February- March 2014
The Restore Initiative is off to a great start this year. We have had a chance to meet with our pig group, which mostly focuses on women who are looking for a way to make a small income, has had the opportunity to come together and share ideas. I am excited to see what will come of this, there are many many villagers who want to join into this program, so the big challenge is how to move forward with this project as well as how to sustain it. What happens is 3-5 villagers form a group based off of common agricultural interests and we support them with the tools that they need to make a small income. They in turn support us, or give to another group, the initial investment. We have discussed a variety of options including resource based development, and mini- Co-Ops all with a focus on village development in the hands of villagers. By resourced based development I hope to see existing groups support interest groups by donating their “initial investment” to the next group rather than back to the committee. We hope in this way villagers will engage one another without reducing one another to a simple dollar.
This has been a really busy last month and a half. The Life Center has just closed and what a program it was. We began with 7 students and at the end we ended up having to close the center a month earlier than we originally planned too. The students were not so interested in formal study as they were in doing life together. This was difficult for us to adjust too. I only taught English for about 2 months and then I just focused on our bible studies. Tatupa taught for about 3 months and for the last 2 weeks he just worked with the students around the center, engaging in building projects. The three remaining students really pushed to get to the end of the program. I believe they really gave their hearts to God and really desire to see new life. This was a very hard group and most of the boys were local. Two of the three students that finished were heavy users of various substances, including alcohol, opium, an addictive little red pill called “crazy medicine” which is like a mix between meth and LSD from my understanding. One of the graduating students PaGwae told me that his biggest fear is that he will fall, I had the opportunity to tell him that we all fall, but what’s important is that give our failure, our defeats, even our victories to God, and He is always ready to receive us. I am emotionally exhausted and in need of a good rest, but God is good and we have finished our 2014 Life Center Program.
As the harvest ended, December was a slower and less hectic month for the villagers. Some villagers were quite upset as they had trouble selling corn and the price for corn ended up being only 4 baht/kilo which is roughly $0.13 USD/kilo. Since there isn’t much to be done in the fields right now, villagers collect firewood. This time of the year is usually colder than the rest of the year, but according to villagers, this ‘winter’ has been colder than other years.
December was an exciting time for Witoon as he was able to coordinate and oversee the excavation of land for another field and for a fish pond (pictured). Equally exciting was the purchase and installation of a water pipe that will aid in irrigation of crops. Witoon continues to take 4-500 banana bunches to market every couple weeks. We are so thankful that God continues to bless this work!
Witoon is very thankful to God and how he has looked after the project and the people this past year. Many villagers celebrated the new year by not working and staying at home. Witoon himself was away for a while for the Christmas holiday. In returning to the village, Witoon was disheartened to learn that a person was teaching the villagers that they still haven’t been born again and can be saved through him. Some villagers have bought into this lie and have left the church. Still, Witoon trusts and believes God has a plan in this difficult situation, but would appreciate prayers for this. Witoon is so thankful to God for Jonathan and everyone else who has believed in him, supported his work and enabled his dreams to come true.
The Life Center started with 7 Karen male students, almost all of whom were drug addicts. At the beginning, students spent time learning songs, learning the Bible, enjoying sports and growing vegetables. We also went out in the the forest to go camping and study out in the jungle. Three weeks passed, and 5 students snuck out to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. I took the opportunity to warn them that drinking and smoking is not aloud at the Life Center and does not lead to self improvement.
During the program we were able to take the students to visit other villages, worship together, and sing a variety of special songs. We spent 4 days with the local church in Mae Hae village, and I had the opportunity to preach the gospel. I have also had the opportunity to preform 2 wedding ceremonies.
At the end of February, 3 students left because they made a mistake and broke the rules by drinking alcohol. After that, another person was unable to complete the program because of a family issue and ended up leaving.
In March, the 3 remaining students were able to visit another village (Ban Huai Khao Lip) and were about to worship and visit with church members there for a couple of days. The students also dug a firebreak trench around the Life Center to prevent fires from destroying the center. We spent a lot of time preparing the students’ graduation ceremony, and on March 16th our students graduated (pictured with Tatupa and Jonathan), with about 100 villagers in attendance.
November was a busy time for our farmers as the corn and rice crops were ready for harvesting. The rice crop was good this year, and farmers worked together to collect, thresh, and bag the rice (pictured). Unfortunately, the corn crop has not been good this year and will fetch a poor price. This has greatly upset the corn growers and some are becoming interested in growing bananas as bananas can be sold throughout the year and are fetching a better price than corn. People who are raising bananas are really happy and in good spirits regarding their banana crops. They hope to expand their fields in the near future.
Witoon also expressed his gratitude at this time for the people who donated money for the creation of a demonstration center for him. He feels very honored for this opportunity and is really excited for how he’ll be able to use this center.