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Who Do You Serve?

At a recent chapel service, Bill shared from 1 Corinthians, where Paul calls the church to task over who they really serve. Bill challenged the students with this question: Who do you serve? It’s easy to think the things we buy are there to serve us, but if we aren’t careful, we can end up serving them. Example?? A businessman buys the latest Blackberry to keep current with business and those he works with. Yet, he is so caught up with catching up, he slowly slips further and further from his wife, who ultimately leaves him. Who ends up serving who?

As believers, we run the same risk with our ministries and those we minister to. We need to be aware of those in need, but remember that ultimately we serve only One: The King of Kings and Lord of Lords; yes, Jesus Christ himself. Even as churches and denominations, we forget that the churches we plant are not ours, but God’s. The ministries that are built are not ours, but God’s. He really doesn’t care whose name is on the outside, He cares who is on the inside. I can’t find anywhere in scripture where it talks about the denominations in the eternal kingdom. Some get so wrapped up in what makes us different, we forget our purpose is the same.

How do we avoid the trap? One way is to always make God the hero in every circumstance, situation, and condition we find ourselves in. When He gets all the credit, none of it is left for us, so we have nothing but Him to boast about. Even when you look at the great men and women of the Bible, the movers and shakers of their time, God was the hero in their story. Without Him, there is no provision, no victory, no salvation, and ultimately no future.

Who do you serve? If the answer includes any words beyond Jesus Christ, it might be worth it to take a second look.

In the midst of an upside down economy, it is easy to lose hope in a system that was intended to provide for us the basic necessities of life.  When we left Virginia, we left a house for sale in a grim, slow moving housing market.  It was not in the hands of the economy, however, but rather in the hands of our God – the One who supplies all of our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:13).  So, month after month, we continued to make our monthly mortgage payments, slowly dwindling our personal savings account, yet all the while believing that God knew what he was doing, and that in HIS perfect timing, the house would be sold.  With so many out there in the same or worse condition, it is not hard to get wrapped up in story after story of what wasn’t being sold elsewhere.  Yet, we knew who had our situation in His hands.

Then, it happened.  While in the middle of my science enrichment lesson to the 7th graders on our class trip to Ayutthaya, Lynette calls me to tell me we have an offer on the house!!  A couple, after seeing it for the second time, decided to make us an offer.  So, after some negotiation, much prayer, and the amazing help of some awesome friends, the closing was complete on Dec. 15th.  That day, as I am staring at the picture our incredible realtor sent us with the word “SOLD” in red across the picture, I realized we no longer have any physical connection with, well, anywhere.  The joy of a finished deal was replaced, for a moment, by a feeling of emptiness.  We are no longer homeowners, after 17 years.  I joked to myself, “wow, we are homeless.”

But God, in a way only He can do, spoke this to my heart:  “No, your home is here, in heaven, with Me.  You’re just passing through there.”  The evening before, we had gone to a small restaurant across from the school called “Sojo’s”, short for Sojourner – A temporary resident.  How amazingly appropriate!!  So, although we no longer have a physical piece of earthly property with our name on it, God has reserved for us a place in heaven that we will eternally call “home”.

Christmas in the Park


Nothing beats a cup of warm, rich hot chocolate, a plate of cookies, and live Christmas music, surrounded by a few (nearly 1000) of your closest friends and neighbors.  That was the scene last weekend as the elementary playground was transformed into a winter wonderland, minus the snow, to celebrate the birth of our Savior.  Around 1000 people from the World Club moo baan and other neighborhoods came to be blessed by warm drinks, fresh baked goods, and the story of Jesus, accompanied by live music from the GIS jazz band.  We concluded the evening with Movies on the Lawn, a big-screen presentation of the Veggie Tales’ “Toy That Saved Christmas” and the old classic, “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown”. 

Being away from the commercial hype and political correctness of an American Christmas, we have seen as a family what Christmas should be – Jesus, plain and simple.  Yes, the gifts are nice, the decorations, lights, and music are fun, but let us not forget the true meaning of Christmas – that Jesus, fully the Son of God, gave up his heavenly throne to come to earth as a baby, grow up to become a man, minister to those of his generation, and be crucified by the very same people he came to save.  Through his birth, death, and resurrection, though, we can take ahold of that eternal promise he left us – believe that he is the Son of God, confess your sins to him, and accept him as your personal Savior, and you will be saved.  What better gift could you give to God this Christmas than your heart?

Loi Krathong

The smell was overwhelming – freshly ignited gunpowder burned the inside of my nose, while the smoke of thousands of multicolored flares and the burning of rice fields made breathing a chore.  For those of you who remember 1991, I half expected to see a live report from Wolf Blitzer on CNN, reporting from the front lines.

 But, this wasn’t war, yet it was.  The event was actually Loi Krathong, a ritual the Thai people have participated in since the 1700’s.  The ritual involves the creation of a small “boat”, made from items common to the villages, on which the boat’s creator would place their struggles, sins, and misfortunes of the past year to be floated down the river.  In Northern Thailand, the event also includes Yi-peng, where thousands of tubular lanterns, resembling hot air balloons, are released into the night sky.  In fact, the Chiang Mai airport ceased all flights on the two most active evenings for safety reasons.

 This ritual includes the release of thousands of fireworks, mostly by individuals, as they celebrate the upcoming year of new beginnings.  Like I said, though, it is more than the smells of war, it actually is.  See, the enemy of our souls lurks in the midst of the celebration, distracting participants from the one true source of forgiveness and new beginnings – Jesus Christ.  Loi Krathong and Yi-peng are steeped in Hindu and Buddhist tradition, and on one evening, watching hundreds of lanterns being released into the darkness, my heart hurt for those hundreds of lost souls, believing the lie that through their works they can atone for their sins.  As we serve and love on the people of this beautiful nation, we are reminded of the words Paul spoke to the Corinthian church:  “you will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion” (2 Cor 9:11).  He will supply the means and opportunity to reach a hungry nation, we just have to be ready to step into the battle.

Home Sweet Home

It has been said that home is where the heart is.  We would agree, but as believers it is really where God’s heart is.  How else can you explain this kind of transition – complete upheaval of everything comfortable and familiar, landing in a foreign culture, country, school, neighborhood, and way of life, yet feel like it is exactly where we need to be?  We remember praying once “Lord, if this is your will for our family, YOU need to make it happen.  You open the door and we will walk through.”  We did it in moving from NY to VA, but this time it is almost like a wardrobe to Narnia moment.

 It would be foolish to say it has been easy, though.  In fact, some of the hardest moments we have experienced as a family have occurred in the past month.  But, we have seen, as the Lord has shown us, how each piece, each challenge, each moment was necessary for the next step.  We don’t often get the privilege to see the How’s and Why’s in what God is doing.  So, when we do, it is truly a special opportunity to see God’s love for us. 

 Sometimes His love is made manifest through the works of others, as we saw firsthand.  We had reached a critical moment here – sickness, stresses of home shopping, and the need to find answers quickly but getting the “Oh, that is in the handbook” response, brought us to near breaking.  But God, in His amazing love and timing, provided in an awesome way through a simple conversation over lunch.  As Lynette shared her heart, a suggestion was made to have a few meals provided for our family to help reduce the stress.  Of course, we agreed, and spent the next two weeks being blessed by meals provided to us by the PSC (Parent-Staff-Community) group.  Each night we were blessed by a different main course with all the trimmings, and each evening we prayed prayers of thankfulness over God’s amazing provision.  We were starting to feel like it was, indeed, home sweet home.

Imagine a world where followers of Jesus would always pause, seek His counsel, and then move as He would direct.  Here we were, counting down the days until our “eviction”, knowing we still had not found housing.  Then, it happened!!  During early morning devotions, Lynette comes across this passage in Isaiah 48: 17-18:  “This is what the Lord says – Your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:  ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.  If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.’”

It hit us….we have been seeking to solve this problem in our strength, in our own understanding.  Of course it made sense for us to live in World Club; that is, unless God had another plan for us.  So, that morning, our prayer was simple – Lord, lead us to live where YOU would have us to live.  If you want us in a neighborhood 20 minutes away from Grace, than You open the door, and we will walk through it.  It is so easy to forget that our ways are not His ways, and that God’s ways are so much higher than ours.

Two days later, at the Wednesday staff meeting, we lifted our request before the assembly – that we needed housing, had 1 week left in our current place, and needed to have rent less than 12,000 Baht (around $400), including utilities!!  Right after the meeting, another teacher approached us and informed us of a place right next to her, and the rent was only 10,000 Baht!!  And, the landlord was a believer who lived next door.  We jumped at the chance to check it out, and that evening, toured the small but cozy one story townhouse.  We immediately felt God’s presence and peace there, and knew THIS was what he had for us!!  We agreed to the price, and started to make preparations for yet one more move, but this time to a permanent dwelling.

 TIMELINE CHECK:  At this point, it is August 18th.  We have been in country a mere 7 days!!  No wonder we are so tired!!!


Our first few days included the following:  Get up, shower, eat, off to school to plan, scour the classifieds to find available housing, and then try to get someone fluent in the language to help us set up an appointment to view the house.  Each time, the end result was the same – cost too much, unsettling spirit, not in great shape, or some combination of the three.  There is something unsettling as a parent in knowing the inevitable end to your current living situation, realizing without a Plan B, your two children will not have one of the most basic and important necessities – housing.  We really felt all along (even since our April visit) that God was calling us to live in World Club.  It made perfect sense:  Close to school, where we will work, we can ride bikes, which saves on gas, many of the dorm students we will be ministering to live there…the list went on.  Yet, we continued to hit dead end after dead end.  The next couple of days, it turned out, would be a turning point in our “new world” and our perspective therein.


Day 1 in country was just as event filled and frenetic as the weeks leading to our departure.  After a few hours sleep, we managed to rouse ourselves, shower, and roll over to Grace to begin the task of preparing for the year.  Unlike many of our teaching counterparts, who had a couple of weeks plus new teacher orientation, we had 5 days (counting the weekend) to get curriculum, get our schedule, set up classrooms, and be prepared to meet our students.  As if that wasn’t enough, most of the staff was on their way out to a 2-day staff retreat.  But, good news, we thought…our principal informed us the house we were in may be available longer!!  So we spent the morning finding curriculum and getting settled.

 That afternoon our new friend Lori came to pick us up to begin showing us around, Bill remarked how exciting it was that the house would likely be available longer than six months, and at 9,000 Baht…what a blessing.  Her response was “What!?  You don’t have six months in that house, you have two weeks!!  Besides, the rent is 20,000 Baht; there is no way they would let you stay there for 9,000! 

 Needless to say, this was quite a blow to our planning and schedule.  So, now we have two more weeks to start school (in 4 days), find a house, get settled in, and begin some semblance of normal living, all while adjusting to a new country, new culture, new climate.  Thus began the many “flexibility moments” God had in store for us.

Travel Day!!

Bleary eyed and totally disoriented, Bill rolls over to turn off the alarm clock’s obnoxious buzzing.  3 a.m. already?  It can’t be!!  But, alas, it was, and the journey began.  Promptly, at 4 a.m., our ride arrives to load suitcases and very sleepy children into the van for the 20 minute trip to the airport.  We had an amazing weekend with close friends sending us off in prayer, and with Dad there for the weekend to see us off.  It was truly a blessed weekend.

 Now, Monday morning, the day was here…We had thought about this day since our appointment day March 10, 2009.  The airport is quite busy at 4:30 a.m.  We nervously stepped up to the ticket counter to check in our bags.  Our ride had left, so if any bag was overweight, something was going to get left in the airport.  But, praise God, all bags checked; in fact, the heaviest bag turned out to be only around 47 pounds!! 

 It is hard to imagine a 29 hour trip as uneventful, but ours really was.  Our only delay, it turns out, was in actually leaving Richmond.  The phrase “ignorance is bliss” was the theme for Connor and Jaden.  They were so excited to be going to Thailand finally that the “bigness” of the trip was lost in the excitement.  But, as a trip like this can do to a person, the 4 hour layover in Seoul included 4 deep sleeping American travelers.   Then, at 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 11th, our plane touched down in our new home.  We were met at the airport by some of the Grace staff, and collected all 8 suitcases, on time and intact. 

 By the way, Jaden’s wonder over the bathrooms on the plane was disappointingly overcome when he finally saw, for the first time, the plane’s bathroom.  Connor’s comment, as only Connor could, was “Hmmm; it’s kinda like a locker…..with a seat.”

God’s Reply

In the book of Job, we read an ongoing dialogue between Job and his Creator.  We read that Job purposed from the beginning of his trial that he would follow God, and even though he had questions, would not turn away.  In the end, God reminds Job that He created everything (including Job himself) and that ultimately God will provide.  Job’s reply was simple, yet profound:  “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted…my ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.”  (Job 42:2,5)

So, there we were, tickets in hand, house going on the market, and still not funded.  We knew, like Job, that God could do all things, and we continued to pack and sell in faith.  That Wednesday (Aug. 4th) we received a phone call from our area director in Chiang Mai.  Good news – an anonymous donor has come forward to give you over $1,000 upon your arrival to Chiang Mai.  A huge boost!!!  Praise God! In the meantime, other individuals began to contact us, saying “how do we get on board?”  Suddenly, our funding “shortage” was getting smaller and smaller.  Then, on the next day, we get an email from our director again, informing us that the Foundation associated with our school had agreed to provide the remaining $4,000 to meet our budget need for our first year.  It wasn’t enough to remain there permanently, but enough to get there and teach the first year, from Day 1, and be able to meet the Maths and Science need for the school.  He also informed us that a house would be available for us to rent (very inexpensively) for the first 6 months in Thailand to allow us to get acclimated and have time to look for our own place.

During that final week of preparation, God brought forward a small army of friends who agreed to care for various parts of our house while we were away, to keep it in “selling shape”.  One by one, each need was met, and each night we tearfully rejoiced over God’s goodness and faithfulness.  The most difficult task, it turned out, what how to pack 8 suitcases to get everything we needed, but keep the weights under 50 pounds each.

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