Mae Sariang. That’s the correct spelling of the village I traveled to this weekend. It is similar in size to my hometown in Michigan, maybe around 10 or 15 thousand people. The surrounding area is much more rural. The land is covered in rice fields, all brown and black from the recent burning of the field after harvest.
Three Thai teachers, one Thai woman from Mae Sariang who now lives in my city, three farang (white American) children, and around 10 other M’s went on the trip. Fleece Navidad was a mission set out to deliver 1,000 fleece coats to the children of 7 different schools in the area. Four of the schools were larger, ranging from 150 students to 250, then the other three were smaller, ranging from 59 to around 100.
Day one: I woke up late, using my new alarm clock for the first time. Sunday morning and only 20 minutes or so to get ready for church. As you can clearly tell, it was not a pretty sight. (This was before I got myself together…I just rolled out of bed. I know some of you were thinking, “She went to church like this?” Admit it.)
I managed to make it to church on time and catch a ride with the family I was to ride up the mountain with. After lunch, we loaded up the 11 passenger van and got on board. I sat in the last row, next to Khruu Fon (pronounced crew phone). She teaches Thai at the office. We had a nice visit and I learned a lot about her; we giggled and both got embarrassed by our lack of knowledge of the other person’s language. Gotta just grin and bear it when you get embarrassed in these sort of situations.
Here is my language teacher, Khruu Nai (crew n-eye), she and her husband were on the trip as well.
Arrived in Mae Sariang in the late afternoon, after 3 hours on the bumpy, windy, and bladder crunching road. I made it without getting sick, thank heaven for Dramamine. The Riverhouse. A beautiful hotel. Khruu Fon and I shared a room; the balcony looked out over a river and the trees glowed perfectly for us as the sun began to set in the distance. Little did I know what the next day would bring.
I had left my apartment praying, and hoping, for a good experience. I simply wanted to be useful to the Father. I didn’t know what this meant, in what capacity. I had a goal of documenting the trip and thought if the volunteer group could use what I captured, that would be great.
Khruu Fon and I got up around 5:30 to be at breakfast at 6:30. We left the hotel and arrived at the first school, Huay Po with 177 students and 14 teachers. We met outside, the children were on large mats, with their shoes off. They brought us small trays with a glass of water and a cup of coffee. We unloaded the trucks. Big bags of coats, bags of candy, boxes of a small book we were giving out that contained the Christmas story and some Christmas carols, and beanie babies, as an extra treat. First there was an introduction, then a song and game, then Pastor John gave a short message and told the students and others listening that he would leave some cards containing information on what he had shared. We passed out the coats, the beanies, and candy. There were so many cameras. I had a large camera, another photographer had one, a videographer was on the trip, then the others had small camera’s to document the experience as well.
We went on to the next school: Baan Mae Kong Pae, with 75 students. This school was much poorer, had much less government funding. The children were beautiful, even with their raggedy old clothes, wholes in their socks, and no jackets in the fairly cool weather, leaving runny noses and dirty faces. My heart began to hurt. We had the same schedule for this school. Something inside me just ached… I couldn’t place my finger on it, but as we left, the tears began to flow. I turned my face toward the window, so other’s wouldn’t see.
What was going on? I have seen poverty before. I have spoken with folks that have had nothing, not even means to have a meal. I have been touched by an old woman who had nothing, even in the dead of winter, she had no doors, no windows, no heat, and no electricity. Why were these feelings attacking me? I began to think, “This is not enough! They need so much more!” I knew we were sharing with them the Message, but I kept feeling like it was just a short snippet, and no one was really listening or could pay attention with the other classmates around them making noise. I cried…and cried.
The final school of the day was way up on a mountain. It looked down on the valley and the tiny village. This was the poorest school we visited. The children were so well behaved…but I found myself again returning to my rage, fear, heartache, desire to do more, and lack of trust in the work of the Holy Spirit. I had to step outside. Some women from the village came up to see what all the commotion at the school was about. We took pictures together, we talked…or rather they talked to me and I laughed and shook my head “I don’t understand.” They laughed…
I spoke with some co-workers and shared what was going on in my heart and mind. I just couldn’t get over this feeling of “not doing enough.” I felt selfish taking their pictures, and sad that there were so many others doing the same, as if we were taking something from them. We returned to the hotel and I went straight to my bed. I laid down and stared at the sealing. “What are You trying to show me? What do these feelings and thoughts all mean? I know You sent me here for a reason, was it to teach me I can’t do this?” Friends, it was a rough couple of hours. But you know what? He is SO MUCH BIGGER than all of our fears, regrets, questions, and SO MUCH BIGGER than what Satan can do to distract and discourage.
In those 2 hours on my bed, He really taught me some hard lessons. One: the importance of long term M’s and their work in these communities, not that one person can change a whole community or system, but that we need people committed to spending their days working with such people, sharing the Good News with them as much as possible. Two: I was sent to share what is going on here, where many people are not given the opportunity to come. Taking pictures is something that I can share with you, to show you where our efforts are going and how He is moving, even in small mountain villages. Three: I love children! It was so encouraging to be reminded that He has gifted me with love and joy for babies, all shapes, sizes, and colors. Four: He’s already blessed me with a passion for the people here. It didn’t take long…Five: People have been lifting up this small trip for months and they’ve given their time and money to support the trip. I forgot many of these things when I was struggling earlier.
This was a hard trip. I was pushed over by a wave of emotion and waves of defeat. But guess who made the waves…and my emotions? I found myself, by the end of the trip, rejoicing in the small little smiles I caught out of the corner of my eye, seeing a teacher in the back reading (actually reading every page) of the books we had handed out, and noticing the one child in 10 that was so intently listening when the Good News was given. I believe He showed me these things to remember why He sent me here. He loves His children, all of them. I too should continue to love them…and He’s given me a heart to do so.
I hope this video finds you well and you can watch and see the magnificent wonders that He has made. We all were blessed to be able to go and give in this way. Blessings!
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