Thursday, December 5, 2019

Past the Halfway Mark


So far on our journey we have crossed the International Dateline; the Tropic of Cancer,  15 time zones, taken 18 flights on 9 different airlines,  2 bus rides,  countless Grab taxis, tuk-tuks, vans, motorcycles and walked more than our daily 10,000 steps in 5 different nations.

We are more than halfway through our four month trip. Whew!!!!

Enjoy this brief update of our time in Cambodia.
If the video is not loading go directly to the YouTube Link

Lunchtime at the Church Home.
Our week in Cambodia was rich and rewarding.  We spent time with two ministries we work with closely plus had a really fruitful time with Ted and Sou Olbrich and their ministry - "Foursquare  Children of Promise." They have an amazing ministry and a great group of people working with them. We visited two of their church homes and saw their rice fields.  They are a church planting movement that cares for widows, orphans and separated children in need.  This is a work we are thrilled to endorse wholeheartedly.

Plus we already talking with them about bringing short term missions teams to Cambodia in the near future.

We are now in North India with Mike and Megha Gutknecht and their family. India is really our second home and this year we'll be celebrating Christmas with our family here.

As 2019 draws to a close we look ahead to 2020 and find ourselves so very grateful for what God has allowed us to do - the amazing people and ministries He has connected us with around the world.  It is because of your love, prayers, and faithful support that we are able to 'go' when God says 'go.'

May your December be blessed with His presence.  The Journey Continues  ~ Pat

Compassionate Pastors and House Parents

Mike & Megha Gutknecht

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Thanksgiving - Thanks-living

This year we are spending Thanksgiving in India - and guess what?   It's not a holiday in this Hindu nation.  It's not even celebrated by the Christians here.   What a strong reminder that America and Canada are not the center of the world.  (Yes I had to include my native country - even though you northerners celebrate Thanksgiving earlier than we do.)

What a great time to change our perspective.  To focus our hearts and minds on the amazing blessings we enjoy - every day - not because it's an official holiday.

What if we were to turn Thanksgiving into Thanks-living.  What if we made it a habit to thank the Lord every day - in every situation.  For the big things - and the small things.  Science has proven that living a life of gratitude benefits every aspect of our lives.

During this season of Thanksgiving, and throughout the year,  Gary and I want you to know how grateful we are for you.  Your love, your prayers, your support, every encouraging word - it all makes an impact in our lives and the lives of those we minister to.

Our Amazing God has given each of us an Amazing life.   And the Journey Continues ~ Pat

"In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Click here to read the recent devotional by Dr. Jeff Shreve that got me thinking about this topic.

Thankful we didn't have to walk!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Sri Lanka - Resplendent Island


The ten days we spent in Sri Lanka went by very quickly and were very productive.  This was our 4th trip together and we quickly settled into our Sri Lankan home in the guest room at Adara Sevana - a school for the 'Differently Abled".  Each morning we joined the students for daily chapel which included a short Bible story narrated and acted out by - you guessed it - Gary and I!  They enjoyed our amateur dramatics. It was a blessing to pray and speak a blessing over them.  We also shared a special lunch on Children's Day.

Our Sri Lankan ministry partners,  Layasing and Deepthi, have caught the vision and seen the fruit of the eye clinic ministry.  Deepthi has pursued her education over the past 3 years and is almost a fully licensed optician. Her training and certification legitimatizes the eye clinics with the Ministry of Health.   Eye clinics were held in the city of Kandy and village of Akureesa.   We saw about 230 people and gave out 200 pair of eye glasses. Everyone received prayer, and a touch of Jesus' love in a practical way.

Worship and the Word were shared in Sunday and Wednesday services, and a special weekend revival service in Kandy.  It is always encouraging to worship with The Church wherever God sends us.

Deepthi and Layasing are wonderful hosts, graciously making sure we had all that was needed to make our stay in Sri Lanka a joy.  Not to mention the delicious Sri Lankan food!

A part of our heart remains in Sri Lanka.  God is moving, the church is seeing increase – remember to pray for them as they shine the light of Jesus in this primarily Buddhist nation.

The journey continues ~ Pat





DISCLAIMER: Due to our travel schedule and sketchy internet - Journal updates are not in real-time or even in chronological order. 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Heartache At Batticaloa

On Easter Sunday, April 17, 2019, Sri Lanka was rocked by terrorist attacks on churches and hotels in the capital city of Colombo and in the eastern coastal city of Batticaloa.  Sadly, 253 lives were lost and many hospitalized due to these attacks perpetrated by a faction of ISIS.

One of the churches that was bombed was Zion Church in Batticaloa.  With our local ministry partners, Pat and I had the privilege to see the church grounds, meet with the Pastor for over 2 hours and pray with him.  Following is an account of what happened that tragic day at Zion Church.

The terrorist had originally planned to attack St Mary's Catholic Church a few blocks away, but when he arrived mass was over, so he went down the street to Zion Church.  Twenty-nine people died, among them a married couple who were the church’s worship leaders, the assistant pastor, several Sunday school teachers and 17 children.

Packed into a large backpack, the blast from this powerful bomb was heard over 3.5 miles away!. It was made up of bottles packed with a corrosive chemical powder and filled with thousands of tiny ball bearings, capped with  C4 explosive. The bombing was tragic and devastating to the families of those killed or injured. Some families lost multiple loved ones. Several people have permanent injuries and are believing for the Lord to heal them. Some are still recovering from burns, others are awaiting plastic surgeries.

The enemy planned for more to die - but God!!!  These may sound like coincidences, but we believe they were divine intervention in an evil plot.

  • Although invited into the church by three different people, the bomber did not go into the sanctuary. He continually asked for the pastor who was in England at that time. The Assistant Pastor became suspicious and was escorting the bomber off the grounds when the terrorist set off the bomb. 
  • The Assistant Pastor usually parks his van off site, but that day he decided to park it on site at a location that shielded the staircase where the children were sitting eating their snacks.
  • The house church caught fire. Pastor had a large fish tank in the courtyard, which ruptured and soaked the ground preventing the fire from spreading further. 

Six months after this tragic blast, the church is being rebuilt by the government and people continue to cope with the results of this grim reminder that we “do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers in heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12).  The Pastor and congregation have chosen to forgive their attackers, and reject bitterness that could destroy hearts and lives as surely as the bomb did. They declare that they will continue to fulfill the call and the mission that God has given them to spread the message of Jesus’ love.

Please continue to pray for Zion Church and all those around the world who are suffering persecution because of their faith in Jesus.

Blessings, Gary

Entrance to the Church Courtyard

Shrapnel bit into concrete, iron and flesh

Rebuilding the church
- after clearing away the destruction.






Tuesday, November 5, 2019

New Smile of Hope Children's Center - Cambodia

Guest Blogger - John Yoder - reports directly from Cambodia.

John and his wife Sotey, along with their children Jayme and Anna, live in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, ministering to the poorest of the poor through Reaching Kids International - Cambodia.  Thanks to your prayers, support and gifts - Greater Works Unlimited is able to help change lives physically and spiritually.  Here's John's report:
GREAT TIME OF OUTREACH TODAY with friends and longtime supporters of Reaching Kids International - Cambodia: Gary & Pat Richards at the RKI-Cambodia sponsored New Smile of Hope Children's Center, in Takeo Province.
Generous packets of noodles and fish (canned sardines) were given to nearly 150 families from the village, and loaves of bread distributed to the kids and many of their parents who attended.




Gary and I were blessed to see how well-run this Children's Center is.  The Pastor and his family live on the property with the children and flocks of ducks, geese and chickens. After the outreach program the villagers returned to their homes and we enjoyed lunch with the children and workers at the center.  The children were served first - a simple meal of rice and duck stew from the flocks they raise.  Even though they were hungry, all the kids waited to give thanks for their meal before digging in.  Our lunch included a few more dishes, all deliciously prepared by the workers and older girls who are learning the useful skill of large scale food preparation.

Some of the girls took me on a tour to see their shared dorm rooms: typical girl's rooms with colorful sheets on the bunk beds, photos of models and drawings of flowers covering the walls; books and clothes piled up in their limited space.

As the children get older, the center needs more space and are praying for the ability to build a second level of rooms soon.

Join us in agreeing with their prayers and the heart of Father God to see each of these thirty-four children and young people provided for physically and spiritually so that they will fully walk into their God-given destiny and purpose.

The Journey Continues ~ Pat




Airport Send-off - until next time!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Where in the World - Myanmar & Sri Lanka

The calendar pages are turning, and we are already halfway through our mission trip.  What a great adventure it has been so far.

Myanmar had a few unexpected challenges and changes in our plans - yet fruitful times of fellowship and ministry as we embraced God's plans in spite of our personal disappointment.  We shared some of the adventure in this report: 48 Hours in a Myanmar Village.

A short trip to the city of Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand turned into one of the most fun and heartwarming trips.  Check out the detailed report on our blog "The Road to Chiang Rai".

Sri Lanka is one of our favorite countries - with a strong eye clinic work, and fruitful ministry partnerships.  We're working on a couple reports of our time there.

Take a moment and watch our most recent video update.  We have so much we want to share, the first version of this video was five minutes long!  Somehow we edited it down to two minutes.

Enjoy this brief update on our travels.
Video not showing up? Click this Link


The journey continues - watch for reports on both Sri Lanka and Cambodia.  Then we're off to India.

May your Journey with God bring you closer to His heart.  ~ Pat

Bus Ride

Myanmar Village Church

Waiting Patiently - Sri Lanka Eye Clinic



Monday, October 28, 2019

My Cambodian Birthday


The morning of my birthday finds me in Phnom Penh, Cambodia,  on a hotel balcony overlooking a market street.  The sun is up, but our little balcony is shaded by the surrounding buildings.  Which is great because it's already 79 degrees Fahrenheit (87% humidity)  with a forecast of 92 degrees and 90% humidity by noon.

The street is waking up with vendors at Phsar Kandal Market, early morning shoppers, tourists and residents of the apartments across the street.  The murmur of daily life surrounds me, and I realize that each person starting their day has a story.  Each one is a life that Jesus died for.  My heart is overwhelmed.  My human understanding cannot comprehend the depth of His love.

That I am here, doing what I love, amazes me.  Gratitude overwhelms my heart for this - the best birthday gift ever.

The journey continues ~ Pat

             

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Road to Chiang Rai ---


The road to Chiang Rai - is under construction!

We booked our seats for the three-hour ride from Chiang Mai,Thailand to Chiang Rai, Thailand.  The VIP Green Bus was clean with comfy seats.  Due to the winding mountain road, using the small bathroom at the back of the bus was an adventure reserved for the truly desperate.  

Heavy rain and detours slowed us down even though construction crews were shut down for Thailand's Memorial Day in honor of the Passing of His Majesty the Late King.

   

When we finally arrived safely at Chiang Rai bus terminal #1, we were met by Beau (บิว) (pronounced as in Beau-ti-ful), her husband Joseph and their 1 1/2-year-old daughter Zo-E! (emphasis on the long 'E'). Our good friend Mike Kerychuk had introduced us through Facebook and suggested we meet them during our time in Thailand. 

What an amazing 48 hours we spent with them. Both Beau and Joseph are Thai citizens of the Akha tribe.  Despite the language barrier our hearts were knit together as they shared their heart for the Akha people who live in the mountainous regions of Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Northeast India and the Yunnan province of China.

They reach out to the Akha people in several ways – pastoring a village church, outreaches to remote villages and children’s homes; running a dormitory for 12 students so they can attend the government school that is far from their village home.  Students are provided with room and board, tutoring, music lessons and Bible classes.

Our first stop was the Golden Triangle Park, the point in northern Thailand where the Ruak and Mekong rivers converge and you can look across into Laos and Myanmar.  The governments of the Golden Triangle (Thailand, Burma and Laos) continue to work to replace opium fields with coffee farms. 

As a bonus adventure, they took us to Beau's home village of Doi Chang, a popular tourist destination famous for coffee.  Beau's extended family are coffee growers.  We toured Doi Chang Coffee Farm, sampled various roasts, and stayed at the adjoining guest rooms while enjoying the cool mountain air and gorgeous scenery.  

  

Beau’s family warmly welcomed us into their home and served us a traditional Akha meal of locally grown organic vegetables, fried fish, rice, a tomato dipping sauce much like fresh salsa, sticky rice with peanuts, fresh fruit (longan and rambutan) and tea.  It was delicious and abundant. 

   

What a joy it was to meet these dedicated servants of Jesus and partner with them as they bring His light and love to their people.   “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:5 NIV.

The Journey Continues ~ Pat

Friday, October 11, 2019

Sweet Hour of Prayer - Myanmar



“… if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”   2 Chronicles‬ ‭7:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬


In a nation where the population is overwhelmingly Buddhist; the city of Kalaymyo, Myanmar is almost evenly Christian and Buddhist. 

The concept of a prayer garden transfers easily from one religion to another as they co-existing in this friendly bustling city.

These beautiful individual chapels are available at no charge, providing Christian worshipers with solitude for prayer in a culture where personal space is non-existent. 

A morning spent in prayer and fellowship bonded our hearts in a deeper way, providing a tangible illustration that we are “many parts, yet one body”.

Part of our heart will always remain in Myanmar: "until next time".

Prayerful worship in any language: Sweet Hour of Prayer

            


The Journey Continues ~ Pat

(NOTE: Since we are travelling, with sketchy Internet, blogs are not always posted in real time or in chronological order.)



Sunday, October 6, 2019

Myanmar - Until Next Time

[DISCLAIMER: Due to our travel schedule, and sketchy internet service, blogs are not necessarily posted in chronological order.]

Fighting back a myriad of emotions, I gaze out the window as our plane backs away from the gate at Myanmar's Yangon International Airport.

Our time here has been rich and full. Brimming with new experiences,  new places and faces,  some disappointments and changed plans. Prayer, fellowship, good food and sharing God's Word. Mostly perfect weather with less rain than predicted at the end of rainy season. Scenic vistas that defy description.  New friends transformed into family.

The frequent query: "When will you return to us?" echoes in hearts.  Our sincere  answer: "When the Lord wills".

This is our current assignment our current norm.  Warm hellos, rich fellowship. Subdued yet hopeful departures with the refrain "Until next time" ringing in our ears, echoing in our hearts.

Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport  welcomes us and serves as a spring board to our next destination: Sri Lanka.

The Journey Continues ~ Pat







Wednesday, October 2, 2019

48 Hours in a Myanmar Village


We travelled for six hours on winding roads that carried us higher and higher into the lofty mountains of Western Myanmar. Breathtaking vistas were revealed at every turn. Our excitement grew stronger every minute. This trip has been in the planning for over a year and the time has finally come.

For the last two hours our hosts’ cell phone rang every 15 minutes.  The caller from the village always asked the same question, “How far are you?”  The villagers’ excitement stems from the fact that Pat and I will be the first foreigners to stay in their village.  The first foreigners most of them have ever met.

Pulling up to the village gate, we are met by the entire population of 234 people, dressed in their finest traditional clothes, carrying banners, gifts or a musical instrument. As soon as we get out of the van the music begins and the dancing starts.

After the festivities, we are guided to our lodging - the upstairs church quarters. In the room are two plastic chairs, a table and two wardrobes. Inside the wardrobes are woven floor mats, pillows and blankets to cushion our sleep on the universal bed - the floor.  The table overflows with all the provisions we might need for our stay, including bottled water and special snacks.  Our hearts overflow with their warm and loving welcome.

Village life is simple, with few cares beyond the basics of life. The biggest concern is for water during the dry season, and having enough food.  In this farming community, the villagers generally grow and eat a starchy corn (maize) and small black beans, along with any vegetables they can grow during the rainy season. They prepared special food for us:  rice was the main staple at every meal along with soup, a vegetable and either chicken or pork and of course tea or coffee. It was humbling to have the village families contribute from their food supply so we would have a bountiful table.

Our hosts are Anna and Khai Pi. We have worked with them for the past few years since we met Anna in Malaysia. She was our interpreter when we were living in Malaysia and working with the Burmese refugees.  One of the investments they have made in the village is to begin a coffee plantation.  Many of you donated last year to help purchase and plant the coffee trees. They expect the first harvest of coffee cherries (which contain the coffee beans) in 3 to 5 years.

It was a joy to walk through the village and see the newly built preschool building, provided in part by World Vision.  Anna and Khai Pi have been conducting preschool for 20 children in their house.  The village also has a government school Grades One to Seven.   We toured the classes, talked and prayed with the Headmistress.

On Sunday we preached at both the morning and evening church services.  Monday afternoon we held an eye clinic. It was during the eye clinic that we were informed we could no longer be in the village. There are still conflicts happening in the area and the local authority did not want to be responsible for our safety and demanded that we leave. We were able to see 30 people and gave out 15 pairs of reading glasses before hastily being relocated to a government approved guest house one hour away.

Although Pat and I, along with Anna, Khai Pi and all the villagers, were deeply disappointed that we could not remain in the village,  we accomplished a lot in those 48 hours. Our hearts are longing to return when the Lord makes it possible.

Stay tuned for more updates as our schedule and internet access allows.  Blessings - Gary








Sunday, September 22, 2019

Getting Around Myanmar


Depending where we are and what we are doing, getting around is always an important consideration.

Motorcycles and scooters are prevalent in Myanmar - so we might jump on with a friend to head across town to lunch.

Within the city of Kalaymyo, tri-shaws are common and practical.  Basically it's motorcycle with a custom-built side car.  One passenger faces forward, the other faces backward.  Packages can be stored under the seat and the roof works to shield you from either sun or rain.    (For those of you concerned about safety - they don't go very fast, and their three wheels make them quite stable.) (For you grandparents who immediately notice the little guy photo-bombing us - he is the son of Anna & Khai Pi - our friends and ministry partners.)


You can hire a vehicle - our driver Mr. Dal safely navigated the windy mountain roads.


And when it's not too hot or too wet - we prefer to use the original mode of transportation and walk.


Wherever your travels take you today, and however you get around - know that we appreciate you!

Blessings ~ Pat



Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Where in the World - Thailand

Welcome to Chiang Mai Thailand.    It's the largest city in Northern Thailand - 2 hours by plane from the capital city of Bangkok.   We've been here for about two weeks now. Settling in and adjusting to the 15 hour time difference. We found an English speaking church and are reconnecting with missionary friends.  We are also enjoying Thai street food.

Myanmar is our next stop - we will be conducting a Bible camp in a remote mountain village with Anna and Khai Pi and their adorable son.  They have asked us to teach on the Kingdom of God.  There will be an eye clinic, Sunday services, and nightly fellowship - can't wait for the last night when they roast a pig!

Then we fly directly to Sri Lanka for 10 days of eye clinics and revival meetings.  It's going to be a busy and fruitful month.

Your love and prayers and generous support is so vital, and so encouraging to us.

The Journey continues ~ Pat

Here's a brief video update - hot off the press!
Video not showing? click this link.


Thai Street Food

Thai Street




Monday, September 2, 2019

Sunday Greetings from Thailand

What a glorious Sunday we've had here in Chiang Mai Thailand.

The easiest way to get around the city is with a ride-share app called "Grab".  Similar to Uber or Lyft in America.  The app automatically translates your ride requests into Thai!  What a great use of technology.

Our driver dropped us off at "House of Praise" for Sunday morning service.  As we walked in we met another missionary that we had planned to connect with while here.  What a God-coincidence to have us choose their home church to attend today.  We shared a coffee after service and made plans for lunch later in the week.

After walking to a nearby mall to pick up groceries and have lunch we 'Grabbed' a ride back to our condo.

It's been a restful day - looking forward to the week ahead.

The Journey Continues ~ Pat

Saturday, August 31, 2019

WHEW! We made it!

The tiny plane on United Airlines' Flight Sky Map screen slowly traces our path across the Pacific Ocean.  We sleep, eat, drink water (trying to stay hydrated), watch a movie or two, and eventually land at our next destination. Catch another flight and do it again!
Early Morning Las Vegas Departure

It is almost midnight when we arrive in Bangkok Thailand. One more flight to go! The last layover seems the longest. Curled up in the darkened waiting area, we sleep a little. When the Air Asia counter opens at 4:30 a.m. we check our bags and find a coffee shop.

Finally after four flights; 39 hours; 14 time zones: we arrive safely in Chiang Mai Thailand, our home base for the next 2 months. (The last 2 months of this trip we will base in India).

Street Food Carts
There is a sense of 'being at home' as we explore a profusion of street food carts and choose an afternoon snack of Thai ice tea and banana roti (similar to a stuffed crepe). Then it's time to sleep off the jet lag.

A lifetime of praying, seeking God, planning and dreaming and we have literally stepped into our destiny.

Our hearts are grateful - to you for your loving, prayerful support. To God - for using us to share His love and salvation.

The Journey Continues ~ Pat   


Banana Roti & Thai Ice Tea  

Abundant Blooms