I have so much to write about! I started a little list and will get to a variety of things little by little in the coming weeks/months.
Unfortunately, my computer was out of commission for a while and I was also without internet at my room for about a month. Now that those things are all in order, I feel a bit more relaxed and feel like I’ve finally moved in!
Going back about 7 weeks or so… two days before my last final exams in Bangkok, as I was on my way back to my room after another final exam, I had a bit of a bicycle accident. I was going at a pretty good clip and it happened so fast, I didn’t have time to hardly react at all. One sign of that was not a single scratch on my hands! It was a solo accident, if you don’t count the role of the sinister roadway. The university police brought me to a hospital and after some stitches in my head, a chest x-ray, and a couple of other bandages, I was set to head back to my room to prepare for my last two exams. Well, if that were all, it would have been a relaxing weekend! But I was in the middle of packing my room and about a dozen other time constrained chores in order to move out of my room about 36 hours from that point in time! I was in a significant amount of pain, which made doing just about anything difficult, including breathing. I consciously made it a mind of matter kind of thing and determined to get things done as well as I could. The next day the shippers came and took my things, after helping me wrap up a few of the last boxes that I couldn’t quite manage. And the morning after that I headed out, checked out with the room management, headed to the exam room with my luggage, took my last 2 final exams, said goodbye to a few classmates, and headed to the bus station. I arrived early the next morning to Chiangmai and made my way directly to the university to make it to my classes! I was actually arriving a few weeks after the classes had already started, thus the mad rush to get up here as fast as I could, but the department allowed me to start late and teachers met with me after classes for a couple of weeks to help me catch up. The classes are held over the summer break and are pretty intensive, so missing as much as I did, was a significant amount of lost time. An overall score of 86% in these prerequisite classes is required to pass into the master’s program. I have finished the first two classes and passed without a problem. I got 99.4% in the Phonology class and a bit less in the Articulatory Phonetics class! 🙂 Only one more class to finish up this month. Unfortunately, two of my classmates weren’t able to pass on into the master’s program. 😦 So, my class will be that much smaller for the coming year.
After arriving to Chiangmai (northern Thailand), I was so grateful for the room that one of my schoolmates (who I’ve actually known for a few years now, via an old friend I know from church about 25 years ago!) let me stay in for a couple of weeks so I could recuperate and not be as stressed out needing to rush as much in finding a place to live. My body was in pretty poor shape and the rest was very much needed. To this day, seven weeks later, my ribs still hurt and my hip has just stopped feeling any pain this past week. Funny enough, my head never hurt much, even though it was the most obvious injury, bleeding like crazy and made me a hazy for a bit. Everyone kept asking how my head was, but it never really hurt! I guess my hardheadedness has proven its worth! hahaha Looking back, I’m pretty amazed how I could have possibly done everything I did after that accident! Some days, after getting up here, I felt like I could hardly move, let alone pack up my room, haul luggage (a backpack, a guitar and a rolling carry-on type suitcase), traipsing around Bangkok, and travel to the north!
The transition to move into this linguistics program has been something that I have been looking forward to for a long time! It has been an exciting time and I am looking forward to see the many new things coming my way! Hopefully that won’t include another concrete roadway! I have been encouraged in so many ways since coming here. It has been great meeting people who have been on the field doing all sorts of Bible translation related language work in numerous countries around the world, some for over 30 years. I have met people from at least 14 different people groups in and around the Linguistics Department. In my classes now, there are a few students who have been working in related fields in a few different countries. I am looking forward to learning more from them as well. Outside of class, I have also made an interesting connection. One of the security guards at the building I live in is from a town about a 5 hour bus ride from Loikaw, the capital city of Karenni! And his aunt lives in Loikaw! He can’t speak any of the Karenni languages, but he is happy to teach me some phrases from his language. It is really fantastic being around so many like-minded people here. I will explain a bit more about the program here and get into a little more background later. Generally speaking, the end goals are to get the scriptures into languages that people can understand. That involves a wide variety of things! And of course, linguistics is a major part of that.
At this time, I have less than a month before my present summer session will end. Following that, I believe there will be a one week break before the first semester begins. At this point in time, I still don’t have the funds to do so, but am praying toward that end. I will appreciate your prayers as well. I’m still short a pretty hefty amount… needing somewhere around $1,700. Then of course, the need to pay for food, a roof, transport, electricity and other neat things like internet and running water seems to just never stop. I’m sure you know exactly how that feels. I wasn’t able to find any scholarships to apply for, so it will be a more demanding financial time than when I was in Bangkok and could qualify for scholarships by keeping high grades. If you believe God would have you sponsor me at all, that would be a great blessing. He has amazing ways of having his body build itself up that are far beyond my understanding. And I am grateful for his blessings in whatever way they may come. If this is not a direction God is leading you to use your finances, your prayers are still a currency that has no available earthly exchange rate! In God’s economy, I believe the prayers of his saints are infinitely more valuable than their gold. With that in mind, your prayers are something that I highly covet. And of course, if you are among my non-Christian friends, I’m happy for any encouragement from you too!
In my last post I asked for prayer regarding the next step toward my goal of getting trained up and on the field working with my Karenni friends in translating the Bible into the languages of their people. The aspect of prayer concerning spiritual life is an ongoing need of course and will be needed until I breathe my last. As for my financial needs that I mentioned, God has answered with a positive answer for the time being!
I don’t recall the exact timing, but very shortly after I wrote the post I learned that I would be getting enough money to pay my tuition fees for this present semester and would therefore be able to take my final exams and graduate! I received those funds with 3 days to spare before the looming deadline to pay it. As for anticipated expenditures for my move to the north and on into the linguistics training, I just got word a few days ago that a good portion of that will also be arriving soon! It was a wonderful answer to prayer that I have been hoping to hear for many months. I still don’t have enough to pay for the coming linguistics program tuition, but I do have enough to move and start the precourse program that goes through the summer.
For those who don’t already know… I am not allowed to work here since I am on a study visa. The school also discourages their students from working, even for Thai students, saying that the students have to concentrate completely on the program. They are saying this from their years of experience with students in the program. At any rate, for me, being on a student visa, it is illegal to work.
Now that I am moving closer to my goals, both in location and activities, I plan to write much more frequently than I have in the past. There were a variety of reasons I stopped posting to my blog about a year and a half ago. Now, I hope I will be able to give my friends and family, along with anyone else interested, a view of what I’m doing that will hopefully feel more closely related to, and eventually directly on target of, my goals of language work and Bible translation with the Karenni people.
I am grateful for your prayers and beg you not to stop, regardless of my financial situation. And as for that situation… please ask God to provide the needed tuition and other assorted fees. And as I mentioned in my last post, following those expenses, I anticipate my living costs (rent, food, transportation, etc…) will be about $1,000/month. This is pretty much a minimum survival cost, not including luxuries like health insurance, fixing teeth, going back to America if ever possible someday, etc.. On that note, I thank God that he has kept me in very good health! Even my teeth are not as bad as before… maybe because I had so many of them pulled out already? hahaha
Oh! And I have final exams in the ensuing days. Please pray that I’ll survive unscathed. I hope to keep some sort of decent sleep too. A seemingly never-ending battle! The final results of my last 4 years will be available sometime around the beginning of June.
Thank you again for your prayers! I appreciate your support so much! God isn’t deaf nor is he blind to my circumstances, but it pleases him to see his creation working together in harmony and looking to him to keep it in tune. Speaking of working together, I would be glad to hear how I can pray for you too! I want to sing a part in the song of your life as well. Connect with me on Facebook, leave me a message below or send me an email. I will be glad to hear from you. Sigmundson@yahoo.com
Last week I received my acceptance notice to the linguistics master’s degree program that will be training me to finally get to go work with the Karenni people. It feels like it has been a long road here in Bangkok. Four years for a bachelor’s degree when you are 18 years old probably doesn’t seem like such a big deal. When I started, at 49, it seemed like an eternity that I didn’t have time for! Well, in a few weeks it will be done and, Lord willing, I’ll be immediately heading up to Chiangmai, in the north of Thailand, to start on some required precourses for the master’s program. These courses actually start a few weeks before I finish my final exams here in Bangkok. But the linguistics department at Payap University has been kind enough to allow me to join in a few weeks late. It will be a big challenge to catch up, since they are delivered in an intensive, compressed time frame, but I believe it is just another one of those hurdles that will soon be in the past.
I can hardly describe how much I am looking forward to getting up north! Not only will I be getting into activity more directly related with translation work, I will be able to be with some Karenni people. There are some Karenni in that area and the Karenni Bible School and refugee camp is only about a 6 hour drive over the hills/mountains or a 30 minute flight and 30 minute drive.
A little background…
The program is managed by SIL, which is an organization that carries out the language-related activities of Bible translation. “SIL serves language communities worldwide, building their capacity for sustainable language development, by means of research, translation, training, and materials development.” SIL does what might be called ‘language ministry’ of which Bible translation is a major part but not the only part. So much of the work you might hear of ‘Wycliffe’ folks doing overseas is done under SIL as an organization. This includes linguistics, literacy, Bible translation, anthropology, ethnomusicology, community development, chronological Bible storying, teaching in universities, etc.
Wycliffe Bible Translators is the most well-known organization related to Bible translation work. There is often a bit of confusion over the relationship between Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL. From what I understand, here’s how it works. Wycliffe recruits people, prepares them, and then loans them to SIL for the actual work of Bible translation. Anyone who is a member of SIL is also an employee of Wycliffe (except for nationals hired by SIL overseas), but not every employee of Wycliffe is a member of SIL (for example, Wycliffe employees working in the States).
I would like to ask for your prayers that I will be able to continue in this. Firstly, I would ask for continued prayers regarding spiritual life, including finding a new church to fellowship with in Chiangmai. I have been blessed with a good church to fellowship with here in Bangkok and will need to find a new one soon. Secondarily for my safety and health. As for my physical/financial needs, which are seemingly more pressing at the moment (It always seems that way doesn’t it!? I fear this is easily deceiving and so please remember my first request!), many of my acquaintances and friends (Muslims, Buddhists and some with no particular religion) here are a bit dumbfounded about how I can keep making plans like this when I have no money. I tell them that God is pretty rich! And if he pleases, he will continue providing for me as I believe I am going forward in doing what he has called me to do. If he doesn’t allow me to make it into the master’s program due to lack of funds, then I’ll just have to see what his plan is for me to make it into the program next year. In the meanwhile, I move forward. I have no idea how I have been able to make it this far, other than by God’s grace in moving a variety of generous and loving friends and family to support me in this work. I have been down to 20 bucks on a number of occasions, with rent coming due in a week. God is not only pretty rich, he also has a pretty good understanding of timing! In the past 4 years, I think I have probably had situations like that a dozen times or more. It has been a great exercise in faith building. It is a great answer to one of my most oft-repeated prayers over the last 25 years, that of asking for a stronger faith in God in general. As I continue asking God for faith, I expect he will continue answering in a variety of ways. All of that said, please pray with/for me that God will continue to provide for me.
I know some friends will immediately want to ask me what I need… whether to be able to pray more specifically or to see how they may be able to help me financially. So, I will try to give a general idea here.
According to the data I kept on all of my expenditures over the past year, I have been surviving on less than half of what (4 years ago) my Thai friends estimated I would need. I hope I will be able to continue keeping my costs low.
The following is what I am praying for within the next 2-3 weeks.
• I will have expenditures in moving up north. A number of unknowns, little-knowns and guesses are in this. It could run from $400 to $1,000.
• Finding a room to rent, along with the requisite deposits, will probably cost about $800-900.
• $300 for the precourse program.
• About $120 for a new passport.
• I need about $550 more in order to pay for my last semester here in Bangkok. It was due months ago, but I haven’t been able to pay it yet.
• I may also need to buy a scooter. The transportation system in Chiangmai is not as well-developed as here in Bangkok. I think I could probably find a used junker, hopefully not stolen, for around $500. A new one is something like $1,250+.
The following is what I will need by July.
• Tuition for the first semester (including visa and administration fees) of the master’s degree program will be $1,900. The following semesters should be a couple of hundred dollars cheaper. I believe the administration fees are onetime fees. And the visa fees occur only once a year.
Following these expenses, I anticipate my living costs (rent, food, transportation, etc…) should be about $1,000/month. This is pretty much a minimum survival cost, not including luxuries like health insurance, fixing teeth, going back to America if ever possible someday, etc..
Your prayers are greatly valued. And if anyone reading this is led to support me financially as well, that would be a great blessing also.
Today was an encouraging day!
I have some relatively new neighbors here who do a variety of ministries among the needy here in Thailand. I went with them to the church they have been attending. It meets in a coffee shop in a more central area of Bangkok. Upon arrival, we found our way to seats and I ended up sitting next to a man from Pakistan, who I found out later was also there for the first time. We had a great time of fellowship after the formal services. He is here on application for asylum, having a group of Muslims who are out to kill him and had already attacked his pregnant wife in their home once. Then also they tried to kill him a couple of times. Apparently they didn’t appreciate that he was a part of a Muslim’s conversion to Christianity. He, his wife and two children are here solely surviving on the good will of people here and can have no contact with family or friends back home since that could make things dangerous for their loved ones. Until his application for asylum is accepted he has no support from any governmental body or non-governmental bodies like the U.N. At any rate there is more to his story that was all very encouraging.
I found meeting him particularly encouraging because as he offered to pray for me in my circumstances, which I’ll write a little about following, I was given the blessing of seeing beyond my own little world of apparent need and could directly meet another who is in so much more need. It is always such a blessing being among those who are/were persecuted for their faith. There is something so very tangible about their faith that it has a way of encouraging me like not much else does.
The circumstances that I share with this man are those of not knowing how we will survive in the coming days, weeks or months. God has always provided for us in one way or another, but I have never quite gotten this close to not knowing what will happen in the very near future. I am speaking of things that require cold cash to resolve. As my new friend has virtually nothing, I have stuff, but I don’t have any way of buying food or paying rent, etc, etc. in the coming days. In the past years, I have always had some kind of support or a backup supply in a bank. Over the last year or so that has dwindled down to now being empty. There are still a few who support me sometimes, to whom I am very grateful, as well as to all who have supported me at one time or another over the years. At the present time I do have some food and enough money to last another week or two, but that’s about it. I suppose some will criticize me for not letting my needs be known more widely. I imagine there may be some credibility to that criticism. But I have let my needs be known to my God. He controls a lot more than any man to whom I may let my needs be known. But at the same time I know that some of my friends would like to know my needs directly as well. That is why I am mentioning it here. Otherwise, I am content to rely on my God and accept whatever he sees fit to do with/for me. I have received many criticisms over the years about a number of issues that I won’t go into detail about, but some are things like, why don’t you get a job? Or why don’t you write appeal letters? And there are a variety of other things. I always try to listen to criticism, but it often just leads me to talk less. Thus you see how little I have written on my blog. This is also a good lesson to teach me to shut my big mouth and be sure that if I am criticizing, I better be making it constructive and with an attempt to understand the one I am being so bold to criticize.
So, without rambling on any more… please pray for me in these circumstances. And also please pray for me about the circumstances of being able to deal with criticism that I believe is coming from ignorance of my situation, beliefs or maybe even abilities or understanding. And of course also please pray that God will pound the criticism that is proper through my thick skull. And thank God with me for bringing me in contact with this family in my building, who by the way have generously given me some food now and then, as well as with the Pakistani man today at church.
In Bangkok, with 130,000 police added to the streets and unknown thousands of army troops “bulking up” as the news put it, the elections promise to be yet another day of the foolishness of mankind on display for all to see. The elections are scheduled to begin in a few hours and things have been ratcheting up day by day. Your prayers for the peace of this land are not out of place in the least.
I don’t know how much news coverage there is in other parts of the world on this situation here. You may have heard about the gun fight that took place here yesterday evening. There was an hour long gun battle, along with a few small explosions, a couple of miles from my place yesterday evening. But I think the odds of stray bullets managing to make it my direction and through my single window on the 10th floor are pretty well stacked in my favor. Not that I normally think of these things in terms of odds so much, but rather in terms of understanding that in any case, whether my time with this momentary life is up or not is solely dependent on God’s will. I’m not worried about these things. That being said, I do appreciate your prayers and don’t take the hand of God’s protection for granted.
I thought I’d add this note here to let my friends know that although it may appear intense, I really don’t expect things will impact me much. I’ll be keeping away from anywhere with any kind of likely danger this week, either just staying in my room or perhaps getting out of town for the rest of the week. My university has been shutdown until the 8th, so it leaves me ample time to hop on a bus and spend some time with an old family friend out of reach of the dangers around Bangkok at this time.
Now that the attacks are ramping up with more hand grenades thrown today (Sunday), a protest security guard shot in the back last night (just down the street from me), and a shooting of another protest security guard about an hour ago… they decided to end the closure of my university and classes start tomorrow morning. Go figure….
The attacks have been on the increase, but hopefully they’ll stop NOW. It would REALLY not be a good thing for this to get into some kind of tit for tat escalation mounting into something much worse 😦 I think 4 dead and a couple hundred injured are more than enough already.
And with rumors of a coup continuing to fly around, what better timing could be asked for to stage the celebrations of the Royal Thai Army and Royal Thai Armed Forces Day yesterday. With tanks and all sorts of armored vehicles parading the street just nearby my place, I’m sure it made people feel like everything is nice and secure. Yeah… right…
Thank you for your prayers.
Until yesterday the protests had been largely peaceful, with no major incidents. Yesterday unfortunately saw the first daylight attack with a bomb of some sort thrown from a building into a procession of marchers a couple of hundred yards from the leader of the mass movement. Thank God nobody was killed, but there were a few dozen injured. There have been a number of bombings and shootings, in which I don’t believe anyone was killed, during the nights during this past week. but today was the first direct attack on the protesters and during the day.
My university opened the semester on Monday only to announce that it will be closed for the rest of the week. I dropped by my university on Thursday to pay my tuition. I learned that the protesters had marched into the university the day before. Apparently there are offices of the Department of Agriculture (this is the agricultural university of Thailand) and a national rice research center on the campus, which may have been the protester’s targets since there is an extremely controversial (insane in my opinion) policy in place by the current government that is subsidizing rice at absolutely incomprehensible levels (e.g. vote buying and money lining the pockets of numerous political cronies). Then the protesters marched on the (State) Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, which is just across the street from my housing complex. I was completely oblivious to all of this as I have been holed up in my room all week…. On this same day, the National Anti-Corruption Commission announced, after a year of anti-graft investigations, that they were beginning an investigation into the Prime Minister’s role in the “rice pledging scheme” as two of her cabinet ministers were formally charged with corruption.
We’ll see if the university will actually open on Monday as scheduled. I just hope we don’t have to show up for a day only to have the week canceled again
There is plenty of foolish inflammatory speech being thrown around by both sides that doesn’t make the situation any better and it seems like it’s not going to wind down soon as everyone was hoping… But this is Thailand, believe me, ANYTHING is possible!
Please keep your prayers coming.