Sunday, July 31, 2005

It has been a long week! :) God has really blessed us this week in coming to the realization of how much we love each other. Sometimes in life, YES - even missionary life, we take the ones we love the most for granted. It is an incredible thing when your eyes are opened and you truly cherish each other for everything that you are. Please make sure that your not taking anyone for granted in your life...I don't mean to be cheesy but take the time today to tell the people you love...something you love about them and watch their face shine...or possibly frown because they think you want something because it's been so long since you've done that... :) Hopefully the former and not the latter....

Josiah was sick this last week for about a day and a half. He ran really high fevers and had a runny nose. He's such a trooper - he just kept praying for himself and asking us to pray for him and we did! A doctor friend of ours said that she thought it was a virus and would be gone in about a week but he was perfectly fine in a day or so! Praise God! It's a horrible thing when your child is sick.

The team arrived back in Hat Yai late last night and we are so glad they are home. This week we have many things planned. Tomorrow we are holding a meeting with many churches from the area to pray and talk about revival in Thailand. Wednesday we will be bringing the gospel to a mostly Muslium village. We will be setting up the projector and showing the Jesus film along with preaching, passing out tracks and music. Please be in prayer for us during this time because the location is directly across from a Mosque (a Muslium house of prayer - like a church).

John Cava has come from FIRE school in the US to spend time with this team and Thursday we will be doing just that. Thai lessons are going wonderful - John and I can both write about 10 words in Thai and we've memorized 20 of the Thai characters...So we are steadily learning to read and write Thai. The whole world seems to be coming alive in town because I am able to start making out words in the signs and know what sounds the letters make.

John and I can both communicate pretty efficiently with everyday things but we have a long way to go and reading and writing Thai is going to help us go that distance a lot faster.

Here is an example of Thai writing:

Please forgive me if you have written and not heard back from me recently. We were without internet service for a while this week. We were also out of water and electricity for a while too!!! It wasn't so great going without water since the water went right in the middle of my shower....but it was a nice feeling having nothing but candles lit and all the electricity is off and there is nothing you can do about it(for a relatively short period of time-hehehe). I know some would disagree but I really enjoyed our time without electricity - you could hear the whole neighborhood going about it's business - the Thai women chattering and people rummaging around for flashlights and candles. You should try it in your house...go without electricity for about 3-4 hours and just sit with your's great.

Ok - well, I'll write again soon and let you know how this week goes. Please feel free to write if you can :) Steph

Sunday, July 24, 2005

And here is yet another bathtub pic of Josiah...I just couldn't get him to look at the camera long enough - too excited about bath time.
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I am officially 5 months along and the baby's due date is December 8th.
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Front view....MaryBeth had this maternity dress and she has let me borrow it along with almost all of her maternity clothes! What a blessing. We had just returned from celebrating one of our team members birthday - Clinton!
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Update and the much requested pregnancy pictures

Hello Everyone! Thank you for your encouraging comments - it means a lot to us. Everything is getting to be somewhat back to normal in the past week. There are not as many police and military units out everywhere. Hat Yai is lit up with lights though! It's not Christmas of course but the whole city is decorated with lights.

The Thai people use "christmas" lights and rope lights for everything. Their police station has red, white and blue lights decorating the front of it. I just can't imagine anything like that in the states to this extent. I will try to get some pictures.

The rest of the team is away in the Phillipines right now. They will be gone for a week at a missions conference that FIRE school setup. We're holding down the fort :) John begins his new Thai classes this next week - in which he will begin with learning how to read and write Thai. It was recommened by a team member that he begin with this because it might be better for him where as I am learning the phonetic language first. In 10 weeks I will begin reading and writting at the school I attend....but this next week I will also attempt to join John in his classes also.

I want to at least get started with the reading and writting before it is actually introduced in my classes because I know it is going to be very challenging. So I want to get all the exposure I can. It has been a very very hard task learning the Thai language. The team warned us that there would be many times where we would just cry and feel as if there was no possible way we could learn this language....and I have had one of those days so far!

But I had my first successful un aided conversation (about something other than easy stuff) with Pii Saow the other day and I felt like I was on top of the world! She understood me and I understood her! For the first time that week I felt like "HEY! I CAN DO THIS!" The language is so different from our own sometimes it just seems like it will never click - but then it does and voila!!! God continues to give me strength and a passion to learn the language ASAP!!!

Well, I have had many e-mails asking for pregnancy pictures so I sent some out to a few of you but I then realized that most of you can not receive e-mails that large. So - I apologize if I clogged up your inbox...if you didn't get the e-mail or couldn't view the pictures I am posting them here.

We had an ultra sound last Friday and everything is going GREAT except for the fact that she could not tell whether it was a boy or a girl!!! I am going to go with my friend to a clinic here in a week and have another ultrasound done to see if we can get our confirmation that it is a girl :) Ultrasounds at this clinic are very very inexpensive!!

Please keep us in your prayers this week - we will be going out to the villages all throughout the week along with studying Thai Language HARD! Hope you enjoy the pictures - I'll write again soon! I have added a links section over on the right side. There are some great links there - check them out. I also added "Steph's Two Cents" which is simply going to be a place for me to write down what I've been thinking about what I've read recently in the Bible and what God is speaking to my heart. I highly encourage you to check out the link that says Free Sermons - it is to an incredible website that has free sermons from great men of God from a long time ago as well as today - I recommend one of my favorites - Keith Green!!!

Alright - thanks again for the prayers and comments! Talk to you soon!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

State of Emergency Declared in Thailand...

Here are two articles that we have found that includes the latest news about what is happening:

Read the post below to know what we have been seeing and our understanding of the situation.

In His Care,

John, Stephanie and Josiah Blake

Friday, July 15, 2005

Police Everywhere - Bomb Scare - Everything is ok...

Today John went out to get us some food and when he returned he informed me that the police and military are out in force today. When John asked what was going on the lady made a "boom" sounds and moved her hands like an expolsion was between them.

About 3 or 4 months ago we had 3 bombs go off here in our area. We did not write about it at the time. God was watching out for us because one of the 2 bombs that went off in Hat Yai went off at Carrefour - where we normally eat on that day. We normally eat at Carrefour on the night that the bomb went off but we had decided to do something different and we went to the Mah Ah instead. The other bomb that went off in Hat Yai was at the airport. The other amazing thing was that Clinton was on a landed airplane at the airport and Brian pulled up to the airport 1 minute after the bomb had gone off. Clinton was not off the airplane yet and Brian arrived just as the smoke was billowing out of the builing and people began running for their lives.

I tell you what - God has been watching out for this team...From what I can remember now a few people died but mostly it was that many many people were injured. The reason for all of these bombs has to do with the tension between a minority Mulsium group and Thailand. I will do my best to explain but I honestly do not know all of the details.

A long time ago apparently...the bottom part of Thailand, in which we live, was known as the Kingdom of Pattani. Through war a long time ago this Kingdom was overthrown and the southern part became part of Thailand. There is a Mulsium group that still wants to be a seperate kingdom apart to itself. This group is very radical. There is a bit of racism that goes on between Malaysians (who are mainly Muslium - although very little of them believe the way this small minority does) and Thais although I have to say I have not seen much of it here as of yet. Malaysians ususally have darker skin and Thai's think that light skin is the most beautiful so that is a small bit of it.

A while back - before we had come to Thailand there were a few instances that has caused the temperature between these two groups to rise. One instance was when over 100 of this Muslium minority gathered outside a police station with machete's and knives. The Thai police warned them and told them to back away for a long time but the group eventually charged the station. It was a massacre - over 100 Musliums were killed. A little later a similar situation happened. And the Thai police were successful in disarming the group of about 70-90 men. They were all bound and laid on the ground...the Thai police needed to get them to the police station so they piled them up in the truck to return to the police station. And when I say piled I mean they literally stacked them one on top of each other.

In Thailand heat - they did not last long - 70 or so of the Musliums died in the truck. Since then temperatures have been rising between this group of radical Musliums and Thailand. There have been more and more bomb scares and bombs for that matter.

To the best of my knowledge there have been no bombs today but there have been bomb scares so the Thai Police and the Thai Military are out in full force today. Security has been stepped up everywhere in HatYai since the bombings. Now everywhere we go we must open our trunk and submit our car to inspection (looking for bombs on the bottom of our car with a mirror) before we are able to park. There are even security cameras in the richer establishments and we're asked to look into the camera before going forward.

Now...with that being said - for those of you who would worry I am telling you now - Do NOT worry for us. God has put us here for a purpose and He is watching out for us! Pray for us but do NOT worry or live in fear for us or our team. That means you too Mom! And Grandma Marie....well...that means all of you!!!!

I will get more precise information on what is happening and keep you updated. Please keep us in your prayers for wisdom. Things are going great and I can feel the baby move almost ALL THE TIME now! I love being pregnant! I'm officially 19 weeks which is 4 1/2 months. Almost to the half way point :) Please post if you have any questions or comments. Thanks for reading and I also wanted to say how excited I am to have had all the new subscribers to our mailing list :) Some even from Singapore, NC and go ol' TEXAS!

Until next time...

Our team all gathered at the Garsee's home on the 4th of July to celebrate our country's independance. It felt great to get together and celebrate America!! Clinton's mother sent Amber the 4th of July decorations you see here! It was a wonderful time - we ate Chicken N Dumplins - Apple Pie! - and a home made cake!!! A VERY rare and CHERISHED treat!

We gathered around the table and actually celebrated the independance of America in a way that I have never done before. I've always wanted to but never did. We sang patriotic songs, read quotes from men who fought for our freedom such as Thomas Jefferson and read about what was sacrificed for the freedom we live in today. It was amazing - some would say cheesy...but it was amazing.

I am very proud to be an American - there are many things that our country has done, continues to do and will do that I am not proud of - but I am proud of what America stands for and the dream that our forefathers had for our country. These God fearing men laid their lives on the line for a country founded on God and freedom. I hate to say that much of our country has forgotten their dream. It was a wonderful evening and for about an hour it felt like I was back in America.

Just so that you know from the left to the right here are the people on our team (minus the Pruitts who live in Ban Nam Khem and Pii Thak who took the picture): John, Kathryn, Tanah, Marybeth (holding Mercy), Brian, me in the back, Amber (sitting down), and Clinton. The kids (Josiah (3), Asia(2), Chase(12) and Colton(14)) are coloring in the floor.
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Saturday, July 09, 2005

These kids were so great! We had a wonderful time together! It's amazing to see them take these tracks and ask questions and what's even more amazing is how they want one of each type of track - as if they were collectors items. Oh - ps...yes, my face is always that red - especially here - it is HOT!
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Kathryn snapped a few pictures of me with the kids - seeing a picture with me in it is pretty rare because I'm usually the one taking pictures.
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Josiah having a wonderful time with some of the kids...the little girls love him soo much!
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Kathryn just came back to Thailand - she had been here for 4 months as an intern last year. She returned home and felt God calling her to return for good. She's wonderful! She's holding baby Mercy - MaryBeth's newest baby.
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Cute huh?
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Some more kids that absolutely love to have their picture taken...
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An adorable boy who LOVES having his picture taken...
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Clinton telling them the good news...
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The end of the drama...
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Jesus comes to show her the truth and set her free...
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Tanah struggles with the sin that entangles her...
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Tanah (in white) is set free and Clinton (on floor) is still bound...
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John's role in the drama was to pass out tracks to each bound person at the beginning of the drama and pray for them.
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Tanah getting ready for our first dress rehersal :)
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Hello Everyone!

Things are going well here in Thailand and my belly is growing faster than I'd like to admit :) The drama outreach was wonderful and many people heard the gospel and had many questions. We passed out close to 600 tracks!! We performed the drama two times that night. Tanah lead worship before and afterward Clinton preached the gospel. The crowd that gathered was incredible.

We have found that we were and are able to draw a huge crowd and they hear the message and you can tell many are visibly moved but they will NOT approach the "farangs" because of many different reasons. So when we approach them many are too shy or shocked to really ask questions or bare their heart. One of the members of our team, Pii Thak, is Thai and after it was done she just shook her head in sorrow - saying they aren't brave enough. As I looked around I saw what she was talking about. We now realize even more the importance of raising up Thai men and women of God to speak out and be a major part of the ministry that we do.

It has always been a vision of the people here to raise up and teach the Thai people how to lead and not depend on a foreigner to lead them. This is why the Bible school has been started - the students who attend the Bible school here are really incredible and from now on they will come out on every outreach possible to reach out to the ones who are not brave enough or to shy to speak to the "farang" (which means foreigner).

Please continue to pray for us as we plan more outreaches of this type. On another note, for those of you who haven't heard yet - Braden Bunger is HOME!! :) What a work of God! From 1lb 7 oz to over 7lbs. I just thank God for what he has done for my nephew, brother and sister-in-law!!! I think the whole family has just been rejoycing. They will be having their homecoming/baby shower party any day now!!

Another incredible thing is that my mother had the neck surgery I mentioned before and I have spoken to her over the phone and she says she feels better than she has in 10 years and that's saying a lot! She is no longer going numb in her arms and hands and all leg and back pain is gone. She is recooperating well and has a great attitude! I'm so proud of her! Thank you for all that have been praying!!!!

I'm running out of time so I'm going to leave you with lots of pictures from our outreach above! :) Thank you for reading!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Busy Week - Drama outreach this FRIDAY!

Wow! It's been a busy busy week and it feels GOOD! :) I've been having a hard time with getting enough rest to sustain my pregnant body so much of the past 2 weeks has been spent in bed! But this week has been absolutly wonderful! We started working on a drama that I wrote that goes to the song "Bring Me to Life" by Evanesence. They are not a Christian band but this song was written by a Christian and it is an extremely moving song.

Clinton - one of the leaders of our team - asked me to prepare a drama for the team to perform at markets and in villages. I started praying for God to give me inspiration, confidence and wisdom in writting this drama. I sat down and hashed out "Bring Me to Life" in about an hour! The Thai people are drawn to music such as LimpBiscuit (I don't even know how the band spells their name), Linkin Park and very hard music like these. I knew that "Bring Me to Life" would be the perfect song to draw attention and bring a crowd to see the gospel presented through drama.

We began practicing last Monday and we are so blessed because on our team we have some excellent actors and best of all they are dedicated! Every practice is wonderful and the drama becomes better each time. We will be performing this drama TOMORROW (Saturday) at the BuddThai Market. This market is huge and there will be hundreds of people there. Clinton has a PA System that was donated to him for use to spread the gospel and we will set it up tomorrow and begin the night with worship.

We do not have permission to do this in the market because it is a public market and there is no one to seek permission from but it is possible that we could be told that must leave. We may only have a very small area to work with...we will begin with Tanah leading worship on guitar with a few helpers (this is mainly to draw attention - farangs "foreigners" singing in Thai is a HUGE attention getter). Thai people will stand there and watch for long periods of time and stare at the "farangs" singing about their God. While we sing and worship our God other team members will be scattered throughout the perimeter praying...and some will be passing out tracks.After a while we will then perform "Bring Me to Life" and afterward Clinton will bring the truth of God's word and we will be available to speak to all who wish to know more. Hopefully we will be able to do this a couple times throughout the night so that many people will have an opportunity to see the drama.

I'm really excited about tomorrow and if you read this before then - please keep us in your prayers! We are praying that many will be touched by this drama and the message that follows. I'm going to go for now and get some sleep so I can be ready tomorrow. Thank you for reading and thank you for those who leave comments - it feels so good knowing someone out there is reading :) I'll write again soon and let you know how everything goes!Steph

MaryBeth's Birthday at Ton Teh Waterfall!

I have posted pictures below from our trip to Ton Teh waterfall. We all loaded up into two vehicles and went 2 hours away to Trang to where the beautiful Ton Teh Waterfall is - one of MaryBeth's favorites. There we ate a delicious - rare - cake made by Amber! A rare opportunity seeing as how almost any cake you find in Thailand strangly tastes like cardboard - no matter how beautiful and tasty it looks. Looks are definately decieving in Thailand.

Pii Thak (one of our team members) made a Thai dish called Som Tam - see pictures below. I tasted it and John ate some - it was too hot for my pregnant tastes at the moment and she made us one that was "mai pet" which means "not hot". But - trust me it was still hot. The normal Som Tam has up to 7-8 peppers ground into it!!!! John enjoyed it (and a PB&J) while I fell back on my trusty PB & J sandwich with a couple hardboiled eggs as a side dish :)

After we filled our tummies up we played around in the water at the bottom of the mountain and then we hiked up the mountain about a mile and went to this beautiful area where this is a natural pool at the bottom of the waterfall. Pure, untouched beauty! I have to admit that I didn't know if it was going to be worth the climb (and what a climb it was!!) but it definately was! 8 of us (including Asia and Josiah and a 3 month old) hiked up the mountain while John, Brian, Colton and Chase decided to tackle the waterfall by literally climbing up the waterfall. John says there were times that he didn't think they could go any farther but they inched their way up step by step and eventually met up with us. John suffered a minor injury - we think it's a jammed toe - it looks horrible but he's doing fine and had a wonderful time going on his adventure with the other guys.

We had a wonderful time and MaryBeth had a wonderful birthday! Hope you enjoy the pictures below. They are mixed with some other pictures of Josiah and Asia that I had taken last week. Oh - about more pictures of ministry that we are doing such as the work the guys are doing in the villages. I was speaking to John about it and encouraging him to take more pictures and he shared with me that he feels uncomfortable taking pictures when he's in the villages because we are coming into their life.

Most Thai people assume that all "white" people or "farangs" are rich and when one of those "rich farangs" comes into their village taking pictures of their "poor situation" it makes them feel uncomfortable. And I find that VERY VERY understandable. John has backed off on using the camera because our main purpose is to touch these peoples lives and making them feel inferior is NOT the way to do it. So - John says - when it is suitable he will take pictures.

There is always the pressure on missionaries to "prove" that they are doing the work or that they are being effective in ministry but being held accountable to the work God has put before you should never come at the expense of an opportunity at touching the hearts of the people God has called you to. With that being said I leave you with many pictures of us on our day out at Ton Teh Waterfall :)


MaryBeth - our team member - had her birthday this week - so to celebrate we threw her a birthday party at the Ton Teh Waterfall about 2 hours away from Hat Yai. We all loaded up and spent the day together swimming and fellowshipping with one another. The whole team went and it was wonderful!
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Josiah and John at TonTeh Waterfall.
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John and Josiah recooping after a fun swim at the base of the waterfall.
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Just when you think you've got the perfect picture...hehehehe...
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It's so funny because everytime Josiah was looking Asia wasn't - and everytime Asia was looking Josiah wasn't! They're still adorable anyway :)
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Asia came over to play and brought her puppy - so Josiah pulled out Charlie and they had a great time dancing to VeggieTales Sunday Morning Songs :) They danced so hard they worked up a sweat.
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Josiah and Asia heading off to the waterfall - yes, Josiah is 3 and Asia is still 2! She's very tall like her daddy and Josiah is on the short and stocky side - like his daddy :)
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Josiah and Asia making their way to the waterfall - holding hands as best buddies do!
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This is SomTam - we got a plate that was "mai pet". Which means not hot and John and I were still having a rough time! They say normal is 7 or more peppers ground into this tasty dish. I wish I could say my pregnant stomach allowed me to eat it - but I fell back on a good old trust worthy PB & J! This is a very common dish in Thailand and VERY VERY HOT!
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This is a first - my husband eating a plate that consists of almost nothing but vegetables! The whole team was proud!
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Here is Asia and her Daddy - Brian - making their way into the waters.
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Josiah had a great time - although the water was COLD!!!
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My camera could not capture the beauty of this waterfall! It seemed to go up forever...
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