Reflecting on Our First Four Months in Thailand
In some ways, it seems like just yesterday when we stepped off of the plane and into our new life here in Chiang Mai. In other ways, it feels like we have been here a long time. I guess that reflects a sense of being settled and in a routine, and that is a good thing! Here is a summary of our doings and goings, plus a look toward the future.
Tom – Quote, “I’m certainly never bored! There’s always something to do.” That typifies Tom’s daily life. He is having a great time teaching 3 sections of 6th grade math and 2 sections of 8th grade Algebra I. He keeps it interesting by having a trivia question each day and by sharing with them his heart for Christ. He just finished playing on two Ultimate Frisbee teams (a 7th grade team and a faculty team), and he also coached Kristen and Kendall’s rec. basketball team. Tom manages to find time to play basketball, run, and bike regularly, keeping him very fit and thin. He has been faithfully taking a growing group of students to Chiang Mai’s version of Broad Ripple, called the Night Bazaar, where sellers of everything under the sun set up stalls along the streets from 6 pm to 11 pm every night. It’s very safe and is a great place to meet people from all over the world. Several 8th graders are finding that God has called them to this type of evangelism, which, of course, Tom finds very rewarding. He has also led a small faculty men’s accountability group and a “Don’t Waste Your Life“ group on Saturday mornings. He plans to start a similar group with high school students very soon. Tom is working with Grace’s spiritual life director on a father’s panel discussion in November, similar to the ones we’ve had at College Park in the past (“5 Begat 41”).
Robin – My life seems to get more full every week, but still a manageable load that allows me time for peace and quiet, something I’m not terribly used to! I am involved in an aerobics class 3 days/week in our neighborhood, a Christian workout with wonderful ladies. It’s been good for me. On Thursday mornings I am in a Community Bible Study International (CBSI) group studying the book of Deuteronomy. This has been a refreshing time, and I love the goal of CBSI (similar to Bible Study Fellowship), which is “Everyone in the world in the Word.” They hope to start Bible studies among the Thais of Chiang Mai very soon. They already have four of their studies translated. As we know, there’s nothing like being in the Word to change hearts for the Lord’s kingdom! With that in mind, I determined that the Lord would have me lead a 6th grade girls Bible study. Besides Kristen, there are 10 other girls who join us weekly to discuss “The Teenage Years of Jesus Christ,” based on a book by Jerry Ross. I have also volunteered on the playground and in the cafeteria at school. My latest volunteer assignment at Grace is middle school and high school choir director while their regular director is recovering from earlier-than-expected hip replacement surgery. This is a lot of fun for me. Of course, there is a considerable amount of time each week spent shopping, cooking, washing dishes, and just being there for the kids when they get home from school. My goal each day is to have nothing on my schedule from 3 to 5 so I can totally focus on them.
Evan – I think his recent comment as we were driving in the car explains it all: “I really fit in well here.” That is definitely true! He is enjoying all of his teachers and classes at Grace and has a really nice group of friends. He was elected Spiritual Life Coordinator for the 8th grade, which has given him a platform to talk about what is most important to him. He and Tom led chapel last week on the subject of personal street evangelism, along with a handful of other boys who have been regulars at the Night Bazaar. As a result, about 15 kids went witnessing last Saturday night, with more promising to come in the future. Highlights of this first quarter for Evan have included science class, chapel band, PE class (they’ve been having team Olympics – many sports),Thai food, ultimate Frisbee football, encouraging his siblings on the basketball sideline, and leading worship for the eighth grade lock-in. He is really enjoying his violin and piano teachers, although managing daily practice and lessons is a lot harder here than in Indy (for all 3 kids). He brought home a great report card for first quarter.
Kristen – Here is a recent quote from our socialite: “Mom, for my birthday, I HAVE to invite all 31 sixth grade girls for a party. They are all my friends and I can’t leave anyone out!” I’m still not sure how we are going to solve this issue, but we have another four weeks to figure it out! Kristen is having a great year on every level. She is doing very well in school, she is mixing well with the other kids, and she is finding opportunities to stand up for truth and lead others. After a bit of a struggle, we found a cello teacher for her whom she likes. Her favorite activities have included trips to the “Sticky Falls” and “House Boats”, biking, playing with friends, learning the flute (all 6th graders take up a band instrument), playing basketball, art class, having her dad as math teacher, handing out tracks at the Night Bazaar, and rearranging her room (she is still sore at me that she can’t paint her room lime green while we are here….). She also brought home an excellent report card.
Kendall – “Mommy, I miss homeschooling.” Even though this is true for Kendall, he has done a great job adjusting to being in school all day. We miss each other a lot, but now he gets to share his joyful personality with many other people, as well! We have been thrilled to see how he has handled each new challenge. He is very conscientious about his school work, and it showed in his excellent first quarter report card. Kendall also enjoys riding his bike, learning to skateboard (who knew!?!), playing with friends, snuggling with Mommy, eating 5 bowls of rice for school lunch each day (he won’t touch the main dish), weekly computer time with his big brother, takeout pizza from The Pizza Company, and any time I cook American food at home !
What We Are Learning
There are so many amazing ministries that are based in Chiang Mai. Many mission organizations have their regional base here, which means that many people living here are involved in administration. It is also very common for a dad to leave his family for several weeks at a time to travel to an area where his ministry is strong but his family could not live. We are learning that missionary families are really just like any other Christian family anywhere else: they have triumphs and struggles in their work, their marriages and their families. Even in such a “luxurious” place as Chiang Mai, with so many missionaries in residence, they don’t have the same resources for Christian encouragement that we have in the States (or elsewhere), so some people have a very rich experience of Christian community and fellowship, and some struggle with a continuing sense of loneliness. This hits missionaries of all ages, especially the children, as they struggle with the reality of the being “third culture kids” – their passport says one country, their home is in another country, and they are continually torn between the two. There is a tremendous opportunity here to reach out to and encourage those that are discouraged and confused, as well as the opportunity to rejoice with those whose lives and ministries are bearing much fruit for the Kingdom.
A Look to the Future
Well, given how late this update is, the future is now! We are currently on vacation for a few days and then we are visiting a children’s home near the Burma border called Kids Life www.kidslifeministry.org (I will post on this after we return). Our break will end with a visit from Nate Irwin and Josh Harber from our church, College Park! When school starts again next week, Tom will be coaching the school’s U13 boys basketball team. His high school “Don’t Waste Your Life” class will also begin. Kristen and Kendall will be playing recreational soccer at school, and Evan will be refereeing. Tom will be preparing for the parenting panel in November. I will continue teaching one choir class per day until Mrs. Eckerle can return to the classroom. It looks as if the Saturday Night Bazaar evangelism team will continue to grow, which means finding more adults to come out, as well. Tom and I may have the opportunity to address the northern Thailand home schooling community in February at their yearly conference, which will be fun. During the Christmas break, we will be taking a beach vacation, after which we hope to join a YWAM team visiting villages in the northern hills of Thailand. Apparently it can be “freezing cold” there at night. That sounds great!
- That we all continue to be sensitive to God’s leading concerning ministry to the missionary community and beyond.
- That teenage hearts become more sold out for Christ through small group studies and street evangelism.
- That Tom continues to learn and grow as an effective teacher in the classroom.
- That the Miyakawa kids continue to do well in school – physically, mentally, and spiritually.
- That seeds of the Gospel planted in people at the Night Bazaar would grow into desire to live for Jesus.
- That our time in the Word, individually and as a family, will yield much fruit.
- For protection for the many missionary families here in Chiang Mai. The devil only wants to destroy…
Thank you so much for your support, both financially and through prayer. We are very blessed. Please feel free to contact us through this website.