Sunday, July 19, 2009

More photos & stuff

Hey friends! First of all, we made it home safely - praise the Lord! Second, thank you for all of your prayers and support. They made this trip possible.

And finally, thank you for your patience in waiting for some photos! So here they are!

Love & God bless,

The Thailand Express

We're Baaaaack!

We arrived safely tonight!!!! All nine travelers... All nine pieces of luggage plus one guitar...and now we are ready for bed!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I am ready to return to my comfort zone.

We have been reading a book called "Just Courage" by Gary Haugen, the founder of International Justice Mission. It tells a lot of inspiring stories about disheartening situations. It talks about our calling in life as Christians to seek justice in the world by rescuing those enslaved, loving the orphans and widows and fighting corruption, etc. The thesis of the book has been running through my mind for two weeks now. That admiration of courage and lack of adventure in my live is from a half hearted attempt at following God while remaining "safe". Brave and safe aren't compatible. I live in a cul-de-sac world that is relatively safe, and that is why I feel the need to be adventurous. I want to be brave. If you aren't living in a situation where you literally cannot function without God, then you aren't living up to your potential as a Christian. I, for one, am not. I can function "perfectly well" in my cul-de-sac without prayer. Saying that I believe in God is a lot different than living a life in which I wouldn't be able to survive if he wasn't real. I hope that makes sense. It has helped change my life.

That being said, I am ready to return home to my comfort zone. I am mentally, spiritually, and physically (and I will be even more so while recovering from the upcoming jet-lag) exhausted. From a guys perspective, this has been one of the hardest experiences I have ever lived through, bar none. And for that to be on a mission trip, where people usually come home on a "spiritual high" and say they had an "awesome time" has been a cruel twist. There have been moments that I have absolutely hated being here, and there have been moments where I have thought, "I absolutely never thought I would be doing this on a mission trip." There have also been moments when the entire team has been in tears, laughing hysterically, or somewhere in between. I wish we could have done more...I think everyone feels like that. I feel like I did more than I was capable of doing...and I think everyone thinks that, too. I have experienced every emotion in the book. When a couple of girls I had seen several times came and had lunch at the center on our last day. Utter joy. When we saw girls that we had been talking to get the glazed-over-horror look when other guys would come and try to negotiate a price while we were sitting there with them. Utter rip-my-heart-out-of-my-chest futility and depression. And everything in between.

But I know I can't stay. I can't stay in my comfort zone now. A few weeks from now, when I am no longer craving buffalo wings and missing my play-station, that restless feeling will start to creep back in. If my life is exactly the same as it was before I left, I will have wasted my life. I can do more. I need to start living my life as if I cannot survive without God. I have seen things that nobody should ever have to endure. And I, for one, can no longer live in my cul-de-sac. There is too much that needs to be done, and too many people suffering through life with no hope. Those stats on the Dateline NBC Reports and those numbers now have faces. And I have seen the face of "trapped," "no more hope," and the horror of living that night after night.

So what now?


Friday, July 17, 2009


Sawadeekha! Wow... Our time with the girls at SHE flew by so quickly! Today was our last day in Phuket:( We started the day out with devos. (It was my turn) I started out saying "Sawadeekha!" and our translator decided to just start translating my Thai to English. I decided to go with the flow and test out my new and extensive Thai vocabulary by saying all the phrases I knew..."Hello!" and "How are you?" That was a pretty great way to start out the day.

Mark took our team to a woman's house to "help with some gardening," which turned out to be Thai for the phrase "jungle whacking." Although it was grubby work, we made it through and had the privelage of praying for the woman and her family.

For lunch we had TWO Thai girls from the bars come and eat with us! We were so happy to see them come. I feel such a connection with some of the girls working in Patong. They have become friends to us, and if I had my way I would take them by the hand and lead them out of Patong. Leaving Patong (as dark and evil as it is) was so much tougher than I anticipated. It was hard to leave our new friends in a place like that. I know that we planted seeds, though. Please keep praying for these women and the men who are creating the demand for them.

WE'RE COMING HOME SOON! Seems like just yesterday we flew into Bangkok, and now we're back! I'm glad to be back at YWAM. Pray for safe travels for the team coming back to the states. Sawadeekha!

~Kyla (the Thai translator.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Last Night in Patong

Yesterday was a good day for the team. We did our 'normal' routine of devotionals with the ladies at the center, breakfast, prayer walking, and a two hour time for rest, a wonderful break from routine. We wanted to be sure to get enough rest before our last night of ministry in Patong.

Prayer walking and our ministry at night was especially neat as we were able to incorporate a new team who has come to work at the center into our ministry groups. This group is from Cali and is staying about another week and a half after we leave. We took this time to pass on the things we had learned, introduce them to girls we have met so that they can continue buiding those relationships, and encourage each other. They are a wonderful team and it has been a blessing to work with them.

Our team went into the evening with a variety of emotions. This mission trip has been extremely challenging and definitely taken us all out of our comfort zones. So while there is relief that we can leave such a difficult, dark place, we also feel saddend to leave while some relationships are just starting, we feel sad that we cannot do more or stay longer, and we feel our hearts broken for the lonely men and women we have found in Patong. Last night, I think we all went in with an attitude of urgency. We knew it was our last night to make connections, to invite women to SHE, and to revisit the friends we had made. Several groups had were able to invite several women to come to SHE. Some of these women they had built relationships with during previous trips out and some of them we were meeting for the first time. It is always very encouraging to find these women and give them a choice. Other teams had more difficult nights.

Every night in Patong is different. Some nights other groups are able to talk to more women. Other nights it seems like people want nothing to do with us. Even though we feel more successful when we have those really good conversations, we pray and believe that our prayers are just as important as the conversations we are having.

I want to thank all of you who have been reading our blog and praying for us! I truly believe that we would not have had the same success if you had not been praying for us. It is so encouraging to hear that you are praying for us and to read your comments on our blog. Please keep praying for us! We still have a few days in Bangkok left.

Here are some things you can continue to pray for:
Our team as we continue to process our experiences and emotions. Sometimes it is very easy to despair in such a difficult place. Pray that the Lord would walk us through this time and help us to look at things from His perspective.

Traveling mercies!

Rest-even though we have been able to grab naps here and there our team is exhausted physically and emotionally.

The ladies of Patong we have met-pray that these women would have the courage to leave the bars and come to she.

The men of Patong- Bar owners, tourists, husbands and fathers who bring there families to the bars. A lot of the men we saw were very lonely and need to know the God who loves them just as much as the women we have met.

The ministry of SHE- The workers at SHE are amazing! They give so much to do this work and they do it all year round. Pray for endurance and strength in the face of trials, temptations, and weariness. Pray for continued resources for the ministry to run. Pray for times of rest and fun! Both are essential when working in this environment.

Thank you all again!

Sam Prior

P.S.- Hello family! I love you and can't wait to see you!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Buddha's Got Back

Dear Diary,

These are some things I saw today: a few elephants, a 45-meter tall sitting Buddha, fireworks, and a big cockroach on the bathroom wall that I washed down the drain with a bidet sprayer. Basically it's been the best day of my life.

In other news, 45-meter tall sitting Buddhas are quite a sight. We drove up a mountain to see it, although you can easily see it from the city streets below. Mark took us up there to pray, because he believes it is a spiritual stronghold over Phuket. One way to put it would be that it's like Big Buddha is the Mothership for all those other little Buddha shrines that fill the streets of Thailand. Except Big Buddha doesn't receive as many offerings of red Fantas as the rest.

Before I continue, let me just say that this trip has really challenged my beliefs on a lot of things. Some of my beliefs have been expanded as a result, others have become more solidified, and others have created more questions. Kind of been a spiritual rollercoaster. But it's okay - it's good to be challenged every now and then.

Okay, so going on:

Thinking about the "spiritual" world can get kind of messy for me sometimes. Some people have fears of objects being haunted or controlled by spiritual forces. I've always been of the opinion that as much as people may think such things, their thoughts or words toward an object have no effect of the properties of said object. That being said, I realized today that Big Buddha has a spiritual grip on Phuket not because it's a big piece of stone that spirits have hijacked, or because it represents something more sinister, or anything like that, but simply because people choose to give it such authority. People put their trust in this thing, as if what it represents can actually give them what they long for deep within their spirits. They are searching for enlightenment, for a way out of the cycle of the suffered life, and hoping that what this stone statue stands for will provide. In short: The people of Phuket are not being oppressed by a gigantic Buddha. They're oppressing themselves. And in more than spiritual ways, too - where does all the money for the construction of Big Buddha (not to mention Slightly-Less-Big-Golden Buddha and all his concrete cronies) come from? From the generous donations of the Thai population. The same Thai population that builds grandiose temples across the street from the tin roof and cinder block houses. People worship this object and many others like it not just when they visit it to perform rituals and light incense, but also when they pour their hard-earned money into it with that hope that it will bring them good returns in the next life. That is to say, their next go-around on Earth as somebody or something else. It's just depressing. Also depressing was the number of red lights in bars/restaurants/hotels/massage parlors that I saw on our drive from the beach last night. As was the sight of a less-than-5-year-old white girl being placed up by the dancing pole at the bar while her family encouraged her to keep dancing for their cameras.

(Do I sound like I miss home at all?)

If there's one thing I've learned from this trip about being a good husband/father, it's that you don't take your family on vacation to Patong Beach. And you shouldn't take your wife, unless it's for a mission trip. And you shouldn't go alone unless it's for the same reason. Pretty much that's the only reason I can think of that anyone should ever go to Patong. Besides, the other beaches in Phuket are much better.

Anyway, the rest of today was pretty good. We had a BBQ tonight with the girls from SHE, and we planned a bunch of after-dinner entertainment that never happened because they left before we had a chance to get started. Hey, it's their loss that they didn't get to see Ben and me perform our recently conceived "Igor & Igor" sketch. Was gonna be a hit. But I got to hang out with Mark & Sharon's adorable children, and that may have been just what I needed. Sophie told me I'm the funniest guy on the whole team! Smart kid. And later on Ben and some other people tricked me into eating a dessert they made out to be disgusting, but was just filled with marshmallow cream and chocolate. Not the best re-telling of that story, but it'll have to do for now because I'm exhausted. But what else is new?

So, um, prayer requests...for the people of Thailand to know God's prevailing truth and cast aside their idols, for our team's last night of bar ministry tomorrow night, and particularly for the men of this team (and even more particularly, the two newlywed husbands). We've all been through a lot. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: something about this mission trip is completely backwards.

...And yet...

...God's doing great things.

I forgot my razor at home, so I haven't shaved on this trip, and I have more hair on my face than ever before. I look like a preteen werewolf.

This is Nate.

connect 4 anyone??

So. Today. Was a good day.

It started bright and early. I shared my life with the women of SHE during our devo time and it seemed to go pretty well. A few of the ladies talked to me after so it was good. And then Kyla and I spent the next few hours making bracelets with Jum. It was a lot of fun. She doesn’t speak much English but she laughs so beautifully and her smile could brighten up a bat cave. So it was fun. I messed up a few times and had to pull off quite a number of tiny beads but it was okay. Kyla is pretty much a professional now. Her bracelt was perfect. Then we loaded up and went to a lake nearby and ate lunch. Anita had a girl come and eat with us. Her name was Toon and Anita had meet her the night before. It was very cool to see a woman come and be interested in the work we can offer here. There were also 3 other girls that came but I don’t remember their names. That’s the tough thing with the Thai people. Their names are much different than ours so it’s really hard to remember. I just have to say their names over and over and over. And still I’m not usually saying it right. But anyways. Where we ate lunch was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. For lunch we had rice with some little chicken wing type things and a hard boiled egg. It left quite a nasty smell in my mouth but luckily we returned back to our home so I could clean that out. We had about 30 minutes of down time so many of us took the opportunity to catch some ZZZ’s. it was good. The bad thing was we all woke up dripping of sweat. That was the gross part. So. We left to prayer walk Bangla Road and the surrounding areas. We got to get some Starbucks drinks so that was beautiful, but the drinks make us not look so akward as we walk and pray up and down the roads of bars. Nikki, Ben, and I walked down around Bangla Road, past the beach, and down Bangla Road. We saw some interesting stuff and had some good conversation so it was nice. Then we all met up and prepared to get on the bus.

We waited. And waited.

Then this little thing drove up. I’d say it was a few seats bigger than a squat bus but was very small. There was no room to set down, so myself, Nate, Ben, and Bond got to ride SWAT on the back. It was SO fun. Plus a lot cooler than the hot nasty body filled bus. The normal 20 minute ride took 1 hour. There had been a wreck on the mountain so traffic was awful slow and it was a tiny bus loaded down with Farangs (white people).but we had a grand ole time and made some sweet videos and got to see this spirit house. We drive by it every day, but we were stopped outside of it for quite a bit today. It’s this building on the side of the mountain that the Thai people drive past and honk to Buddha for good merit and for driving safety. Nearly every car/ motor bike honked. So, we finally made it back.

We have a lovely 2 day guest named Christine Lederle with us so it was a treat to get to see her beautiful face again. We all said our hellos and headed to the beach to do our devos. We arrived and had to walk down about 100 small steps but it was SO worth it. The sunset was beautiful. Sunsets are something special to my heart so it was a pure gift from God to see the sun slowly fall down to the softly flowing ocean. We then did some praise and worship on the beach followed by small group prayers then we headed off.

We drove to Bangla Road and were surprised with the choice of eating supper at either Subway or Burger King. A juicy cheese burger sounded too good to pass up, so I went there and enjoyed every greasy ounce of it. Then we were off to the bars.

The people in my group were Ben, Karin, Bond, Christine, and me. We started and I got to go and visit a woman I’ve grown rather close to. Her name is On. She is absolutely gorgeous. From the first day of our prayer walk I’ve known her and she’s been close to my heart. We talked a bit and was just catching up because I didn’t see her last night and she said she was very sad because the last 3 nights, she’s had to go with men. That broke my heart. Nearly shattered it right on the spot. Yet she still smiled her smile and carried on talking. No words can explain how sad/ heartbroken I was for this beautiful woman. While we were talking she said that she couldn’t come to our BBQ tomorrow night unless I wanted to pay the bar owner 500 baht ( 32 baht to the dollar. You do the math) because work starts at 5 at the bars. So I’m just praying that she can come on Thursday lunch. Anyways. I reluctantly left and traveled on with my team. We went to a few other bars and gave out the number to quite a few girls. Even though we aren’t getting flooding with women coming here, we know they deeply consider it. Life changing decisions like this take time. As we go back to bars to see how the women are doing, they’ll mention SHE and say that they’ve been talking to a group of their friends that want to come, but they just haven’t been able to yet. So, patience is defiantly a virtue around here.

So we left and did our debriefing and overall we had good spirits. Phone calls will be made tomorrow and the next so that hopefully goes well.

Prayer requests:
Deep sleep. Sleep is precious and minimal lately so our sleep needs to count big time.

Protection of our minds.

Health. Little things seem to come up everynight.

Love for these women and men we come in contact with.

Woman we’ve met to leave the bars. I’m gonna pray big for this one. Our God is mighty and he can do mighty things. I want to see those streets cleared out but it starts with one girl at a time so prayer for the woman we’ve met to come and visit.

Love you all!!!
Shout out to my family. I miss you all
Shout out to WMW peeps. 500 miles played tonight at one of the bars and I danced and thought of you all. ☺ God bless