It's just after 11:00 Thursday morning here in Bangkok, 11:00 pm on Wednesday if you're living on Tulsa time (Gee, that would make a catchy song...) and presumably tucking yourselves in for the night.
I returned by bus from Pattaya yesterday afternoon around 3:30. Eve bought my ticket, explained to the driver where I needed to get off, hugged me goodbye and disappeared as I climbed onto the bus. I was seated next to a young Thai girl who blathered on her cell phone (some things are universal, it seems) for quite a while then promptly and apologetically fell asleep on my shoulder as we bumped along and I tried to scribble my thoughts to transfer to the blog.
I must admit that while cell phones can be the bane of my existence in some settings (like a public restroom for instance. I mean, come on! Surely it isn't THAT important!) they can be equally welcome in others. Like finding Pat in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Bangkok bus stop. Sam said to meet her in the front of the Mc Donald's (yes, I'm afraid it's true) but neglected to tell me it was inside the mall on the other side of the highway I crossed by an overhead bridge. No problem. One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingy and Pat was on the line telling me where she was, where I should stand and how soon she would be there to pick me up. As much as I tried to, "cast all my anxieties upon the Lord," I found myself casting them upon the cell phone! Anyway, it was certainly a tool of the Lord to assure me I didn't need to be anxious and to get Pat and I in the same place at the same time.
My prayer on the plane coming over was that the Lord would lead me as if by the hand. He has done exactly that. I have felt the power of your prayers, the leading of the Lord and the presence of His angels.
Sam inadvertently put me on the wrong bus headed to Pattaya (hey, he's only lived here 26 years) and told me to get off at the last stop. Somehow, at one of the stops, the ticket taker grabbed me by the hand, rushed me to another bus, told me to get on, and said, "You no pay!" As soon as the bus arrived in Pattaya the phone rang and it was Nancy telling me she was waiting to pick me up. I said, "We just got here." She said, "Good, I'm in the teal Mitsubishi," (because women know what color teal is so are able to communicate on a higher plane) and I stepped off the bus and there she was! Because of your prayers and the faithfulness of God, it has been just like that the whole time, as I knew it would be. I felt very strongly that the Lord told me my "maiden voyage"would be without incident and the trials and testings of complete reliance on Him in stressful situations would come later. This is my epoch of grace!
So, as you sleep I will write, thinking of each of you, and try to describe all the things I am experiencing.
Pat and Sam live in a house they are renting that sits on the outskirts of central Bangkok but is only a few minutes walk to the base. When I was in YWAM in Hammonton, New Jersey, we lived in community on the base. Naturally, I was expecting a similar set up here. But each of the staff and students live in houses and come to the base as one would go to a job which, of course, is exactly what they are doing!
As foreigners, Pat and Sam are not allowed to own property but this has worked to their advantage because of the many times they have moved, though they said this is the first time they have lived so far out.
The house is very interesting. It is in a neighborhood of sorts, with other houses up and down the narrow street they live on. You enter their yard through a rolling gate that opens to the driveway and carport and come past a small, lovely courtyard. The front door is a sliding glass door flanked by large windows on either side giving it the appearance of one giant window. After slipping your shoes off at the door, you walk directly into the blue tiled living room. I haven't seen a stitch of carpet anywhere in the country. Not even an area rug! All the floors, as well as the walls and counters tops in the kitchen and bathrooms are tile. The ceilings are low, the room fairly narrow, with screened windows on either side and the windows open along a hinged side to allow for the gentle cross breeze. There is air conditioning in each of the rooms, which I use at night, but it's the rainy season here and in fact, there is a gentle rain and cool breeze right now making it perfectly comfortable and soothingly tranquil.
The dining room is an extension of the living room and has a beautiful teak table with a lazy Susan in the middle that they found in total disrepair when they moved in and had restored. It's a beautiful piece of furniture and I'm trying to figure out how I can get it back to Tulsa without them missing it.
The narrow but sky-lit galley kitchen is just on the other side of the dining room. Something seemed odd to me this morning as I was getting into the refrigerator, and I suddenly realized there was no oven or stove. My kind of kitchen! I looked out on the covered back porch, and there it was, with the laundry hung on a rack opposite.
There is a bathroom downstairs and one upstairs. I kept trying to be a good guest and turn off the light this morning then finally realized it was so well lit because of the giant sky light!
At the top of the open stairs is a large landing with what had been four bedrooms; two on each side. To the left, they kept the original set-up, to the right, they made the two rooms into one, creating a larger master suite.
The birds outside the windows seem to sing in Thai, with their lilting melodies so foreign to my Western ears. I am left marveling at the unending variety of God's beautiful creation. I have eaten fruits and vegetables and spices I have never seen or tasted before, enjoyed plants and flowers I have never seen in America, and savored every new experience. There is no culture shock to speak of, but certainly a healthy dose of "culture appreciation."
I can't get over the endless variety among every element of God's creation. For example, everyone, by purposeful design, has two eyes, two ears, a nose, a mouth, a chin, etc. Yet within that basic framework is a variety so rich and varied even identical twins have identifiable differences, and how much more the rest of us. All six billion of us! It's astonishing!
Likewise the trees and flowers and all manner of vegetation are made up of essentially the same elements, but reflect the same endless variety as people depending on where you happen to be on the globe.
Everything that is essential to being human, like eating and drinking and housing and clothing seem as endless in its variety and creativity as our Creator Himself. Truly, "the earth is filled with His glory!"
The streets are full of mongrels of every shape and size and every time I see them I can't help but laugh that such a sight would seem to be a walking smorgasbord to the Vietnamese! Like Sunday brunch at the Marriott! Room service, anyone?
I am tempted to say they drive on the "wrong side" of the street, but since it seems only Americans drive on the side we do, I am even more tempted to say we are the only country in the world who persists in driving on the wrong side! But then, we haven't conformed to military time and metric conversions either.
As I said, this is the rainy season. Like most tropical climates it rains almost every day for about an hour. The cool season begins in November and the temperatures will plummet to a very mild 75 degrees or so. It has been somewhat humid as you might well imagine, but not too uncomfortable save the light perspiration that trickles down my back when I am outside walking around for any length of time. I'm sure the coffee doesn't help, but hey, I'm nothing if not a creature of habit!
The mountains, which are the foothills of the Himalayas, are to the North, and the sparkling, world-renown beaches are to the South. When Jay comes we are going to try and go to Phuket and snorkel in the clear waters. I doubt seriously I will make it up North, but will jump at the chance if the opportunity presents itself.
An experience Pat told me I must have is going to the movies. She said before each movie begins the people stand and sing an anthem to the king and watch a short film about his many humanitarian efforts. She said it is quite an experience and one she still finds unusual in its reverence even after 26 years.
Speaking of movies, "The King and I" is banned here! Apparently it shows the king in a negative light, as ignorant and unworldly, a concept they find hugely offensive. The king is so highly revered he is almost a god of sorts. There is a television station dedicated entirely to royal news and the activities of the king. No one, including his own family, is allowed to stand in his presence and approach him on their faces and speak to him on their knees. Let's hope President Bush doesn't get any ideas!
Well folks, I guess that's about enough for today. I'm glad for your sakes it doesn't take as long to read this as it takes to write it! And I really appreciate your interest and comments. I don't feel nearly as far away!
I was able to take advantage of Pat and Sam's Vonage phone system and call Jay, Jacob and Jessie and talk with them on this anniversary. Thank you so much to all of you who faithfully prayed for us and to those of you who let me know you were thinking of us. You will never kow this side of heaven how deeply grateful I am that you remember our sorrow and rejoice with us over Jordan's eternal gain.
I leave you with a final thought: "He is making us fit to dwell in His presence forever. He is not merely making us better than we are, He is conforming us into the image of His Son." Let's determine to cooperate with Him in that endeavor, for our sakes and for His glory.