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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Best Job In The World

September is behind us, putting to end one of the most hectic seasons I've experienced since living here.  Half of the month was spent in training with two groups covering both Animal Health and Public Health, while using the leftover days to frantically figure out the last minute details of every aspect of both trainings, which could have done with a little more attention if we're being honest.

It's been a weird phenomenon over the past year for me, which I account to my yet "newbie" status as an Animal Health trainer.  Stress and fear are telltale signs that a training is approaching, and dread on the first day.  And once the participants arrive, and the ball gets rolling, I drive home late, exhausted and dirty every night.  And completely delighted.

Sometimes I still can't believe God gave me such an awesome job.

Here are a few highlights...

Learning how to give shots - practicing on oranges first:

At Boon's Livestock Learning Center:

Waiting for his shot of dewormer:

 Excited to prepare fecals to look for parasites:

 Even more excited to find parasite eggs (and lots of them!):

Our last day, the neighbor asked us to come out and look at his pigs.  3 babies had died suddenly.  We posted one and were able to tell him why it died (acute interstitial pneumonia):

We also had some cultural lessons - learning a children's song from one of the tribes:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Life Cycles and More

Well, I hadn't realized it until recently when my camera finally breathed it's last that I rely heavily on a snapshot or two to keep this blog moving.  If the poor ancient thing had only the problems of no longer remembering how to transfer it's contents to my laptop, and devouring batteries whole, I might have been able to otone (sorry, Thai words frequently slip into the place of the English vocabulary I once could recall without difficulty) have patience with it.  But now, it has taken to producing images that are mostly black horizontal lines.

So, beggars can't be choosers and today I'm posting a couple of pictures from a friend. Fair word of warning: the images below are not for the squeamish.

Last week we kicked off a new year of Animal Health and Public Health training.  This is always the best time of year to start training, since the rice is growing happily in the farmers' fields and the farmers are happily able to spend some time away from their fields at training.  We hosted 10 trainees from a nearby country, with 6 different languages in play over the 5 day training.

I am always so impressed by how interested and excited everyone is to soak up this information and participate.  This group was no exception, and if we had taken a vote about their favorite parts of the training, I'm sure it would have been looking at poop samples under the microscope for worm eggs and pouring over human and animal parasite life cycles and considering various interventions to stop the spread of disease in their villages.  Exciting, LIFE-CHANGING stuff!  Using the very academic tapeworm life cycle to promote washing hands and daw daan counteract pooping on the ground.  Who knew?

We started off in style by dissecting a pig and talking about various diseases and how they can be recognized when an animal is slaughtered for food.  At every turn of phrase such as "the liver will have white scars" or "the spleen will be big and black", they nodded their heads in confirmation that they had indeed encountered such an animal, and, had eaten it anyway.

The epiglottis: a wonder of creation.

In our classroom at the church in Boon's village.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Already Sufficient

Been feeling the weight of future unknowns lately, and I am thankful for this Sunday devotion from Valley of Vision.  Just like the man healed of demons in Mark 5:1-20, may I be quick to obey Christ, clearly seeing that He is already sufficient for all my needs. 

Lord Jesus,

Grant me the favour of being led by thee,
     under the directions of thy providence and thy Word.  
Grant me thy blessings with bitter things,
     to brighten and quicken me,
     not to depress and make me lifeless;
Grant me, like Gideon of old, way-tokens,
     by removing things that discourage me;
Grant me succour beneath the shadow
     of thy sympathy when I am tempted.
Accept my unceasing thanks
     that I am not cast off from thy hand
     as a darkened star or rudderless vessel.
Suffer not my life to extend 
     beyond my usefulness;
Cast me not under the feet of 
     pride, injustice, riches, worldly greatness,
     selfish oppression of men;
Help me to wait patiently, silently upon thee,
     not to be enraged or speak unadvisedly.
Let thy mercy follow me while I live,
     and give me aid to resign myself to thy will.
Take my heart and hold it in thy hand;
     write upon it reverence to thyself with an
     inscription that time and eternity cannot erase.
To thy grace and the care of thy covenant
     I commit myself, in sickness, and in health,
       for thou hast overcome the world,
       fulfilled the law,
       finished justifying righteousness,
       swallowed up death in victory,
       and taken all power everywhere.
Mark this covenant with thine own blood
     in the court of forgiving mercy;
Attach unto it thy name in which I believe,
     for it is sealed by my unworthy mortal hand.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Students, Surveys, and Loving Others Well

This past month I have had the opportunity to host Cori and Jodi, two sweet girls who came to do some research about how the experience of hill tribe students at university differs from Thai students at university.  We were able to network through the MMF scholarship program to have university students contact their friends to come and take the survey that Jodi had prepared.  Their response was amazing!  She ended up with over twice as many surveys as she needed.  I love our scholarship students!  She will go back and analyze the results and then write and submit a publishable paper to an academic journal.  How cool is that!  We are hoping that her results will help us better understand these wonderful young people who we've had the opportunity to befriend through the scholarship program.

Here we are at one of my favorite coffee shops shortly before they left Chiang Rai to have an adventure in Cambodia before returning home.  Thanks for a great 3 weeks (as well as the English muffins, chocolates, and french press, books, etc.), Cori and Jodi!  I have been so blessed  and well-loved by you both!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thai Cookie Cutters

May 30, 12:57pm
The rains are coming more steadily and heavily now, but life goes on whether wet or dry.  Parking my car for my Thai lesson.  My Thai teacher rents a small townhouse in a complex of hundreds and hundreds of these little cinderblock bungalows.  It's sort of a little city of it's own- there are convenience shops and launderers, lawn care services and plumbers, restaurants and auto repairmen bespeckling this peach painted community.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Larger Than Life

May 29, 2:41 pm
Boon and I drove a visitor up to Mae Ai today and we stopped at a hill tribe coffee shop on the way back.  There were these cardboard cutouts out front, all of which had been seemingly resized to cater to Amazon women tourists.  How do I fair as a pinhead Akha gal bedecked in all her finery?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Bit of Village Life

Back from the villages and so thankful for the opportunity to have met up with some wonderful, incredibly talented people whom I've had the privilege to train in Animal Health.  It was a fast-paced, 4 day trip riding up and down the mountains in a bright blue van resembling a jelly bean on wheels, eating delicious ethnic tribal foods, talking about local animal diseases and what to do about them, and feeling thankful and incredulous that God would call me to such an awesome job. 
Here's a few snippets:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Shock Value

Today was an day full of electrifying events.  Unfortunately for you, my picture-taking skills don't measure up.

This morning started before 6am when we drove out to Boon's village to electrocute a pig and prepare it for dissection (and tomorrow a barbecue) in the 11th grade at Chiang Rai International Christian School.  It was my first experience with electrocution, and I have to say it wasn't bad.  Much more humane than the ordinary village method of clubbing it or slowly bleeding it or a combination.  We managed the musculoskeletal, immune, respiratory, urinary, and reproductive tracts today, and they will finish up with a thorough look at the circulatory and digestive systems tomorrow.

After we got cleaned up and our leading lady safely stowed away in ice, I stopped by the MMF office to confirm plans for tomorrow's trip departure (this is the last update for a few days as I will be out of range) and arrived just in time to send off a visiting team with lunch on the veranda.  As we ate, rain began to beat down and lightening struck several times just across the street.  We had a front-row view!

On the way home, as it was still raining, I had my headlights on when I stopped to get gas.  Three minutes later, I had a full tank and a dead battery.  I am very thankful for the two gas station attendants who pushed my car out of the way and then as one of them used his own ancient white pick-up to bring mine back to life.  I had been waiting for this day - many mornings of sluggish starts finally caught up with me.  But a dead car in Thailand is ironically much less stressful than in America - and even though my automotive vocabulary is not up to snuff, it didn't matter.  Cars frequently die in the most inconvenient of places here (say, in the middle of a major thoroughfare) and life goes on around them with little more than an irritated expression from the guy stuck behind.

May 21, 12:03pm
Sometime between removing pig parts and removing car parts, we had a lovely meal.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Today Was No Exception

I could easily keep a blog about nothing but the interesting flora and fauna that I encounter here on a daily basis.  Some are more creepy than others, like the cockroaches the length of my palm that crawl in through the drains. As opposed to some people around here, I much prefer to meet them that way than fried and on my dinner plate.  But there is also the other end of the spectrum: the varietal shapes and rainbow hues of hundreds of species of orchids, the macadamia trees, the sugar cane growing in the fields...

May 20, 9:51 am
This caterpillar the length and girth of my pinky had happily munched several leaves off one of my potted plants.  I was wondering why that plant was looking thinner and thinner last week.  He was relocated.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


May 19, 11:38am
Today the office was open for a small graduation ceremony and celebration of another class of Milagros Scholarship Students finishing university.  The MMF staff take a great deal of pride in these students, and have sibling-like relationships with them after mentoring them for 4+ years.   The younger students spent all day yesterday rehearsing a song they sang together and decorating the room for the big day.  How cute is that sign made from cotton balls?

Friday, May 18, 2012


May 18, 1:38pm
At the nursery picking out plants for the landscaping in the office breezeway after hitting the noodle shop for lunch.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


It was too good to be true.  At last, I missed a day.  I'd like to blame it on the internet interruptions everyone around me has been experiencing, but that's not the case.  At any rate, I had a great "day off" yesterday, experimenting with my friend Ploy about how to make pineapple cake with the real deal.  I wanted to take a picture of her cutting up the pineapple with the machete, but my hands were sticky.

So here are two pictures from the last couple of days.
May 16, 10:10am
Everything you need for a productive work day.

May 17, 6:48pm
I came home last week to find that my lily pads had sprouted a tight green pod.  At first I thought it was another leaf, but as it expanded and lightened, it has eventually morphed into this blowsy bloom.  Can't wait to see it when it opens! 

The cake turned out delicious... a perfect birthday gift for one of the girls at the office today.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Small But Mighty

May 15, 9:03am
The humble facade of one of the most important buildings relating to my existence in Thailand: the Immigration Office.  Got my new visa today... all set to stay another year.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Don't Mind Us

May 14, 11:54am
Eating lunch with Pete and Boon at "The Pump" gas station restaurant.  Just overhead were three feathery hatchlings in their snug little nest with a very busy mama feeding and protecting her progeny from the humans consuming their distant cousin once removed, Chicken, just below.  I'm glad our pad thai remained unaffected by their bustling home life.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bus Station

May 13, 6:01pm
Waiting at the bus station for some visitors to arrive.  And sweating.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Passing the Buck

May 12, 12:07pm
Today I traveled up to the border to celebrate with some missionary friends from Texas the graduation of their first ministry intern.  With no background in animal care, they began raising goats a year ago to teach poor pastors a way to make a living while serving in the church.  At the same time, the pastors receive Biblical training and a solid foundation to return to their own villages able to lead others.  I measure my time in Thailand by the arrival of goats on the farm last year, as we came just a few days apart.  Since then, I've spent hours working through the foreignness of this ministry with them: for me the situational surprises of raising goats in a foreign land; for them, the goats.  I have also gotten to know their hardworking intern well.  He graciously accepted our invitation to join our last animal health training where he skillfully translated from Thai to his mother tongue, which he shares with our other trainees.

They have come so far in the last year.  Their goats are healthy and happy, they work hard, and they are living out their vision by sending their first intern back to his start his own ministry.  I am proud of them!

We met under the shade of the lynchee trees at the goat farm for a ceremony which included the gifting of a plaque and 6 goats (5 does and a buck) from the farm that he will take back home with him to establish his own farm and ministry.  At the end, we took this group picture, Bertha the goat included (the guest of honor is the young man in the white shirt standing close to his new doe).

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tropical Living Principle #37

May 11, 2:24pm

If you can't stand the heat at your desk, make a new one in the breezeway.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chinese Rain

May 10, 5:44pm

People say China affects everything here: economy, food, language, business, culture, foreign policy, religion.  And apparently China even affects the weather in Thailand.  Well, whoever's to blame for this storm cell, I'm okay with the cool breeze and the rain to ensue.  But the booming thunder and blackening sky don't deter the neighbor kids from walking down to the snack shop to get some potato chips or dried squid; at least until the rain starts falling by the bucket.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Creative Nature

May 9, 4:29pm

What purpose does this thumb-sized bug's brilliance and intricacy fulfill except God's imaginative pleasure?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In It Together

May 8, 12:46pm
Today was an intense day of meeting with two other organizations to plan for our cooperative work over the next year.  I would like to say it's easy to find our unity in Christ and we smell nothing but peaches when we have opportunity to meet together, but the truth is that it takes an incredible concerted effort to build working relationships like this, and especially in Asian culture (not to mention the several Asian cultures represented at the meeting today) where "speaking straight" is just not done.  But these two co-workers of mine (and old friends of each other), who come from different countries, ethnic groups, and languages chatting away in the back of the room during lunch break, are the reason why the fuss is worth it.  To be family in Christ.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Going On 24 Hours Now

May 7, 11:13am
I love the rain.  I love the cool breeze that billows the curtains in, the patter on the tin roofs, even the overcast sky.  I love the smell of the wet pavement, not having to water my plants and having to use an umbrella.  I love the sewer gas that gurgles up through the toilet from swollen pipes in the middle of the night (just kidding, don't love that one).  But the one down side (okay, two, if you're counting the sewer gas wafting from the bathroom) is doing laundry.  You start to wonder... will the clothes ever dry?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Saturday, May 5, 2012


May 5, 4:15 pm
Reviewing my essay writing.  Obviously I have a few things to work on before the 6th grade language proficiency exam in December...

Cool and Pleasant Shelter

May 4, 9:45 am:  Work Retreat

"When my soul is faint and thirsty, 'neath the shadow of Your wings there is cool and pleasant shelter and a fresh and crystal spring..."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Little Muffin

May 3, 12:22 pm
This little muffin was born into the Hmong people group just 3 months ago and comes to the office everyday with her mama.  She is quite used to being passed around to all her "aunties".  Traditionally, babies do not wear diapers and are trained to go on command (or have attentive mamas that can pull those pants down quick and hold the appropriate end over a bush), but of course accidents do happen, usually when the little chicken is relaxed and trusts the arms holding her.  I have been fortunate enough to be the recipient of such a (literally) warm sign of affection.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Seasons Change

I've been in a rut with this blog lately.  It seems there's just not much happening these days that has been capable of unlocking some creativity, and to be honest the heat and humidity have sucked all the extra energy right out of me.  Not much left over to devote here.  

So, in order to try to start new in this season, I'll be posting tidbits from everyday life: A Picture A Day for the Month of May.

Granted, it's already the 2nd and I will be without internet for the next 3 days and for another chunk of time at the end of the month.  But the title wouldn't rhyme if I waited until June, and what's the fun in that?

May 2, 4:18pm:
Rambutans (เงาะ), nicknamed Red Hairy Eyeballs, are one of my faves and are just coming into season.  I picked some up today at the market.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter, Thai Style

Here in Chiang Rai, we celebrate Easter with members from several Thai churches who join in worship together at the cemetery for a sunrise service.  The location was chosen for the practical need for space, but I find it rather symbolic that we begin our celebration in a similar setting as that of Mary Magdalene when she saw the stone rolled away from the tomb just before dawn.

I woke up at 4:45am to heavy rainfall and wind. When we arrived at the cemetery, the rain had turned into an irregular mist and the activity already happening in the area lifted my hopes for a relatively dry service.  Traffic police were stationed out front, women in full church attire under plastic ponchos were handing out pink programs at the entrance, and a pre-teen boy and his dad were distributing steamed pork buns and soy milk to each person - sustenance to stay awake during the service.  As we made our way among the graves, a group of youth huddled under a plastic canopy were playing hymns on their violins, and some Thai teenagers dressed as Roman soldiers were sharing a bottle of Sprite in the distance.  

We found a place between graves and sat down on a plastic tarp, just in time for a huge downpour.  The plastic began collecting a pool of water until my pants were soaked past my knees.  The umbrella was doing little to keep my pork bun and program dry.


We never saw the sunrise Easter morning, but the rain did little to dampen our rejoicing in the Risen Savior!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Building Up the Church

 Huay Mai Dua is a small Karen village nestled in the mountains about 2 hours south of Chiang Rai.  Most of the people live in simple wood and bamboo houses, many without electricity or conventional bathrooms.  There is no school in the village, so during school terms, all the children live in boarding dormitories about 35 minutes away.  To visit their neighbors, they walk up and down narrow pathways cut into the red mud mountains, which tint everything including feet soles and skirt hems.

Traditionally the Karen people are animist, believing in spirits that can do them good or harm.  Nowadays, many villages are Christian, though syncretism is still present.  Which makes Huay Mai Dua's integration of traditional Karen culture with mainstream Thai culture all the more interesting: 1/3 is Christian, 1/3 is Muslim, and 1/3 is Buddhist.

This past weekend was the grand opening of the church that the community built.  The whole village was in attendance, dressed in their beautiful traditional woven shirts and skirts.  The microphone and electric guitar were powered with borrowed electricity from a bamboo hut down the hill via a single strung up line.  A choir from a visiting Karen village sung a couple of special numbers, there was a ribbon cutting and ceremony where all the guests bestowed a small gift to the church, including a bible and a large framed poster of Jesus. And of course afterwards, everyone was invited to stand around the long, bamboo tables and partake in a traditional Karen meal with curries, rice and roast pork from communal bowls.  What a fun day to celebrate that the Lord is building the true church made of His followers in Huay Mai Dua.

La and I in our traditional Karen outfits, with the new church in the background.  (My Karen top was gifted to me by a sweet friend for my birthday last year.)

Unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers build in vain.  Psalm 127:1

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Depth Perception

Ahh... a day in the life of...

There's a certain amount of truth found in this diagram.  Sorry supporters... I still wear the same size clothes as I did in Kansas.  Local people have actually told a friend of mine that they prayed for him to be blessed... with more money to spend on them.  Most of the time, I'm just trying to find opportunities to help anybody and make myself understood.

This is Kingdom work: day in, day out, loving people quietly and faithfully.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Waste Not, Want Not

We are immersed in Animal Health training this week out in Boon's village.  His church has given us space for meeting and the participants are staying with Boon's neighbors. It has been a full two days of learning and there are three more to come.  Yesterday we killed a goat for necropsy, looking at all the different parts and learning how to castrate. Not an inch of the poor little guy was wasted - the skin is drying to make machete covers and the blood was used in a curry last night for dinner. We will have a graduation celebration on Thursday night complete with a barbecue.  You can guess who will be the main dish.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Finding the Forgotten

Last week as part of my job, I and a few others had the opportunity to visit Sangkhlaburi, a region a few hours west of Bangkok and up in the mountains just a few kilometers away from Myanmar.  We went down to evaluate a small project for Burmese refugees that began almost 30 years ago when one Burmese couple, Paw Lu Lu and Nandoe, along with their 4 small children fled to Thailand and began taking the sick and injured into their home.

With Nandoe and Paw Lu Lu in their living room
They have been taking long-forgotten people in ever since.

Spinning thread onto spools for loom weaving
Now, their ministry includes a Safe House for mentally and physically injured or traumatized people who are unable to care for themselves and have no family to care for them.  Nearby, the Elderly House was born out of a love for those who are alone and vulnerable in their later years, needing special support and care.  There is a Children's House, where orphans, castoffs, and the children of Safe House residents live and have an opportunity to receive education.  And there's a small preschool for Burmese children inside the borders of the Burmese refugee camp just down the road.  These are the forgotten people.  Quite literally the orphans and the widows that Jesus spoke about.

Paw Lu Lu helping with back strap weaving.  The Kingdom of God at work.

The residents have an opportunity to learn skills that will bring peace to their troubled hearts and minds and help them make an income, such as loom weaving, sewing, a special type of ethnic weaving called back strap, and broom making.  And thanks to 30 years of love and care from Nandoe and Paw Lu Lu and their staff who view themselves as family and rightful partakers at Paw Lu Lu's ever-available kitchen table, there is a long list of residents who have healed and received enough skills training to go on and make a new life for themselves.

Burmese preschool kids

Talking in the preschool with the teachers about why they love their jobs.

Weaving the beautiful fabric the Karen people are known for.

It was a sweet week to watch what God is doing with the lives of a faithful couple that desire to live for Him.  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Happy New Year!

Well, the beginning of this year has been off to a crazy start!  I've had this post written for a while and am just finding a minute to finish it up and get it posted.

Between planning for our next Animal Health training, evaluating a project for refugees in the south of Thailand, getting my Thai Driver's Licenses (yes that's plural... as if one bad DMV picture is not enough, they have to duplicate it for separate automobile and motorcycle licenses), continuing to work on the translation of our book, receiving multiple recommendations from multiple people regarding how to apply for my next visa which will expire in two weeks (including differing opinions in the Immigration office!), and having my good friend Lindsay in for a visit, I've managed to keep myself busy.
Had a fun day in Bangkok touring the Grand Palace

Played with some elephants in the Karen village just up the road from my office

Took a spin through Chinatown in Bangkok

Went up to "Mountain Pointing to the Sky" where you can look out over the country of Laos

Decided not to ride one of these to work everyday

Shot an old-fashioned musket and put a hurtin' on a tree-trunk

Must have done okay with the musket because I was matriculated to wielding this weapon  (It's a pellet gun, people, don't worry.)

Spent a rainy afternoon at the point of convergence of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos

In all seriousness, I'm thankful for the wonderful friends and family I have here.  I'm thankful for the silly times we have together, but I'm also thankful for my work and for what God is doing in Northern Thailand.  What a blessing to be able to share a few of the highlights with you!