Welcome to PlaaPlaaPlaa!

So you may be wondering why PlaaPlaaPlaa? What are those strange fish symbols above? What is ปลา and what does it mean? In short, this is a blog site, so surely there's going to be plenty of rambling. Unfortunately BlahBlahBlah was already taken, so I had to settle for the 'Plaa'. But there's actually more to it then just ramblings. The first fish symbol is actually a Christian symbol meaning ICTHUS - a greek acronymn which means "Jesus Christ is God's Son, the Saviour". The other strange letters you see in the last fish is actually the thai word for fish which funnily enough is pronounced "Plaa". So when you put it all together, this site is going to be my ramblings in telling people about how Jesus Christ is God's Son, the Saviour in Thailand (with plenty of good stories about food in between). Happy reading.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bethany House Orphanage and Church

For the second installment of what i'll be up to in Chiang Mai, i thought i'd share about the orphanage and church.

Bethany House Orphanage
Last year when our STM team went to Chiang Mai, we were lucky enough to go visit an orphanage called Bethany House for a couple days. It’s a small orphanage run by 2 sets of parents who take on about 10 girls each aged between 3-15yrs. Each of the orphans come from really tough backgrounds – of physical, sexual abuse, parents on drugs or both parents have committed suicide.

The thing that excites me about this orphanage is that it’s not just a place that looks after the physical needs of the kids – in providing food, shelter, education, but a place that also looks after the spiritual needs of the kids. The parents of this place are Christians who know that ultimately their greatest need of each of these kids is to know Jesus. they take them along to church each week, and they’re taught about God’s love for them. It’s exciting to see so many of the girls who have never known what it means to be loved, to come to understand God’s love for them. They’re shown love in a practical and spiritual way.

I’m looking at working with one set of parents of Bethany House called Ratree & Niphon. They already have 3 kids of their own, yet they have pretty much ‘adopted’ another 10 girls to care for. Not that I’m a parent, but I’ve seen how tough it is for those of you who have even 1 kid, let alone 3. Imagine if you had an extra 10 girls who have really special needs that you also had to look after and provide for – financially as well. Niphon, the husband works full time in order to help support the family and the girls, so it leave Ratree to basically be a mother to 13 kids – she has to do all the washing, cleaning, cooking, help with homework….you name it. You can imagine it’s pretty tough. I'm not 100% sure what i'll be doing with them yet, it could be anything from helping Ratree, to helping the kids with their studies, in particular english or other possible new business opportunities.

Just recently, they have moved location of their house which means that their rent has also had to increase. They are keen to look at starting some kind of business venture that i see can serve several needs:
a. To generate some additional income into the orphanage to help pay for the rent
b. Give some of the kids some work experience (as they need to leave the orphanage when they hit 15yrs old)
c. If successful, to possibly give some work opportunities for the kids who need to leave (as many don’t want to leave as it’s the only family they know and have).

Personally, i think it's a massive leap of faith for the orphanage to even think about pursuing a business opportunity, and from when i've spoken to them, they don't seem to be the most business minded people. I’m hoping that if it is something that they want to pursue, that any of the business knowledge and contacts that I’ve acquired over the past few years will come in handy so that I can help them make it a successful venture. It’s something that I’ll definitely be keeping you posted on.

Church

One of the things i will do is be involved in church in Thailand however i can. This will mean obviously going to church, but also being part of a bible study group and maybe even part of the music team and whatever else is going on. I realise that it's going to be interesting and probably very frustrating at first not being able to understand everything that's going on, but my hope is that by being a part of a bible study group and being involved, it might help me to improve my language quickly, but more importantly, i'll be able to build relationships with people from the church.

I'm not 100% sure which church i'll be going to yet. there are a couple options i'm thinking of - 1. Grace Church 2. Lana International Church. I honestly don't really know too much about Lana about at the moment as i've only visited it once. But it is the church that Buu works at so I'm keen to ate least visit a couple more times to get more of a feel for it, and hopefully meet more of the church members there. For those praying, it'd be great if you could be praying for wisdom in deciding which church to get involved in, and once i've done that, for opportunities for me to get involved.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Building Relationships and Learning Thai

Many have asked me, 'so, what are you going to be doing next year when in Thailand?'

Well the short answer is, I'm not exactly sure.

Sounds crazy I know, but there's a perfectly good explanation for it.

For those who don't know, i was able to head over to Thailand in early July, initially a trip to meet my new nephew, but one i also used as a survey trip to check out opportunities for next year. At the time, there were 2 main opportunities that I was keen to check out – 1. helping out at an orphanage and 2. working with a team who work with Uni students.

But God obviously had other plans for me. Somehow I don’t think I’m going to be the average short termer who goes over and fits into an organised ministry.

Instead of going over to Chiang Mai to confirm 2 good opportunities, I came back with about 7-8 REALLY GOOD opportunities. It was like every day that I was there, I’d meet someone new, or catch up with someone and a new exciting opportunity would arise. The scary thing is that most of the opportunities are also really diverse – which to be perfectly honest makes it even more exciting for me. The only problem is that most of these opportunities are ones that i can't confirm until i get back there.

So in many ways, it feels like the question now is not 'what will I be doing', but more like 'what will I NOT be doing!'.

For starters, i'll be heading over on a student visa to learn Thai at the Cornerstone Language School so that i can start to communicate with Thai's in thai while i'm over there. I realise that ideally it'd be great to be able to learn language full time so that i can hopefully learn faster, but given my initial time restriction in being there, i'm going to be studying the minimum amount i need to get the visa (which is either a morning or arvo 3 days a week). it's my hope that i'll be able to use the rest of my time meeting and spending time with thai people and building relationships with them, so i'll be forced to learn how to speak thai and that i'll improve quickly by being thrown in the deep end. Besides, I actually see that as a bonus as it's a much more enjoyable way to learn a language then sitting in a classroom with a textbook.

I also want to be building relationships with Thai's - both christian and non-christian, in whatever way i can. I feel really blessed to have already met quite a few Thai's who i have already started building a relationship with. There is one good friend Buu who i met last December while our church short term team was in Khorat. She only became a christian a few years ago, but has such a big heart for wanting other Thai's to also come into a relationship with God. She just finished a year of 'Bible College' in Bangkok in April and has since been wanting to work in Christian ministry somewhere. Just recently she accepted a position to work at her church in Chiang Mai doing all things from pastoral care, looking after the youth group, leading worship and admin. I caught up with her when i was last in Chiang Mai when she had just started leading the youth group, and as we were talking she mentioned that she struggled to know how to make teaching the Bible relevant and 'fun' to the youth, and she also struggled knowing what to best teach them. One week she taught them why it was important to do praise and worship at church, the next she did a topical on boy girl relationships, then next week what it meant to love as christian brothers and sisters. i'm so encouraged by her enthusiasm and genuine desire to see others grow in their understanding of the Bible, but i also know that she too is a young christian who also has lots to learn and has never really been taught or modeled how to read the Bible. For me, i can see so many great opportunities to be doing just that and hopefully also be able to brain storm and develop ideas with her in how she can be teaching the Bible to her youth group, even work with her in writing studies.

However, obviously language is going to be a major barrier here. How can i be modeling how to teach the Bible if i can't do it in Thai? I know Buu's english is good, but it's not that good. How much more helpful would it be for her if it could be done in Thai?

Well, the awesome news is that God has got it all under control, cos my next hope is to be working with likeminded missionaries who are already over there and have the language, who are also keen to be producing Christian resources for Thai's. Resources that are actually useful and relevant for Thai christians, which reach them where they are at in their understanding of the Bible. The Dickson's are already doing some of that and are really keen to be producing more resources and there are some great opportunities to be working with them in doing so. There are also opportunities to be trialling these resources with our thai christian friends, and by doing so can not only model how to lead a bible study, but also start to teach them the processes in how to be reading the Bible for themselves with the hope that they can in the future learn how to also model it to those under their care.

It's seriously really exciting to think about the possibilities of what can be done in helping Thai's understand the Bible more. At the end of the day, that's what needs to happen if they are to grow in their understanding of God and not be reliant on missionaries.

For those who are praying, here are a few prayer points:
- for Buu, thank God for saving her and for giving her such a big heart for wanting to serve God in her life. For wisdom as she leads her youth group, that she'll be able to teach the Bible truthfully, faithfully and in a way that is applicable to her Youth Group
- for Thai Christians, that they will grown in their understanding of the Bible
- for missionaries who are in Thailand, that they will be teaching the Bible truthfully and faithfully
- for continued opportunities in sharing the Gospel to those who don't yet know God


There are still plenty of other opportunities i hope to be involved with next year, but i'll save that for the next post.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Finally, I can look forward to Thailand

Sorry for the couple weeks of silence. To say the last 3 months have been 'busy' i personally think is a bit of an understatement. Since visiting Thailand in July, it's been all systems go...until this weeked. The last of my 'big projects' was the Ignite film festival last weekend. For those who don't know what Ignite is, its a Christian short film festival (bit like a christian tropfest if that helps) that we (my work) started 4 years ago (you can check out details about it at www.ignite.tvs.net.au). Last Saturday was our awards night that was heaps of fun, but also quite a bit of work, which meant i was unfortunately unable to focus on doing any Thailand prep stuff for a bit. But now all that's changed. At last count I have just under 7 weeks before i head off.

While work will be steadily busy until i go, my hope is that from this week i'll be working 4 day weeks which will give me time to get back into language learning, continue to build relationships with Thai friends over in Thailand via email, get my medical checks done, get my visa sorted, start getting into gear for our church short term mission (which will kick off my trip), catch up with friends and family here and sort out lots of other odd bits and pieces that i know will come up. I know the next few weeks are going to fly by and before i know it, i'll be on the plane.

I promise that in the next few weeks i'll also update this blog to include more details of what i hope to be doing next year. Time has prevented me from being able to do so so far, so sorry for those who have been waiting for that.

For those of you who are praying, here are some prayer points i'd appreciate at the moment:
- that i'll be able to start getting back into language learning
- that i'll be able to get all my medicals sorted and that i won't have anything majoryly wrong with me that might prevent me from going
- for work, that they'll be able to find a replacement for me soon
- that i'll be able to spend time with God and in his word and grow in my knowledge of him

thanks guys.

As another quick plug for Ignite, here's a short clip i had to edit up that has a snapshot of every film entered into this years festival (all 49 of them).
video

Some of the films this year are seriously AWESOME! I'm even keen to see how i can use some of them in Thailand! If you're in ministry and looking for a dvd which has some really good bible based films, i'd recommend you get the Ignite DVD's (sorry for the plug but i wouldn't do it if i didn't believe in the product).

Monday, October 8, 2007

Miracles Happen

Ok, so this doesn't exactly have anything to do with me heading off to Thailand, but i thought i'd post it for some amusement value for you all, and as photographic evidence that miracles do happen. Here's a picture of me in a DRESS at my friends wedding on the weekend.