Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Short's long...I know....

God is so good! I got up this morning with the boys and I thought I left John asleep in the bed. But somewere between shoveling Bananas in to Jude's mouth and going over my to do list in my head I heard a car pull up outside. Then footsteps and then I realized I'm sitting here in my chut nawn (a Thai night gown thing - totally appropriate for anyone I know to see me in but rather embarassing for just meeting people if ya know what I mean). So I do a little dance scraping the last bit of bananas hanging off Baby Jude's mouth while trying to lean to see who it could be at the same time trying to calculate if I could make it to the bedroom without being seen.

As I heard the footsteps draw closer I realized...all hope was lost...I would have to meet this new stranger in my chut nawn - ah well...just another pride killer right? Just went I was embracing the situation with Jude in walked John and Gene. EHHH??? Confusion and relief came at the same time...John had been out working the taxi and Gene had gone with him. We are currently living with our friends Lisa and Gene and have been for about a week now.

We had to take a break from the daycare setup - it is a wonderful setup for a single person - or a family who had no where else to go (like us)...but there are no windows because it's an attic/apartment and no real kitchen (so I was cooking for a family of 4 off a bunsen burner) unless I wanted to load everything up onto a tray (food, spices, milk or whatever is needed, pans and utinsils) and head down stairs to the daycare stove/kitchen area. That proved to be a very taxing thing and I found myself cooking less and less - an hour meal would end up being 2 1/2 hours...John said he felt like a caged rat...haha...but all in all...when it was time to grab our stuff and head over to Lisa's I was sad that I wouldn't hear the sounds of the children below us and be able to come downstairs and visit with the incredible daycare workers of Liberty Christian Child Care.

But Gene and Lisa's is a much needed blessing and I can NOT tell you HOW MUCH I am enjoying the kitchen. And there is even a backyard for Josiah to play in. So, this is our home until we leave. Lisa is a wonderful hostes...she really makes us feel like she is glad that we are here - dispite the fact that our two boys plus her one girl and her two dogs...and our husbands altogether in one room makes for beautiful chaos. We have to pay attention to the noise level and pray for PATIENCE! :)

OK...the whole point for all that was John walked in after working the taxi last night (John's cousin started a taxi company here in Sherman and uses John everyonce in a while when he is needed)...So...John has the taxi on Monday night to Tuesday of the slowest times for him to have the taxi - so we weren't expecting much but my husband walked in this house this morning with $400!!!!

I could NOT believe it...well, actually I can...God is good and he knows that we are down to $26 dollars to our name and we still havn't purchased our tickets from Bangkok back to Hat Yai nor have we paid fees for incorporation ($25) (we're working on getting incorporated and becoming a 501 c(3) through KingsWay fellowship ($300) so that when you guys give to us it will be tax deductable! :) It sure is confusing and hard work though - it's almost like they want to make it so hard that no one will be able to do it (at least little ol'peons like me) - but God has put some people that are trying to help guide us through. On top of all of that money to buy diapers, gas...ect...ect...

We still do not have our visas in hand because I made one of the most common mistakes when I sent it in...I did everything perfect...checked it like 5 times before putting it in the mail and then I hear from them a few days later that "JOHN" forgot to sign his application. What that interprets to is: I forgot to get John to sign his application. I sometimes sign for him (come on know you do it too!) but this time since it's such an official thing and all I felt that his real signature was needed. And I forgot to give it to him to sign!!!! AHH!!! I kicked myself around for a couple of days for it..."How did I miss that!?!?!?!!"

So anyway, I sent his SIGNED application off and we should be hearing back from them and/or receiving our visas and passports by the end of the week. I'm excited to have it all taken care of...just one more thing done and out of the way from standing between us and getting back to our home in Thailand. I can not express how ready we are to return. John is beyond ready to be back working in Thailand.

It's such a weird thing: wanting to be somewhere else sooo badly but yet knowing that where you are is to be cherished. I have read a book recently called Hudson Taylor God's Adventurer and it was so awesome to read about his life. He was consumed (for lack of a better word) by "Moving man through God, by prayer" It was wonderful to read about how he purposefully depended on God alone even when there were others to help him. It moved me when I realized that in order for him to get to China it took a 6 month dangerous voyage (he almost died several times) on a boat because there weren't airplanes to zip you from here to there. I was really greatful for the time in which I was born because I tried to imagine communications without computers, email and the internet.

We have 97 people on our mailing list and of those 97 - there are 6-8 people who donate and God provides the rest as needed. I imagine that in order to keep in contact with people you would have only been able to send newletters to those who donated - imagine writing 97 newletters by hand!!! Imagine the time it would consume! NO missionary I know has that kind of time. But instead I can type it (which I can do much faster than writing it) once and have it printed extremely cheap in Thailand (the shipping is another story). I say all this with a willing and open heart to our God and that if/when the time comes that we are called to an area without internet access for a long period of time (John goes out to those places everyday) and live then so be it. I will adjust!

Well, I know I've already written a lot but I wanted to share with you guys a struggle that I was dealing with...being here in America is a tough thing on many levels but on one of those levels is this. A few weeks back my friend pulled up in this gorgeous, beautiful, Hyndai Santa Fe and as she piled out my mouth dropped. I couldn't stop gawking.

I didn't know I had a favorite car until then. I just sat there - Josiah asking to get out of the car - and stared and then this longing rose up within me and my thoughts went something like this: "what a beautiful's so nice that must be...good for them...'but you know if you were working here in the states you could have something like that...maybe even better'...but I don't need something like that...'but it sure would make life easier...the kids would fit so nicely in there and we're gonna have another one sometime...' could make good money and you are passing it are going to be 60 and you won't have anything to show for your life financially.

I started to feel like I was missing something and this feeling of worry came over me and as I continued to stare at that beautiful car it got worse and worse as I started rationalizing everything we are doing and all the voices of the "wisdom of the world" started to set in. You can't even save money for your children if they need braces or even money for college if they choose to collateral interest investments...there is NO NEST won't have retirement saved then it hit me and everything was silenced as I uttered these words: "All for King Jesus"

With a smile on my face and a warmth in my heart I got out of the car and went to tell my friend congratulations on the incredible new car. That is what has been hitting me recently and there are some people out there that would say that they are all legitimate thoughts and I would say they are legitimate thoughts for most people but not for us. God has directly set us where we are and we've seen him come through time and time again and he knows our needs. He knows if our children will need braces and he also knows everything and will make due accordingly. I find my peace in this:

Matthew 6:25-34

25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[b]?

28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Thanks for reading guys! It means a lot to know you are out there reading...praying for us and supporting us even when we're not in Thailand. Some think that we don't need your support because we're in the states but I believe that it could possibly be one of the times we need it the most. Thank you for your love. I'll leave you with what God gave me:

Love like there is no tomorrow but yet live with eternity in your eyes....

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

New return date because of visa situation...

It’s official! We’re not leaving until November 5th…Much to our disappointment we had to move our return date because we must secure a 1 year visa for our whole family BEFORE we leave. Up until 3 days before our return date we thought we were going to be able to leave on Oct. 2nd as planned and apply for one while we are in Thailand but we found out that this could leave us literally stranded in Malaysia at the end of 3 months if it did not go smoothly.

We have to apply for a one year visa and obtain it before we leave the country or risk getting exported after 3 months to some foreign country like Malaysia because we wouldn't have enough money to fly home. The new policies state that you can only remain in Thailand for 3 months on a tourist visa and then you must go out of the country for 3 months.

We were strongly advised to wait and apply for our 1 year visa here in America. We are so ready to return!!! Don't get me wrong - I'm glad to have more time with my family and friends but I was ready...really everyway...mentally, physically, spiritually...I don't know if I can pull all that readiness together again...naw...I know the Lord will prepare us when it's time. We are soo ready to be back it is incredible but we know that God’s timing is best and we are patiently waiting and ceasing every moment while we are here.

One really awesome thing that I am excited about is that we are hopefully going to be able to go to the F.I.R.E. missions conference in North Carolina in October. As you may or may not know…the team we work with are all missionaries through F.I.R.E. school in NC. We work with 2 families and a single missionary in Thailand – The Stubenrauchs, the Garsees, and Katherine Barry. At this time the Garsee’s have already returned to Thailand from visiting in the states and the Stubenrauchs are now visiting and Katherine is also in the states right now.

God really laid it on Clinton Garsee’s heart to go to the conference after they returned to Thailand but there was no way it could be possible but things started to happen and finances came in and they are going! The Stubenrauch’s and Katherine are already planning to be there. Clinton expressed a strong…strong urge for us to go also but it would have meant us staying an extra month to be able to go (this was before we knew that we would have to stay an extra month anyway) and we have a friend that was coming with us to work for 3 months and we couldn’t stay and let him go by himself for 3 weeks…alone!

So we told Clinton that we would not be coming for those reasons. The next thing we know…our friend changed his mind (which was totally unthinkable and unexpected) and won’t be going…and we had to move our tickets out to obtain our visas anyway…so, I’m just excited to see what is going to happen!

We spoke at Liberty Lighthouse Church again this last Sunday and it was awesome – God really showed up. I just love it when God has the whole service planned out – all throughout the beginning of the service people kept coming up and saying little parts of what I had to say! I just sat back and thought how awesome is it? When God wants something to be said he says it! By the time I got up there…I could feel the presence of God all over me…God had something specific to say. By the end of the service the alter was filled and littered with tears. God is so good!

Some people have expressed an interest in hearing what was said last Sunday and John happened to film it so we’re trying to get it on CD – if you’d like a copy let us know. It’s really weird to me that we’ve been asked to make a CD of it…I’m really no great speaker at all and I definitely don’t have the “art” of speaking down in anyway shape or form…I’m not funny or witty…so…I just speak from my heart…and ask God to use me.

Anyway, please pray for us as we remain here in the states for yet another month. We are staying busy and finding work here and there. The boys are doing wonderful although I can tell Josiah misses Thailand. Thank you so much for reading! May you be blessed!!!

A missionaries worth...

A recent conversation:

P1: Do think you would consider coming back to live in the states?
Steph: No…not unless God showed us that that is where we are supposed to be.
P1: What if you can’t get back in…what if all this trouble is a sign that you’re not supposed to go back?
Steph: Then we would know because God would tell us…
P1: Oh what like a voice or something? (with a hint of sarcasm)
*Frustration sets in*
P1: I mean what have you guys been doing over there anyway? I just don’t know if you have been very effective…I mean I haven’t heard much about what’s going on…

*At this point I’m getting pretty frustrated and having to keep my flesh in line because this is the second time I’ve had this conversation in 2 days…our blog always states what has been gone on and what we do and I have talk to this person specifically many times about the different things going on in Thailand…

It’s one thing for people to ask what’s going on in Thailand because they are genuinely curious and what to know exactly what God is doing there versus asking because they want to make sure that their money is well spent…or convince us that we’re not effective so we should just pack up and retreat…are there thousand people crusades going on? NO…are there 100’s of people who have come to know the Lord that we know of? NO…*

I start to go through everything that comes to mind: Well, there has been over 200,000 tracts put directly into the hands of the Thai people and no telling how many houses have been knocked on…if there is an openness to pray for the sick/preach the gospel/reach out then it is taken. Typically the Jesus film is shown 2 times a week…Constant ministry to our Thai friends directly and through our lives. Pii Saow came to know the Lord through a new Thai believer she met specifically because of seeing our lives.

Pii C came to know the Lord because of a tract that Clinton and John put in his hand. There have been many healings administered directly through John and some indirectly when John taught at the bible school regarding healing and some of the students took the truth and ran with it resulting in a woman being healed of AIDS.

All the while that I’m going through this I feel my stomach churning…I decide not to continue, this person dropped the subject and we moved on…no problems. But yet my heart was pricked about how to measure the effectiveness of a missionary.

Do we wish we could return and say that 100’s or 1,000’s of Thai’s have been saved? WITH ALL OF OUR HEARTS…do you not think that that is what we live for? Is that not what we wake up for every morning in Thailand away from our families and the country we love? Is that not what we sold everything we had for??? We wake up seeking out what we can do to make a difference through every aspect of our lives that day…I, Stephanie, wonder if my husband will come home sometimes because of the Muslim villages that he goes to. We did not come over here for anything less than to change the country and to make an impact in the lives of Thai people for the sake of the gospel in service to our King.

But yet here we are returning to visit our family and friends and we can not report that the desires of our heart have come to fruition but what we can report is that we have served our King in Thailand and we have done all that we have known to do and we will continue on doing anything and everything that our God sets us to do.

We are working in an area that is soiled and overrun by idols and false gods. These people hardly know the name of Jesus much less want to face ridicule for shaming their family by rejecting their tradition/culture and religion…I’ve heard it said many times while I’m here that “it must just be so easy to win people for the Lord in Thailand” and maybe I thought that too before I left…while they are a spiritually hungry people they still do not knock down our doors to be saved people…we labor for their souls.

They are hesitant to the extent that one time while in the village – John told a group of people “Take my hand if you want to be healed…” There was an old man and 3 other men that needed healing. They asked “If your God does heal us then does that mean we have to follow Jesus?” John replied “when he does heal you and you see that our God is real wouldn’t you want to?”

They denied prayer because they did not want to follow Jesus – they even said they believed they would have been healed!!! This is what we face daily…a people that put their very value in saving face before their family and friends…and to believe in Jesus, throw out their idols, forsake their idol worshiping customs is one of the most shameful things they can do.

If our worth for the work we are doing is to be measured by how many souls or healings we have had in the past year and a half then; having only seen from our own personal influence 2 salvations (although through a drama that I wrote and our team performed over 20 people came up in a church to give themselves to the Lord), having prayed for 100’s but only seeing around 25-30 instant healings then we should be sent home.

If the worth of a missionary is determined by how many he can get converted or healed in a certain time frame then William Carey should have gone home after the first 2 years even though it took 7 before he saw any Indian convert. Besides, if we did spend years in Thailand that results in only 2 genuine real believers…are they not worth it???

But the truth is that our worth is measured by one question: did you walk with Jesus and actively seek out what could be done to reach the people of Thailand and take action on it? One thing that is true about what we have done over the past year and a half is that we have made the name of Jesus known throughout a land that otherwise would not have known.

We have ministered through drama, English outreaches, giving away food, personal relationships, passing out over 200,000 tracts, laying on of hands, children’s ministry, helping out in Baan Nam Khem making bricks to rebuild homes, praying for people in hospitals, and going out to the prostitutes.

The other time I had this conversation it was literally said: Well, we just want to know what good your doing if we’re going to be supporting you. (Basically “we just want to know if you are doing enough to earn our support)

My feelings on this are: Please do not support us unless God has laid us on your heart to do so. If people would give because God lead them to then they wouldn’t have to worry if we were “worth” their support because they could trust the fact that God knows and God lead them to give.

Please forgive me if this comes across brash because I do not mean it to. I just want to express my heart about something that has really affected me and made me really question what it means to be a missionary – and a missionaries “worth”.

I believe that it is perfectly fine to find out what the missionaries you are supporting are doing but I believe there is a line where you have to ask yourself “Did God put these people on my heart?” “Are these people going after God and His will to be accomplished where they are working?”

I’ve always considered the blog a place to express what’s going on in our lives…what God is doing…the struggles we face…the joys we experience…this is yet another struggle that we have had to push through. It’s a tough thing to be questioned in your service to God…but I believe it does nothing but make you stand stronger and make sure that you are doing all that God has set you to do.

We need to be able to give an account for our work in Thailand and be accountable to working everyday to win souls for Jesus…but I don’t think it is about huge numbers…although that is our goal…I believe it is about real decisions. I’d rather have 3 real disciples…seeking and living for the Lord than thousands of decisions for Christ that aren’t real.

Thank you to all of you who support us…please know I am happy to answer any questions about what we do and I try to keep the blog as updated and informative as possible but if you ever want to ask about something – please feel free. Thank you for reading!