July is over, and it’s time for the closing of another summer. Just like at home, the end to this summer crept up on me, while I was still planning coffee outings and sight-seeing trips with my Thammasat friends. Would it be cliché to say that the last week has been bitter-sweet, with the promise of seeing friends and family saddled next to the reality that I’m going to be leaving people who I’ve come to love and care for? Yes. It would. Is it cliché to say that I feel like someone’s taken an eggbeater to my heart and turned it on super-sonic speed? I’ll let you be the judge of that.
It’s been a topsy-turvy, day-by-day ride ever since the moment when Emilie reminded us last Tuesday that we would be leaving in 7 days. We finished off that SOUPer Tuesday well, with 2 successful soups even though Beth was feeling sick and had a hard time being in the hot kitchen. Revelation: I really like the Thai soup called tom yum! Other revelation: They put some things in there just for flavor, not for actual human consumption. Surprise! Who knew, right?
Then came Prom. Honestly, I’d been dreading this event since Ashley announced that the Thai students wanted to have one. I did my best to convince all the Thai students that Prom actually sucked in real life and that the movies just made it look good, but none of them went with me on it. So, Prom happened, and it was a blast! We had hardly any money to spend on it due to budget restrictions, but it turned out to be more fun than my actual high school Prom was!
We even had a Prom King and Queen competition, which turned out well Our DJ for the night, Beth, collected the votes and served as our MC too! And the winners were…
If there’s one specific spiritual discipline that God has been teaching me this summer, it’s been the spiritual discipline of joy! A good part of the ministry here is throwing parties and hosting events to bond with the students and build relationships with them that serve as a road through which we can share Jesus. I’ve learned how laugh even when things don’t work out the way I want them to, or even if I’m tired and ridden with ant/mosquito bites. There is so much joy to be found in every day. Prom was more than a dance; it was a time to celebrate the people we were with and discover more of the beauty in the ways that God made them!
The day after Prom, Ashley, Emilie, and I had a retreat scheduled. However, things didn’t quite turn out the way we had planned them. Our Thai friend who was supposed to accompany us to Koh Larn was unable to go, which left us as 3 interns on our own. So what did we do? WE WENT ANYWAY! Every day was an adventure, some things good, some things… not so good. Pattaya, the city next to the island of Koh Larn, was a different sort of tourist experience. We were able to find a hotel fairly easy, which was nice, but the location was massive culture shock in itself. The entire area along the beach was filled with strip clubs (that advertised their goods pretty freely) and people soliciting customers to see their peep shows. Immediately reaction? Absolute disgust. I think I culture shocked more in those first few hours than I had the entire summer. But, after some time, God replaced the disgust with compassion for those around me. I imagine the area we were at in Pattaya was a lot like some ancient Greek cities (Ephesus anyone?). These were exactly the kind of people who Jesus would have desired to come to know him. I made it a practice for the night to pray for everyone who talked to me during the night, though I went to bed with a really heavy heart that night.
The next morning was easier; we spent most of the day out on a boat, snorkeling and exploring some of the beaches. It was a relaxing day, much-needed after the former evening which had been pretty taxing on my emotions. As for spending most of the day in the water, I don’t understand what the Little Mermaid’s problem was, because I felt like a BOSS with a pair of goggles and flippers! Who needs legs for jumping and dancing when you can zoom around coral reefs and chase after sea turtles in crystal blue waters?
We spent that night on Koh Larn (much more peaceful than our night in Pattaya) and woke up the next day to go to the beach. Pleasant surprise: Koh Larn has a monkey beach! Not only did we accomplish Ashley’s goal of being able to snorkel in Thailand, but we also got to feed and pet monkeys!
Now we’re about to enter into our final SOUPer Tuesday, and I’ve already had to say my final good-byes to a few friends. Relational ministry is so difficult in several aspects for me: it takes me a long time to make solid connections and an even longer time to really open up. Then, just when I’ve made it to that part, I’ve got to move on again. Leaving is one of the hardest parts because there are a few friends here who have a piece of my heart. But, somewhere in this is a lesson, a message from God, to take with me wherever I am. My next chapter, the one that will start this fall, will be a mission in learning to listen and discover what exactly the message is.
Much love to everyone!