I left the Beijing Youth Conference early in order to fly to Thailand to help with a conference there. There were about 150 people there, a third of whom were the kids of adults attending the retreat. (The participants were members of an organisation doing mission and humanitarian work in South East Asia). Christina and I co-lead a program for the 17 teens there (kids from Australia, Germany and the US, living in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam).
Cha-am is a beach town 2 hours south of Bangkok, in Phetchaburi province. It’s half an hour north of the busier town of Huahin. Cha-am is known for it’s long sandy beach, with calm waves and not much in the way of nightlife. It’s a quiet tourist town, full of hotels and guesthouses and restaurants and the ubiquitous 7-11 stores.
I arrived in Cha-am around 3am local time (4am Beijing time) having come off a two day conference in Beijing and only 3 hours sleep the night before. I lay down for three hours but didn’t really sleep. The conference had started a day earlier so I was jumping right into things. The youth stayed in for the main conference speaker that morning (the other mornings we ran our own session as we were watching smaller kids in the pool during the workshop time). He spoke from Jeremiah 61, on the prophet’s complaints to God.
Afterward we broke the teens into two groups and I sat with the older teens, discussing what we’d heard. We talked about how great it is to have a friend it’s safe to complain to – who you can tell your real feelings to, not the sanitised version. We finished our discussion time by each sharing a complaint we have currently – something we’re struggling with, or we don’t understand. It was so amazing – one of my favourite times of the whole week. I had known these kids half an hour and I loved them already.
I was in zombie-mode most of that first day. I barely noticed the environment because I was too busy trying to stay awake and talk loud enough to be heard (I had lost my voice almost completely – I’d come down with a cold a few days before the Beijing conference). After a decent sleep that night I was able to start appreciating my surroundings.
Christina and I had been put in a large suite with the thought that it could double as a youth room (since there wasn’t a dedicated space this year). The living space was HUGE! We used a projector to show movies on the wall a few nights, and we played all sorts of games and did our sessions there. It was awesome! The kids could drop by when they were bored, it was a great common space. The room had a view over the pool to the beach, too. Gorgeous at night, especially.
The pool was amazing – blue tiled; shallow, mid and deep areas; surrounded by flowering frangipani trees… it was super chlorine-y but that was a small price to pay. I think it might actually have helped strip some more of the leftover pink tinge out of my hair so that’s definitely a good thing ;) I love swimming, but so rarely do these days. I think the last time I went swimming 5 days in a row was when I visited Malaysia with my family in July 2000.
The hotel was lovely and the food was awesome and the people were incredible. I so so SO enjoyed getting to know the teens, and I had some great conversations with others who were there as well. I even bought two new swimsuits down the road – my first new swimmers in 4 years, I think, and I love them. I had lunch one day with a couple I know from Australia – I knew their two eldest kids (one of them very well) in youth group back in Canberra. That was really special! I also talked to a few people about some of my vision and plans for TCK work around Asia – got some really helpful feedback and ideas, which really excited me.
We had our own worship night with the youth on the second last night of conference. I wasn’t well prepared (no powerpoint or lyrics, just choosing songs by a list on which kids had marked ones they liked) but it was a wonderful time. On the last night a lot of us hung out in a small pool til pretty late – no one really wanted to leave, I think. Some of the kids who were leaving super early stayed in the “youth room” (our room!) til 3am or so – saves getting up early if you don’t go to bed!
It was such a great time. The kids were amazing, the games were really fun, we had some really great conversations, and I love ALL of them! I am currently working on a travel plan for this summer that would let me visit them all where they live. Christina and I spent the whole week talking about what we’d do NEXT year…now we just have to get invited back!
Trips like this really confirm in me that this is what I want to do with my life. I want to serve TCKs across Asia. I want to provide resources and solid mentoring relationships for them. I can’t mentor every kid in Asia personally, of course, but that’s why I’m so passionate about getting the Youth in Asia network up and running – to bring in new TCK workers and keep current ones there long term.