Journals
Posted on March 14, 2020 Sa-Wat-Dii
Alise & Mark Juanes
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Sa Wat Dii!

Hello from Thailand! Yes…we are here and doing well!!!  We have now been residents of Chiang Mai for 5 weeks!!! Can you believe it? It definitely took us a week or so to get adjusted to the time change but overall the kids did well. The travel here was long but also very smooth….we had a 13 hour flight from San Francisco to Korea, a 9 hour layover in Seoul (which was slightly eerie because of the emptiness due to Covid-19 and all the “fun stuff” was shut down), then we finished with a 6 hour flight to Chiang Mai…exhaustion sunk in for the last 30 minutes of the flight and by the time we landed ⅔ kids were in major meltdown mode and wanted to go ‘home’. God showed us grace and the meltdowns worked to our favor as customs moved us through quickly; they even helped push our luggage out to the curb and only scanned 3 of our suitcases in the process (that was a miracle)! We were greeted by IM Colleagues, Kim Brown and Kyle Williams, the staff at Thailand Baptist Missionary Fellowship (our local partners in Chiang Mai), and several staff and residents from House of Love! We felt love from the start and were so thankful to be greeted so lovingly (adorned with leis and bouquets)!

Since our arrival we have been learning how to navigate this new (to us) land. We are thankful for our partners here who are helping us get settled since pretty much everything is done differently or looks different than what we are used to. They have shown us where stores are, how to shop at local markets, how the road systems work here, how to open a bank account, set up a cell phone, etc. We are so blessed by them.

We just finished our second week of Thai language study. We are going 5 days a week for 2 hours and the kids are going too; they have their own class together while Mark and I have our own class together at the same time. It took some adjusting the first week, especially for the kids, but we are starting to slowly find our rhythm….just like in the US…some days are wonderful, and other days are SO CHALLENGING. Our Thai language teachers are wonderful and are very encouraging and very patient!!! We even did VERY well on our first test of tones, consonants and vowels!!! 🙂

God’s hand has been on us and we have felt His presence every step of the way, even in the small day to day things…we know he is carrying us. Mark and I are so proud of the kids they are working through a lot and rising to the challenge and I know Christ is working in them.

We have been trying to find a balance of studies and exploration, especially to show our kids the beauty of Thailand. The first couple weeks were REALLY rough as they wanted to go back to the US, so we try to get out and explore something new and fun at least one day a week. Our favorites thus far are the Bua Tong Sticky Waterfalls and the Huay Tung Tao Lake. All of us are warming up to Thailand, we are enjoying new foods, new places, new people, but definitely missing a community. We are VERY thankful for technology as we have all been able to talk with grandparents and friends from the US when we are missing people. We are also, so thankful for Google maps which the Thai community also relies heavily on to find places or to try to explain to someone where we live if we take public transportation. Thank God for technology! We have also appreciated our IM home staff who have been checking in on us once a week…they are such a blessing to us!

As you may remember our first year is focused on language and culture learning, which we are thankful to have the time for. However, one afternoon a week we have been enjoying going to the House of Love and playing with the children there. It has been difficult, and super awkward at times with the language barrier (Kim Brown is a gem and trying to help bridge the gap), but as we learn more words in Thai it is getting easier to communicate and as we spend more time with the kids they are starting to warm up to us. The hugs and smiles bring joy to our hearts and we can see that they are welcoming us into their family.

We attended a church on Sunday and the main passage was from Philippians 1:1-11. I have read this passage many times, but a few new things jumped out at me. In vs. 5 it says “partnership” and in this context (according to the Pastor) it refers to more of a fellowship, in which both Paul and his friends in Philippi are actually sharing in Paul’s circumstances together (which in this case is imprisonment). Paul feels the fellowship of his partners so strongly, he knows that they also carry and share the burden of his imprisonment, as well as sharing the gospel with the lost and hurting! In the positive light, both Paul and the Philippians receive God’s grace, together, though Paul is in prison and they are physically not, but God’s grace is equally given and received by all of them. They share in each others’ circumstances, they are in it together. Then, if you read on in vs 9-11 as Paul thinks of his friends in Philippi, a prayer dwells up for them. God gives us the knowledge and the perception in order to choose the right thing (vs 10) and choose to respond in a way that glorifies God because of the righteousness that Christ gives us (vs 11). Considering our recent move, our missing and longing for family and friends, and also the world-wide effects of Covid-19, this struck hard. May you all know that we are in this ministry and this life together, you share our burden for the lost and hurting people of Thailand, we share each others’ burdens for the effect of the virus world-wide…but we also equally share in God’s grace, no matter what circumstances we are in! We are filled with the grace and righteousness that only comes from Christ. May we all be reminded to love others through these difficult, changing times, with the love that can only come from Christ; and may we walk together and share each other’s  burdens whether near or far…we are in this together and thankfully, God is in control! May we glorify God by displaying the fruit of righteousness of Jesus Christ!

Love and prayers to you all! Thank you for your continued partnership/fellowship in this journey!

Prayers, Praises, and Updates

News and updates about COVID-19 are dominating the media right now. We are personally thankful to have avoided it so far and the timing of our move here. The airlines we took to Chiang Mai was cancelling flights just a week after our arrival. Our hearts and prayers are with all who have been affected by the current global outbreak. We have seen from afar several of our partner churches have transitioned to online services and/or small group gatherings.  We are thankful that we live in an age where God can still bring people together through technology and yet look forward to the joy of churches meeting in person again and appreciating the togetherness.

Our colleagues in nearby Chiang Rai, the Williams Family, came to welcome us and show us around town. The kids had a blast together, especially riding in the back of the truck. “Wait, we get to ride in the back of a truck, without seat belts here? Best Day Ever!”

We have been spending some time at the House of Love to build relationships with the kids and learn from Kim. Apparently, funny faces are a universal language…

Kolin has been very quick to make friends in spite of the language barrier.

Kim is amazing. We are thankful to be able to spend every minute we can learning from her and her calming presence.