Wednesday, March 20, 2013

One Page at a Time

It isn't real. It just isn't.

I'm just dreaming, right?

I look around me. No, this is no dream. This is it.

I'm home. After nearly seven months, I'm home.

We headed for Mae Sot at 5:30 am Sunday morning. I caught a bus to Bangkok at 8 and got picked up by the Kiers at around 4:30ish. Then, to the airport: Arrived at 5:30 or so and spent most of my waiting time with Jonathan Hill, who was headed home from a JFA tour with Jon Wood. His flight left at 1:20 am. My flight left at 3:40 am.

4 hours and I made it to Korea, waited 7 and 1/2 hours there, and then flew 10 hours to Seattle and spent 2 hours getting through customs in the US. Altogether, a rather uneventful, and good first solo experience.

Culture shock, you ask? Not really. But the cold, unfriendly, even RUDE aura of our society felt like a jolt. I just came from the warmth of Asian hospitality. There's a big difference.

One of my friends told me it would be pretty bad for me to say something like that if I hadn't  "become" Asian during my time in Thailand. I didn't think I had become Asian, but maybe...maybe I have. In a sense. And maybe there's a good reason for it.

My mind goes back... I remember.

Smiling faces.
Different places.
And a beautiful experience, on this end.

God always knows what He's doing. Always.

I'm going to be switching to my regular blog from here on out, til I hit another mission trip: Voice from the Mountain. I used this one previously as Memories of the Future. Just so you all know.

I can't believe it's over. Time to get back into the new field of mission God has for me now.

Even if I remember what has been my "normal" for the last seven months.

Will I go back?

Maybe someday, should God see fit to take me.


I hope and pray.

Til then, I'll trust it all to the One who's writing my story out...

...One page at a time.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pocket Full of Memories

We all have to learn this at some point.

This choking, crushing state of mind we call goodbye.

I don’t like it.

I never have.

But it’s reality. All too often, I’m afraid.

I came walking up the driveway after this morning’s activities, and saw my 6th grader, Mu Wa Wa, come running down, packed backpack strapped to her little frame. “Goodbye Teacher!”

I told her goodbye, gave her a big hug, and then kept walking while Sharon hugged her as well. But my throat got tight.

First official goodbye down.

I was sitting on the porch, watching as Brenda’s car loaded up. She would take students up north a little ways and drop them off to cross the river into Burma. I leaned a little, and the car started to move out. From the front seat, two eyes caught mine, a smile lit her face, and Eh K’Mwee Paw waved a frantic goodbye. I waved. Again, choking sensation.

Second goodbye down.

How much more of this can I take?

I was washing dishes in the kitchen with Tha Tha Aye, and she looked up at me. “Tharamoo Heidi, you go America Sunday?”

I nodded, and my seventh grader made a face, a very sad face. She said something in Karen.

“She wants to know if you’ll come back to visit if you can.” Hannah wiped off the table.

“I want to, yes, but I do not know…” My voice trailed off. Because I don’t know.

Mu Nu Nu stood near me on the porch and said, “Teacher Heidi, you go America on Sunday?”

“Yes, I do.”

She said something in Karen.

“She doesn’t want you to go,” Hannah said while she pounded my neck.

I pointed at my head, looking at Mu Nu Nu. “Cha. Pado.” In other words, I have a bad headache.

Mu Nu Nu made a face of sympathy and then rattled off some more Karen.

Hannah laughed. “She says since your neck hurts, you’ll have to stay until next week.”

I laughed. “Don’t think the airline would refund an $800 ticket just for that.”

The point remains.

I’m leaving.

And these kids don’t want me to leave.

And I’m hurting at the thought of leaving, that’s for sure.

I don’t know how I’ll live through the emotional trauma of leaving, really.

Exaggerationist, maybe.

But then, you aren’t here. And you haven’t been here for the last 7 months.

And you aren’t having to say goodbye.

Not to these kids, at least. And not in quite the same way.

Add to that the stress of travelling across the world alone for the first time in my life, and you’ve got a very emotionally overwrought, stressed out 19 year old.

It’s happy.
It’s sad.
It’s exciting.
It’s scary.
It’s tiring.
It’s traumatizing.
It’s new and strange and different.

One human shouldn’t have to go through every color of the emotion spectrum in the space of a few days.

But it happens.

And the magic word to make it reality is goodbye.

But, for now, enough.

I have a day left.

And a pocket full of memories.

Pictures at graduation.... Saw Kho Noe on the left, and Saw Pa Noe on the right.

He's asked me over and over for a picture of just the two of us, and told me he wanted to take it on graduation day. He disappeared for awhile, and I wondered if he forgot...but then, there he came. I'm glad he did. I'm gonna miss this guy.

Naw Da Blet...

Thara Blet Jaw and Tharamoo Wa Nay Paw and their son, Jonathan.

Thay Thay Khai... One of the baptized students, who made the decision in the face of opposition, I believe. The things students will go through just to be baptized is incredible. I'm not sure of who it was, but a different girl student, some time ago, was baptized and went home. Her father was so angry he started swinging the machete around in the house, chopping things to pieces and yelling at her that if she came in the house, he would kill her. You just don't know what a student will go through to show God their loyalty and love... it's humbling.

Saw Eh Soe... Oh, this boy! When I'd put up vocab lists on the board and have them all come up and write in the words by the numbers, he would choose ONE number, be it 5 or 13, and wait until I said that number. I caught on, poor fellow, and after that it was hopeless. He'd be rocking back and forth in his seat, saying, "Ten! Ten! Ten!" and I'd be going down the list all normal, get to ten, and he'd be on his feet and I'd say, "Eleven!" And he would sit back down, laughing and giving me that "Saw Eh Soe is amused" look. This guy also just got baptized... Oh, precious moments and memories...

Our "family" singing a special song at graduation, in the background, and a villager watching Anna with my camera in the foreground.

"Our family" with Saw Eh Soe and Thay Thay Khai.

All the teachers got called up front, invested with creatively made leis, and given school photos...

The KNU Education leader, who spoke in both Karen AND English (he translated for himself).

 We had graduation over in front of the dilapidated, but still useable, vocational building.

Anna, Kay Gee, and Hannah...

That's my boy...

This picture here sums up grade 7. No other words needed.

Mu Nu Nu on the left, Buh Suh Paw on the right. Both 8th graders.

The local gunman...I mean, woman.

Waiting for the ceremony to start...

Me and Buh Suh Paw

Maw Saw Way on the right, and Maw Soe Thay on the left. Maw Soe Thay was my naughty seventh grader. OOH! that boy. I'd tell them to close their books, and they all would do so. I'd turn my back, be asking about various words and whatnot while I wrote on the board, and one voice is coming through strong over every other voice. I turn around, and there's Maw Soe Thay, book open. I point at him with a look of shock. "Is your book closed, young man?" His eyes get wide with innocence, and quick as a wink, the book flaps shut. Nice try. His book ended up on the chalkboard rim alot. And yet, he got 98% on his English exam.... Naughty boy... but I'll miss it.

There are two kinds of people around here... Those that pose for the camera...

...And those that run from it.

Thara EhGuhNyaw and Tharamoo EhDoSay, and Peh Pae Wa.

Packing almost complete, Christmas light still glowing... Only two more nights to sleep here, and then gone. 

Saw Yo Shu, another sixth grader. He is a smart young man, but oh! what a pill! He loves to tease people, and does, mostly the girls, I think. He surprised me last week, too, when Saw Eh Soe and Heh Nay Saw Moo and some girls were trying to raise one eyebrow like I do... and then here sits Saw Yo Shu, doing one eyebrow and then the other and then the other...Back and forth and back and forth! He does that to me every time he sees me now... Well, or did. I think he already left. Funny guy.

Jabez and a mango at our picnic on Thursday.

There's a smile on the face, but the eyes are giving me that LOOK...again...

Naw Mah Chee... We had to run her in to the hospital last week to get something checked, and on the way back, she leaned over and fell asleep on my shoulder. She now smiles at me all the time, whereas before we didn't even interact at all. What wonders such a simple thing can do...

In line for food... and there was alot of it...

Fact #1: You have not fully experienced Thailand until you have ridden on the outside of a moving vehicle for an extended amount of time.
Fact #2: You have not lived until you've eaten a  Thailand mango.

I plunked myself down next to Tee Nay Too. "You hungry?" he asks me.
"Yes. Very hungry. Are you?"
"No. I no hungry." He grins.
"Seriously?" I shook my head. Sounds impossible, but hey. Whatever floats your boat.
Then Landon plunks himself down on the other side of Tee Nay Too. "You hungry?" Landon asks him.
"Yes, I very hungry." Tee Nay Too replies.
A stifled shriek follows, a loud peal of laughter, and the blast of camera shutter for revenge. "You tell me you no hungry!"
"I lie, Teacher." Big grin. You know he wasn't being malicious: just himself. And you forgive him in an instant. 

Bringing the food from the kitchen...

This looks like a wheelbarrow race gone wrong, but really, the one boy was just standing on his head and the other one walked up and grabbed him.

Kay Jaw. This is one happy boy. Lately he's been really depressed because of pressure to leave the school and go find work. Actually, he wasn't planning on coming back...until an anonymous person decided to sponsor students to work to earn money at the school, if they were being pressured by family and didn't want to leave. Kay Jaw's coming back next year...and you can see the happiness in his face.

Abigail... Every time she sees me now, she drops her mouth open and eyes pop out wide. I think it's because I did that to her every time I saw her for so long. I call her, "Monkey!" Once, I picked her up, held her up above my head and looked at her face and said "You monkey!" and she got this big grin, touched my face, and said, "Mama!" No, no... Not mama. MONKEY. I'll miss this little girl... reminds me of the little sister I'm going home to see.

Eh Jaw Jaw, a seventh grader. 

Playing games together like this was crazy... 200+ people, trying to play cat and mouse? Or better yet, CHAIN TAG? Have mercy... It's chaos in all it's colors. But loads of fun. 

Cats chasing the mice...

 Maw Jo Nigh, who apparently thought my camera was hillarious. I came into 7th grade one day, and Maw Jo Nigh was sitting on the girl's side of the room, at one of their tables. Okay, so he's really supposed to be on the other side, but what do you do? I didn't say anything. Later, I was having them talk through a conversation, the boys doing one part, and the girls doing the other: and wonder of wonders, Maw Jo Nigh is saying the girl's part, with the girls! I had to pause all of class. Looked straight at him and asked, "Are you a girl?" The whole class erupted in laughter, and he quit talking with the girls. A couple minutes later, he moved back across the aisle and stood with the boys. I shook my head. "No, you started out class over there: go sit there!" I pointed to his seat on the girls' side. Again, laughter: and he obeyed me with a little bit of a shocked and sheepish look. Haven't had any trouble from him ever since.... Just alot of fun.

BIG circle to play Cat and Mouse...

Group of kids, waiting to play.

Eh Do Paw, who thinks I'm a tree. When we were at the river that day, I had at least 3 little girls hanging off me almost the entire time. After most everyone else left, I had 6 of them. They climb on you, they pull on you, they got tangled up in my skirt and squealed and laughed and sputtered and chattered away, the only discernible words being, "Teacher! Teacher!" Oh, for another more...

The two on the outside are Sharon's students, don't know their names. But the little character in the green shirt is Saw Ku Shee, who always insisted that his English exam would be "No fine!" and always passed. 

Kay Gee and her reckless charioteer.

 Me Me Lay.

Same expression as Me Me Lay...wonder if they're related.

 Think hard, Landon...real hard... Boy, I'm so thankful for this guy. I would've been totally unprepared for my own little brother if I hadn't been in the process of being reconditioned for it since December.Thanks, Landon. And I mean that.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Over My Shoulder

This moment. Right here, right now.

I'm facing the music, facing the future, what's coming.

Honestly, it's exciting. Really. God has big things in store for me... and He's promised that His timing will be perfect.

But like the age old trick of sneaking a glance at someone who's already walked past you, I look over my shoulder.


No reason, I guess.

Only to see where I've come from.

I see a long, hard, dusty, often lonely trail.
I see obstacles.
I see the remains of battles won...and some lost.
I see...

Yes, that's what really matters.

I see.

Because if I'm seeing, it means I'm likely still standing.

And no thanks to myself, either.

As my eyes trace the lines I walked in the past, I feel a smile warming my cheeks.

God knew.

Even though I've been through the valley of the shadow of death.

But then, there's the key.

It is, after all, the valley of the shadow of death.

Not the valley of death itself.

To put it as David Asscherick has, His was the substance that mine might be but a shadow.

And all of the shades and shadows I've been through in the last 6 months...the last year...the last 2 years... have done me good, ultimately.

I wouldn't change any of it.

And I mean that.

No, I can't say that I'd want to walk through it ALL again. But I know where I've walked. And I know it's changed and blessed and grown me.

And I'm happy. Content.

Head still turned, my eyes steal forward once again. There's a bend in the road: I'm not sure what lies beyond.

But I'm find out.

So, I step forward. Three more days and I head home.

And I glance backward with a shake of the head.

Thailand, you have nearly been the death of me.

But you've made me.

God be praised.

He always knows best.

And I have only to look over my shoulder to be reminded.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bells of Heaven

I turned around. "Hannah, can you take this for me?" I held out my Karen bag.

She took it, and I stepped out farther, closer, trying to get a good place to use the machine in my hands. Water swirled eddies around me and I laughed to myself. Boy, in America, people NEVER do this kind of thing.

Pastor Shem lined all the baptismal candidates up in the shore, had a prayer, and then, one by one, 20 young people were dipped into the river.

One of them has been battling this decision for over a year.
One is paralyzed.
Many more have made the choice even though their parents don't want them to.
Others are here whose parents were against it at first, but then changed their minds.

Each is precious.

Each is now baptized.

You see the smiles.
Hear the song.
Hear the scripture readings.
Watch the act.
Feel the glow.

And you know. You just know.

Somewhere in Heaven, bells are pealing madly.

I heard the bells of Heaven yesterday.

I saw the smile of Jesus.

For a moment, I walked those streets, untouched my mortals as yet.

And I felt the warm glow that comes from watching children...YOUR children... your students... Take their first breath...

As a Christian.

I can't quite fathom it.

It deserves far more words than I have in me.

Only two will really suffice for the moment.

Praise God.

Yes, praise God.

We ought to hear the bells of Heaven ring more often.

Better yet...

We ought to make the bells of Heaven ring...

There is no greater privilege.

And, after all, we'll hear Heaven's bells for eternity.

Might as well get used to hearing them now.

Eh Mu Dah (in the green shirt) and another student, laughing because I'm aiming a camera at them.

Thara Timothy and his little girl, Adrina.

Eh Do Paw contemplating the post during church service.

Down at the river...

It gives me such satisfaction to see "gohlahwas" wearing Karen clothes. Not sure why.

Everyone waiting in the shade for Pastor Shem to find a good place to baptize the students.

 By the edge of the river.

One by one... Each of them buried in this familiar body of water, and rising again to a new life... It choked me up. These precious children... many of them making this choice even though their families are angry. God smiled...He still smiles. Oh, how blessed.

Daw Koo Say, whose story you can find by going to Sharon's blog. What a beautiful girl, a beautiful story... Christ has some special work for this young lady to do, I'm sure.

I couldn't help but giggle. The farther into the baptism we got, the farther into the water Michael got. We'll just overlook the fact that I was in almost as far as he was. No, it's not a problem to get wet like that over here. I'm going to miss that.

Happy faces...

The photographer

20 more souls...20 more workers... May the Lord watch over each of them and bring them to His Kingdom at last.

And these ones are all my students. Talk about heart full of gratitude and pride...

Saw Yo Hsu (on the right) and a friend

After the baptism, we stayed by the river for a long time, taking pictures.

Thay Thay Khai and Naw Saw Pwe

Mu Loe Poe, one of the best English-speaking 6th graders

Little July Paw, who's always at the top of her class. 6th grader as well

Michael and Daw Koo Say

Eh Paw See, a fifth grader

Sharon and little friends

I'm going to miss getting hugs around my waist because someone can't reach any higher...

Mu Wa Wa, 6th grader and champion giggler

Saw Kho No, a 5th grader. In English, his Karen name means "Enoch."

Sharon and I...

A former student, I think

A KG girl

More KGers...

Stunningly beautiful day...

Nasty little creatures... pretty to look at, but don't touch 'im. He'll make you regret it.

The Ross's house, where we ate Sabbath lunch

Asian English...


Peh Pae Wa, Thara EhGuhNyaw's littlest

 AY, our program on Sabbath afternoon, put on by grades 6 and 8.