Giving birth in Thailand

Giving Birth in Thailand

A few months ago, I wrote a letter of hope “To My Unborn Child,” not knowing what to expect when  “expecting” in a foreign country.  In the midst of uncertainty, I came to the conclusion that faith does not need a back-up plan.

Today, I would like to share a testimony of how it all worked out – giving glory to God for taking care of every detail.  He is faithful.

I woke up at 3 o’clock on the morning of my 29th birthday on Dec. 24 with a strong contraction, thinking “this would be an interesting day to have a baby.”  Trying not to wake my husband, I paced up and down the corridor breathing through the contractions which became stronger and longer.

I’d decided to endure labour at home as long as possible to avoid any unnecessary interventions by the medical team at the hospital.  I wanted to have a natural birth, believing that it is all part of God’s design for a woman:  pain, a reminder of our sinful nature, is part of the process and the promise.

“To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception:  In pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Genesis 3:16

At 6 o’clock, my husband was up, and I told him that today was the day.  We had previously decided to go “local” by giving birth at the government hospital about 1 km from our house in the small rural community where we live.  I could have called one of my Thai friends to take me to the hospital (with a car), so I sent my husband off to work on his motorcycle and instructed him to “stand-by” at school just in case.

Around 8 o’clock I knew it was time to go to the hospital.  I phoned my husband and figured we might as well go to the hospital together.  So, I jumped on the back of his bike, hospital bag over my shoulder, and we sped off for the hospital.  It wasn’t so funny at the time, but it turned into quite a precious memory.

When we arrived at the hospital, I bumped into one of the foreign volunteers I met at the orphanage where I also volunteer.  She was with one of her Thai friends who could speak very good English.  They were God-sent at the right time and place to help with the admissions procedures since most hospital staff speak little or no English.

Miraculously, the head nurse and midwife could speak English.  It helped that I had my birth plan translated into Thai in advance, although I suspect that they thought I was a little bit crazy for wanting a natural birth without any pain intervention.

As a side note, Thais will avoid pain at all costs and most of them go for a c-section to also be able to choose the birth date since they are very superstitious when it comes to numbers and dates. Obviously, Thais did not view the 24th of December as an auspicious date to give birth because I was the only one in the ward….Of course this also worked in my favour because there were more staff available and little pressure for the baby to comply with anyone’s time schedule.

They gave me the freedom to move around as much as I wanted, and my husband was allowed to be present in the delivery room (rare for Thai fathers) as I gave birth a few hours later at 12:10 pm to a beautiful baby boy.

Joshua

At that point, I was beyond relieved and grateful that everything went so well, which was totally unexpected based on my misconceptions about Thai hospitals, especially when I was taken to a VIP room to rest after my delivery.  (See picture below.)

hospital room

The total cost of labour, delivery, and two nights in the private VIP room turned out to be a mere fraction of what one would expect to pay in the West or at any private hospital in South Africa for that matter.

Even if I had had a back-up plan, it could not have been better than the plan God had for me.  

I believe this is also true for you.

God never promised an easy life, or an easy delivery in childbirth, but the end blessing of letting God take control is well worth it.

Having faith will not spare us pain or suffering.  The heart-ache or the tears that we endure in this world we live in for now simply give us a reason to push through and hang on to His promises, knowing that in the end it will be worth it.

After four weeks of breastfeeding, nappy-changing, and semi-sleepless nights, I am still in awe of the way God has designed us to be able to handle it all.

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:11-13

I behold this sweet little face of this babe I hold in my arms and pray that he will also have faith for life’s journey ahead of him, because faith will be all he will need.  It’s all we all really need.

His will

His Will for Your Life

Dear Friend,

I’ve been thinking a lot about “His will for our lives” lately;  it seems to be a common topic in Christian conversations.  With the New Year before us, we all have many decisions to make, and we would at least like to believe that we are carefully considering “His will for our lives” as we make them.

We profess to believe that the Creator of the Universe actually has a plan for our lives and support it with a verse from Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

However, we also have our own plans for our lives and call them “dreams, goals, desires, etc”.  Possibly, we are secretly hoping that our plans and God’s plan are one and the same, hoping that God will change His plans to suit our will;  or, maybe we are still waiting for a sign, angel, or audible voice to confirm God’s plans for us while we continue chasing after love, money, and careers instead of “seeking His will with all of our hearts.”

In a sense, we’re creating a false dilemma by asking too many questions.  We keep asking God:  “Is it Your will for my life to ………..”  (you are welcome to fill in the blank), thinking that we might miss out on His will for our lives if we make one wrong decision, like choosing the wrong career or spouse, or going in the wrong direction..

I am very guilty when it comes to thinking along the lines of “God has a plan for my life, but maybe “one day soon” I will figure out exactly what it is and begin to “do His will”….maybe somewhere in the near future my purpose will become clear and make perfect sense…maybe in 2015?

During my pregnancy, waiting for my life to change at any moment, I found myself living in anticipation of what was soon to come.  However, God always has a way of guiding us if we simply turn to His Word.  Since I had a lot of time on my hands, I decided to start reading through my Bible in English, and in Thai for my language development, and in the process was greatly blessed to find myself in the company of Noah, Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, etc., ordinary people used by God in simple, yet extraordinary ways.  We have so much to learn from the examples from their lives!

And somehow it’s not a surprising revelation that they never ever had it “all figured out”.  They were part of a plan, God’s plan, which was far bigger than themselves, and a plan that is much easier to see in historical retrospect than in trying to predict the future.

His will for our lives has much more to do with His will than our lives.  We simply get to be part of a much greater story that we will miss out on if we get too lost in our own details.  We cannot forget that He has not changed, and His will for our lives is practically the same as it was for many who came before us:

  • His will is for us to seek Him.

” And ye shall seek me, and find me , when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13

  • His will is for us to trust Him.

“And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;”  - 2 Corinthians 3:4-5

  • His will is for us to be willing.

“Now therefore perform the doing of it ; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” - 2 Corinthians 8:11-12

  • His will is for us to be obedient to His words.

” Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:” – 1 Peter 1:13-14

  • His will is for us to have faith, and to walk by faith, with our hand firmly in His.

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” – Colossians 2:6-7

  • His will is for us to love Him and to share that love with others.

“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” – Deuteronomy 6:5-7

  • His will is for us to serve Him with godly fear.

Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:” – Hebrews 12:28

  •  His will for us is to be changed by His power into His image so the world can see Christ in me.

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.His will is for us to seek Him.” – Romans 12:2

As I searched the scriptures above, I found that His will has far more to do with our character than with our job descriptions.  It is a revelation of who He is and who we are supposed to be in Him, instead of what exactly it is that we are supposed to do and where exactly we’re supposed to live.  It has nothing to do with our bank balance and everything to do with bearing spiritual fruit and storing up treasures in heaven.

As I look back on my own life, I feel quite foolish for asking so many “Is it His will for my life to ……” questions.  I have come to realize that at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what job you do, because it doesn’t define you.  It doesn’t matter if you have money or not, because He ALWAYS provides.  It doesn’t matter where you live, because He is already there.  It doesn’t even matter if you are married, who you are married to, or how many children you have, because He is ENOUGH.

What matters is that His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven and that He receives all the glory for whatever we end up doing.

It is His will to guide us every day, every step of the way, and He will.  We only need to follow, one step and one day at a time, trusting Him.  We need to stop asking so many questions about the future and start looking at the light He is shining on us today.

What teaching has taught me

What Teaching has Taught me

I never planned on being a teacher – the thought never even crossed my mind until a few months before we moved to Asia.

And yet, somehow, I ended up standing before more than forty teenagers at a time, first in Bangkok, Thailand, and later, in front of smaller groups of five-year-olds in Vietnam.  It has been quite a journey, and, somehow, I am convinced that I have learned more in two years of teaching than I will ever be able to teach others in a lifetime.

I would like to share some of the most important lessons with you:

1.  Screaming doesn’t help

I’ve had to learn this the hard way!  Being a relative calm person by nature, the simple fact that I totally “lost it” more than a few times is enough to prove that kids can really drive you crazy.  The only problem is that you cannot get anything done if you let them do it.  No one wants to listen to a crazy screaming mad woman, including our husbands, children, and those around us.

2.  Don’t get stuck on the bad days

No matter how well-prepared you may be, most classes will not go according to plan (at least not in Asia). There will be bad days, embarrassing moments, and unspeakable frustrations. However, there will also be good days, funny moments, and inexplicable joys in teaching others. So, getting stuck on the bad days is one sure way to miss out on the good ones.

3.  If you never make mistakes, you miss the opportunity to learn from them

Especially in Thailand, “saving face” is paramount. People will avoid making fools of themselves at all cost. This makes language acquisition and development very difficult since it is par for the course to make some blunders here and there. It is impossible to learn a new language without making mistakes; sometimes, getting it all wrong is the best way to learn how to get it right.

4. Teach to learn, learn to teach

The best decision I made in an attempt to be a better teacher was to become a student myself.  First, I studied the Thai language, and later, Vietnamese.  It gave me so much insight into the world of my students and a better understanding of the reasons behind their most common mistakes, which happened to be my problem areas in speaking their languages.

5. Remembering names

“People do not really care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  – Theodore Roosevelt

A simple way to show interest is by memorizing their names. In Bangkok, this was difficult because I saw more than 800 students each week.  In Vietnam it was much easier with smaller classes, and it really made a difference in teacher-student interaction, as well as with relationships with colleagues, the cleaning lady, and even the security guard.

6. Asking questions is important

One of my colleagues once said, “If I had known that my teachers would have loved it, I would have raised my hand much more often in school. As a teacher, I love it when my students ask me questions.”

Asking questions is probably the only way to learn without making mistakes.  If you have a question, no matter how silly it might seem, never be afraid to ask it.

 7. Everyone is a teacher

Whether you realize it or not, if you are a mother or a father, a husband or a wife, employee or a boss, a volunteer or a therapist, you are always teaching someone something, even if it is as simple as “how NOT to do something”.  Someone is always watching and learning from you, most especially children.  Even animals pick up a lot from our behaviour and respond accordingly.

Standing in front of a class and being called a “teacher” simply makes you more aware of the fact that you always have the opportunity to teach.

 8.  The best motivation is the option to fail

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to fail a course in Thailand.  I know this because I have personally failed students only to see that their final reports have miraculously changed into 50% or more. Most schools will save you the trouble by simply telling you that you are not allowed to fail students.  Of course, students know this as well, explaining why some of them won’t even bother to come to class.  Unfortunately, it is hard to raise standards in an environment in which failure is not a possibility.

 9. The “system” will probably get worse

This leaves one with two choices ….be bitter or be better. Too often, we resort to complaining.  We love to point out all the problems with the “system” without realizing that if we have the ability to identify the problem, we might also have the ability to find a solution.  And if we have no desire to find a solution, we might be better off simply making peace with the process.  “Mai pen rai”, as they would say in Thailand, which means, “It doesn’t matter”, so don’t worry; be happy.

10.  It is worth the reward

At the end of the day, even though teaching was never my main reason for moving to Asia, I will never regret the experience or the lessons I’ve learned.  I look forward to a life of learning from the greatest Teacher.  It doesn’t matter if I end up being a Physical Therapist again, or a teacher, a housewife or whatever. There will always be lessons to learn and stories to share and the reward will be well worth it.

It's never too late

It’s Never Too Late

This poem was inspired by the testimony of an ex gay porn star recorded by one of our friends. It is part of a series of testimonies called “Escape from Hell” and you are welcome to watch the testimony <here>… Please take note that because of the subject matter it is advised for adults only and may not be for everyone since it is a very hard testimony to watch.

 It’s never too late

no one is ‘too far gone’

to find new life

and to be reborn

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It’s never too late

to call on His name

to run into His arms

and let go of the shame

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It’s never too late

to be set free

from addictions

like pornography

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It’s never too late

to make darkness light

as we go on our knees

to fight this holy fight

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It’s never too late

to forgive and forget,

to be released

from the prison of regret

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It’s never too late

to let love rule and reign

to bring victory over

the destruction and pain

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It’s never too late

to let go of the sorrow

to be grateful for today

and hopeful for tomorrow

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It’s never too late

to share another story

that will give us hope

and God the glory

The Next Step

The Next Step

By Leon Skinner

The essence of our Christian faith is: Repentance, Faith in Jesus Christ, Baptism in water, Receiving the Holy Spirit and Sharing this same message with others.

We should then disciple those who believe and send them out to teach others the same message. This is the core of our faith. It is the lifecycle of Christianity. A very simple message but not without power. It is the cycle that our Lord Jesus has set in motion and it has transformed our world.

Disciples making disciples. Loving God and then loving our neighbours. Getting right with God then helping others to be right with God. Seeds within seed. Starting with one seed, falling into the ground and dying on the cross, a seed that bore many fruit, who in turn had more seed. So the cycle continues reaching all the way to the day we live in. We can still see the fruit of that one seed even in our own lives. His way works. History testifies to it.

However, let us not be ignorant of the devil and his devices. The devil tries very hard to stop us every step of the way. His aim is to twist our Lords plan that a simple powerful gospel is turned into a complex powerless one. He wants us to stop half-way. He wants to make us comfortable where we are. He wants to corrupt God’s commandments with man-made traditions so that it might be ineffective.

Let us do the opposite today, let us go back to the simple truth and examine ourselves so we may know what the next step of obedience is. And then take that next step. What does that mean? A step can be another tick on a to-do list that we simply get done, or a step can be another stride in this walk of faith. It should be a step of obedience, a stride closer to God. Something we pray about and consider and search out in the Bible. Most importantly our hearts need to be right with God every step of the way.

Friend, can I speak plainly? If we look at our world today: the needs, the hunger, the poverty, the unreached, the widowed, the orphaned, the sick and the poor. Our whole world is convicting us that our generation is lukewarm. We are disobedient. We are not going into all the world and we are not making disciples. We are not preaching the gospel. We are not relying on the Holy Spirit and our faith is without works.

If we were truly doing these things our world would have looked different. We might as well go back all the way and confess that we are still living in our sins. Most Christians will keep struggling with the same sins their entire lives. Can you find someone with repentance not to be repented of?

I am afraid for myself and for our generation since we are being disobedient to the simplest fundamentals of our faith. And I preach this first and foremost to myself. I am guilty. I am disobedient.

I know this is an unpopular message I share with you today but it is time for us to get fed up with lukewarm, shallow Christianity and stir up zealous flames of fire in our hearts. It is time to be obedient to the simple truth. To go back to the basics.

We need God to help us because we are a lukewarm generation who needs the Lord Jesus more than all. We need to truly repent with a repentance that does not need to be repented of. We need to overcome our sins by the blood and name of Jesus. We need to turn from our sins to the living God. We need fruitful faith, faith that is not dead but that is proved by works. Let us show the world our faith with our works, let us shine our lights. We need to be baptized as an act of obedience to the living God. We need to desire and pray for the Holy Spirit because we cannot preach the gospel without Him. We need the boldness, and the words that the Holy Spirit will put in our mouths at the right time. We need to disciple new believers properly. We need to help and disciple them through all the steps of faith: Repentance, Faith in Jesus, Baptism, Receiving the Holy Spirit and then they must go out and teach others the same.

This is not a religious to-do list. It is a journey of faith that we take one step at a time. Yes, we might stay on one step for a long time but the journey must go on. If we are disobedient the cycle is broken and everyone will suffer loss. Unreached people who will be born, live and die without hearing the name of Jesus even once. They will suffer because of our disobedience.

Will God hold disobedient Christians accountable for their souls? It is not a pleasant thought. But how can they hear if no-one preaches? How can we preach if we do not have the Spirit that gives us the words? How can we be born of Spirit if we are not first born of water? How can we be baptized if we do not truly have faith? How can we say we have faith if we are still embracing our sin? How can we turn from our sins if we are not convicted of them? How can we be convicted if we do not hear the simple truth?

Today friend, I do not say I challenge you but in the name of our Lord let us be honest with ourselves. Let us look at the steps of this walk with God, let us fervently pray and let us be obedient to the one true living God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us take the next step of faith. My prayer is that our hearts might be stirred ablaze into a zealous fire for the living God, in the Lord Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.

Infographic: Leon Skinner