The UCC Daily Devotional seems so appropriate today, so I will begin by sharing it with you.

Goodbye

By: Martin Copenhaver

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – John 14:27

One of the reasons parting is so difficult is that, in parting, we confront our limits. We cannot be both here and there. We cannot be with all the people we care about. We cannot lay hold of what is ahead without in some way letting go of what is past.

So over and over again in scripture we read of people who, in parting, remind one another of the promises of God. And what other way are we to part, in what other way can we? How else can we leave those we care about, unless we entrust them to the care of God?

That is, after all, what the word good-bye means—”God be with you.” What else can we say in parting that does not simply whither and fall at our feet as soon as it is said?

God be with you, because I can no longer be with you.

God be with you, because though now we will have limited ways of expressing care for one another, we are still—all of us—in need of care.

God be with you, because if God is with you and with me, somehow still we will be together.

God be with you, because though none of our lives is much more than a collection of fragments, some of them with jagged edges, God promises to make them complete and make us whole, in God’s time.

Indeed, there may be no way to part from those we love without either kidding ourselves or being drawn into the shadow of despair—unless we say, “Good-bye.”

Prayer

God be with those who are dear to me and hold them close while we are absent one from another.

___________________

Maybe you can guess now, maybe not…

I am leaving tomorrow to continue my time as a Global Mission Intern! Due mainly to visa complications, I will not be going back to Laos (although I most definitely will visit sometimes). I will instead be in rural Thailand. I will be living in Huey Malai in Kanchanaburi Province west of Bangkok near the border with Myanmar. It is one of our poorest areas because it is in a very  remote, rural area and because the region has many hilltribe and refugee children. The predominant people group is Karen. Karen people are hill tribe people, that have come to seek safety in Thailand, after fleeing Myanmar.

I will be an English teacher at the local school, as well as helping with other community events and projects.

I am excited to make more connections with people in SE Asia and learn more about the similarities as well as differences between Laos and Thailand.

I have spent the last 4 months or so in the United States. I have had a chance to see my family (around both Christmas and Easter), speak to some incredible churches in California, Oklahoma (where I also got to see my old pastor- very good), and a couple places in Iowa- including my home congregation.

I also had the opportunity to learn about FIRM, Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries, while living in Fresno, CA, and volunteering/ interning there for 2 months. Fresno is a city in the central valley of California with a large Lao and Hmong population. FIRM serves many of the needs of Lao/Hmong people living in that area. While at FIRM I helped with their Lead program, mental health services, as well as advocacy work and policy programs- such as BRT- a new bus system they were trying to pass in Fresno. I didn’t always like all the macro work, as like connecting with people more personally (micro level). Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun learning about the lives of Lao people in the USA and building friendships with them! I am very blessed to have added this connection to my experiences!

While there have been good moments though out my break in the United States, there have also been some challenging frustrating times. I thank everyone along the way who (in their own sorts of ways) convinced me I should go back to SE Asia for a while, especially during the times where I grew very unsure about what to do and my thinking grew quite foggy.

People along the way through the last several months were right! I do need to go back to  SE Asia for a while. I belong there and have more to learn about.  Society tells you to go to school, because the more school and better education you have – the more opportunities you receive and better respected you become. Maybe true, but I don’t need that yet.  Not in the sense that I don’t think education is unimportant or that I couldn’t do it.

I DO believe I have the confidence and skills needed to go on and study, get a job within a particular area, and be just fine., if that’s what I wanted/ feel I needed, but I don’t yet. (  I also think if I ever or when I do, do different things within ministries, I will have so many connections!)  Nevertheless, I don’t need another experience to prove that to me, nor will another experience change very much of what I already know about myself and my passions. I do however feel this experience will  clarify different things about where my life may be headed and teach me more beneficial things about SE Asian people and cultures. For that I am very excited!

Stay tuned for more stories and updates from my time in Thailand!

 

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