Monday, February 11, 2008

Let me introduce you...

Yesterday, even more than previous chats with Samson, I was impressed with him as a leader. I had taken our two boys and traveled to the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan to meet again with Samson. As with managing any project there are various concerns/question and ideas to align with those who work with you and I wanted to speak through a few of these with Samson. Samson had also traveled to various villages and had taken the photos of the 21 students and I wanted to get copies of them to send to Mikiele Barr (a volunteer with Connect in Australia) who will forward the photos and details of your sponsor child/ren onto many of you. Already we have 15 of the 21 students sponsored. We are so thankful for your response.

The day started early with a coffee at Starbucks (I told you that Hua Hin was a touristy city). So with a good coffee in one hand and photos in the other, I was introduced to the precious, beautiful students by Samson (via photograph). He told me their names and a little of their story. This was, without exaggeration, a highlight of my life. Samson also had photos of last Sunday when a number of the prospective students and leaders (at one village)had spent the day eating, swimming (Samson paid for the picnic smorgasbord of food) and praying about their new school/home that would soon be built for them and future students in the years to come. My great delight was that our family and any other Connect volunteers were absent! Great because our absence highlighted again that this project is Karen led and while they have immense gratefulness toward each of us, this is their project as much as it is ours (Connect). So… they lead, they pray, they plan, they hope and they smile and grow as they watch God provide for them.

Many of my matters to discuss were addressed as I spoke with Samson throughout the day. In fact without prior knowledge of what Colin and I were wanted to question and possibly reassess, and before even raising the issues, Samson spoke directly to each and said on many occasions ‘I didn’t feel at peace about this……and so I prayed and prayed and now I feel peaceful about doing such and such.’ His alterations were exactly in line with what Col and I had felt would work better or would be a wiser direction to head. This too provided further confirmation that we were all walking where God would have us walk.

After a few hours of rapid conversation, goose bumps, intense joy, relief, questions, clarification, big smiles and thanks to God (all from both Samson and I), I excused myself to go to the bathroom and suggested we change coffee shops! As I walked to the restrooms such was my awe I could only whisper the name of God. I, myself, felt humbled and deeply delighted (but also on your behalf) that we were getting to play a small part in all of this.

One concern that we had was the registration and legalization of such a project under the Thai government, given also the unsteady status of Karen people along the border of Thailand. I had asked Samson to look into this and he has come up with an ingenious plan. The project will be called (in Thai) Baan Puk Dek Nakrean meaning Home for Students. Our requirements will be to attain seven signatures of various people in specific positions (such as lawyer/pastor/district politician) and we will be covered in the event of Border Police or general police investigating the project as we build and continue the work there.

Apart from providing sponsorship to these students for their government schooling, food, general care and accommodation, BPDN (Baan Puk Dek Nakrean) will focus on discipleship. Samson’s passion is for teaching and he has spent the last 6 years traveling (often an 11 hour round journey, on a weekend, on a motorbike) to teach children/teens in various villages about a God who loves them and the hope that it brings. He is beside himself with delight that soon he will have students in one place, where he can ensure they are cared for, taught, mentored, loved and given every opportunity of a future. Already he has had to turn students away, so next year’s intake is already building. Samson has relayed conversations to me also of parents who are deeply thankful for this opportunity for their children. Hopelessness is a powerful thing; it destroys a person’s spirit. Hope on the other hand is a more powerful thing and brings life where there previously was little. God is without a doubt a God of hope. Living and working here I am often reminded of the urgency to pass on the hope I confidently carry with me all day, every day. As I pass it on it seems to generate more hope in my own life. Perhaps this is what God meant in his Word when it says ‘give and it will come back to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over’!

Samson had pages of notes and we spent hours going through them. One page had his free hand drawing of a proposed building plan of BPDN. I am not sure if Samson is sleeping at night, but is rather awake planning and praying for BPDN. I wonder as his pages of notes included a freehand plan of where each variety of vegetable will be planted in the vegetable garden! I told you he was excited! Samson and the Connect team are still aiming at purchasing land in March (about 60km from Hua Hin amongst the Karen Villages along the border of Prachuap Khiri Khan and Burma) and beginning to build in April. We hope to have enough built to accommodate and feed the students who arrive 26th April. Our family is on holidays from mid March so we plan to buy tents and head to the land (once we have some) to assist with building a school in 4 weeks! We will bath in the river, cook on a fire and build in the day. The children (and Col and I) are looking forward to this. The students for 2008 range in age from 11 to 17 and we look forward to meeting them face to face. We have 2 university students who have also accepted (volunteer) leadership positions at BPDN. We also have a 25 year old girl (Juicena) who is coming specifically to lead. Below are some photos of students playing on their day out with Samson.

We have some urgent and specific needs. They are as follows;

*6 more sponsor families/individuals

*Financial gifts. This will allow Connect to purchase land, building materials, tools, plates, fridge, gas cooker, sheets, mosquito nets and so on and so on.

*Builders/Laborers. If you can build or work hard and have a couple of weeks off in April (or can get them off) PLEASE COME! We need you desperately. We will pay the Karen to build for us (which provides income for them) but it will be of great benefit to have some others (like you) on site also. April is Thailand’s hottest month – so this is not for the faint hearted. You will need to bring a tent and be willing to really ‘camp’. If you are up to the challenge and a month like no other, please email me at connect3e@hotmail.com. I can call you and talk through further details.

*Prayer. Please pray. Pray for the seven people we must find to sign the document allowing us to build. Pray for the finances to come in God’s timing. Pray for the future students. Pray for safety of those traveling and working. Pray for stamina, wisdom and discernment.

I will leave you now with photos. Please pass on this blog address to your friends….please tell as many people as you can about the Karen and this project. Thank you so much again for being in our lives. Thank you more so for being people who seek to bring justice and hope in an world with very little.





1 comment:

shawna said...

It is so insipring to hear how God is working over there. It makes me ancy to get out there and do something (probably best to have the baby first :)) I will continue to pray...knowing that God will put everyting into place at its proper time! Love you guys