Sunday, January 20, 2013

2013: New Digs, Hill Tribes and Chiang-Mai

Hannah with a floating lantern
Happy New Year, from Chiang-Mai, Thailand! 

Well, not really. The new year was, by all means, a memorable, joyous occasion but it's impossible to ignore the fact that it was about three weeks ago. I figured we'd best precede this chapter of our outreach with another apology for our inconsistent reports... sorry to leave you in the dark so long! 

After our departure from The Home of Blessing, we hit the ground running with a church service we were inextricably involved in: Hayley and Josh shared powerful testimonies, Tiffany and her children's crew ran the Children's programme, the whole team sang a worship song for the church and Andrew gave a compelling message on 'the Un-offendable Heart'. We then celebrated the new year with a huge Thai barbecue and a traditional releasing of floating lanterns into the night sky. It was incredible to watch our lanterns join a fleet of hundreds upon hundreds of others lanterns on the black canvas sky, as foreigners and Thai alike set adrift their new years' offerings. It's not hard to recognise, in retrospect, how much God has already blessed the year of 2013. 

We then departed into a remote and incredibly inaccessible hill tribe in the mountains of northern Thailand; a place we were welcomed into for three memorable days. The village of 30 odd houses had never seen a vehicle nor electricity a decade ago and had since been exposed to the truth of Jesus Christ (a message they had never heard the like of) and the village is now majority Christian -- the witch doctor himself had given his life to the Lord! Serious community development work had gone into this village during the past 12 years and while it was a very bumpy, unorthodox ride via pick-up trucks into the village, it was clear by the stories of past teams braving huge rivers and mountain treks by foot to reach the people that we had a very easy journey into an only recently accessible destination. 

a glimpse into the hill tribe
What a humbling experience to live among these beautiful people. We, despite our embarrassing lack of linguistic knowledge, were welcomed warmly into their houses. We purchased, in a joint effort with the local pastor, a very large pig from the village for them to eat in celebration of the new year -- typically, they have to sell their own pigs to make ends meet so it was an incredible treat for the village to be able to reap the harvest of their own hard work! Everybody came out to help prepare the animal and pork filled many satisfied bellies and smiles adorned village faces. We also ran a children's programme for the village kids, went to pray in each and every home in the village for needs (so humbling and incredible!), and shared three testimonies and a message during a night meeting with the villagers! We spoke of God's faithfulness and sang worship songs in Thai and English with such great and newfound awareness that truly - truly - God is the same God as He is in England, in North America, and in Thailand. We left the hill tribes exhausted from the cold nights and the squadron of roosters that woke us all up faithfully at 4am but incredibly touched by the experience, the testimony of an unreached people group finding God and the people we had the immense privilege of encountering. 

We returned to Chiang-Mai for Sunday morning, as Karen shared her testimony to the church gathering and we attended a fellowship meeting; giving testimony about our time in the villages and meeting with the Chiang-Mai church-goers. And so we began 2013! 

Oh, and we also rode elephants. When in Thailand...

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