Wednesday, March 18, 2009

uncle sawat

Uncle Sawat is an 83 year old man that I admire; his faithful heart is in direct contrast to his leprosy ravaged flesh. In a leper colony in Bangkok Thailand, I sat at his feet for an hour and listened to his story.

When he found that he had leprosy, Uncle Sawat decided to move to a leper colony and build his home. When he was being treated a man in a bed next to him told him about Jesus and at the age 57, he pleaded with the government to allow him to build a church in the leper colony. Uncle Sawat became a pastor via correspondence, and was the pastor there until he could no longer see and move on his own.

After he sang us Hymn #13 (“How Great Thou Art”) I fought away the tears and struggled to think of a way to tell this story. The only thing that I could think of was to take pictures of his flesh to talk about his spirit. May these be a reminder of the frailty of our flesh but more so a direct contrast to the strength we have in Christ.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary. But what is unseen is eternal.”2 Cor. 4: 16-18

Uncle Sawat’s accomplishments are great but nothing in comparison to his heart. His story was not about what he did but what God did in him, and how faithful God is.

Every summer, Uncle Sawat invites InterVarsity students into his home, these students are volunteering in his community while on a Global Urban Trek, go here for more info. Michelle, talked about in this post, went on this Trek as an InterVarsity student and was convinced to move to Bangkok long term by Gods love for the poor. Uncle Sawat tells the students, “You are elephants, and I am a mouse. You have opportunities because you are privileged Americans, and I have none because I am an outcast Thai. What are you going to do with that opportunity?”

Thursday, March 5, 2009

universal language

They say that math is the universal language, but on Sunday before church in Bangkok, Steve, Mike and I had a really fun conversation with some kids that didn’t speak English (besides hello, what is your name, and goodbye) through the medium of photography and video.

It is amazing how nowadays, little kids know to ask to see the back of your camera in order to see the image; they have no concept of film…they even get mad at you if you can’t show them, like “what was the point?” It is crazy that even in Thailand, kids had the same response. I was taking photos of this house church and the little girl running around would always scamper up to me when she heard the shutter, in order to see the image. I have always liked showing kids images and then asking if they know the people in the image. This little girl didn’t know English but when I asked her, “who is that?” she knew to say, “ma, pa, and Michelle.”

bangkok portraits

Like this blog (from California) I went to Thailand with twentyonehundred Productions to tell the story of some InterVarsity Alumni. Michelle, Kevin and Sara (in order below) are part of a Servant Partners team living in and among the urban poor in Bangkok, Thailand.

Servant Partners is an amazing organization that values this “Incarnational Missions” style where you eat the same food, live on the same streets and relate as best as you can to the people you are ministering to. In an interview Michelle told us how important this is.
“Yesterday I went to just go buy eggs from the store down the street and someone told me that this person is sick. ‘Oh, really? How bad is it?’ I asked, and they said, ‘she went to the doctor today and they wouldn't accept her in the hospital but she might not make it to when they made the appointment.’ and this was like at 9 at night. She asked me, ‘do you want me to take you there?’ ‘Yah, defiantly!’
“Going over there and being able to sit with her and her husband and ask them about how they are doing and offer to pray for them, its the only thing I know to do in that situation. Knowing that if I didn't live here, there wouldn’t be that opportunity to be with people outside of scheduled appointments. That has been something that has been a huge part for me in wanting to follow Jesus lead of living with the people that I love and work with.”

They had some interesting living conditions, the floorboards in one house led down to the sewage and trash filled water that flowed below their community. The Mosquito net over their beds tells a painful story. They ate on the floor, they cook with a camping stove, and they fight with the rats for their food, but they love it there. These amazing people would just light up us as they walked around their community. It was a joy to see them “in their element” as they just chatted in Thai with their neighbors or played around with the local kids. It was an amazing contrast between their physical difficulties and the emotional rewards.

Sara told us, "My deepest sense of peace comes when I am in this slum. I wonder how this could be, that I would feel joy in the midst of such pain."