Christmas in Thailand

A few people have asked me what it was like celebrating Christmas in Thailand, so I thought I would share :)

To start the 'season', we threw a Christmas party for all of our friends we had made on campus. At the party, we talked a lot about why we celebrate Christmas, and who Jesus is. Most Thai students that I met thought Christmas was to celebrate the Christian new year. What an honor to share about Christ! Here is the Engineering group:

A lot of the churches go Christmas Carrolling, so on Christmas Eve we headed out with a group from our church to visit their families and friends. We carrolled for 4.5 hours! We went to 10 homes, and each had a snack for us!

One afternoon a local school invited us to come to their Christmas program. They gave each one of us a crown and we watched. It is interesting, because most Thais view Christmas just as a Western winter holiday. They started with a Christmas Penguin coming around with candy. Then a traditional Thai dance was performed, followed by our Christmas carols we had prepared, and lastly a hula hoop contest! What Christmas party isn't complete without hula hoops! At the end, we were able to talk about the Christmas story and share about Jesus' love with all these little ones:

We spent some time our last week on campus making Christmas cards to leave with our friends.

On Christmas day we went to church. Obviously Christmas isn't a cultural holiday at all, so only Christians celebrate. So, it is very centered around the church, and most churches had a Christmas day outreach. Our church had a Christmas service for the adults and guests, and outside there was a program and gifts for kids. Yes, those are Operation Christmas Child boxes. If you have ever filled one, you can know they go straight into the hands of very grateful children!

The church service focused around sharing the gospel very clearly. At the end, gifts we given away! Yes, a gift for every single person :)

Here is our church group, with Pastor Moses, and the Thai staff.

And our final Christmas celebration was a team gift exchange. The boys actually wrote a song for the girls and Ryan dressed up as Santa.

And we had a secret santa exchange with our Thai gifts.

And that was Christmas! Not many Christmas lights, decorations, and only one Santa...but I'm learning that it is Christmas just the same. Joy to the World, Our Savior Reigns!


an idol

I wrote a few weeks ago about idols, from a spiritual perspective, but I thought I would just share an overview of the experience!

On the way up the hill, we walked through this temple, with many incense offerings.

We passed through the dragon's mouth...

And came out to a long set of stairs. But, at the top was a great view of Hat Yai!

And this lovely lady:

On the grounds were many many statues. People would kneel before them and pray, or offer incense or fruit as well.

And here are a large pair of gold feet. Not sure if they will eventually belong to a new idol, or if the feet are the idol themselves...

A Buddha statue.

And, we happened to be up on the hill the day they opened a cable car! It was the grand opening, so we were able to ride for free.

On the other side, the top of another hill, were more statues. This is an 8 headed Buddha statue. There were many bells that you could ring up here, and you could buy flower necklaces to offer as well.

Or you could pay to shoot off fire crackers for good luck. This happened a lot, and it startled me every time. They are so loud.

A large 3 headed elephant. I saw many people offering plates of fruit in front of him and hitting a gong.

This woman was selling birds in little cages. You set them free and they are supposed to take all of your "sin" away with them. Another type of offering to the gods.

And lastly, there were a ton of elephant statues that had peoples' names on them. I think they represented money that had been given.

It was really interesting just being a fly on the wall and see what it looks like to actually worship as a Buddhist. I feel like I learned a lot, and it was great to be able to ask students about their experiences and ask questions when I saw them that week.

I'm slowly by surely posting more Thailand stuff, thanks for hanging in there :)


Engineering English Club

My main area of ministry at PSU, in Thailand, was in the engineering faculty. It was great having an engineering degree myself, because I immediately had something in common with the students. We talked about classes, what they were learning, and compared classes to the US and NZ.

The first Friday we were on campus, the Engineering English Club threw a party to welcome us! It was so sweet. We played games, ate a delicious dinner, and sang a few kiwi songs. My dinner: authentic pad thai, a local soup that was AMAZING, and licorice jelly drink (yup, you read that right...).
Some of the girls I met at dinner that I spent a lot of time with throughout the trip, Khing, Pat, Biew and Pat.
Since the students treated us to such a delicious meal, we thought we should share a true kiwi favorite, some Pineapple Lumps.

The desserts were all yellow! Thai desserts are so different from anything I've ever had. It's hard to explain, but the flavors are really unique. Very good, but really different! (in ever photo we are nicely glistening with sweat...)

After dinner we had a cooking competition. We had to recreate a popular Thai salad after tasting it. See that large mortar and pestal? Yup, that's what you crush everything in and mix in as well. I think we were semi-successful, but the students got a kick out of us mixing stuff together. We almost added wayyyyyyy too many chillies and fish oil. Definitely a few ingredients I've never even seen before. But it was really fun. Everyone enjoyed watching the "white girls", or foreigners, trying to cook traditional Thai food!

Twice each week, the six of us assigned to the Engineering department, taught English at the English Club. I've never actually taught English before, so it was actually really challenging to come up with lesson plans and material! But it was fun and helped to further our friendships with students we were meeting. We would spend our afternoons in the Engineering department hanging out with our friends, having spiritual conversations, talking about Jesus, or trying to meet and talk to new friends. All of this was done with the help of the Thai staff as our translators :)
At our last English Club lesson, they gave us gifts!


2011 Wrap up

Can you believe 2011 is over! It is already the 5th and that is just starting to hit me. I wanted to do a quick wrap up of this year. As I was looking through pictures I realized we lived in New Zealand for the entirety of 2011, and what an adventure it has been!

We started last year in Nelson on summer project. We helped to staff the mission trip where 45 students came to learn how to grow and share their faith.
From Nelson we headed to (pre-earthquake) Christchurch by train...

We loved Christchurch, it is absolutely beautiful. I have thought many times this year how grateful I am to live in such a beautiful place!

A few weeks later we kicked off our campus ministry year at staff conference. Our first picture of the Wellington staff team.

We moved into a new flat...with a teeny tiny kitchen.
We went to visit wine country over in Martinborough.

Our first week on campus, we met thousands of students, and were able to share the Gospel many many times.

We celebrated St. Patricks day with corned beef - Ryan's favorite :)

Autumn Retreat was a success!

And one of my favorite, we hosted a girls craft night.

We rented a large bunny costume for an Easter Outreach:
For Ryan's birthday we went on a little road trip to the Coromandel. We survived the epic rain hike to the pinacles, and discovered hot water beach!

I spoke at our women's spa night and really enjoyed getting to spend time with the girls.

Our staff team took a team bonding trip up to Napier...and visited a winery, and Cody's mom.

Ryan and I took a weekend to ourselves to get out of Wellington. We took the train to Plimmerton for the weekend. I love public transport.
We survived the chaos of V20 - the huge international winter student conference.
We started a new American tradition, a barn dance!

Seals came to Wellington!

We went on another road trip to the farthest north point of NZ, Cape Reinga.

I took a few students to Dunedin on a vision trip and climbed the World's Steepest Street.
NZ hosted the Rugby World Cup! Everyone's world revolved around rugby for those few weeks.
And the All Blacks won!
Our staff team survived the campus year, and I love each one of them dearly.
After school was out, Ryan's parents came to visit! We had such a great time with them and were very sad to see them head back.

We hiked the Tongariro Crossing while they were here.
And finally, we headed to Thailand with 13 students for the last 7 weeks of the year. (more on this soon)

We actually spent New Years in Bangkok before heading home.
What a year! We have been blessed to live in a country where it is fairly easy to get around and we have loved exploring New Zealand, it is beautiful! We have met some great people and the Lord has stretched us and grown us. I pray in 2012 that we would be willing to walk in that same faith and be willing to be stretched even more.