today we returned to chiang rai. and, once again, we left pretty close to the time our itinerary said we should. sort of.
we got to the village a little after church was supposed to start. at least they kept telling us it was only a little after, however i suspect it was actually a lot after. but they kindly waited for us before they began the service.
we had an excellent morning of worship. the pastor and his wife – she’s also the project manager – led the music. the kids sang, we sang and we all sang together. most of the worship songs they sang were familiar to me. they sang in thai, we sang in english and there is something about that i really enjoy – two different languages mingled in the same song – i find it quite powerful.
after the service we were again served an amazing lunch. and then we set out on home visits. for the second time the child sponsorship program was being highlighted for us, but this time in a different context. a program run in a village is quite different than one in an urban setting. and in this particular lahu village most of the villagers are strict animists. the project manager and project volunteers have worked hard at building relationships and gaining the trust of the community. many of the adults, especially the children’s parents, are accepting and involved with the ministry. they are glad to be able to partner with the project and to see the positive improvements that the compassion program has brought for their kids and the community.
three people lived in the home we visited; father, daughter – who is a sponsored child, and son – who is in the program, but isn’t currently sponsored. joining us on our home visit were several of the neighbor kids, all curious to see what was going on and to join in when they could.
the mother in this family passed away last year and the father has done his best to keep the family afloat. he makes a living farming rice and as a laborer and he shares household chores with his 12 year old daughter. because of the child sponsorship program his children are provided opportunities aimed at “preparing them with the skills and knowledge required to assume adulthood, including activities that will make the community a better place to live.” but what that really means for him is that his children can attend school and will most likely attend for several more years than they would have without a compassion program in their village. and, because of a water filtration system that is now in their community made possible because of civ funds provided by compassion, his children have access to clean water and won’t be susceptible to the constant threat of waterborne illness .
and then there are the many opportunities for the project staff and volunteers and even the occasional outsider like us to share the love of Jesus within this village – loving and helping people where they are – a great opportunity to practice loving your neighbor as you love yourself (matthew 22:37).
when it came time to say goodbye many of the project kids and volunteers made their way to where our vans were parked. it was a bit of a farewell party and very bittersweet. it was lovely to spend two days working and visiting with these kids and their families.