Saturday, April 15, 2006

Songkran...A visit home...Josiah's 4th Birthday

It’s been a while since I’ve written – a lot has been going on.  One of the main things is that 2 days ago was Songkran Festival here in Thailand.  It is a festival when the whole nation of Thailand turns out to have a nation wide water fight.  NO JOKING!  Everyone from young to old is out in bright colors soaking each other.  

This year we piled into the Stubenrauchs truck and joined the water fight!  I stayed in the cab with Jude…safe and dry.  It was a blast!!  It is an awesome thing to see the faces of the Thai people when they get drenched by a truck full of farangs (westerners/white faces).  I really love Songkran…it is an INCREDIBLE opportunity to see the Thai for the fun loving people that they are.  

I am aware of the real reason for Songkran though and you should be too.  It’s not really all fun and games and the root of this festival is a vain attempt to earn good luck and prosperity.  And they believe that water is going to wash away their sins and make them clean…inside and out.  "Songkran" is a word from the Sanskrit language which means to "move into" and refers to the orbit of the sun moving into Aries. It marks the end of a 12-month cycle and the beginning of a new solar year. Songkran is therefore a New Year celebration.The Thai people believe that the underlying significance of Songkran is the process of cleansing and purification - the purging of all ills, misfortune and evil and starting the New Year afresh with all that is good and pure. To them the water is a symbol of the cleaning process and signifies purity.

A little bit about Songkran:
On the first day, April 13th, various activities are undertaken to "send off" the outgoing year. In the morning, merit-making rituals are performed and offerings are made to the Buddhist monks. Spring-cleaning and personal cleansing are also part of this "renewal" process. Later in the day, Buddha images are bathed with lustral water in a gesture of respect. The religious ceremonies include a procession of Buddha images through the city streets offering an opportunity for residents of the community to take part in the bathing rites.

On April 14th, the day when the position of the sun is mid-way between Pisces and Aries, merit-making continues in the morning with offerings being made to Buddhist monks. The world-famous Songkran water-splashing festive fun takes place all day helping revelers to beat the summer heat. In the evening, sand is brought to the temples for the building of sand castles which are then decorated with colorful flags and flowers. The practice reflects an ancient belief that when an individual walks away from a temple, particles of sand from the temple grounds are inadvertently carried away on one's shoes or sandals. The building of sand castles for the temple is seen to be a practical way of replacing the sand lost and a merit-making act through which blessings are earned.

The Thai New Year falls on April 15th. Typical merit-making rites performed on this day include the presentation of food and other offerings to Buddhist monks at the temples; donations are made; fishes and birds are released; and a bathing ritual is observed whereby lustral water is poured over respected elders in a gesture of respect and reverence. The seeking of their blessing or forgiveness for past wrong-doing is also implied. Additionally it is believed that through these acts of merit-making, loved ones, long-departed are endowed with blessings and good fortune.The religious ceremonies and acts of worship associated with Songkran are principally performed to bring good luck and prosperity. The rituals are also acts of gratitude and indebtedness undertaken in the memory of their ancestors.

We have been steadily busy although our schedule has not been normal.  OH OH!  I have some great news!!!  Liberty Lighthouse Church raised $2,100 dollars (which is no small feat for this small Sherman church) for us – we believe we are going to use it to come and visit!!!!!!!  The only reason I say we believe we’re going to use it for this is because $2,100 is only enough for our tickets to America….not back.  We need another $2,100 to get back!!!  So we are praying about this and going to see what we should do.  

We would be visiting for 3 months…so maybe John could get a job while we’re there to get enough money to come back but then that would heavily limit us in being able to visit people…which is one of the sole purposes for going.  I have family in Oklahoma that I have never met (on my dad’s side) and have been e-mailing with them and can no wait to meet them (HI BILL AND LORI)…I have a beautiful nephew Braden – whom I’ve never met.  An incredibly handsome nephew…Levi (John’s sisters son) with whom I have some major catching up to do.  2 of my close friends have had babies and I’ve also never met them (Alora and Caleb)…MY MOM!  Oh I can’t wait to hug my mom!  And my brother!!!  And…Becky…and the Pressley’s…the Clarks…the people of Liberty Lighthouse…there are just too many people to name…

Anyway, the other main purpose is to be able to share about what God is doing here and encourage the body of Christ and hopefully to visit some of the people who have been partnering with us!!  It will be incredible to meet the people who support us and what God is doing over here.  Just to be able to raise awareness about missions and support for missionaries would be awesome (definitely not necessarily us…just so that the body of Christ is supporting missionaries all over the world…wherever that maybe…Africa… Malaysia… Laos… China …Thailand…)  

Please keep us in your prayers about this decision.  Tomorrow is Josiah’s 4th Birthday!!!  I’m so excited – it’s like it’s my birthday!  I never imagined your child’s birthday could be this joy filled…I knew it would be fun but I think I’m looking forward to it more than he is…well, maybe not…he’s VERY excited!  We’re having a birthday party for him here at our house tomorrow.  This is Josiah’s second birthday in Thailand – Time has flown by.  

Well, I have to cut this short if I’m going to get all those Songkran pictures posted!!!  I will write again soon…Thank you for reading!!!