Beautiful temples, rich culture, unending smiles and laughter, the most welcoming hospitality I’ve ever encountered and an unwavering acceptance for people of all cultures, religions, and races. Poverty, struggle, disease, desperation, humility, hope, friendship, family, hunger, sorrow, helplessness, loss. These are the words that first come to my mind when I think about my experience here in Thailand.
When I first arrived I felt lost and lonely, but that didn’t last long. My students and the community of Salesians quickly accepted me and soon I had many friends. I started working almost immediately after arriving, teaching 4-5 classes a day which include anywhere from 35-50 sixth, tenth and eleventh graders in each class.
The Salesians’ work in Udonthani mostly caters to those who afford to pay to go to the private and prestigious Don Bosco School. After working a few weeks I started to wonder why God had brought me here rather than to people with more need. After talking to my family at home I was assured of what I must have known in my heart all along, that God did indeed have a purpose for me here. In the words of my mother, "God didn’t call you to people because they are poor, he called you because they need an incredible example of Christ." Soon my thirst to be with and serve the poor and suffering was quenched and I was thrown into the realities of the world as unexpectant as I had expected to be.
The Salesians spare me on the weekends and holidays to work on other missions in Isan (north east Thailand). On Saturdays I work with the Daughters of Charity of SVDP teaching English to the sisters and helping with a program which puts 100 children in school who would otherwise be working. We put on enrichment activities for each of the schools once a month, search out sponsors for funds, buy groceries, hold seminars about aids and other dangers facing their villages, make home visits, school visits, and love them as much as we can.
Sometimes I have the pleasure of working with the Good Shepherd sisters about 2 hours north of my home at Don Bosco school. We work in every aspect with villages that have excessive AIDS victims. Training young women in the communities in trades to keep them from needing to go to tourist areas to prostitute just to feed their families. The sisters care for the villages as if they were their families and help anyone who is in need in any way they can.
Life is simple here. The people live simply and love simply. I have already learned much more than I could ever have imagined I would have. I have become closer to God, myself and the world into which I was sent to share the love of Christ and out of which I will surely emerge more deeply in love with him.