Leaves are changing, the cold air’s coming; one might hear the occasional Christmas song from the bold few, and pumpkin spice and apple cider are thoroughly enjoyed as seasonal favorites…. In a form, I have experienced these fondly-welcomed signs of Autumn too, but maybe just a smidge different than you may be. 😉
First, we do get an occasional cool day (relatively speaking) when there’s a heavy cloud cover, and cold season is coming! Otherwise, we greatly enjoy the occasion where air conditioning is involved. There are also a few trees that have leaves changing colors. There is one in our neighborhood that I particularly appreciate, and I call it “our” Fall tree. In addition, there have been a few occasions where we have heard Christmas songs randomly being played. As Americans, this feels a bit puzzling, but apparently it’s fairly normal here, and the songs do not seem to be associated with the holiday. Lastly, our team spent an evening together painting pumpkins and making homemade apple cider and chai tea. It was a sweet reminder of home and smelled amazing!
My team and I are settling into our new home and becoming more accustomed to the rhythm of what our lives will look like this semester, though that includes a fair amount of flexibility. Our primary focus has been language learning, which has been a very positive, though still challenging, experience for me. I have discovered that I enjoy studying language. I am so grateful for those of you who encouraged me prior to leaving to be expectant in this area. I believe God has been answering our prayers! We are currently putting most of our emphasis on learning the Thai alphabet, which will help to establish a foundation for future learning. However, we still invest a good amount of time practicing speaking Thai, and I am grateful for the grace of the Thai people to be patient while I’m learning. I have made plenty of mistakes and have produced a few awkward encounters, but it’s generally easy to laugh it off and keep trying.
I am especially grateful for one of the new friendships I am developing with a Thai woman named P’ Miit. She owns a food stand near our home, and has been very friendly and helpful. Whenever I pass by, she is quick to say hello, offer me help in placing an order, and inviting me to join her in a meal. My teammates and I have really enjoyed practicing Thai with and learning from her.
In addition, this month we have been focusing on learning about Thai symbolism, including language, and food. A classic example is that of the “wai” – a motion consisting of a slight bow with the one’s hands placed in a “prayer-like” position. I have learned that many aspects of Thai culture that can seem common-place are actually very intentional and express Thai values. The wai could be included in this because though this exchange is common, how it is done is communicating a specific message and is related to the Thai value of honor. For instance, if two people are greeting one another, typically the younger is to initiate and should show greater honor to the elder by placing her hands higher in front of her face.
I also found the symbolism behind the Thai flag to be interesting. It seems generally agreed upon that the red stands for the blood shed in maintaining the nation’s independence; the white stands for the purity of Buddhism; and the blue stands for the Thai monarchy and is the national color. In addition, I learned that initially the flag was red with a white elephant, but during World War I the king changed it to its current design in order to “express solidarity with the Allies” (Facts.co).
Lastly, in relation to my prayer requests from my last blog, I believe I have found a home church and have committed to a ministry with whom I will begin working in January! Thank you so much for your investment in prayer in this area. The ministry is called Compass31 and exists to make Christ known by engaging in the human trafficking crisis through education, restoration, and discipleship. Their work is remarkable and parallels significantly with some of the things I believe God has been stirring and developing in my heart since I was a little girl. I will probably have the opportunity to serve primarily through teaching, administrative work, and prayer-walking and building relationships in the red-light district. Thank you again for praying with me; your partnership in this way is invaluable!
As we have been working through the first chapter of Philippians this month, I was struck by Paul’s commitment to partnership and what that looked like for him. As I continue to seek to invest wholeheartedly in the season God has me in, I pray that the Holy Spirit would also renew your passion and vision for where he has you. I am grateful to be “in this together,” and I want to reiterate my love for you. You have been a precious reminder to me of the faithfulness and goodness of our Father, and I am expectant for what he has in store for you as you persist in partnering with him. I also pray that you would be deeply renewed in him by the revelation of his nearness and his love.
P.S. I am consistently compiling a collection of snapshots of my time in Thailand, so if you’re interested in viewing them, please click here. Feel free to check back periodically for new additions!