Welcome to PlaaPlaaPlaa!

So you may be wondering why PlaaPlaaPlaa? What are those strange fish symbols above? What is ปลา and what does it mean? In short, this is a blog site, so surely there's going to be plenty of rambling. Unfortunately BlahBlahBlah was already taken, so I had to settle for the 'Plaa'. But there's actually more to it then just ramblings. The first fish symbol is actually a Christian symbol meaning ICTHUS - a greek acronymn which means "Jesus Christ is God's Son, the Saviour". The other strange letters you see in the last fish is actually the thai word for fish which funnily enough is pronounced "Plaa". So when you put it all together, this site is going to be my ramblings in telling people about how Jesus Christ is God's Son, the Saviour in Thailand (with plenty of good stories about food in between). Happy reading.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

i love how God provides

Usually it's not actually very funny when you get a flat tyre while riding a motorbike with a passenger on the back just after midnight. But last friday, that's exactly what happened to me and Bron just after we left cell group last friday night. But in God's goodness, we didn't leave alone - there were 4 bikes that left together, followed by my friend Wood in his pickup. So, after passing everyone and beeping 'goodbye', my bike began fishtailing. As soon as it started, i knew exactly what had happened, so pulled over - only to have my 3 other friends stop and then Wood conveniently pull up in his pickup so we could load the bike onto the back of his car and he give us a ride home. What could have been a 3 km walk home pushing a bike with a flat tyre in the middle of the night, turned into a funny night where i was able to see God's provision in timing and great friends here who are more then happy to help out however and where ever they can. As i thought about it, even if it happened so that we didn't all leave at once, i know that they're the type of friends who i could call at any time of the day if i were in need, and they'd be there to help. It just made me realise how blessed i am here to have such good friends who really care about each other.

so what was the problem? well, it turns out that i probably didn't have enough air in my back tyre, so the valve ended up getting 'ripped off' the inner tube. check it out!

i am still a bit confused however, as the tyre had just been checked a couple weeks ago...but anyway. Thankfully new tubes cost all of 120bht (about $4) for the new tube and labour to change it. And i also got a bit of exercise out of the whole exercise too as i had to push the bike about 500m to the repair guy.

Funniest part about it all, was that my friend Kim was paying me out about not looking after my bike and having to get a ride home. So yesterday when we on our way to my sisters house, her bike broke down as well and she had to get Wood to go pick up her bike and take it to the repair guy as well! Poor Wood. That's 2 of us in 2 days!! :) haha oh well, god's got a great sense of humour!

But in amongst all the silliness of failing mechanics, this week has also been a week where i've seen God's hand at work in answering prayer, showing his sovereignty in our lives and helping Thai's to grow in their faith and belief of Him. Last week, i had asked for some prayer for my teacher who was trying to make some decisions about what to do for the future work wise. In short, she has now resigned so will be finishing up at the end of July which is sad for me to be losing her as a teacher, but at the same time, i'm rejoicing in seeing the way that she's just trusting God even more in her life, to provide for her needs, to want to come to church more now and to want to know God more too. I won't go into all the details, but there have been some difficulties for her at work of late, and i think it really is a good decision for her to leave. But in amongst the uncertainty, she was praying to God for answers, and God not only answered her once, but 4 times in the space of 3 days. to the extent she was saying to god 'enough, enough - i get it now! i know that i can trust you to provide for my needs'.

Over the past few months, her and her family also haven't really been going along to church either (for various reasons). It's something that i've been wanting to encourage her in, but have also been wary with in not wanting to make her feel guilty for not going. A few weeks ago, she was saying to me that she really wanted to meet my sister, so it just happened that John was preaching at church last week, so i invited her along - and she was REALLY keen to come. Short of it is, she really loved going along to church that week and is keen to come each week and this week brought her kids along to church as well. It's been really exciting for me to see the way that she's grown n her understanding of God in the past few weeks and to see her not worrying about the things of this world which would normally really worry her, but to see her trusting in God instead. For those who are praying, please pray for Pii Kwan and her family as they face the future, that they will keep on trusting in God and his goodness and provision!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

6 months on.....

I can't believe that 6 months has already gone by! Time has seriously flown - in a really good way! i'm continually being amazed at the people God brings into my life over here and the way that God continues to work in so many ways over here.

The past 2-3 weeks has felt like a bit of a bit of a 'breakthrough' time with language. i can no longer speak english very well, often finding that i'm mixing thai words into my english now - maybe not quite as much as i mix english into Thai, but i can now no longer speak any language fluently! :) haha Seriously though, the past couple weeks has felt like a breakthrough in that i feel like i'm now generally understanding MORE then less when people are just speaking Thai all around me, and that i can communicate so much more. Obviously still have a long way to go yet, but it's a nice feeling to actually know more of what's going on and guessing less (even though there is still plenty of guessing too).

Last night, i had dinner at my teachers place. There ended up being 9 of us there - a mix of Thai's and Aussies (3 aussies, 6 thai's) - all of who spoke varying degrees of each others language, but no one fluent in both. What i thought was the most amusing was out of everyone there, my teachers husband and i were probably the most bi-lingual people there, so ended up having to try and do most of the translation when needed. How hilarious is that? i'd hate to think what i did translate at times, but it's always a great way to push me in my language and force me to work out ways of explaining stuff with whatever vocab i do have.

But with more language also comes more knowledge too though of 'issues' that are going on in other peoples lives as they want to share with me, ask me for advice, ask for my prayer etc. At the moment, my teacher has a few personal issues. For those who are praying, please pray that she'll have wisdom to think clearly and make decisions that will be helpful for her and her family and that she'll keep on trusting God more and more as she faces difficult decisions.

Anyway, i also mentioned that i'd post up a video that gives a quick glimpse of just some of the stuff that i've been up to in the past 6 months while i'm here. for DPCers, this is a bit of a sneak preview if you happen to check this out before it gets shown at church :) hope you enjoy

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Dicksons

the past month has been pretty busy producing and editing a couple videos, one for me and one for the Dicksons (my sisters family who i'm working with here). i thought i'd upload their video so you can get a feel for some of the stuff that they're doing and be praying for them as well (plus see what's been keeping me up at nights). i'll post up the video i've done for me soon too :)


Sunday, June 15, 2008

'Library Lawning' at Moor Choor

Those of you who went to UNSW might be familiar with the term 'Library Lawning'. It was basically when we had a spare hour (or 5) to go to one of the few patches of grass in UNSW at the time (funnily enough outside the library) and basically go up to people and talk about Jesus. During easter, our church did some 'outreach' after our easter dawn service, which basically comprised of us walking back to church and handing out various tracts. i'm not sure if the tracts are any good or what, but when handing out the tract, i found it interesting that we didn't even introduce ourselves or say where we were from or try to engage in any sort of conversation. At the time, i did ask why they didn't and i think it was because the never thought to do it. so from then on, they decided it might be a good idea to at least say they were from Grace church.

So last night when i went over to the music meeting, their 'team time' was to go over to Chiang Mai Uni and Library Lawn thai style. I didn't realise till after that it was actually the first time that most of them had ever done that. previously, they had only handed out the tracts but not engaged in conversation. I went with Kim and she was actually pretty scared to do it, not knowing what to say, but she ended up doing really well i think. We approached a girl called 'Iit' who was a first year student waiting for her parents to come and visit her. She had learnt a little bit about God when she was younger, but basically didn't really know too much about her. Kim then got to share her testimony briefly with her and we got to chat a bit and even got to chat to her parents a bit when they arrived too. there was an exchange of phone numbers and hopefully we might see Iit at church sometime. If you can pray for her, that'd be great.

It was great when we all got back to church to share our stories of people we got to talk to. i think for many of them, they realised that it is a great thing to be able to engage in a conversation and speak more deeply about God and Jesus with people. Of all the 7 pairs of people that went, every group had a least one really good conversation and everyone was really encouraged by the trip out. We all got to pray for all the people we spoke to which was great.

One of the things that came out of it for me, apart from being really encouraged by how my friends were so challenged and encouraged by the time, was how ill equipped i was to be able to do it myself cos of my lack of language. Again, it was a good way to be forced into sitting back and observing what goes on, rather then accidentally say something heretical in Thai and not know about it. But it also provided for some great opportunities to chat with Kim about ways to approach people and what to talk about and how to introduce the gospel to them. So, here's another thing that's spurring me onto wanting to be able to speak and understand LOTS more Thai.

For those who are praying:
- please pray for all those we got to speak to yesterday, that God will be using that opportunity to open their hearts and get them interested in wanting to find out more
- pray for Thai Christians to have the boldness to go out evangelising and also wisdom in knowing what to say, and that they'll present the gospel clearly
- pray for more opportunities to go out and do it

Help!! i have to play the piano!!

I actually can't remember the last time i was actually scared to play the piano for church, but for the first time in i don't know how many years, i'm actually terrified about having to play tomorrow. i'm still not quite sure how it happened, but from going along to a 'team time' for the fellowship, it turns out that all the regular muso's are away for various reasons, and they were (obviously) desperate. Normally, it doesn't phase me to step in and help, but when you don't know 6/7 songs that are being sung, there is no music, or the 'music' is just song words (in Thai mind you) with chords above the words, it doesn't really help. Then on top of that, half the time, they want the piano to play some kind of 'background' music while they're reading the Bible, or praying, or saying something else, so i have to somehow have the music ready to go at the start of the song when they finish. It's hard enough trying to do that when i can actually understand everything that's going on around me cos it's in English, but when it's in Thai, and i'm understanding about 50-60% of what's being said, i'm just not so confident. I'm just scared that i'm going to be more of a distraction rather then helping everyone focus on the words of the song and on worshipping God.

So, if you happen to read this before tomorrow morning, i'd REALLY appreciate your prayers. There's a reason why i've tried to keep a low profile for the past 6 months when it comes to music at church. thanks for your prayers. i know that God can do amazing things and enable us to do things beyond our own ability. Please pray that God will help me with that tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Deaf Ministries in Thailand

A couple weeks ago i mentioned that i met up with a girl called Ning who's a part of the team translating the Bible into thai sign language over here. I said that i'd tell you a bit more about the project before, so here is....

I first heard about the project here just before i came over to Thailand last year. When i was working at Anglican Media, one of my clients was Bible Society Australia who produced the Auslan Bible (bible in sign language) in Australia. When i sent out an email to all my clients to say that i was going to be coming over to Thailand and living in Chiang Mai, i got a very excited email back from my client who at the time was in Chiang Mai meeting with a group of Thai's who were interested in doing a Thai signed version of the Bible. Australia has essentially been the pioneers of the signed Bible, so when many of the people here in Thailand heard that i was coming over, they were very keen to meet me and pick my brains on anything i knew about the project.

So, a couple months after i arrived, i met up with Chumsaeng - the head of Wycliffe Thailand (a bible translating organisation over here), who explained to me where they were at with the project. Essentially, right at the very beginning! They had only JUST started translating and were still trying to work out how they'd do it, given the fact that there aren't very many deaf christians here, plus there aren't a huge number of hearing people who are able to sign - which doesn't help the translation project as the reason why a signed bible is so important is that sign language is completely different to thai language - so for a deaf person to translate from Thai is like me trying to translate the Thai Bible to english right now with my current level of Thai. Plus it seems that the sign language in Northern Thailand is different from Southern Thailand. Plus something i realised after my meeting with Ning, was how much harder it would be for any deaf Thai person to actually understand Thai, as Thai is a tonal language ie. have the same sounding word said 5 different ways which all mean something totally different. So even trying to understand the spelling of eg names from the 72 letter alphabet (plus tone markers) must be a nightmare. เข้าใจไหม!!! - if you're wondering what that means - you're probably in the same boat as most deaf thai's. So from the outset, it was always going to be a massive project!

My roles in the project in Australia were pretty much after the translation had been done and was in the production of the actual Bible - so filming, editing, DVD authoring. So right now, there's not a huge amount that i'm able to do, except get to know members of the team, encourage them to keep on persevering and hopefully when the time comes to produce the Bible, i can help them with the production of it - whenever that may be.

So it was a really nice surprise to get an email from Ning, one of the girls from the south of Thailand involved in the project. She's a hearing person who only a few years ago (for reasons she's not sure about) decided to learn sign. As she got to know more deaf people, the more she wanted to learn more sign so se could communicate, which meant she ended up being a part of a deaf church here and now she has a huge heart to reach the Thai deaf community with the gospel. It's really exciting to chat to her and hear her passion and desire to make the Bible available to deaf Thai's. However, when i talk to her, it's pretty clear to see how tough the project is for someone who has only been signing for a few years now to take on such a huge task. In one full day, she managed to translate 2 paragraphs of the book of Mark. When there's 16 chapters involved, you can imagine that it may take a while. Since she's gone back home (she was only up in CM for a weeklong meeting - but will be back up every 3 months or so), we've kept in contact by email. She's had a few prayer points to say ask for:
- team unity between the hearing and deaf members of the team. It seems that they are struggling to always understand each other, and it's causing some problems at times
- Pray for perseverance of the team members. Many of them are finding the going tough after only just a few months and are really wanting out already which will make the workload heavier for those who are left
- pray for more team members who might be able to help them
- pray for the funding that's needed for this project

It really is an exciting project which may take up to a couple years for them to translate the book of Mark. Many of those involved don't feel like they're up to the task, but have a huge passion to make the bible known to all people, so please also pray that God will give them the wisdom and skills needed to translate the Bible accurately and in a way that is helpful to those who will be watching it.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sean's 1st Birthday

One of the big blessings about being in Chiang Mai is the opportunity to not only work with my sister and her family, but to also spend time with them and enjoy milestones like my nephews 1st birthday! I think having missed most of Mimi & James' birthdays over the years makes me really appreciate the blessing of being able to be here for Seanie's 1st birthday and just the blessing of being able to spend time with family here, pretty much whenever i want, or whenever they want.

I guess in some ways for me, it's a practical glimpse of looking at what a privilege it is for us to be able to come to God and spend time with him whenever! iIt's such a big contrast to the Israelites in the OT who could only come into God's presence once a year, and only after having done all the various sacrifices to make themselves 'presentable' before God etc. In past years, i could only see my sis and the family if i came over to Thailand (or they came to Oz which was less frequent), or if i called on the phone to speak to them, but often the kids would be too 'busy' watching TV or playing games to want to speak to boring 'aunty deb'. So now, the opportunity to drop by at any time and celebrate special occasions is such a huge privilege and blessing which i know i should never take for granted, but should treasure each moment. Same as us and God as well. What a HUGE privilege and blessing it is for us to be able to come to God's word whenever because of what Jesus has done for us, to be able to pray to him whenever, to know that he wants us to spend time with him. How great is our God?!?!

So tonight we got to celebrate Seanie's 1st birthday. Had lots of fun with family and friends, Bron organised lots of games for the kids which they just loved (they were asking for more), ate way too much food again, and got to decorate yet another cake.

(sorry, you've got to turn your heads sideways again)
Overall, i think it was a great night, although, i'm sure sean wasn't quite so aware of the fact that all the fuss was about him.

Here's some proof that i am trying to take care of Bron and that i didn't just take the tim tams and leave her on a street corner to fend for herself

Sean with lots of family and friends

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Thanks DPC!!! :)

I'm very excited that my friend Bron arrived tonight! Bron's a friend from DPC who will be staying with me for the next 6 weeks as she does some uni research here. Sorry there's no pic of Bron up here just yet to prove that she did actually arrive safely, but i'm hoping that a picture of all the goodies she's brought over for me from my church family at DPC is proof enough that she arrived safe and sound!

I wish there were words to express how i'm feeling right now, just knowing and being reassured of all the support, encouragement and love i have back home from DPC. I really do thank and praise God for the support he's given me through DPC. It's not just the practical stuff that's been sent, but knowing that there is a team that's working together for the good of the gospel and to ultimately bring glory to God as more people come to know Him. Thanks DPC'ers for your constant support and prayer.

I'm sure all these Tim Tams will also help me put back on a few of the kgs that i've managed to shed, despite eating constantly over :) do you think there's enough here? :)

by the way, the bottom 4 packs are double packs as well! :)

Monday, June 2, 2008

10 years on....

Today was the Grace Church Chiang Mai's 10th Anniversary! (that's the church that i'm going to here in Chiang Mai in case you hadn't guessed). In order to celebrate, they had a special afternoon of singing, people sharing about their memories of the church, song items, dance items and lots of food. It was a really fun, encouraging afternoon. Despite people practically begging me to do this Issan dance with them, i somehow managed to avoid being on show dancing, however Denise wasn't so lucky and got herself roped into doing it much to my amusement.

(that's denise at the back in case you couldn't pick her)

However, as a trade off for not dancing i did have to play piano (which is ok) and decorate yet ANOTHER cake (cos i'm just so good at it). Thankfully this one didn't involve the colour pink, but i'm hoping that i did manage to spell correctly.

It's been awesome going along to Grace this year. Even though everything that happens there is in Thai (which means i don't always understand a huge amount), the people there have been so welcoming to me and have helped make me feel right at home.

As many of you would know, one of my ongoing prayer points for Christians in Thailand is that they will have the opportunity to learn how to read and understand the Bible for themselves, so they can grow in their knowledge and understanding of the real God and know how to apply the Bible to their lives correctly. I mentioned in a post a couple weeks back how i found myself at some 'leadership conference' and the teaching there was somewhat 'interesting' and even though random passages were read from the Bible, they were taught completely out of context by the preacher. The thing i found tough and frustrating was the way that people were lapping up all the teaching that was being served up to them, because they really don't know any better or know how to be discerning. One piece of advice i remember being given is never to believe anything that comes out of anyone's mouth (even if it is my most trusted pastor) - but to always look back to the Bible and see if what they says fits in with what the Bible is really saying. Sure it may mean more work, but hey, it's worth it when it comes to God's Word!

After attending that conference, i think i really came to appreciate Grace church much more, because i can see the way that the leaders at the church do have a desire and passion to see God's Word taught correctly and not just a series of stories and experiences of the preacher (even if the teaching that comes out is sometimes a little bit left field). I see that those who have been entrusted with the roles of preaching and teaching do the best they can with the things that they've been taught. For me, it makes me realise how much more they have to learn and how much they really need good resources (both human and written) that we so often take for granted back home. There is such a huge need to help Thai's learn to read and understand the Bible for themselves, so they can be teaching other Thai's how to read and understand it too. it will mean that their ministry will be much more effective and they'll be so much more better equipped to be teaching the Bible. A short term project that can be done in a year? I'm thinking not..... :)

For those praying:
- thank God for Grace church and it's ministry over the past 10 years
- Thank God for all the people it's ministered to and for the people who so eagerly want to serve God there
- Please pray for the Christians there to continue to have an eagerness to want to know God better and desire and opportunity to learn how to read the Bible correctly
- Pray for more like more 'like minded' missionaries to come out onto the field to help train thai's