Saturday, January 28, 2012

Vacation: Natthida (Taeng)

My whole reason for this vacation, and especially for going to The-Middle-of-Nowhere, Thailand was to see this lovely lady:
My sponsor child - Taeng - and me, outside her home
I've been sponsoring Natthida (Taeng) for about five years now, and the story of how we got started is definitely one near to my heart.  Before Taeng, I had been sponsoring Raquel of Honduras for quite some time.  I had been wanting to sponsor another child, but I wasn't sure I could afford it, so I started hosting Compassion events, when I presented Compassion to churches or even concerts and festivals, trying to get children sponsored that way.  At the start of every event, I made it a habit of picking up every child packet and praying over them.  At smaller events, I'd try to get to know something about each child.  It made things feel more personal, and, as a result, it got more children sponsored.  But still, I couldn't shake the desire to sponsor more.  So I prayed:
 G-d, if there ever comes a child across my table who shares my birthday, I'll sponsor him or her.
And then I continued my habits.  I can't tell you the number of April 22nds and April 24ths that crossed my table, entered my hands, almost had my name on them, but then I'd think of my bank account and my deal with G-d, and I'd wait.

Then, once day, it happened - the packet was there.  Terrified, I put the packet on the table, and prayed a new prayer:
G-d, if this is what you want, confirm it for me: don't let anyone sponsor her.

A copy of the first letter I ever sent Natthida,
which was found in a binder, holding copies of all
of our communications.
But halfway through, I new I was being foolish and cowardly, and I picked up the packet, wrote my information on the form, stapled my money to it, and added it to the stack.  Never before and never since have I encountered a Compassion child packet that shared my birthday.  For some reason, G-d specifically paired Natthida and me.  In meeting her, I began to realize the magnitude of the amount of responsibility He has placed on me and the amount of trust He must have in me, because I am now one of the maybe 6 Christian adults with whom she has contact.

Me and Taeng
For a while, Taeng was attending church and writing to me about what she was learning, but that has stopped.  Her community being mostly Hindu and Buddhist, her family began to fear neighbors' reactions to her church attendance and have had her stop.  She now sells (delicious) deep fried pancakes on Saturdays (which is when her church met) instead.  She does not believe in Jesus' salvation.  For a while, I know she was ripe to believe, but now, I know I must redouble my efforts.  I hope you will join me in praying for her and her family as well as for me - that G-d will give me the right words to write to her to lead her in the correct direction.

Taeng's house.  There are two beds in the house.  Taeng and her sister share one bed, their mother sleeps on another, and their father sleeps on the floor.  If you look to the left of the blue present on the shelf, you will see that the only framed picture in their home is of me and my father.  (I won't lie, I started crying.) 

We went to the zoo, which turned out to be Taeng's favorite spot in town.  I really liked finding that commonality: we both really enjoy zoos!  We also found another commonality: we are both the fast-museum kind of people (unlike my father, who likes to read every word on every sign).

Feeding the MASSIVE fish in the lake near the zoo

Next, we made a quick trip Natthida's grandmother's house, where Natthida helps to make these delicious, deep-fried pancakes and walks around selling them.  She wanted to make some for me, a request to which my taste buds were more than obliging. 
Trying to find more common ground, I noted how this was similar to my job making omelets in college, which was answered with an invitation to give the pancakes a try.  Natthida was giving me instructions over my shoulder.  Apparently, she was impressed with my results. :)

Natthida's little sister kept trying to sneak into pictures, so we just welcomed her in.  I never figured out how the boys were related, but I'm assuming they're cousins.

with Natthida and her mom

Then, we went to the Big Pagoda (I told you the better pictures would make sense here).  The Compassion people seemed very uncomfortable, as they kept insisting that they were Christians, so they knew very little about it, but it's a huge landmark in Nakhon Si Thammarat, and they wanted me to be able to see it and be impressed with it.

It was right about here that Taeng looked over at me and said, "You skin is so pretty!  My skin just absorbs the sun, but yours reflects it.  You're kind of hard to look at."  I laughed and reassured her that in a couple of hours it would be bright red.  This intrigued her a lot, so she asked me to lie down in the sun and show her.  I politely declined and attempted to distract her by buying her things. hahah.  I'm so American.

Exploring the pagoda
Saying goodbye was definitely the hardest part of the trip - having to release this beautiful girl (who's already sick) back into the care of people who, although well meaning, cannot provide all the medical treatment/advice she needs.  She cannot get all the religious encouragement I would want for her.  By no means do I think I could provide a better home for her, but I'm so used to being the kid who takes over the project when I feel like it's not being done to the absolute best of it's potential.  I'm a micro-manager, and I can't micro-manage this.  I have to trust G-d.  I CANNOT be in control on this one, and that's so scary for me.

One thing I will always take with me, though, is the memory of the sound of this sweet child's voice as she called out her classroom window to me, halting my progression to my ride back to the hotel.  I looked up, and there she was, leaning out the window for a third goodbye.  Maybe she didn't specifically mouth the words, "I love you, too, and I want you to be safe, too," but I feel like they were implied.

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

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