Archive for August, 2011

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Growing Up in a Foreign Land

08/22/2011

I (Derran) started writing this story a few weeks ago but didn’t get to finish it. I finally returned to it today and thought I would post it for you to read. It might be a bit random, but it’s a picture of life here.

It was one of those moments that catch you by surprise. I was standing outside the play area at the new mall in Chiang Rai, watching Brynn go down slides and jump into the ball pit. I began to look around and noticed a huge crowd of people (the movie theater is nearby and Transformers 3 was premiering). And it hit me that, of the 500 or so people in that common space, my daughter was the only person without black hair that I could see. I got a little chuckle out the fact that my blonde, curly-haired, blue-eyed daughter stood out in that place like a Democrat on the set of Fox News (or a Republican at MSNBC—whichever metaphor you prefer). I smiled because I am thankful that she will grow up in a place where not everyone looks like her—a gift of immeasurable value.

However, my moralistic visions quickly faded as I watched the reality that she faces living in this place. My oldest is a social butterfly who loves to meet and talk with new people and play with good friends. But, sadly, that beautiful trait has run into a barrier of language for two years now. She has done a great job adjusting, but I know it is hard for her at times. Well, this day, I truly noticed the sacrifice she has made by our family moving here.

After my momentary chuckle at her distinctness in that place, I saw her watching this 6 or 7 year-old girl stacking blocks in the corner. This little girl was on a mission to construct a masterpiece and was enjoying every minute of it. I watched as Brynn sensed the fun that obviously resulted from designing this work of architecture. She inched closer in an effort to contribute her skills and energy to this all-important task. And when she reached down and picked up her first block, constrained by the silence that results from being a 5 year-old sojourner, the girl snatched it away in an attempt to halt this unwanted intrusion. And despite this unwelcoming reception, my daughter’s only response was a smile, accompanied by a second brick offering to her new “friend.”

And this was the moment that caught me by surprise. All the loneliness, pain, confusion, longing that has been brewing inside me, as one in a strange land, I could now see in the eyes of my daughter. Though she smiled, in an altruistic attempt to ease the discomfort of this girl who is so different, and yet so similar, I could sense the hurt that came with the loss of another friend at the hands of Different. And as she mustered the strength to keep smiling and handing over bricks, tears were my only offering.

And in that moment, when I would have surrendered to the powers of rejection, silence, and difference, my daughter stood her ground and smiled through the pain. While I tried to regain my composure, Brynn offered another brick, despite the ungrateful manner in which the little girl snatched it out of her hand. And then another. And another. Until the unlikely happened. This little girl, who, a moment before, had declared that Different would win the day, offered a brick to Brynn. And with a clarity that can only be communicated outside of spoken language, she invited Brynn to join her in completing the elaborate masterpiece she had begun. The smile that was once an attempt to disarm was now a smile of pure bliss.

And through cloudy vision and muffled sniffles, I declared under my breath, “The kingdom of God has drawn near.”

For, though it might sound like an odd statement to make in this seemingly trivial moment of parenting, I saw that “he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… his purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace.” I said it because I witnessed it in the life of my daughter, this daughter who so beautifully seeks to “destroy the barrier” and “make the two groups one, “ whether at school, at the grocery store, or at mall playgrounds. And she does this in the midst of constant confusion and rejection. She does it with a smile on her face. Now, I have no idea if I am any good at this mission work thing, but I am confident that the reign of God is breaking in here because of the love, perseverance, and hospitality of my daughters. And, for that, I am thankful.

Well, I would love to conclude by reporting that Brynn and that girl became the best of friends and meet at the playground every Saturday. I mean, that would preach. But, the reality is that, after about 10 minutes, the little girl saw a group of kids she knew and left Brynn standing alone in the ball pit. With that, the pain and confusion returned—in me, at least. And, my daughter will search for another to whom she can offer a brick. And so, while I declared with confidence that the kingdom of God is here “now” a short time before, I am also fully aware that the kingdom of God is also “not yet.”

Thus, whether in the face of oppressive empires or disorienting injustices or immeasurable suffering—or standing outside of mall playgrounds—we hear him say, “Yes, I am coming soon, “ and we pray, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

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Pizza in Phayao

08/17/2011

I have been intending to write a new post for a while now, but these past few weeks have been crazy busy. Our team opened the pizza restaurant on July 23rd, and it has been a wild ride since. Thus, blogging has taken a back seat, but I hope to write more in the coming days. For now, I wanted you to get a look at the first pizza restaurant in Phayao.

We first rented our building back in February. We have spent the past few months renovating and decorating, and it feels good to have it operational. Here are some before-and-after pictures.

View from the street

From the front looking back

From the back looking to the front

And now…

เตาอิฐ พิซซ่า (The Brick Oven)

Before we officially opened we hosted a soft opening for our close friends and neighbors. This allowed our employees to get some practice before we opened to the public. We began the day with an opening ceremony out front. We were especially blessed to have Robert Reagan and Kelly Davidson come and read Scripture, say prayers, and speak blessings over us, our employees, the restaurant, and Phayao. It was such a fun and exciting day for all of us.

Getting ready for the opening ceremony.

We had one day to make adjustments after the soft opening in order to get ready for the grand opening on July 23rd. We had no idea how the first day would go or if we would have many customers. However, at an hour and a half before closing, we had already completely sold out of pizzas. It was an amazing and exhausting day. Our employees did a great job, and I think our customers were pleased. It was a great beginning to this new endeavor.

Here’s a picture from opening day.