Our First Week
While our transition from the States to Thailand had it’s fair share of rough edges, it wasn’t so bad. I’ll admit after sitting for 25 hours in planes and airports and coming home sleep deprived and jet lagged to a house with broken air conditioning and flickering lights, the thought did cross my mind once or twice that maybe this Thailand move was a bad idea. I mean what if this was a foreshadowing of the future? Did I mention it was 98 degrees outside with 80% humidity at 9:30 in the morning? We had no vehicle, no AC inside, no fans available, and no refuge out in the humidity. On the positive side, a work crew did show up to “fix” everything, and they were the sweetest people – but we both quickly grew frustrated with one another because we exhausted all the in-common words we knew in a matter of seconds. It did get fixed by the end of the night however.
That night, exhausted and ready for bed, we were happily greeted by a new Thai friend of ours hiding in our bathroom:
Now don’t let my poor photography skills mislead you into thinking that is a small ordinary spider – that bad boy right there was the size of a grapefruit and he possessed special dodgeball skills. The first adventure Erika and I shared in Chiang Mai was drawing straws for who had to be the unlucky sucker to knock that guy down. You see, we had been there less than 24 hours and had no broom or shotgun to reach him. God wonderfully created Erika and I to be average height (in thailand) and this morphed spider knew this about us and he was just out of our reach. So we got creative: we grabbed the bidet next to the toilet and tried to shoot water at him. He must have anticipated our move because as water came at him, he dodged it! I’m serious: This demonic spider ran on the ceiling and came right at us. It was like a transformer movie. So Erika and I ran screaming out of the bathroom, slammed the door behind us, and repented of our sins since this would more than likely be our last day on earth. What a terrible obituary: couple sold everything to take the Gospel to Thailand and they were killed by a spider their first day there.
So shooting water at him didn’t work. What next? We thought about just never going in that bathroom again….or just lighting it on fire: but we thought the spider might possibly have a fire extinguisher handy, so we went for plan B: Take a towel, throw it at him, then stomp him. We bravely opened the door and went charging in and I threw a perfect Tom Brady spiral at our foe, but do you know what he did? He DODGED IT! I’m serious…he DODGED IT! Dodged a towel. So I did it again and clipped him, but it bounced off of him like it was a tissue. So I tried one more time and this time he dodged it and ran behind the toilet. We took the bidet and tried to “flush him out” (no pun intended) but he was gone. Dude literally vanished behind the toilet. We looked and looked and Houdini spider was no where to be found. We closed the door and left it shut for the next 3 days. We never saw him again.
THE NEXT DAY
So we woke ready to face the day. A school representative offered to drive us around Chiang Mai to buy our necessities. We went driving all over the city including a street called “big tree road.” That’s not its name, but since our drivers don’t speak Thai that’s what they called it because both sides of a two lane road are lined with huge Yang Na Trees. From what I understand, Legend is that the King of Chiang Mai and King of Lamphun decided to ride toward each other on a specific day to set the territory line between Lamphun and Chiang Mai by planting these huge trees. However, the king of Chiangmai arrived at the location hours before the agreed meeting time and planted more trees first, ensuring that his principality would cover the most land.
The trees have huge gold ribbons on them because they were blessed by monks – ensuring their survival. You see, people who live in that area of Chiang Mai don’t like the trees. They want them to go away because they are a nuisance and very dangerous. Limbs often fall off the trees into the street and kill people on motorcycles or cause accidents. The law also states that if you accidentally hit the tree, you will be punished. The trees are sacred. So people do everything they can to ensure they don’t hit the trees – no matter what: even if it means they hit a human being…. and that’s exactly what happened when we arrived on the scene.
Our second day in Chaing Mai – I witnessed my my very first traffic accident fatality. It is not something that I will ever be able to unsee.
TWO DAYS LATER
We shipped half of our stuff on a cargo plane to save a ton of money. I called beforehand, got a contract for around $800 to ship our stuff through our airline and $117 to clear it through customs. It was supposed to arrive in Chiang Mai the day after we arrived – and it did. We however didn’t receive it the following day due to a discrepancy on our air bill where I put one of the containers had stuffed animals. The clearing agent called me and asked me to itemize all of our stuffed animals because they wanted to know what kind they were. I said, “I don’t know.. we have bears, winnie the pooh, a horse, a dog…” It was at this dog statement that they stopped me and let me know that I couldn’t have this container of “stuffed animals.” Come to realize that they thought I was literally talking about animals I had killed that had been stuffed by a taxidermist.
Toys I said. How do you fit a bear and a horse and a dog and winnie the pooh in one tub? They are toys!
So they finally said they would allow our shipment to clear customs….IF We gave them 62,000 baht. That’s like $2000 USD. I said I was quoted $117 after our airlines spoke with you and gave you an itemized list of all of our cargo. That includes VAT.
No I’m sorry. The values you placed on your used household items are too low. We have placed new values on your items. So the VAT is higher now. If you don’t pay, we will not allow your stuff to clear customs. What do you do? 4 days in, No AC, Ninja Spiders, My first death, and Now our household goods are being held hostage.
So I have a lost a few pounds. Mostly it is water weight and lack of cheeseburgers. We had our first gathering of families in the girl’s school. I sat down with a few missionary families and listened to what they do here in Thailand. Finally someone asked me what I was doing in Thailand and after I told him I was launched from our church to disciple and raise up leaders in a local Thai church, he encouraged me not to do that.
He said, “I’ve been a missionary all over the world for the past 20 years. What I’ve learned is, church time is your time. It’s for you. You need to join a local church of people who are similar to you. Who worship like you do. Who speak the same language you do. You can do ministry 6 other days a week, but the church is not a place for ministry.”
He then cautioned me that if I didn’t join other local churches with other missionaries, I would “eventually get drowned out by larger groups with more resources and more people.”
So day 6 I encountered the missionary mafia.
I went to church with my family. It was 99.99% in Thai. Except these words: “God is not American. God is God. He loves the Whole World. ” He’s right. It is not hard to see why John 3:16 is one of the most cherished verses in the Bible. Packed into this verse are the greatest realities that exist: God. Love. The world. The Son of God. Faith. Perishing forever. Living forever. Whoever. These are the greatest things that can be. What could be more important? What could be more relevant? What could be more urgent or momentous than to know where you stand in relation to what God says in this verse? 68 million people in this country I live in haven’t had the opportunity to hear about living forever. They haven’t heard of a God who loves. They don’t know it is Faith that saves, not works. They don’t know the fullness of love, because the fullness of everything is found in Christ alone.
Like there is no tomorrow… my new mantra. I know where I am supposed to be… I know what I’m supposed to do… I have all that I need to accomplish all that I’ve been asked to accomplish. I serve the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills. I have the working power of the Holy Spirit alive in me. All that’s left is obedience. This is going to be an interesting journey.