Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I need to get out more often.

Look at how much of the world I haven't seen. I need to get busy.

visited 7 states (3.11%)
Create your own visited map of The World

Monday, February 22, 2010

Babies don't belong in Prison

We have four adorable and wonderful children we are temporarily taking care of. Their mother's are in prison for crimes like stealing food to feed their kids, or doing something illegal in order to make enough money to pay the rent. Today I was one of the staff who took the kids to visit. We left around 9:00 this morning. The prison isn't far, but we had to get there early to sign in. As we waited, the kids ran around and played, and I didn't think much about what it meant for their mothers to be in prison. Two year old Birdy chased three year old Ni Ni and four year old Jamila played hide and seek with her ten year old brother Saja.

We gradually made our way closer to the waiting room as the time drew near for the visiting to begin. A bell rang and we took the children by the hand and entered a long room divided in the middle by plexiglass and iron bars. Eight or nine women sat behind each partition, waiting eagerly to see their loved ones. We sat each child on the counter in front of the glass and watched as the mothers lovingly reached out their hands, eager to get as close as possible to their babies. A phone allowed the kids to hear their mom's voice, and say the few words they know how. Ten year old Saja talked to his mom for a long time, probably about what he's learning in school, the friends he's making, everything and anything to help her know him.

I sat back watching these kids I have grown to love. I watched the eyes of their mothers. The sadness was evident but I knew they were so thankful that their children were safe and being raised in loving homes. I cried. I couldn't help it. Ni Ni's mom couldn't cuddle with him. All Birdy's mom could do was tap on the glass. Saja's eyes were wet as we left. I put my arm around his shoulder and asked him if he was okay. He put on a brave smile and nodded yes.

What a blessing Compasio is to these kids and their mothers. I can imagine that prison is not a safe or nurturing place for a child to grow up. Sickness and disease is common and the children would probably be abused by other inmates. Compasio gives them a safe house. A warm meal. Loving arms to enfold them. Education. When their mothers are released, they are welcome to stay in the houses where their children have been living. But until that day, we will do all we can to be a family to these amazing kids who have blessed us more than they know.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I love my church. Most of the staff from Compasio attend a house church in Mae Sot Villa, and on my first Sunday here I was taken to their usual place. I have always wanted to attend a house Church. It just seems like the closest thing to the first Church. I've always wanted to experience the closeness of friends worshiping together, the freedom of having the Spirit lead in individuals to speak, and sitting in a circle.
Most of the people at this Church work for various NGO's in Mae Sot, but some are working teaching English, doing medical work, or are Karen who have married a westerner. We always have a lesson, but in that lesson we are free to speak, and share our hearts or what we feel God has revealed to us. Today we talked about idols and not only what was an idol in Old Testament time, but what we idolize today. Idolatry is obvious in Thailand. There are spirit houses all over. Every house and restaurant has one.
The people make an offering to the bad Spirits early in the morning, a plea if you will, to leave them alone. They give them a small house so they will stay out of the big house. This is an obvious sign of idolatry, less obvious is what we as westerners practice. We make idols of so much. Food, cars, paychecks, jobs, homes; someone said that and idol is basically what you spend time thinking about, stressing over, and working for.
I've been thinking about how I live. I live with such excess. There is always something new that I "need", whether it is a new pair of shoes or a new pillowcase. But, today I thought, what do I really need? We don't really need much to survive. Take for example, a glass of water. Sure, it would make us more comfortable to have a glass of water, but we don't really need it. We could go for 24 hours without drinking a glass of water. I've realized living here with the poor, how much we are really blessed. We are so blessed to have carpet. I was in a home the other day with a floor made of wood slats. Gaping holes and cracks revealed the mud beneath. There were no beds, no chairs, no sink, no lamps. They had the bare minimum, yet they still had what the needed.
I feel challenged to live within my means. To rely on God to provide for me, and to keep my eyes and heart focused on Him. To trust that He knows what I need. I choose to set my sights on Him, to not put my trust in other things to sustain me. What do you idolize? What do you always find time for, no matter how busy you are? Can we do that in our relationship with God? Am I able to make time for Jesus, even if I am rushing and hecka busy? Don't I always find time for facebook? Why not the Creator?
Remember, true comfort comes from knowing that you are in the will of the Father who treasures you more than you can imagine.

"I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"
-Matthew 6:25-27

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A different view of the Cross

When God Weeps by Steven Estes and Joni Tada gave me a whole new perspective of Jesus' death. I wanted to share it with you, because I want you to be part of my spiritual growth as I'm here in Thailand. So.. savor this excerpt. I pray that it reaches you where you are, and shows you that no matter what sin you have or will commit, Jesus has payed the price.

The face that Moses had begged to see- was forbidden to see- was slapped bloody. The thorns that God had sent to curse the earth's rebellion now twisted around his own brow...
"On your back with you!" One raises a mallet to sink in the spike. But the soldier's heart must continue pumping as he readies the prisoner's wrist. Someone must sustain the soldier's life minute by minute, for now man has this power on his own. Who supplies breath to his lungs? Who gives energy to his cells? Who holds his molecules together? Only by the Son do "all things hold together". The victim wills that the soldier live on- he grants the warriors to continue existence. The man swings.
As the man swings, the Son recalls how he and the Father first designed the medial nerve of the human forearm- the sensations it would be capable of. The design proves flawless- the nerves perform exquisitely. "Up you go!" They lift the cross. God is on display in his underwear and can scarcely breathe.
But these pains are a mere warm-up to his other and growing dread. He begins to feel a foreign sensation. Somewhere during this day and unearthly foul odor began to waft, not around his nose, but his heart. He feels dirty. Human wickedness starts to crawl up his spotless being- the living excrement from our souls. The apple of his Father's eye turns brown with rot.
His Father! He must face his Father like this!
From heaven the Father now rouses himself like a lion disturbed, shakes his mane, and roars against the shriveling remnant of a man hanging on a cross. Never has the Son seen the Father look at him so, never felt even the least of his hot breath. But the roar shakes the unseen world and darkens the visible sky. The Son does not recognize these eyes.
"Son of Man! Why have you behaved so? You have cheated, lusted, stolen, gossiped- murdered, envied, hated, lied. you have cursed, robbed, overspent, overeaten- fornicated, disobeyed, embezzled, and blasphemed. Oh, the duties you have shirked, the children you have abandoned! Who has ever so ignored the poor, so played the coward, so belittled my name? Have you ever held your razor tongue? What a self-righteous, pitiful drunk- you, who molest young boys, peddle killer drugs, travel in cliques, and mock your parents. Who gave you the boldness to rig elections, foment revolutions, torture animals, and worship demons? Does the list never end! Splitting families, raping virgins, acting smugly, playing the pimp- buying politicians, practicing exhortation, filming pornography, accepting bribes. You have burned down buildings, perfected terrorist tactics, founded false religions, traded in slaves- relishing each morsel and bragging about it all. I hate, loathe these things in you! Disgust for everything about you consumes me! Can you not feel my wrath?"
Of course the Son is innocent. He is blamelessness itself. The Father knows this. But the divine pair have an agreement, and the unthinkable must now take place. Jesus will be treated as if personally responsible for ever sin ever committed.
The Father watches as his heart's treasure, the mirror image of himself, sinks drowning into raw, liquid sin. Jehovah's stored rage against humankind from every century explodes in a single direction.
"Father! Father! Why have you forsaken me?!"
But heaven stops its ears. The Son stares up at the One who cannot, who will not, reach down or reply.
The Trinity had planned it. The Son endured it. The Spirit enabled him. The Father rejected the Son whom he loved. Jesus, the God-man from Nazareth, perished. The Father accepted his sacrifice for sin and was satisfied. The Rescue was accomplished.

God has been showing me how alike I am with the people who are here. Even though we look different, speak a different language, believe different things, we are all children of God. I am being taught humility. I want to learn humbleness. I think one way of being humble is seeing eye to eye with those around me. When I read this passage, I see that I am not so different. This changes my interaction and removes any judgement I would otherwise hastily pass.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


No. Jesus Christ. No. No. No. This isn’t real. This can’t be real. But it is. It’s real. Mounds of trash have replaced the mountains in the distance. It’s all you can see. It surrounds you, envelopes you, crushes you, smothers you. “Okay” I was thinking. “There’s mountains of trash. Trash has to go somewhere…” my thought is halted because it’s not just trash. It’s people. It’s families. Mothers, fathers, teenagers, children, infants; there is a village here. There is a village in this garbage dump.

I stumble over every disgusting thing you could possibly imagine, feeling beyond thankful that I had worn Toms instead of Rainbows. Brands mean nothing here though. It’s either valuable or not. I feel ashamed to have spent $50 on these shoes. I feel even more ashamed that I have 2 other pairs of sneakers at home. I’m even uncomfortable knowing that I have a home to go to after I leave this place. I follow after my friend. I’m walking through trash. I’m walking through a pile of feathers. I’m walking through dirty diapers. I’m walking through rotting food. I’m walking through a group of pigs eating the rotting food. I see a woman climbing the nearest hill of trash. She has a bag and a long hook. My friend greets her and I do as well. The one word I know in Burmese. Mingalaba. We pass another woman, she grins at us. We climb down one of the mountains. There are more people. I see babies running barefoot and half naked playing with string and empty soap containers. My friend begins to converse with the leader, a man with crooked teeth. I take in my surroundings. A dirty pond is in front of me, a field littered with trash behind. A group of women sit to my right. A group of men sit to my left. I feel so out of place. My clothes are clean. My skin is white. I squat down next to a young mother who is kissing her baby. My throat closes as I realize we are one in the same. Someday I’ll have a child who I’ll kiss and cuddle. Someday I will do anything to provide for that baby. But, would I dig through trash?

I’m thankful for the breeze, because the smell is overpowering. There is the constant buzzing of flies. They zoom past my ear, graze my eyelashes, and land on my arms and legs. I feel like I’m in shock, unable to move, hardly able to think. Suddenly there is a commotion up the hill. People are congregating. I’m almost knocked over as the men and woman rush towards to crowd. “Time to go!” My friend Aikawn announces.

“What’s going on?” I ask, doing my best to avoid the pile of who knows what I almost stepped in.

“The garbage truck is coming. They need to get back to work.”

As we are pulling out of the dump, the garbage truck pulls in. The people wait in anticipation. Bags are open waiting to be filled.

My heart feels empty as we drive back to the office of Compasio. I feel like crying. I don’t understand how I could have seen what I just did. A verse flashes through my mind as we turn a corner; Be joyful always, but Jesus how can I be? Pray continually, oh I am. Give thanks in all circumstances, but my soul is so heavy. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. The verse replays over and over until it is replaced by another; All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. Tears form. We zoom past a Buddhist temple. I feel like shaking my fist at the dragons that guard the gate. Jesus has sent us. Jesus has told us to serve the poor and to love the unlovable. How could I but follow, even if it means walking through the garbage dump.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Psalm 37: The Promise and my prayer

Tonight the Lord revealed to me Psalm 37. I was looking at this chapter last week… but a different verse had stuck out to me. This week I am facing a different battle and this chapter addressed it. God continues to leave me speechless. My struggle with poverty and justice has been heartbreaking these past few days. Tonight I find comfort in His word and in the truth that He loves his Burmese children.

1 Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of those who do wrong;

2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.

3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

4 Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:

6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.

8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.

9 For evil men will be cut off,
but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.

10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.

11 But the meek will inherit the land
enjoy great peace.

12 The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;

13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.

15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.

16 Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;

17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the LORD upholds the righteous.

18 The days of the blameless are known to the LORD,
and their inheritance will endure forever.

19 In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

20 But the wicked will perish:
The LORD's enemies will be like the beauty of the fields,
they will vanish—vanish like smoke.

21 The wicked borrow and do not repay,
but the righteous give generously;

22 those the LORD blesses will inherit the land,
but those he curses will be cut off.

23 If the LORD delights in a man's way,
he makes his steps firm;

24 though he stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

25 I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.

26 They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be blessed.

27 Turn from evil and do good;
then you will dwell in the land forever.

28 For the LORD loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.
They will be protected forever,
but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;

29 the righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it forever.

30 The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks what is just.

31 The law of his God is in his heart;
his feet do not slip.

32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
seeking their very lives;

33 but the LORD will not leave them in their power
or let them be condemned when brought to trial.

34 Wait for the LORD
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.

35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
flourishing like a green tree in its native soil,

36 but he soon passed away and was no more;
though I looked for him, he could not be found.

37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
there is a future for the man of peace.

38 But all sinners will be destroyed;
the future of the wicked will be cut off.

39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

40 The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Truckbeds, Tarps, and Toddlers

I found myself in the back of a truck, surrounded by fresh vegetables, fruits, dried sardines, and grocery bags full of what looked like mud, but was actually ground, twice fermented, and boiled fish. We drove along the bumpy dirt road into the outskirts of Mae Sot. Our mission? To deliver food to a few Burmese families in hard times. As we zoomed past an open field, I saw something that made my heart stop. A tarp, draped over a clothes line. Piles of trash surrounded a small family. Father, mother, and baby sat huddled together trying to stay in the shade of their makeshift home. That tarp was their home. I have had that image in my head all week.

The tragic stories of the people in Mae Sot is not evident on the surface. You are greeted by smiling faces all around. I visited a small one room house that shelters ten children and two mothers. We pulled into their yard and they immediately came out greeting us in the traditional Burmese way, palms pressed together, head bowed. Smiles radiated from their faces. After delivering the basket of food, my friend told me that both of their husbands were murdered by the Burmese army. Leaving the women widows and the children fatherless.

I am constantly being held above the raging sea of depression because of the example the people set for me. I would crawl into my bed, sobbing, not understanding why sin has such a stronghold, but why should I cry when the people are alive making the most of what they have? They are so strong and brave, I know that I would cower in their situation, not wanting to get out of my bed. They may be pouring into my life more than I am into theirs.

Another ministry Compasio has is to the children of Mae Sot. They have a safehouse for kids who were taken out of abusive situations, a ministry for street children, and a house for babies who's mothers are in prison. I have had such a great time getting to know these kids, playing with them, cuddling them, washing their hair, bandaging their cuts, and communicating with them through hand gestures. There's nothing like not being able to speak to each other but still feeling love flow between two strangers.

So... that is my first week. I feel like I have so much more to say but I don't really have the words. Good thing I'm a photographer. Enjoy these photos :)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Mae Sot

I have been so busy since I've arrived in Mae Sot. Meeting people, getting used to the city, moving into my room, spending time with the team and the kids. It's been such a blessing.

Today, I was at the market with one of the staff and a little girl came up to us begging. She had a baby strapped to her with a worn blanket and she was dirty and thin. My friend Pim told her in Thai that I was going to be working at the drop in center, immediately the girl's face broke into a grin and she gave me a hug.

Later I went to the drop in center and I saw the girl and her baby brother playing, being kids. Iimagined her life, waking up in the morning and begging for food, money, anything to bring home. She wanders the streets. During those few hours everyday she's able to come and eat. To play. To be a child. To be hugged and loved by us.

That's the story of every child we know. They have been abandoned or they're sent out to help sustain their family.

Being here even these past 2 days has changed me. I think differently. I see people differently. That little girl who is begging is desperate, but she's still a child who needs love and care. I wonder how many people glance over her, not giving her a second thought.

When I was in America, I would ignore people crying out for help. The bum on the corner. The kid sitting by himself at lunch. I could simply walk by. I don't think I can do that anymore. Can you?