Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Moments of Friendship

We're back into the busyness of unending lesson planning and teaching. Thankfully the pinkeye epidemic is ending. I've never been so thankful for healthy, pain-free eyes. 

I know that I will greatly miss this place when I leave. I am beginning to build stronger friendships with the students. I enjoy those special friendship moments. 

Like when Naw Nu Nu, one of my 10th graders, asked to have a bath with me in our little outhouse. So yes, that's what we did - in our bathing sarongs of course. :) She chatted to me in broken English while we sudsed up. I was able to learn more about her. There's one thing we disagreed on - She loves durian, and I do not like durian (at least not yet). She also says she wants to preach the Gospel in Burma, for which I am very glad. 

Or the time Sharon and I went for a run down the country road that borders the school. We passed by fields of growing rice, loud motorbikes, and friendly people walking by. We then cleared the path up to the banana hill with machetes to get some more exercise. At the top of the hill, we talked about our students while we got moistened by the gentle rain and enjoyed the view I never tire of. (It's the same view as the picture at the top of my blog.)

Or the time after supper when I was coming down the steps from the Stecks house and noticed two of my 8th graders shyly waiting for me near my hut. They had come to visit Raquel and I until the time came for evening worship. We walked arm in arm for the last few steps to my hut. We shared smiles and laughs and they taught me a few words in Karen (of which I've forgotten already). 

Or special evening prayer times and talk times with my mission partner - Raquel. It's been meaningful sharing our hearts with our Savior together and praying for our friends and family. 

Or Sabbath afternoon story time on the sandy beach by the river with friends. We were reading an old favorite - Nyla and the White Crocodile. The breeze felt great and the view of the beautiful mountains topped it off. 

Or when July Paw slipped her arm through mine and looked up at me with her sweet ever-ready smile as we walked out of the missionary meeting on Sabbath night.

I'm especially thankful for my Friend that sticks closer than a brother. I've been soaking up the moments I've had with just Him and I lately. There's nothing that tops that experience. Oh, that I would prioritize this time more in my life.

Being so far across the ocean from my dear ones in the US has caused me to realize even more how privileged I am to have Jesus in my life. 

He's loves us more than anyone else in the whole world. 
He's that Friend that we all want and need. 
He will never ever let us down. 
He's never too busy to talk. 
He's always there.

I encourage you to get to know Him better. You won't regret it. 

 Riding in the back of a truck is normal here.
We had just finished eating delicious Thai food at a nearby restaurant. 

Campus & Kids

This afternoon I took some more pictures to post. Hope you enjoy!

  A view near my hut. The garden area is where the old girl's dorm used to be. 

 The chapel that fits over 300 students plus teachers - it is quite crowded.

 Our little hut from a different angle

Our hut and the steep rock steps that go up to the Stecks house. 

 This is where the student's get their rice every meal. 
(I'll try to get a picture at a mealtime sometime, to show you the long line.)

 My afternoon computer class

 The creek where we bathe with the girls sometimes. 

There are a lot of dogs that roam this campus. 

Clothes hanging out to dry at a teacher's home. 

 A little guy who has been hanging out on our porch for the last few days. He has a bone disease--both his legs are broken right now--and yet he is still smiles. 
(You can read more about him on Raquel's blog - raquelariel.blogspot.com)
The children's home (Adams house)

The newest little addition to the children's home. Her name means "Sweet, Sweet Flower."

Ninga peeking around the pole

He finally let me take a better picture of him. 

Ku Ku Paw's cheesy smile

I think this butterfly likes purple too. 

I'm so thankful for the simple beauty in nature. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Apple of His Eye

We've been dealing with a pretty bad epidemic of pinkeye here at Sunshine Orchards. I'm on my fourth day with it. It's pretty miserable--swollen eyelids, super watery eyes the color of a Red Delicious apple. I've almost forgotten what my eyes normally look like. I had a low-grade fever off and on for the first few days too.

I'm so thankful that I'm feeling better now. I am beginning to see the whites of my eyes peeking through the redness. I keep reminding myself that "this too shall pass." Our Creator wisely made our body to amazingly get rid of invading enemies by itself. We are truly fearfully and wonderfully made. This never ceases to amaze me.

School has been cancelled for the whole week because so many people have the eye disease. It's hard to count, but there are probably at least 150 students that have come down with it at some point. When the announcement was made at worship last night, there were many joyous shouts and exclamations. The students are happy to be on break again.

This morning as I was reading in Psalm 17, I came across this treasure:
       "Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings." 

Anything that has to do with "eyes" catches my attention, because of the eye problem that I'm dealing with at the moment. 

I reminded myself of the meaning behind this phrase:
      the apple of one's eye: a person of whom one is extremely fond and proud. [originally
      denoting the pupil of the eye... a symbol of something cherished.]

Wow! To think that the King of the Universe... the Creator of everything... the Savior of the world... has those kind of feelings for me--a sinner.

I have been and always will be in the center focus of His eye - the apple of His eye. This thought is hard to fully grasp with my finite mind.

This is a promise that I should always remember. When faced with challenges and difficulties--such as a bad case of pinkeye or worse--we have the assurance that God knows... and He cares deeply. 

I am richly blessed to be God's child. I'm truly privileged to call such a God, "my God--my Friend."

I'm so glad God doesn't get pinkeye--yet He can empathize with the worst of our problems. Thankfully He always has a clear vision of His children. His eye is on us, just like a mother eagle watches over her young.

"...He kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him..." (Deuteronomy 32:10-12)

My friends, God cares deeply about your sorrows, worries and fears. God says, "...he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye." (Zechariah 2:8)

You too are as the apple of His eye and nothing can change that fact. 
Oh, that we might more fully put our trust in Him!

"Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name." 
(Psalm 33:18-21)

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

I'm a Teacher Now

It's hard to believe I'm actually a teacher now - "Tharamu Marie" to be exact. (There's another "Tharamu Hannah" here, so to avoid confusion I'm temporarily known as "Tharamu Marie.")

The two first days of teaching are behind me now...  I am learning to push pass feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty and just do my best, one day at a time, trusting that God will do the rest. I'm so glad I always have Him as my classroom assistant. 

I'm starting to feel more at ease and comfortable with these students now. My classes are made up of a random assortment of personalities.  There's the silly ones, the shy ones, the mischievous ones (usually boys), the confident ones, the not-so-confident ones, the conscientious ones, the very sweet ones, and more. I enjoy interacting with them. 

For those of you who like statistics, here's the number of students in each of my classes:
    8th grade - 26 students
    9th grade - 25 students 
    10th grade - 11 students 
    Computers class - 15 students 

In total, I have around 62 different new names to learn, plus the others who aren't in my classes... and they're not American names... Let me give you some examples - Saw Morning Htoo, Mah Lah Gee, P'Saw Paw, Htee Nay Htoo, Saw Eh Soe, July Paw and so many more. They're not always pronounced the same as they are spelled. It's exciting that I'm starting to connect more and more faces with names. 

During my first 8th grade class, a helpful student pointed out where the chalkboard eraser was, so I wouldn't have to use my hand to erase the chalk. I quickly said "Ta Bluuu" which I thought meant "thank-you" in their language. 

The kids started giggling and the boy spoke out, "Say that again, teescha?!" 

So I slowly said it again. 

Then they really starting laughing and chattering to each other. I smiled and joined them in laughing, but I didn't exactly know what they thought was so funny. 

Come to find out later I was really saying "crazy" in their language instead of "thank-you." I guess that was my first funny language blooper (at least that I know of). :) The two words sound very similar except for a slightly more abrupt tone at the end of "thank-you." 

I'm sure there will be many more memorable moments that I will collect over my time here. I am thankful for this time that I can be here. I pray that God will touch these students' lives through me. 

One more experience: At the beginning of my first class, I had the students fill out a 3x5 card with their name, age, grade and other information about themselves, so I could learn more about them. One of the questions I had them answer on the card was “What is your favorite thing to do/hobby?” 

One of the eighth grade boys wrote that his favorite thing to do was “God work.” I really liked to see that. I want the other students to know for themselves that doing work for God is so rewarding. I think it’s my favorite thing to do too. There’s nothing more satisfying than to work for God. 

Water droplets after a recent rainstorm

 Grade 9 classroom

 Grade 10 classroom

Thursday, September 04, 2014


It been just over two weeks since I first set foot in Thailand. I think I'm becoming more accustomed to life here at Sunshine Orchards.

(Note: For more detailed updates, you can go to Raquel's blog- raquelariel.blogspot.com.)

I'm getting used to the cold showers, although I still cringe when I pour the first dipper-full of frigid water over my body. Speaking about bath time... Here's an excerpt from my recent journal: "Because we got back late from shopping in Mae Sot and it was already getting dark, we had to take our baths without much light (the bathroom light is not working right now). With the help of my flashlight, I saw lots of little particles in the big water bucket... Evidently the filter is not working very well right now. After pouring a few bucket fulls of cold water over my body and soaping up, I noticed something floating in the water. I examined it a little closer in the dim lighting and found it to be a drowned, tiny, whitish, lizard-type creature. I quickly disposed of it in the toilet. To think that that dead thing could have been poured over my head! I guess that's the joys of being a missionary. :) It makes life more exciting. You never know what will happen next. "

I'm starting to get used to the schedule and having worship so early (5:30 am), even though I would rather sleep in. I enjoy hearing all the singing and seeing the friendly smiling faces so early in the morning.

I've been to the three towns that are in the nearby vicinity - Mae Salit (10 min), Mae Tha (30 min away), & Mae Sot (almost 2 hrs. away). Going to the market is an interesting experience for sure. There are many different sights, sounds, and smells such as squirming eels, golden fish, huge live catfish & other types of fish, tiny squid in containers to be sold; dirty market streets; nauseating smells of pork and other meat mixed with strong smoke smells; staring people (our white skin gives us away); many racks of colorful clothing and much more. I was surprised to see that they have a fancy store in Mae Sot that is similar to a mall on the bottom level and a Walmart on the top floor.

I enjoyed eating the delicious food at some local restaurants too - vegetable/tofu curry, pad thai, yellow mango shake, to name a few of my favorites. I think I feel best when I'm on the simple diet here at school. though. I still haven't come to enjoy bamboo shoots or durian yet. The people here like their food spicy hot, because some of the curries have had quite the heat. I like a little spice, but sometimes it's just too much to take. Raquel and I sometimes like to end our meals with rice, coconut milk and a little drizzling of honey to end on a cooler note.

I've been getting used to bringing an umbrella almost wherever I go... except for last night I left it behind and Raquel and I got quite drenched on the way back to our hut after visiting the girl's dorm.

Taking off my shoes before going into any building is becoming second nature. You have to take your shoes off in some small shops in the market as well.

I'm also starting to interact more with the students here. The day before yesterday, I helped five of the girls sweep and mop the new girls' dorm that was recently built (They haven't moved in yet.). It was an interesting experience, because the girls did not speak very much English or they were too shy to speak it. There were many smiles, laughs, and giggles.

We had a hard time understanding each other. I would say something and they would just giggle and laugh and talk to each other. Then they would try to tell me something and I would say, "Huh, what was that?" I enjoyed working with them though. This just creates in me a greater desire to learn their language, so I will be able to communicate with them better and know what they are saying about me. :)

There are still a lot of new things ahead of me. I will be starting to teach classes next week when the second school term begins. We're on the school break right now, but there are still about 90 students on campus.

The plan is for me to teach English to grades 8, 9, & 10. I'm feeling a mixture of excitement & trepidation. I pray the term will start off well. I'll probably be laughing a lot and a praying a lot. I've been hearing that I have a few mischievous students in my classes. I'll let you know how it goes. :)

Bottom line, I know I will need much wisdom and strength from the greatest of all Teachers in order to be successful in this new endeavor.

I will also be a teaching a vocational computers class in the afternoon. I don't know exactly how to plan for these classes, but I'll just have to do my best.  After blanketing everything in prayer, I'll just have to "jump in and get my feet wet."

It's not all bliss & happiness being a student missionary - I've had those moments of being tired after a long day, feeling out of the loop when the students are talking in Karen, missing home and family, having a sore back and a sore throat...

I still face similar challenges & distractions to the ones I had back home in Arkansas. And thankfully, I still have a mighty Savior who can help and strengthen me just as He has done before. I just need to trust Him fully in this new place, no matter what I face. It's reassuring to know that God is there, wherever we are.

I am very grateful for this opportunity to be stretched and challenged. I'm reminded of one of my favorite verses...

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 
Proverbs 3: 5, 6

All of us foreigners wore Karen shirts last Sabbath. So thankful for friends!

Note: If you have been noticing random capitalization, out of place punctuation, or mixed up word order in my posts, it's not because I have bad grammar skills. :) It's due to my computer trying to auto translate/correct what I write. Hopefully I've fixed that problem now. It's somewhat amusing to see what it did to my posts. Technology is not always helpful.