1: Time Zones and Comfort Zones

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As we sit on the tarmac, waiting to take off on the second of three flights it takes to arrive in Chiang Rai, we can’t help but think about tomorrow. We’ll spend the afternoon at the Safe House; playing together, eating together, and getting to know each other better. 

For some of us who have visited year after year, it will feel like coming back to the home of old, dear friends; for others it will be the comfort of returning someplace familiar; and for first-timers, it will be an entirely new experience.  

Last year was the first mission trip I had ever been on and after we arrived at the Safe House and everyone introduced themselves it was time to get down to some serious play time. But I felt out of my element. Others knew each other and jumped right into one game or another, but I wasn’t sure how to engage when I didn’t share a common language. I looked around, feeling awkward and then joined in with a group playing a board game until I felt like one of the group. 

This year, I am coming prepared: I packed coloring books with simple lined illustrations waiting to be shaded in by little kids. I’m bringing the big box of 100 Crayola crayons so they can experience the world of cerulean, ochre, and kohl in addition to plain red, yellow, and green afforded by the standard small box. I have a package of balloons ready to blow up, and a box of sidewalk chalk that will make the perfect hopscotch outline. 

     Still, I can’t help but wonder whether they’ll remember those of us who have been only once before. I remind myself that it doesn’t matter much: The group is welcoming and innately engaging and affectionate. The children are absolute sponges; ready to absorb the love of our Hillside community. What Leik and Irene (the leaders) are able to do with the resources they have is astounding. There are about 35 people living in a three bedroom house. The kitchen is rudimentary yet turns out food for the entire group three times a day.  It is a loaves and fishes story: God provides.

     Now, in addition to showing them that we love and care about them, we want to help them figure out how take the next step in their ministry. We are cheering them on as well as lending support. Making sure they know they aren’t alone and that we are standing beside them on the journey.

Yes, there’s a language barrier and a cultural divide, but we all speak the vernacular of Jesus’s love and that’s enough. We will figure it out.

// Lisa McGuinness //