God is doing stuff, and (surprise!) we don't really know how or why! 
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"Love Never Fails"

We hit the ground running this past January - praying outside on our streets every day, welcoming a YWAM short-term team, as well as a new team-mate and some fun new neighbors.

Within the first three weeks of 2014 we saw two neighbors say yes to Jesus, begin pursuing alternative income sources, and in amazement we thought, “WOW, what is gonna happen next? We’ve never seen this much responsiveness here!” We also started asking ourselves, "What are we doing differently this time around?"

It’s April now, and one of these neighbors continues to turn towards hope, life and the best choices he knows how to make. The other neighbor, well, she turns away and hides behind parked cars every time she sees one of our team walking down the street… 

Water Bottle Baptism

During one of our weekly outside "church" times (prayer and worship with our team in the Royal Field that sometimes neighbors join for) in early January, Luung Nuat announced to Iven that he was ready to do what he had told us he was going to do. A bit puzzled, we said, what's that? He went on to tell us we are the only people who really loved him, and that he was ready to become a Christian and follow Jesus. (Many months ago Nuat had suffered a fall that resulted in some severely broken bones and an extended hospital stay. Several of us repeatedly visited him in the hospital, gave him a little machine with an audio version of Thai Scripture, and simply sought to care for him.)

Iven said “Really?” he said, “Really.” So they prayed together, inviting Jesus to come and be welcome in Nuat's life. Next Nuat turned to Sam, and made the same declaration, followed by another prayer. Wanting to set the stage for next steps, Iven invited Nuat to think about baptism, at which point Nuat eagerly stretched his neck out as Iven poured a bottle of water over his head, symbolizing a cleansing and new life in Christ. When asked how he felt, he said “Sabay Jai” or “relaxed in his heart”.

Since his baptism, Luung Nuat eagerly and publicly identifies himself as a Christian (a big change from when we first met him!) engages in occasional Bible study and prayer, and talks constantly about his desire to help others. 

Shortly after saying yes to Jesus Luung Nuat, managed to get off of our streets for close to a month, participating in a government-run vocational job-training program, learning how to make little metal “tuk-tuk” taxis from used aluminum cans to sell to passerbyes. When asked why he came back to our streets he told us that he couldn’t handle all that help - or the lack of freedom - (translation: no drinking on site at the government house). But now that he’s back you can often see him diligently working on his wares.

Join us in continuing to pray for Nuat - especially to be able to receive the abundant life Jesus has prepared especially for him. Pretty much every time Iven sees him God impresses on his spirit to pray Ephesians 1 over our friend, which has some really beautiful promises we are expecting to see fulfilled!

Lady V

Maybe the best way to share about Lady V is through excerpts from a weekly prayer update Kashmira has been sending out since January to those of you who wrote asking for more frequent prayer points (shameless prayer plug: you too can get the weekly prayer update if write us and ask to be included!):

Week 3 - during this month's ECB Feeding the Homeless outreach last Saturday, a 65 year old woman chose to pray a prayer, putting her faith in Jesus. She had some experience with Christianity as a young person and has had years of sorrow and heartache through most of her life, resulting in her waiting for customers on our streets when she can't find any other income. Praise God that she is turning towards His open arms.

Week 4 - Within an hour of sending out this prayer update last week, Iven and I bumped into Lady V and prayerfully responded to her request for help setting up a Pad Thai push cart by agreeing to go with her to her home and give her a "gift from Jesus" of the funds ($20) needed to get her little business started. Several of us went home with her that afternoon, talked and prayed with her, shared a story from scripture and had a great time. Her heart seems so open and soft towards Jesus right now. Also several of her neighbors were listening in and asking questions. Lady V was quick to share the Gospel with them (we have almost never experienced this - a direct answer to prayer!). We plan to return this afternoon to visit, pray and share more.

Week 5 - Continue praying for Lady V and her community (neighbors, son), as we are visiting them weekly now. Pray God would be revealing Himself to each of them in personal and transformative ways, and giving them an ability to know Him and understand His story and invitations.

Week 6 -  Our visit with Lady V last week was anticlimactic to say the least. Pray for God to continue His work in her heart and for wisdom for our team to know how much or how little to pursue connection with her.

Week 8 - Keep praying for this dear lady as she struggles to make an income and stay away from our streets. (We've seen her here a lot recently). We are continuing to visit her weekly (at her home off of the streets); God's hand seems to be evident in that connection - pray for wisdom for us as we connect with her and her community, and consider connecting others with her.

Week 12 - Several people on our team have seen Lady V in our neighborhood recently and we are now quite certain she is trying to hide, and avoiding us. Please pray for this precious and heavy-burdened woman to be released from the shame, pain, or fear that she carries. Pray that the Father's love would be penetrating her heart and ministering to her directly.

Early one morning, (between weeks 8 and 12), Iven felt a nudge to go for a walk at 6:00am and bumped into her, had a short chat where she kept talking about just needing to get some customers because of problems with her son, he offered to pray for her, and asked if there was anything we could do, but she got frustrated and abruptly walked away. The next time he saw her, she mumbled something about needing to make money and kept walking! 

We don't really know what happened, or why Lady V has started running from us. Maybe it had something to do with the pad thai cart not working out, or perhaps we did or said something that bothered her (or didn't do or say something she was hoping for!). Speculations abound, but honestly we aren't sure what to make of the transition from her so eagerly welcoming our visits at her home, scripture study, and prayer, to straight-up avoidance.

What we do know is that maybe we aren't so different from Lady V ourselves - if things are looking up we have energy to engage - but some days, if things are looking down, we just don't want to deal with anyone, even Jesus. And even now there are certainly times that we also don't want to see certain neighbors, let alone have to talk with them or try to love them. 

Oh, Lord God, please increase our love this day. More than wisdom, more than power, more than faith and even more than hope, we need your love. Love for ourselves, love for our families, love for you, love for our neighbors. Save us this day from the emptiness of ministry without love. 

New Teammates, Neighbors and Continued Ministry!

On an entirely hopeful note our team rang-in the new year welcoming Melissa Bartelson, a new teammate, from Wisconsin, who will be part of Rak Teh and our neighborhood during her YWAM culture and language phase  while she studies Thai and adjusts to life here (yae Melissa!). From day one we've seen God's hand in Melissa's placement (one of our favorite neighbor families from our corner was exploring the room right next door to Melissa's in a little wooden Thai house the day we went to reserve it - they ended up moving in also, and it has been lovely to see God caring for each of these dear friends). 

A few weeks later we welcomed Cailah, and then Janice, two students from the States who are living as neighbors in our neighborhood while they pursue a Masters-Level course in Urban Transformational Leadership. One way or another, Jesus seems to be growing His body in our neighborhood, just as He said he would!

With Lilian and Matthijs done with language school and available for full-time ministry we've started consistent outreach again on the loop - you can read about that on our blog here: LOOP OUTREACH.

Our local church, ECB continues joining us monthly for outreach to those without housing in our neighborhood. Read about one of our most recent outreach times here: WHO'S REACHING OUT TO WHOM?

City Intercession and prayer for Thailand has also been a big part of our last few months, as protest politics are heating up again please do keep Thailand in your prayers in the coming weeks - tensions are likely to continue growing barring a minor miracle! 

Finally, Pat, Lilian, Melissa, and the Thai pastor of the local deaf community, Ajarn Yoon, have been more intentionally reaching out to the women who wait for customers in our neighborhood. We praise God that he is starting to raise up people whose hearts are turned towards these women in this season!

Family Update - Three Busy Kids

Izayla is proud to announce that she has finished her first year of Thai preschool. As her parents, it is really fun to watch her engage, answer and even initiate in Thai with neighbors whenever her four-year-old self decides it's worthy of her energy (usually when the possibility of a treat crosses her path). Although she is far from fluent, her comfort and confidence both with Thai language and Thai people have grown immensely over this past year, and most importantly she has had fun!

Elian, on the other hand, is just a few weeks into beginning Thai pre-school and is not yet convinced it is where he wants to spend his mornings “not take me school today dad?...No take me school today!?!” Aside from his hesitation about school, Elian continues to be a fireball of energy paired with a compassionate heart. Nearly every time we go outside he informs us that he will tell us when he sees a certain neighbor he knows we love, and shouts out an exhuberant "Hi Luuk Pla!" Every time he sees her, which always elicits an (albeit befuddled) smile.

Kyin is taking tentative and excited first steps this week - it's adorable to see his face and sounds shout out, "Look, I am not holding on!" All three of them are delightful, amazing, and growing us up so much.

These next few months we expect to have a different sort of pace, as the majority of our team will be out of the country visiting family and friends, and it is summertime here in Thailand (which means "hot-hot", as opposed to just "hot"). With our kids off school starting next week, we’re also going to take some family time away in early May to rest and play.

Thank you so much for your continued support and partnership in this abidingly strange work. We continue to feel grateful beyond our ability to communicate that we have the privilege of watching God reach out to our neighbors through our family, teammates, and friends here these streets.

All grace and peace,

Iven, Kashmira, Izayla, Elian and Kyin

P.S. We mentioned at the beginning of this letter that we were asking the question, "What are we doing differently?" Our present answer is "Nothing."  Whatever response we are seeing we are simply able to identify as Jesus, pouring out his love through us, sometimes freely, sometimes not so freely, but always for the sake of our Father, by the Holy Spirit, until the Kingdom of God comes, here in Bangkok, as it is in heaven. 
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