A Just Walk (run, hike, etc…)

"…to the Rock that is higher…"

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Church Camp!

This past weekend my church (Chiang Mai Grace Church) had their annual church camp. The Thai churches have getaway retreats that involve the entire church body, as opposed to just kids or separate men’s and women’s retreats. Mother’s Day is celebrated on 12 August each year in honor of the Queen’s birthday and this year it turned into a 3-day weekend, so this big holiday was a perfect time for the event. Many people came from out of town such as family of church members, and former attendees who now live in other places. A total of 130 people participated in the camp.

One of the elders baptizes a special young woman.

The speaker was quite good and he brought some fun and interactive ways to illustrate the points he wanted to make through his talks. He even quoted Timothy Keller a couple of times, so I knew he was right on. The theme of the camp was identifying our idols, how we like to hold on to them and how to dump them – a very challenging topic! Another great thing was that three people were baptized!

The children learned about Thailand’s Christian heritage and they honored the two families and me who are there who are sent as cross-cultural workers with a simple gift based on Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger bringing good news, breaking the news that all’s well, proclaiming good times, announcing salvation, telling Zion, “Your God reigns!”

The program was, of course, all in Thai and so were all my conversations – except the few I had with the other foreigners – so my brain got quite a language work out! My Thai is pretty good, but this was definitely challenging!

This was the first and church I visited when I moved to Chiang Mai and I haven’t visited another one since. I feel peace there and that doesn’t happen often. It is not too small, but seems intimate and people love each other and are welcoming to all. I don’t go to a Thai church because I feel obligated to go to a “Thai” church. I go there because the Spirit moves me there. And to be completely honest, if I’m not fully equipped by the sermon there are amazing talks on iTunes a couple clicks away. Of course it is FAR from perfect and the body is relatively young. I still have a long way to go to feel “integrated” but probably there will always be that tension as an expat. Even so, it is my local body and I seek to serve in and through it.

The interactive sessions had us in different groups all the time – this group was especially spunky!

A note on my Stateside schedule published here: I’ve since arranged some time in Grand Rapids, MI the last week of October.


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back… home? where? reflections on re-entry

I’ve been back in the States now for several weeks already, but it didn’t take long for me to notice some of the quirks I have developed after 2.5 years in China. Perhaps you have seen those lists: “you know you’ve lived in China too long when…” I’d like to hear about some of your quirks you found yourself doing once you were back where you came from.

First, it took a while for me to stop looking for the trash receptacle in the bathroom to throw away my toilet paper. Just yesterday I found myself snapping my fingers trying to get the lights on to illuminate the staircase in my house! It’s great to have relatively clean public restrooms available everywhere – even in most parks – and with TP included!b I’m enjoying the novelty of driving again (I’m wimping out on the bike commute while it is still snowing) and I almost forgot that gyms typically don’t allow smoking inside. I’m practically paralyzed by all the choices of everything in the stores. It goes without saying that getting to dry my clothes in a clothes dryer is the BEST!

However, some of the things that strike me are not as light. Although I do appreciate (and am now amazed) the amount of space in which people inhabit here, I now find it insulating and isolating. Since I no longer fit into the fabric of my friends’ lives, it can take some effort to find some time with them. I find it easy to slip into the numbing rhythm of occupying s much space to myself. It is nice at first, but a little weird after living among so many people for so long. Where are all the people? I can’t just go around the corner and see my favorite fruit- and veggie-sellers, one of the small, but meaningful parts of living in a community in China. I don’t see the same people out sitting in the sun or taking their children to school. Fortunately I don’t reside in the suburbs and can walk to the bank, small groceries, the library, and a couple local restaurants (most of them pizza joints). But it is still not quite the same. Perhaps it is the sheer numbers of people – the numbers that get to wear you down because you are tired of working so hard to avoid running into people. Even so, it is something that you get used to and something that you notice is missing.

These are just a few observations that I’ve taken the time to comment on now. It all makes me wonder where I really belong, but reinforces that I am a global citizen.