“Ye have not, because ye ask not.”
So often we don’t ask because we think it’s just “too much” to expect or to believe for. And we miss out.
But last November, ZOE asked! We wrote a letter to the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand in Bangkok, inviting her to visit our children’s home the next time she visited Chiang Mai.
On a recent beautiful September day, our letter was answered in person by a visit to the ZOE Children’s Home by Ambassador Kristie Kenney. The ZOE family was privileged to play host to the Ambassador and her team which included Mr. Ken Foster, Consul General of the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai, and Vice Consul Paul Neville.
Ambassador Kinney proved to be a most charming guest. Her openness, down-to-earth nature and friendliness were a big hit with all of us. The children and young adults, especially, were delighted by their interaction with her. The Ambassador kicked off her shoes and joined the kids for a time of laughter, hugs, and high fives.
She displayed a keen knowledge of the subject of human trafficking and her questions about ZOE and our operations were insightful and discerning. Ambassador Kinney addressed the entire ZOE family before she left, presenting us with several lovely gifts and, in return, receiving a framed picture of one of our beautiful children. The Ambassador surprised all of us when she spoke to the assembled group in fluent Thai!
It was a special thrill for the Americans at ZOE to meet the Ambassador. Currently, there are 35 Americans affiliated with ZOE living in Thailand. ZOE and the Americans working here value the effective partnerships we have developed with U.S. government agencies. We look forward to continuing and expanding our work in areas of common interest including combating human trafficking, helping to build resilient communities, and promoting the friendship of our two great nations.
It was wonderful to host Ambassador Kinney. And her visit was a good reminder that “Ask, and ye shall receive.”
Something that never ceases to amaze is the astonishing range of abilities of our ZOE staff. In a day and age when so many individuals in the West have become specialists in their jobs, our ZOE workers seem to be able to do anything and everything. From animal husbandry to auto repair, caulking to cooking, welding to woodworking, they do it all!
Being able to call on our staff to handle a vast variety of our needs at ZOE is not only convenient but cost effective. If something leaks, breaks, or stops working we don’t have to wait for the repairman to show up – if we can even get one to make the one-hour drive from the city. Nor do we have to spend precious funds on repairs.
It’s not only repairs that we depend on our wonderful ZOE staff for help with. Often, when they see a need, they take matters into their own hands (literally!). Fancy a fence? Cut down some bamboo and put it up. Short of shelving for the storeroom? Get some wood and bolts and build it. Gotta have a grill? Grab a 50-gallon drum and weld one.
Barbeques made from old bunk beds!
We are very thankful for our incredible ZOE staff. They are always ready, willing and able to do whatever needs to be done!
It is very traditional in Thailand for young boys to spend several weeks or months as a monk apprentice as the local temple. They will shave their head, beg for alms, and study Buddhism. After the prescribed time, the boys will return to their homes and resume their normal lives.
So it was rather unusual when a Buddhist monk brought a young boy to ZOE Children’s Homes earlier this year asking us to take care of him! Dteeng was about 13 years old and had been sleeping around one of the local wats (temples). He was homeless, apparently parentless, and stole whatever he could to eat. The monks could not control him and asked us if we could help him.
Now, when children first come to ZOE, we do not immediately integrate them into our main children’s home. We have several safe houses where we take them until we feel they are ready to integrate. Dteeng did not want to stay at ZOE. He was determined to run away! We had to have three of our house fathers watch him 24 hours a day (each in an 8-hour shift). At night, the house father had to sleep outside Dteeng’s bedroom door on the floor blocking the door so that when he tried to open the door to escape, it would bump the father and wake him up! After a week had passed and there was no indication Dteeng would agree to stay at ZOE, we were wondering what to do next.
The house fathers were at a loss and were praying for wisdom. Then, a group of three teenage boys who had been at ZOE for some time, approached one of the house fathers. They had overheard what was going on with Dteeng. The three boys asked to be taken to Dteeng to talk with him. They said “We know exactly how he feels. He is scared. He doesn’t trust anyone. Let us talk with him and we’ll let him know that ZOE is a good place.” So the fathers took the three boys over to meet with the new boy. After spending a few hours together, Dteeng opened up to them and began talking. Oh, I didn’t mention that for the whole week at the safe house, Dteeng never said one word! The next day, he said he was ready to visit the Children’s Home. He was so overwhelmed with all the greetings and smiles and hugs that the very next day he told the house fathers he was ready to stay at the Children’s Home.
When he first came to the Children’s Home, Dteeng stuck very closely to those three boys and they really watched over him like big brothers. Whenever we adults spoke with him – or tried to talk to him – he would avert his eyes, not say anything, and get away as fast as possible. Recently, we had a special talent show at ZOE and there he was, up front, singing with his team. Afterwards, Dteeng came and sat down on the arm of the couch where I was sitting and laid his head on my shoulder. This boy’s face has literally taken on a new appearance in the past few months! As the proverb says, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.”
“Aloha” in the Hawaiian language means “love.” Over time, it has also come to be used as a greeting and a farewell, much as the Hebrew word for peace (shalom) has also come to be used for “hello” and “goodbye.”
ZOE was blessed recently by a 9-member short-term mission team from Word of Life Church in Honolulu, Hawaii. The team definitely brought their aloha as they shared God’s love with our ZOE ohana (family) through fellowship, worship, preaching the Word, elective classes, and sports.
The Hawaii team also participated in evangelistic outreaches to a remote hill tribe village and a local school in Doi Saket bringing the Good News to the wonderful people of Thailand and helping to educate against the dangers of human trafficking.
They also brought a taste of Hawaii to the ZOE Children’s Home! The team prepared the ono (delicious) traditional Hawaiian coconut dessert haupia for us at the barbecue dinner they sponsored. During our worship services, the wahine (women) shared several beautiful hula worship dances while both the wahine and the kane (men) performed a modern interpretive dance. Before leaving, the team blessed the ZOE staff with colorful lei for all.
It wasn’t all work for our Hawaii friends, though! They enjoyed a traditional northern Thai khantoke dinner which in some ways is similar to a Hawaiian luau. They also visited the Maesa elephant camp and it is rumored that there may have even been an evening spent shopping at the night bazaar!
We were so happy to say aloha to our brothers and sisters from Hawaii when they arrived and sad to say aloha as they left to return home. But we will never forget the awesome aloha they shared with us while they were here!
Mahalo nui loa and ahui hou!
To see more photos from the Word of Life team click here.
The Karen people have been weaving beautiful fabric for hundreds of years. They cultivate cotton and from the harvest they spin their own thread. To create the many vibrant colors on display in any Karen village, the women explore the nearby jungles and forests for a variety of things with which to dye the thread.
Only the women weave; the girls learning the skill beginning at about age seven. A skilled adult can weave up to four feet of material per hour and an expert will weave from 1 to 3 hours a day. However, weaving is no one’s primary job in Karen society. It is one of many tasks that fall to the women along with working in the fields, washing, preparing meals, and tending to the children.
Operating the loom requires a high level of coordination and agility, manual dexterity using both hands and feet, and a strong back! Hundreds of individual threads — the warp — are stretched out horizontally side-by-side over the length of the loom. There are about 50 threads per every inch of cloth width and the widest material possible is approximately one meter (39 inches). These threads run through a “harness” of vertical strings which keep them separated and also serve to support a mechanism that allows the horizontal threads to be spread apart vertically through the operation of foot pedals.
The weft — the thread that is to be woven — hangs from the top frame of the loom in a thick twisted bundle of various colors and is fastened by a single thread to a large wooden shuttle. The shuttle is pointed on both ends to facilitate passage through the vertically spread threads and is hollowed out to house a quill upon which a quantity of thread is wrapped. As the shuttle passes back and forth through the warp, the thread feeds from the quill out of a hole in the shuttle. As the weaver passes the shuttle through the warp from one hand to the other, she must simultaneously reach with her free hand to pull back the reed to batten the thread tight against the material that has already been woven. To the uninitiated, it is nothing short of dizzying to watch new material being created with blinding speed.
But what is truly remarkable is the beautiful cloth that emerges from the old-fashioned loom. Each weaver is an artist, deciding the pattern, colors, and width of her material. To get a consistent pattern, she must continuously count the number of shuttle passages so that she can stop and change thread color at the appropriate place in the material. Once enough material has been woven it is sewn together to make shirts, skirts, pants, and handbags. A top weaver can make a handbag from individual threads to finished product — weaving, cutting, sewing — in 30 minutes. An elaborate man’s shirt will take about 16 hours of work.
ZOE Children’s Homes is dedicated to ensuring that our children know their culture. We encourage our house parents and staff to pass down to the children the customs, history and traditions of their people.