Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Season of Change

Living as a missionary family is both rewarding and stressful at the same time.  We live in an amazing place of beauty and adventure here in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  The sights, sounds and smells of Northern Thailand can be intoxicating.  We love the work we are doing here as well.  We feel very blessed that we have the opportunity to follow God's call in helping those living with HIV and AIDS, disabled children and Human Trafficking.  It is all heart breaking work at times, but also very meaningful when we see what showing a little love can do.  All our work has to do with people out on the margins of society who have no voice to tell their stories and lives.  It is amazing to me when I think of how courageous and vulnerable the people I work with can be and also be willing to let me into their lives.
The "Golden Rule" really applies to the we way think missions should be viewed and carried out. " Do unto other as you would have done unto you". 
It is a very simple rule that is not always the easiest to follow.  How often do we judge people for their appearance, social status, belief systems and race.  Sometimes Christians can be the most judgmental, myself included.  I have to constantly remind myself as I am dealing with someone, is the way I am treating them the way I would like to be treated?  My emotions sometimes gravitate more towards sympathy rather than empathy and I have to catch myself and try to imagine myself in their shoes and not just feel sorry for them.  Feeling sorry for someone is not not going to change the situation for the better, but being able to walk in their shoes will help in gaining a deeper understanding.
Being a missionary can be overwhelmingly sad at times, especially when dealing with children that are abused or selling themselves for sex to just to be able to eat and live.  Sometimes I just break down crying with my head in my hands.  Shelly is currently teaching a group of boys English who are from Burma and have come to Chiang Mai to escape poverty.  Unfortunately, the boys are working in a well known bar that caters to western sex tourists.  The boys wanted to learn English because there are more opportunities for them if they know English.  As Shelly was teaching the boys she was getting to know them a little more each time and it is heart breaking to hear how young some of these boys are.  Almost all of them are teenagers.  Could you imagine your own teenage son or daughter having to perform sex acts for sick perverts.  It makes me literally sick to my stomach.  I often don't want to think about it, but we have to because we are in an opportunity to speak love into their lives and give them hope that someone really does care for them.  It is about applying the "Golden Rule" to every situation.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

As I mentioned in the title of this post it is a season of change.  The missionary life is a very transient life.  This is the time of year at the end of school when missionary families are going back home to reconnect with family, friends and churches and  it is also when some families leave the mission field for good.
Several years before coming to the mission field I spent 4 years in the Navy and it reminds me of my time here, especially boot camp.  Being on the mission field feels like boot camp in that we are working together and are all in the same boat.  Working alongside someone in the trenches is a very powerful bonding experience.  Some of the friends we've made here make me feel like we've gone to boot camp together.  We are now faced with saying goodbye to families that are not coming back and it is ripping my heart out.  These are the people who I have shared my hope, fears and dreams with and now I may never see them again.  These are the people that truly know what our life is like and can understand what we are going through.  I love them with all my heart and I am so grateful to get to call them friends.  My kids are another story as they are saying goodbye to friends they've known half of their life.  We talk about it during our bedtime routine and poor Acacia's eyes will start to water and her little lip will start to shake.  She hasn't broken down yet and is trying to keep a brave face, but underneath it all I know her little heart is breaking.  And that in turn is breaking my heart.  Sometimes being a missionary sucks!

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