A Year in the Land of Smiles
Have you ever noticed that when you know a certain chapter in your life is coming to a close, you want to savor every moment of it? Even the most basic and ordinary things gain a certain level of charm and beauty that they wouldn't have before. I was pondering this phenomenon last night as I rode the bus home to the YWAM base in Bangkok. I smiled to myself as I wiped the sweat from my forehead with one hand and braced myself against the seat in front of me with the other as the bus swerved in and out of busy traffic.
I have been volunteering with YWAM Thailand for one year now, but my time in the land of smiles is coming to a close next week. It has been an incredible year, an adventure that has shaped and changed me forever. If I had to pick a few experiences to share what my time here has been like, I would definitely talk about living in Pattaya for a few months and reaching out to women working in prostitution, I would talk about playing with little girls who have been rescued out of dangerous and abusive situations, and running programs for kids and families who live in the slums of Bangkok. I would tell you what it's been like to learn how to travel all across this country by myself. I would need to tell you about some of the countless strangers I have encountered along the way that God allowed me to connect with. I will never forget Augnessa, a Russian woman I met in Chiang Mai whose grasp on the english language was loose to say the least, but who I shared many meals with and who I enjoyed long evening walks through the city with, hearing about her story and sharing some of mine. Then there was Ice, the generous, hospitable, and flamboyant homosexual receptionist at one of the hotels I stayed at in Northern Thailand. Ice and I got meals together after I returned to the hotel and he got off work. He was hilarious and kind, and he shared some of his story with me as well. And of course there was Graham, an older english gentleman that I met in my first few weeks living in Bangkok. We struck up a conversation about life, God, sin, and forgiveness, and I had the opportunity to share the biblical story from creation to redemption in our first meeting. Graham and I have run into each other many times throughout the year and continue to meet for coffee every now and then.
Telling you about these experiences and people really does not do justice to what this year has been about though. This year God has taught me what it means to depend on his strength. He has reminded me that when I feel afraid and incapable, that's when his power will shine. God does not often call us to what we feel confident and able of doing. So when I woke up on my first day in Thailand and felt alone, afraid, and unsure about everything, God was there beside me, giving me the strength I needed, and ordaining my steps – and he was there every day after, enabling me to do what I could not have done on my own.
The things that have made the greatest impact on me and probably the ways that God has used me to make the greatest impact on others were almost all divine encounters, unplanned moments where God used me simply because I was available and submitted to his leading. I have never been in a time or place that required more dependence on God from me, and although at times it has been painful to have my illusions of independence shattered, I am so grateful to be in a deeper and more raw relationship with my Father today than I was a year ago when I arrived.
It has been a challenging year to be sure, but a beautiful one. I will treasure the relationships I formed this year forever. I have learned so much about hospitality and kindness from Thai culture, and I have fallen in love with this nation. I hope and pray that God will lead me back often. I will continue to pray for Thailand and stand in unity and faith with my brothers and sisters in Christ here. It will be bittersweet to return to the home I left only to leave the home I just found – but only a truly blessed person has such a wonderful problem: to have too many homes to love. I am learning to count my blessings even in the pain of saying 'goodbye.'
Meet the Author
Currently working with the Communications Department for YWAM Thailand.