Language learning has probably been my (Nate’s) biggest weakness since moving to Thailand. I have taken a few courses and I practice what I know but learning to read and write Thai script has always been a daunting and seemingly unachievable task. Kara has studied Thai for most of the 11 years she has lived in Thailand and thus she speaks conversationally and reads and writes quite well and continues to encourage me to make the time to study. So alas, today (June 10th) I start my first of many Thai lessons. I will be taking 3, 1 hour classes per week from a Thai tutor plus outside study and practice that should get me reading and writing in no time. I think this will drastically improve my ability to minister within our organization and within the community that we live in. I am excited to have the knowledge but intimidated by the process. Please pray for my weary brain as I absorb the materials and for wisdom as I restructure my schedule to fit the lessons in. One thing I am sure of, is that I am not studying Thai because I have time. I am making time because I know it is long overdue and it will further empower our ministry.
Thai Summer is actually late February to early May but much of the international community here has a calendar driven by the international school schedules that operate on August to May schedule. This schedule causes a huge exodus each year within the international community as parents start home assignments and take freshly graduated seniors to college. Each year and average of 30% of our congregation transitions in or out of Chiang Mai Christian Fellowship leaving us with a statistically brand new congregation every 2 1/2 years. This year there is an added challenge as Tim & Denise (In-laws and senior pastor at CCF/Director of the foundation) are due for a home assignment to meet with supporters and love new grand kids. They left about 2 weeks ago and will be gone until late august, leaving CCF and the Foundation in our (mine and our staffs) capable hands. I will be filling in at CCF preaching about 8 of the summer sermons as well as overseeing the normal operations as usual. I am very excited for this opportunity but it comes with significant challenges. So far God has been very gracious as we adjust our work schedules and priorities to fill the holes. Please pray for Kara and I as we both work to accommodate these needs and serve this community through this transitioning period. Also pray for Aiden as his daily routines transition a bit with ours. God has already brought several new people into our community that we have the chance to serve and we are enjoying the new challenges this season brings. (The picture is of Tim’s last breakfast with us before heading to the airport. Aiden loves eggs and pancakes with “Papa.”)
Rainy season starts in Thailand in late May early June each year. I personally enjoy the season more than summer because it keeps it a bit cooler. Each year Thailand receives about 49 inches of rain that falls over many afternoon showers throughout the rainy season. This year we had the added complication of a broken window on our car. While driving to the local high school graduation ceremony I drove over a speed bump and we heard a pop. Then with window on the driver side began to recede into the window. Yes, it did rain that night on the way home from the graduation as it did most other nights that week. We were able to cover the window during the rain and weight it down with a broom since the wind has the tendency to pick up during the almost-daily afternoon storms. We did get the car to the shop to be fixed and fortunately there was a truck available to use for a few days while the window was being repaired. About 150 USD later we have the working car back in business and water tight once again. Thank you to all of you who do help us cover our living expenses from month to month. You really do make a difference in ministry here in Thailand. By extension you are helping us empower hundreds of people and dozens of ministries all over SE Asia!
In May, we had the chance to launch a brand new project within The Family Connection Foundation. As the executive administrator my job is the develop, document, and launch new and relaunch existing projects that are new to FCF. Kara serves on our communications team as a copy and script writer. She works with our director of media to create promotional videos and visual stories so that we can connect with people that are giving financially and praying for these projects. Education Matters is a scholarship program that will allow people to sponsor a child’s education for just 30 USD/Month. We believe that good education is one of the most effective deterrents for trafficking and abuse within this society. Currently there are 28 children sponsored and there is a lot more need so please let us know if you are interested in getting involved. CLICK HERE to watch the video that Kara worked on as script writer to find out more about the vision. You can find out more by contacting me or by going to http://www.thaiconnections.org/education-matters.
February 2013 was tough month as we grieved the loss of a good friend and brother in Christ. Paul has worked with our foundation and attended Chiang Mai Christian Fellowship for more than 8 years. On February 1st we were devastated by a call that informed us Paul had been in a motorcycle accident and pronounced dead at the scene. Paul served God in a great way by loving kids. Paul’s heart was softened several years ago by one of our Ban San Rak kids named Matthew. Matthew had severe cerebral palsy and Paul helped care for Matthew for years as he was in and out of the hospital. While Paul was loving Matthew he spread his love to many of the other kids in the children’s ward at the local government hospital and a ministry was born were Paul would visit the hospital daily and pray for the kids, often taking them stuffed animals or toys to bridge the language and cultural barrier. For years Paul carried on this ministry right up until the day he died. Paul also served at Home of the Swallow, a Family Connection Foundation project that cares for single moms and local kids that need a place to call home during the day when their parents are out working. Paul spent two or three days each week loving the kids and being a good male role model for the moms at the home that had never known a Godly man. Paul was an inspiration to us and his memory and ministry will live on. Paul loved people…period. Regardless of their size, shape, color or economic status. Paul believed everybody needed Christ and was never slow in sharing the Gospel. Please pray with us for his wife Tip as she copes with the loss in life and makes a hard transition. Also pray for all of the friends that Paul ministered to and worked along side. He will be missed for ages to come.
After 6 months of looking, fixing, building, painting, re-flooring, and moving we are officially moved! Our new house is already a huge blessing with more space and a much more convenient location. We are slowly working through the house room by room to make additions and improvements. This whole experience is quite different from one we would have in the states as we are not permitted to own property here. This leaves us with one significant option…to rent long term. We were fortunate to find a great landlord that is willing to give us a very good price on a long term lease and even help fund many of the improvements. This sounds very “un-western” to us as we would never pay for improvements in a rented house in the west but it is really the only option we have here. When we were negotiating rent we had to factor in what the cost of the improvements would be and then bargain for a rental price (fixed over 5 years) that would give us a return on our investment early in the contract. Over the long run this will be a very economical option for us and we are really excited about it! To see some before and after pictures of the remodel CLICK THIS LINK.
After vising people all summer long I came to the realization that we do not always do a good job at communicating what our actual responsibilities are. So, here is my attempt to clear that up so you can know how to more specifically pray for us. To see the interactive Google Map of FCF ministries click here.
Nate currently serves in two distinct but closely connected roles. First he serves as the Executive Pastor of Chiang Mai Christian Fellowship (CCF). His responsibilities in this capacity include: the development and oversight of CCF programs; the volunteer structure that enables these programs; as well as the development of the church’s ability to fulfill its mission to glorify God by supporting and empowering the community of believers that attend CCF. He occasionally has the opportunity to fill for Tim, the senior pastor, as preacher.
Secondly, Nate serves as the Executive Administrator for The Family Connection Foundation (FCF) which is the Church’s mission outreach to Southeast Asia. His responsibilities in this area include the development and oversight of 15 projects and 80+ Thai staff and foreign volunteers that work with the foundation. As a legally licensed Thai foundation FCF serves the projects through providing developmental and legal oversight, visa and work permit management, financial processing and management, media and IT support, logistics, community development, networking, professional development, recruiting and many other services. Ultimately, Nate is charged with running an organization that empowers, supports, and encourages ministries all over South east Asia.
Kara is the backbone of the Ullrich household as a full time mom and wife. Aiden is almost four years old and Kara has her hands full during the day stimulating his personal growth, while buying groceries and managing our family’s “Operating Budget”, and keeping the house in order. As the primary Thai Speaker she keeps our lives from crumbling before us on a daily basis as we live in a culturally different and diverse community. Also, while working from home, Kara participates on FCF’s media team as the Script & Copy Writer, developing writing for FCF projects and missionaries. Her job is to tell the stories of what God is doing in Thailand by way of script and print. You can read Kara’s writing on our website (www.thaiconnections.org), in FCF orientation materials, project brochures and also hear it in the project promotional videos as well as the missionary support raising videos.
At this point we both have more work to do than is within our power to complete. Daily we must look to God to see how HE is going to complete our tasks for us. Sometimes it is through extreme productivity, sometimes it is through good friends and support systems, sometimes it is through divine wisdom to know when to and when not to participate in different activities. Daily we find ourselves needing Christ, in which He always comes through. We end most days with a feeling of humility, knowing that we cannot accomplish what God has given us without HIM. Please continue to pray for us as we manage our lives here, personally and professionally. God has presented us with big needs and has also equipped us to serve a lot of people. We are intimidated and humbled by this realization but also given great confidence that God promises the needed provisions for doing what He has called us to.
If you’d like to find out more about the Church the Foundation or other ministries we partner with please visit our page online at www.thaiconnections.org and take a look around.
2012 went by like a whirlwind. We traveled 30,000 miles and visited too many people to count! It was a great time of reconnecting with family and friends. However much we longed to stay for the winter in the states, it was back to Thailand for us.
We have to adapt our Christmas holidays to our “culture” here a bit, but we get to splurge for a traditional Christmas dinner of sushi, shrimp cocktail and a cheese ball while playing games and wishing for air conditioning…ok, so maybe our holidays are a bit different then yours. We did have a nice, relaxing “stay-cation” where we spent time with family, enjoyed some holiday treats and worked on getting the new house ready to move in. The holidays have always been hard for us here, as we grew up with snow and the fresh scent of evergreen trees, but God has given us new traditions for the holidays that are fun, with an opportunity to truly remember and glorify what HE did for us. God is good and has always taken care of our needs, both emotional and physical. We hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas this year and that God will bless this upcoming year for you and your family!
In two weeks we will be moving! For 18 months we have been considering moving to a community closer to Nate’s office and many of our friends. In November we found a house that will serve our needs well, and is not directly within the flight path. God definitely provided for this opportunity as we were able to secure a home with low cost and a long term contract, allowing us to invest in the move and put down deeper roots in the community here. There is a lot of work to do over the next two weeks as we: fix floors, paint, and overhaul the kitchen. Unfortunately, as foreigners in Thailand, we are not permitted to own property, so the best thing we can do is to invest in a house with lower rent and a long term contract. Many of the changes we are making will be moved with us when needed but it takes a lot of work to be very strategic in how we invest. Please continue to pray for us as we make that transition.
A blessing in the short term is that for the next two weeks we have a guest in our home. Victoria (FCF Intern) will be staying with us as we move and then will be the first resident of the FCF transition house (our old house) after we move. It has been great to get to know Victoria better and share life with her. Her enthusiasm for Thailand and the ministry has been very refreshing and encouraging.
The picture in this post is of one of the floors we are installing. The house has old teak floors that are expensive to fix and maintain, but are in desperate need of fixing. A cheaper option is to do laminate flooring, which is relatively new to Thailand. The room will eventually become the office and guest room (hint hint).