A lot of posts I decide to put on this blog are about the positives of serving where the need is great and don’t get me wrong, there are MANY positives associated with this type of work. In the grand scheme, the positives WAY outweigh the negatives. However, I thought it might be beneficial to talk about the difficulties that I’ve experienced while in Thailand to help give you all a better overall picture of what it’s truly like.
I also feel like a post like this would have been of great interest to me before I came here, since these things are talked about less but help paint a more accurate picture. It also might help those who are looking to expand their service in a similar capacity.
1. Joy. This is a tricky quality and probably the hardest to hold onto especially when you first move to a foreign land and it was for both Andrew and myself. All the things you knew before back in California suddenly seemed of little use. We didn’t know how to speak or read any Thai. We were suddenly going from giving talks regularly to not being able to give a comment.
On top of that, the association and the encouragement from the friends was minimal, at least in speech, because we couldn’t converse at all with the majority of the friends. It was easy to feel like a stranger amongst family which was a strange feeling. This is not to say that the friends weren’t extremely kind because they were to an incredible extent, it’s the close connection that was missing.
The ministry is also completely different. The subject matter that you talk about and how you present it was a challenge at first and I quickly missed being able to reason from the scriptures with householders.
2. Lower standard of living. I mentally prepared to be living in worse conditions but it still proved to be challenging when you’re living in it on a regular basis. The tap water here in Thailand in undrinkable and, at the first house we lived in, the water would sometimes come out brown or black for days making it difficult to shower or wash dishes.
The safety standards here are also significantly less or not there at all in a lot areas so being cautious and aware especially while you’re driving is absolutely essential.
I also think the best word to also describe the street food would be “sketchy.” I don’t believe there are any food regulations on who can cook food so you have to be really careful. They also put blood and MSG in a lot of their food so being cautious in these areas became important too.
3. Climate and Bugs. Thailand is usually pretty hot and humid year round. There is a Wet and Dry season but heat and humidity are usually always present. Adjusting to this can take some time and it was a struggle especially when you’re driving a bike for hours.
Bugs are also interesting. There are a wide variety of insects and animals that take some time to get used to including big spiders and snakes haha.
4. Friends, Family and the Familiar. This subject will affect certain people differently but I know that for many need greaters this can be a real struggle. All the amenities back at home (especially Mexican food for me!) that we are sometimes used to are suddenly not available or not reasonable with your lifestyle.
So much time can pass that you can start to feel disconnected with what you previously knew and felt close/comfortable to. You feel like you might be missing out, that you are being forgotten. This can be difficult at different levels depending on who you are as I said before. For me this wasn’t too huge but it was still present.
So now you might be thinking…this doesn’t sound like it’s for me anymore haha. I’ll tell you why it is, or at least why you should consider trying this type of service. It teaches you SOOO much. I can’t begin to explain how much you can grow as a person. Being in an environment that’s different and strange shapes you in ways that weren’t possible before. Everyday is a day of learning and adapting, everything is growth. You learn about everyday life things and about how to grow spiritually. Because of this, you seem to get more out of life.
When you’re stuck in a routine that doesn’t requires growth, time goes by fast because nothing stands out when you look back 6 months. Doesn’t it seem like we measure time by important/new events that stand out in our life? In this type of environment, where the need is great, everyday stands out because you’re constantly learning and experiencing new things and because of this, it seems like you get more out of life. No lie. I felt like I have been here for 3 years already.
Perspective and Balance. I’ve come to realize that as long as your goals are clear and you put an emphasis on balance and proper perspective you can really thrive. If you focus on your end goal, and it is something that’s truly important to you, small difficulties like these fall into proper perspective, as just a means to an end to reach your final goal.
One example in particular regarding perspective is having Jehovah’s view of effort. Putting the correct emphasis on effort rather than results, especially when you first arrive in a foreign land, will help with joy. If you are caught up on your results and being seen by others, you will be at a loss of happiness. You need to have Jehovah’s view of effort, or it will be very clear that something is wrong, from what I’ve come to realize.
A fine brother told me this at a recent assembly. He said that serving in a foreign land can be likened to reaching out for a special position at a job. It’s not necessary and you’re doing great work currently but it offers a unique opportunity for growth and privileges. However, it would require a couple of years of training and hard work. If you can stick it out, you will be incredibly thankful that you did because it was well worth it.
I hope this gave you all a better look into this type of lifestyle. In no way at all am I writing this to discourage you, but rather to encourage you to consider it. The more you give/trust in Jehovah, the more he will bless you. Two of my favorite scriptures are Matthew 6:33 and Malachi 3:10 because I view them as the equation for success. These have always proved true, especially in Thailand, so I can’t recommend this lifestyle highly enough 🙂