Seek & You Shall Find

Searching for a Location
We’ve been vigorously searching for the location for our coffee shop for over 2 months now and are more than ready to have this phase accomplished. We’ve put a lot of energy into searching for a good location, crunching numbers and weighing out pros and cons to each place we’ve visited.

After all of our effort we believe that we may have finally found a place that will work for us and that holds great potential to meet all of our goals as a location of the coffee shop. Please be praying as we work out details of the leasing agreement. We’re hopeful that everything will work out with this location and we’ll be able to officially sign on it in the next couple of weeks.

Building Hunt Shot 2The picture above is from a visit we made to one of the locations that we were seriously considering but eventually decided against. We took our good friend Bhee, our interior designer and friend Wow Pramulwong (whom many of you will know as Van’s younger sister) and our contractor.

Meet Mac our Business Mentor
Gary was recently able to meet with Mac in person while he was in Bangkok. Not only is Mac an entrepreneur himself, he’s a business coach and consultant and an active player in the East Asia and South East Asia start-up scene. If there’s a start-up event in Bangkok or Hong Kong we wouldn’t be surprised to find Mac behind the scenes or in front and center as MC. Mac is also a food blogger and passionate about the growing restaurant and cafe industry in Asia and is very familiar with the market we’re entering in Bangkok. His knowledge and experience of the environment that we’re entering into has has been a great help. We’re thankful for all of the time and energy that’s he’s already invested in us. We wouldn’t have been able to make it as far as we have without his help, guidance and encouragement.

Level Three Speaking
Michelle’s been busy with her Thai studies and has now moved up to speaking level 3. It’s been challenging but she’s been able learn a lot. And she’s really enjoyed getting to know her teachers and classmates. Next month she’ll start level 4 which will focus on reading and writing. 

Missions Gathering
Earlier in March there was a small gathering held in Bangkok (of missionaries and native ministers) that focused on Disciple Making Movements in Asia. People came from Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, China and India. While we know that our current focus is here in Thailand we ourselves continually keep the church and our friends working across the globe in our prayers!

Needs and Prayers
We’ve been working hard on preparing things for the shop. While we’re very excited to see some of the things that we’ve been working on and imagining for a long time finally happen, it’s also a bit scary having so much to consider. Many have asked what our current needs are right now. We need lots of prayers and need more funding. We currently still lack 20% of our seed funding goal for this BAM venture. Not having this goal reached is an additional stress on top of everything else. We’d love to see this goal reached soon so if you know of any individual, church or organization that might be able to partner with us by helping with our financial needs please let us know. 

Please continue to keep us and our ministry here in your prayers as we strive to take leaps of faith towards the path that God has placed before us.

The Hunt Is On

Where oh where will our coffee shop be, oh where oh where will it be? This is the question of the hour folks! Our business is now fully registered as a Thai company and we are on track to hopefully open the coffee shop this summer. Our main concentration now is looking for a building. Those of you who have moved before know how long and tedious the process of finding real estate can be. And searching for the right location in such a big city, like Bangkok, is challenging to say the least. For us this means we’ve been very busy visiting potential neighborhoods, searching online, meeting directly with realtors and staying in constant communication with them through email and messaging. Please keep our hunt for a location in your prayers since it will be such a big part of our work, church plant and lives here in the future.

Group ShotWe recently had John from The Well Coffeehouse in Nashville and his wife Jessica visit us for a few days. John is The Well’s Director of Coffee Education and often does coffee industry consulting for new coffee businesses. We first met while we were back in the States so it was great seeing them again and introducing them to Bangkok’s vast coffee culture so that they could understand more of the context that we’re working with and the market that we’re entering. We’re so thankful for the encouraging time that we had to spend with them and for their help and perspective on our plans during our startup phase.

16650451_10158233436540596_437686238_nMichelle is finally able to return to Thai school! When we first moved here she was only able to go for a month, so this whole time she has really only learned from daily interactions. The school that she’s going to seems to be really great. It’s all Thai, no English and she goes full time (5 days a week). It’s a great blessings for her to finally be able to go to school regularly and to have good focus on Thai, but it also adds more to our plates at such an already busy time. So please keep this in your prayers as she’ll be in school for the next several months before she can really take a break.
Thanks for all your love and support!

Introducing the Replicate Backer Box!

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We have exciting news! We recently mentioned a project that we’ve been working and on Friday we launched our online store for the Replicate Backer Box! We created this box as a way to encourage and inspire others and as a fun way to remind people to pray for our ministry in Thailand.

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Here’s What The Replicate Backer Box Includes:

  • 5×7 Art Print
  • Coffee Brewing Guide
  • 8oz Bag of Whole Bean Thai Coffee
  • Retro Diner Mug in Black or White
  • T-shirt
  • 2 Elephant Stickers

All purchases of this box set go to help us with the startup funding for our Business as Mission venture here in Bangkok using a specialty coffee shop as a key tool in our future ministry. We have a limited supply available and they’re going fast! So be sure to get yours while you can! Click here or on the images above to go to our online store for more details and to get your Backer Box now. Please share and spread the word and keep this project in your prayers!

There’s a First Time for Everything!

Thailand in Mourning

It’s been a little over a month since we’ve been back in Thailand and so much has gone on in Thailand and the world that we hardly know where to start! Just a day or two after we returned from the States, the King of Thailand passed away. We were glad that we were able to be back during this time as it is an important time in history for Thailand and we were able to share this hard time with our friends. King Bhumibol Adulyadej had been king of Thailand for most people’s lives here. He reigned for 70 years and was very loved by his people. After his death, Thailand proclaimed a time of mourning, and everyone was asked to wear black to show respect for the king. So for the past month we’ve only worn black. Many of the tv stations were canceled and replaced by videos about the King remembering all of the different ways he helped to made Thailand a better place through his Royal Projects. And most of the advertisements and internet pages went black to show respect. It’s strange to go out and see everyone in black or white and people have been more somber. To read more about this check out this article here.

 

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Trip to Borseelium

People that know us well know that we are more urban than rural people. But one of the things that we love about our work here in Thailand is that we continually have opportunity to visit and work in some of the most rural (and naturally beautiful) areas of Thailand. Last week we took a trip back to the Hill Tribe village of Borseelium in Lampang (northern Thailand) where we did our first medical mission with our ACU interns in 2014. This is also one of the places that some of our coffee that we sold in the States and will sell in our coffee shop comes from. We made the trip to spend time with Suwat and his family, to see more of their coffee production process first hand, and to help in whatever way we could.

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Driving Up the Mountain
They say that there is a first time for everything and on this trip we had several first time experiences. We met Ann and Suwat in the little town of Ngao (the bottom of the mountain) to make our way up the steep mountain to Borseelium together, since their village is a little tricky to find and hard to get to. Before heading out Suwat asked if Gary could drive a truck for them back up the mountain since Suwat needed an extra hand to drive a second truck and we would follow behind him. When Suwat mentioned it, we thought he was joking, then the next thing we knew Gary was being handed keys to the truck and shown how to work the stick. The thought of driving up this steep mountain in itself is a crazy thing if you’ve never experienced driving it before because it’s mostly a dirt road, very curvy and super steep. But it’s even more crazy if you haven’t driven on the right side of the car before and then adding onto it all driving manually. But Gary’s a good driver and off we went with not much time to consider. So Gary got to have his first driving experience in Thailand on an hour long trip up a crazy, steep mountain with windy dirt roads, with a left-handed stick shift! It was an adventure! The drive was actually quite nice and the views were beautiful!

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Gary Preaching In Thai

Another reason we went to visit Borseelium was to spend time with the church there. Out of all of the previous times we’ve been there we were never able to be there on a Sunday and the church told us how they would love to have us join them on a Sunday and to have Gary preach. Gary had yet to preach a sermon in Thai. When they mentioned Gary preaching before we weren’t sure if they were just being nice or if they were actually serious. But it wasn’t long after we had arrived that Saturday night that Suwat’s father and grandfather both told us how happy they were to have us back in Borseelium and how they were looking forward to hearing Gary preach in the morning. Apparently they meant it! Fortunately we knew this could be a real possibility and Gary came prepared with a sermon and stayed up going on over some of his verses in Thai that night. Joining them for worship was a unique experience. They conduct their services in both Thai and Mien (their Hill Tribe language). It was an encouragement and blessing to be a part of this small body of Christ on the mountain top. We hope to have more opportunities like this in the future where we can encourage local churches in their discipleship and ministry efforts.

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Picking and Processing Coffee

After Gary’s first Thai sermon, we had lunch and then went to pick coffee in Suwat’s farm. Traveling to the farm is an experience in itself. The truck ride was even crazier than the drive up the mountain. The road is steep going down and it’s just big enough to sqeeze the truck through. The road is so bumpy and just red dirt. If it rains Suwat can’t drive to his farm because of all the mud.

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Once there, right away you can see the beautiful stream that runs through the farm. His farm is in between two hills and so it’s more shaded and a tad bit cooler for picking. Our first impression of the farm was that it made us think of the garden of Eden! It is just beautiful and lush and so peaceful. Suwat grows oranges and coffee on the farm. That afternoon we picked for a few hours and then headed back to the village processing building to start processing what we had picked (Which wasn’t a lot! Picking coffee really makes you realize how precious each cup of coffee really is and how much hard work went into it!).

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We were excited to see Borseelium’s new coffee processing building. It is only 2 months old and had almost everything they need to process their coffee. Anyone from the village can use the equipment to take care of the coffee they picked from their own farm. After picking coffee that afternoon, we washed the coffee cherries, removed the defects, removed the pulp, washed the beans again and then took the beans back to Suwat’s house to lay out and dry as a honey processed batch. Normally, Suwat does a washed process but we thought we’d try the honey process to see how different it is to the washed. The honey process can bring out the beans natural sweetness. We’ve tried it from other places in Thailand and it’s really delicious so we’re excited to see how Suwat’s coffee turns out!  

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The next day Gary and Suwat went out to pick again. We went to the processing building to take care of that batch and sorted coffee and roasted a couple different batches. It was fun to get to see and work with coffee through several stages of the process and just amazing to see how much work goes into it! Suwat is one hard worker. That’s for sure! Definitely have a great respect for the people involved in the specialty coffee process to bring the world such amazing and cared for coffee! 

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Replicate Backer Box

We have one final prayer request for a special project that we’ve been working on, the Replicate Backer Box! In the very near future we’ll be launching a campaign with the help of our partners at The Well Coffeehouse and Lipscomb’s Center for Business as Mission where we’ll be selling a coffee themed box set to help raise some of the seed funding for our Business as Mission venture. The set will include an 8oz bag of our special Borseelium coffee roasted by The Well, a t-shirt, a new retro diner coffee mug, and a few other things! Look for more info coming soon via email and on social media. The Backer Box will hopefully be a way to not only help raise more of our seed funding goal but to also raise prayers and awareness for our future ministry efforts in a fun way. We’re super excited about all of it’s potential and ask that you keep the success of this project in your prayers as well!

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Replicate Bangkok Here We Go!

We’ve had an event packed time being back in the States on our short visit. Our first week back our sponsoring church hosted a Missionary Care Workshop conducted by Mark Brazle and Dottie Schulz of Missions Resource Network (MRN). Mark and Dottie did a great job leading the workshop. Spending time with the two of them and having the workshop really helped set off our time back with an encouraging boost! We’re so thankful for Bartlett Woods and the ways that they have shown care and support for us and our work in Thailand. And we’re amazed at the ways that they have invested in our longevity as missionaries there!

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When we first walked into Bartlett Wood’s church building we were blown away by all of the Replicate Bangkok info that covered walls of seemingly every corner. They really did a great job utilizing the information that we put together to help the whole church understand our vision and strategy as we start this next phase in our ministry church planting.

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Since we first started looking at the possibility of transitioning into Business as Mission we’ve done a lot of research, reading stacks of books, countless blogs and articles. We reached out to everyone we knew that had any experience in Business as Mission within our extended network. We soon began to realize that God has put a large number people in our lives to help us launch the dream and vision that He put on our hearts. In this e-mail we’ll highlight a few of these relationships and connections.

Business As Mission Conference
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The best online resource that we’ve found on Business as Missions is hands down BusinessAsMission.com. Their website is full of helpful tools, advice and resources for BAM practitioners and newbies like ourselves. The people and organization behind the website are some of the most experienced people in Business as Missions today. And guess what, they’re based in Northern, Thailand! We’ve been in touch with a few people in their group for a while now, and while we were back in Thailand they told us how they would be conducting this year’s BAM Conference in California during the time that we were already planning on being in the US. So we were able to join over 300 others from all over the world and attend the conference on our second weekend in the States. The BAM conference had a very full schedule going from 7:30 am until 6:00 pm. It was awesome hearing about all of the ways that God is at work in the world through Business as Mission. Our time at the conference was an encouraging confirmation of the road that God has prepared ahead of us.
While we were in LA for the BAM conference we were able to visit with Greg Williams for the first time in person. Greg is MRN’s Facilitator for Sustainable Missions and helps mission efforts all over the world take hold of sustainable models. Greg has a been a great help in offering advice and guidance as we make our transition into Business as Mission. On the final day we were able to go spend time with Greg over coffee, and dinner in nearby Long Beach. We can’t tell you how much his feedback on our vision and strategy for Bangkok and our business plan for the coffee shop means to us.

Center For Business As Mission at Lipscomb University
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From California we took an overnight flight into Nashville, TN to meet with Rob Touchstone the director of Lipscomb’s Center for Business as Mission and visit with his team and students. We were able to present our pitch for how we see using a specialty coffee shop as a key tool in our discipleship, and church planting efforts in Bangkok to Rob’s Missional Entrepreneurship class. It was blast sharing about our plans, getting feedback and exchanging dialogue with the students. We’re excited to tell you that we’ll be partnering with both Lipscomb’s Center for Business as Mission and with The Well Coffeehouse as we launch our venture in Thailand! We’re so excited and encouraged to see how Lipscomb is taking hold of the opportunity to equip their students to make lasting impacts in this world for Christ!

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Send Off At Bartlett Woods
On Sunday the 25th we had our Send Off Sunday with Bartlett Woods. Gary preached during the morning worship and afterwards they threw us a good bye fellowship meal. We can’t tell you how many people came up to us and said that they pray for us and Thailand daily! That means so much to us. We are so thankful for all of the love, prayers, support and encouragement that they have shown us! And are truly blown away by their giving spirits and heart for missions!  

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Time With Family
From Memphis we went on to spend some time with Michelle’s family in Kentucky. In the middle of September our newest niece was born right on Michelle’s birthday and we were finally able to see her once we made it to Kentucky. People often ask us what we miss the most about living in the States. It seems like when people ask this they’re looking for an answer like, “Pop-Tarts”, “Chick-fil-A”, or “Pumpkin Spice Lattes”. But hands down the thing we miss the most is our time with our family and close friends. Living overseas we often miss out on the little special moments in one another lives that Facebook and Facetime simply cannot capture. So any time we can squeeze in time with our family is so treasured.

Every time we get together with all of Michelle’s family her mom wants to take family photos together since our family is always growing and changing and we rarely have those moments together. With it being Fall we all went out to get pictures at a pumpkin patch. It’s always fun seeing all of our nieces and nephews. It’s crazy to think how much bigger they’ll all be the next time we see them in a few years. These photos will be a great reminder of this time when our nieces and nephews were still so little!

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While with Gary’s family out West we were able to be a part of such a special moment when we attended Jessica (Gary’s sister) and Logan’s baby reveal party and Pierce’s first birthday in Lubbock, TX. After landing in El Paso, Texas Saturday night and making it to Las Cruces, NM where Gary’s parents live, we drove all day Sunday to Lubbock to make it to the party then drove back to New Mexico the next day. It was a long trip but well worth it!

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We spent our last few days in Albuquerque, NM where Gary grew up. We were just in time to catch the end of the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. We were especially excited about it since it was the first time for Michelle, Logan and the kids to see it. In just a few hours (early Monday morning) we’ll fly back to Bangkok feeling extremely blessed by our visit. Thanks for all of the prayers for our time back. Please keep us in your prayers today as we make the long trip back to Thailand!

 

Back in Bangkok!

After being back in the states for 5 months traveling and reporting on the past 2 1/2 years of our life and ministry in Thailand we were way past ready to get back home and to finally be settled and to return to our somewhat “normal” Thai life again. When we arrived at the airport we were surprised to be greeted by several of the young adults from Somprasong 4 church! They made a cute “Sawadee” (Thai greeting) sign and all showed up with their sweet, smiling faces! Getting back to the “Land of Smiles” never felt so good! It was weird how it felt as if no time had passed. The same night that we arrived (2 hours before our flight landed) the Abilene Christian University (ACU) students arrived for their internship over the summer. So we really hit the ground running! Is there any other way?!

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Right after we landed, Gary was asked to speak for the Wednesday night bible class. So Gary put a lesson together and taught on our first full day back. He also preached Sunday morning and taught a combined bible class. It was nice to share with them what we’ve been doing the past few months and about what our future plans are in Thailand. It was awesome to see so many that we’ve missed. Our first Sunday back was a fun, warm and welcoming day of fellowship with our Thai family.

International House Hunters: Bangkok Edition

When we arrived back we stayed at the church building and moved between 2 different rooms. (We moved out of our old apartment before we left since we knew we’d be in the states for a while). We were grateful to have the room at the building but it was pretty cramped and we were exhausted and ready to start getting settled so that first week, we started apartment hunting knowing it could take a while to find a place.

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So thankful for these guys for helping us move in, even after working all weekend at English Camp!

Looking for apartments in Bangkok takes a lot of communication skills and persistence. We had to do a lot of research online of areas and companies to connect with to see places. Lots of sorting and looking through places that the agencies emailed us. Most of these places would turn out to be not what we were looking for at all. They would either be too small, not a style we like, too far from public transportation, too expensive, etc. So before we were able to go see a place physically we had a lot of work to do. Once we found something that we were interested in, we went to see it with an agent. We did this for nearly 2 weeks and hadn’t found anything like what we were hoping for. This time of year is hard to find a good place because a lot of people move in the summer so most of the good places were already taken. We were tired of looking and not feeling confident and satisfied about it but we knew we’d seen most of what was available and thought we might just have to settle. In our last attempts to find something, we decided to check out one last area. It was the day before we were leaving for English Camp and we went looking at one last building that people had told us about. We met with the agent and after seeing just one room in the building, we knew this was the place! We saw a few rooms there throughout the day and decided on one by that evening! We made a downpayment that night. Went off to English Camp the next morning for a long weekend, then the day after we returned from Camp we closed on the apartment and moved in! Just when we were about to give up and give in to one of the apartments that we only halfway liked, God opened our eyes to a great apartment that exceeded our expectations! And as always at just the right time! God is good and we are so thankful to have a beautiful place that we can finally settle down in and call home!

English Camp

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Just a week and a half after arriving we had English Camp with nursing students from Suan Dusit University. The days before camp we were busy trying to find our apartment so all of our preparation for camp were in the middle of apartment hunting craziness. Which included choosing a theme, writing lessons, preparing games, and designing and printing camp shirts and stickers. This year we had over 40 students attend, which is more than we’ve ever had.

We arrived to camp a day before it started on Thursday to clean the grounds and set up all of our equipment and tents. Most of the students that came this year were Freshmen so we didn’t really know this group yet. Glome and Nueng did a great job breaking the ice with some welcome games and activities and it wasn’t long before the students and staff were laughing and getting along like good friends.

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Our theme for Camp this year was Electric Summer and we truly had an electric time together at Cha Am!

Aside from a few of Somprasong’s church staff, young adults, us and the ACU interns, we had extra help from three of Somprasong’s Filipino members and one young American member, also a member from the church in Phuket, Thailand. It’s always an encouraging time getting extra time with our staff from church who volunteer to help, most of whom are sacrificing vacation time to be with us. I was especially proud of how well the staff showed love and kindness to all of the nursing students throughout our time at camp. 

Click here to see more pictures from English Camp.

Click here to see the video that we put together for the students from camp.

Time with the ACU Students

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The ACU girls with Bhee and Sam.

Since we knew that we would be really busy returning to Thailand just as the ACU team arrived, we decided that we wouldn’t be mentors for this year’s ACU team in Bangkok. So this year Bhee and Sam worked primarily with the team and we assisted as we could but mostly at the end of their time. While the girls were in Bangkok we showed them a few of areas that we’ve been involved with in the past. We love introducing the interns to all of the craziness that comes with living in Bangkok. It’s always fun to see the look on peoples faces the first time that they see the endless expanse of skyscrapers, never ending number of spirit houses and temples, see all the fancy and massive shopping malls, experience the humidity and heat, witness how crowded and busy the streets are.

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During our time together the girls learned about Thai Buddhism and animism, we also took them to visit the red light district to learn about the issue of Bangkok’s sex industry, to the slum community in our old neighborhood to show them the challenges and dangers of people living in extreme poverty face since they can be easily taken advantage of by the mob or others with no one to stand up for them.

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Even though our time with the ACU team was short this year, it was a joy to have them here. After their time in Bangkok they went up to Chiang Rai where they’ll be teaching English for three weeks at a Christian school. Please keep them in your prayers as they finish up their summer here in Thailand and return to the States soon.

 

 

Life on the Road

We’ve been on the road since January and just this past week we finally finished reporting and visiting all of our supporting churches! We’ve traveled thousands of miles, slept in countless beds, and packed and unpacked a ridiculous amount of times but it was so neat to get to visit so many that we love and miss! We are so thankful for the opportunities we’ve had to share about our past and future work in Thailand. We feel blessed to have such encouraging and excited supporters that pray for us and our work often!7-MP19In Crossville, TN we visited with the Linary Church of Christ. Michelle’s family lived in Crossville and worked with the church there after they returned to the US from being missionaries in Russia. Michelle was just 16 at the time and spent time with the church there through her first years in college. It was great catching up with old church friends and being in the town where Michelle graduated high school.

From Crossville, we made our way to Murray and Paducah in Western Kentucky. We visited with the University church in Murray, KY on a Sunday morning and drove up to Paducah to be with the Lone Oak church that evening. It was a very long but especially encouraging day!2-Murray PaducahWhile living in Murray 8 years ago, we were involved with the church’s ministry to foreign exchange students who were mostly from China. We feel a special bond with University from our time working alongside them. It was a full Sunday morning together. Gary taught a combined Bible class, preached during worship and we got to speak with their missions committee and church leaders at a special luncheon. We loved our time with them and were very encouraged to share more about Thailand with them and see their excitement about how God has been at work in Asia.3-Murray Paducah1It would take too long to explain all of the crazy connections that we have with the Lone Oak church in Paducah. Lone Oak has been a long time supporter of the AIM program and has sent a number of their own young people to AIM over the years including one of Gary’s old Bangkok teammates.1-Terre HauteFrom Kentucky we headed up north to Terre Haute, Indiana to the Eastside Church of Christ. We got to know this church while we were in youth ministry doing summer camps and fall retreats together with them. It’s especially cool to see how some of their youth have grown a heart for missions and have gone on to do short-term missions themselves with AIM program and DiscipleTrips! 4-Mt Carmel [EDITED]For our last stop we headed to Mt. Carmel, IL where we worked for 5 years in youth ministry before moving to Thailand. It was surreal being back in Mt. Carmel after having been gone for so long. We spent a few days there catching up with friends and family but the time just wasn’t enough. There are so many people that we wish that could have seen while we were there but time just didn’t allow it.6-21-DSC05848One highlight from our time in Mt. Carmel was spending time with some who were first in our youth group. They’re all grown up now in college, with jobs, some of them married and with families. These people will certainly always hold a special place in our hearts.5-Mt Carmel [EDITED]1We’re especially thankful for the time that we got to spend with Michelle’s sister Melissa and her family. It was so fun to have time to spend with our niece and nephews and being be able to celebrate Easter with family.

This week we’ve returned to Memphis. We’re excited to spend some time with our sponsoring church! Although we’re technically “homeless” right now, while in Memphis we actually have our own place to stay since Bartlett Woods (our sponsoring church) owns a house across from their church building that we’re able to use during our time back. It’s so nice to have a space of our own where we can actually unpack our bags, cook our own food and live somewhat of a “normal” life. Tulsa Workshop

We’re busy getting ready for the Tulsa Workshop next week. Gary is excited to be teaching two classes at Workshop. He’ll be teaching Thursday and Friday at 3:00 pm both days. Click here to see the full schedule and find out more about the Tulsa Workshop. We will also have our Missions Bangkok booth and will be selling handmade items from Thailand, some coffee inspired t-shirts that we designed and some fresh roasted speciality coffee from two hill tribe villages in Thailand! So if you happen to go to Workshop be sure to stop by and see us!

 

Back in the USA… For a Visit

Right now we’re in the middle of our time back in the States for our stateside service. After spending time with our families for the holidays and starting off our time with our sponsoring church we set out on our big Oklahoma and Texas trip to visit with churches and individual supporters reporting on our past and future work in Bangkok while raising additional support.

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It was great spending the holidays with our families.

Since we’ve been in the US, we’ve already traveled over 6000+ miles across 11 states! We’ve been living out of our suitcase, packing up and unpacking every couple of days, staying with friends, mentors and family along the way. We’ve also been able to meet with organizations like Missions Resources Network, Oklahoma Christian University and Abilene Christian University. On our trip through OK and TX everyone that we’ve met has been such a great encouragement to us. We’ve been blown away by all the love that’s been shown to us and it’s been great reconnecting with so many!

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Our planned road trip from January to March.

One common misconception that people have about missionary “furloughs” is that it is a vacation or a break. When in reality it couldn’t be more far from the truth! It’s not been easy living out of our suitcases for months. Being on the road constantly, spending all day in meetings, constantly talking to people, speaking at churches and events, while also trying to work on our own things without much down time gets exhausting. Being back feels like a crazy whirlwind of events and emotions. We are tired, while at the same time, we feel super blessed from our time back so far. To know more about the experience missionaries go through when visiting the States check out this article from Missions Resource Network: Furlough or Home Assignment? Our Language Betrays Us by Dale Hawley

We wish that we had time to share more about our trip and the people that we got to visit with but we just don’t have time. So here’s a few highlights! 🙂

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Tulsa is a special place to us since it is where we officially met and started dating. In the summer of 2007 while Gary interned with the Memorial Drive Church of Christ, Michelle moved to Tulsa to be close to family and friends. Memorial has a lot of AIM connections and the church there has many awesome, genuine and active people that mean a lot to us and are always such an encouragement.

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We were excited to visit The Christian Chronicle and Oklahoma Christian University for the first time. While in Bangkok, we were honored to be visited by Erik of the Chronicle who wrote a beautiful piece about us and Somprasong working with refugees. It was neat catching up with Erik on our visit. We’re thankful for all he does sharing about how God is at work in this world. While on the OC campus we were able to attend the missions chapel where our friend from Japan, Joel was speaking that day. It was surprising and funny to run into him here in the states! Ran into these girls at OC! It was crazy to see them all grown up! They were all just little kids when Michelle lived in Okinawa, Japan.

Dallas

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Spent a couple days in the Dallas area. We got to enjoy a delicious Thai meal in Denton with several Thailand friends! We’ve been missing good Thai food since being back. It was especially cool seeing our friend and old co-worker P’Rung! In Dallas, we were also able to visit with some old friends of ours, Gary’s childhood best friend and Michelle’s AIM teammate. We haven’t seen them in several years and it was crazy to see them again and now as parents. One afternoon we spent an encouraging time with Missions Resource Network (MRN). It was great catching up with them and to share about what’s going on in Thailand and what our dreams are for Bangkok. They’re a really awesome group and we love what they’re doing to help churches and missionaries all around the world!

Abilene

11In Abilene we were so excited to catch up with several of our ACU interns from the past 2 years. It was awesome to see both of the teams together. Being back together with them was like being with family! We were also honored to stay with Larry and Pam Henderson (who were long time missionaries in Bangkok and worked with Somprasong 4 church of Christ several years ago). We loved hearing stories about their time in Thailand. The ACU campus has a lot of veteran Thai missionaries and missionary kids. It was neat running into several of them. While on campus, we set up our table of Thai handcrafted items to sell to help with some of our funding. It was a fun way to get people excited about Thailand and to share our passion for missions with the students.

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To see more pictures from our Texas & Oklahoma Trip click here.

Mission Bangkok

Preparing for Our Visit to the States

Preparing for the States

Our last few months in Thailand were especially crazy as we were preparing for our visit to the States. It wasn’t easy moving out of the apartment we’ve called home for the past two years. We were busy closing accounts, transitioning out of our ministries, handing over responsibilities, in meetings, sending e-mails galore, making video calls to the States, working on future plans, saying goodbyes, (for a little while) …oh yeah AND packing! All of this, in preparation for our Stateside service. 

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Our Last Weekend With Somprasong 4

During our last weekend with Somprasong before heading back to the States the youth threw us a big surprise farewell party. They decked out the room in our favorite colors and even made us SUPER special t-shirts and a sweet video for us! We can’t even begin to tell you how loved we felt!

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Then, on very little sleep, we had our last Sunday! Gary preached, and in his sermon, looked back on all that God has done over the past two years and how we need to continue to dream big for the Kingdom. Throughout the day many shared stories of our times together, their love and thanks. It made us realize that God has been at work in more ways than we ever even thought. With all that we’ve had going on, it was an encouraging and energizing boost in the middle of all of our craziness! We’ve loved working with Somprasong and we’ve missed our church family in Thailand a lot since we’ve been away!

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