Sunday, September 24, 2017

Reflections from Laura

The night before we left on this trip I looked at the weather in Bangkok as I had every other night and it hadn't changed much from thunderstorms and clouds and showers. Not only would it be extra uncomfortable to be wearing a rain poncho in 94 degree heat and humidity but once we got there we found out that many people would probably not show up for their appointments if it was raining. True to his promises, God provided us with what we need and in this case it was no rain for pretty much the whole week. It didn't start to pour until we had finished our day on Saturday and we were preparing to fly home. This gave 1000 people a chance to see what the church was like inside and realize that it was not a scary place at all but one filled with love and smiles and people showing a servant's heart. I had heard that one woman was thankful to have an opportunity to see inside of the church because she was afraid that if she went she would be put on a wooden cross because that is all she had seen and knew about being a Christian. We literally were starting at Ground Zero with people who have sometimes not even heard of our God. As one of the team members put it, the biggest Ministry that we can give is showing how we, as Christians, came halfway around the world just to be present to help with this eyeglass Clinic. The language barrier was frequent but the smiles and the hand motions and the hugs communicated just as effectively.

One of the stations I worked was to hand out glasses. I tried to learn some new Thai words and my favorite one was 'dudi' which means "looks good" and when it is said with a thumbs up there were many smiles when they tried on their glasses. There were very few people who asked for a different style, most took what they were given whether it was small oval granny glasses for men or Aviator style glasses for women, depending on the prescription . The gratitude and smiles when they could see and read again said it all.

What a privilege it was to show the love of Jesus to the Thai people.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The rarest jewel on earth is a servants heart

Reed Felton

 For the last 3 days of the clinic I was working with a lovely women, 62  years young, widowed for 20 years, and she lived on the church property.  On day 2 we handed out bags together after the people had been fitted for their glasses.  This was the last station in our process.  On the last 2 days we shared greeting duties as we brought groups of 10 people at a time into the church and got them started in our process. 

The first 2 days we became an effective team even though her english vocabulary was limited to “okay!” and she was constantly encouraging the people to say “Thank you” to us.  

The first day we worked together we discovered she was color blind and had to explain that people could choose a bag of any color they wanted,  she thought they were all the same.  On days 3 and 4 she was in her element greeting the people with a warm smile, the source of which was a very warm heart.  She even started coaching  me in her stretching routine. We were communicating but without many words.  Lots of smiles and gestures.

When preparing to leave on Friday she approached me with a gift.  It was a bag of small flowers grown on the church property similar to orchids, that can be dried and made into a fragrant tea.  Along with that she gave me 2 seed pods so I could grow them back in Wisconsin.  I won’t be able to bring this gift back but the gesture will never be forgotten.

I was sad to leave my new friend.  We all know that its not what you say that is so important but how what you say makes someone feel.  Her kind and gentle spirit touched me deeply.  Oh, and we were able to hand out some eye glasses too!

…and the the greatest of these is love

…and the the greatest of these is love

Wendy Li

Serving on this mission trip has been an incredible experience. It is hard to know where to begin. I can start by summing it up with the word "love."

For the first two days of the clinic, I worked at the same station, station 2. At this station, each clinic guest put their forehead up to the machine and their chin on a chin rest. I learned to tell each individual "nah pahk cheet" and "kung wah." Place your forehead and chin here. I felt so blessed to be able to greet every person who came through. 

Many guests demonstrated gratitude by thanking us through words, bows, hugs, and hand shakes. I felt God at work and love pass between us. I was blessed by each face, so beautiful and unique, no matter how worn, wrinkled, toothless, or elegant.

I worked with a woman named Nu, who taught me to speak a few words and also a lovely young woman named Nok. Duck was the optometrist who taught me to use the machine that read prescriptions. I was terrible at it, but he demonstrated great patience. Grace was in abundance. 

Everyone helped each other. We helped the guests. They helped each other. The Kuibiri church members and the JIL members all worked together with us. Loving relationships developed all around. God gave us the strength to work for hours in the heat and humidity. Smiles abounded all around.

Nu was most special to me. Again and again we embraced and told each other we loved each other. We do not speak each other's language, but that does not matter. We share a bond as Christian sisters. She is in a small Lutheran church in central Thailand. I am in a large air conditioned church in Brookfield. She is rich in spirit! We have connected online and our friendship will continue.

There is so much to tell...

Friday, September 22, 2017

Realizing our limitations

Realizing our limitations

Richard Li

Day 3 of the Eye Glass clinic was much like Days 1 and 2, just a little hotter today. 

Interesting how the local people are used to the heat. I remember when I was growing up that the mother of a friend loved the hot days. It was what she was used to when she was growing up.

Today my position had more direct interaction with the people. I was at the end of our process where the canvas bag and tracts were handed out right after they received their glasses. The people were so appreciative, and  hugs were not unusual. It surprised me because I thought Thailand was a non-touching type culture, as exemplified by people bowing at each other (wai) versus shaking hands like we do in the USA.

Kids (early teens?) at the church have been helping out for the past few days. Today, they took a more active role in helping people try on their new glasses. At one point, it was like Gregory was there to supervise the kids working the station.  The kids were fully engaged and was fun to see.

Unfortunately we had to turn people away which created some drama. Each District was given a set number of slots to distribute to their citizens. The clinic was by invitation only and not advertised as open to anyone. Word of mouth spread through the community, and people showed up seeking the free glasses. We only had enough supplies to distribute 1,000 eyeglasses, and we could not accommodate the walk-ins. We ended up filling cancellation slots with the walk-ins, and placing 30 people on a wait list for Friday morning’s final session. There were fewer slots on the final day to accommodate people who needed to reschedule. It was sad to turn away people in need but we did not have the supplies for the additional people. We knew that we were only going to be able to serve a small fraction of the need. It is one thing to see the limits on paper, it is harder when it happens in front of you.

 There is still a chance that Reed might be able to play the harmonica for the crowd. So, keep the prayers coming.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

For us to serve


… for us to serve

The Team left Prachuap and went to Kuriburi Church to help serve in the eye glass clinic.  We had the opening ceremony which included the District officials, mayor, Lutheran Hour Ministries team, BLC team and the Journey into Light team.  Most importantly, 6 eye care professionals were there as well, along with members of the church. 

The morning session at the clinic served 150 people providing them with the appropriate glasses and a case, a tote bag co-branded with the Kuriburi church and BLC, included some tracts and treats.  We served an equal number of people in the afternoon and by week’s end will have handed out 1000 pair of glasses.  The whole operation went very smoothly with 4 stations that included initial intake,  evaluation, prescription determination then choosing of the glasses.

All the people were very gracious and thankful for the eyeglasses.  The smiles on their faces spoke volumes about the significance of the teams work.

After dinner, we were able to have our team devotion on the pier and marvel in His creation.  While in Thailand the Thai people display a servant’s heart and take great joy in doing acts of service.  This helps us relate His command for us to serve.  Matthew 20:28 says” just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  We all feel privileged to be serving the people of Thailand.

Gregory Holley

The local district manager joined us for the opening ceremony


An initial eval is taken for a starting reference for the prescription 


Finally, they get to try their new glasses 

Wednesday, Day 2 of the Clinic

The 2nd day of the Eyeglass Clinic was much like the first day. I decided to mainly take videos so you could see the process. We are normally inside, and the few times I ventured outside to the main tent was during the clinic when registration is fairly slow (most people arrive at the beginning). Today I went to observe registration prior to when the clinic opened. It was chaotic. I will try to observe earlier so I can take some better pictures.

It did rain hard today, Fortunately it happened while we were cleaning up. By the time we were done, it had cleared up, and cooled down considerably. This evening we invited the teams (Journey Into Light, Optical team, Pastor and his wife) to a thank you dinner. It cost about 6,000 Baht to feed the 24 of us a nice dinner. For those of you keeping score at home, that is about $180 USD, or about $7.50/person.

Videos to be posted in the next post:

Reed had a really bad allergy attack (unknown cause) on Monday, which is why I do not have any videos of him entertaining the crowd. Pray he improves enough to play on Thursday or Friday.

Photos from others:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tuesday ~ First day of the Clinic

Tuesday was the first day of the Clinic. 

The schedule is:
7:00 breakfast when it opens
7:30 Van to Church/Clinic
8:00 Setup
9:00 Opening Ceremony
9:30 Session 1 of the Clinic
Noon Lunch
1:00 Session 2 of the Clinic
4:00 Clean-up, and return to hotel

I arrived at the breakfast buffet area around 6:45 and notice a huge group of people milling around. Turns out there will be a mad rush for breakfast as soon as it opens at 7:00. Having to wait in lines makes us have to eat a little faster.

All is well, and we make it to the clinic in time. Weather forecast: 93 degrees, sunny, chance of afternoon thunderstorms (humid).

There was a typical Opening Ceremony, but since we couldn't understand most of it, I will skip the description. Setup of the clinic is as follows:

Registration: Open air outside tent that can seat 100 people. People register and given a number (1-150). 150 is the number of people that are scheduled to be served during that 3 hour session. They are seated in rows, and move up as groups of 10 are called into the Clinic. Apparently  movement helps the waiting, even if it is only little movements.

Station 1 - Automated Refactor
:  Inside the Church (not air-conditioned) there is a sitting area for 10 people. The machine quickly determines the persons prescription, and prints out the report. There is one seat at this station. Wendy was trained to perform the Refractor Exam so the Optometrist team members could take a break.

Station 2 - Fitting:
 The prescription is verified and fine tuned by looking through the actual lens for that power. Round lenses of the appropriate power are placed into a special frame. The patient tries on the new glasses, and the prescription is adjusted. The Examiner writes the lens power for the eye glasses on the report from Station 1. There are three seats at this station. Even with three seats, Station 1 can create a long que for Station 2. Many times during the session people are held outside until the que for Station 2 can be reduced.

Station 3 - Distribution:
 Greg, nicknamed Mr. P for Personality, worked the morning session with 2 of the Optometrist Team members to distribute glasses. He had enough Thai vocabulary to help patients select a frame and see if the new glasses were working for them. Sometimes there were short lines as patients took a long time determining if the glasses were working for them.

At the end of Station 3, the patient receives the glasses, along with a tote that contains tracts and mints.

Station 5 - Group Photos
(10-20 patients) are taken.

The Optometrist team is quite efficient. They were able to serve 150 people in a little more than 2 hours. Note: Notice in the pictures that a lot of people wear black in mourning of the death of their King. He was well liked, and reigned for 70 years. The 1-year period of mourning ends in October, and which time he will be cremated and the prince will ascend to the Kingship.

Session 2 began in the heat of the day. The temperature was 90 degrees and the forecast was 94. We survived the morning session with minimal issues, and now for the real test. There was shorter ceremony at the beginning of the 2nd session (Each of the 6 Districts were assigned a session). The tent blocked the direct heat from the sun, but you could still feel the heat radiating off the roof of the tent. Inside the church it was a little warmer, but you could not feel the radiating heat off the roof. A few large floor fans helped to keep the room bearable. We did decide to use the van to provide an air conditioned place to give team members a break from the heat.