Rak Teh #15 : Party On!!!
A visa-run to Malaysia, 24 hours of prayer, hosting a block party and follow-up gatherings, celebrating Kashmira’s 30th
birthday and Izayla’s first – we've been busy, and it seems to be party season here in Bangkok!
The Great Banquet…
A long time ago some religious folks asked Jesus for some pointers on how to throw a party. In response Jesus told a story implying that you probably want some good food, and suggesting that if God were in charge of the guest list he would be sure to invite the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.
So, when a short-term team from Iris Ministries
wrote wondering if they could partner with us to throw a block party for our neighbors, they'd pay for the food, and maybe could they set it up as an excuse to have some fun and also pray that sick people would be healed, we thought that sounded great. Arrangements were made with the local Grandfather of the neighborhood to take care of the food, and together we handed out invitations (see our blog here
for the much more colorful backstory!)
Saturday’s Block Party
Come Saturday March 5, we were excited. First the Iris team showed up, then a whole bunch of friends from YWAM and Baan Jai Diaow. More invitations were handed out. Thai traditional music started pumping out of ancient speakers and the party was underway!
Overall the event was a great success any way you look at it. Nearly 300 people (many homeless) attended, 250+ enjoyed a scrumptious meal together, and while people were eating our friend P’ Noi from Project Life’s Ruth Center got up on a chair and shared about how God welcomes us all to this banquet!
The food, skits, small gifts and games (complete with musical chairs and balloon popping contests) all brought smiles and laughter, but the lasting highlight of the time for many was the prayer ministry. There were several mats laid out on the ground inviting people to come and receive a blessing from God and be prayed for by Thais and members of the Iris team. Multiple people said they experienced some form of physical healing – several felt chronic pain in their knees relieved, one man had a shoulder injury healed and some of the deaf people we know expressed that their ears were recovering some hearing. So many people communicated that they felt welcomed, loved, celebrated – cared for.
Some of the homeless men who had profound physical healing experiences also prayed inviting Jesus to transform their lives. When members of the prayer team introduced one of these men to Kashmira so we could follow up with him later he had a flash of recognition and said, “Oh, I have seen you before I think – you talked to me but I was too drunk to respond”. On Saturday he was clear and lucid and had a look in His eyes that said something significant had just happened to him. Kashmira replied, “Maybe we have met before – we have a little baby in an orange stroller?” “Oh, yes, yes, I have definitely seen you.”
An older woman with a VERY sour disposition who has health problems and lives with her husband on a covered portion of the street (we’ve eaten lunch with them before) had a wonderful time at the party. At the end of the event as she was preparing to leave she gave Iven a hug with a big smile and a “sniff kiss” (sniffing his cheek - a Thai sign of affection and in this case gratitude) – and if you had ever met this lady before you’d know how miraculous that was!
If Jesus thinks that who you invite makes for a good party, then we must have invited the right people! Thank you neighbors, Iris, YWAM, BJD, Noi, Nok, John Robinson, and Grandpa Pang for helping throw a heck of a party!
A Gathering In Our Neighborhood - The Beginnings of Rak Teh Church?
Two days later on Monday afternoon there were people already waiting for our follow-up gathering to start, two hours before we said it would begin. By six o’clock 15 were gathered and another dozen showed up over the course of the hour and a half we spent together. We rented mats from a local vendor for 75 cents each, and brought water and fruit to share with our neighbors. We played a game, and then our teammate Sam shared about God’s heart for us as Father and helped field questions that people had, including our favorite, “Why is it that when I am at the place where I stay my body is always hurting but when I am here with you guys I feel good?”
All of us were struck with how attentive and engaged most of the participants were – people seemed genuinely hungry to learn about God and to connect with Him. Several were eager to receive prayer as we took turns praying for each other in small groups. There is something that feels so “right” about this little weekly gathering – sharing together, praying alongside our homeless neighbors, outside under the moon, surrounded by traffic noise, on one of the only patches of grass in our neighborhood. We can almost feel God smiling as He joins with us in this simple attempt of love and discipleship.
This week a very close Thai friend of ours helped share the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31), and several people in the group acted out the story – lots of smiles and laughs. Though we had a smaller group they were eager to think about and share what they thought this story teaches us about God, ourselves and how we interact with Him and each other.
Partway through the evening a group of stragglers joined us – only one of whom seemed like they actually wanted to be there, but with others happily tagging along. One of those young tagalongs shared with Iven afterwards, “I am just like that younger son. I rebelled against my parents and decided to come down here to run the streets so I could have freedom and party. But my parents are nothing like the dad in this story. None of us have parents like that.”
Springtime and Summer
It is absolutely delightful to us that our dreams of starting a simple street gathering in our neighborhood seem to be coming to pass – all the more so because it has just “happened”. Please keep us and our neighborhood in prayer as our team seeks to walk alongside our neighbors on this journey!
As I (Kashmira) write my portions of this letter the baby inside of me is kicking more than ever before – I guess s/he is excited too! We are so grateful to be here in our neighborhood together as a family. Izayla continually brings a delightful addition to everything we do here – on Monday night she toddled from person to person, smiling and trying to steal their water so she could dump it all over herself and smile some more. She turned one year old yesterday – both Rak Teh and our little lady seem to be growing so fast! Thank you for joining us on this journey!
All grace and Peace,
Iven, Kashmira, Izayla and “tua lek lek” (little bodied small small person)
P.S. For those of you eager to visit with us during our upcoming America trip, we wanted to let you know that while our church and group gathering dates are still being finalized we know we will be in the Northwest from May 13-June 8, and visiting with Iven’s family in Northern California for a few days before and the week following those dates. More details coming soon!