Archive for April, 2010

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Songkran Festival

04/16/2010

This week we celebrated the Thai New Year with a water festival called Songkran. It has been a blast! The Thais throw water on one another to symbolize cleansing for the coming year. Traditionally, Songkran is an opportunity to bless your elders, give them gifts, and bring water to put on their heads as a blessing. We were able to do this simple ceremony for our neighbor who has done so much to help us these last seven months. Ning prepared gifts for him and the blessing water. We presented it to him and his wife, said a blessing to them, and then he gave us a blessing in return for this next year. It was a special time to honor him and his wife since we have grown close to them in our time here.

Other parts of the three-day festival include a day when you are to clean your house, and a designated family day.  It is also a time when many Buddhists go to the temple as families and perform rituals to bring in the new year. It is three days long, but really everyone celebrates it for about a week. Everyone is off work, and it is so fun watching people be together. It reminds me of Christmas time. Though instead of red and green everywhere, everyone is wearing bright-colored, almost Hawaiian-print shirts, and fun hats. And it is over 100 degrees outside!

The first day we loaded in the back of the Fikes’ truck with some of our neighbors. We had giant buckets of water and added huge chunks of ice to make it an even bigger surprise for people (and to be clear, we threw cold water, not chunks of ice, at people). I mean, why throw water if it isn’t freezing cold? We drove down the busiest street in town, and there were hundreds and hundreds of people lining the streets. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in a while, watching people get doused with water. I witnessed various styles of dousing. My two favorites are the “Slow-Motion Douse” and the “Spirited Douse”. The “Slow-Motion Douse” usually involves a motorcyclist pulling up next to a truckload of people at a red light. The motorcyclist can go nowhere and is usually not equipped with anything to fight back. The person in the truck casually leans over and empties an entire bucket of water on the defenseless driver, and it is a thing of beauty. The motorcyclist usually just sits there acting cool like he/she doesn’t even notice what is happening. Sometimes they give a little smile, but for the most part they play it cool. I love it! The “Spirited Douse” is also a fav. This is when you watch someone on the side of the road get ready to hurl the water on someone passing by…it is something about the set of their mouth, the energy in the approach, and the shout of glee when the water splats across their target that brings me such joy and sends me into peals of laughter. I can’t get enough!

The second day we loaded in the back of the truck again, and it was probably the better of the two days. We took the back roads and went in search of a good time. I would say that our girls loved it, but I would be lying. They didn’t make it down our street before they demanded to be put in the cab with me (I got to be the driver…a real sacrifice). The Fikes’ boys loved it though! There’s a little boy/girl difference for you. 🙂 Maybe next year! They did have fun watching from the safety of the cab though.

It is a beautiful sight to see the faces of young kids, dads, moms, grandparents, friends, and people of all ages smiling, laughing, dancing, and having such a great time together. That was my favorite thing about this week…the smiles. It is so fun to see this country, which is in the middle of political turmoil, be able to stop, laugh, and drench each other in water. And it is fun to see people dance up to your car to get you and then run away squealing because they didn’t know it was ice water that was coming back at them! Priceless. I wish we had this holiday in the States. I think yall would love it, too!

Of course there was a downside. There is a lot of drinking that takes place, so we saw lots of drunk people, many of them underage. Derran, Ryan, and Chris even broke up a fight that they came upon when everyone else just stood there and watched. There are always those that take advantage of such festive times to act inappropriately and steal some of the innocent joy away.  But, overall, I think joy wins out. It was such a fun week. So that is what I take away from this week….smiles. Smiles on so many faces. You can’t help but laugh when you see that many soaking wet people and hear the shrieks of laughter and joy when a well-placed shot of water hits its’ target. Joy.

Loading up with our neighbors and some of their friends. Let the games begin.

Our arsenal.

Some shots from the road alongside Lake Phayao.

Corban gets in on the action.

Meg likes to have her own water fight in our driveway.

And afterwards, time for a little relaxing.

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Easter in Phayao

04/11/2010

Happy Easter to all! This year we had a very special weekend celebrating the death and resurrection of our Christ. It was our first Easter in Thailand and our first Easter in 102 degree weather!  We started our Easter festivities with Palm Sunday, and the kids reenacted Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey (little red wagon). Tonya simply went out and cut some palm branches down from the tree in her yard–that didn’t happen in Texas!  The kids loved it. Even Meg got into saying “Hosanna, Hosanna”. Absolutely precious.

I’ll break here to insert a quick story from the week prior. My sister Amy sent us some “Resurrection Eggs”, little plastic eggs with tokens of the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection to use for kids to learn the Easter story. Brynn and Meg loved opening them and listening to me tell the story. We did this several times a day after we got them, and it was a special time for all of us.  However, all special times come to an end, and after the 100th time going through all 12 eggs, I was ready for a break and needed to get some things done. Brynn started crying and throwing a fit, and I muttered something under my breath about her needing to be quiet pretty quick. My frustration was close to the boiling over point when through her tears she cried out, “Mommy, will you teach me the truth about God?”  Derran loved that one! I mean, what’s a mom to do? I chuckle just thinking about it. It was a humbling moment. And yes, I did tell her the “the truth about God” yet again after supper. She has a beautiful heart, I might need to work on mine just a hair more! 🙂

On Friday night, our team had a special service to focus on the death of Christ. I’d never been to a service like that before on Easter.  Chris planned it for us, and we all showed up that evening at 6. It is key to point out that it was still 101 degrees at this point. We walked into our office building to candles all around the room and mats on the floor.  No A/C. One open window. One fan. Make that one fan that we didn’t turn on at first because of the candles. That lasted just a few minutes, then we just didn’t care anymore and that fan was turned on full blast! We shared a simple meal together of fruit, sticky rice, grilled pork on a stick, and water. We shared communion together. We took turns trying to keep the kids from a) climbing out the window, b) blowing out the candles, c) drinking all the grape juice, and d) catching themselves on fire. It was quite a sight. Right as I’m partaking of the cup, Meg jumped, lunged rather, into my arms and sent sticky purple liquid all over my face, neck, and shirt…there is nothing like trying to be contemplative when one is hot, sticky, and sweaty–surrounded by candles and small children. I tried to gracefully pull myself together and instructed Meg that if she knew what was good for her, she would find another lap to sit in.  🙂  The service continued as we read Scripture to one another and were able to remember the darkness that Friday so long ago. We left in silence longing for Sunday.

Though I make it seem quite trying, it truly was a powerful time for us. We want our children to be a part of these worship experiences with us, even if it means things are a little crazy, and not so contemplative, at times.  We could have easily put on cartoons or something, but I’m so glad we didn’t; it was a shaping time for all of us.

On Saturday night our team spent the night together at the Fikes’ house. It was as if we were traveling to be with family for Easter weekend, and also so we could wake up and have an Easter egg hunt with all the kids together. We shared a delicious meal of Suki (boiled veggies and meat in broth) and good fellowship. Chris suggested we wake up early to have a sunrise service on Sunday. I must admit that we took a vote, and I was the only dissenting vote. I like my sleep, what can I say?

So after a night of little sleep, we awoke at 5:45 to have a sunrise service out in the front yard before our kids woke up. I was so blessed by that time of quiet and celebration before the day started with the heat and frenzy of getting things done. We sang together, prayed, worshipped, shared communion, and praised God for the empty tomb. It was a powerful moment for me to realize that we live in a country that we are able to sit out in broad daylight and worship God freely, while in the silence between the songs and Scripture readings we could hear the Sanskrit chanting of the Buddhist monks coming from the temple a block or two away. We long for the day that those we love all around us also will celebrate with us the beauty and hope the Easter story brings us.

We had a fun Easter egg hunt, with the only mishap being a stray dog marking his spot on an unfortunate egg. Oops! The kids loved the hunt and we loved watching them. Tonya and I had packed bags of plastic eggs last summer on the shipment, and we were so glad that we did that. We went inside and had Bible class for the kids focusing on the resurrection. By noon we were all ready for naps and recovery time from the Easter Extravaganza weekend. A good kind of tired.

It was a blessed weekend being together. Through the sweat, heat, candles, eggs, and all, we were reminded in a powerful way just how great our God is. He is present all around us. I can’t tell you the joy that fills my heart as I watch Brynn open that last plastic egg, which represents the tomb, and she stands up, stretches her arms out and dramatically yells, “He’s A–LIVE!”

We look forward to many more extremely hot Easters to come in Thailand. Enjoy the pictures!

The kids before the big egg hunt.

Meg and Lane got a head-start.

The post-hunt tallying of eggs.

Kids’ class and a reenactment of the empty tomb.

We watched a video from two Easters ago. The girls loved watching themselves.


The girls made some Easter crafts.

On another note, we ask you to be in prayer for the political situation in Thailand. Tensions are high, especially in Bangkok, but all over the country really. We feel safe being here, but we hurt with this nation that is in political turmoil right now. Please pray for peaceful negotiations between the two feuding groups and that this time will pass quickly.

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Happy Easter!

04/04/2010

And the one seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”

Amen.