We have had the privilege of having Jessi-Ann Michaelson (a Westside Christian High School alumna) from Portland, Oregon, intern with us for the last six months. She will return to the States shortly to continue her studies. We will greatly miss her. I’ve asked her to write this month’s newsletter.
It was seven years ago that I first came to Thailand and interacted with Grace Ministries as a high school senior with the Westside group. The next year I came again. Four years of University went by, and I found myself once again returning to Thailand with the Westside team, this time as a leader. It was never my intention to put on hold my plans for my life and come to live in Thailand, but the LORD illuminated the path back to Grace.
To say that for six months I’ve been serving as an intern here at GM is somewhat of a misnomer. I’ve been a friend and a mentor, a daughter and a sister, a teacher and a student, a servant and the guest of honor; at times a farmer, a chef, a photographer, and a lifeguard, among countless other things. Perhaps to encompass my assortment of roles I can simply say that I’ve become family – one I’m very grateful to be part of.
Each child who comes under the care of Grace is first provided with a safe and loving environment. After that, they receive an education. What I just described is a typical humanitarian organization. So what makes this place different? One thing that stands out among all the members of staff is they strive for a common purpose: to serve God by serving others. How do they accomplish that? By the grace of God. (You thought the name of the organization was chosen at random?) Each of them has a story of how God liberated them from their past life with His redeeming love and abundant grace and led them here. What impresses and challenges me the most is that they desire to be intimate with Christ and to mirror His character in everything – in the way they talk, act, serve, worship, and love. They emphasize integrity, accountability, honesty, and purity in all aspects of life. They live and breathe servanthood as if their lives (and the lives of others) depended on it.
Without God at its head, this ministry would not last. There’s too much evil for an eclectic group of humans to go up against on their own. The devil would win every time. The Holy Spirit is at work here, and only because of grace is a change being made in Thailand. During my time here I have seen incredible things, answers to prayers, and miracles that cannot be explained. Those kinds of things don’t happen because people try really hard or have good intentions. Our efforts are useless if we’re not anchored in Christ. An example has been set before me of what God can accomplish with a willing, humble, obedient heart. I can’t help but wonder what the world would be like if more people lived like that. But that is exactly what Grace is trying to do with their kids.
After much blood (thanks to the mosquitoes), sweat (thanks to Thailand’s tropical humid climate) and the occasional tears, it is with a grateful heart that I return home. My stay at Grace has been life changing and has tremendously disciplined my spiritual walk and the way in which I communicate with my heavenly Father. I’ve realized that nothing is off limits; nothing is too difficult or too great to ask for with a pure heart, for I’ve seen God accomplish the impossible. I can more easily appreciate small victories that I’ve often overlooked in the past. God has taught me patience and to wait on Him, which is hardly my first instinct. I have a better understanding of the importance of prayer, fasting, and time with the LORD through His Word. Seeing how the leaders of Grace strive to live – seeking constant counsel from the LORD, resisting desires of the flesh, desiring to draw nearer to God, preaching what they live, loving without limits – I realize that this is what I want to be, not just here, but wherever life takes me.
Like any family we’re made up of an assortment of characters, but God uses us to our strengths. It is only by His wonderful, humbling grace that everything good is possible. There’s no forgetting an experience like this. The people at Grace Ministries have left an eternal imprint on my heart. Thankfully we’re all family now, so I never have to say goodbye. I’ll continue to support my Thai family in prayer and encouragement, and hopefully one day to a larger degree.
Yao, Witoon and Ewe, Noot, Doi, David, Jessi-Ann, Jonathan and Sharon, P. Jim, P. Baa and Charles and Yoke Fong