reflections on taking chances

I was 23.
April 2008.
Nearly a year of wonderings and wanderings after graduating from college.
I was ready.
Ready to spread my wings and fly,
ready to take a chance.

Screen Shot 2018-04-21 at 12.24.20 PM.png

In 2007 I graduated with a degree in music.  In my young, naivete I thought I would immediately be hired in full-time music ministry and that church job offers would simply flood in as soon as I walked across the stage with my diploma.

(I was wrong, by the way).

That summer I travelled to India for a two-month long mission trip.  In many ways, that trip changed my life.  My first time overseas, my first time fully immersed in an eastern culture, and the first time I really caught a glimpse of life abroad serving a God who isn’t American.  A God of all nations.

I returned home more sick than I’ve ever been in my life, and still had no job and no direction for my life.

The difficult months that followed shook me to my core: extreme culture shock, depression, meandering and wanderings…  but then in April of 2008, everything changed.  You see, when I returned from India, my team spent several days in Bangkok, Thailand debriefing.  I had a distant feeling in my heart, a feeling that I would return to Thailand one day.

Ten years ago, in April 2008, I interviewed for a Music Teacher position in Bangkok, Thailand.  A few weeks later, I boarded a small airplane with 2 large suitcases (and a very heavy carry on) and moved to the other side of the world.

I didn’t know a single soul.

But that decision – that chance.  It changed my life forever.

The friendships forged during that year forever changed me, the students I taught showed me what compassion looked like with hands and feet, and living in another culture taught me how to be empathetic.

That chapter of my life opened up doors for me to later serve in full-time Worship ministry, and the relationships there inspired me to pursue seminary.  Many of the co-teachers I taught with are still my friends today.

The thing about taking chances is this: when the Holy Spirit of God prompts us to take steps of faith, or “chances” in our human thinking, the greater chance to take is to ignore that prompting and taking the wider, easier path.

I’m so glad I took that chance.

S6300051India, June 2007

S6300243.jpgKolkata, India, July 2007

IMG_1493_7Thailand, October 2008

IMG_5313Our street, Nonthaburi, Bangkok, Thailand

Advertisements

Breaking silence, silently breaking

Last Friday evening I returned to Seoul after a long, hot week in Bangkok partnering with and learning from ministries deep in the trenches of the Red Light districts.  I’ve never been more thankful to flop in my own bed and simply be in silence (8 high school girls and 3 leaders all staying in one room is an experience too much for anyone – especially an introvert).  I have also never been more touched experiencing God at work in some of the darkest places on the planet.

Many stories and books lie unwritten (for now) after this intense trip, but today I write just one of them.

Jill* attends our school and is a Junior this year.  An extremely intelligent, sheltered 16-year-old with kind eyes and a compassionate smile holds a bright future in front of her.  This bright future, surely pushed on her by her ever-achieving Korean parents, consists of ivy league schools, some lucrative career she probably doesn’t want, and high academics along the way… this girl is now friends with a prostitute.

Jill confided in our team earlier during the trip that she doesn’t like to cry,
especially with people.
She only cries alone.
When told that this trip “makes you cry” she questioned, “What if I don’t cry?  Does that mean I don’t care?”

I assured her everyone’s response to injustices like trafficking and prostitution is different.  Some people respond with tears, others respond with anger and even some respond with silent breaking.

As we cleaned up the nail polish, put away the chairs and swept the room that evening, I noticed Jill was not with the rest of the team.  Our team threw a party – a party for prostitutes!  A prostitute party.  The blue hairs at church would change the subject at hearing about this kind of a party.  No one talks about prostitutes at church.  (Yet the Bible seems to be brimming with prostitutes – and what a horror to see that one of them, Rahab, even makes it into the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew’s Gospel!  This, my dear readers is for another blog.)

During the prostitute party, we laughed, oh how we laughed.  Laughter always seems to extend beyond language and cultural barriers.
The gift of laughter breaks down walls.
Laughter reminds us we are all the same, we are all human.
We played games, we worshiped together, we experienced the Spirit of God at work in the lives of these precious women.  The only difference between “us” and “them” is just perhaps that life experiences somehow forced them to make a living in this way.  To be exploited and sell their bodies to survive.

Jill became friends with a prostitute.  A bleached-blonde, 40-year-old beautiful Thai woman.  This woman waited patiently to talk to Jill.  She waited patiently to have Jill, and only Jill, paint her nails.  They laughed together trying to bridge the language gap and made a strong connection that night.  The 16-year-old Korean girl and the 40-something-year-old prostitute.

After the women left and we continued cleaning, I discovered Jill in the corner, alone, with crocodile tears streaming down her eyes.  She looked away from me as I approached her, embarrassed.  This young girl who doesn’t like to cry in front of anyone; so I simply wrapped my arms around her.

“Yesterday when we saw the women standing in front of the bars and on the streets I was numb.  I didn’t feel anything.”

“But tonight, I realized these women are people.”

 

* Names changed to protect identities, of course

There are many ministries who work to provide jobs with dignity to men and women who are in vulnerable situations, especially in Bangkok.  For more information, or if you’d like to donate any amount please visit:
http://www.dtonnaam.org/
http://www.nightlightinternational.com/about/

lessons learned

I’ve been in a jet-lag haze for the past week.  Yesterday morning was the first morning I woke feeling semi-normal.  But even that was waking up at 5:30 am.  I’m ready for normal, calm, peace.  Yeah right, that won’t be happening until… maybe July.

I hit the ground running Monday.  Ate lunch, unpacked, did laundry, worked out, then slept, sorta.  Meetings all week, extra rehearsals, more meetings, more planning.  It’s exhausting, but at the same time it’s good.  I’m glad to be here.

Many things were pressed into my heart while I was away, and when I returned, I returned with a desire and flame to be here, where I know God wants me.  There’s a lot I could say, but I don’t want to bore you all.  Let’s just say the ways I thought God was leading when I left, were just not really what I thought.  I like to plan, I like to dream, I love thinking about the future, but in the midst of all the planning, I forgot to remain in the present.  Even while I was on my trip, I really have a habit of not remaining in the here and now, and, well for now on, it’s a discipline for me.

Psalm 90 speaks a lot about who God is, and who we are in light of him.  But I love verse 12- teach us to realize the brevity of life that we may gain a heart of wisdom (sorry that may not be exact.. too tired to move right now and check).

Life is precious, never forget that.  Be you.  And be right where you are, right now.

travel plans

Bangkok Friends,

I can’t tell you how crazy the past few weeks have been, not just for me, but I know for each and every one of you.  The flood has been less than ideal, but mostly, it’s heart breaking hearing that Thailand is going through this difficult crisis.  Prayers are going up for you all.

Anyway, in light of the flooding, I’ve decided to postpone my trip to see you all, January 11-30.  I know right now I would be fine to make it to GES, Nichada, and those areas, but when I come, I have plans to do more traveling, shopping and other sightseeing that right now I know I wouldn’t be able to do with the flooding.

I love and miss you all, and can’t wait to smile, laugh, play music, catch up, and enjoy life with each of you.  My heart is with you all!

With Love,
Miss Meri

What lies ahead

As the dance between summer and fall becomes slower, summer gives way to fall, and a million memories rush.  Memories of what seems like a past life.  Football, high school, happy times, sad times, thankfulness, and everything else I love and hate at the same time.  The rain is a familiar friend, but not always a welcomed friend here in Oregon, but, right now it doesn’t matter much.  It’s just nice to see a little change in the weather for now.

This fall will be different.  I struggle to find the words to say sometimes, but on November 15 I will leave to enter into what often feels like dream land for me, Thailand.  Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remember, oh yeah, that was real, I used to live in Thailand!  I will be grateful to give up a little fall, to return back to summer, and to a time that feels so long ago, yet at the same time seems like just yesterday.  The sights, smells, feeling, I can close my eyes and see it all now.

It is a bittersweet time too.  Remembering what was, not only Thailand, but other memories.  This is a new chapter, so part of this trip will be addressing and understanding that I may not be called back to SE Asia at all, or not anytime soon, or sooner than I expect.  I don’t worry about this, I know what will be, will be.

Either way, it will be an amazing time.

But for now, I will enjoy the cool, crisp mornings, and be super thankful for non-polluted air, and beautiful falls in Oregon.

reflections of the past

Two years have passed.  Two years ago, from Saturday, I stepped off a small airplane back into my life here in Oregon.  After a year of adventure beyond anything I ever thought I would experience in Thailand, I returned back to the States, sure that this was where I belonged for the time being.

Two years goes by really fast.  That’s all I know!

Never thought I’d still be here in Oregon.

I was sure I would be moving down to Southern California.

But God had other plans for me here.  Leading worship.  Following my heart and my passion, even though at the time it didn’t really make any sense at all.

That always seems to be how God works.  He requires a step of faith, and then takes the rest in his hands.

That’s how I ended up in Thailand.  About 3 years ago, I began emailing with GES, and 6 weeks later, I was on an airplane, headed off for an adventure of a lifetime.  I didn’t know anyone there.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  But as soon as I stepped foot off that airplane, taking a huge breath of the humidity/polluted air… I knew I was at home.

It’s funny now, because sometimes Thailand feels like forever ago, and other times it seems like it was just yesterday.  When we were on our missions trip to Nicaragua recently, one of the girls was like, “Are you sure you won’t go back and that your time there was done?  Because it seems like you still really miss it.”  It’s true.  More than words.  I really miss it.

My friends, my Thailand friends.  I miss you all.  I miss the fun times, the tears, the laughs, the wild and crazy adventures.  I hope to see you all again someday soon….  I know it was a unique time and place for each and every one of us to all be together that year.  But for now.. here are a few photo memories…