Thursday, 24 February 2011

Adventures in Chiang Mai

To make the most of our free time, Scott Dooley made arrangements with Chiang Mai Adventures for a day of fun and of course... adventure!  We were picked up by a company guide and headed about an hour out of the city.  We passed rice fields in various stages of planting or growth.  Trade stores and "kai bars" dotted the way, just like PNG with an Asian twist.  The forested hills and patches of banana trees also reminded me of home.  An occasional elephant walking down the road reminded me that I was in another world.  

Olivia Dooley was the youngest member of our group and too small for the first of our adventures, so she and her mom were dropped off for a ride at the elephant farm.

The rest of us unloaded at Zipline Chiangmai.  We were helmeted and harnessed with all sorts safety contraptions.  We were briefed on the appropriate techniques for flying through the air, both right side up and upside down, and then spent a few moments practicing what we had learned.  A short hike took us to the start of the 12 line route.  One by one we zoomed through the air, flying between trees and over a beautiful river.  The longest of the lines was 400 meters.  Now, I am generally afraid of heights.  I admit I was a bit of a tree hugger at the beginning, but soon relaxed and had a incredible time!  I even zipped upside down and have pictures to prove it.  Aaron would be sooo proud!

After collecting Gail and Olivia, we paused for a brief lunch.  We then piled into the back of a pick-up and rode about 30 minutes to the launch point of our next adventure... white water rafting.  There was another session on rafting techniques and safety.  We were handed helmets, life jackets, and paddles.  Becky and the Bennetts and I geared up and climbed into the first raft.  "Paul" was our guide and comedian for the afternoon.  The first part of the trip was rather mild, like a lazy canoe trip down the Kokosing river.  But we were not to disappointed and soon plummeted over some class 3-4 rapids.  We didn't lose one passenger along the way.  Though Paul did play a trick and flipped us all into the water of one of the calmer sections of the river.  What a blast!

Back in Chaing Mai, part of our group gathered for dinner at Pizza Hut.  What a treat to order pizza, rather than make it from scratch!  After dinner, Jessica and Ethan Myers and I all had our very first Thai massages (one hour for about $5).  It was fun to experience, but one was probably enough to last me until I come back in 4 years.  Ooch!

"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
~ Isaiah 40:31

Amazing (g)Race

I have only seen an occasional episode of TV show The Amazing Race.  I imagine it is a bit like what our Kudjip crew experienced over the last couple of weeks--minus the drama and add in loads of fun.  We began our marathon two weeks ago.  (I think.  I haven't given much thought to what day it is for a while.  Ahhh... this is the life!)  The Dooleys, Bennetts, Myers, Becky and I flew from Mount Hagen, over the mountains, down to Port Moresby, and across the sea to Singapore.  We had our first taste of modern civilization thanks to Burger King and Star Bucks in the Singapore airport.  

The last flight for the first day transported us to Kuala Lumpur, Malasia.  A new stamp for my passport!  We weary travelers boarded a bus and traveled one more hour to low cost terminal on the other side of the city.  It was almost midnight by the time we checked in to our transit hotel.  The Tunes Hotel was an interesting place and worthy of its very own story.  Let's just say it gives a whole new meaning to "economy lodging."  The Bennetts had a problem with their reservation.  Apparently there wasn't one free room in the entire tower, so Judy shared room with Beck and I while Andy slept on the floor in one of the Myers'.  There was barely enough space to move around inside, and that was before you added three people and their suitcases.  You have to order your towels and air con and soap all in advance, and if you forget to do so you are out of luck.  We were mostly out of luck on towels.  Good thing we ordered the air con!  Though it was one of the more interesting lodging experiences we have ever had (and this coming from a group of missionaries who serve in PNG), we were all thankful for a place to lay our head for a few hours.

Too early the next morning, we headed to the airport for the final leg of our journey.  We were so happy to make it to our destination--all 13 of us and every piece of luggage successfully traveled on 3 airlines and through 6 airports in 4 countries without anything getting lost.  Now that is amazing grace.  In Chiang Mai, we were greeted by fellow missionaries who are serving in Thailand.  They helped us to load all of our stuff into a songthaew, sort of a covered pick-up truck.  Songthaew translates to "two rows" referring to two rows of benches for seating.  These vehicles are the public bus/taxi service around the city.  

We drove to downtown to the Royal Lanna Hotel where we would be staying for a few days before the conference began.  It is an inexpensive hotel in the heart of the famous Night Market.  It was a lovely place with clean and spacious rooms, especially compared to our previous residence.  Royal Lanna is one of those older hotels with lots of character.  And it was especially convenient to the attractions of Chiang Mai.

Despite our exhaustion, we were unwilling to waste even a moment of our time in Chiang Mai.  I joined up with the Myers and we headed out to the Lotus department store, Thailand's version of a Super Walmart.  It is a potentially dangerous place for FOBs (fresh out of the bush) who haven't been shopping in months.  We found a few rather interesting items.  Sea weed flavored Pringles, anyone?  Yes, they are even green.  I think I'll pass.  Dairy Queen was more difficult to resist, however, so we finished our shopping spree with dessert.

After a bit of a nap back at the hotel, we all reconvened at Duke's restaurant.  It came highly recommended by our fellow missionaries.  The menu was a site for FOB eyes--everything from pizza to smoothies to Greek salad to burgers with the works.  We ended the day by walking around the Night Market.  Starting about 5:00 ever evening, the streets are lined with carts and vendors selling their wares.  You shop for local handicrafts, t-shirts, gifts, souvenirs, knock-off Nike shoes and Gucci purses, or your very own Buddah.  Aim, you would love this place!  It was a fun way to end our first day in Chiang Mai.

"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people."
~ Titus 2:11

* I am hoping to post some more pictures in the next few days.  Check back soon!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Around (this part of) the world in 18 days

The Christian Medical and Dental Association holds an international meeting every year, alternating between somewhere in Africa and Asia.  It is a ministry to the medical missionaries in those areas.  For doctors who live and work overseas, it is difficult to get enough continuing education credits to keep up with licenses and certifications.  The conference basically works as one big CME cram session.  But it is so much more than that:  there are worship services and sermons in ENGLISH, time for reflection and spiritual renewal, fellowship with other missionaries from around the region.  And of course... a bit of fun.

I think I first heard about the "Thailand conference" when I was a resident.  I came to PNG and volunteered for a month, to help cover the hospital so that some of the missionary docs could go to the meeting.  When they returned, I heard such wonderful things about their trip.  I have long anticipated being able to attend myself.  This is the year!

On Thursday morning, we will be loading up two mission vehicles with the Dooleys, Bennetts, Myers, me and Beck, and all of our luggage--13 travelers in all.  Our journey will take us from Kudjip to Mt. Hagen, to Port Moresby, through Singapore and on to Kuala Lumpur, Malasia.  We will stay the night at a hotel in KL and head on to Chiang Mai, Thailand early Friday morning.  Lucky for us FOB (fresh out of the bush) missionaries, Air Niugini's limited flight schedule requires us to go a few days early.  We will be staying in downtown Chiang Mai for two nights, enjoying sites and shopping.  Sunday afternoon, our group will move out to the Suan Bua resort to participate in the two-day pre-conference.  I am reuniting with some of my former colleagues from JPS to help teach the ALSO course.  The actual conference starts that Wednesday and will end 8 days later.

As we say goodbye to Thailand and make our way back to PNG, the rest of the group will be leaving me in Singapore.  I am spending a few extra holidays with my friends Sarah and David.  I recently learned that Behzad, one of my good friends from Texas, will be in Singapore for a medical conference.  Wow... what a small, small world!

I am hoping to blog about our trip along the way (depending on internet access).  And if not, I will definitely make up for it when I get home.  I am sure there will be lots to tell.  In the mean time, we would all appreciate your prayers for this trip:  for safe travels, flight connections, for the conference, for God's presence, and that we will all be refreshed and renewed.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Vanuatu update: Tanna

Just about a year ago, I was getting ready to travel with a Kudjip delegation to the country of Vanuatu.  Our international group went to the small island of Aniwa, where we spent a week teaching community health.

On the way to and from Aniwa, we briefly stopped to change planes on the island of Tanna.  Both Tanna and Aniwa have been strongholds for the John Frum cult.  Tanna has been especially closed to Christianity because of the influence of the cult... until recently.

Last summer, a Youth in Mission team from America spent two weeks on Tanna.  The team made friends, organized kids clubs, showed the Jesus film, and shared the gospel in several communities around the island.  Many became believers as a result of the ministry.  Praise God!  The Potters wrote a 3 part series about the trip on their blog.

In January, the Potters returned to Tanna to hold discipleship classes for the new believers.  Here is the story...

The South Pacific has been pounded with several cyclones (a.k.a. hurricanes) over the past weeks.  Cyclone Vania hit Tanna directly, devastating the island.  The Potters have been in touch with some of the people they met on their trips.  The cyclone has damaged houses and destroyed gardens.  It will be some months before food is growing again.

But Tanna is not forgotten.  Local churches in Port Villa are collecting offerings to help the people of Tanna.  Nazarene Compassionate Ministries is also organizing a relief project for the island.  (If you would like to give toward this project, click here.)  Please pray that new Christians will be strengthened in their faith, others will believe, and that God will use this disaster to advance His kingdom!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

All things to all men

I loved this post by Dr. Erin.  She gave me the OK to share with you, so here it is...

"Just as I [Erin] am about to give chemotherapy to a pregnant lady with breast cancer, I look over and see Bill getting ready to give intraperitoneal chemotherapy to a lady with ovarian cancer.  Neither of us have experience in what we are doing, we are just doing our best and trying to help.

"In 1 Corinthians 9:22 Paul says, 'I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.'  Paul was talking about being able to relate to different kinds of people in the hopes of sharing the gospel and helping them learn about Christ.  In many ways, here at Kudjip we are doing the same thing.  As doctors, we came with a certain amount of knowledge and training, but every day in order to reach those who come through our gates, we are being stretched beyond our knowledge, skill and expertise.  We are not specialists, but missionary doctors who read, learn and are willing to help where we can.  In the process of bringing comfort and physical healing, we hope and pray they learn more about Christ.

"Bill and I are not oncologists, but to give the many with cancer a few more days, we do what we can with the chemotherapy we have.  Andy is not an orthopedist, but when the need arose, became an expert in treating talipes (club feet) and has given many little boys and girls the ability to walk on the soles of their feet.  Steph is not a neonatologist, but everyday she cares for our premature babies as she rounds in the nursery.  Scott and Rosie are not infectious disease specialists, but have and are caring for many with HIV and TB.  Susan is not a pediatric cardiologist, but takes care of our kids with congenital heart defects.  Jim is not a surgical specialist, but has helped many by doing everything from neurosurgery to gynonc to ENT to urology to orthopedics and anything that needs done.

"Individually we lack knowledge, skill and expertise, but collectively we share our knowledge, skill and expertise to serve those who come and attempt to bring home and healing in the process.  There is still much to learn and more we can do, but it is a blessing it is to be a part of this team who is trying to do what we can to help."

And what a team.  Thanks, Erin.

To read more from Dr. Erin, here is a link to her blog: