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Stories from Abroad: Thailand


January 18, 2005 - Melissa

We are safely here in Thailand and words cannot describe the beauty that is here....the people, the plants, the architecture, the culture is just soo beautiful.

After our 26 hour long flight we were greeted by students of Chiang Mai University with handmade jasmine lais and taken to the Soun Doi House to settle in. The weather here is amazing, it is so sunny and warm all the time. Almost every restaurant we eat in is outside and the food is as indescribable as this country.

The group members are amazing, there are 16 of us in the program and we already all get along very well. We spend our evenings together shopping at the night bazaar, experiencing Thai culture, and worshipping God together in the gardens of the Soun Doi house. It is so awesome to get together and worship God in a country where fewer than 1% of the population are Christians, to support one another as we use this time to draw closer to God and to better understand His people.

Although we have only been in Thailand for a week now, we are already submerging in their culture. We went to the U.S. Consulate last Tuesday and discussed the monumental effect of the Tsunami on the coast of Thailand with the U.S. Consulate General as well as the continuing violations of human rights throughout the country in terms of forced prostitution, child sex trafficking, bonded labor and the like. There is so much that needs to be done here, efforts are made, but the need is continuing.

We also have completed our first week of classes at Chiang Mai and with it have gained new friends and new memories. On Friday we had a joint birthday party at Ajarn Mike's house with our Thai teachers and friends and connected the art of Thai dance with American karaoke. It was so much fun celebrating the birthdays of Jenny Heck, Laura Beechy, and Ajarn Mike.

On Saturday we all woke up early and climbed Mount Doi Suthep (a mountain outside the city) to a beautiful Buddhist temple with a golden cheddi (as is tradition for all first year Chiang Mai University students). The hike was long but well worth it. It was really amazing to see the beauty of the craftsmanship mixed with God's creation in this amazing country up close. Every plant, every insect, every bird was just so unique and so beautiful. I just wanted to soak it all in and never forget it.

Once we reached the top of the mountain we then climbed about 300 stairs to get to the temple. Once inside we took off our shoes and listened as we were told the story of Buddha and his life. While we listened we were surrounded by an interesting juxtaposition of foreigners, students, and locals all coming together to bow at the feet of Buddha's image. The air was filled with the smell of burning incense, sweat, and flower offerings.

It was unforgettable.

When we returned from the hike we took a much needed rest and then got dressed in traditional Thai garb to attend a special Kantol dinner. We ate together as the sun set and were entertained by thai dancers and by authentic thai music. There were flowers everywhere and everyone looked so beautiful. It was definitely a night to remember.

On sunday some of us went to the international church to worship and it was so powerful. People there united from all around the world to worship God together in. There was a French man that stood up to give his testimony as his interpreter translated for the congregation and after service he was baptized. The sermon emphasized the importance of putting God before ourselves- that whatever we do we may do for God's glory. It was awesome.

After service we all had massages at a local Thai spa to relax our bodies and minds in preparation for the busy-ness of the week to come. Two hours of rest, relaxation, and attention to sore muscles. Wow!!

We wish you all well and will appreciate any correspondence you care to send our way.

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