Greek before Thai…

Before setting off for Thailand the group of 15 women I was traveling with sat down to have greek food the evening before heading to the airport for Thailand.

All the women were strangers to me. I had had laryngitis now for 3 days and could barely get a whisper out. I had flown to LAX from SFO earlier in the day and I was a little nervous about traveling with a group of women to Thailand and Myanmar since the media had been reporting of protests and persecutions. I had also disqualified these ladies just by sight, most of them were over 50!

I had been planning for this trip for over a year. God had opened many doors for me to take the time to go on this missionary encounter trip. I had no idea of what was ahead of me.

So with no voice, I sat down right smack in the middle of the table. The waiter handed each of us a menu and there were over 100 items on the five page menu. It was a quaint little restaurant. The tables were draped with blue and white checkered table cloths. The waitress was friendly and very patient when she realized that half of us had never eaten greek food before and would need some descriptions of the dishes.

As I looked over the menu I thought it was ironic that we start our trip over greek food. I’m not sure why it was amusing or what is the correct social protocol for dinner before going to Thailand. It just seemed polar opposite to the food we would be eating in the days to come. I played it safe and ordered a dish that was described to me as greek lasagna.

o

As we waited for our food to arrive the ladies began introducing themselves. They began to share about their families, their former jobs, their communities and their churches. I was a little relieved that I had no voice, my life experience dimmed in comparison.

Our trip was organized and offered by an organization called International Ministries. Some of the ladies had previously traveled to different missions around the world through IM. They began to make connections of missionaries they knew mutually. They began to retell stories of places and people that they had met. What started to unfold were resumes of world travel, missionary work and experiences, and some of the testimonies were amazing.

When dinner arrived the aroma in the air was enticing. I took my first bite and these wonderful flavors exploded in my mouth. mmmmmm! Pasta, melted cheese, spinach, beef, and “greek” spices…comfort food! As we continued to indulge our bellies, Sarah, the eldest of the group shared about her travels. She had been to South Africa, South America twice, and Europe just in the last 10 years on other missionary trips. She shared that when she retired she had decided to travel as if there were no tomorrow. She had told her children that she was going to spend her savings and pension since she was the one that had earned it and would leave them whatever was left, if anything. She wasn’t arrogant about it, she just couldn’t stop laughing as she shared about it. I immediately became fond of her.

As dinner came to an end, I began to realize that indeed God knew what he was doing. I had disqualified myself and these ladies because of my fears and uncertainties. Thank goodness that God doesn’t go by what we think. I was starting to feel less uneasy about my travel companions.

After dinner we had a 2 hour briefing. It was a “Your mission…should you chose to accept it” type meeting. It was a rundown of the itinerary for the 14 days to come, a crash course on cultural etiquette, roommate assignments, medical insurance and what it covered, and so on.

Chris explained that this trip was a missionary encounter trip. That meant that we were ambassadors of Christ and of our churches in the US. We would not be doing any hands on projects, but we were going to meet a number of missionaries and learn about their work. We were also going to visit several ministries where women were the focus. We were going to visit a hospital, an orphanage, several schools, a halfway house, and do a little sight seeing. This trip was about learning about each other. This trip was about seeking God and finding him in the most unexpected places.

Eventually the meeting ended and we headed to our rooms to get a few hours of sleep before heading out to the airport while it was still dark.

I got in touch with my girls, my mom and Sharon. I briefly shared about dinner. They knew of my concerns and it was comforting to tell them that it was still all part of God’s plan and that he was in control.

I realized that maybe…if I had had my voice I wouldn’t have listened. I needed to be silent so I could hear God’s whisper through these women.

I slept peacefully in the knowledge that I wasn’t going to die on this trip, these older ladies were warriors in their own right. I felt that God had shown up way before my arrival on that shuttle from the airport.

When we boarded the shuttle bus to the airpot around 4am the next morning I was a little anxious. I really wanted to cry. I felt elated that this adventure was beginning. I felt a little anxious that the hardest part of the trip was about to happen, the 18 hours of flight. I was a little sad to leave my girls on this side of the globe. All communication was going to be cut off, our smart phones, laptops and iPads were not going to be operable in some of the places we were going to. Apprehension started to tighten around my lungs.

Just as the shuttle bus began to pull into the street, one of the ladies began to pray. When she had finished praying another began to sing a hymn and one by one the others joined in. I felt as if I was traveling with my family.

Right before arriving at our terminal I sent out one final message to none other than “him”. He who had completely devastated me over a year before. My message went like this; “I’m heading to Thailand on my first missionary trip. I am so excited about my future. I’m excited of how God has restored me. Thank you for helping me break me. Goodbye.” And I disconnected myself from him, my phone and the world I knew.

The logistics of moving 16 women with suitcases, carry ons and bags was a little challenging. Since it was my first trip of this kind I took way more stuff than I needed. I brought all sorts of medications “just in case”. I brought 5 pairs of shoes which were 2 too many.  I actually had an itemized list of all the articles of clothing and accessories that I had packed. (on my return trip home however, I had ditched 2 pairs of shoes, a few blouses, a skirt, all my meds, lots of lotions, and a sweater. I did however end up paying for an extra bag because I bought way more souvenirs than I should have.)IMG_1463

We boarded our flight, all of us giddy and eager to get to our destination. Chris, our leader came around to all of our seats for a few final words before take off. To me she said…” I’m so excited to have you with us. I can’t wait to hear what you sound like!”

We got “comfortable” in our seats. I had gotten a window seat. I said a little prayer and settled in for the long flight. We chased the sun for about 9 hours until it finally set. We landed in Narita 2 hours later and waited for an hour for our 5+ hour flight into Thailand.

As you can imagine, we were exhausted and very jet lagged. When we arrived in Thailand most of us were very quiet. We would be in Thailand for a little less than 24 hours. We would meet our first missionary in the morning, stretch our legs for a minute and return to the guest house (hotel) for a few hours before flying out to Myanmar.

IMG_1481

I was so impressed…these ladies hit the ground running and didn’t stop. Not only were they full of knowledge and experience, but they had this energy about them. They were genuinely happy to be there.

I felt as if I was a completely clean slate. Everything was new to me. Not just the fellowship with the ladies, but my surroundings, the food and the teamwork that began to develop.

I was made the group photographer, (one of the skills I owned). By the end of the trip I would have taken approximately 3500 pictures and 15 videos. (I’ll share our statistics with you later).

I was blessed to have met Bonnie. She was to be my roommate for the trip. She was a gentle soul with a strong personality. I fell into a confidence with her. Every night we would talk for almost an hour about anything before submitting to sleep. It was fun to giggle with her. Her sister Twaila was also part of the group. Watching these ladies together was entertaining.

Eventually as we began to know each other our group became close knit. We needed to be as we would be facing survivors of sex trafficking, poverty, abuse, AIDS, abandonment, persecution, and rape. But we would also be coming face to face with God through the children and women we met.

 

 

One thought on “Greek before Thai…

  1. How exciting! Going into the unknown, scary but courageous…God gave you the courage to go to this magnificent country to help and to glorify his name…p.s the Greek lasagna looks tasty…

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s