you know those weeks? the ones that pass by, feeling simultaneously like a lifetime and a millisecond. you try to recount all the things that happened in the last 7 days (or 14 or 21 when the next weeks sneak by just as quickly) and your brain strains to bring to light anything at all because it’s jumbled and rich and mundane and heavy and normal all at once?
who am I kidding – this is every week in thailand. and everywhere, i suppose. i just notice it more here.
a couple weeks ago, a new friend came to check out ministries in pattaya and i was able to bounce around the city with her a bit, popping in to see friends and running into faces that may not have otherwise made it into my week.
it was sweet. a reminder of the incredible community i’ve found here – so much joy to share in and wisdom to glean.
I listened to the staff at GRACE brainstorm ways to partner with their student’s schools so they could better assist with homework tutoring. a long, curly haired man gave me and tay a bracelet and flower necklace on the street, imploring us to come listen to him play on walking street sometime. the guys at boystown were sweet and welcoming – it was the first time i felt like i belonged there. like we were all truly just friends hanging out, dropping by to say hey and give a moment of relief and normal to their life of anything but. i ran into a fellow volunteer on the street while driving to teaching and struck up a friendly conversation with the cutest waitress I’ve seen a dozen times at on of my favorite cafes. the market vendors were so friendly, one gave me her LINE id so we could take the bus up north together next time I go… (I still attribute the extra show of friendliness to my new friend lucy. I swear having a cute British girl by your side makes you instantly more approachable ha #comebacktovisitsoon). one of our students at Shear Love brought us a big tupperware of the sweetest mangoes and another of our students from last year met us for an all you can eat seafood buffet (for a whopping $6. it just doesn’t get better than that people). we celebrated our sweet translators birthday and had our weekly staff meeting to connect on ongoing projects. I had at least 5 great conversations with roommates and friends throughout the week – full of intentionality and depth. two new volunteers arrived and dianna returned from the states. our home was full and community skyrocketed. my extroverted heart was in heaven so i baked cookies. day after day i watched jesus’ faithfulness to remind me of the beauty and goodness he’s brought to my life here.
and it was also exhausting.
my days were more full – but introducing a city so wrapped up in its own depravity that it all looks ‘normal’ can take it out of you emotionally. driving down bar lined roads I visit weekly, knowing that down each ally lies more of the same. steaming streets teeming with men and women trying to make a living with emptiness in their eyes. talking day after day about the hard and often incomprehensible realities we’re up against in offering opportunities and training and a truth bigger than today’s paycheck, superstition, luck or cultural expectation … the decisions of the people around us can be heartbreaking, and the path to wholeness, while often clear to us, can seem speckled with roadblocks to bring to fruition for others. there are no shortages of reminders for why we’re called to work in this city.
one afternoon, lucy and i looked out over pattaya from 2 completely different viewpoints. one a brothel lined street, the sun scorching us as we watched women sit bored on their phones while others engaged with customers and vendors pushed carts down a pothole laden road. laundry hung from the roofs across the way with curtains drawn on windows above bars.
the other was on a breezy hilltop surrounded by golden ‘gods’, their frozen bodies and chipped paint watching over apartments buildings and rooftop pools close to a shimmering sea, islands off in the distance and thai temple tops peaking out amidst trees and businesses. money clung to chinese new year trees and sandals scattered across the stone steps.
it was such a contrast – the beauty and the depravity. the kindness and the evil. this city is so peaceful and so chaotic all-the-time.
i suppose i’m no different to jesus. he sees my beauty and perversion. my faults are always before him, yet he pursues my heart intimately, desiring me to walk in fullness and abundance all the while calling me beloved. much like this home of mine, it doesn’t always make sense. but oh how i’m thankful for it.
The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:3)
i’ve recently been thinking about how lucky and privileged i am to live here. after a year and some months now, some of the charm and shine has worn off and it’s easier to let myself get frustrated or lazy with the people and processes around me that aren’t kind, helpful, or make sense. even writing that makes my heart cringe, because i also love this place and these people so much. and God has called me to serve and love and humbly give even a piece of the hope i have to walk through this life with joy. that is such.an.honor and should compel me to give more of myself daily.
what God has up his sleeve will likely always be a mystery, but i’m reminded that in seeing the rough edges of not only this city, but of my heart, God’s goodness gets to shine that-much-brighter. even the darkness is light to God. no matter where the dark is found. no matter how much or how often. there is ALWAYS reason to hope, to seek the good and rejoice with a thankful heart.
The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. (Psalm 146:8)