Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dengue Fever

Hey all! So yesterday, I woke up with a killer headache and feeling a little achy. I took some ibuprofen and felt better, so I went on the team outing to some ancient ruins. Towards the end of that outing, I started to feel awful. I had terrible chills and was becoming more achy, so I took more ibuprofen and laid down for a nap. I woke up feeling about the same, and someone brought me a thermometer and I discovered I had a fever.

Just the night before this, Tom (one of the workers here) was telling us that the owner of the restaurant we usually eat at on teaching nights was sick, and that her husband thought she had Dengue fever, which is a disease transmitted by mosquitos. He was all, "So the common version is just a severe type of flu where you feel like your muscles and joints are going to explode, and then the other version is called hemorrhagic fever where you sort of bleed internally and die." He told us not to be too worried, and I vowed to keep myself covered in bug spray.

Well this morning, after not sleeping much last night and waking up with an even bigger fever and feeling indeed like my muscles, joints, and eyes were exploding and finding the characteristic rash, I became a little more concerned. This afternoon, Ann (Tom's wife) came over and confirmed that I do indeed have Dengue fever. Well, shoot.

To be clear, the internal bleeding is rare, but they're keeping an eye on me and if my fever is still hanging around tomorrow, we'll head to the hospital for some blood tests. I'm not too worried, but the pain is almost unbearable. I don't know how to describe it other than saying it's like the worst flu I've ever had combined with feeling like I just got done running a marathon and lifting copious amounts of weights after not exercising for two years. So yeah, I'm in a lot of pain.

I'm also discouraged because I'm quarantined to this apartment until at least Monday and probably Tuesday. Ann said that the fever should break sometime tomorrow, and then I should just feel like I've been hit by a bus for about a week. Awesome. This means I miss out on teaching and our 4th of July party on Saturday, which I'm super bummed about.

If anyone reading could pray for me, that would be great!

  • Pray that my teammates aren't affected (it's not airborne, but if a mosquito bites me and then bites one of them, it's likely they will get it, too)
  • Pray for quick healing and that the fever is gone by tomorrow
  • Pray that I will not be discouraged by this time where I just lay around this apartment. Pray that I will find purpose in all the alone time that is ahead
  • Pray for Dani, my co-teacher, as she'll be teaching at least four classes without me. She'll probably have people helping her out, but it stinks nonetheless as we work really well together
  • Pray that I'll be able to keep building relationships with the students despite not seeing them for awhile and missing out on class and the party
  • Finally, just pray for the pain - that it would at least become a little less intense. Pretty much all I feel like doing is sleeping (which I have been doing a lot of). The pain behind my eyes is probably the worst. 
Thanks friends! God is good, and even if I spend the next five days in this apartment with little social contact, I will praise Him. :)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sa Wat Dee Kha!

I know, this is way overdue. I apologize, and I promise to do better at updating now that I've settled into a bit of a routine.

I've been in Thailand for almost two weeks now, and it has been great! My team and I have been busy with orientation, exploring Chiang Mai, learning a bit of the language, and teaching English. We are blessed.

(Quick side note: To see pictures, go here. I'll be adding to this album routinely.)

Where to begin?! I met up with four of my teammates during orientation in Florida, and we all bonded so well (Aimee joined us from the UK once we arrived in Thailand).  I wasn't sure what to expect from orientation, but it was such a good experience. The worship times were awesome and the messages were convicting. One thing that has stuck with me is, "Stop asking 'What is God's will for my life?' and start asking, 'What is God's will?'" I pray that I will continue to become less focused on myself and more focused on the kingdom. Another thing that was stressed at orientation was that the worthiness of Jesus should motivate us - He is worthy to be proclaimed and known and adored. We also heard an awesome message on the words "even if." So many times I have said to God, "I'll do this for you only if you do ____ for me," but as disciples, we should be the kind of people who say, "Even if [there is no air conditioning, I am persecuted, I don't get married, I lose my life, etc. etc.], I will follow You." I am praying that God changes my heart into that of an "even if" person.

After orientation in Florida and about 24 hours of flight time, we arrived in Chiang Mai! Our next week was filled with another orientation to life in this city - we met the Chiang Mai team, worked on getting over jet lag, did some basic language learning, met some of the Thai students, explored the city, ate good food, learned about teaching English, and just generally tried to adjust to a new culture. We learned how to buy things, catch a song taew (the Thai version of a taxi), and get back to our apartment (though the first time I tried to say what I needed to in Thai, I ended up at the immigration office, haha). That week was exhausting, but it culminated with a great opening party on Saturday night! Our theme for the summer is "English is cool!" so we had all sorts of wintery decorations which reminded me of home. Being cool, however, is hard to come by here. It is SO hot! Usually this is Chiang Mai's rainy season, but it hasn't rained much so we are experiencing heat + humidity. I think God is laughing at me because of how much I complained about the cold weather back home. :)

This week was our first week of teaching, and it went so well! I really love teaching and definitely feel like TESOL is something I would love to do in the future. The Thai students are so kind and friendly. They are also really excited and enthusiastic about learning English. Dani (one of my teammates) and I teach two groups of students - one from 5:30-7p and one from 7:30-9p. This week we worked on introducing ourselves and sharing information like addresses, telephone numbers, what we're studying, etc., and it was fun to watch the students get excited about things like counting to ten and shaking hands. I love every single one of them so much already. I can't wait to hang out with them more outside of class and begin to build relationships with them. We live right by Doi Suthep, a huge and beautiful mountain. University freshman have to climb up this mountain, and the idea is that if you make it up the mountain, you will graduate in four years. Seniors drive up the mountain and have to hike down. Seeing as Dani and I are both going to be seniors, we've been invited to hike down Doi Suthep with the education majors. Apparently this task takes about 4 hours (like I said, it's a big mountain). This will happen on July 6 - I'll let you know if we make it. :)

Tomorrow is Saturday, which means we have another party. We'll be doing a photo scavenger hunt around Chiang Mai with the students, and I'm really excited about that! It will be a good opportunity to get to know both them and Chiang Mai better.

Here are my prayer requests for the upcoming week:

  • That God will reveal opportunities to hang out and build relationships with our students
  • That Dani and I will reflect Christ as we teach, both in our interactions with each other and with the students
  • That our team will continue to get along well and that we will be filled with patience and grace for one another
  • That I will have a joyful attitude even when I am tired and hot (this happens often)
  • That God will give me a passion for His glory and His name to be known and that I will be continually reminded of his worthiness
  • That any sense of pride or self-centeredness in my heart will be replaced with humility and grace
Thanks to all who are praying! I know this will be an awesome summer, and it is such a privilege to be involved in God's work here. Our team has been digging into Colossians, and so I leave you with these words from Colossians chapter 1 which have been such an encouragement to me these past two weeks: 

"3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth..."

Praise God. He is good, all the time. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

To Orlando!

So my flight departs in about eight hours, and I really haven't started packing anything. This shouldn't surprise those who anything about me.

I'm anxious and excited to meet my teammates and go through the orientation process. We'll spend three days in Orlando and depart for Thailand on Wednesday. Whoa.

Yeah. That's about all I have to say for now. I really should pack.

These are my major prayer requests for the summer:

  • My Thai U team experiences unity
  • I build meaningful and intentional relationships with the missionaries, my teammates, and the Thai students I encounter
  • God uses this experience to deepen my relationship with Him and to help me understand His calling for my life
  • God's strength shines through my weakness as I immerse myself in Thai culture
  • The Holy Spirit works through me, and God is glorified
I can't say enough thanks to those who have supported me financially and/or through prayer and those who will continue to pray for me over the course of my time abroad. Your partnership in this ministry means more than you know.

Alright. I'm going to pack now. For real this time. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Luke 12:48

"But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more." - Luke 12:48 (ESV)

My mother included this verse on a letter she gave to me in the weeks leading up to my high school graduation. The words gave me goosebumps.

But those words never impacted me quite like they did the summer after my freshman year of college. 

That summer, I was blessed to be a part of a Summer Study Abroad trip to Turkey. I admit that a big influence in my participation in this trip was the fact that it was being led by my favorite professor and his wife. Also, I had always had a sort of "wanderlust" and figured that I might as well seize the opportunity to travel. 

But going on that trip turned out to be much more than "traveling". That trip changed my life. 

Turkey is a Muslim country, and we spent a lot of our time there learning about Islam, talking with imams (Muslim priests), and staying with Muslim host families. Coming face to face with a different religion (and one that had not been portrayed so nicely in the American media) was a lot to take in. Talking to Muslims about their faith was eye-opening, convicting, humbling, and, most of all, heartbreaking. 

During my trip, I was very angry with God. My host family had displayed love and hospitality unlike I'd ever seen from any Christian, and I wondered how God could have the nerve to send these people to hell. I was angry because life didn't seem fair. It didn't seem fair that these people were born in a Muslim country with basically no choice but to be Muslim, while I enjoyed religious liberties and easily-accessible Christianity in my life in America. It didn't seem fair that these people, with servant hearts so full of love, kindness, and hospitality, were eternally damned, while the seemingly half-hearted, self-serving Christians back home (including myself!) would enjoy an eternity with Jesus simply by "asking Him into their heart."

I felt like I was winning some sort of sick, twisted lottery.

But, one day, as I was tearfully watching my sweet host grandmother say her daily namaz (prayers) in her unhindered devotion to Allah, God hit me with something:

"I love her, Katie. I love her. I love her. I love her." 

My eyes fill with tears as I recall this moment. God's love was so powerful in that moment; so present, so real. The words of John 3:16 echoed in my mind as I was reminded that "God so loved the WORLD." 

Though she think of him only as a highly respected prophet, Jesus died for my host grandmother. He died for my host family. He died for the people of Cappadocia, the people of Turkey, the people of Islam, and of Hinduism, and of Buddhism, and of Judaism, and of Sikhism, and of Wicca; for the people of all religious (and nonreligious) groups, everywhere. And He desperately desires each individual to come to know Him. 

Here I was, furious that God would just send these people to hell, when the words of Luke 12:48 came to mind.

"To whom much was given, much will be required." 

And I realized I have truly been given much, and not just in terms of material wealth or education. I have been given the privilege of being born into a Christian family and in a nation where it is so easy for me to come to know Jesus. I have been entrusted with the Christian faith. I have been given grace. I have been given forgiveness. I have been given unconditional love. I have been given Jesus. 

And, because of that, much will be required of me.

I will be required to give of my money and my time and my life. With the power of the Holy Spirit, I will be required to love people radically and serve people selflessly. With the power of the Holy Spirit, I will be required to show others Jesus - in word and in action. I will be required to "go and make disciples of all nations."

And that is exactly what I want to do, knowing that this is not my life, but God's; it is not my work, but the Holy Spirit's.

I am blessed to have the opportunity to go on a Summer of Service through Northwestern College this summer. For 8 weeks, I will be in Chiang Mai, Thailand via the missions organization Pioneers, teaching English, doing relational ministry, and loving people. I am so excited to see what God will teach me on this trip. 

And, with the power of the Holy Spirit, I am going to live like much is required of me.