Since the Friends Forever retreat, our team really just tried to spend as much time as we could with the Thai students and staff before we had to leave Khon Kaen. Monday the 18th we had the opportunity to go out to dinner with the CO NEU staff at a restaurant called Mama Big's. This was a time they had allotted for us to encourage each other and thank the staff for everything they put into this summer. It was such a sweet time to reflect on the amount of work that Sano put into our ministry on campus. After dinner, all the CCP girls went over to Sano and Honey's house to exchange gifts and gratitude. They were so sweet and thoughtful in the gifts that they gave to us. I was overwhelmed with joy to have spent an entire summer with the most wonderful women.
Tuesday the 19th was a day that I knew was going to be bittersweet. Not only was it my 21st birthday, but we had to leave the city where I spend so much of my time and grew to love. The entire day felt surreal. Before the day really got started, Hannah and Taylor woke me up by bringing me my favorite breakfast food [a pineapple pie from 7/11] and birthday cards. They were so sweet to think about me. The craziness started with deep cleaning our rooms and packing up all of our stuff. This was definitely not easy. I think I was in denial the entire time I was packing my suitcase. After a long time of packing, we took a break and went to the student center for lunch with students and the Christian girls. Well, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Not too long after we walked in, I was greeted by Sano and a few others singing Happy Birthday and carrying about a dozen donuts from our favorite place [Mister Donut]. It was so sweet and I was able to share with everyone there. After exchanging gifts with the students, we did all our last minute packing and crammed into 2 song tau's with a ton of students and made our way to the airport. Through out the entire day I had not been emotional, but it was like the airport had something in the air that made me the biggest cry baby. Seeing the looks on the faces of the students that we had spent 2 months with show me that they were really affected by our presence there. Even though we did not actually see anyone come to know the Lord, I could just tell that they did not want us to leave. [This is the part where my birthday became a sad memory]. There were so many hugs and more than enough tears, but all in all it was so hard to say goodbye. Part of my heart will always be passionate for those students that we met and the relationships that were formed. After making our way through the easiest security, I hear someone calling my name and telling me to come back because someone else wanted to say goodbye [it was really easy to go out and back through security]. As I went back though the doors, I saw Jom [the law student who invited us to her house] and her mom, sister and aunt. I immediate burst into tears again. Jom and her family had driven 3o minutes from their hometown just to come and say goodbye. To be completely honest, after that goodbye, I really did not want to ever leave Thailand. After a two hour flight, we made it to Bangkok and immediately went to sleep.
Wednesday and Thursday were kind of like a whirl wind of adventures. With the help of Guy, we were able to travel around Bangkok to see some of the major sights. The first place we went was the King's Palace. I was speechless the entire time I was there. There was so much gold and jewels and so many idols. Even though all the building were so intricate and detailed, I still couldn't believe how much work they put into their religion. While we walked around this temple, I just kept thinking about all the students that we knew that put their faith in this stuff. I just continued to pray for their hearts and for them to be open to the Truth of the Lord.
When we left the Palace we made our way to a mall that had a lot of Thai good and souvenirs. This was very relaxed just a time to get out of the sun and sit down and eat together. After shopping, we headed back to the hotel [after learning how to maneuver through the sky trains]. As a team we headed to the mall that night and ate dinner at McDonald's [typical team dinner] and came together that night for a debriefing session. We did the same kind of debriefing in the morning to prepare our hearts for heading back to Summer Project as well as home and school. The whole day on Thursday I just kept thinking how surreal it felt that I would be back in America. But, I had a lot of time to reflect on what the Lord had done in my life through the experiences that I had this summer.
The flight back was hard. The plane was a lot more comfortable, but it was actually a longer flight back to the States. When we arrived in Houston, we were so happy to finally be back in the United States [and to use our cell phones]. That night of sleep in Cleveland was probably the best night's sleep I have had in a very long time. My first meal I enjoyed in the States was Chick-fil-A and it has never tasted so good in my entire life!
Again, I want to say thank you to all those who supported me financially and prayerfully this summer. It would not have been possible with out your support. [I will be posting pictures in another blog after this one].