January 17 was Sports Competition Day at Ban Pong School. We watched the kids compete in many games, such as 3-legged race, potato sack race, batan relay, soccer, and other random games I had not seen before. The kids were split into teams by color and wore uniforms of that color. Each team had a flag, sign, drums, dancers/cheerleaders, and kids of all ages competing. They were cheering and screaming loudly, playing the drums loudly, and running up and down the field waving their color flag non-stop for hours. I hung out with the Pink and Orange teams because some of our kids were on those teams and they wanted me to stand in their section and cheer with them.
I went up to Chiang Rai for a couple days with some other missionaries who were visiting some ministry sites and shooting some video footage. We went to Rise Up Thailand in Chiang Rai and saw about 20 kids accept Christ into their lives as their Savior. We visited an Agricultural College where the AG church is looking to start a campus ministry. They were very welcoming and eager to have us. There are about 1,000 students, 500 of which live on campus and 20 of whom attend church every week. We met a group of 6 Christian guys who are on fired for God and desperately wanting help there to minister to the campus. They believe they could transform the school with some help and soon there would be hundreds of Christians there. I am excited to see what happens on this campus. The field is ripe. We also visited a coffee plantation owned by a Christian who supports churches and Christians with his business. We got to visit an Akha village where they pick the coffee beans off trees. Our last stop was at the location of a future church plant. It was very encouraging to see all these ministries happening around Thailand and to see God working through these people’s lives.
January 20 was the Children’s Day Festival at the Ban Pong Soccer Field. We had a booth there where kids came to play games and get prizes and snacks. It was a good opportunity to mix in with the locals and be a part of the community. I ate dried squid on a stick…
Jan 21 was National Children’s Day. I ran a 10k at 6am and got 2nd place overall in a sprint finish just barely beating the 3rd guy. I felt sick to my stomach the entire morning and race but still ran fairly well. After the race I headed to the Community Center to play with the kids.
The next week I ran another 10k, and my roommate, P Doi joined me. I got 4th overall and 2nd in age running a new PR despite another upset stomach. Played a bunch of games at the Center and then swam with some of the kids at a local swimming pool. We played keep-away for a while until I discovered that none of them knew how to swim. So I taught 4 of them some swimming basics, one of whom was a 7 year old. The 3 older ones did very well and picked it up quickly. P Doi and I ate dinner with many of our neighbors at a block party for our Mu Bahn (neighborhood).
The next day I woke up at 4:15am again to run another 10k. The race ended up being only 4.3 miles and I was pacing myself for a 6.2 mile race, so I did not place as well as I could have. I still had energy left to run a couple more miles. Apparently everyone else knew the course was short so they went out a lot faster that I did and I ended up getting 4th overall, 3rd in my age.
After each race I’ve been showing my trophies to the kids at the Center to encourage them to run and exercise. 4 of them said they want to run a 10k race up Doi Suthep (very large mountain in Chiang Mai) with us next week. So we started training…
That next Monday 4 of the older girls from the Center went running with me. We ran up a 999 stair mountain and then down a long, windy, dirt-trail on the back side of the mountain. Tuesday we did a 45 min run around Ban Pong followed by a great cool-down session.
[Temple at top of 999 Stair Mountain that we ran to]
Wed. was my first day teaching English at Ban Pong Primary School. Candice and I taught 7th and 8th graders and then played soccer with the kids for a bit after lunch. Another girl from the Center joined us in running that evening. We did a boot-camp style warm-up, jogged around the village, did sprints and relays at the soccer field, jogged back to the Center, and stretched. We had a great time!
Thursday I started Thai language school. Learning the tones, vowels, and consonants is rough. I had 4 girls run with me today. We ran 1 mile to a soccer field, did squat-jumps, sprints, and pull-ups, and then ran back to the Center for some push-ups and stretching.
Sunday Feb 5 was the day of the big race. 10 Kilometer (6.2 mile) run up a seemingly never ending steep winding road to the top of a mountain. I woke up at 3:45 am to go pick up the girls. Nobody showed. We later saw they had called while we were at the race. Apparently they slept in but they were very upset they missed the race. The race was a lot harder than I predicted. My calves were burning the entire way up and I could barely keep running the last 500 meters were it was the steepest. I ended up getting 2nd in my age group and got a sweet trophy and a little prize money.
The girls said they wanted to go with us to the race the next weekend, so we decided to give them another chance. So the next week I continued to train the girls from the Center. Their legs are always sore and half the time they take off their shoes and run barefoot because they don’t have running shoes and the shoes they do have hurt their feet. They are hard-core though and keep going without complaining.
As I said in my other post, on Thursday P Doi announced to all the kids the new name of the Center, HOSEA, which means salvation of the Lord. We told the kids we are Christians and that we are saved because of Jesus. This was a huge step of faith! Hopefully it will stir many questions from the kids and open some doors for us. Pray that God protects us from any opposition from the monks or community that may come from our boldness in sharing the Gospel.
On Saturday we picked 4 girls up at 4:45 am and took them to their first race, a 9k. I felt good and finished 4th overall, 3rd in age group (BTW, for most races in Thailand, age groups are 10 years instead of 5 like in the US). One of our girls got 4th in her age. The others struggled to finish. One of the girls, Pond, was the very last person to finish. She came walking in, barefoot, after the finish line had been taken down and the awards ceremony was about to start, with a look of pain on her face and her shoes in her hands. Apparently her shoes made her feet her really bad. After the race we had activities at the Center. We played a game called Eagle’s Nest where we were all basically sprinting back and forth across a soccer field barefoot for an hour on very sore and tired legs. When we got back to HOSEA one of the girls, Nid, asked me what I want to do in life and what I did in America. I told her about how I was a Dietitian on an Indian Reservation but I quit my job to come here to Thailand and volunteer at the Center. I told her I want to help the community here and share Jesus/God with them because he is very important to me. She seemed interested in learning more so I gave her a couple tracts about a very famous Thai pop singer who became a Christian and now sings only Christian songs. She read both tracts front to back and seemed very interested in learning more.
The girls begged us to take them to the race at Payap University on Sunday morning, so we picked them up at 4:45 am. I was very sleepy and my calves were sore from the race the day before so i wasn’t sure how I would do. Since it was 10.5 Kilometers I decided to start off conservatively and then pick up the pace the last couple miles to pass everyone. Well, the race turned out to be short by about a mile and a half so I didn’t do as well as I could have and had lots of energy left at the end. So, I decided to run back to find where our girls were and run with them. I found our lead girl about 1.2 miles back and ran in with her. About a minute after she finished Pond, the girl who came in last the day before, suddenly appeared next to us. We were totally surprised. She had ran fast and beat everyone else. She was smiling and very happy. A few minutes later the others came in.
After the race we asked the girls if they wanted us to take them home or if they wanted to come to church with us. Two of them said they wanted to come to church, Pond and Mon. We helped P’ Doi with the children’s class and then listened to the sermon on love and how God loves all of us. After lunch we asked the girls if they wanted to go home or go to a park where the college ministry from another church was meeting to talk about love and relationships. We figured they would be sleepy and tired of hearing about love and relationships but they said they wanted to go. On the drive home from the park, Pond asked if it is true that God loves them. P’ Doi told them yes and asked if they would like to learn more. They said they would, so he said they could come to church with us next week and we would find some Christian Thai women to mentor them and teach them about Christianity. He told them they don’t have to make any decisions right away, but to just take their time and learn about Christianity and God and Jesus. It is all completely new and foreign to them so it’s a long process but surely an exciting journey that they are about to embark upon.
Please pray for these girls and for us at HOSEA. Pray for wisdom for us in teaching these girls and for protection and strength in dealing with spiritual opposition that we are already facing and may face even more as the LORD continues to move and work in people’s lives here.