Sunday, December 29, 2013

ICB Retreat

Earlier this month we spent a weekend out of Bangkok on a church retreat. Along with people from Jamaica, The Congo, Pakistan, Thailand, Philippines, Australia, England and other countries from around the world, we feel blessed to call International Church of Bangkok our home church in Thailand. Here's a video a member made of weekend highlights- we just happen to be the opening shot.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Protest Season

Political protests in Thailand are nothing new, especially in the capitol city of Bangkok.  In recent decades there has been a pattern of major political protests every few years, often resulting in a change of government.  Some of you might recall that there were major protests in Bangkok in 2010 shortly before we moved to Thailand the first time.

Once again, there are major political protests going in Bangkok. Some of the recent political protests in Bangkok have escalated into violence and have started to make international news, so we thought we should at least acknowledge them here on our blog.  Thus far the direct impact to us has been minimal, but we are staying alert.

Here's how things have affected us thus far:
  • We've spent a lot more time on local news websites, particularly Twitter, to make sure we know any areas in the city to avoid.
  • Traffic.  At times a number of major roads have been blocked by protests.  The result is everyone thinks traffic in central Bangkok will be terrible.  The reality is many people avoid the city and traffic has been remarkably light.
  • Some of the half day pre-school kids at Mary's school had to be picked up late from school a few days due to lunch hour protests in the area.  Fortunately the protesters were business people that needed to head back to the office after lunch and things cleared up in the early afternoon.
I'm not a political analyst, so I won't even try to explain the complexity of Thai politics here.  If you're interested in that sort of thing, this link below provides a reasonably concise summary of the current political landscape in Thailand.

More major protests are planned for this week.  So far our neighborhood has not been directly impacted by any of the current protests, but we are paying close attention to what is going on.  During the 2010 protests and ensuing government crackdown our neighborhood was briefly turned into a battle zone as the protesters were driven out of the city center. The link below is to a photo-essay of the government crackdown on the 2010 protests.  Many of the pictures were taken in the street in front of our condo.

We don't expect a repeat of 2010, but it does serve as a reminder of why it's best to stay alert when protests are going on.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Super Typhoon Haiyan

While the headlines out of the Philippines may have dwindled, the damage of Typhoon Haiyan is still very real.  Six days after the storm hit, my school had the regional director of Childfund (non-profit that has helped over 408,000 children in the Philippines over the past 40 years) do a short presentation for our staff. His children attend my school. After hearing how three of our Filipino staff’s families were spared their lives and not much else; he wanted to educate us on what was happening on the ground. The facts I state in this post are from his presentation.

The logistics of getting help to the people who need it are a nightmare. The Philippines are made up of 7000 islands, 2000 of those inhabited. 36 provinces were devastated by the category 5 storm. It was possibly the worse storm ever recorded. They are not prepared with earth moving equipment to clear roads and getting the right equipment in is expensive, plus it takes time.  I hadn't thought of this before, but the water and wind damaged not only the infrastructure above ground- schools, homes, health faculties- it also ruined all infrastructure below ground fuel reservoirs, sewer pipes, water pipes, and  the electrical system

My school has many Filipinos on staff. Three related staff has been praying for their families ever since Haiyan, locally called Yolanda, hit their homes. My school immediately formed a committee to help raise funds to give them to send to their families. So far between donations, a bake sale, and causal for a cause Fridays we've raised over 100,000 Thai Baht, around $3,300 USD.

My co-worker Noren works in the classroom right next to me and has been willing to share with me how her family is doing.  All the photos on this post came from her sister in the past two weeks. They have been able to get money to the Philippines and it has been used to buy rice, propane for cooking, water, and other canned goods. Her family believes they have found a good resource for obtaining the basic necessities. However, they are concerned about a young baby in the family. At the time of storm, there were over 200,000 pregnant woman and 135,000 lactating women. Young children have a high risk of malnutrition during a time of crisis. The community in which my co-workers family lives have come together to live in structures still standing. Everyone is taking care of everyone.

My school’s committee leading the fundraising efforts is made up of parents and teachers. Their plan is to set up appeal efforts throughout the next two terms and into the next school year. Noren and her family plan on using the money to help rebuild their community and take care of themselves. As she told me, “They can only trust that God will provide.”

If you are out and about Christmas shopping and don’t quite know what to get someone, consider giving a gift towards helping Noren and her family in the Philippines.  If you’re interested, please send me an email, and I can give you the details. Otherwise, please continue to keep the Philippines and their people in your prayers.