Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween: Not as Innocent as You Think

In truth, any of us who have ever lived in North America know that Halloween affects our lives and culture deeply. Unfortunately, the number of us who know the origins of this autumn holiday are in short supply. Personally, me and my brothers have never been trick or treating, and I am now very grateful to my parents for keeping me from such activities. And now, to the histories of Halloween.

Halloween. All Hallows' Eve. Satan's Birthday. The Witches' New Year. Many years before Christ was born, the day of October 31st was the holy day that divided Winter and Summer by two fire festivals. It was part of the Celtic Feast of Samhain, and it commemorated the beginning of Winter. According to druidic beliefs, this was the day that the spirit world and the material world became one. Demonic creature that emerged during this time were appeased by animal sacrifices, and offerings to the dead were held. The druids even dressed themselves up as denizens of evil, and involved themselves in demonic activities, hence the dressing up of children for this holiday.

Years later, the early Christian church attempted to redeem this holiday by moving All Saints' Day from May to November 1. Which then made October 31st All Hallow's Eve. Unfortunately, present-day North America has forgotten the alterings of this day, and seems intent on reverting back to the unadulterated version of pagan pasts.

What must not be forgotten is that Halloween is a day filled with demonic oppression. All over the world satanists and witches perform their occultic rituals and sacrifices. Which is why, as my mother is doing, Christians all over the world are praying to the Most High. Pray that children would be safe, that the demonic wishes of those with evil intent would not be carried out. May the Holy Spirit protect us all in this time of dark oppression, and that the shadows will melt away from those who know the Truth.

Fortunately for us, Halloween is not celebrated here in Thailand, and our eyes need not be assaulted by gruesome, disturbing faces at every corner. However, Loy Krathong will be celebrated this weekend, which in itself holds its own in spiritual oppression and trappings. More on this next week,


Laos from the Vientiane Municipality

This week's UPG as stated earlier are all from the country of Laos (not too be confused with how they are called too!). The Laos from the Vientiane Municipality are 0.6 million altogether. There are workers there and .20% of them thankfully believe already.

Please pray with us for more to turn to and believe in the Lord Jesus and for courage and boldness for those who already believe to share with those who don't. Thank you and bless you!

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Lowland Laos

This week and the weeks following, the Unreached People Group will be the three types of Lao.

The Lowland Laos can be found in, you guessed it, Laos. there 3.5 million of them, and there are workers there. Below 1% of them are Christian, but this is a vast improvement over many other people groups in the same area.

Please pray for the Lowland Laos, that they would all come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal saviour.

The Cost of a Perfect Smile

Last Wednesday was a day of true celebration for me; it was the day I finally got my braces off. Some of you may recall seeing me, during our visit to Canada over the summer, or just during everyday life in Chiang Mai, with braces. In a thankfully short ordeal just last week I was free, and pleased to hear the news that I had gotten off four months early, only twenty months as opposed to the two years that had been planned. All in all, the monthly visits had cost us about 1,200 baht/month, or 24,000 baht all in all. Along with the braces themselves (20,000 baht), the x-rays (2,000 baht), the teeth impressions (1,600 baht), the consultation (200 baht), and the retainer which I received last Friday (6,000 baht), the entire total came to around 53,800 baht, or about $1,630 Canadian. This is much cheaper than had the orthodontic work been done in Canada, and we are all very thankful for this.

Eric on the other hand received his braces just last Friday, the day when I received my retainer. He had earlier had 4 teeth extracted (500 baht each) to make room due to overcrowding. Much to his relief, his teeth are not as sore as mine were when I had my braces (I stayed up at night over the pain). Just so you know, we both needed braces as our teeth were growing the wrong way and were causing problems with our other teeth.

Our orthodontist is Dr. Warasiri Pitakanonda, or Dr. Dtom (pronounced "Tom", but with a slight 'd' sound to the 't'). She has quite a resume, with a C.A.G.S. in Pedodontics from Boston University, and a M.S. of Orthodontics from the University of Pacific, in San Francisco. We are both very thankful to her, and pray that she gets blessed.

I am enjoying life with a straight smile, and Eric awaits his turn for when he will be able to smile with teeth all aligned neatly in perfect rows.

Below are three pictures, the first with Eric and I, he without braces, and I with, and the second and third with the both of us again, with our places reversed.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Kinhs (Again)

Since this is one of the largest Unreached People Groups in South-East Asia, we thought it necessary that another week of prayer be dedicated to the Kinhs.

Some things you didn't know about the Kinhs:

-The Kinhs (or ethnic Vietnamese) are among the worst persecuted Christians in the world.

-As of December 2005, there are only 11 workers on the Vietnamese team. That's 11 workers to about 65 million unbelievers!

Please pray again for the Kinhs, that more workers would be sent. Let's pray that the truth would spread through them like a wildfire.

The Acts Church of Chiang Mai

Long ago we made a decision as a family to set aside every second Sunday of the month to immerse ourselves in Christian Thai culture. The result of this action is our monthly visit to the Acts Church of Chiang Mai. The Acts Church is pastored by Pastor Kriengsak, a pastor of 20 years, with 15 of those years at Acts Church. He is also known as Moh Kriengsak, which means Doctor Kriengsak in Thai. He also happens to be our family doctor.

The Acts Church has included, fortunately for us, English translation in their services. Much to Linda’s delight, there are banner wielders at the front of the church during worship (as seen on the right). She also enjoys the freedom of the worship, which involves expressive dancing, the use of tambourines, and a lot of joyous jumping around. It is a lot freer than most services we've attended in any of the 3 countries we've lived in (Canada, Philippines, and Thailand).

Their services are held every Sunday at a Chinese language school, which is open on week-ends only. This being the case, every Saturday night church members must go over and set everything up for the following day's service. Adding to this hassle, one of the electric guitars used for worship was stolen last Saturday so the musical instruments could no longer be left at the school. They all need to be taken to the church early Sunday morning.

After each service, the church provides delicious lunch for visitors and members alike so once again, chairs are moved around, tables are set up, and then lunch is enjoyed together (voluntary donation for the food is asked for during the service). The ‘lunch set up’ is remarkably done very quickly, even much quicker when the service is a tad longer (hunger driven perhaps?).

The church bought land to build their own place but they are still praying for the building funds to come in. What is both a blessing and a prayer request is that the government has begun excavating earth around the Ping River, due to flooding after heavy rains. The good news is that the excavated earth has been donated to the Church, which will need it to build their building. The earth however, requires transporting, which they also need money for. Currently, they’ve already raised over 400,000 baht, and require just less than a 100,000 baht (about $3,000+ Canadian) more for the transportation of the earth alone. Let's join them in praying for the Lord's provision.

Pastor Kriengsak has indicated to Linda that when and if the new church is built, pictures of the king and queen of Thailand (as seen in top left of photo) won’t be up front and center of the sanctuary as is currently set up (since they use the language school). We do agree with him that the royal couple deserves the respect they receive but certainly not the worship and adulation due a deity that some Thai people give them. To any unbelieving Thai who walks in a church with their can't-miss-reverential-big pictures, it is hard to separate the fact that they are respected but not worshipped there. This change would be a welcome one indeed!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Kinhs

This week’s UPG is the Kinhs. The Kinhs can be found in Vietnam and Cambodia, and have the largest population of any unreached people group so far. There are about 30 million Northern Kinhs, and about 35 million Southern Kinhs, making the total around 65 million.

Unfortunately for such a large population, below 2% of the people are believers. This is a staggeringly low amount even with workers there.

Please pray with us that more would be sent to the Kinhs, and that they would learn to worship Jesus as their one and only saviour.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Visa Run

We were driven out this Sunday to the Chiang Mai train station to take the (13-hour) overnight train to Bangkok. The train left at 5:40 PM and we spent most of our time playing cards and reading, until an attendant turned our seats into beds, and we dozed off to the sound of the click-clacking of the wheels on the tracks. We were awakened early the next day, shortly after 6 AM, and arrived in Bangkok to take a taxi to a guest home.

We spent a couple of hours there resting then took yet another taxi to the immigration office to get our visas. We spent the least amount of time we've ever spent in that office. Our concerns that our visas may not be renewed due to the political unrest were unwarranted, and we walked out with the ability to live yet another year in Thailand. Our business finally done at noon-ish, we were left with hours upon hours with nothing to do until our flight back, at 8:15 PM. So we did what any family would have done: we went to the mall.

Upon arrival, and after a very filling lunch at McDonald's, we split up; my mother going off to shop on her own, and my dad and the rest of us to search for things to buy. We thought of watching a movie too but nothing was worth seeing. My brothers bought a few computer games, and I searched in vain for a music CD. A new school bag was also purchased for Ethan, and a great deal of walking around the mall was involved getting to and fro each store. Finally, we pondered over chocolate milk shakes what to do for the rest of the day. The decision was made to buy our dinner (which was various meat buns from a nearby bakery) and take an extremely long taxi ride over to the Suvarnabhumi International Airport (or more known as the New Bangkok International Airport), which is now apparently the largest in Asia.

The airport was HUGE, not to mention very high tech, temperature cool, clean, well-lit, and organized. We did not spend very long there though, and we were soon waiting for our terminal to open up. While my dad arranged the plane tickets and we amused ourselves by running up and down the automatic sidewalks, and playing with Eli and Ethan's new remote controlled cars, my mom was busy befriending a Thai lady named Nong Sii, who she later prayed for and convinced to take pictures of us.

Finally, when our plane arrived at 8:45 (late!) and we got on it, it was only a little over an hour flight back to Chiang Mai. Most of us napped through it, and we soon awoke to a familiar airport. On returning home at 10:45 PM, we all breathed long sighs of relief, and thanked God that although completely exhausted, we got our visas and arrived home safely. We won't have to repeat the entire process again until next year.

Below are two pictures taken at the New Bangkok International Airport. The first was taken in front of one of many very nice paintings arrayed along the wide corridors. The second was taken with us standing behind a curiously placed metal screen (its use still unknown).

Monday, October 2, 2006

The Karens

To those among you who are tempted to say this people group's name as 'Karen', as you would a girl's name, I would ask of you to resist your urges. Karen is pronounced 'Ka' as in 'car' and 'ren' as in 'hen'. Actually, you would be more correct if you said 'Car-hen' then 'Karen'.

The Karen are quite well known here in Thailand, as they can be found both here as well as Myanmar (formerly Burma). Another reason is that there are so many of them, about 2.5 million.

Please pray for the Karen because although they are being worked with, they are often looked down upon in Thai society. As this is the case, they often have trouble finding jobs, and are often left with selling 'mountain village' jewellery. Please pray that they will accept Jesus and also gain acceptance with the Thai people.

Saying Goodbye

Last Friday my parents went out with my dad's co-workers to bid Khun Lim a final farewell. But this was to be no somber occasion, and it appeared to be more of a celebration than a grim parting.

All of the office staff and their 'fehn' (boyfriend or girlfriend in Thai) were invited by my parents to a lovely restaurant up in the mountains, which they had not gone to before. The restaurant is called Pa Lad Ta Waan Ron, meaning 'Age of Sunset'. It's located near the waterfalls (where tables are actually set just 2 or 3 meters away) and it provides an extraordinary view of Chiang Mai.

My mother, when telling me what to write in this week's blog, would not stop with the vivid descriptions of what was served there, and how delicious it was, and so on and so forth. She simply could not get over the fact that (as seen in the picture) the drinks were served in tall glasses, with, wait for it, a wedge of lime, and, you'll never believe this, real orchids. They served flowers with their drinks! One such 'exotic culinary dish' was fried crocodile, which could be purchased fried, deep-fried, or quick-fried. Ostrich meat was also served the same way, with various types of sauces for both available.

Various descriptive novelties aside, the sending off was quite a success. My mother also noticed that Thai people (or this group in particular) love to take their pictures, and then get a kick out of looking at them. We thank God for Nong Lim and the time she spent in the office, and we also thank Him for Nong Phung, and for the blessing she is and will be to all of us.