Mondays are good! On Mondays we get to eat Nutella for breakfast! It’s a small incentive, but it attempts to get the kids excited about getting out of bed on a Monday morning. My alarm goes off at 6 o’clock and I (Tina) stumble down the stairs to get out all the breakfast stuff. The light in the office is on. David is usually awake much earlier than I am. He likes the quiet to read his Bible and pray. The girls are always awake and downstairs first. Today Vanessa’s parents, who have been visiting the dorm, are returning to Bangladesh where they work in a Bible college. We talk across the breakfast table about goodbyes and how each of us handles them. The missionary kid’s life is full of goodbyes, and learning to say goodbye well is an essential skill to develop. At 6.45 am David does a wake up bang on the doors of all the boy’s rooms — it sounds like an earthquake, but some have become immune to their alarm clocks and need the extra shock value. At 7.15 they all pile into the dorm van. Matthew, a notorious sleeper, has worked out a system to prepare his breakfast as takeaway so that he can consume it en route. David likes the 20-minute drive to school and the chance to chat one-on-one with whoever takes the front passenger seat of the 15-seater Toyota van.
The majority of the students in our dorm attend Grace International School. This school was established with the express goal of providing excellent education for the children of missionaries. All the teachers are themselves missionaries who raise their own support. There are around 600 students at the school, which teaches kindergarten to year 12 with an American curriculum. There is a constant need for teachers and staff at Grace, and it’s truly a wonderful ministry to our children. Perhaps you are a teacher who is looking for an opportunity to serve overseas? (Check out gisthailand.org for the current needs.)
Meanwhile, the two sets of visiting parents come to breakfast and I get a last chance to talk with them about their kids and how they are doing in the dorm. For one family it’s their first year with us at Mountain View and English is their second language. Their three kids are adjusting well. The older son has a birthday later this month and a present is wrapped and left behind for him to open on the day. I get a few clues as to what to give him from the dorm also.
I have loads of small things to accomplish this morning, so, after a time reading my Bible and a shower, I jump in the car for a run to the airport to send one of the dads on his way back to South Thailand, where he is team leader in a church-planting ministry to Thai Buddhists. This provides another opportunity to chat in the car with him about his sons and the adventure camp ministry to Thai teens that he is passionate about. He talks about a surprise trip up to Chiang Mai again next week as he is coming for a Thai church leadership camp. He plans to pop into the dorm again if possible.
I drop him off at Departures and head back to the immigration office. Its 24 hours since some of our dorm kids returned from their October break. A new immigration law requires that I report this return to the office. It means waiting for an hour or so while the details are recorded.
David is at the tyre shop. A tire on the van needs plugging after it was punctured by a nail — it’s the month for flat tyres, four times on three different vehicles. The kids are getting adept at using a jack and changing a tire though! After the tire is plugged, David pops into the local hardware shop and drools over power tools!
After the immigration office it’s time to pick up some money for the dorm from the finance office, pay our internet bill, book Rowan’s piano lessons for the month, and pay the garbage collection and lighting fee for our neighbourhood. Then I give some mail to our neighbours at Haus Benaja, the German-speaking
OMF dorm that shares
We have leftover sticky rice and papaya salad from Sunday night’s dinner. The papayas came from a tree in the garden, and David is great at making the delicious mixture of sweet, salty, sour and spicy of this iconic Thai meal. And then I get a quick lie down before taking the second set of parents to the airport. Because it’s the last day of the month, David is spending the afternoon finalizing the dorm accounts and sending off the spreadsheet to the finance office. We have a budget that is set annually that covers all the dorm expenses. Each family that lives in the dorm
ontributes to the budget, and its part of our job to make sure we keep to it!
At 3 pm David goes again in the van to pick up the kids and I start making the afternoon snack. The 13 MKs usually arrive home hungry and ready to find something delicious on the table. Today I am making roti bread which they slather with condensed milk! We take the time to sit around the table and talk about the day. The 11th graders have a big research paper due this week, and the pressure is weighing on them. It’s also the last week of the school soccer season. Two of our boys are playing in the varsity team, and they are excited for the two games to come that will finish their soccer year. They are playing one team that they have drawn with twice. Will they be able to win this week?
The OMF boarding program is committed to the training and support of its staff, and as a part of this David and I are currently studying externally, through Boarding Training Australia, a two-year Certificate IV in Community Service – Student Residential Care in International Boarding Schools. It means lots of reading and an assignment due every Friday. We are enjoying the topics we are studying and learning lots. It means fitting in the study where we can, so we work on this week’s unit while the kids are doing their homework. Fortunately we are both pretty competitive, so it seems like we are both racing each other to finish our weekly work before the other one! It helps get things done. Some of the topics we have looked at so far include identifying and responding to at-risk young people, facilitating responsible behavior in youth, communication skills, cultural diversity, and engaging with young people. In two weeks’ time the trainers from Australia are coming to run an intensive week of study. We will be doing this during the day while the kids are at school, and on duty as usual in the dorm each morning and evening, so I am predicting exhaustion!
It’s getting close to dinner time and great smells are coming from the kitchen. We have two Thai staff that help us in the dorm on weekdays — on the weekends we must fend for ourselves! Tonight Aunty Phet has made steamed fish with ginger and spring onions (I know you are drooling!). We mostly have a Thai menu during the week because Phet is such a good Thai cook, and then on the weekends we eat a menu that is more international. On Sunday nights, two of the dorm kids are rostered on cooking and they choose what they will make. Sunday night dinners are usually the best meals of the week!
Aunty Duan helps us with the huge piles of laundry the 17 of us in the dorm produce each day. This week we are still wearing only black clothes because the whole country of Thailand is in mourning after the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the beloved monarch who reigned in Thailand for 70 years. I have never seen such outpourings of sadness and grief before. All forms of entertainment have been curtailed, the TV only displays in black and white, radio only plays royal news and music, and every Thai is making plans to visit the royal crematorium in Bangkok during the year before the cremation. There is much uncertainty about the future.
Both our staff join in the Thai Bible study each Friday. Though they are Buddhists they are very open to hear God’s Word. We are nearing the end of a series on the book of Acts, and next we will jump into Romans.
Part of dinner time involves chores that keep the dorm tidy and running smoothly, and also a time of prayer that rotates for each family represented in the dorm. This prayer time enables each student an opportunity to share prayer points for the ministry of their parents and allows all of us to be a part of what is happening in mission in Asia. We have parents who work in a hospital on the Thai-Burmese border, caring primarily for refugees with a myriad of problems from TB to AIDS; other parents who run a school in Vietnam; and parents who work with the Akha tribal people, training leaders for the church across northern Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. Another family works amongst Tibetans, another in central China, and another with Muslims. Two other families work amongst Thai Buddhists in central and southern Thailand, and there is a family working in theological education in Bangladesh. All of these families need good educational options for their children, and so the dorm exists to enable them to continue their work and know that their children are getting a good education and are living in a loving and supportive dorm community.
The evening is pretty quiet. Everyone is working steadily on homework, though a few have gone out for a run. Because it’s Monday night it’s also ‘story-time-with-Aunty-Tina’ night, which involves hot chocolate, marshmallows and Narnia for our three youngest dorm members. This year our youngest member is 11 and our oldest will turn 18. There are 13 missionary kids in the dorm and they come from nine different passport countries. They very much relate to each other as a big family, and there is much love, teasing and fun going on most of the time. There are tears sometimes. The other night our youngest was feeling overwhelmed by homework, so, after a call to mum and a call to me, we were able to give him some comfort and some support and homework help. The oldest in the dorm is busy thinking about the future and university applications. He is not sure if he wants to study in Japan, Taiwan, Scotland or Thailand — and he’s really not too sure what he wants to study either. It’s a stressful time for both students and their parents, trying to prepare their kids for their return to a home country they don’t really know, and helping them with university applications with which they aren’t really up-to-date. This is an area where supporters and churches from home countries can really come alongside and help with local information, and especially care for the MK when he or she does return ‘home’. These students need people to come alongside and support and encourage them right through their university years. Right now these students are in a loving and supportive Christian community, but soon they will be going out into the world!
Well, it’s 10 o’clock, which means time to turn off the internet (* groan groan, grumble grumble *) and try and get these guys heading for bed. Some who are taking university-level classes are still at work and may stay up until midnight. We, however, need our sleep. After a goodnight to all, and a reminder to turn off all the lights and fans, we climb the stairs to our bedroom. The shower feels good, our bed is comfy, the alarm is set — and another day at Mountain View is over.
David & Tina Cannon
Dorm Parents at ‘Mountain View’, OMF’s Chiang Mai dorm for missionary kids