sunday, August 2
– On the eve of our return back to the States, we are so grateful for all the prayer covering, as well as the fruit of souls God allowed us to harvest. This has been by far the healthiest tour in Vision history, with one person missing only one event due to illness and a recovery in less than 24 hours. The three old folks were also able to participate fully in all the events. Marshall, by God's grace, was able to stand when needed and his hip joint pain (which comes if he stands or walks too much) never bothered him when there was ministry to do.

We ate toast with Crunchy Cookie Butter and wonderful papayas and mangos (bought the mangos at the Shan village last Monday) plus assorted left over fruit such as mangosteen, sala, bananas, and longan, for breakfast. We started our group devotions and left at 9:35am for Blessings Church. Fortunately, the church is only about 10 minutes from home, so arrived in plenty of time before their 10 AM service started. They worshipped enthusiastically for 45 minutes, then we observed the Lord's Supper together for about 15 minutes. After this, we spent at least 15 minutes praying for the sick, who came forwarded to be prayed for. Among them was a man with (probably) cerebral palsy who was a complete invalid, but after previous prayer was able to limp to the front and receive more prayer, with help. A young man, a medical doctor, testified how his father, dying with liver cancer, after prayer and chemo, is now able to eat and his virus (?) count went from a million down to 80,000.

Vision then sang four songs and Gentle shared his testimony. It was now about 11:40am. We went downstairs to teach the children songs and Bible stories, but since Mother's Day (the Queen's birthday) is coming, we found the children busy trying to complete their Mother's Day card, so we were served lunch instead. We met with Joshua, a youth from Germany sent by Gampon Kumdee to help out at Blessings Church (we met him and four other German youths on Tuesday).

When the children finished, they came to eat lunch and afterward, we taught them a couple of VBS songs at about 12:15pm (the adults finished their service a few minutes before 12:30pm). Then, Jayme taught them the David and Goliath story using Gentle and Terry as characters. After this, we taught them how to make the five color bead bracelet and the meaning of the colors. We also gave them the colored bookmark with the same color sequence containing Bible verses. Finally, we prayed for the children and returned home to complete our group devotions.

For our last evening here, Marshall and Mei invited everyone including Ching and Thang to an all you can eat BBQ buffet. We went to a similar place three years ago. We had to cook our own food on a charcoal fire, hot-pot (the top of the pot is for grilling and the side is soup) so we could select all kinds of seafood and meats. After a full dinner, some went to shop at the night market for trinkets and gifts for supporters and family. Once everyone was home, we completed our packing and tried to get some sleep before we depart for home in the morning.


Praying for kids at Blessings Church

 
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Monday, August 3
– We ate a light breakfast, some went to buy gifts from Partner's, and we all managed to get our suitcases into the two vans by 9 AM. Ching and Thang prayed for us and went with us to see us off at the airport. We got to the airport and encountered a glitch. Because we are flying Thai Airlines to Bangkok and then China Southern to LA via Guangzhou, we could not check our bags all the way through, only to Bangkok. We then would have to go through immigration in Bangkok and check our bags to LA from there. We only have a two hour layover in Bangkok to do all this so pray we can make our flight.

One item about our flight from Chiang MI to Bangkok. Because that leg of the flight was considered a domestic flight, instead of 2 free bags and 50 lbs per bag, Thai Air's policy is 30 kg (66 lbs) per person, any number of bags. But God's grace covered us even there. Marshall's two bags together weighed in at 29.5 kg and everyone else easily met the limit (because we carried so many gifts and books going there, our luggage was much less coming back). At the Chiang Mai departure gates, we said farewell to Eric since he leaves 20 minutes before our scheduled flight to go to Bangkok to catch his flight back to Manila. At our scheduled boarding time, we saw the announcement that our flight is delayed, so we were concerned that we would miss our connection in Bangkok. But we knew everything is in God's hand so we were relaxed.

We finally arrived in Bangkok close to 2 PM (our flight leaves at 3:30), but we had to take a bus to the terminal. Then when the first batch of luggage arrived, only Allison's bag came so we had to wait for the second batch to come. Praise God, no luggage was lost. We exited the airport to get to the fourth (departure) floor. When we arrived at the China Southern check-in, we were quite late that no one else was in line (it was about 3 PM). Praise God, we checked in, went through security and arrived at the gate with ten minutes to spare. Thank God!

Our flight from Guangzhou to LAX was delayed over an hour so we landed a little past 9pm instead of 8pm. We had to wait for our luggage as they seemed to be spread apart more than usual (as our bags tend to arrive generally around the same batch). By the time we cleared immigration (which was very quick given their new system) and had our bags, it was getting later into the night. Unfortunately, we were not all quickly through the lines of arrival as Josh was the only one of our team with a missing bag (and lots of other people from the flight were also missing bags). Josh had to report it missing and the airline promised to deliver his bag (if it shows up tomorrow) to his home [the bag was later delivered to Josh]. Otherwise, the flight was uneventful, although very long (over 13 hours, an hour shorter than going there). So praise God we are all back safely! We have been so blessed to be able to go on this mission trip and to have experienced the Lord’s joy in such a beautiful place.


Vision at Mekong Center, "home"

 
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