Bangkok: Oriental City!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Talk about the pendulum swinging! I did not expect the culture shock, but shock it was. But let me back up.

Trudy and Jeff and Tim and I left the Children’s Home in Siliguri, India on Thursday afternoon, got some ice cream at a local joint (where, once again, everyone knew Jeff’s name.) They have this Black Currant flavor that is DE-LICIOUS! Then back to the hotel and got a GREAT night of sleep. Good thing since the 24 hours that followed were hellish!! We got up on Friday morning and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of, yes, butter-jam-toast and eggs.

The Lord had been telling me to pray for a woman that worked as a maid-of-sorts in the hotel. She had a very large goiter (enlarged thyroid, maybe) at the front of her throat. I was uncomfortable doing that for two main reasons: she is Hindu and she speaks no English. I am, however, very adept at charades. I said to myself, “IF I see her, THEN I will pray.” I didn’t see her all morning but as we left the room, with suitcases in tow, there she was coming down the steps from the 3rd floor. I did my charades things (praying hands, pointing at my throat, then hers) She nodded. It was a go. I prayed as the Lord led and then left. I do so hope that God will “restore her throat to the way he created it to be!”

WE then made our way to Bagdogra where Jiwan dropped us off at the airport. We flew to Delhi, got off the plane and were met by Jeff’s pal, Rajeev, who took us back to our original motel, Waves. We dumped all of our luggage, used their WIFI and then broke free from the norm and had our driver take us to PIZZA HUT! It was the BEST pizza, ever…we overate (of course) and were happy campers. Once back at the hotel, we continued to compete for band-width and then, as Tim and I awaited our 11:00 departure time from the hotel for the airport, we just all got punchy intermittently with pitiful attempts at power naps. Tim and I said our good byes and left for the lobby where we waited for 5 minutes for our driver to take us BACK to the airport. WE checked in early and then waited 3 hours for our 2:30am flight for Bangkok. Tim dozed. I read. Time crept by. WE finally loaded, tried to sleep unsuccessfully due to many factors: crying baby, air conditioner that worked too well, and food service smack dab in the middle of the 3.5 hour flight.

But, what awaited us was well worth it….

Paul and his brother, Alex, met us at the airport (after we cleared customs, exchanged USD for Thai Bohts, and got our luggage). We were as delighted to see him as he was us. WE loaded up into a sweet van (Paul’s brother, Alex’s) and his driver took us promptly to the Hotel Novotel. This is a four star hotel that Paul got a sweet deal for. By this time, Tim and I were running on empty. So we checked in, grabbed a cup of coffee, got a quick shower and we were off!

First we went to the mall to visit the food court. Now this food court was like NONE that I had ever experience. One part was all sweets (Haagen Das, Krispy Creme, etc) and then a few fast food (no Chick-fil-A), and then dozens of sushi, Chinese, Indian, Asian, and Thai restaurants. Each was decorated impeccably and each had people buzzing in and out of them. Unlike in India where 95% of the women that we saw were wearing Sari’s, these girls/women had on cute dresses, short shorts and wore makeup. The contrast was mind-boggling. Alex helped us choose a sushi restaurant and also helped us order. It was not only beautiful food but delicious. We, of course, ate too much.

Then, Alex and Paul wanted to take us to the Sunday Market. The Sunday Market is only open on Saturday and Sundays and is literally acres and acres of booths (some inside, some outside) of everything from modern furniture, antiques, lamps, clothes (cheap and high dollar!), jewelry, fabrics, purses, shoes, novelties, food, art, silks, pashmere, etc. Much of it was locally designed and made. We were overwhelmed with the vastness of it all. We also got a quick picture of a Thailand teenage movie star who was making an appearance at the market. He had teenage girls swooning!

Then we came back to get a power-nap. Our hotel is plush (the sheets are amazing and it is so cleeeeeean!) with a view that overlooks the city!

By 6:40 we met Paul where he took us to an old Thai/Chinese restaurant that his family has been frequenting for over 50 years. We sat around a round table with a huge lazy-susan that was set for 15. AS we drank some hot tea, Paul’s brother, Alex and beautiful his wife came in, then each of their 3 daughters and husbands and kids and Paul’s youngest brother. Then the food started coming in…bowls and platters filled with spring rolls, and prawns and crab and beef and chicken and rice and noodles…colorful presentations and flavors overloaded our senses. PLUS, we were served GREEN food…we had not seen anything green for 12 days! AS we ate (yes, we began with chopsticks) the food kept coming and the lazy susan kept spinning. There were at least 8 bowls of sauces/dips, each of which were suppose to go on its own dish. One would think that would be enough, but more food came, then more drinks (camomile and chrysanthemum tea), hot green tea. Then the dessert (ice cream, fresh coconut, peanuts and corn-kernels) and THAT was followed by a tray of fresh cut fruit with a dry salt/sugar/spice dip. And then THAT was followed by a little bowl of egg-shaped things in a dark liquid. I tried it and when they asked me what I thot I answered, “I cannot even think of something nice to say…” (It was nasty) BUT, everything else was FANTASTIC.

Paul’s family is delightful. So welcoming, so talented so gracious. It was a beautiful experience!

WE all left there about 9:00 and we headed back to hotel. I am typing, Tim is snoring. Need I say more?


Friday, March 30, 2012

WE are in-waiting for our next leg. Today will be long. Leaving Siliguri for Bagdogra where we will fly to Delhi. We will be there until 2am Saturday morning at which time Tim and I will take a four hour flight to Bangkok (arriving in our new time zone at 8:30am, where Paul Chong will meet us. It is in Bangkok that we will be exactly 12 hours ahead of Montgomery.)

When I came back from South Africa, I wanted to write ONE more blog with reflections on what I learned during that 6 week sabbatical. Though Jenni Bass was relentless in asking me to finish that. I never did. However, one of the main truths that I gleaned from Africa was that most of the believers (that we met) used their occupation as a means to do what God wanted them to do (ministry). Compare that to, in America, occupation is everything. Ministry, for most, is optional.

While in Siliguri (as well as in Nepal) I have learned that if a believer is NOT ministering (to both God and to people) on an ongoing basis then quickly the sins of Sodom will manifest. Ezekiel 16.48-49 says: Sodom’s sins were as you and your daughters. Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony and laziness while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.

The poor and needy are all around everyone of us. We need to pray (like Trudy says) to be FREE TO HEAR what God has to say. During the course of our trip Jeff mentioned that a young Nepali brother and sister were studying at Troy University in Troy, AL. Both were brilliant. The sister became sick and (thru the grapevine) Jeff was called. Jeff helped them get the help they needed thru hospitilzatoiin, etc. Then, when the sister wanted to return to Nepal, Jeff got tickets and escorted them back to their village. Jeff said that the brother mentioned that he had heard so many wonderful stories about America, but all he had seen was the small apartment in Troy, Al.

I quickly thought about all the brilliant students from other countries that are at AUM, Huntingdon, and ASU. We have foreign missions in our back yard. We have the “poor and needy” outside our door. We are so close (we may already be there) to being prideful, gluttonous and lazy just like in Sodom. We HAVE to get outside our “occupations” and realize that our occupations are simply there as a means to enable us to minister to the people right outside our doors.

God HAS ALREADY given us hearts for certain people groups: Children? Teenagers? College students? Singles? Old people? the Sick? Unwed mothers? Russians? Hispanics? Businessmen? Aid’s patients? Babies? Foreign exchange students? Widows? Sport-fanatics? Orphans? Which group are we pulled towards. I am asking God to give me the freedom to hear what He is saying to me. I am encouraging everyone to ask God to give you the freedom to HEAR what HE HAS TO SAY!. He is speaking. There is no middle ground. We are merely lukewarm pew warmers if we are not hearing Him and obeying him. His heart is always the very people that He has created, not our comfort and safety.

God is changing the way I am praying for my church, my family and for myself. I am grieved that too often the number one prayer I pray is for safety. God, give me the freedom to HEAR and then the courage to obey.

A Strange Mix: The Finale’, Leprosy, and Shopping

Thursday, March 29, 2012
(YES, this is too long to read, but, remember,
I write this for myself as it is just to much for my brain to retain!!)

Wednesday afternoon marked the end of the three day leadership conference in Siliguri. Tim, with Jeff and Jiwan’s blessing, pushed the leadership a bit out of their comfort zone by having several small group meeting times doing Discovery Bible studies. At first they were very tentative doing this but then it was hard for them to finish up as the discussion grew more lively and longer in length. (They are simply accustomed to being polite listeners to a speaker.)

AS if that weren’t enough he also arranged the room differently for the Lord’s supper, having the Lord’s supper table in the middle of four sections of chairs. (This rattled all of them since the men and women always sit separately, with the men on the left and the women on the right. Now there was no right nor left so they were a bit confused upon entering the room.) But with instruction from Jiwan (and the four of us seating ourselves in the proper quadrant) things went smoothly.

The communion time was beautiful. We used mango juice rather than wine (this is a very strict culture so we didn’t even look for the difficult to find drink) and roti (a locally made bread). Tim explained the origins of Jesus doing the Lord’s supper with Passover meal beginnings and how He changed things up by stating that he was now the Passover lamb, paying the price for the punishment of our sins. The Indians were not use to dipping the bread into the wine but it caught on quickly. The men (out of cultural habit) went first with the ladies following. Tim had instructed everyone to pray on their own and then pray for each other. This time went on for quite awhile with many people praying for each other. Again, it was hard for me to gauge what the Lord was doing in the room because of the language barrier. But Jiwan was very encouraged and this encouraged us.

After MANY photo sessions (I was surprised at the number of cell phones/cameras in the room) and many bows we left the precious people who will continue to minister Jesus to Siliguri, Nepal and the outlying areas.

Since TREC Ministries had paid for and delivered many bags of rice to the Leprosy colony the day before, we decided to go there right after the conference. It was, shockingly, right off the main busy road. But Jeff explained that it WAS on the outskirts years ago but the city had grown to it and past it.

As we drove up a few of the children and adults seemed to recognize Jiwan’s vehicle and came to greet us. As we all got out, more kids appeared. I am always thankful for my camera at these times as I am able to snap ONE photo of ONE child and show it to him/her and I instantly gain favor. More and more children smiled and I took more and more photos. Tho i have deleted MANY of these photos of nameless children over the past few days, I doubt I will delete any of these. Though the children are healthy, one or both of their parents have leprosy. I looked up and noticed a man with with worn t-shirt and a lungi (a towel-like fabric worn as a skirt of sorts) He no longer had hands and his feet were being eaten away as well by the leprosy. He managed, very painstakingly, to step down the three steps to greet us. He had no hand rail and with each step he looked like he would topple over but he made it.

I learned later that he was the head-authority (like the patriarch) of the colony. His name is Jo Gindra. He greeted Jeff and Jiwan and thanked them for the rice that had been delivered the day before. He said that, tho no one told them, they knew it was from the J-Ma-C people (“J-ma-C” is the Christian greeting that all believers speak when first seeing one another.) This is the only Christian influence that they have.

AS I snapped pictures, Jiwan spoke to them, sharing that the rice was a blessing, not from people but from the Lord. He said that Jesus provided it and they needed to thank HIM for it. He told them that they needed to believe in Jesus for their eternity. (Simple enough). I am amazed at this beautiful principle found in scriptures: God blesses us and with these blessings we bless others so that they may know HIM who created them. This rice was a bountiful blessings to these many families bound to this Leper Colony and opened the door to share the simplicity of the gospel. If you are reading this, please stop and pray for the salvation of Jo Gindra and the others in the Leper Colony.

During our time there, Trudy learned that some of the people there were Bengali. So she pulled from her hat the only Bengali song that she knew: This is the Day that the Lord hath made. That song has always been so simple to me. But at that moment I realized the MASSIVE truth that was being sung over these Hindu people! Though it was rote to me it was the Word that, as promised, wouldn’t return void! I can hardly wait to share these pictures, but that will have to wait for one more week.

After that we were off to the market. I had my short list of ‘must-buys’ that made Jiwan a ‘man with a mission’! The first thing we wanted was TEA so we could bless Susan (Tim’s sister who had a birthday last week). All of the shops are just store-fronts and all are very, how should I describe this, non-technical. All the money is kept in a single drawer in each shop (much like a baseball concession stand) When we walked up to any store we quickly became to center of attention. At that point I went into stupor-mode. It was too much for me to handle with 2-4 men asking me in a foreign language what I wanted. (I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I WANTED YET!!) The tea men pulled out many different kids of tea in small canisters, unscrewing them and quickly placing them on the marble counter. Then they began spouting out what kind it was, how many rupees it was and how they would package it for us. Jiwan and Tim would smell it (what were they smelling it for!?!?) and then point to first this one and then the other one and then the next thing you know we had several packages and were off to the next place.

Jiwan was masterful at weaving thru the crowds. Jiwan is only about 5 feet tall. I was behind him so I was walking pretty fast and working very hard to keep my eyes on him. I never looked behind me to see if they were keeping up with us. I figured that my blonde head would be fairly easy to keep an eye on so I just kept hoofing it. Then we appeared in the Sari store where I bought my Easter outfit (!?!). What an experience THAT was! But Jiwan, not one to waste time, was off to the kitchen store. (Tammy would be frothing at the mouth!)

But time was a wasting so we stopped at a store for Trudy to buy some trinkets for the girls at the Children’s home. Tim and Jeff headed one way and I paused to watch a store owner demonstrate a cage like gadget to an old Hindu couple. He touched a wire with his finger and BAM, the end of it snapped down. I was snagged!!! What was this?! A RAT TRAP!! YES! I HAD to have one!!! HOW MUCH!!??? The couple laughed at my reaction: “Where are you from?” they asked in broken English. “America.” They just smiled as the store owner continued to demonstrate his amazing contraption. And 50 rupees ($1.00) later I was the proud owner on a crude handmade rat trap! DON’T tell Hamilton about his exciting souvenir!!

Then on to the toy store (dolls for the girls at the Children’s home) and the vegetable section (great photos). Then Jeff cordially invited me into a dark inner alley that housed THE MEAT MARKET. I took one deep breath before stepping into one of the NASTIEST places I have ever been in. I pulled up my camera, smiled and asked the first dirty gritty man, “Photo?” He nodded and promptly took out his cell phone and took a photo of me, taking a photo of him! Well, that was all it took: EVERY man in there wanted his picture taken WITH the meat (dead-hanging-animals) or fly-infested fish that he was selling. I still haven’t taken a first look at those pics as it really was absolutely and purely disdainful. I fear that even the photos will reek!

AS we stepped out there were baskets and baskets (all about 4 feet wide) of live chickens then rows of baskets of eggs. The market was a feast for the senses!! Trudy just shook her head as she and Jiwan stayed out!

It was twilight by this time so after one more toy store we were in the SUV again and off to the hotel and it’s restaurant. We all said we weren’t hungry but ordered enough Indian food for two families.

WE were able to sleep in this morning and went down for our typical breakfast. Trudy and I finally waved the white flag on the boiled eggs opting just for toast-butter-jam and hot tea. Tim noticed a man out in the street selling lungi’s (thin towel fabric for men) so we left Jeff with the cold toast and headed to the street to barter. The one man turned into what felt like 20 men! (Tho I think it was in reality only 5-6) They began opening up the folded material and sputtering out prices. I was getting confused (again) even tho I had my personal laminated conversion chart. Finally 2 of the men who worked at the hotel appeared out of nowhere, coming to our rescue by clearing things up and negotiating. I came back with 2 long red and green lungis for $4.00 that I plan to use to decorate my table at Christmas! Exhausting!

Jiwan soon arrived and we went to the local Spencer’s (like a Target of sorts) that was inside a mall (of sorts). It was kind of him to take us there but it had way too much of a western feel. WE did, however, end up our time there by visiting the Kentucky Fried Chicken. As we got to it’s door Jiwan saw a woman that he knew who was a believer. The girl with her was white (!?) and so I asked her where she was from.
“Tennessee,” she replied. “What about you?”
“Alabama! Where in Tennessee?”
(She got a hug!)
Megan has lived in India for 3 years now and has been instrumental in bringing Young Life to Siliguri. She was precious and I look forward to her being my newest Facebook friend. To meet an American here was wonderful but to find one from the south was even better. We exchanged a few more niceties and a ROLL TIDE and then ate some of the best chicken I have eaten in over a year!

So now we are at the children’s home. As we arrived the children greeted us with hugs and kisses and GREAT amounts of anticipation. They quickly realized that all the packages that we carried were FOR THEM!! Woo Hoo! The $3.00 watch and transforming truck were given to JOE (Ujjal–the only boy), the five cuddly dolls to the five younger girls (thank you, Tommy and Blanche), and the hair trinkets and nail polish to the older girls. EVERYONE was happy (Ujjal will be happier when he gets his 4-AA batteries this evening!)

Tomorrow begins another day of travel and on to Bangkok to see Paul Chong and meet his family.