As the time to leave Chiang Rai and the children draws closer, I take this time to look back on what my life has been like during the past 8 months.
I started this journey with the determination to help make a change, even just a small change in the lives of children here in Northern Thailand and never once gave any thought to the change my life would experience in the process. I should have thought more about that because my life change immeasurably in October of 2011 when I first visited Chiang Rai and met some of the children.
My goal was simple: give them love and then all the things that I associate with love would fall right into place. I was coming here to give them a safe home, good food on a daily basis, enough clothing and the opportunity to go to school. In addition to this I wanted the 13-year girl to be a 13-year-old girl and not have the responsibility of having to take care of her younger brothers, as her parents should have done. I wanted the boys to have a man who cared for them and who could show them how to be a good man. I wanted them to know that there was someone in this world who loved them. Loved the enough to make them a priority, to make them feel and know that they were truly important and worth loving.
After a rocky beginning I was able to find the right people to help me achieve this goal and I will leave the children knowing that they have someone here who loves them. Someone who believes as much as I do that it is important for them to get an education, to be cared for, to be fed, to learn how to be a responsible/good adult and most importantly, that they matter in this world.
My life has been changed by the love I have received while I was here. I couldn't have imagined the overwhelming amount of love and joy I feel when I am with my family here and I could never have imagined how large that family would be. The children and family at Promise Home along with those at Bethany Children and Faith Homes are now a part of my fiber and my being. Much like my own daughter, my nieces and nephews, I see the children’s faces all of the time and bask in the love they share with me. I am now filled with so much love that I cannot imagine not ever feeling this way.
I cannot forget my dear friends Jermsak, Da and their two girls, Care and Moo along with Ann, Pastor Prathuan, Supannee, Wit, Nok, Pastors Ariel and Paz, in addition to many other friends I have made during this time for all they have given to me as well. They have loved and supported me unconditionally and gave me a huge family to be a part of. When I missed my own family back home, I was able to join them and that helped my feelings of homesickness. They told me over and over again that we are family and for that, I am truly thankful to God.
My experience here has given me the chance to see another way of life. It is a way that doesn’t have a lot of material things but it is a way that is grateful for the things they have, the love they have for each other, and for God. They have reinforced for me what is important in this world and I am humbled to know them. They have given me unconditional love and asked for nothing in return. They accepted me as I am. I will miss the nightly ritual where I get hugs and kisses from each of the children telling me good night and the promise to see them “tomorrow”. I will miss the joy of having the children show me something they did in school or when they learn to ride their bike without training wheels. I will miss Big and Fon calling me mom just like the kids. I will miss the excitement and joy the children feel when I am able to be the one who gives them something that I was able to purchase thanks to the generosity of so many of you.
I do not look forward to August 3, 2014 any more than I did September 22, 2013 when I left my family and friends in the United States. I know I need to leave my family here to come back to the U.S. to work on the goals I have for the home but that will not make it any easier to leave it all behind. It will be another very difficult time for me but one I will overcome because I know I will see everyone again. It is not a final goodbye, but rather a temporary one. I am blessed to be able to come back here for visits during the year and I am going to do that.
Although I have experienced some pain during this journey, I have no regrets. I was given the chance to do something so worthwhile and so good that now I can only remember the good things. The hard times have faded into the background. I am thankful to God for allowing me this opportunity to make a difference in this world and I hope it continues for many years to come. I leave the home and the children in good hands and I am secure in the knowledge they will be well cared for. I often ask myself, "How did I get so blessed to be the one to do this work?"
Thank you for following along with me on this part of my journey. I hope that in some small way you were touched by the children and were able to experience some of their accomplishments and joy. My work will continue and one day we will be able to affect the lives of many more hill tribe children here in Northern Thailand.
Till next time…..