iven and kashmira

jesus. bangkok. neighbors. us.

Author: Iven Hauptman (page 1 of 3)

A Tribute To Wa

At 4:00am on May 2, 2556 Jiraporn Kamjan died of completions related to Alcohol-Induced Liver Disease at Rongpayaban Klang (Bangkok General Hospital). He was 40 years old, homeless and alone in the eyes of this world.

We met “Luung Wa” a little over 4 years earlier. He was serving as a security guard for the red-shirt protests in Sanam Luang, and Steve Goode (YWAM International Mercy Ministries Director) introduced us to him a few days following a YWAM Outreach event in our neighborhood. Our introduction involved sharing a homemade birthday cake with Wa on Valentine’s day, his unofficial birthday (his ID card says he was born on 17 Feb, but Wa told us it just took a few days for his mom to report the birth!) When Steve and Wa met, Wa opened up about the tragic loss of his wife, daughter, business and all of the fingers on his right hand during the Tsunami of 2004. Steve just couldn’t let that go and upon learning that Wa’s birthday was coming up, something just had to be done! A cake was baked, friends were recruited and a Valentine’s Day street-side surprise party ensued!

Wa with Izayla

Wa With Izayla

Wa’s favorite topic of conversation was always food – his cravings would shift from day to day, but often they would hearken back to some obscure dish he’d enjoyed in a childhood spent travelling around with his family. At one point he was writing a recipe book of Southern Thai cuisine. Khao Mok Gai. Bami. Gaeng Som. Kuaytieaw Pbet. He loved museums, history and ancient things. I remember picking Wa up from a medical visit one time and walking together back from Rongpayaban Klang past the central Bangkok prison museum. He’d been there many times, but wanted to share with me, so we stopped and wandered through. This museum is attached to the park that we have dubbed the “nearby slide park” because it has the nicest playground equipment in our corner of the city.

Outgoing and unashamed Wa would often greet new people by saying hello and shaking their hand – always watching to see how people would respond to his missing fingers.

More than anything Wa was a friend to us. Continue reading

Getting Out…

Right now I am sitting on a train rumbling through beautiful hilly green Thailand, preparing to spend a week of intensive study on the book of acts. It is about 7:30 in the morning and it is gorgeous. So peaceful, not a sound to be heard save the clickity-clack clickity-clack clickity-clack-clack of the wheels and the rail tracks. I never really remember how much energy it takes to simply be in the city, living in our neighborhood until after I’ve gotten a good many miles away. I tend to forget that I can actually go to beautiful open green spaces. Places where there is room to breath, and fresh air too! And yet I thank God for my forgetfulness, because I think it helps me to understand the experience of our guys a little bit more intuitively. You see when we are surrounded by a particular environment for a long time, we might remember what other places are like, but we forget that we can actually go there. Instead we just keep plodding along, talking about the outside, but never really doing anything to change our situation. I’d like to introduce you to “B”. He comes from somewhere not too far from this gorgeous green countryside I’m travelling through right now, but he’s been living in Bangkok with his mom, dad, and twin sisters for a long time. In the months that we’ve known B he has worked at 2 different male massage parlors and presently an A-Go-Go bar. B is my age, “rung-diawgan”. He is bright, generous, easy to hang-out with, and he has been doing this sort of work for a long time now. So have his twin sisters. One day we were walking in a market on his day off and I asked B, “So what do you normally like to do for fun when you aren’t working?” He replied, “Oh, I like to walk around.” “Where do you go?” “This Market.” “Why” “Because I used_ to be a masseuse here too.” “Who do you normally hang out with, who are your friends?” “Friends? I don’t have any friends…. The only people I ever see are my co-workers and my customers.” “The only people I ever see are my co-workers and my customers.” You see, B works nights, at least 6 days a week, unless a customer has decided to take him away as a private boyfriend for the week. He goes into work in the afternoon, works till early in the morning, and then goes home to sleep for a few hours before waking up late and going back to work. Even if he wanted to, B doesn’t really have the opportunity to get to know anyone outside of the scene. And so he doesn’t really remember that there is a world outside of the guys streets. One of the lies that B believes is that he can make more money doing this type of work. There is some truth to that – you certainly make more money in one hour of male sex work than in one hour of just about any normal job. But there is no consistency, sometimes you can wait for a few days in between customers, and then your average income is lower than if you were working at 7-11. Poverty works in lots of different ways. It is connected to our income to be certain. It is connected to our education. And in significant ways it is related to our network of relationships. If we only know other poor people we assume that life has to keep working the same way for us as it does for each of them, that it will never get any better. We rarely tend to think that we have options outside of the options that our friends are pursuing. And if, like B, we never have the chance to get to know anyone outside of the industry, then we assume that all we will ever be able to do is the industry! I am grateful for the chance I have to ride a train this morning, to remember that there are beautiful places outside of Bangkok that really aren’t very difficult to get to. And to remember that sometimes all it takes is our remembering that we can leave, and that things can be different.

Creation in Confusion

It is 10:00 pm on Monday night and I am sitting in the back seat of the #47 bus, on my way home from outreach. I am listening to the Bible (Romans, chapter 8) on my ipod. Sitting directly in front of me is a ladyboy (the preferred term chosen by transgendered people in Thailand – that is, people who are born biologically male but live lives as females). The person in front of me is wearing a blue mini-tank dress with red cherries all over it. My ipod proclaims in my ear: “Meanwhile, creation is confused, but not because it wants to be confused. God made it this way in the hope that creation would be set free from decay and would share in the glorious freedom of his children.” (Romans 8:20,21) The person in front of me begins putting on powder, lipstick and straightening their ponytail. My bus stop is coming so I put my ipod away in my purse and get ready to get off. The person sitting in front of me gathers their things as well, as I had suspected they would. I follow them off of the bus and down the road a block until turning left on my road. I notice them search the faces of the men sitting nearby and then make a suggestive gesture to a man on a passing motorcycle that slowed down to make eye contact. I was coming to this neighborhood because it is my home. The person from the bus was coming to this neighborhood to look for customers. I don’t understand that verse in Romans. I am sure it wasn’t written with Thai ladyboys in mind, but even so I don’t know what to make of the idea of God being the one to make creation “confused”. Putting aside what you or I may believe about sexual and gender identity, there is no denying the truth that confusion runs rampant on our street. Regardless of whether that person in the mini-dress “should” be referred to as a “he” or a “she” or some other term the English language doesn’t afford us, I am certain that God’s heart hurts to see them walking the streets of my neighborhood right now as I write this post – looking for men who will pay money to use their body. The people who come to our neighborhood to buy and sell sex are displaying the confusion in creation – confusion about what real love is, and isn’t…and how to fill the ache inside of all of our hearts for true intimacy and real relationship. What does “glorious freedom” look like? What does it mean to be “set free from decay”? What is our role in this process? How is God calling me to love and share life with the people on our street, with our neighbors and with friends we haven’t met yet? I have many more questions than answers, but sometimes questions are the most honest place to start.

A Hard Story…

Recently Kashmira was walking home from the bus stop by herself in the early evening. We have often seen a homeless family (3 young children) sleeping on the sidewalk, right in the middle of the Loop where guys are waiting for customers._ On this particular night these children were still awake and in the middle of something akin to a pillow fight. Kashmira stopped and squatted down to say hello to them, and promptly found herself caught up in a combination of play and English practice._ Eventually she asked the children if they lived here with their mom and dad and they answered in unison, “Yes, we live here with our mom and dad…” and then the littlest – an 8 year old girl – continued by saying, “But our dad died this morning.” Kashmira: “Confused, I thought maybe I misheard her or that she was referring to something else until their mom came from down the block to see who I was. I greeted her with a smile and asked if it was okay for me to visit with the children._ She answered, “Yeah, that’s no problem…their dad died today.”_ I asked what happened and they tripped over each other to answer until eventually I understood: “The police arrested him, they beat him up and then…he died.” Even more unsettling than their announcement was the total lack of emotion on all of their faces._ When I told the mother how sorry I was to hear this she responded with “Mai pen rai – we’re fine, no big deal.” I just happened to have some coloring pens and paper in my bag, and as I pulled them out the oldest one eagerly asked, “Are you giving these to us??” I answered, “Yes, I’m giving them to you.” So we sat together, coloring on the sidewalk, drawing trees and hearts and no smoking signs, just like normal kids whose father hadn’t died that morning. It got to be rather late, and when I asked the children if they had eaten yet, they said no. So with their mother’s permission I took them to get some food._ They ate dinner and then I brought them back with some food for their mom, who was by then intoxicated and nearly asleep, said goodnight, and finished walking home. These three children will remember this day – they will only ever have one day where their father was beaten and killed… and if it wasn’t for God allowing me to walk past them, prompting me to be present for them, these kids would have gone to bed with empty tummies._ But God loves and cares for this family, and he did use me to love them – even in such a small and simple way – and at least on that most terrible of days they were able to lay down to sleep on the sidewalk without hunger tormenting them, and with new coloring pens in their backpack. Walking, praying and venting to God I felt Him reminding me of the Bible verse, “Its my kindness that leads you to repentance” and was suddenly completely overwhelmed with the deep kindness of God._ Horrible things happen in this world every day, but Jesus weeps alongside those who are weeping – and even alongside those who are not yet able to weep. Suddenly I felt so significant – even in my smallest of acts of love._ These three children will remember this day – they will only ever have one day where their father was beaten and killed…and if it wasn’t for God allowing me to walk past them and prompting me to be present with them with what I had to give, these kids would have gone to bed with empty tummies._ But God loves and cares for this family, and he used me to love them – even in such a small and simple way – and they will at least lay down to sleep on the sidewalk without hunger tormenting them, and with new coloring pens in their backpack._ Most likely life will get harder for them before it gets easier, but I trust the Jesus that I know to watch over these children and to continue to bring people like myself to love them and bring them a little reason to smile.

Sharing Food

Last weekend an English-speaking church in the city spent their Sunday morning seeking to serve people in need, rather than gathering for their regular weekly worship services.__One of these groups asked us to help out in leading about 30 people to come to our extended neighborhood, share some take-away meals and seek to listen to the stories of people living on the streets. It was a really special morning.__Ninety meals were given away, lots of stories were shared, prayers were prayed and smiles were brought to the faces of many who may usually have little to smile at. Kashmira was paired up with two young women who spoke very little Thai; they found themselves sitting on the ground with an older man with sparkling eyes and an eagerness to talk.__We gave him a meal, asked where he was from and told him a little about ourselves.__After about a half hour one of the girls thought to ask if it is common for people to come and share food and talk with him.__He looked thoughtful, then confused and said, “No, I have never had anyone do this.__People just don’t just sit and talk with me like you guys are.__I don’t kow why – I’m easy to talk with….but nobody does.” It was clear that the gift of a boxed lunch of rice and meat was appreciated by his tummy, but his heart so much more appreciated our taking the time and energy to communicate that he was important, remembered and cared for.__I told him I was so sad to hear that usually people don’t stop and talk with him and that we were really enjoying spending our morning with him.

Strength In Blindness…

Now this blog post, by the very nature of its content, is hard to write – though not for the reasons you may be thinking._ Not because it is painful to share, or of a controversial nature, but because it is about oral story – and orality is something that is rather unconventional to write about. During the middle of April, Iven and I had an opportunity to attend a weeklong training in Chiang Mai (Northern Thailand) with a group called “One Story”._ One Story is a project put together by several mission agencies whose main purpose is to take the stories of Scripture and make them accessible to people groups who either are unable or uninterested in reading._ Before going to this training we really knew very little about One Story, or what we were going to experience._ It was probably better that way. J_ During the week we had the opportunity together with about 30 people to “learn”, “tell” and “devotionally process” about 25 Bible stories – all in oral form._ Nothing was written at all…we weren’t even allowed to take notes and very rarely allowed to open our Bibles._ It was a powerful and alive method of interacting with Scripture._ Refreshingly ancient, storytelling is an art form that has been mowed over by our consumer culture of sensory overload and sound-bites._ Growing up with a dad who is a gifted storyteller (Iven confidently states that my dad is the best storyteller he knows) I have had an appreciation for oral storytelling from a young age._ When I began to lose my vision at age 16 that appreciation for oral story has grown even more, even as my ability to read printed material has dwindled. For most Western Christians, reading and engaging with God through written Scripture is one of the most essential and significant means of growing in faith life._ Over the last 12 years of my eye disease, and especially in the last two years, engaging with written scripture has physically become more and more challenging._ Participating in this oral Scripture storytelling workshop was enlightening and exciting on a professional level (I am confident it is a tool that will be very appropriate and accessible in outreach conversations), but I think it was personally significant perhaps to an even greater degree._ Hearing the True stories of God, told by people who really believe them, in a setting where we could celebrate together the parts of the stories that were wonderful and miraculous, and grapple with that which was confusing and strange was so powerful._ Powerful for everyone, but maybe especially powerful for me._ In a profound way, I feel like my proverbial eyes are opened to the wonder of hearing God’s stories in oral form , and I am no longer feeling limited to needing to strain my physical eyes in order to grow spiritually._ Indeed, Scripture itself speaks to the special experience of HEARING the word: “So faith comes from hearing the message, and the message that is heard is what Christ spoke.”_ (Romans 10: 17)

God Has No Accent

From Thai National Congress 7

One of my mentors is fond of using the phrase “God has no accent in any language.”_ I have heard her say this many times and it has struck me as cute, and even a bit profound, but this last week it really hit home for me for the first time. All of last week we participated in a historical gathering of representatives from nearly every denomination and ministry across Thailand, for five days of prayer, teaching, worship and unprecedented unity in the Thai church._ It was ALL in Thai and our brains had a hard time keeping up with the long days and many sermons, but it was indeed special to be a part of the experience. During the opening session, the first night, there was a time when everyone was asked to pray for each other in small groups._ Standing there in this giant auditorium, I was deeply in awe of God._ Over 3,500 Thais (and some foreigners) were gathered there, each talking to God in their mother tongue, and connecting with Him in a personal way._ The vastness of God struck me deeply in that moment – He is able to be fully present and listening eagerly to each one of those prayers, and whether it is in Thai or English or Finnish or Chinese, he understands every word._ Even more so, if I pray in broken Thai, he hears my heart…rather than the words that I pronounce incorrectly or completely omit._ Indeed, God has no accent, and our accents never leave Him confused a bit. J (To read more about these meetings follow this link to an article that Iven wrote for the YWAM Thailand Newsletter: http://www.ywamthai.org/office/eletter/may09.html) _

1 in 4

We started doing outreach on Soi Twilight, in the Silom neighborhood in the very beginning of December._ Our first night we knew no one, and the bright lights and loud music on this street where about 1000 men worked were dreadfully intimidating._ By the end of the month, we knew dozens of men by name, and were beginning to hear their stories one by one. One night during outreach I found myself standing quietly in the midst of all the noise, while all the members of my group were engaged in conversations with guys._ I was standing in the middle of the little street (just used for walking – no cars) towards the end and looking down the street at all the bars and touts and lights and action. Suddenly all at once the numbers hit me like a punch in the stomach._ For almost three years we have been quoting the statistics we found that between 17% in 2003 and 28% percent in 2005 of men who have sex with men in Thailand are HIV positive._ I have read and repeated that statistic dozens of times._ But not until that moment did I realize what it really meant – statistically speaking, 1 out of every 4 men on that street right now is likely to be infected with HIV._ Even though none of them have told us so, statistically, some of the men that we know and care about on the Loop are probably HIV positive._ More will become so. It is pretty much entirely overwhelming to think about._ We can do what we can to help these guys know about the health risks their work affords them, and to connect them with the affordable health services that may be available to them here in Bangkok, but there is no getting around the reality that our journey here in Bangkok, in loving these guys, will eventually have HIV and AIDS as part of the story.

We Are OK… For Having Been Hit By A Bus!

Kashmira’s mom taught her that if ever anything really scary happens, and you are still alive, it is really best to break the news with, “we’re ok”…_
That said, while crossing the street on the way home from a marvelous dinner with our dear friends Paul and Delia who are visiting from America, Iven and Kashmira manged to both get hit by a_bus_at the same time. Yes, that’s right, a big, scary, Bangkok_bus, the kind that you look at and think, “I wonder what would happen if I got hit by that_bus… boy I sure I hope I never find out!”_
The story goes something like this… Kashmira took out our camera to take pictures of sleeping dogs who seemed to be having dog dreams. She took said pictures (see attached) and we continued on our way. With camera in hand Kashmira was simply enjoying the lovely crisp evening as we walked home. For some reason, unbeknownsed to either of us, Kashmira, while in the middle of an empty street (right at the bottom of Sanam Luang in front of the Grand Palace for those of you who know a little bit about Bangkok) thought it might be nice to take a picture of said “empty” street. Iven, puzzled at what was piquing _Kashmira’s interest, turned to look up the street, and Kashmira, appreciating Iven’s interest in her photography, smiled back at him. **SMACK**_And that’s the last picture that camera will ever take…_
So we managed to get ourselves both hit by a_bus_at the same time while almost taking a picture of an “empty road” while crossing the street earlier this evening (10:02pm). We were looking up the street and the number 34 came around a corner (so it wasn’t full speed) and hit us from behind. We really didn’t realize what was happening until a very freaked out_bus_driver was running around trying to help us get up off the ground, trying to get us to take his_bus_(which seemed to now have a newly cracked windshield) to the hospital… which didn’t seem like a very good idea, since we were pretty confused, and pretty scared too, because Kashmira was bleeding from the head and we had just got hit by a_bus… so we took a cab to the nearest hospital (7 minutes away) which happens to be the big government training hospital… and Kashmira kept asking Iven, “what happened,” and Iven kept saying, “we got hit by a_bus,” and Kashmira kept saying, “I’m gonna be ok, now what happened?”, “you got hit by a_bus!” …”Iven, I’m gonna be ok”._
By the time we got to the hospital Iven was pretty worried about Kashmira, because she just kept asking the same questions over and over and over, and not remembering his answers, and was bleeding from the head and elbow! So we called a couple of people to get prayer support started, and began wading our way into our most positive experience with a hospital yet! It was kind of confusing (both Iven and Kashmira had been hit in the head… Kashmira was a lot worse for wear – Iven is much more thickheaded) trying to fill out forms in Thai, so pretty soon we just gave up and told them we had just been hit by a_bus_and needed to see a doctor. _Initially there were something like 8 doctors (medical students?) listening to our story (it was a quiet night in the ER – except for the soccer game on TV in the background) and after not too much time we had 1 doctor and 4 doctors-in-training laughing at us and doing our best to convince Kashmira and Iven that Kashmira was not going to die, along with Kashmira continuing to say, “Iven, I’m gonna be ok, I’m not gonna die.”_One CAT scan, one x-ray, four stitches (2 in Kashmira’s forehead, 2 in her elbow), 4.5 hours, and 4950 baht ($145) later, we have confirmed that nothing is broken, there is no internal bleeding, Kashmira’s memory will be just fine, and a 23-yr-old soon-to-be doctor can do a pretty good job stitching up an elbow. All in all Iven feels like he got punched in the face, Kashmira feels like she got punched in the face and stomped on the elbow, will have scars on her elbow and forehead; and both of them feel like they got hit by a_bus. (Remarkably today is the coldest day we have yet experienced in Bankok, so providentially we were wearing long sleeves for pretty much the first time ever here, and Kashmira had on a hat, which we think really helped to cushion the blow)._
And both of us have a new most embarrassing moment._
Thanks for reading this, praying for us, and loving us. And thanks be to God for keeping us alive, and making sure that all of our wounds are simply superficial. Really, all things considered we have had a delightful evening so far as our spirits our concerned, and we attribute all of our joy and peace to your prayers.

Home, again.. home, again!

First morning back in Bangkok and in our little triangle. It feels amazingly good to be here, as hot and muggy as it is._ From where I sit on our 2nd story porch I can see the tea lady in her yellow apron and the daytime street venders busy at their work. I can understand some of the street conversation and appreciate the noise of the tuk-tuk engines as a sign of home, while also being fully aware that it is a noise I loathe at times. What a delightful day, delightful little triangle home, and crazy adventure I find myself re-embarking on.

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