Friday, May 25, 2007

Bring Your Senses to the Dinner Table


For those of you who have visited Linwood House, you have probably observed that my passion is a combination of preparing food that looks and tastes good and that invites your senses to be involved in the dining experience.

We have also enjoyed sitting at the table with our friends from the Downtown Eastside. The joy they experience when they come to the table set with china and silver, beautiful flowers, the fragrance of the meal wafting through the house, and getting to know each other never ceases to make my heart fill up with wonder and awe. The “sensual table” is this sacred ritual of mealtime that invites our sense of taste, smell, listening, touch and vision to call us into being present to God and to each other.

Not only is this sacred table prepared at Linwood House for our guests but it will also come to you!

One of our community churches held a “Sensual Table” evening this week. Some drew in their breath when they entered the normally plain church hall to find it alive with candle light, the table set elegantly and rose petals liberally sprinkled all over the tables. Colour greeted them at the same time as the fragrance of the roasting vegetables and the scent of the saffron rice which was part of the paella. These people generously donated funds that are going towards this event being held for our friends from the Downtown Eastside.

One day I hope they can connect face to face at the sacred meal table.

If you would like to host a Sensual Table evening to provide funding for our friends from Downtown, please contact Stephanie for bookings.
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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Thoughts on Community

As various members of the Linwood Team are spending time in places other than "home", they are out participating in community.

The following thoughts on community have come from others wisdom:

We clasp the hands of those that go before us,
And the hands of those who come after us.
We enter the little circle of each other's arms
And the larger circle of lovers,
Whose hands are joined in a dance,
And the larger circle of all creatures,
Passing in and out of life,
Who move also in a dance,
To a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it
Except in fragments

Wendell Berry

The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say, "What are you going through?"
Simone Weil

The religious community is essential, for alone our vision is too narrow to see all that must be seen. Together, our vision widens and strength is renewed.
Mark Morrison-Reed


Monday, May 14, 2007

Party/Farewell in Bangkok

Hello friends,

Tonight was our wind-up party, and what a party it was. Melissa, Boo, Nit,
and Sai spent all afternoon cooking in the outdoor kitchen. There was
certainly enough food for an army, including green currie, glass noodle
salad, steam-fried vegetables and custard for desert. Delicious! Jenn,
Britni, Sue, Jennifer, and Amy spent the afternoon decorating. We found
these great hanging lantern lights at the market, and the upper room had a
warm and welcoming atmosphere, very different from that in the bars.

At first, we only had a few guests, and we were fighting back discouragment.
It was pouring rain outside, and Thais really don't like to go out in the
rain. I think all of us had pictured this party as the culmination of all
the work we have been doing over the past 2 weeks, and perhaps imagined that
the attendance was a measure of our success. Puzzling over what God was
trying to teach us, we decided to go back to the bars and pay 5 girl's bar
fines, so that they could come be with us. The expression on their faces
when we told them that we wanted to pay their way to come with us was
absolutely incredible. The girls squealed and ran to get their street
clothes, thrilled by the knowledge that they got to spend a night as a women
in the presence of her friends, not as a bar dancer. If I came to Bangkok
only for that one moment, it would've been completely worthwhile.

When we arrived back at the center with our new friends, the party was in
full swing. There was a crazy game of musical chairs going on, and we
quickly joined in. We proceeded to teach them some "Canadian" songs &
games, such as the macarina,YMCA, and the limbo. I've never seen people
laugh so hard. And in the midst of all our fun, the language barrier
disappeared. We didn't need a common tongue to discern that somebody wiping
out after trying to get under the limbo bar was funny. We all just knew!

We closed the night with Christy and I teaching the girls a dance we had
choreagraphed to "Did you feel the mountains tremble." There is a line in
that song that speaks of dancers dancing upon injustice, and that had been
our prayer for this trip. At the beginning of the song, there is a line
that asks, "Could this be the land of the free?" We truly believe that, and
so together, we danced.

God has been incredibly faithful (as always!) The friendships that have
been made will last for a lifetime in our hearts. Thank-you for your
prayers, for they have been answered.

In Him,


Friday, May 11, 2007

Bangkok, Africa, Eastern Europe and Home

Sue and Jen are in Bangkok and are keeping us updated from there. Mike is off to Africa now and we look forward to hearing from him soon.

Vancouver Downtown Eastside, Moldova, Hungary, Thailand, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya - these are the destinations our team has had the privilege of spending time in this year and getting to work with and share life story with. Each of us have had the honor of doing this daily just where we are, here in our home places.

"Creating sacred spaces and inviting a broken world to experience God's extravagant love and grace" is our theme at Linwood House Ministries. The Spirit continues to call us and those we meet into relationship in sacred space.

I am in gratitude this morning for how big our God is and how small our world is so that people can connect so powerfully on this earth.


Dancing Red Lights in Bangkok

Hello to everyone back at home!

The past few days here have been full and exciting! Since there are no English classes on Wednedays, we as a team were able to have a wonderrful time listening to Roy and Bonita who run the Centre here. We were able to hear more of their story as well as ask lots of questions to them. What a wealth of wisdom those two are! We covered a lot of the topics we as a team have been wondering about, such as human trafficking, the beggars we often see on the streets, gangs, etc. It was good to get answers, but sobering as well.

In the afternoon we did not do any ministry as some of the team was feeling quite fatigued and some have been struggling with some sickness. It was nice to rest as well as have time to process all that we heard in the morning. Please pray for continued strength and health for the team.

That evening, Jen and Amy both felt led to stay back at the hotel to pray instead of going out to do ministry in the bars. The rest of the team went to Nano Plaza to do ministry in the Go-go bars. God worked in a very interesting and unique way that night. When the team came back together after ministry, we were able to hear some good reports of connections that had been made in the bars that night as well as a word Amy recieved from God while praying back at the hotel. [This is Amy now typing]

While praying for the girls, I felt God leading me to stand on the balcony and just look at the city of Bangkok. I went outside and looked at all the streets, buildings, people, cars, lights, and business of Bangkok (it is a city that never sleeps!). As I was doing that, a light off a building caught my eye. It was just a small, red, blinking light - very insignificant compared to all the other blaring lights of the city. Yet my eyes were drawn to that single, red blinking light so I asked God what He wanted to show me through it. But then I realized that the more I looked around, the more small, red blinking lights I saw all over different buildings. Some were blinking fast, some were slow, some were constant, others not. I looked around and just kept seeing more and more, and more, until they were all I could focus on - these red blinking lights. It was one of those "once you see it, you can't not see it" type things.

I came inside and felt God leading me to Hosea 1:10 which talks about the children of Israel being as numerous as the sand of the sea, not able to be measured or numbered. It was then that I realized what God was trying to show me. Just like it seemed impossible for Abraham to have children as numerous as the sand of the sea, likewise, it seems impossible at times for change to be brought to Bangkok and multitudes of girls set free. But God wanted to show me that those red lights that caught my eye represented girls who have been washed by the blood of Christ and are now free to dance for Him. Right now it seems like there are only a few here and there, but then as soon as you see one, another one appears, and another, and another.. We are believing that soon this whole city will be filled with what I like to call "Dancing Red Lights". It also spoke to the "Red Light" district we are reaching out to. Right now we can only see a few precious Lights - Si, Bu, Jid, and KwanJi who live at the Centre but we took this Word from God as hope for what is to come. Through it all, God gave me a poem (I haven't written a poem in years!!) which is attached to this email for you all.

The next day after English class, we were able to share the story/poem with Bonita and Anne who started weeping right away. It was such a special moment to share that with them as it truly encouraged their hearts. Anne then translated it for the girls who were also touched by it.

That night instead of going into the bars for ministry, we did a prayer walk through "Pat-Pong" which is another Red-Light district. Then we went to an evening market for a bit more shopping. Lots and lots of Thai pants being bought!!

We just finished up English classes for the morning where we taught adjectives and played BINGO!! The girls really enjoyed that.

We are now off to lunch and then Si's baptism!! We are all VERY excited for that.

Thanks again for all of your prayers. God is moving both in Bangkok and in each of our hearts and we look forward to sharing that all with you soon!!
God bless you abundantly!

-Amy Stevens :)


Bangkok Baptism

Hello Friends,

This will be a quick email; we have two much longer team emails coming later today. But we wanted to let you know about something very exciting happening today and to ask you to pray.

At 1:15pm Bangkok time, our wonderful friend Si is going to be baptised. Some of us met her for the first time in October of last year. She has been living at Home for New Beginnings after leaving prostitution and her work in beer bars here in Bangkok. She has been on an amazing journey, and next month will begin taking classes at a bible college. Si came to Bonita and told her she wanted to be baptised so that "Satan would know that she doesn't belong to him anymore".

We are so thrilled that we have the honor of being witness to this sacred day in her journey. Please pray for Si and for her life, that God will continue to bring healing and freedom to her, will redeem all the parts of her life and use them for His glory.

As I'm typing this, Jen just came to tell me that our friend Kwan Ji who was here in October and then left the Home against the encouragement of the staff here, is moving back in today!! She called to speak to Anne and Bonita yesterday saying that she wanted to come back but felt ashamed for making the mistake of leaving. Please pray for her, pray shame off her and grace on her so that she will feel like the prodigal daughter coming home, feeling embraced and welcomed and loved, and will feel much celebration at the fact that she has returned.

Thanks, we miss you all but are continuing to have an amazing time here. Much more later!



Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Dancing on Injustice

Here are the May 3rd and 6th communications from the team in Bangkok:

May 3rd
Hello to everyone!

Wow, it is hard to believe that we as a team have only been in Bangkok for two days now as so much has already happened! The past two days have been filled with orientation at the Centre, outreach in the various local bars, English lessons, lots of sharing, talking, praying with the team, and, of course, some amazing Thai food!

God has been so good to set up some divine connections. On Wednesday, after we had morning and afternoon orientation with Roy and Bonita at the Centre, in the evening, we as a team split off into teams of three and went to the local "Go-go bars" to do outreach. We all had mixed emotions walking into these places, and I know for me personally, I felt such a sadness as I looked at these girls going through the motions simply because it was their only means of making money. Through translators we were able to start up simple conversations with them, asking questions such as "What is your name?" How old are you? How long have you worked here? etc. A few times we were able ask "Do you like working here?" and the answer was always a shrug of the shoulders, a shake of the head, and they would say something like "It's so-so". It was easy to read into that this is NOT at all where they want to be. Then we would invite them to a "Party" we are having on May 14 at the Centre and also told them about the English lessons that are available there. We got quite a few good responses so we are praying that those connections we made will continue and that the girls will come to the Centre.

Today we went to the Centre and went on a "English walk" where each girl from our team paired up with a Thai girl and walked around the city for about an hour, pointing out different things and we would teach them the English word for it and they would teach us the Thai word. What a lot of fun that was!! Lots of laughing from both sides! I personally think they were laughing at our pathetic attempts of speaking Thai! :)

In the afternoon we split off again and went in groups of two with a translator to the Massage Palors that line the streets here. Inside we got a hour-long foot massage (I know, foot massages aren't exactly what I would call "suffering on the mission field") but it was great just to talk with the girls, share lots of laughs, find out more of their stories, and invite them to the Centre. Most of the girls who come to the Centre are from these massage parlors, which do the regular foot massages, paint fingernails, etc. in the front, but sadly also "service" men in the back. Again, it is so obvious that this is not what the girls want to be doing and that they have so many dreams of their own, but due to poverty, this is their only way of living. So many of them have dreams of cooking, opening their own restuarant or clothing store, but they think the only way to do that is to marry a foreigner.

After that we had a bit of downtime back at the hotel to take a nap (jet lag is still affecting some of us!), or journal, read, or just chat with each other. Then we went to a wonderful Mediteranean restaurant for dinner and after that it was time for more outreach! This time we went to the Beer bars and I think each of us had a really amazing time connecting with different girls. The places weren't packed with men yet so we had almost a full two hours just to talk with the girls, find out lots about them, tell them about ourselves, and of course, invite them to our party/the Centre. It was a really great time and God is definitely working some divine connections.

So if you are thinking of us, please pray for continued divine connections, and that God would continue to fill us with His love, peace, strength, and wisdom. Each one of have commented how we have felt God's grace upon us so strong so far just to be able to handle all that we are taking in, to not become angry or bitter towards the caucasian men, and to realize that it is a spiritual, not physical, battle that we are fighting. Also, pray that the girls we have encountered so far would sense a drawing towards the Centre and would come to the English classes and the party on May 14.

Well, on behalf of our team, thanks so much for keeping us in your prayers and we will keep you more in touch in the days to come!
God bless,
-Amy Stevens

May 6th
We continue to have an amazing and blessed time here in Bangkok, and we have felt so encouraged by God. On Friday night as we left Soi 7 where we were doing outreach, two women came running out of one of the massage parlours with our Thai leader Anne. They had seen Sue and Jen from the window and remembered them from their first visit back in October. It was a great reunion right there in the middle of the street, but also such an encouragement to us all that every single woman we meet and connect with here is important. We have no idea of the impact of a single conversation, a hug, a smile and no idea of the work that God continues to do in the hearts of these women well after we're gone.

This morning our team divided; Jen, Britni, Jennifer and Christy went with Roy and Bonita to a house church that Roy leads. There are approx. 20 Thai's who go, some new Christians and many still searching but on the journey.

Sue, Melissa, Amy and Lyndsey had their own "hotel church" and got an amazing word from God about our team being "dancers who dance on injustice". Having spent almost a week now with these (our team) young women, Jen and I are constantly laughing about how they skip and twirl and dance everywhere! They all have happy feet. It was an amazing picture then to think of us here in this place where the only dancing is in shame and bondage, dancing in freedom and joy and celebration. There is a song where the chorus says, "Open up the doors and let the music play, let the streets resound with singing; songs that bring Your hope and songs that bring Your joy, dancers who dance upon injustice". God gave us another picture of the doors of every go-go bar, show bar, beer bar and massage parlour opening and the women spilling out into the streets of Bangkok dancing in freedom, their bar fines paid once and for all. On our last night here, we are throwing a party at the centre, and we feel led that this is to be our theme, dancing on injustice, dancing in freedom and joy as friends and daughters of God.

Right now we are at the centre, and we are spending the day hanging out with the women who live here....Anne, Si, Bu, Nit, Jeed and Bibi. We just finished a worship singalong and now Jen is giving Si a guitar lesson, Melissa is in the outdoor kitchen making fudge brownies with Bu, and some of the other girls are sitting watching a movie together. We're looking forward tonight to having dinner together and a chance to share more of our stories with each other.

This week we will be continuing our outreach and English teaching. We have invited many many women to the centre for the party and for the classes and we are praying that we will start to see more of our new friends coming this week. Thank you so much for your love and prayers....we can feel them! Please continue to pray for divine connections, supernatural communication and that we will keep dancing with great joy and freedom around this city. We'll be in touch soon!



Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Bangkok Update for May 8th

There are a few back issues that will be posted shortly. This is the email for May 8th from our team at work in Bangkok:

Hello Every one,
Hope that all of you are doing well. On Monday our team got the chance to experience a different side of Bangkok. Ann, Bonita, and our English students took us on a tour of the Grand Palace. It was quite hot but we managed to explore and take in the beauty of it all. After that we took a boat down a river to a small island where we shopped and got to meet some of the locals. It was good to experience the peaceful island and escape the business of down town Bangkok. After that we took the boat back down and enjoyed a nice diner, as well as getting to know the girls more.
Today (Tuesday) we went to the center and spent the morning performing skits. We demonstrated English words for the girls, centered around the theme of getting up in the morning. It was quite fun and the girls seem to learn alot. An amazing part was that three new girls came to the center. That was truly a blessing from God and good to see His abundant faithfulness.
In the afternoon we went and visited the massage parlors. We divided into groups and headed out. It was nice to get to know new girls and continually plant seeds in the hearts of these women. We have all found that though we are here to reach out to the women, they in return honor us in opening their hearts to us.
After dinner the team went to Soi 1 which contains a dozen or so bars. Some of the team reconnected with girls they had meet last week. They were able to share more of their stories and to grow in their realtionships. God has been so good to us and we constantly are feeling connections that deepen and grow between both the girls at the center, and the girls in the bars.
Thank you so much for your prayers and emails- they mean so much to us and keep us going!



Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Back to Thailand

Sue and Jen have returned to Thailand with a team of women from Trinity Western University. Here is their first communication with us:

We have arrived safely in Bangkok after a long but very easy and smooth journey here. After checking into the hotel and resting for a bit we walked to the Home for New Beginnings to meet Bonita and our friends. What a reunion! It was so great to see our friends Si and Bu. They look as beautiful as ever. We were so touched to see pictures from our October visit on display and also the decorations from our final friendship party still hanging in the classroom. Bonita said the girls have told her she can't take them down! The impact of our first visit here seems clear. We have spent some time with Bonita learning about the history of the home, the vision and mission and the daily activities that go on here. English classes continue, as well as computer classes, vocational training, counselling and bible studies. Si took us to the rooftop to see the garden she has recently planted. They are going to grow kale and other vegetables there for the home.

Tomorrow will be our first full day at the centre, and we are going to spend quite a bit of time having orientation and training for doing outreach into the bars in Nana Plaza. It sounds like we will be doing quite a bit of outreach; Bonita has organized several Thai volunteers so we may have as many as 4 outreach teams going over the next two weeks.

Everyone is well and healthy. Please pray that we'll adjust quickly to the heat and time change, and for continued health, and pray also for great impact as we begin outreach in the next couple of days. Thanks to all for your love and prayers.

We'll be in touch soon!


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