Repatriation Part 8

Hugs from the kids

Tonight, we leave for Phuket International Airport at 9 p.m. for our 2 a.m. flight tomorrow morning.  14 more hours in our neighborhood.  We’ve been here nine years, one month, and nine days.  This is “home.”  The stuff we’re leaving behind is selling quickly, the sofa gets picked up 4 hours before we leave – so a couple of lawn chairs for us to finish out our time here.

Yesterday was difficult.  It was our last church service with our beloved church family here.  Pastor Levi and his team are perfect for the church here.  We feel so blessed to have them come.  There are three cell groups nearby that will be joining in.  It will be good!

The most difficult part was saying good-bye to the children.  Those of you who know us well know that we were missionaries in Riverside, California with Child Evangelism Fellowship© for 11 years.  You know we also served as volunteers with AWANA Clubs in two churches in the Greater Riverside Area.  Children are near and dear to our hearts.  Every week, two of the children pray at church before they collect the offering.  These kids want to serve!  So, we let them!  The church has been a shining example of 1 Timothy 4:12 – “1Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”  When the adults started drifting away from the Wednesday evening meal/prayer/Bible study meeting, the children continued to come, learning the Scriptures and growing in their faith.  They continued to share, every single one of them, something they were thankful to God for, every single week.  Two of the older girls – seventh and eighth graders – helped with translation from time to time.  It’s exciting to see how they’ve grown!

Dana “just happened” to be preaching from 1 Timothy 4 yesterday morning.  If you know how Calvary Chapel teaching usually works, the pastor teaches through a book of the Bible chapter by chapter, verse by verse.  Sometimes a chapter is broken into two or three parts, sometimes two chapters, or more, can be combined. And yesterday it worked out to 1 Timothy 4.  The church, including many of the new members, were charged to continue a focus on the children.  There are not many “second generation” Christians in Thailand.  These children are the first in their families to come to faith.  They are the foundation of continued growth here in Tha Chat Chai.  Pray for them.

The picture I chose to use for this blog was taken at the most difficult part of our day yesterday.  Pastor Levi and most of the adults had gathered around us and prayed for us.  Then the kids.  The hugs.  The tears.

Even if we never make it back to visit Tha Chat Chai, we KNOW we will see our beloved Thai family again.  What a comfort as we end one chapter in our lives and begin the next.

Repatriation, Part 7

20170309_070513

So, it’s March 9th  here in Thailand, four more sleeps, hopefully a nap Monday afternoon, then off to Phuket International Airport at about 9:30 p.m.  These days are flying, but they’re also dragging.  So much to do, so overwhelming.

Tomorrow morning, in about 27 hours, the sea container guys come to collect our packed stuff.  You see most of it in the picture, minus four more buckets and the keyboard and a couple of pictures.  We still have stuff to sell, a bunch of kitchen things, the wardrobes, shelving, the sofa, THE MOTORCYCLE!  Some things will be going to the thrift shop that takes the funds to help train women in skills so they can support their families.  I think that trip will happen on Saturday morning.

We’re feeling a bit overwhelmed right now.  Such mixed emotions!  Excited to be closer to family, so sad to be leaving our home these past 9 years and all those in our neighborhood and church, leaving the country we’ve called home for 10.5 years.  Reverse culture shock, here we come!

One thing I learned very early in our stay here in Thailand is where my TRUE CITIZENSHIP is.  I’ve come to the realization that I live in Thailand, my earthly citizenship is in the U.S. – the proof of which is my passport, but my TRUE CITIZENSHIP IS IN HEAVEN.  I’m praying that I don’t lose that perspective once we repatriate.

So, a 30 minute break to check email, write a little blog post, then back to work.  My physical body is beginning to rebel, especially my knees.  Not sure why they’re acting up so much.  Must be all the junk I’ve been eating these past few days causing inflammation.  I really need to get back to the strict vegan + salmon + sea fish diet, adding in ½ of a burger each week.  (The beef in the burger seems to give me more energy – could be just a mental lift, or could actually be doing something – who knows why?!)

God bless you, my friends, and say a quick prayer for us as God brings us to your remembrance.

This Week’s Adventures

life-is-an-adventure

I realize I’ve not posted in a week, maybe a little more.  It surely wasn’t due to my laziness!  Planning and packing for our repatriation and getting my little book (Living Boldly: Acknowledging and Overcoming Fear) published on Kindle Direct Publishing has taken most of my “spare time.”

The packing is going well.  Hopefully there will be a little “garage sale” this weekend.  Of course, we have no garage and this really isn’t a Thai thing, but it’s time to dispose of some of the bigger things and appliances now.

The book publishing adventure is surely an adventure.  I’ve found that there are two misspelled words in the text, and there’s a goof-up on my cover – never noticed it!  I’m going to have to get the graphic artist to fix it for me.  It should be quick, and then I’ll have to figure out how to fix both of those things.  This has surely been a learning experience for me.  THEN to figure out how to get everything sized so that it can be available as a printed product.  That may take a while with everything else going on.  Check it out at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06WW81JGX/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487894561&sr=8-1&keywords=Cindy+Bratton.

Funny thing as I was getting ready to click the publish button on this.  A wave of fear hit me.  “What if no one likes it? What if there’s something that’s not quite right theologically?  What if . . .”  That’s the topic of the book!  So, I remembered where this fear came from (not God!) and hit that publish button anyway.   To be honest, it’s a bit odd to begin thinking of myself as a published author.  I really believe that God has led me down this path, and I’m excited to see what He will be doing with it.  I believe He has given me insight into how to simply apply the Word to my everyday life in order to impact those around me, those in my sphere of influence.  I just want others to be able to be encouraged to do the same.;

My posting on this blog may be a bit sporadic over the next several weeks.  A lot is going on, a lot of it physical too.  Selling/giving away most of our earthly possessions; packing up 4 cubic meters to ship on a boat; flying to Los Angeles from Phuket; recovering from jet lag; a day at Knott’s Berry Farm with family; a day at Disneyland Anaheim with family; a road trip from Southern California to Vancouver, WA to catch up with family, then back again; finding employment/ministry positions and an apartment; settling in to life in the States again.  God is good!  He will take us through it all!  I’m excited, but also a bit exhausted just thinking of it all.  Overall, I’m excited to embark on this next step of our journey.

THE TICKETS ARE BOUGHT!

asiana-a380-copy

We did it! Yesterday, the 7th of February, we bought the tickets to take us to LAX. Asiana Air now has an A380 for the leg over the Pacific Ocean. The flights in the A380 are sooooo smooth – and quiet! We’ll be arriving at LAX on March 14th, 9:40 a.m. 35 more days, 31 until the sea container guys come to pick up 4 cubic meters of our stuff. Couldn’t sleep last night – such a mix of emotions, believe it or not. Excited to be reconnecting with friends and family, especially the grandchildren; sad to be leaving our dear friends (and pets) here.

Pray for the stress we’ll be going through these next few months – not only leaving our home of over 9 years, but finding jobs in our early 60s and settling back in.

We have enough in our account to cover the airfare (reimbursement will come the 7th of March), and we were able to fully pay for Dana’s cataract surgery – not sure how the money’s stretched that far, but it has. The next big expense on the agenda is payment to the shipping container company. That’s 2,500 USD – OUCH! Still cheaper than replacing the stuff we’re shipping with them . . . we’ve tried to keep it as low as we can. We need that amount to come in by the end of this month so we can pay the shipping guys without going into debt.  17% interest is a killer!  The contract has been signed with the shipping guys, so we can’t back out of it.

Once we’re back on U.S. soil, we’ll need increased support for March – June, to pay for increased rent and basic furniture and electric appliances as we set up house from scratch once again and find employment. Hopefully for the last time. We’re feeling our age, and getting older is NOT for sissies, that’s for sure!

If you would like to consider helping with our final expenses, we would greatly appreciate it. Over the course of the next 5 months (February – June) it seems to be about 11,500 above-and-beyond what we already normally receive, 2,300 more per month. Crazy, I know! This would enable us to pay our daughter back for the car they found for us and repatriate debt-free, able to help the family members we’re returning to help. It would also enable us to be in ministry positions that might not be able to provide as well as work in the public sector might. 23 people/families/Bible Study groups committing to 100 a month for the next five months would accomplish the goal.

Here’s a link to our mission facilitator’s page for us:
http://ssmfi.org/missionary/dana-and-cindy-bratton/

God bless you as you pray for and support us in this adventure!

Repatriation, Part 4

the-purpose-of-life

Last October, I really pared down my schedule and began to focus on Life Objectives.  Call them whatever you want, but this is what one system called them, and it seems to fit.  I had been sensing that God was getting ready to show us a next step to take, not really knowing what it would be.  By the end of November, I wrote down what I believe God was showing me.  Three or four weeks later, it became clear to both Dana and I that this change would be repatriation to the States in the Spring of 2017.  I share this because I know that it will be easy to conveniently “forget” some of this, especially as I need to seek employment/income producing ventures when we return to the States.

I know it would (probably) be easy for me to get substitute teaching work in the public school system, wherever God calls Dana to serve.  It would probably be not too difficult to get a contract teaching middle school science in the 2018/2019 school year and beyond.  Who in their right mind, having an education in science, would do that?!  I would, and I did, for several years before heading to Thailand.  But, as I look at those things, I wonder how they truly fit in with my life objectives/purposes.  The overarching purpose is to know God and to make Him known.  Would the public school system be only for money to bay the bills?  Is it REALLY what God is calling me to do?  Would I find fulfillment in His calling on my life, our would the 50-60 hour work weeks physically so exhaust me that I just wouldn’t have enough energy left in this nearly-60-year-old body to do much, if any, ministry at all?  So, I share this.  Pray for me and Dana as we begin this adventure of job searching at the ages of 59 and 60.  To be honest, we never expected to have to do this again!

I’ve written a little devotional booklet, trying to get it ready for e-book publication.  It’s based on lessons I taught the Thai ladies here.  There are several more topics I have the basic notes for, so maybe a little series of 5 or 6 booklets.  I want to see if this might be a way I can make God known.  I’ve figured out how to center vertically using Office 365, now to remember what I’ve learned.  I’d spent hours trying to get this to happen.  I got an e-cover and a print cover designed on little to no budget – thank you Fiverr!  Pray that God guides in this part of the adventure.  The last thing that is now left is to confirm my formatting, and try to get it up on Kindle Direct Publishing and “market” it. (BTW, if this would interest you, follow this blog and I’ll get you on an email list, as soon as I figure out how to do that LOL!)

I love to crochet and sew, and enjoy knitting too.  These may be ways I can help support us, by selling products and also by giving lessons on how to do these things.  I need to hear clearly from God on this too.

I want to invest in lives in VERY significant ways, building up disciples of Christ and leaders that will serve long after I’m gone.  (Morbid, but my 45th birthday marked a paradigm shift to wanting to leave a legacy of godliness.)  Trust me, I’m not ready to go yet!

I’ve seen “job openings” (hate to use that term when it comes to ministry) for children’s ministers.  Those descriptions excite me!  Investing into the lives of not only the children, but also their leaders, helping them become better equipped and skilled for children’s ministry.  I think this would be a good fit for me.  I’ve also seen a missions pastor position – a great position for Dana and I to fill as a team.  Neither one of us has the full skill set for the position, but the two of us together do!  We have simple tastes, so probably one salary would work for us.  Pray as we look into these things. Pray that we won’t become discouraged.

This is the skeleton of what I came up as I sought God out back in October.  This is a scary thing for me to make public.  But, I need to make known the things I’ve been shown.  I need to be held accountable to stay true to these objectives/purposes and strategies.  I need to make sure that, if I make any changes, these changes are done with much thought and prayer and counsel. What follows is list form, so quick to read.  Let me know what you think!

 

Life Objectives

Since I am not traditionally employed, I choose to have four fundamental objectives; one spiritual, one health related, one relational, and one addressing future financial stability.

  • Spiritual Objective: To know God and to make Him known
  • Health Related Objective: To be as healthy as I can be
  • Relational Objective: To be an emotionally stable wife, mother, grandmother, and friend
  • Financial Objective: To be debt-free and able to retire in Fall of 2024, without burdening friends and family

 

Life Objective Strategies

Spiritual Objective:  To know God and to make Him known

  • To Know God
    • Quiet Time
    • Prayer
    • Journaling
      • God’s messages to me (use for blogging and writing?)
    • Attend Conferences if possible
    • Read Books, Articles, and Blogs
  • To Make God Known
    • Blogging?
    • Writing?
    • Discipleship/Teaching
    • Evangelism
    • Hospitality
    • Music
    • Giving
    • Encouraging

Health Related Objective:  To be as healthy as possible

  • Diet
Consistent with vitamins and supplements

 

Decrease Increase
Weight – 135# Nuts – almonds, cashews, walnuts
No turkey, chicken or pork Veggies
Shellfish only once a month Fruit
Cheese only twice a month Olive, coconut, and sesame oils
Tuna only once a month Fish
Baked goods (cake) only once a week Legumes
Beef only once a week Water
Soda only once a week Low fat dairy – yoghurt, keifer, sour cream
As little sugar as possible  
  • Exercise
    • Walking – work up to 10,000 steps/5 miles a day
    • Planking
    • Low-impact aerobics
    • Find something for my flabby thighs and triceps

Relational Objective:  To be an emotionally stable wife, mother, grandmother, and friend

Two key tools to help me accomplish this is a really, really good calendar and a super-complete address book

  • Wife Role
  • Mother Role
  • Grandmother Role
  • Daughter Role
  • Sibling Role
  • Extended Relative Role
  • Friend Role

Financial Objective:  To be debt-free and able to retire in Fall of 2022, without burdening friends and family

  • Pay off student loan
  • Build up $15,000 (3+ months expenses) savings account
  • Active Income
    • Crochet – product and teaching
    • Sewing – product and teaching
    • Tutoring – English, reading, basic math
  • (Relatively) Passive Income
    • Books?
    • Blog?

Pray for me as I embark on this adventure, as we repatriate and I need to fulfill what, after much prayer and thought, even a bit of fasting (something I don’t normally do), I believe God has placed in my heart.

 

p.s. Once again I snitched the picture from Google Images.  Seems to fit.

Living Boldly: Fear of the Unknown

fear-of-the-unknown

Abraham Called to Leave Ur of the Chaldees

a synopsis of Genesis 12:1-9

When Abraham was 75 years old, God called him to leave his home in Haran and go to a place that God himself would show him.  If he did so, God promised him that he would make a great nation of him and would bless him and would bless those who would bless Abraham himself.  So, he gathered up his wife, Sarah, his nephew, Lot, and everything that they had acquired in Haran along with their servants and their families, and headed out to the land of Canaan.  When they got to a certain oak tree in Shechem, the Lord appeared to him once again and promised him and his offspring the land there.

God called Abraham to leave everything he knew and move to an unknown (to Abraham) location.  Even though God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, I know from other accounts about Abraham that he was probably fearful, at least at first.  But, as we read in verse 4, Abraham obeyed, taking his wife, his nephew, his servants, and his possessions and set out on this grand adventure.  He didn’t know where he was going, when he was going to arrive there, who was in the area he was moving to, what the land looked like.  It was a total unknown.  Yet, any fear he had was overcome and in faith he moved forward.

Sometimes God may call us to leave all that we know and move elsewhere, not knowing all the details of the move.  This happened to us when God called us as full-time missionaries.  But there are other unknowns we face far more often.

The fear brought about by serious illness is one.  Not knowing what the illness is, not knowing what treatment is best, not knowing how long it will last.

The fear of attending a new school or university or church.  Yes, heading into a new place with unknown people and an unknown culture.  Every institution has its own culture, so there will be adjustments in order to adapt to each new environment.  Often, we don’t know what those adjustments will be.

The fear of a new job or volunteer position is very real.  Once again, we don’t know the people, the culture of the organization, and we usually don’t know all the particulars of the position.  This can cause a lot of fear.

The fear after unexpectedly losing a job: how will I pay my bills? How can I live? What job will I find next?  Frequently we have no idea where we will go next, how we will generate income.

The fear of a new neighborhood, new people and their pets.  Sometimes this is mixed in with the excitement of the move, and only becomes apparent when it seems hard to “settle into” a new place.

There are so many other unknowns that we can fear.  So, what are we to do?

First, we need to recognize fear for what it is: fear.

Second, we must acknowledge that not knowing what is happening or what will be happening is going to happen whether we like it or not.

Third, we need to overcome that fear.  This is often the most difficult part of the process.  One of the best ways I know to do that, and what has worked for me in the past, is to memorize and recite a Bible verse or passage that particularly relates to that particular unknown.

Here is an example from my own life:  I was very fearful when we entered full-time ministry with Child Evangelism Fellowship in August of 1989.  My husband was leaving a 10-year tenure at Pacific Bell telephone company, where we had adequate salary, full medical, dental and optical insurance, and a good retirement plan in the works.  Now we would be paying the bills from the generous gifts of friends, family, and churches that believed in what we were doing and that also believed we were the ones to do it.  We were going to have the income cut by 60%, have to pick up self-employment taxes, and not have any benefits such as insurance and retirement plans.  What passage of Scripture did I learn and cling to during this transition?  Matthew 6:25-34.

25“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,

29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (ESV)

God built it into my life through this passage that, as long as I was pursuing what He called me to do – seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness – then everything I needed – food, clothing, and I was so bold as to add in shelter and the tools to perform the work He had called me to do – would be provided for me in one way or another.

One other thing, too.  I learned to pray like I had never prayed before, trusting God to meet my needs and those of my husband and children.  I learned what the father of the boy possessed by a demon cried out to Jesus in Mark 9:24 –

“I believe; help my unbelief!” (ESV)

So many times I asked the Father to help me believe more; build my faith strong.  And He was faithful, answering the cry of this wife and mother as she traveled through this unknown territory.

So, to sum things up, we must identify fear as fear, acknowledge it exists in our life, then overcome that fear with an appropriate passage of Scripture to memorize and meditate upon, and with vibrant prayer.

Share some of your “Overcoming the Fear of the Unknown” stories.  I’d LOVE to read them and see how God worked in your life.  Share some of your “Overcoming the Fear of the Unknown” verses, verses that spoke into your heart and life.

 

Visual from http://www.ics.com/blog/planning-unknown-unknowns

Repatriation, Part 2

new-year-2017

Today’s project is to get the four nicer rubber wood bookshelves emptied, saying good-by to paper books, some hard cover, but mostly paperback. Here it’s difficult to get paper books in English, and these have been acquired piece-meal over the past decade, often a few brought back as we’ve gone overseas. I can’t take them all to the States with me in March; most have to go. But, there’s no one who can read them here in my neighborhood, and there is no Salvation Army thrift store to donate to here. Where do I put them? Surely not the trash! But that may be exactly what I have to do. Then someone will come and take them for their paper recycle value. This is the difficult thing for me this day, this weekend. There are only a handful of novels, “Airplane Books” as I call them. Most are books about ministry or biographies and the such. Reference books are headed back to the States, from whence they came. But the rest . . .
Every day it’s a couple of hours or more of asking myself if I should toss, sell (Does it have any value to someone here?), or take? Then, if the answer is “take,” I still need to ask myself why? Is it simply because I’m emotionally attached to the item, or because it’s truly useful? If it’s not useful, it gets tossed, given away or sold. So, these are difficult days.
Someone wrote about us a couple of years or so ago. They said we don’t have a nice car (however, at that time we had just taken possession of the best vehicle we’ve ever had here in Thailand), not a nice house, no nice things, etc. But, look at our neighbors! We have air conditioners to survive the afternoon heat; they do not. We have satellite TV so we can relax watching a favorite program before bed and access international news – in English! We have laptops, printer/scanners, iPads, smart phones, fans, a bedframe for our mattress – and some of our neighbors don’t even have mattresses – desks, a kitchen table (many of our neighbors just eat on the floor), a stove and a range hood, the ability to buy gas for the vehicle and stove without having to take out a loan from the local loan shark that charges 10-12% interest MONTHLY. We have more than enough clothing, we have tools to fix stuff with, we are rarely concerned about the electric bill. Yes, the standard is far lower than we lived in the States, but it’s far above where the neighbors are. Now that 12 years have passed since the Boxing Day Tsunami, most of our neighbors are catching up with us. But is that supposed to be our focus? Stuff? Luxury? I know this will be a struggle when we land at LAX in March.
We’re 60 now. Well, I’m 59½!  Starting over again in our native culture, but our PERSONAL culture has changed. We’re not fully American in our mindset, yet we are not fully Thai either. Somewhere in between. It frustrates me to see that rent in the States will be 10-15 times what we pay here. And the cost of basic furnishings is off-putting. Bed, sofa, kitchen table, a couple of desks, a dresser, a few kitchen appliances and dishes and glasses. But, God will provide these things in the States just as He’s provided them here in Thailand. My mind tends towards the logistics end of things, and it’s sometimes hard for me to “get it.” But, I’ve seen God come through time and time again when it’s all been beyond my ability, and so I choose to walk in faith. Hebrews 11:1 comes to mind often – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” God knows what we need, and as long as He is #1 in our lives, all of our NEEDS will be provided (Matthew 6:33). To consider what NEEDS are as opposed to WANTS and DESIRES is a whole other topic . . . In Southern California, it means food, clothing (and far less than many of us thing), shelter (not necessarily luxurious), and transportation. That’s it.

In a way, it’s great that we’re going down to virtually nothing again. I think it will be about 3-4 cubic meters of belongings on a sea crate in addition to the luggage allowance on the flight.  A fresh start with little. The opportunity to start out and not go crazy aggregating lots of STUFF (aka, junk). But it’s difficult. Very difficult at times.
So, pray for us, especially me, as I go through this emotional turmoil. Materialism runs deep in my human nature. I don’t know if others struggle as deeply with this as I do. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.

Pray for me, that I don’t begin to remove myself from my community before we actually, physically leave. We’ve been here 9 years. We’ve watched children grow up, get married, and have babies of their own. We’ve watched the elderly pass from this life, sometimes younger people too. We love the food here. Thai restaurants in Southern California just don’t cook things the same way they do here in Tha Chat Chai. They alter their recipes for the western palate. I don’t like it that way. So, I find myself wanting to remove myself a bit more each day, so my heart won’t totally break when we say good-bye at the Phuket International Airport International Terminal. But that’s not what God desires. We have the example of Jesus, who spent the night before His crucifixion in deep relationship with His disciples. We must invest ourselves fully until we leave. But the heartache will be deep. We are looking forward and longing for the time when we can spend so much more time with our families, especially our grandchildren, but that doesn’t totally mitigate the pain of leaving our dear, dear friends here in Tha Chat Chai.
This has been long and rambling. Sorry about that! Maybe I’m just procrastinating getting to work on the sorting! Maybe I need to think these things through and give it a voice in hopes of working through it all just a bit more. Thank you for “listening” if you got this far!

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