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Thursday morning I was listening to some music while getting ready for my day.  I love how a simple song can change your mood, make you dance, brighten your day or lead you to tears.  A short melody played throughout a film can remind you of a specific character in the story or help to move ahead a plot line.  For some songs it’s the words that make us feel something new, or remind us of our own lives.  Other songs capture our hearts in a mysterious way through the instruments like the slow and soothing, resonating cello, or the magical sound of the sitar.

Yes, that’s right I said a sitar can be magical.

Drums of all kinds can create rhythms that seem to take you out of your body and right into the beat.  Music can unlock something inside of us and release emotions we didn’t even know were there.  While writing this I am jumping from one YouTube video to the next listening to the sitar sounds in the song “Kindle My Heart” from the beautiful movie, “A Little Princess”, professional Taiko drumming groups and Dave Grohl drum solos….I love music!!  I get this desire from time to time to learn the drums and rock out, especially after watching a video of Dave Grohl on the drums.  And then sometimes I just want to jump on my bed and jam to Taylor Swift!

But Thursday morning it was not about the drums.  Or Taylor.

Thursday morning the song that gripped my heart was simple, just voice and piano…with lyrics I’d like to think were written just for me, at such a time as this.

The first two lines of this song are,

“Come out of hiding you’re safe here with Me.  There’s no need to cover what I already see.”  

Instantly I knew this song was for me.  I didn’t even realize I was in hiding until listening to this song. The lyrics seemed to be unveiling the feelings that I couldn’t quite put to words.  The song is like a lullaby being sung by a father to his beloved child, and like a small child I sat and soaked up each word.

“You’ve got your reasons, but I hold your peace.  You’ve been on lockdown, and I hold the key.”

For some time here in Bangkok, I’ve been hiding out in the safety of my small apartment, down the small soi, in the far end of the city.  I never meant to hide.  I started off as an explorer, happy to see and be seen.  But little by little, hurts accumulated and fears multiplied. What was first an exciting adventure in a new city soon became a terrifying path scaring me back inside, back home.   It wasn’t that I didn’t try to face the fears…but with so many new things all at once I found myself holding onto my bed or couch as though they were the life rafts keeping my afloat.

So there I was, Thursday morning, sitting and listening to these lyrics, letting the pages of my heart unfold.

 “I’ll be your lighthouse when you’re lost at sea.  I will illuminate everything.  No need to be frightened by intimacy.  Just throw off your fear and come running to me.” 

While I have never actually set foot in a lighthouse, the image is clear.  Lost at sea and seeking for a guiding light to bring you home.  For me, as someone who more frequently gets lost than she would like to admit, I can relate.  While back in Canada a few months ago, I was driving to visit a friend who had just moved to a new place in Markham, Ontario.  It was an area I was relatively familiar with, so I quickly jotted down the directions and headed out.  But it was dark outside, and the street sign I was looking for was not well lit and so of course I missed it.  The further I drove, the less street lights there were.  I knew I had to turn around, but it was too late.  I was at a cross roads, a strange dark intersection without signs or lights.  I couldn’t even tell which way I was supposed to turn in order to get back around so I followed the pick-up truck in front of me who turned left.  This led me to an even darker, narrower road leading into the middle of nowhere.  Missing my husband who was back in Thailand, and feeling hungry and cold I kept driving, scanning the road for somewhere I could stop and turn around.  It must have only been five minutes, but it felt like an eternity when I came up to a sign for a campsite with a driveway that would allow me to pull over safely and turn around.  Driving back towards the strange intersection and lights of the city, I was excited to soon be indoors, out of the dark and cold.  But most of all, I wanted a hug and to feel at home.

I am prone to tears.  It doesn’t take much…sometimes just a sweet gesture from a friend, or an act of kindness in a movie.  During this past season of hiding, I have been even more weepy than usual.  You can imagine that this is not so fun, especially when trying to make new friends.  I often felt like I need to come with a sign, “Beware, I am a weeper.”  Crying is not a bad thing, but when it comes at inconvenient times in social situations, it can feel a bit annoying.  Because of this, I pulled back further from people, afraid I could spring a leak at any given moment should they ask the dreaded question, “How are you?”  I love to be open with people and share my life with others, but in those moments when I just didn’t feel good, it was difficult.  If I told people I was fine, it wasn’t convincing…my face hides nothing!  And if I told people I wasn’t doing well, I would start to cry again.  And I was tired of crying.  Just like in the song, I felt frightened by intimacy.

The chorus of the song reveals who is speaking these words, or singing this lullaby.

“‘Cause I loved you before you knew what was love.  I saw it all, still I chose the cross.  You were the one that I was thinking of, when I rose from the grave.  Now rid of the shackles, My victory is yours.  I tore the veil for you to come close.  There’s no reason to stand at a distance anymore.  You’re not far from home.”

Our father God is singing this song over us.  When we were just babies, He loved us and has not stopped loving us.  He has seen all of our good and all of our bad, and He still chooses to love and forgive us.  Our father God took victory over death and then shared that with us and gave us full access to complete closeness with Him!

Just think of that one person you want to run home to and hug, or that feeling of being wrapped up and safe and warm in your bed.  Maybe it was easier to find this at one time in your life, but feels far from you right now.  I remember wrapping my arms around my mom when I was little and linking my fingers while promising to myself I would never let her go…I wanted her all to myself. I laugh now because my mom was getting ready at that time to go out to a dance class and first had to put me to sleep, but all I could think of was ways to sneak into her car so that I could go along with her instead of staying in my bed.  Sometimes I find myself doing the same to my husband, holding onto him and wanting to never let go.  Whatever brings you that feeling of peace and rest and complete reassurance…that can be found in the arms of God.  It’s not that we shouldn’t be hugging our moms or our spouses, but at some point we realize that no person or thing can fulfill all those longings of our heart.  No human can be our foundation.  Only God.  And my God is a firm foundation.

“Oh as you run, what hindered love, will only become part of the story.”

It was this point of the song that my eyes really welled up with tears.

I read the lyrics over and over again until I understood.  I think this part of the song is about regret.  It’s like we’re all children who have run away from home and acted foolishly or selfishly.  We’ve wasted ourselves away and lost the way back home.  But God shows us that there is a way back home and all those things we regret, all those things that got in the way of that perfect love, “become part of the story.”  God’s love leaves no room for regret.  God’s love is a full orchestra that washes over us and perfects the imperfect notes we tried to hide.

“You’re almost home now.  Please don’t quit now.  You’re almost home to Me.”

Here’s where the waterworks broke out.  Joyful tears I must add.

I’ve been living in Bangkok for 1 year and 8 months and it’s become more of a home to me over time.  And eventually when I come back to Toronto, it will be a home to me again. But neither of these homes will ever be able to bring the peace that I receive from dwelling in God.  That might sound a bit odd, because it’s not a home with walls…but it’s amazing how when we find refuge in God, that safety, protection and peace goes with us everywhere.  Sometimes when I’m feeling hurt or lost, I can close my eyes and just hang out with God.  I also enjoy lying down in a field and looking up at the sky…it’s like a mind refresh.

At a number of times throughout this season I was tempted to quit.  For me, quitting meant losing hope and giving up in my spirit…I thought that maybe if I just didn’t care anymore then the difficult things wouldn’t bother me.  But God is faithful and for every thought of quitting I had, He helped steer me back to His goodness.  Hiding out and becoming numb to the world or to our own feelings is a slow and sad death.  God is calling us out of our hiding places and inviting us to live with Him in perfect peace and safety. His home is without walls, and can travel with us everywhere.  It’s really more of a Kingdom.

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A new favourite show of mine is “Jane the Virgin”.  It is creative, fast-paced and hilarious! Each episode is narrated in a very melodramatic way, mimicking the style of the popular telenovelas (genre of latin american television show).  I’ve always loved imagining my life being narrated, or the thought of my life as a TV show…each day a new episode.  This show completely captures that feeling, so of course I love it!

On an episode I recently watched, the main character, Jane, is faced with a terrifying situation that requires her to be brave in the face of fear.  She remembers the words to the theme song from a telenovela she watched as a child.  This theme song had been drawn attention to by Jane’s abuela (grandmother) who pointed out that the lyrics clearly said that the main characters ended up happily ever after, so she need not worry about their fate.  The Spanish lyrics cleverly play out in the background as Jane bravely faces her current terrifying situation.  The translation, “She was strong.  She was armed.  She was fearless.  She did whatever she had to do to get her true love back.”   

What theme song do you have playing out in the background of your life?  Have you been hiding out like me, in need of a brave new anthem to take you out of your comfort zone? My theme word for the year is “brave”, so don’t be surprised if the next time you see me I’ve got big curly red hair and a bow and arrow in hand…wouldn’t that be fun!

I’m excited to see each episode, each page of my life this year unfold.

Since starting to write this, I’ve already had moments that I felt tempted to hide out…but I’ve also had moments of brave exploration!  I even discovered a hidden pond and garden that I shall pretend is my secret place.  A place not far from home.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

  

 

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Every good character in a story has a friend, with whom they can share their journey.

Disney princesses often have woodland animals as their friends, helping keep them company as they go on adventures.  Rapunzel from “Tangled” had Pascal, her loyal and protective chameleon with a knack for bringing her joy; Snow White had an entire forest of deer, bunnies and birds along with her seven dwarves. But my personal favourite is Giselle from “Enchanted”, with her best friend, Pip, the happy-go-lucky, dramatic and always enthusiastic chipmunk.  Of course, most of us prefer human friends to animals, but the point is that having a friend to journey through life with makes the good times great, and the not so good times possible.  We were never meant to live life alone.  In good company we can find a new level of strength and encouragement,  and whether you need to escape a tower like Rapunzel or find your way in a new place like Giselle, a friend is worth having for the journey.

My mom told me that when I was younger, on a trip to the park I would run off and come back with a new best friend.  I’ve always loved meeting new people and making friends.  I like to think that every stranger is just a new friend waiting to be made 🙂

Two weeks ago, I made a new friend.  A whole room of new friends.

This story takes place in the warm and sunny south of Thailand.  Phuket.  That’s pronounced “Poo Ket” in case you were wondering.  John and I flew there for a retreat with the Southeast Asia PAOC (Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada) team.  The purpose of the retreat was to gather together this group of global workers and enjoy a week of team building and refreshment.  It was exactly what John and I needed…a break from the busyness and a chance to be refreshed and refilled for this next leg of the trip.  Even though it was our first time meeting the whole team, we felt so loved by everyone the moment we walked in to the room.

On our second day after lunch John and I joined about ten others on a motorbike adventure through the city. I felt like I was in a motorcycle gang, but without all the leather and tattoos.  We drove up hills surrounded by bright green giant leaves, rocky cliffs on the left, and the ocean on the right.  We drove in a line and stopped along the way to take pictures, drink fresh coconut water, and splash in the ocean.  At first I was so focused on how windy it was, and how I didn’t like the helmet I was wearing, also feeling afraid of the twisting roads. I spend so much of my time in Bangkok on the back of our bike that I didn’t notice how special this trip in Phuket was.  But as our group spread out down the road, laughing and singing out along the way I realized this experience was special and rare.  I was on a motorbike in a tropical city, cruising around the ocean side with my husband and a group of fun-loving new friends!  At that moment, I stopped caring about my uncomfortable helmet and embraced the adventure!

As we stopped at a beachside restaurant and ordered french fries and coconuts, I began to chat with two of the younger girls in our group.  Both of them are originally from Ontario, but live with their families in Southeast Asia – one in India and the other in Sri Lanka – doing volunteer work and sharing God’s love with their communities.  They were the highlight of my day.  These two lovely young ladies made me feel at home and reminded me what a special privilege we have to live this life.  We laughed and talked about movies and girl stuff and just enjoyed some fun chit chat!

Once our snack break was over, we all drove off with the boys speeding up, seeing who would lead the pack.  I held on tightly to John and soaked in the scenery. It was stunning!

The next day was my day of extreme relaxation.  It was family day for us at the retreat, which meant everyone had the day off from team meetings and group sessions.  John was excited to go back out with the motorbike gang and explore more of the city.  But I was excited for something else…the pool!  The resort had two pools: Pool number 1 was rectangular, large, nice…and full of half-naked Russians cooking themselves in the sun until they were good and burnt.   Pool number 2 was round, much larger, included a jacuzzi in the centre, a winding river-like area which I called “Conversation Lane”, a swim up bar, a man-made beach area with sand leading into an area with fountains and a bridge you could swim under, and the entire thing was surrounded by mountains of green and palm trees.

So naturally, I stayed in Pool number 2.  For seven hours.

Yes, seven hours…with only one break in-between for lunch and the bathroom.  I swam, floated, chit-chatted with the various people from our group that wandered in for a swim, had a chocolate milkshake at the swim-up bar, and I loved every minute!

At the seven hour mark I was completely shrivelled and unfortunately…burnt 😦  Even though I hadn’t intentionally been tanning myself, I now had become the same shade of red as the Russians burning in Pool number 1.  But at least my burn was accidental…not sure if that makes a difference haha.

pool

It was a great trip, and by the end I felt recharged and ready to take on the world!  John and I felt encouraged by the group, knowing that they are here for us and that our journey here in Southeast Asia is not a solo mission…we’ve got a team!!

Of course, since returning to Bangkok from our retreat after everyone went home to their own countries, I’ve had my fair share of freak out moments.  I’ve cried and felt like the Incredible Hulk a few times.  It was a lot easier to stay calm while in Phuket, surrounded by this great group of people and in such a relaxing environment. But the stresses of life don’t give you a break and life outside Pool number 2 can be tough.

This is why I am so thankful for my friends.  On days when I felt like I didn’t even know who to call, or what to say, God sent a friend my direction.  A phone call with an old friend who I had been missing gave me a lot of emotional healing.  A Skype chat with a newer friend made me laugh and filled me a ton of joy!  A text chat with a friend and kindred spirit gave me strength and courage to face the day.  Talking to each friend helped me realize that all the crazy feelings inside my head were not really that crazy because they were experiencing them too!  It was like I was back in the pool, chit-chatting away in conversation lane without a worry in sight.  Talking to my friends, and encouraging each other made everything feel possible again.

I also realized that growing up can often mean our friendship circle shrinks.  Many people told me this and I refused to believe it.  But now I see how easily it can happen.  People take on new jobs and move far away. New routines, relationships, and families make for less time to see each other. This past year I’ve felt like it was just me going through this…like all my friends were going on in life without me.  But that isn’t the case. As I talk to many of my friends back in Canada, they tell me they’ve been going through many of the same emotions and finding it harder to stay close with their friends.

The older we get, the more challenges we face in life, the harder it is to make time for friends…and yet, the more we need our friends!!  It won’t necessarily look like high school or university when almost all our spare time (and even class time) went into our friendships…drinking bubble tea after school, spending all day at the mall, or whispering nonsense to each other during lecture.  Friendships can look different when we get older like lunch breaks together at work instead of eating alone at your desk.  Maybe a quick encouraging text to someone you know is having a hard day.  A Skype chat to your friend living far away, or a playdate with your friend who is now a mom and would love to talk about something other than the latest kids TV show.  Whatever it may look like for you, enjoy it and stay open to it.  I know that when tough times come, it’s tempting to shut people out and pretend like everything is fine.  I found myself doing that this past year, afraid to burden others with my feelings or trouble friends with my stress.  But it doesn’t work…it just makes us worse inside.  Staying open and vulnerable with our friends is a challenge, but it is so worth it.

John and I are getting ready to go to his home country, Bangladesh.  It’s been a while since he’s been back, and it will be my first time there, so it’s pretty exciting!  Plus, this means I get to meet his family face to face which I’m looking forward to 🙂  Our mission while we’re there is to get his new passport and Thai Visa for his job here in Bangkok, and we pray and trust that everything will go smoothly and that we can return soon to our home in Thailand.  The trip took us by surprise because we were initially planning to go somewhere nearby like Singapore or Malaysia, but as it turns out, we are required to go to his country of origin for the documents we need.  Looking at these past few months, I feel that God has really brought about the trip in the perfect time.  Having just recently visited India, I have a number of new culturally appropriate outfits to wear in Bangladesh, and I am better prepared for the style of living, food, and culture.  It reminds me again that God is always steps ahead of us, preparing us for what’s ahead and giving us the tools to accomplish the tasks at hand.  We’ve also got some great new Canadian friends to visit with while we’re there that we met during our retreat in Phuket.  Please feel free to join us in prayer for our trip, that we would have favour with the government in retrieving the Visa and passport papers, and also that we would have a great time with the family!  I am excited to see what God shows us on this trip!

I must also add that I am now the proud aunty of the adorable baby Roxanna!!  My brother here in Thailand and his beautiful wife welcomed little Roxy into the world last month…five weeks earlier than expected.  She is healthy and strong, growing quickly and always ready to eat!  I love her and I can’t wait to get back from Bangladesh and give her lots of hugs and kisses!

roxyThe other exciting thing about this month is that my family from Canada came to visit us which has been the perfect taste of home.  It’s been awesome to have my mom’s home cooking, and have family dinners at the famous “Casa Pasta” on our street.  My dad has given the restaurant his Italian approval, and made it our official family dinner location.  Oh yeah…andddddd John and I celebrated our ONE YEAR wedding anniversary!!!  What an exciting month we’ve had!!!  🙂 🙂

Once we return to Bangkok, John will be continuing to work with “Dton Naam” Ministries in their cafe, called “Antique Cafe”.  The name “Dton Naam” means “source of water” and their ministry is to help bring new, life-giving opportunities to the transgender community in Bangkok. They have hired three new staff members, and the ministry is growing.  John is working hard to help make the cafe a professional and positive learning environment.  Please pray for him and the staff at Dton Naam, that they would be a blessing to their community and bring positive change to people’s lives.

I am continuing to serve at Newsong as the Children’s Pastor while also looking for some new opportunities to volunteer in my spare time.  At Newsong we’re also looking for a new pastor, so please pray that the right person comes at the right time.  I pray that someone with wisdom and a passion for God’s word, handpicked by God, would step in and help our community to grow.  I feel a sense of anticipation for our church and I believe the season is coming when we will see revival and growth like never before!

John and I have been praying about me making a visit to Canada in the fall (praying that John will be able to come soon too!!), partly because I’ve been missing Canada and also because I’d love to come and reconnect with my family, friends and church back home.  We are looking to form a team of supporters who want to join in on our mission here in Southeast Asia through prayer and financial support.  God has amazing things in store for Bangkok, Bangladesh and each country in between, and we need help as we take part in this journey God has for us!

johnandbex

If you’re interested in being a part of this adventure, or you feel led to support us in our work here, you can donate online at https://paoc.org/donate/johnrebeccaviapianaross.

Thanks for joining me on this journey, reading along with my adventures and being a friend 🙂  It’s a great feeling to know that I’ve got friends all over the world, some whom I’ve met face to face and others I look forward to meeting one day soon!

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Much of India is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  Cows standing in intersections, camels and horses trotting along in traffic, colourful dresses with patterns covering every inch of fabric, and dusty slums full of families and their goats.  But rather than being shocked by all that is different, I enjoy thinking about what is the same.  In this land full of spices and men with moustaches, there lives the same God that I’ve come to know in Canada and beyond.  Yes, my God is BIG and while I’m not sure if He has a moustache, I am confident that He loves India!

saris colours

The whole team gathered in the small one-room church which used to be a kitchen.  Three concrete walls and a roof could not contain the sounds coming from inside!!  A boy, about nine years old, proudly dressed in a champagne coloured long Indian coat covered in beads and shimmering threads held two sticks in his hand and kept the beat going on a cymbal that looked like it’s survived a war.  He played out the music with such ease, and led us all into a most beautiful time of singing.  The speakers were turned up loud, and high pitched feedback joined in the song.  A man, with a moustache of course, leaned against the concrete wall and sang at the top of his lungs as he slammed together small finger cymbals.  The whole church joined in song, echoing throughout the neighbourhood.  As we continued to clap and sing out, a young man got up from his seat and walked up to the conga drum and began to slap his fingers rhythmically like a hummingbird.  It was an explosion of sounds, voices, music, shouting, and it was beautiful!  Not every one sang in tune, and the audio feedback and crashing broken cymbals sometimes hurt the ears…but there was a clear and pure sound of love that couldn’t be missed.  It’s amazing what love can bring out in the midst of our mess.  In fact, without love all we are is a bunch of resounding gongs or clanging cymbals (1 Corinthians 13).

Our month in India was an explosion of love!

There were three major areas of ministry that we were involved with: the clinic, house visits, and children’s camp.

The first was the clinic.

John and I went with a team from ARK International to Hyderabad, India hosted by an amazing couple, Doctors Sujai and Lavanya Suneetha.  They run a clinic called Nireekshana in Hyderabad that sees over 1000 HIV/AIDS patients monthly.  The name, “Nireekshana” means HOPE, and after being involved at the clinic for the month it is clear that they are restoring hope to lives each day.  The clinic runs so smoothly and does an amazing job at clinical care and counselling, which we got to be involved with.  Their services go far beyond counselling, but this was an area where we could be involved.  We sat alongside the counsellors and listened to the stories of each patient, prayed for healing, created new file folders for the patients, sorted out vitamins in the pharmacy, learned from the doctors and drank a lot of tea.

Drinking tea in India is an event in itself.  Masala Chai, or spiced tea was our favourite!  It is a delicious concoction of hot milk, spices like cardamom, cloves and ginger, sugar and tea.  In the Nireekshana clinic there is a man, tall and moustached, gold rings stacked up each finger, bandana and hat upon his head and never without his red thermos of tea in hand ready to share with each person coming through the door.  He took a great liking to my husband which meant an endless supply of tea for us…definitely no complaints there 🙂  Sometimes when language is a barrier all you need to do is sip your tea and smile, enjoying the moment.

Much of my personal involvement at the clinic was in painting a mural for their children’s room.  With a large number of children visiting the clinic regularly for check-ups or accompanying their parents, the children’s room was a vital space to allow them some time to just play and enjoy being a kid.  The paint on the walls was peeling and the space was in need of some love.  A few of us got together and cleaned up the space, painting a mural that would serve as a backdrop to inspire and bring smiles to the next generation of children, and hopefully their parents!  While the mural was full of butterflies, flowers and birds, the process was not as cheery.  The room was HOT, because India at that time was HOT!!!!  Temperatures soared beyond 45 degrees celsius, and without ventilation or air conditioning the room felt close to 50 degrees!  Perhaps the heat was part of our inspiration to paint a pond, a tree that brings shade, and some mountain tops.  I pray that the room brings a cool, refreshing breeze to those who go to play between doctor check-ups and tests; that it would be a room of peace and joy.

mural girl

Home Visits.

Seeing a person in their home helps us to see them more fully.  The style of their home, the colours on their walls, the things in their refrigerator and the place they sit to relax…these things all give more insight into who someone is.  As part of our ministry time in Hyderabad, we were given the opportunity to travel into a variety of communities and visit people’s homes.  With each home we visited, we heard stories of healing and triumph over sickness, stories of suffering and loss, and stories of hope and new life.  We also shared stories and testimonies of God’s goodness and faithfulness, stories of encouragement and comfort, and sometimes the story to share was just a hug and a hand held.  At one house visit, we attended a funeral…unlike any funeral I’ve been to before.  It was in a small one room house, many people crowded in and four generations of women stood proud for us to see.  The great grandmother, stunning and smiling, gave me a hug as though I were her own daughter.  I felt instantly loved and welcomed in their home.  A young girl danced in the classical Indian style she was learning, called Bharata Natyam. She wore emerald green and gave a shy smile as we clapped for her.  The widow was one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen, dressed in a light grey and blue sari and glowing as her family and friends gathered around.  The Bible tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15) and at this home, we surely did both.

On our first home visit, John and I travelled an hour outside of the city to a small village to spend the evening with a lovely woman and her family.  She has two children, and works at Nireekshana clinic where she was first brought in as a patient fighting TB and AIDS.  We ate a delicious dinner of chicken curry and daal and rice with many servings of mango juice.  Hearing her testimony helped me to understand the reality of this disease and how it can play out in someone’s life.  The beautiful thing is that she boasted of God’s goodness the entire time, not once dwelling on the difficulties she’s faced.  Her heart’s desire, as she shared, is to minister and bless others that are in the same place she once was…to bring them hope and healing.  Each day she travels two hours by bus to go to the clinic and work as a counsellor, praising God for giving her strength.  John and I felt so blessed to have that time with her and her family, and to pray over them and their house.  I love how God shows us more of who He is through seeing a bit of someone else’s life.  That day I saw God’s strength in a new light, an “ever-present help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

On one of my last days in India, a few of us went to a nearby slum to visit with families, pray, and follow up on a number of patients living there.  We travelled with one of the Nireekshana staff members who helped us to navigate our way through the many homes.  On the way there I overheard someone call the place “Goat Paradise” which I was sure I had misheard…but as we pulled up to the area, it was clear that this was in fact a goat’s paradise.  Goats big and small huddled around abandoned buildings, some tied up to the existing beams of the building, others walking about.  A young boy befriended me as I explored the area and with great pride and joy, introduced me to his goat.

“This is my goat named Channi” the boy exclaimed.

I told him, “She’s beautiful” to which he corrected me and informed me Channi was a boy.

“I will bring his sister to meet you” he said as he ran off to grab the other goat.  “Her name is Thulasi!”

“Wow!  I have a friend in Canada named Thulasi….but she’s a human” I shared with excitement!

“I have a sheep at home.  I will bring her to you now,” and off he went again to bring the sheep.

As simple or silly as it sounds, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this young boy, his friends and his goats and sheep.  Being able to connect with him and meet all his animals was a highlight of my day.  Plus, I have never seen a boy so closely bonded to his goat…it was adorable!  He invited me to hug his cow too, but the cow was more like a bull and I kindly patted it’s nose and called it a day.  Goats are more my territory.

We continued to walk about through Goat Paradise and visit the homes made of old wood, broken billboard signs and cardboard.  We prayed for many babies that day, asking that God would bless the little children and their families and provide in abundance for each one.  And as we prayed for their abundance, they shared their juicy mangos with us in abundance!

Children’s Camp.

The first week we arrived in India,  there was a camp about to be held next to the house where we were staying for a group of children also living with HIV/AIDS.  The camp was aimed at teaching the children practical life skills such as craftsmanship, cooking, and how to build a strong immune system.  Our team worked alongside the local leaders and helped lead games and activities and Bible studies with the children.  Most of the children were fourteen years old and had been orphaned at a young age, living in a children’s home about three hours outside of the city.  One of my favourite times with them was when we did a personality test called “DISC” and talked about our unique characters which led to some great conversation.  Each leader gathered with the group of children who also shared in the same personality type and chatted about their strengths and weaknesses. John led one of the groups, discussing the “D” personality type and the kids in his group really took a liking to him.  I loved seeing how they bonded and felt more confident in themselves, hearing John share stories that displayed his personality type.  As John opened up about our relationship to the kids, some of the older ones were curious and happy to hear about how a boy from Bangladesh and a girl from Canada with very different personalities came to be husband and wife.  They especially loved hearing John joke about what a talkative wife he has in comparison to his quieter demeanour.  It excites me to see these children develop big hopes and dreams for their future, dreams to get married and travel and work in amazing careers!

The camp continued throughout the week and we filled the small meeting room with watercolour paints and paper, making posters for the wall.  We jumped around and played dance freeze, soon to be upstaged by a few Bollywood dance performances from the kids!  We brought nail polish and let the girls take turns adding colours to their nails, which soon turned into a henna party where all the girls were eager to decorate the hands of us leaders.  We ate ice cream and laughed, told stories and mentored the kids throughout the week.  We even spent some special moments with the ladies who helped out in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning up after the children.  The cutest thing was watching them experience the magic of Photo Booth for the first time on our iPad.  Seeing their joy and amusement as they watched the screen warp and twist their faces was awesome and a great reminder to always enjoy a good laugh no matter your age.

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For years and years I had waited to go to India.  I had prayed about getting married and going into full time ministry with my husband, travelling and sharing God’s love with each person we met.  But for years and years all I could hear from God was, “Hold on.”  It was as if every direction i turned, every voice I heard was saying to me, “Hold on.”  I would turn on the radio while driving and each song seemed to have the lyrics, as though they were being sung directly to me, “Hold on.”

And so I waited…sometimes patiently, sometimes not.  But I waited knowing God’s best was on its way.  “Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).  I treasured those words upon reading them, and used them as fuel to keep holding on.

Now, seven years and a heap of samosas later, I stand with my husband at my side saying God answers prayer.  We are one week back from India and feeling great!  Our hope and vision is to keep serving God in our neighbourhood and anywhere else He may lead.  My favourite TV show is Gilmore Girls, and I love the theme song which sings, “Where you lead, I will follow” and those words ring true for me today!  John and I are living this life completely leaning on God to lead us.  I have now been living in Bangkok for just over a year, and John and I are excited about this season!

We are serving here as full time volunteers with the PAOC (Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada).  That means that we are fundraising for our monthly living and ministry costs.  God has been so faithful to us to provide for each step of the way, and we are excited to see that grow as our ministries grow!

John continues to bless people with Aquaponic Systems giving fresh fish and plants to families in need.  To make one standard sized Aquaponic System, fully stocked and ready to go costs about $750 CAD.  With just one system, a family of five can enjoy fresh veggies, herbs, and fish for years.  The only maintenance cost is to replace the fish every six months as they are eaten. With the growing number of refugee families in Bangkok, unable to work or leave their homes safely, these systems can make a huge difference!  This month John is also going to be taking on a new position as Head Chef in Antique Cafe!  This cafe, located in the city, exists to not only bring delicious coffee and food to the people of Bangkok, but also to use their resources to bless the community and bring change to people lives.  Their focus is to help bring justice to the transgender community in Bangkok, helping to provide jobs and education to those in need.  Bangkok has a large transgender community and John is excited to be able to bring God’s love to them through his love of cooking!

I am continuing to lead the Children’s Ministries at our local church, Newsong Bangkok.  My hope is to help empower and encourage the children and their families to serve God in their neighbourhoods, that we would bring an explosion of love into Bangkok!  I’m also hoping to be able to host some family based community events, blessing our neighbours in practical ways. One of the challenges we face is the transient nature of our church community and how it affects our leadership and congregation.  Please join me in praying for our church and community, that the name of Jesus would be lifted high and that there would be a great awakening in people’s hearts.  I know that even in my own heart I can get bogged down by all the busyness of life, distracted by tasks and life in general.  I am excited to see God bring new life to our church family!

If you would like to partner with us as monthly supporters, giving financially to help us with our mission in Thailand, you can give online at https://paoc.org/donate/johnrebeccaviapianaross by clicking on the “Donate” button.  We need about $2,000 CAD monthly for our living and ministry costs.  And if you’re interested in hearing more details about what we’re doing here, we are happy to share more!

We’re also excited to be getting involved more with the PAOC family here in SouthEast Asia!  God’s been blessing us each day with new friends, great food (Thailand is seriously like food paradise!!), amazing family, and even a little baby niece on her way!! My brother and his wife are expecting their first child this summer!!  I can’t wait to hold their little Thaitalian (Italian/Canadian and Thai mix)!!

Before I sign off, I must say something about the FOOD in INDIA!!!  WOWOWWW!!!  Samosas are everywhere, including the movie theatres next to the popcorn. Could life get any better?!?!  Hyderabad is famous for its Biryani and they did not disappoint!!  Paneer and spinach, eggplant curries, this mysterious green vegetable that I love, mustard seeds and curry leaves, jilapi sweets oozing with sugar, and every type of dosa, naan and roti imaginable!  I gotta start planning my next trip… 🙂

Wherever you are, and whatever goodies are at your doorstep, I hope you enjoy a delicious day, exploding with love!

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“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

Romans 12:12, 13

Two double decker buses, decorated with every colour of the rainbow and packed full of children, awaited us at the top of the street.  We climbed in, escaping the scorching sun, and so began our journey to Suphanburi, Thailand.  This was the start of Camp Zoe!

Three hours later we arrived in the beautiful countryside, surrounded by the biggest tropical plants I’ve ever seen!  Palm leaves as big as a refrigerator…it looked like a scene out of Jurassic Park, but without the dinosaurs of course!  Sixty children from Bangkok and neighbouring cities, almost entirely boys, came running out of the buses ready to start all the Camp craziness. Many of them were retuning to Camp Zoe after being involved in previous years, others, including myself and John, were experiencing it for the first time.

Camp Zoe was started a few years ago by Ark International as part of their overall goal to introduce kids to Jesus and help them to develop their character and leadership qualities.  The camp is aimed at children living in slums, ages eleven to eighteen.  A number of these children are not in school or have limited education and have entered the labour force at a young age in an attempt to help their family’s survival. Many of them are without good mentorship and have been subjected to crime and injustice, lacking important life skills and hope of breaking out of poverty.  Camp Zoe is one of a number of ways that we are helping to bring opportunities, teach life skills, and offer valuable mentorship.  But even more importantly, Camp Zoe is all about bringing children to a life in Jesus!  The name Zoe means life…and that’s exactly what Jesus has for us.  Life in abundance!  Even though the camp lasts only a week, the experience they have with Jesus and with the leaders and other children lasts well beyond the week.

Each morning starts with a breakfast – fried rice, eggs, toast, rice porridge, sometimes noodles, sometimes Spaghetti, and salad.  Yes, these breakfast options may seem a bit peculiar to many, but it is delicious and filling!  Plus, how can you go wrong with fried rice and eggs!? There was this one young boy, chubby cheeks and a shaved head leaving just a small round patch of hair atop his head, and he would spread a thick layer of butter on his toast, both sides…and jam.  Then he would sit down and scrape it off bit by bit, eating the butter and jam and leaving the toast behind.  I quite enjoyed seeing this process.

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After breakfast we all headed to the main meeting room for morning devotions, worship and game time.  I am so used to having to persuade and usher teenagers to engage in small group time that I just assumed it would be the same with these kids.  I was shocked and pleasantly surprised to see these young men and women dive into their small groups, laughing and participating in the activities and learning time.  I could see so much hunger for God, and a love of learning.  It was beautiful.  Worship was a similar experience.  Of course we still had a few at the back, unsure of what to do as the music played out, but I could tell that the children were so glad to be there.  We had an AMAZING band led by Danny Brown from Bangkok with us, and they really helped to bring out the joy and fun in worshipping God through song.  The first song was “Mercy is Falling” sung in Thai, and played with a lot of percussion and passion.  The rest of the songs were written in Thai and carried with them the cultural style and sounds of Thailand.  I was in tears seeing everyone jumping and singing and dancing for God!  There was spontaneous breakdancing, conga line dancing, and more traditional Thai style dancing.  There was such a sense of freedom in the room!

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This year the camp’s theme was “Elements”.  The kids were divided into six teams: Water, Earth, Lightning, Stone, Wind and Fire.  Everyday after lunch we played a variety of competitive team games like relay races, water balloon basketball, a scavenger hunt, and anything that involved running and jumping.  It was insanely hot outside…one day was over 40 degrees celsius!!!  So water was a large part of our game time 🙂  And when it came time for free time, the kids made a bee line for the pool, stripping layers as they ran.  Just imagine fifty teenage boys all catapulting and flipping into a pool at the same time…it was like a pool full of hyperactive dolphins!  I really loved my time by the pool because suddenly the language barrier didn’t matter.  All these kids wanted was someone to watch them flip and swim about, high-fiving them and clapping for their accomplishments!  I felt like a happy mother of many watching my kids try to jump higher and swim further than the last time.

I think sometimes we can be like that with God, jumping about and waving “look at me, look at me!”.  We so desire to have someone to clap for us, notice us and smile proudly, high-five us when we do something great or even when we trip and fall into the water.  God gives the best high fives, and He delights in us and all that we do.  It says in Psalm 149:4 that “…the Lord takes delight in his people; He crowns the humble with victory.”  What an amazing heavenly Father we have, that He would delight and take pleasure in seeing us live out our lives for Him, and that He brings reward to the humble.  The world rewards the famous and talented, but God is looking for humble hearts…people willing to fall into the pool in their attempt to flip backwards.

Our adventures at Camp Zoe continued.  Dodgeball, basketball, noodles, spicy soup, ice cream, water fights and bike rides.  A very special memory of mine was when this one young boy, shaggy haired with a big toothy cheeky smile, mischievous as ever…invited me for a bike ride.  Because we were communicating through a number of hand gestures, broken English and Thai, and a lot of smiles, I wasn’t sure if he wanted me to watch him ride the bike or ride one of my own.  In fact, it was neither…he wanted me to sit on the back of the bike as he rode the bike.  Now keep in mind he is half my size, as is the bike, and my legs could drag along the ground.  I’m afraid I’m going to break the bike completely, fall off the back, or both.  But this little boy’s kindness and eagerness to play with me, and treat me to a tour on the back of his bike was enough motivation for me to say yes.  So I hopped on the back, held on for dear life and away we went wobbling to and fro.  It was the best ten minutes of my whole week, zipping past other kids, bumping over bridges and swerving under bats as the sun set.  We took turns driving after the first few minutes, be he insisted to drive me…such a gentleman.  I felt like God really used that time to free me from my own mind, and break me out of any worries I had.  It was simply fun, and that was just what I needed 🙂  It’s no wonder that God says we are to enter His Kingdom with the heart of a child (Matthew 18:3).

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On our final night at camp, there was a big campfire, marshmallow roasting, and even a Samoan fire dance from one of our leaders!  It was awesome!!  I felt like we were in the movie “George of the Jungle” in that scene where George and Ursula dance around the fire to the song, “Dela“, completely free of any inhibitions…but without the band of gorillas.  Kids roasted marshmallows on long sticks of bamboo while some of our leaders from Cambodia were dancing by the fire.  Other children chased after their leaders in a game of moonlight tag making circles around the fire.  My personal favourite thing to see was my friend, Golf, teaching a group of kids how to breakdance on the grass.  I could see that they felt so loved and important as they practiced balancing on their heads and flipping about.  The children were led in a prayer to give their hearts to God and follow Him, and with the Thai worship music playing out in the back and heads bowed, I was overwhelmed with God’s presence. Earlier that evening all the leaders were invited to pray over the children as they came forward desiring to follow God and receive freedom in Jesus.  I was in tears again praying for them, asking God to lead them as warriors and mighty men and women of God!  Seeing the pure and simple hunger for God in these children encourages me.  Please join with me in prayer for them, that they would be set apart, leaders in their communities, carrying the good news of Jesus with them to their families and friends!  I pray that they would be like seeds, planted in fertile soil, sending roots deep down into the ground.  I pray that they would be showered with living water and raised up as strong and mighty trees, able to stand firm in any storm.

John and I came across this song while at Camp Zoe, and it fit in so well with the theme of the week and the lyrics really stood out to me.  I feel like these words describe the children I met at camp:

“Oh I’ve been pushed down into the ground
Oh how I have been trampled down
Lord I put my trust in thee
You won’t turn your back on me

Oh I am a seed
Oh I am a seed
I’ve been pushed down into the ground
But i will rise up a tree”

Many of them have been pushed down, trampled on, ignored or hurt.  But with their trust in God, there is purpose and hope found…they are seeds and they will rise in Him!  We’re all seeds….sometimes hurt or tossed aside.  Sometimes pushed down and surrounded by darkness.  Be encouraged that from that place, God’s hand is there and He is our living water and the one that can bring us back to life, and a life greater than we could ever hope for or imagine. Just like a seed has to break free from its shell before it can become a plant, we must let go and surrender our shells to God and allow Him to raise us up.

John and I are back from Camp Zoe, but only for the weekend.  This Monday we are off to India!  We are excited and hopeful of what God has in store for us!  Please join us in praying for the city of Hyderabad…that God would do great and mighty things in the lives of everyone we meet, for favour and protection, and that our group would be bold in faith, and united as sowers of seeds.  God has provided all of our funds and He is making a way for us to go, and I am confident that He is with us in every step of this journey!!  I am so excited for this adventure!!

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I am SOOOO excited for samosas and saris!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

John 12:24

Fear gets in the way.

Sometimes fear leads us to run. Sometimes fear leads us to hide.  Sometimes fear leads us to escape to a far away land or an imaginary place in our mind where we’re safe and surrounded by happy sorts of things.

I never thought of myself as a fearful person.  As a child, I loved the thrill of a roller coaster…being whipped around as though I was weightless and seeing the world pass through my eyes upside down and backwards.  I enjoy heights, and seeing things from a new perspective…having that feeling of a thousand butterflies in your tummy as you look down.  I love travelling to new places and jumping over puddles, and trying new foods.  Of course, I have had my fair share of fears throughout life…bad dreams, scary growling dogs, and my strange fear of ostriches.  But none of these were ever so serious or overwhelming.  The bad dreams went away, the growling dogs stopped growling, and well…I still don’t like ostriches.  They’re just so strange.

Recently, I have been faced with a number of challenges and fears that surpass my fear of dogs and dreams and obscure birds.

I have now been living in Bangkok, Thailand for eleven months.  ELEVEN!  Yes, to some that may seem like nothing…but for me, this has been my longest time being away from my family back home in Canada.  I often miss my family and friends, my church family, the convenience of getting in my car and driving to the mall or local Starbucks…it’s the simple things.  While I still refer to Canada as home, I also call Bangkok home.  My husband is here, my brother and sister-in law, and soon to be little baby niece live here!  Plus, God has given me a church family here in the city and friends and a whole new variety of Starbucks locations to visit!!  Isn’t it funny how just being able to sit in a familiar place and eat or drink a familiar flavour can make you instantly feel at home 🙂

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As I sit and write this, I am eating a chocolate cake cooked in a mug 🙂  A mug cake.  Ooey gooey deliciousness!   I tell you this for two reasons:  1 – because all good things should be shared  (http://www.cleobuttera.com/cakes/molten-chocolate-mug-cake/) and 2 – because eating chocolate cake in a mug on your couch just feels SO homey!!  And that’s exactly how I feel…at home 🙂

The challenges of my life currently, the ones that surpass my childhood fears, are predominantly having to do with paper.  This of course sounds ridiculous, but paper work can be quite the challenge.  Here is a bit of a breakdown of what I mean:

Sponsorship Papers:  My husband and I are working on our Canadian Sponsorship application which will open the door for him to come to Canada. The difficulty is not so much in the types of questions they ask, but rather in the multitude of forms and background documents required to prove the validity of our relationship.  I like to think of it as us creating a massive, in-depth scrapbook of our relationship that we then hand over to Immigration.

VISA papers:  Living in a country that is not your own also means that a Visa is required to stay here past the normal short term length of a visit.  God provided me with a long-term Visa that doesn’t expire until much later next year.  Our challenge right now is to find John a Visa…his expires in late July, and so we are praying and trusting God to bring an opportunity for a new Visa for him. With many new rules being put in place, it is becoming increasingly difficult to live here as a foreigner.  But God is a BIG God, and just as He provided in the past, we know He will keep providing!

India papers:   An amazing opportunity to go and serve in Hyderabad, India for a month has come up and John and I believe God has called us both to go.  I have been praying about and dreaming about India for the past seven years or so.  Just the mention of the name has brought excitement to me.  I felt like God was leading me there, and preparing me to go for many years now, and now the time has come, or so we hope!  John and I are in the process of raising funds for this trip where our focus will be to serve families in need, and help to lead outreach programs for children.  The plan is to leave on April 27th, and return at the end of May.  We need approximately $4,000 CAD to go for the month which includes our costs for flights and accommodation as well as the ministry costs for the programs we will be helping to lead.  We also need to apply for tourist Visas to get into India.  The trip is being organized by ARK International, an International Organization that serves to help transform the lives of children at risk.  John and I really believe that God is leading us to go, and so we are trusting that He will provide a way for us to go.

Seeing these three areas of my life written out almost makes them seem less daunting.  While I am usually an overly optimistic person, the overwhelming nature of life these days has often led me to feel more on the negative side.  Fear creeps in ever so quietly and suddenly I hear myself using the words “I’m scared” a lot.

I am scared of not knowing what is happening next.

I am scared that I won’t be able to handle more changes.

But this is not what God has called me to…He has called me to “Do it Afraid!”, to step out in fear, to trust Him and not allow the lies of the enemy to keep me from the amazing journey at hand!  God used those exact words, “Do it Afraid” to confirm His call on me to go to Romania years back.  And here I am again standing at the edge, afraid of what is coming and unsure of how to move forward.  The list of “what if’s” is large…but God’s list of “I Am’s” is greater!

For every fear and excuse we have, God tells us that He is greater, and He has GOOD things in store for us.  The Bible is full of times when God spoke “Do not be afraid”.  We are not children of fear or anxiety or worry, but rather children of a promise.  We have a God who cares for even the smallest of birds.  He works all things together for good.  He provides for our every need, and delights in bringing us joy…just like a father delights in giving his child the very best of all he has.

This Easter weekend, we had a beautiful church service and sang a song called “Great I AM”.  The words that really resonated in my heart as we sung them out were,

“The mountains shake before You the demons run and flee
At the mention of the name King of Majesty
There is no power in hell
Or any who can stand
Before the power and the presence of the great I AM”

There truly is nothing greater than God!  Our fears have no place in His presence.  No authority can stand up to Him, and no power can overtake Him.

I feel so encouraged and drawn to these words as I think of all the tasks and obstacles at hand.  I believe that the government will give us favour in all we do.  I believe that all of our Visa issues and needs will be addressed and taken care of well beyond our own capabilities.  I believe that John and I are exactly where we need to be at this time, and that wherever God may lead us, it will be good.  And He will provide the way.

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In the midst of all that is going on in our lives, John and I have been having an amazing first year of marriage!! I love him more today than ever before, and feel more and more connected to him each day.  He is faithful and kind and selfless in his love towards me.  The other day we sat and folded laundry on the floor and I just felt so loved and happy to have him in my life 🙂 It’s those little quiet moments when you feel like you’re in a movie and soft piano tunes play out while the audience gets teary-eyed…those moments I love the most.

We are in a special season.  A chapter of our story that is filled with growth, and character development.  My time working at the International school has come to an end, both happy and sad.  It was a hard time for me, but also an amazing time of being rerouted by God.  The job was good in its season, but when it ended I felt an excitement and anticipation that was missing. God helped to reroute me back to a place of full time ministry.  I’ve been involved for the past few months in community work with ARK International, and helping to lead children’s programs for those in need.  It’s been a really good season for me, and God is so good to bring me to a place where I can feel fulfilled and passionate, and very much like myself 🙂

John, who has also been living a lifestyle of ministry, and I are now working together as we serve our community and share God’s love with those we meet.  We both serve at our local church, Newsong Bangkok.  John leads the Aquaponics ministry, which continues to grow, and I lead the Children’s Ministries.  Our group has grown from five children to over twenty who attended today!  Seeing kids become friends and connect with each other while they learn about Jesus is the best thing!  One young girl has been a special encouragement to me.  Her mom informed me that each night, since they met me, her youngest daughter prays for her “Miss Becky” as she refers to me.  I was nearly in tears hearing that!  How powerful is it that God uses even the youngest child to bless and encourage you!  I love kids so much 🙂  And my husband, Farmer John, loves to plant and grow…I’ve never seen a man be so excited to watch his plants grow.  It’s beautiful and adorable 🙂  He is not just passionate about the plants, but more so about helping others in practical and life-giving ways.  I see this picture of my husband, a fisher of men, a sower of seeds, a man who bakes and brings the daily the bread, and a man who cares for the weak and the poor.

Aquaponics System

We are looking for people who are interested in supporting us, and giving towards what we are doing here in Thailand. As neither of us are being paid for our ministry involvement, we depend on the giving of others.  It is not always easy, but it is so worthwhile to see how God provides in the most practical of ways for us.  Our monthly living costs are about $2,000 CAD, so we hope to find people that would be willing to invest in us on a monthly basis, and help us to do what God has called us to do. Anyone wishing to support us can give online at https://paoc.org/donate/johnrebeccaviapianaross and also at http://www.internationalmissionssupport.com/Donations.html, for our American friends.

Although we don’t know what next month, or tomorrow will look like, we can stand firm and know that it will be good because God is there.  Wherever you are, whatever fears you hold, the Great I AM is there with open arms and is saying, “Do not be afraid”.

“The Lord is for me; I will not be afraid.

What can man do to me?”

Psalm 118:6

I got a job!  I’ve been working for the past month and a half in an amazing International School with a group of Dyslexic children that I have grown to love.  The job came as an answer to prayer…literally five minutes after praying about finding a job with a friend, I received a phone call from the school asking me to come in for an interview!  I’m working as a teaching assistant in the specialized program for Dyslexic children and loving it!

The school is only five minutes from my house and looks like a castle!!  Someone told me the design was inspired by Hogwarts…and I can definitely see that!! The students come from all over the world and range from kindergarten to high-school.  In our program we have seven children from Germany, Norway, the UK and beyond!  Many of these children have spent their lives travelling with their parents, moving from one country to another for work and they adapt and make new friends just like I’ve been doing.

My amazing husband, John, drives me to work each morning on our trusty motorbike.  We first turn left out from our condo, then take the first right onto Soi (street) 14.  There are certain Thai words that even when speaking english, we still use…like “soi” meaning “street”.  Soi 14 is usually pretty easy to get through.  There are often people outside cooking chicken skewers on a grill and selling other hot treats from their food carts.  There are homes and shops and while the road is narrow, there is a lot going on!  There is even a patch of land that has chickens running about and looks very rural.  At the end of the soi, we turn right onto a busy street with crazy morning rush hour traffic.  There are taxis everywhere, and in every colour – green, yellow, red, pink, purple, motorbikes scooting about and squeezing through every spare inch of space on the road, mini red buses with people hanging off the back, and even elderly women on bicycles riding against the traffic!  It is a sight to be seen!  In Thailand we drive on the left side of the road, so a right turn is a tricky thing sometimes, but John always manages to make a safe and quick turn (don’t worry Dad – we’re staying safe!!) and then it’s off to our next soi.

We pass a gas station on our left, and then make a left turn onto the next major soi marked with a big yellow arrow.  The corner has an old worn down couch that never seems to be picked up by the garbage truck and could very well be used by someone awaiting a taxi…but there is an interesting, not so pleasant smell at that corner, so i would avoid it.  I like this half of the trip, aside from the smelly corner of course, because there are a lot of green trees and plants in this area so the air feels more fresh! There are some larger homes along this soi and other office buildings with signs I can’t read.  We make another right turn, and then another quick turn again and then just around the bend, past the trees and behind the tall iron gates is Berkeley International school!  It’s amazing how much land they own!   I always feel like I’ve travelled through different worlds and eras to get to school in the morning.  From chickens and food-carts to a castle like Hogwarts!!

Each morning I walk down with the class to the flag ceremony where we sing a Thai song, raise the flag, hear the announcements and enjoy a little chuckle from the super enthusiastic Headmaster as he sends us all back to class with a spirited “Keep on learning!!”  It’s a great way to start the day.  But of course, that takes second place to my husband making me homemade cinnamon and sugar sprinkled doughnuts for breakfast before work…now THAT’S a great way start the day!!!!

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Working at the school has really been helping me to get back into the swing of things, and feel more like myself again.  With all the changes going on this past year, I have been struggling with my identity.  I didn’t even realize it at first, but after some good reflection time with close friends and family I have had the word “identity” come up a number of times.  For many many years of my life, things were pretty consistent.  I played piano regularly, worked with children, was surrounded by the same core group of friends for many years, had a steady job and was single.  Without even realizing it, I had been defining myself by the things I did and the people I knew.  God’s been really helping me to stir that up and teach me what it means to have my identity wrapped up in Him, and Him alone.

It amazed me that my husband John, upon first meeting me, didn’t love me for my talents or my friends or any other accomplishment of mine.  He had never heard me play the piano or seen me work with kids.  He didn’t pursue me for my talents or my reputation.  I almost felt upset at first, thinking “how could he possibly love me without knowing all those things about me”.  I was so set on defining myself by all these things I’ve done whereas he saw past that into my character and my heart and loved me.  John was showing me God’s love which goes beyond all those surface things and looks into our core being.  God says to us “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).  God is so in love with us, His children whom he created perfectly, that nothing we do or say can add to or take away from that love.

Being here in Thailand, learning to be a wife, finding new friends and a new job, while adapting to a new culture and language is not always a cup of tea, and has often got me feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed.  Each day I need to remind myself that I am His daughter first, and everything second.  A daughter of the King; a princess that now gets to work in a castle 🙂  And as His daughter, I have no need to worry or fret about the coming days. “She can laugh at the days to come,” are words describing the godly woman of Proverbs 31.  A woman whose identity is so safely found in God that laughter flows out instead of fear and anxiety.

God is working all things together in a beautiful way, beyond my imagination.  As I feel my life changing more and more, it is all the more reason to dig deeper in my faith and fall deeply in love with God again and again.  My amazing friend LJ reminded me the other day to fall in love with God and since then those words have been stuck in my head.  The world tries to convince us to focus on ourselves and love ourselves…but the truth is that we need to fall in love with God.  Loving Him brings us closer to His heart.  It’s like when you first meet someone and fall in love with them, you hang on every word they say.  You long to hear them say your name and tell you sweet things about you.  Because you trust them, and love them, those words pierce your heart and even challenge you to see yourself in a new way.  With our loving Father God, as we fall in love with Him, spending time with Him and hearing His words, our own ideas of who we are are challenged.  We begin to see ourselves clearly, not through the world’s lenses of insecurity and superficiality, but through His perfect sight.  We let His comforting words of Psalm 139 fill us and define us leaving no room for the lies of this world.

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I think my life is sometimes like my drive to work.  I can often start off as a chicken – afraid and clucking about.  But as I continue my adventure through winding roads, God always brings me to the castle and reminds me that I’m part of His Kingdom, a child in His family.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”1 Peter 2:9

This is a continuation of my story.  A story of a girl who has trouble calling herself a woman because she still feels thirteen.  A story of a princess and prince.  A prince from a far away land with a white horse…and by “white horse” I mean a white motorbike that is our main mode of transportation here in Bangkok.

This is a story of a big God, with a big heart, and an unrelenting love.

A story of how an avocado brought together a girl from Canada and a boy from Bangladesh to the beautiful country of Thailand.

After returning home from Romania, a land that will always be a home away from home for me, i started working downtown Toronto in a Real Estate company.  I was introduced to a world of high-heels and suits, and exposed to the fascinating workings of a big business.  During those two years, i learned new skills in administration and finance all the while sitting at a desk on the 46th floor overlooking Lake Ontario in all its beauty.  The best part of my job, however, was the people I met.  A manager who would rearrange my desk everyday and called me ReRe; a broker with the deepest booming voice I’ve ever heard; a boss with the widest grin and ability to make everyone smile; and a wavy haired coworker who doubled as my giggle partner/Scarborough sister/file room confidant/best-friend.  I loved my job!  Of course, our office had its difficulties…but those were just opportunities to be a light.  That’s not to say that I didn’t have my fair share of moments where all I wanted to do was lock my door, sit in my chair, twirl to face the wall and scream!  But then I’d get distracted by how fun it is to twirl in my chair to even be upset.  And when that wasn’t enough, my manager had a bouncy ball to sit on!  Let me tell you, if you ever want to avoid being upset at work, sit on a bouncy ball and you’ll have so much fun bouncing around to even care! 🙂

Now, while I was busy twirling around downtown Toronto, there was a prince baking bread and gardening in a far away land.  This prince was tall, compassionate and innovative.  He could turn a few plastic tubes, some Tilapia and seeds and a big bucket of water into a full on food production system with veggies and fish ready for eating!  Soon, this prince and my brother became friends, bonding over the art of baking bread and a love for God…a great combo!

This is the part of the story where the avocado comes in.

The avocado is one of my favourite foods.  All my trendy coworkers downtown would eat them for lunch and so of course, I had to try.  Instantly, I was in love with the delicious creamy green fruit and began to eat them regularly.  I would eat them with everything, and often just on their own with a little salt.  A friend of mine at work introduced me to eating them on bread with hot chilies…soooo good!!

While Skyping with my brother, Ben, in Thailand, i started telling him about my new love for avocados.   This led him to tell me that eating avocados makes you have twins.  TWINS!  This didn’t surprise me in the slightest.  I began to tell him how Rebekah in the Bible had twins, and “Rebecca” on “Full House” (an old favourite TV show of mine) had twins, and Rebecca Romijn – the actress who married John Stamos who played “Uncle Jesse”, husband of “Rebecca Donaldson’ on “Full House” – had twins!  (Yes, this is how my brain works.)  Naturally this led to me telling him about my namesake.   I told my brother how my name, Rebecca, is so often linked to the name “John” such as with the real Pocahontas whose name was later changed to Rebecca and was saved by John Smith and later married John Rolfe.  There have been many movies and TV shows where couples have been named “Rebecca” and “John”, not to mention the many many John’s I have met in the past few years.  There was a time when without a doubt, every new guy that I met at church, work, or anywhere for that matter was named John!  While meeting one John after another, I began to wonder what God was doing through this.  I laughed about it a lot, thinking on the surface it was a funny coincidence…but the truth was that I felt something bigger was underlying this Rebecca/John phenomenon.

My brother then said something that surprised me, in response to my longwinded story.  I thought he would laugh or tell me I’m nuts…but instead he said “I know a John.”

“We all do”, I laughed.  Though, he wasn’t laughing.  After a slight pause, I asked him what he was talking about.  He went on to tell me about a friend he had in Thailand named John.

I asked “Is he a cool guy?”

“Yeah”, Ben replied.

“Is he tall?”, being 5’11 this was a question I had to ask 🙂

“Yeah”.

“Does he love Jesus?”

“Yup!”

“Soooo, does he want to come to Canada” I asked, jokingly as I tried to understand what was going on.

“He might…” Ben told me in all seriousness.

I was feeling so many things, as this conversation went in an unexpected direction.  I was excited and confused and curious about this John my brother was telling me about.  Ben then told me John was originally from Bangladesh.  “He’s brown!!”  I couldn’t believe it…I’ve always had a love for and connection to brown people, as crazy as that sounds 🙂  My brother continued to tell me about John, painting a beautiful picture of this man I was now very curious to meet!  And for my older brother, who typically wants to send Thai ninjas after anyone looking my way, to want to set me up with someone…this was huge and had me that much more curious about the mysterious John!!

Soon after, John and I were texting, then Skyping. I like to say that with John, it was love at first Skype….corny, I know haha 🙂  On the outside things were moving quickly, but with each step we had peace and were resting on a foundation of many years of prayer for our future marriages and the support of family and friends.  Plus, John was so good to take the initiative and leadership in our relationship while he pursued me.  Even though I didn’t fall into his lap and start singing a duet about love, he really made me feel like such a princess.

The first meeting in person happened in August which made me smile.  I finally had my August Rush…my long awaited moment of meeting the man God had been preparing for me.  We were both a bit nervous, but the foundation had been laid in the month leading up to that moment.  I never expected to fall in love with a man I’d never met in person, but I did.  He pursued from the beginning, teaching me that love is a choice and he was choosing me.  Early on I was drawn back to my namesake thinking of Rebekah in the Bible.  She chose to be married to a man named Isaac whom she had never met, from a culture that was not her own, leading her to move to a far away land where he lived.  It was a Bible-time set up by Abraham, Isaac’s father, with the help of his servant.  Rebekah had to trust God in this adventure as she left behind her family and friends and familiar to meet her soon-to-be husband.

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Here I was being introduced to a man by my brother and invited to come to a new country and meet a man from a different culture who wanted to start a family with me.  While I didn’t ride a camel all the way to Bangkok, and got to actually talk to John many many times over the internet before meeting him, the Biblical story of Rebekah and Isaac was part of the confirmation and peace God was giving me in this new adventure.   John and I both could see God’s hand on us as we prayed and prepared for our lives together.

It’s now been four and a half months that I’ve been living here, and just over two months that we’ve been married.  CRAZY!  Sometimes I can hardly believe that I am in fact married.  But it’s a happy sort of reminder, and a sense of security and protection that I quite enjoy 🙂  And not to mention, my husband is a chef….so yeah, I’m a happy camper!!  Homemade roti on the regular here I come 🙂 🙂

This story is full of new people, new foods, and new jobs in a new country.  I’ve been taking longer to adjust to all the newness, but the strength I hold onto is that in the midst of all this often overwhelming newness, I have the same God.  And He is good 🙂

So while I continue in this new chapter of my life, husband at my side, eating spicy food and navigating our way through Bangkok’s busy streets on a white motorbike, I am excited because I know that God is here and He’s got John and I under His wings.

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“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.  Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  My salvation and my honour depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”

Psalm 62:5-12