Sunday, July 31, 2016

The end of a summer and start of a new school year

A short update

We are back home in Thailand once again after a long and fantastic summer visiting our families and friends in the United States! We didn't do nearly as much traveling this year as last, but we felt like it turned out to be a pretty busy summer anyway with the number of people we got to interact with. Our flights back to Thailand went well, with the only hiccup being a delay of a couple of hours in Hong Kong. Michael and I have been impressed with Gerrit's ability to adjust back to this time zone; we've had a couple mornings that started at 4:30, and a couple more that started at 5:30-6:30, which is pretty close to the normal time we'd wake up. We're so thankful for to have a little boy who adjusts quickly and (relatively) painlessly to new situations and time zones - it's one of the things that makes our lifestyle just a bit easier.

I look forward tomorrow to returning to work at GES - I will be continuing my full time position as the high school English teacher/12th grade homeroom teacher. Michael, for those who haven't heard, is changing positions. Instead of teaching middle and high school history, he is going to be a full-time stay-at-home dad for Gerrit this year! We are both really excited for this change. Last year we both tried to work and take care of Gerrit, and while it was an excellent opportunity to try for a while, we felt that it wasn't sustainable for another year. So we will see how this arrangement works for our family instead!


I have been reading a book recently called From Buddha to Jesus. While there are some things that I do not agree with in this book, it has really opened my eyes to what it means to minister to Buddhists. It's kind of funny - I've lived in a Buddhist country for six years, and have never really come to understand why people believe in Buddhism. I think part of it is that I've gotten mixed thoughts from my students, who don't always seem to know, or at least be able to articulate, what they believe and why they believe it. This book, though, has given me a bit more of a foot in the door to open up more conversations about life, and more specifically, sin. The teachings of Buddha and many stories within Buddhism show how impossible it is to make up for even one sinful thought, let alone a whole lifetime of sinful thoughts and deeds.

I've been amazed at how much Buddhism and Christianity are alike in that way. Both of them point to our need for help, our need for a savior. But only one of these religions tells the rest of that story.

I heard a sermon recently on the parable of the hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44), which goes like this: "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."

Normally, when I've heard this story, I've heard it explained to mean that the treasure is Christ, and we must give up all we have in order to cling to that treasure. There is a lot of truth in that - how many Christians around the world are having to give up their homes, families, and even their very lives for the joy of living in Christ? But the recent sermon I heard interpreted the story differently: we are the treasure and Christ is the one who gave everything up for it.

Doesn't that change your understanding of that story a bit?

We, who are filled with sinful thoughts and actions every day of our lives, are so valuable that Christ joyfully sold all he had - he became human, lived among us, was brutally killed, and rose to life again - so that he might have that treasure. So that we might belong to him. So that we might become his.

I am in awe of this.

In all honesty, sometimes I forget that I am valuable. When we travel to the US and see so many people in such a short time, I have a hard time letting go of the cultural mistakes I think I make. For example, I had such a hard time going to church for the first time in the US this summer because it was so different from our church in Thailand; I didn't want to offend anyone by leaving, but it was uncomfortable for me to stay, too. It made me feel like there was something really wrong with me. As another example, I always find that having conversations with people that I only see once a year is really tough. I feel like I often can't find the right words to express what I really want to express, so I remain silent, and then I feel bad that I'm not taking advantage of the opportunity to converse with old friends.

Sometimes I get stuck in these kinds of inner struggles - feelings of inadequacy and guilt, wondering if whatever I'm doing is even worth it. But the above parable reminds me that it is worthwhile. I am worthwhile. And you are too.

This is the message that I hope to convey to my students this year. I hope to help them see their need for something more, and to realize that "more" does not have to be money. "More" does not come from getting the right job or following your parents' dreams for you. "More" is here. Now.

Some Prayer Requests

One of the things that I love about traveling through the US in the summer is the reminder of how many people support us through prayer. It's hard to remember that when we are away because, well, we're pretty far away. But re-establishing contact every year is always encouraging. If you're one of our prayer warriors, we would love it if you could pray over some of the following for us in the next week or two:

1. For the teachers and other faculty and staff at our school - the beginning of a new year is exciting and overwhelming, no matter how many years one has been here. This next week is our orientation week, which includes a lot of new information, a lot of meetings, and a lot of prepping for the upcoming year. Pray that the teachers will find peace in the midst of the stress, that they will work well with one another and support one another with as much grace and encouragement as we can muster.

2. For our students - no matter their age, race, gender, religion, native language, or anything else, the students coming into our school have a need for the love of Christ. Pray that they may have open hearts this year to hear and receive the Good News, that they will understand it is for them and their culture, not just for Westerners.

3. For our church - a number of ministry leaders in our church have left since the end of the last school year. Some positions have been filled and some have not; we appreciate your prayers as new leaders step forth and as we as a church continue our outward ministries.

4. For us - for Michael, that he will adjust to the stay-at-home-dad kind of life, and still find his niche within the GES community. Not being a teacher but still finding a place in the community is a huge adjustment. For me, that I will find a way to balance a full-time job and full-time supportive mom/wife.

Love you all. Thank you for your encouragement this summer and for your continuing encouragement through thoughts and prayers.

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