Transformation I am told is not just in receiving. It is about giving and letting yourself feel and be open to the things you are experiencing. As I boarded the GreenBus to head to Chiang Rai I realized how many ways I have gotten to be who I am. How many beaten up roads to long paved highways that have brought me to the very moment of sitting on the bus that travels to Chiang Rai, Thailand. After a deep chat and a short nap, we arrived in the humid, yet cooler weather of Chiang Rai. My Jadepack weighed heavy on my back with my belongings for the next month, my Flashpack cradled in my arms, and my sweatshirt slung around a strap. Adele and Michael led the way as they escorted us to Mekong Minority Foundation. After briefly sitting in a Ahka coffee shop (Ahka is one of the hilltribes), we were picked up to head to the location of MMF.
My impression was the sense of calm. As the streets of Chiang Rai displayed wealthier living, but a laid back feeling. Silver and gold lamps line the streets and the bridge that lead to suburban villages and shops along the road. The van turned into the compound and the reddish brown buildings came into view. The room is quaint and has the exotic feeling of being at a destination hotel. The shower is literally a just a pipe that comes straight from the tank and splashes incredibly cold water all over the neatly tiled bathroom floor. The netting covers the room and creates little bubbles for sleep and guard dogs keep an eye out for our safety. The general atmosphere is of peaceful living and a common agreement in the want to help others.
The moment struck me of being in a new place after saying goodbye to the directors of Go ED. My health struggles have been advocated for by Adele, so I felt a little torn as my food worries were no longer protected. I set the slight panic aside and sat through a two hour devotional with the MMF staff. After the meeting we drove over to the Migrant Children’s Center, where Leah and I will be working for the next few days. I stepped into the room and there were fifteen sleeping four year olds all down for nap time. It was a precious sight and it was calming. We chatted with the house mother and learned her story of how she became a Christian. She too was persecuted by her family for not being Buddhist, and she left Myanmar to come to Thailand for a better life for her and her children. She said as long as there are children to take care of, she will be here. Because life is a nothing without children.
After the center we ran some errands and returned to the compound. In setting up our netting in the room it took four of the Thai staff just to figure out how to put it up, it really was quite the party in the room. In the evening we were picked up to go to Grace Children’s Home. With tired eyes I was unsure if I could keep up the energy to be around kids, but as soon as we arrived I felt peace. The children all said hello and wanted to talk with us. We got a tour of the home and saw rows of beds, but each unique for each child. The ages range from preschool to college age and it is a strong community. One of the interesting facts about traveling in a foreign country as a student here is the reality you really do not have any idea what is going on, nor where the car is going that you just hopped into. We hopped into the truck with the bundles of children and headed to a park to exercise. It seemed like where middle-class Thai people go to work out. There runners, tennis courts, a playground, a long boardwalk that lined the river, racket ball players, and dancers. I walked hand in hand with a child that spoke good english for her age and asked the general english questions that most people know. Then we joined a rumba-like dance time in a parking lot that had tons of people following this one lady. I am sure I was quite the spectacle, but it was super fun! We ate dinner at the children’s home and got to chat with an older couple from Australia who were there helping. They have incredible hearts for children and have fostered many over the years. The man spoke of his story and how the children at this home stole his heart and it is his Thai family. He had incredible respect for the owners of the home and talked of how they had such good hearts. What struck me the most was his heart for the children here. He admitted he does not cry at all, except when it comes to these children. Who some do not have parents, or their parents are unable to take care of them, but they have a family here. He mentioned too how tourists come and oo and ahh at the center and say how wonderful it is, but leave and do not think of it anymore. He pointed out an issue with many foreigners who come to spectate, but not to participate. As a student here I feel I am able to observe, but also to be in the culture. People come, but are not effected by what they see. It is the part of transformation that people perhaps do not realize. You have to let yourself feel what you are experiencing in order to be transformed. The more I let in, the more I can change. It runs the risk of being broken or hurt, but it does not risk stagnation. I cannot be still and unchangeable here, because I am constantly learning and constantly being in new situations that if I allow my heart to feel, I can feel the change of perspective, story, and heart.
After dinner we joined the children for worship. It was powerful hearing all the young voices come together, all singing their hearts out the words of the Lord. It was a beautiful moment of tranquility and peace. I closed my eyes and let my ears take in the moment. I rarely experience moments where it feels as if God’s angels are filling the room with their presence at the sound of his children beckoning for him to come. As the night ended with a prayer, my eyes teared up with the gratitude to experience raw moments of life here. The raw moments that lift my spirits to transform into a more loving heart.
The adventure in Chiang Rai with MFF has officially stepped into the blissful unknown.