Greetings from Chiang Mai, Thailand!
Rev. Abhi and I have now been in Thailand for a few weeks, as part of the Asian Ecumenical Institute (AEI) - A young leaders training program hosted by the Christian Conference of Asia. We departed Auckland at 7am (NZT) on October 24th, and after stops in Sydney and Bangkok, arrived in Chiang Mai at 4am (NZT) on October 25th.
Thus far, the long trip has been well worth it. Chiang Mai is a great, mighty city, filled with a warm and vibrant people and energy. The weather has been quite hot so far, so thank God for air conditioning! The nation of Thailand is currently in mourning, in the wake of the loss of his majesty, King Rama IX, and so there are many shrines all over the city, in tribute to the long standing leader of this nation. For 1 year, Thailand will mourn, wearing black and refraining from any celebrations. It is unique time to be in the country, witnessing this, and also respecting the local people in their time of mourning.
As part of AEI, we are joined by young leaders from Myanmar, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia, India, Timor Leste and the Philippines. All bring a unique story and great deal of wisdom from within their own respective contexts.
In our first week here, we have learnt just as much outside of the classroom, as we have inside. One of the great benefits of such an experience is that we are able to hear and learn of people from different parts of the world - both in things that are familiar and things that are starkly different.
Personally, I have been constantly reminded of the many things our church (and country) take for granted. The empowering of women, support for the LGBT community, and the ability to follow Christ freely and safely are some of the things that immediately come to mind. These are normalized realities to us, but to many others only distant dreams, which seem far from ever becoming tangible reality. We are by no means perfect, but must never lose sight of the many things that make our Haahi a place worth celebrating.
Keep an eye out for more updates coming soon and please continue to uphold us in your prayers!
Grace and Peace