Melodies in March

Beloved Friends,

As I’m thinking about and praying for you, my heart is renewed with gratefulness for you and the privilege that I have to partner with you. As I face difficulties and victories, I am often reminded of your partnership and the gift that it is. There are many things that I would love for you to enjoy with me, and though it seems insufficient, I hope this month’s glimpse is a blessing to you. I also wanted to make a note with regard to my ministry work, as I am sorry that I am not able to share more in detail of what I get to participate in. Due to the nature of my work, it is best that I use discretion. I would love to show you pictures and share specific names and stories with you, but I hope you will gladly sacrifice this opportunity, knowing that it is for the benefit of the women that I serve that I do not share them. However, I did want to share that God’s leadership and grace have been beautifully evident in unique ways within my ministry this month. Thank you for your continued investment as we seek to partner with him in his work of restoration and freedom.

I would specifically love for your partnership in prayer for one of the girls in our home to gain her citizenship. Citizenship here, or the lack thereof, has significant implications for one’s ability to effectively live within society. Due to the specific time-frame in which she was born, it is nearly impossible for her to be granted this status; we need a significant breakthrough. In addition, there are many within Compass’s influence that do not yet know Jesus. Please pray for him to use each of us as we engage in relationships, intercession, and outreach. Lastly, we are in the process of developing an entrepreneurial project in which young women have the opportunity to gain skills training and to healthfully earn an income. Please pray for wisdom as we seek to develop this opportunity well, and for connections with women who are currently being exploited, so that we can walk alongside them toward holistic freedom.

This month my teammates and I have been focusing on the fundamental aspects of Theravada Buddhism, and how they are specifically seen within a Thai context. Though Thailand is a Buddhist country, it really doesn’t represent a pure form of Buddhism; instead, it is deeply intertwined with Animism, Hinduism, and cultural values, which has developed into a unique worldview and way of life for most Thai people. On top of that, there is a generational shift in which people are beginning to question their traditional beliefs and way of life, particularly among the educated and wealthy, so that they are more open to outside influences. We believe this is a unique opportunity for the Gospel, and are praying to effectively engage with what the Holy Spirit is doing.

This month I have specifically been stuck by the beliefs regarding goodness. It seems that man is believed to be basically good and capable of doing good in and of oneself. According to Buddhist thought, man is responsible for his own fate and is thus ultimately considered self-sufficient. A common emphasis is on “being a good person,” and “if you do good, good will be returned to you.” Though this is not completely wrong, it is distorted, and there is a sense in which man is his own god. At the same time, I see a dynamic at work in which man is made to worship, and though the traditional teachings of Buddha do not include the worship of a god, people have developed a system of worship that is now inseparably tied to Thai Buddhism. Our team is wrestling with identifying some of the key underlying questions of Thai people, and how we can effectively communicate the Gospel in this context. Please continue to join us in praying for the people of Thailand.

Fun Facts of the Month:

  • I got a Thai nickname! It’s ยิ้ม, meaning “smile,” and I received it from my Thai teacher, which is special for me.
  • One of our lunch meals last week included red ant eggs – definitely a first! I also tried sushi (that actually had raw fish) for the first time in celebration of one of our girls’ birthdays.
  • I have so enjoyed having opportunities to laugh and enjoy relationship with some of the women I get to work with at my ministry. While I have had some particularly difficult moments this month, I have also had specific opportunities to be refreshed by the community our Father has provided for me here.
  • One of the missionary couples from our community is back in the U.S. for their home assignment before returning to work in another area of Thailand. We are excited for what God has in store for them, even as we are sad to see them go.
  • I found out some more good news about my back and neck injury from last summer, and am continuing to work toward complete recovery!

As I have been growing in my understanding of Thai culture and worldview, I have also been brought to consider my own from a different perspective. This month we have been working through chapters three and four of James, and there have been many aspects that have stood out to me, and that the Holy Spirit has used to refine and direct me. I am particularly struck by the emphasis on wisdom, and the choice we have regarding whether we will be shaped by the wisdom of the world or by the wisdom that comes from God. I want my life to be marked by humility and grace, and I have been challenged to cultivate this personally before the Lord, as well as to seek to live it out. We are invited into a reality that is greater than what is “right in front of us,” and I pray that we continue to grow in trusting faith as we follow the Shepherd of our souls.

I am grateful for you and blessed by you.

With love and thanks,

Kristen

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture….” Psalm 100:1-3

Prayer Points:

  • Ministry: In addition to what I’ve already shared, please pray for persistent hope and joy as we seek to partner with our King’s purposes.
  • Grace: Please pray for a deeper and renewed revelation of grace, for a willing and steadfast spirit, and for a commitment to truth – that me and my team would see according to reality in light of eternity, with our minds renewed according to the mind of Christ – and that we would be submitted to the Father’s expectations for us. I’m so grateful for the privilege that it is to be here and in this season, and I want to live into all that he has for me.
  • Relationships: Please continue to pray for health within our team, for vibrancy and intimacy within our relationships with the LORD, and for Spirit-led opportunities and eyes to see as we develop and deepen relationships with the local people.

 

For pictures, please use this link: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0BzGN9i-zsrqreDRMVlNiM1VOY00?usp=sharing

Also, there have been many songs that have been a blessing to me, but the following is one of them. If you’re interested in checking it out, please use this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1yom3XjeQA&list=PLLJv4LbrRE28FTWA4aRIcj5D1yPt0vkrb&index=15

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Melodies in March

  1. Dear Kristen,

    Hello. Spring seems to be coming here, finally. The snow is gone. The ice on the ponds is gradually disappearing and many of the Canadian geese are back checking out their home from last year. There is a lot of honking and flapping around.

    As I read your recent post, two thoughts came to mind. What does bowing to a Buddha statue mean? I don’t know if this will apply to the Thai young people around you right now, but a Japanese business man, who was one of the ex-pats on a trip with us ELIC teachers in China, did an automatic bow when part of our tour group was taken to a temple. He saw me watching him and turned to explain to me, “I have finally figured out that when I bow to Buddha, I am actually bowing to myself.” Since he was an educated person, I don’t know if other Buddhists will have the same view.

    Secondly, how safe is it to eat raw fish in Thailand? My advice: DON’T.

    Huge sections of Southeast Asia are infested with liver flukes. When I did research at the University of Hong Kong, Thailand in particular had the reputation of having populations in towns and rural areas that had 90% of the people with liver flukes. Here is the scoop: raw sewage is dumped into rivers, ponds, and on rice fields as fertilizer. That sewage is loaded with fluke eggs from people who are already infested with liver flukes. The eggs hatch in the water and swim into snails that live in and around the water. After the fluke larvae have grown enough in the liver of the snails, the larvae leave and attach themselves to fish and burrow into the muscles of the fish. If a human eats that fish muscle raw, the flukes swim into the human’s liver and grow into f airly large parasites that attach themselves to the lining of the bile ducts of the person’s liver. When the flukes mature, they suck the life out of their host (gradually killing him or her) and produce thousands of eggs that the human unwittingly deposits along with feces. And the cycle repeats itself.  

    A person infested with liver flukes has trouble with their digestion and experiences horrible pain from gas. Eventually, the person’s immunity system weakens to the point that a simple cold can bloom into pneumonia and kill the person. (My theory is that the flukes  migrate into the person’s pancreas as well.) I also noticed that an infested person will have the whites of his or her  eyes yellow and his or her skin will be pale.

    Why do I know anything about this? W hen I went with ELIC to China, the organization did not know anything about liver flukes. I ate smoked fish (smoking the fish does not kill the flukes, only cooking the fish in hot, hot oil does). I got infested and suffered greatly. I got so sick I couldn’t work. The organization got me medical help in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year . I went back into China after a month in Hong Kong to try to finish the school year, but the flukes had done so much damage that even after taking medicine to kill them I was too weak to continue. I had to leave early, not finishing the school year.  It took me a long time back at home to recover. The damage done to my digestive system is permanent. I manage by watching my diet carefully. (No cheese or butter. No palm oil or anything cooked in it. No pizza. One egg, never two. Fewer saturated fats than 14 grams in a  24 hour period.) I was told that if I went back to China and got the flukes  again they would surely kill me next time . It was agony for me to give up my service to the Lord in the land that I had dreamt about since I was sixteen, but I realized that I had to.

    Kristen, please share this information with your entire team and especially your leadership. This danger to your health is NO joke.

    Also, the Thai probably nap midday. You should, too.

    Love,

    Patricia Linson

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    • Hi Patricia,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write. I appreciate your concern and you taking the time to share from your personal research and experience. I have passed on your insight to my teammates and leadership.

      As far as bowing to the Buddha, I think that there are a few possible interpretations, and I would say that it would vary among different demographics. I have found that there tends to be a disparity between religious leaders, such as monks, and lay people. There is also a significant influence of Animism so that though something may not be a Buddhist practice found in Buddhist teachings, it has been adapted to still be associated with Buddhism. I have not done particular research on this particular topic, but my understanding that a primary reason is to demonstrate respect for the Buddha, his teaching, and the role he has in the lives of Buddhists.

      As far as napping at midday, haha, I’d love to do that more, but so far I haven’t found that to be a norm – at least among those that I engage with. I am definitely learning to establish healthy rhythms, though. Thank you for your care.

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      • Patricia,

        I also wanted to let you know that one of my leaders has been informed by a medical missionary who works in Southeast Asia about the fluke worm, and has recommended a double dosage of Albendazole, a de-worming medicine, every 6 months, as they are also present in beef and long beans. I just recently did this treatment, and my leaders always recommend it to teams coming in.

        Thank you again for your concern,
        Kristen

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