Thursday, October 7, 2021

"Everyone Okay!"

It's always a bit alarming when a message begins with the reassurance that no one got hurt.  But that's what I received just last evening in a video first then this series of pictures and video chats, showing the aftermath of a kitchen fire at Hot Springs.

I'll start there too.  This could have been much worse, and we are overwhelmed with gratitude that, in fact, that no one was harmed and there was comparatively minimal damage.

A very old oven caught fire, the first analysis being it was electrical in origin.  That would be dangerous enough without the fact that the kitchen also housed propane tanks used in the gas stove top appliance.  Pause for somber reflection here.  

There was no explosion.  

Yes, this could have been so much worse.

While it's obvious from the pictures that the fire was certainly underway, it was caught in time to be contained by Suradet and some of our older boys, using the fire extinguishers we have on hand for just such a circumstance.  Three large units were completely discharged to put out the blaze.

Anyone who has been to Hot Springs will recognize the kitchen.  We've had our meals prepared for us there, and I would be bold enough to say that the best and most authentic Thai food any of us has ever eaten has been prepared on these counters.  Some of us have learned a few Thai dishes, washed some dishes (when we could get away with it), sat on the floor and ate a snack from banana leaves, watched live crabs destined for tomorrow's meal run around on the counter, made a cup of tea, removed a six foot snake, or even chased a chicken around in that room.  So while we are glad it wasn't any worse, it's still hard to see the mess midst all the memories.

Our hearts are with Yupa this morning in particular.  Yupa's kitchen is her happy place.  Since she is still freshly grieving the loss of her father on September 1st of this year, this layered loss seems harder to bear somehow.

This comes as the children are in the middle of mid term exams, sitting for them at home under the supervision of a teacher from the school.  For all of them, especially for the older ones who were directly involved in fighting the fire, it will be hard to concentrate today.

A replacement oven will need to be purchased and the wiring inspected.  We will also be replacing the extinguishers immediately.  We will be looking at the insurance policy and considering a claim.  And of course, there's the clean up.  All of this will be extra work on top of the already "extra" load of online learning, and grief recovery happening for our beloveds there right now.

We ask for your prayers for recovery and stamina and perseverance.  For concentration on our studies.  For protection from any lingering trauma for children who have only just recently found a safe place within our family.

While COVID numbers are holding their own in Thailand right now, there was a recent positive case close by in their immediate village that has brought a new level of that concern to the forefront.  We are grateful that Pfizer vaccines are available to our children age 12 and up by virtue of being enrolled in a government school. And we have made arrangements for our adult staff to be vaccinated as well, their appointment being October 21st.  As a point of reference, the Pfizer vaccine costs approximately half a month's salary for adults, helping to explain the low vaccination rate in Thailand so far.

For those of you who support us financially, we cannot say thank you enough.  All your contributions, whether as a monthly Sponsor of one child, or a regular contributor to the general operating funds, are drastically easing the strains of all of this.  

The children are receiving vaccines, protecting themselves and their nation, because your sponsorship allows them to be in school.  Stop right here for a second and let our gratitude wash over you, please.

The fire extinguishers that prevented an explosion were purchased with your money.  Stop right here for a second and realize that you may very well have saved a life.  Please, absorb this.

You have a direct impact on what's happening half a world away, and it is making more of a difference that you can't possibly imagine.  Every day that's true.  It's just on days like today it's a bit more alarmingly obvious.

With gratitude I can't possibly articulate.

Ruth Anne



 

Friday, September 10, 2021

A Tempered Jubilation


A collision of realities in joy and in sorrow.

As I write, we find ourselves in an odd sort of space at New Family Foundation.

We mourn the loss of "Father" Pat, father to Yupa and honorary grandfather to all our kids at Hot Springs.  He suffered ill health and increasing discomfort for several months, and in this regard, we are glad for his release from pain, and the end to an anguished time for those providing love and care during his last days.  

Grieving is given good measure in Thailand.  The more honoured and loved the departed, the longer it is expected that life just does not go back to 'normal' (whatever that is these days).  We acknowledge and respect this longer space for Yupa and Suradet, Pat's wife Sangwan, Bell and other immediate family members.  As such, we will be holding off for several weeks in active planning, work and reporting on the property development project that so many have been partnering with us toward.

I can let you know that we are very grateful to have reached a total of $16,018.85 in our Dollar for Dollar Campaign.  This is matched to a grand total of $32,037.70, which is....astonishing!!!!  We will be happy to let you know exactly how things are progressing as soon as we can regroup and regain our momentum.                                                                                                                                                                                                            There is some sad irony to this timing.  The property belonged to Yupa's father in the first place, who put it aside for us to continue to develop the mission to provide a loving family for at-risk and orphaned children.  He was fully aware of the government requirements to be on deeded land, and worked hard with us to acquire the deed and make the property ready for next steps.   We are sad that he will not be with us to celebrate the progress of this project each step of the way.                                                                                                                                                                                                 As we move forward and heal, not just from this loss, but from the many complicating factors of a global pandemic's impact on under-resourced places of the world, we are so comforted by the prayers and love and support of so many to keep us held together.
Thank you, thank you everyone.

The view our kids could be waking up to one day.




Monday, May 24, 2021


ANNOUNCING

NEW FAMILY FOUNDATION'S

DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR CAMPAIGN

GOAL: $20,000.00

May to August, 2021

To donate  Dollar For Dollar

 It's really happening!!!

As of May 25th and taking us through to August 31st, 2021 we will be running a Dollar for Dollar Fundraising Campaign aimed at helping us take some next steps in the development of our new property.

Recap

Currently the children of New Family Foundation live quite happily on the grounds of Hot Springs Methodist Church about 45 km west of Chiang Mai.  Since the beginning, this has served us fairly well, especially with some renovations to rooms and bathrooms, and other government required upgrades.

But the property doesn't belong to us, is not on deeded land, and doesn't comply with long range stipulations being incrementally implemented now as pertains to children's care homes.

The view from the property.
We have secured property not far from the Church (so the ministry there can continue) and closer to the schools where our kids attend.  It was a four year process to secure the deed; a tedious experience that delayed any sort of fundraising and made it something of a risk to begin any of the initial projects.

But as of March 2020 the deed was in hand.

Then the pandemic hit.  (How many times has that sentence been used in telling our stories of late?)

Yes, that gave us pause.  But I am delighted to let you know that even in these stalled out times, God has opened doors.  A donation was given to allow us to build the road needed to take us from the main village road into where we hope to build our dorms and kitchen.  Now we are getting more serious and are itching to get at the other start up projects, plus the payments still left on the property to secure it for New Family Foundation in the future.

A donor has agreed to match dollar for dollar up to $20,000.00 everything raised between May and August of this year.

May arrived malnourished and withdrawn. 
But now?
Over the past 13 years it has been such a moving gift to watch at risk and orphaned children like May thrive under the care of our Home Parents, Pastors Suradet and Yupa.  The need in Southeast Asia is great.  AIDS, poverty, and political unrest mean tragic conditions for so many children.  Covid-19's impact on Thailand economy cannot be overstated.  

We want to see our reach expand to be able to welcome 30 children at at time into our care.

Will you join us?


Ways you can participate:

Donate using the Dollar for Dollar link above.  That will take you to Highview's webpage where further instructions will provide all the information you need.  All donations are tax deductible.

Pass it around.  Every time you like and share this post, more people will see.  We need to get the word out there.

Pray.  If you are the praying sort, we'll be grateful for it all.  This has been a long time coming, and we want to stay in step with God's Spirit as we go.

Thank you!

So many have already supported these precious kids in years past, and we are beyond grateful for everything given.  And for every person who might contribute to this campaign, I pray blessings and joy for you in equal measure.  Your contribution is more than financial.  It is such an encouragement and truly a life saver for some of God's treasures on the other side of the world.


The mission of New Family Foundation is to provide a loving home for at-risk and orphaned children in Northern Thailand to help them achieve their best potential in education, vocation and service to society.




Thursday, April 29, 2021

A Little Goes A Long Way

You're invited to make a big difference in a small way.

It's about Covid and economies and rice and stuff.

Let me explain.

It's happening all over the world.  This you already know.  Covid's effect on economies is far reaching, and yet to be fully realized, even here in Canada.

In Thailand, where tourism provides a significant amount of the national economy, travel bans have had an unfortunately predictable impact.  It's not known how long before the general public will feel safe to travel again, or even when Thailand's government will feel safe to open their borders.  As well, the same business and economic fallout is happening there as here.

In this environment, we have set a budget for 2021 for New Family Foundation's general operations.  As we expected, there is a shortfall caused by the difference between what we are currently sending (monthly amounts for our Sponsors) and the 'extra' cost of living increases incurred by Covid 19.

And here's why I'm making this appeal now.

One.  I am reluctant to go to the Sponsors for any increase.  What a generous and faithful team of Sponsors we have.  They truly do care for their Sponsored child, many of them having taken the time and expense to go visit for themselves.  (Something we truly hope we can invite folks to do again, once it's safe to do so.)

Two. These increases are small enough to perhaps invite participation from those who would not be able to afford the $75 per month for each child, but still might want to be part of what's happening at Hot Springs.

To break it down into more tangible items, here's what it's going to cost us, and where someone might want to pick up the difference.  These are all monthly amounts.

Increase in cost of rice (three 'units' at $30 per month each, or $90 total)
Increase in cost of gas (one 'unit' at $20 per month each)
Increase in gas for vehicles (ten 'units' at $20 each, or $200 total)
Increase in cost of fire insurance (one 'unit' of $30)
Increase in cost of dental/medical insurance (three 'units' of $25 each, or $75 total)
Increase in cost of motorbike maintenance (one 'unit' of $10)
Cost of living raise for Suradet OR Yupa ($20 per month each, or $40 total).

Arrangements can be made for regular, monthly payments or one lump sum payment.

Also, one time lump sum donations for our Student Fund, helping two of our young adults continue their post secondary education, are always welcome.

Tax receipts are provided for all donations.

So I'm just putting this out there.

I've been ever so encouraged by the responses to individual asks being sent out in the past week.
And I certainly will continue to shake those bushes.  When it comes to orphaned and at risk kids, I can find a boldness I wouldn't have otherwise.

And....there's more to come.
We will begin a Dollar for Dollar campaign very soon in order to take the next bigger steps in developing our new property and building a proper facility for our kids now and into the future.

But one small step at a time.

So that's my ask.
There are so many beautiful important things to be part of around this planet.  Especially right now.  If you have another passion, please be generous there.  There's lots to go around if we all do our part.

If you can help us balance the 2021 Budget at New Family Foundation, then I'd be happy to hear from you at my email address rabreithaupt@hcckw.ca.

And, just, thank you.

"The mission of New Family Foundation is to provide a loving home 
for at-risk and orphaned children in Northern Thailand 
to help them achieve their best potential in education, vocation and service to society."







Friday, March 19, 2021

Love Like You Won't Get Hurt


I'm trying to ignore it, but that's not working. 

It bubbles up in spite of me when I hear certain songs, or scroll through my Facebook newsfeed; even in my dreams at night.  I'm not writing or talking about it too much, wanting to stay positive and not dwell in what's out of my control.  

All that.

But it's not working.  

I give way today to the long worn out pain of it, aching to be where I cannot be.

It's like it was that first time.  Not the first time in Southeast Asia itself, but that first time spent in the centre of love of what had already become my unexpected family in Thailand.  That first time, having spent an extraordinary space of surreal days together.  No common language then, just love.  And now, having said the goodbyes, and now on the plane looking out the window as it left the ground, the mountains, the people I was now hopelessly committed to.  That time it was awful, the pain in my chest.  Not alarming, but achy.  Real.  (Love Actually Hurts)



"What have I done?" I'm saying to myself.  So far away, this plane is taking me.  When would I get back to them?

When will I?

I don't regret it, this reckless love.  It reminds me of what's true and good about living on a planet with so much wonder in so much belonging.  I don't like it, this achy love.  But I wouldn't trade it for not knowing the beauty that makes the absence of it hurt so much.

All creation groans under the weight of all that's wrong.  Our planet is sick.  So sick.  And better days are coming, and I know that.  And there's really so much to be profoundly grateful for, and I know that.

But this virus is vicious against my longing.


There.  Just that today.

And the knowledge that to hurt like this means something very important is happening.

I'm good with that.  No.  I'm not.  But I'll press into it to see what God's doing.  

Because if anyone knows that love hurts, it's Him.


Friday, February 26, 2021

A Snow Day Of Another Kind

 

Only existing photo due to camera restrictions.  But it's a winner!


We're planning our day trip to Chiang Mai Zoo.  Yupa tells me me that not too long ago, they opened a Snow Dome.  For an additional fee, "We can play in the snow," she says.   I vow to make sure it will happen, not knowing how much the extra fee will be but not caring one bit.  Give these kids a taste of winter?  You bet! 


Zoo Day is hot.  We stop for water and frozen treats half way into the hour long drive there.  We arrive slightly wilted, but still very excited.  There's lots to see along the shaded pathways.  First we visit the giraffes.




It's the closest I've ever been to one, actually.  They're very interactive since there's leafy food you can buy to actually feed them by hand.  Such beautiful eyes on these creatures.

We won't get so up close and personal with the lions or rhino, but we will be entertained by a white-cheeked gibbon who has become an expert at catching morsels tossed to him.  Hilarious!  He should be signed up for some baseball team, he's that good.





Later I will remember all of this with fondness, mostly because of the way the children are impressed with the animals, reading the information plaques, holding hands with one another, and always some little hand slipping into mine, as we sweat make our way from one exhibit to another. 

But it will be the Snow Dome where I hear Him say it.



The signs warn us that, inside, it's  -7C.   Standing in the hot long line up, this sounds wonderful to me.  We are given red jackets, and I consider refusing mine, but not wanting to push it, I settle for putting it on but not doing it up.  Even stepping into the first room, an ante-chamber of preparation to reduce the shock, there is life and vigor pouring out from behind the larger refrigerator-type door.  My inner Canadian is clamoring to get in there!  But first we listen to the rules, and the warnings about how cold it will be.

And then.

We tumble into a room full of packed down snow with blocks of ice and benches and rubber tubes for the 'sly-DER' aka a short but satisfyingly spinny toboggan hill.   Suddenly the flip flops are ridiculous, but nobody cares.  Just stepping into the cold air brings laughing and squealing and exclamations of wonder and surprise.  It's so cold!  Yes it is!!!!  Welcome to Canada, I say. 

Two by two we climb carefully up a set of stairs where an attendant (read, brave Thai person for working in -7 C all day) helps position us on the tube and pushes us off.  Commence the screaming.  Yes, even the big boys.  Yupa insists I sit at the 'front', which, poor thing, is sort of on top of her, but she's afraid and wants me, the experienced winter sports person, to sort of steer the thing, or manage the thing.  But there is no steering or managing to be done.  We are hurled off without much warning, to whisk up and sideways against an icy snow bank, and thrown, screaming, down and around to where we come to an abrupt stop, aided by yet another brave Thai attendant.

Yupa wants to do it again!!!!!!  And so it goes with all of them.  Their first ever toboggan ride, something they will always remember, because they can, because they weren't months old when it happened for them, like it was for me.

And their finger tips are tingling and their noses red and they can't stop smiling, it's that cold.  They don't mind it at all.  They are loving every single moment.  And it is joy in its purest form.

And that's when He says it to me.

I'm not sure if it happens this way for others, but for me, there are moments, like this one right here and now, when it's as if everything goes into a freeze (pun intended here) and time stands still.  And I have the chance just to look around at the faces and the joy, and I feel it in such an overwhelming sort of way that it's as if the voice of God is speaking.

"See this, Ruth Anne?  See this purity of joy?  Doesn't this, this moment of shalom, shalom (everything as I mean it to be) override all those sad things?"

Pause the pause for a bit of back story.  I think it's because I was eleven years old when, having a missionary speaker come to our church, I first entertained an idea of coming to southeast Asia.  I was just a child.  And I think it's also because because now this is all about the children, I think that's why I make so much connection, so often when I'm here, to my own childhood. 

A lot of sad things happened for me in my childhood, at least that's how I remember them.   And a lot of sad things have happened for these children before coming to live with us. 

But today, in this joy-packed moment of cold amazement, it's as if all those sad things don't matter any more.  It's not like they never happened.  They did, and they are part of our stories, becoming, under God's good grace, part of who we are in strength and compassion and capacity.  But the stink has gone out of them, the sting, the wounding.  There is such healing for me in this frozen moment.

When I was eleven, experiencing the sadness, the weirdness that I couldn't figure out then, if you had told me, don't worry, one day you'll be tobogganing with outrageously delighted children on the other side of the planet and it will all makes sense, I could never have imagined.

And that's what He gives me this day.   A beyond-imagining way of healing for me. 

Time's up for our Snow Dome adventure.  But that's probably okay because some of them are actually shivering by now.  We all reach down and touch the snow once more in fond reverence, and move back as a group to hand over the red jackets we certainly won't need outside.



The fun isn't over, and I will hear echoes of His voice at the Splash pad and also on the ride home when all the fun has napped us all out, and sweaty sleepy littles are told that we're home.  


The whole of it, the admission to the Zoo, and the Aquarium, and the Snow Dome and the Splash Pad, and the frozen treats and lunch and supper, all of it, will only have cost $15 per kid.  Didn't have to worry about the budget one bit.  



Friday, February 5, 2021

An On-Purpose Family

 Oh I miss them so much!!!

And I have to admit, when this whole thing in Thailand started in 2008, I honestly could not have imagined where it would go.  The degree to which this connection with our family at Hot Springs feels like an over the top, extra gift from a lavish God in terms of this being extended family – like very lavishly extended family – what a surprise.

I may be serving as Highview’s interim pastor right now, and delighted for the opportunity to be in the thick of that right now.  But the real calling of this latter part of my life is what happens at Hot Springs under the umbrella of New Family Foundation.


And just to remind us, or in case anyone new to what we're doing is reading this:

New Family Foundation is the name of the charitable organization set up by Pastors Suradet and Yupa with their own Thai Board of Directors beginning in March of 2018.  Highview Community Church in Kitchener ON Canada came alongside Suradet and Yupa in their care of orphan and at risk children in northern Thailand for the first 10 years under a different organization.  When Suradet and Yupa made the change, we made the commitment to continue that support and remain the Canadian connection.  That’s when I stepped into the position of being the Canadian Representative for New Family Foundation under the umbrella of Highview where I serve as Missionary in Residence. 



Now, for clarity sake, you will also often hear us refer to our family there as being at Hot Springs.  That’s the name of the Church Suradet and Yupa planted about 15 years ago and where the children were first welcomed to come live with them on the property.  So New Family Foundations/Hot Springs, we often use that interchangeably.

That means each child we care for has a Canadian Sponsor.  And it means that, under normal circumstances, I travel there two to three times a year.

But then came Covid.

 It’s a remarkable thing to realize how much into ourselves we’ve been here in the West as a result of Covid-19.  Understandable.  This pandemic has disrupted our lives for a long, long time, and we’re focused on what our own governments are doing, how it impacts our own kids at school, our own case numbers, our own rolling out of the vaccine. 

But it’s called a global pandemic for a reason, and in fact one of the first cases of Covid-19 outside of China was identified in Thailand. 

That was back when Megan and Norma and Esther where there with me.  The last time we were there back in January 2020. 


Since then Thailand has reported remarkably low numbers of the virus.

And I won’t give statistics because they are changing all the time.  But if you look it up you will likely be quite amazed at the comparison of case numbers and deaths between Canada and Thailand, especially considering that Thailand has approximately twice the population as Canada.

How do we account for this?  There will be studies I’m sure.  And it might be impossible to be able to determine every factor.  I think a few big differences between Canada and Thailand that may account for their better success in handling the pandemic would be things like having a very compliant culture that listens to public health restrictions, having a no-touch greeting, a practice of already wearing masks to guard against pollution in the cities, and most importantly, the fact that they do not care for their elderly in institutions but in their own homes. 

Take all that for what it might mean.  Just an interesting study on how culture may affect human experience during a pandemic.

For our kids specifically, during the initial wave, the children were already on their school break from mid March to mid May, when most of our kids go back to spend time with any family they still have, many in the mountains.  This was actually a safe place for them to be, remote and unexposed with everyone in the village staying put.

At first all they did was delay the start of school, but by the end of May the Thai government was able to switch to online learning, and our kids were called back to Hot Springs.

I will let you know that we lost two our kids in that space.  One Praweet, his grandmother was too afraid to send him back to be ‘close to the city’, and kept him home.  Makes me sad.  He was just a little stinker.  Another, Min, had been staying with her brother the whole time, and was not able to adjust to the back and forth of schooling online and then in the classroom.   

I tell you that so you can know that our Sponsors sign up to give a piece of their hearts away to children whose circumstances can often be unpredictable.  In the infrastructure that we’re working with, there is no legal custody situation here.  Just need to be reminded of that.  Full disclosure.


So for the first part of this school year for them, which began in May, Suradet and Yupa were doing remote learning for 20 kids (18 Sponsored children and two Staff children). 

Just let that sink in for a second.

No laptops were being supplied by the school boards there.  We were able to get them three extra computers, since the one school computer we have there in the study room, and the one computer Suradet and Yupa have for their own ministry and personal use, just wasn’t going to cut it.  This money came in so quickly when we put the word out.  Thank you so much for those who made this happen. 

By July the children were back in class.  Early in January there was another two week stint of remote learning.  But right now, as of this taping at least, the children have once again returned to in class learning.

Whew!

The situation with Covid is a constantly changing dynamic, as we all know.  So we will keep you posted as much as possible as things change.

Next...the New Property Development.


Just a quick back story.

In 2014 there was a military coup in Thailand that remains in effect with ongoing challenges to the monarchy and protests and all of it still being a ‘thing’. 

One of the changes in this new regime was to crack down on charitable foundations, especially ones that claimed to be supporting children but were actually using that as a front for the drug industry and child sex trafficking.  So a good clamp down.  But what it meant we have to get these kids situated on ‘deeded’ property, and the sooner the better.


That new property is basically down the road, closer to the schools and only about five minutes away from the church.

The story of this property and how we have obtained it is rather long and convoluted, and I have been keeping everyone up to date through blogs over the past four years.  Yes, that’s how long we’ve been working on this.  Thank you for everyone who has prayed for us to receive the deed, and to Evelvation Church in Waterloo for partnering with us in building the road.

We have already received some funding towards digging the well, installing electricity, and building the required wall around the property from Grace Presbyterian, C3 Kitchener.

These are good starts.  But we need to finish paying off the property and get started on our building.   That’s going to take a hunk of money, and the final amount keeps changing based on inflation and other factors.  Sometimes, if I let myself forget that God’s been all over this from the beginning, and He’s way bigger than any challenge, I can become a tad intimidated.

But I am encouraged that recently we received the opportunity to do a dollar matching deal.  We have a donation of $20,000 that the donor will match dollar for dollar.  That would give us $40,000.00, hopefully by August, to make a good dent in the total amount.

I won’t get into the details quite yet about how you might participate, except to say, please be watching for that communication.  So for every dollar you give, it goes twice as far.

Where does all this lead us during a global pandemic?

Achy.  At least I am.  There's no end of work to do on this end, so I'm not bored or restless.  

Just...

I miss them so much.

Or did I say that already.