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.

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Repatriation, Part 7

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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.

25 February 2017

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Saw this picture on my Facebook news feed this morning.

This talks about traveling, and having your heart in many places.  Can you imagine living in another country, in another culture for over a decade, and then repatriating?

I know that many friends and relatives are excited that we’re “headed home” in just a couple of weeks from now.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited too!  But I’m also torn.  Ohn considers me her big sister, and she’s like a younger sister to me.  The thought of maybe not ever seeing her again this side of Heaven is sometimes overwhelming.

I hope and pray that friends and family will bear with me when homesickness hits – it’s usually around its worst at 7 weeks in for me.  It’s not that I don’t love you any less, but it’s that I don’t love the friends – and some I consider family – in Tha Chat Chai any less either, and I will be missing them dearly.

So, I guess I’m asking for grace in this transition.  Starting over again.  We don’t have ministry positions or jobs yet.  We don’t have our own apartment yet.  That can be a bit unsettling.

Please extend grace when I’m overwhelmed at the immense variety of one item in the grocery store.  I usually don’t have that luxury here.

Please extend grace as I sit in a Thai restaurant (which will probably happen sooner, rather than later), and find that the price on a little plate of Vegetable Fried Rice is nearly ten times what I pay for it here.  It literally takes my breath away.  And don’t be shocked if I don’t like the way Thai food has been westernized in the States.  Sometimes it’s just horrific to me!

Please extend grace as I “wai” you when I see you.  That’s what I’ve been doing for over a decade now!  No, I’m not bowing down and worshiping you.  If you ask, I’ll show you what that looks like, but I don’t do that!

Please extend grace when I wear my flip-flops to church.  I don’t generally wear “real shoes” here.  And now they feel very confining.  I may have just forgotten to put “real shoes” on.

Please extend grace when I can’t access a common word in English.  It’s probably one I don’t have occasion to use here in Tha Chat Chai in either English or Thai.  It’ll come back to me over time . . .

Please extend grace as I ask you to catch me up on something so I can follow your conversation.  If you didn’t send me an email or post it on Facebook, I don’t know about it.  I probably don’t know everything you’ve posted on Facebook anyway . . .

Please extend grace as I ask about a loved one or friend who has passed on.  Chances are I just never heard about it.  It’s difficult staying fully connected while being half a world away.

Please extend grace if I feel I need a day (or two or three) to quietly be by myself, processing all of these things.  The United States is not the same as it was a decade ago when we left for Thailand.

And I pledge to do my best to extend grace too.  I’ll (usually) wait until a quiet moment, or use private messaging or email, if I think you need to know a bit more about something to do with Thailand or Asia or Buddhism or Animism or how Islam is practiced here or the like. One of my main giftings is teaching.  I always purpose to speak with respect and with facts.  I remember how steep my learning curve was when we arrived here.  We still don’t know everything there is to know about it all!  And I can only speak for the community I’ve lived in these past 9 years.

These are my thoughts for today.  I’ll probably be posting little stuff like this a lot in the near future.  It helps me to process all of these events.  I think, too, it will help others as they walk this journey with me and others who are repatriating.  I must confess, too, that it may be a way of procrastinating with the packing and other things that must be done before we head out for the States.  If I’m not fully prepared, I can’t leave, right?  And if I can’t leave, I don’t have to say good-bye, right?

This Week’s Adventures

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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.

Repatriation, Part 5

packing-up

 

Well, January 25th it got more real.  I transferred about 265 USD, a 10% deposit, to the sea crate company, with a packing date set as March 10.  I’ve been sorting, tossing, giving, selling, and packing stuff, but now I have paid for the deadline.  March 10.  We will fly out just after midnight on March 14th, arriving at LAX about 10 a.m. the same date.  So much to do!  Closing up house is hard!  We were hoping for 2 cubic meters, it’s looking like 4.  No more than that!  1 bedroom apartments are 400-600 square feet, and 4 cubic meters of stuff is a LOT.

We need to find a buyer for our truck, but don’t want to give it up until the 12th of March.  It’s a great vehicle for hauling people, and would make a great church bus.  Pray it sells at the right time and for a good price.  We also have a 200cc motorcycle to sell.  We need one or the other of them until nearly the end, preferably the truck so we can bring the kids to church one last Sunday.  We will hopefully get around 5,000 USD, maybe a little more, for the two of them, our seed money to begin life anew in the States.  We have a few other things too, but nothing of major value.  Enough to pay for groceries until we leave.  Maybe gasoline too.  These are smaller things, like three air conditioning units and the washer and some cabinetry and bookshelves and the two desks and the sofa.  Our little plug-in kitchen appliances that won’t work in the States because they’re 220 electricity.  Garage sale stuff, but they don’t have garage sales here.

I need to figure out how I’m going to pack a couple of pictures for transport.  It’s the small stuff that can get my brain going in circles.  I ordered and had delivered a 15 dollar roll of bubble wrap.  It’s four times, maybe more, than what I expected.  Maybe on our final Sunday we can have a bubble-wrap-popping party with the kids after church.  Admit it, no matter how old you are, popping bubble wrap is FUN!

The dog and cat are real sensitive to the changes going on.  They know something’s up and are clingy.  We have a good home lined up for our cat, but for the dog we’re having a bit of a challenge.  One lady wants Gordon, but one of her other dogs is so aggressive toward him.  Gordon does all the submissive behaviors, but Leo still goes nuts.  Not such a good fit. After leaving our dear Thai friends, leaving our pets is the most difficult.  Sometimes I find myself crying over the pets and our friends at odd times, and there’s still about 4 weeks to go.  I’m gonna be a mess!

BUT there’s the joy in the prospect of being nearer to our grandchildren, children, and other family members!  Now, to find positions that pay (aka, jobs) so we don’t have to camp out with them indefinitely, LOL!  First Dana needs to find what God has in store for him, and then I can begin looking for a position in earnest.  Dana wants to continue in some kind of pastoral role, maybe chaplaincy.  I’ve seen a couple of Children’s Minister positions that I’m qualified for and would suit me well.  Not too good, though, if we get positions at different churches.  I could substitute teach in the public school system, maybe even snag a contract position for the 2018/19 school year.  Right now, today, at this moment, I’m tired and think it would be too wearying.  But God knows, and will give the strength to do whatever He’s called me to.

Mostly pray for us.  There are lots of needs, a lot of mine are for spiritual and emotional stability as I continue this adventure.

Living Boldly: Fear for Your Personal Well-being

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The Twelve Spies

A synopsis of Numbers 13:1-7, 17-24

After crossing the desert on their way from Egypt to Canaan, the land that God had promised Abraham their ancestor, the Hebrews, under the guidance of Moses, were ready to enter the land.  God instructed Moses to send spies to check out the land.  One man from each of the twelve tribes was chosen to go in.  All twelve returned telling of a land flowing with milk and honey and they brought back huge clusters of grapes.  But ten of the twelve included reports of huge giants in the land, men so large that the Hebrews seemed like grasshoppers, and as a result, fear for everyone’s personal safety and well-being was sown that day.

The Rich Young Ruler

A synopsis of Mark 10:17-30

 A man approached Jesus one day.  This man asked him what he must do to inherit eternal life with God forever in Heaven.  Jesus reminded him of the Ten Commandments, to which this man replied that he had kept them all, from the time he was a youth.  Then Jesus instructed him to sell all that he had and give the proceeds to the poor.  Disheartened, the man went away because he had so many possessions.

 

We, too can have a fear that others will physically hurt us.  Those spies believed that the giants in Canaan, the land that God had promised them, were going to slaughter them.  We can often feel the same way.

In 1990, I had such a fear.  We were new missionaries at the time, and there was an area of town known for its gangs and was considered a very unsafe area.  I had a horrendous fear that someone would want me to go teach a Good News Club© in that area.  I had three children of my own that would go with me.  I feared for our physical safety.  What was I to do?  Well, back I went to 2 Timothy 1:7.  If someone wanted me to teach a club in that area, then God would provide the protection we would need to get it done.  By the way, I was never asked to teach a club in that area.  I was just borrowing trouble!  Matthew 6:34 is very appropriate for this too: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

We might fear we will not have enough resources for the present or the future.  This is how the rich young ruler must have felt.  Fearful that, if he gave all he had to the poor, he wouldn’t have enough to eat, a place to stay, clothes to wear.  I felt that way as we prepared to enter full-time ministry with Child Evangelism Fellowship in 1989, and again as we prepared to leave for missionary work in Thailand in 2006.  And, yet again, this fear rears its ugly head as I begin considering repatriation to the States.

I’ve already shared the first story, about preparing to serve with Child Evangelism Fellowship.  Seventeen years later, I had a well-paying teaching job.  I was teaching middle school science.  Most of the time I loved my work.  The times I didn’t love it was when the middle schoolers behaved poorly and wore me out.  Outside of my student loan and our mortgage, we were debt free.  I loved our church and the people in it.  I especially loved singing in a top-notch choir.  But on December 26, 2004, the Boxing Day Tsunami struck throughout the Indian Ocean region and my husband went to assist with relief.  He came back home with a heavy burden for Thailand.  The end result was heading to Thailand on August 6, 2006 to minister to the Thai who had been affected by the Tsunami.

My husband and I, then in our late 40s, had finally begun to contribute to retirement accounts about two years previously.  That would end when I left my teaching position, leaving us to depend on the floundering U.S. Social Security system for our retirement income – and God!  We thought our son and his family would live in our home, paying the mortgage, but after a year, that wasn’t working out for them.  We lost the house and all the equity in it.  Then the “what ifs” began again:

What if, when we repatriate, we don’t have a place to live?

What if, when we retire, we don’t have enough to pay our bills and still eat?

What if? What if? What if?

Now, as we are entering our 60s, these “what ifs” jump to the front of my mind again. BUT GOD has promised in Mathew 6:33, 34 that, if I will but seek Him first, He WILL provide all our needs.  I don’t have to fear for the future if I am fully following Him.

We sometimes fear that we might get hurt if we do one thing or another.  Sometimes being a homemaker can cause me to fear for my physical safety.

What if I fall off the step ladder while changing the light bulb or painting the wall or hanging the picture?

What if the oil pops and burns me while I’m cooking a meal?

What if the 220V electric zaps me when I plug in or unplug the toaster?

Growing up in the U.S. with 110V electricity flowing through the general house wiring, we were taught to greatly fear the 220V electricity that powers electric stoves and ovens, electric clothes dryers, and air conditioners.  If we needed to unplug such an appliance, we’d not only turn off that particular circuit breaker, but probably the main breaker to the whole house.

Living overseas, I’ve had to give up that fear.  Can you imagine cutting the power every time you plug in and unplug the toaster?  Remember, power to the wifi router would also be cut, along with the power to the alarm clock and all those appliances with clocks, such as the microwave and DVD player.  You get the idea.  And again, cutting the power to plug in and unplug the blow dryer, the curling iron, the phone charger, the power supply to the laptop, the iron . . . the list can go on and on.  And the inconvenience is not only to you, but to your whole household.  This particular fear of personal hurt could be quite debilitating.

You might ask if people really live in fear of these daily uses of electricity.  The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”  Come live where I live and observe how people live in my neighborhood.  It seems to be either total fear of or total disregard for the 220V electricity.

We sometimes fear that we might get sick if we do, or don’t do, something.

“Germaphobia” (not used here as a medical diagnosis) is rampant in the U.S.  I see it more now that I’ve lived and not just visited overseas.  It seems as if every cleaning product is anti-bacterial and anti-microbial.  Kitchen counters are bleached in one way or another multiple times a day.  The same goes for every bathroom fixture.  Hard flooring is disinfected daily.  Many little children are disallowed from playing outside in the grass and dirt and mud most of the time.  If they do get to play on the grass, Mom is there with a pack of disinfectant wipes scrubbing their hands and faces every fifteen minutes or so.  Then comes the time for the child to enter kindergarten.

As a former kindergarten teacher, I can share my personal experience.  This is not a scientifically controlled study, just my personal observation.  I observed two basic types of student health in kindergarteners:  Those with the occasional sniffles and little to no fever, and those who were absent from school much of the time.  It was the children who often played in the grass, dirt, and mud who missed less school!  Why?  It is my understanding that they had been exposed to germs little by little and had built up personal immunity over time.

As adults, I see a similar phenomenon.  Teams will come to assist us in ministry here.  They come with multiple packs of disinfectant wipes.  They brush their teeth with bottled water.  They insist on expensive little bottles of (sometimes imported) drinking water.  They must be wondering if the large, very inexpensive, bottles of purified water have been purified enough.  They refuse to enjoy ice in their drinks, and refuse uncooked vegetables and fruit.  Some places this is necessary.  Where we serve, it is not.  The one piece of advice we give them – wear mosquito repellant 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is totally disregarded.  Where we are, the problem is not malaria, although many will take daily anti-malaria pills; the problem is the four strains of Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever which is carried by the aedes aegypti mosquito.  That same mosquito carries Yellow Fever (not a problem here) and the Zika virus.

So, what are we to do?

Recognize fear for what it is: fear.

Second, look back at 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”  (KJV) Focus on the term “sound mind.”

Third, I think we need to examine these particular fears.  There may be things we can do to prevent some of this.

Has God enabled me to save a reasonable amount for my retirement?  By all means, do it.

Make sure that step-ladder is fully open and stable before climbing on it to change a light bulb or hang a picture.

Plug things in properly, with dry hands, and unplug properly, with dry hands and not yanking on the cord.

Wash your hands properly when you should be.  Wipe down the counters and keep the bathroom clean.  Sweep and mop your floors regularly.

When traveling, especially overseas, research what is truly needful, and when locals strongly advise something, follow their suggestions.

Remember that “sound mind” that God has given you?  Use it.  Then, don’t live in fear.

 

Photo snitched from http://www.theonlinemom.com/best-apps-personal-safety/

THE TICKETS ARE BOUGHT!

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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!