Sunday, January 18, 2009

A new day

It's 6:50am and the sun is working its way up over the hills of Chiang Mai. Thanks to what seems to be a global cold snap, it's actually a chilly 55 degrees. The houses here aren't equipped with heaters, so I had to put on another blanket last night.

I'm sitting at the dining room table of a well appointed house that, from a glance out the window, could be in a subdivision somewhere in Florida. There are palm trees, flowers and a couple dozen moderately-upscale-yet-nondescript tan and white stucco houses with spanish tile roofs. I've just chatted with my wife via Skype video, and I'm uploading digital photos while blogging.

I'm not exactly roughing it.

The guesthouse was pretty much a necessity. it's conveniently located, about half way between Chiang Mai city and our three orphan homes in Doi Saket. We bring sufficient numbers of guests to visit that we needed a place to house them all, and this is cheaper and less complicated logistically than getting hotel rooms for everyone in the city. It's all very nice.

I do, however, miss the hustle and the bustle of Chiang Mai itself. Sure, I'll get down there a number of times over the next week or so, but home base is basically in a suburb that could pass for Southern California.

This all having been said, it's not like I'm going to be spending much time here. Drive 10 minutes to the north, and the conditions become quite rural. Drive 30 minutes to the north, and you're entering the hill tribe areas. Some villages operate pretty much like they did 200 -- maybe even 500 -- years ago: handmade tools, handwoven clothes and subsistence agriculture. All of our kids come from these hill tribes.

Lisu, Lahu, Akha, Hmong, Karen, Poh Karen -- these transnational tribal groups have lived for hundreds of years in the hills of Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Laos and Cambodia. They've always been viewed as "suspect" by the national governments, and have been oppressed and exploited by whomever happened to be in power. Their orphan children have no access to decent education or healthcare, and are often tricked into working as slaves in factories or brothels.

At our five orphan homes in Thailand, hill tribe orphans are given loving homes and are encouraged to maintain their tribal heritage, language and village contacts. At the same time, they're given the advantage of learning Thai and English, as well as the life skills they'll need to succeed as minority kids in a country wracked with social inequalities, class warfare, racism and xenophobia.

I love these kids. I love this ministry. And I love all of you for making this possible.

Check out some of the new pics. I'll post more as often as I can. The next few days are going to be very busy -- I have lots of staff meetings, training and strategy sessions -- but I will try to keep in touch.


KarlandBethany said...

so glad you made it safely. you are in our prayers, John.

Zena and Joshua said...

john, this condensation of the situation surrounding your orphanages -- it's the first time i've heard it put quite this way (transnational tribes, living in an ancient way, uniformly mistrusted; you're serving their children in a way that respects their traditions *and* prepares them for their realities). thanks for continuing to wrestle with pen and paper (or keyboard and lcd, as it were).