Sa Wat Dii
What a blessing it is to be able to communicate what is happening on the other side of the world and share with you the joys of what God is doing here in Thailand! We are enjoying getting to know our ministry colleague, Kim Brown, who is preparing to retire after serving the Lord in Thailand for 36 years. We are beginning to hear many stories of her “early days” and how different her experience was, compared to our international move! She arrived in Thailand after sending a telegram and hoping there would be someone to meet her at the airport! A telegram!!! She tells of many stories of her years as a nurse at the hospital in Mae Sariang and how churches would somehow get in touch with her via phone….with there being only one telephone in the entire town of Mae Sariang…the villagers would run to get Kim since she was one of three people who spoke English. I say these things because as I type this I see the gift of technology and being able to easily communicate and stay connected with people….my how times have changed in just a few decades.
I’m sure many of you have used this technology, recently, more than ever before due to the complications of Covid-19. As frustrating, confusing, and scary as Covid-19 has been, I am thankful it has happened in a period of time that provides the ability to easily communicate and “stay connected” with others. I can’t imagine needing to rely on telegrams as our only source of communications.
Things have changed a lot since our last update. Thankfully, there have not been very many cases of Covid-19 here in Thailand and thus things are shifting to a “new normal”. Most facilities and places are open as long as we follow the government mandated restrictions, which we don’t mind at all. These include mask wearing in any public place, temperature checks before entering any facility, signing in and out of every facility, and using hand sanitizer at the door. This has just become a way of life here, and if we want to go anywhere we must abide by it….so we do. The kids have adjusted well and are used to bringing a mask as part of their daily attire and temperature checks are the new norm. We are definitely thankful to be able to get out of the house.
In-person language school resumed the first week of July and we are so happy to be back in the classroom to learn Thai. We all go 5 days a week right now and we are slowly picking it up. We have been practicing talking about the weather with those in our neighborhood, ordering food from the Thai food vendor down the street, and buying fruits and vegetables at the local market. We choke over our words, trying to say them correctly and in the right order (grammatically) but thankfully most people we have encountered are patient and can figure out what we are trying to say! Most days I feel like a toddler trying to put words together, but I know we will get there…and I love when I can semi-follow a conversation.
We were thankful to drive to another province, Mae Hong Son, the last weekend of June to participate in the re-opening celebration of the Center of Development for People with Disabilities (CDPD, which is another ministry connected to Kim Brown) in Mae Sariang. This is a thriving ministry run by a Karen sister in Christ, Saylo. We celebrated the re-opening with the clients, their families, and local pastors. It was so beautiful to see immense joy on the faces of the clients as they presented numerous songs throughout the celebration. We were touched to see the impact Saylo (the director) and the staff have in the community and the quality of life God has given to the clients through the staff’s love and compassion. We are praying and seeking God on how He wants us to be involved with this beautiful ministry.
We have also been blessed to get to know Ajarn (Pastor) Tim Dee (director of Thailand Karen Baptist Convention) and his family these past couple of months. They have invited us to join them for family outings and have shown us a couple parts of the city. Last weekend, we went with the Dee family to the Karen tribal village of Baan Jam Luang and stayed in their family home. It was a great time to relax, soak in the amazing view of the mountains, and enjoy a break from the city. We were humbled and blessed by the hospitality of the Karen people as they showered us with gifts of rice, vegetables and pineapples to bring home. We enjoyed getting to know the Dee family more deeply, and our kids had a good time playing together. Mark was also given the opportunity for his first preaching experience in Thailand. He did a wonderful job sharing God’s word and working with the translator.
You can see our schedule has been quite full with new experiences and opportunities for growing a community for our family. We are thankful to have partners here in Thailand who are becoming friends. We are thankful for opportunities to see more of God’s beautiful creation in the artistic landscapes that surround us, and we are thankful that God daily reminds us of His presence as we walk this journey. We know He is opening doors for relationships and community building both with believers and non-believers, and we are doing our best to be patient. We are trusting God for that provision of friendships, a church family, and a community we can call home. We have been spending time weekly at the House of Love to get to know the students, faculty, and leadership as well as starting to meet some of the graduates. Please join us in prayer for these relationships and that we would be patient and also bold to seek them.
We are blessed to know you are with us from afar! Knowing you cover us in prayer and join with us in joys and frustrations is so beautiful and comforting to us. Thank you for walking this journey with us. Thank you for praying for us. Please know we are with you and care for you deeply as well! Let us know what you are thankful for during these crazy times and how we can also pray for you! “I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.” – Philemon 1:6
With much love from across the globe,
The Juanes Family
Some of the teens from House of Love will be staying at college dorms (which are different than American college dorms.) Prayers for them are appreciated as they navigate the challenges of college and staying connected with their faith.
We are grateful that all of House of Blessing students are staying healthy as they come to school. Praise God for the three preschool teachers who creatively work out solutions to the challenges of government social distancing requirements while keeping the little learners on track with their lessons.
Can you also be praying for the health of our children at the CDPD project? Having disabilities, these children are often more medically fragile, and we would appreciate prayers for their health and safety. We also are sharing rice and other food with our CDPD families. Some (like the students who are blind) board at their schools, and so receive 3 meals a day there, but with no school, families are finding that feeding teenagers can put a strain on their food budgets!
Loving the Karen shirt! Mark with one of the pastors in Baan Jam Luang.
This group in Mae Sariang advocates for other individuals in wheelchairs. They meet weekly to give each other support and build community. As we spoke with them, we were touched how every single story was about the triumph of breaking through depression and becoming contributing members of their villages again.
Alise, Kim, and Saylo with the staff of the CDPD in Mae Sariang. This hardworking group of people have such a huge heart for kids with disabilities. The fruit of their labor was apparent in the joy the kids and the parents displayed.
Making giant bubbles at the House of Love
The reduction in COVID in Thailand has allowed us to get out more and our focus has been on building relationships as you can see. But, that also goes for the kids, we had been in lockdown just a few weeks after we arrived so they have been starved for friends and activity. We were able to sign them up for a two week long sports intensive camp where they could also meet a variety of kids their age and have fun playing all sorts of sports. What did they enjoy about the sports camps?
Sydney’s favorite game was “stuck in the mud” – a variation on tag.
Gavin’s favorite was simply making new friends and spending time with them – he made several new friends!
Kolin’s favorite was badminton which is a very popular sport in Thailand.