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Derryl and Karen Friesen

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Derryl and Karen Friesen's Blog


After 30 years . . . a week in the life of . . .


After 30 years . . . a week in the life of . . .

(Written in Bangkok earlier this week.)

Up at 3:00 AM again, Karen and I are waiting at Gate D6 in the expansive Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport.  In less than an hour we will be boarding for Tokyo, across the Pacific to San Francisco and then on to Calgary to attend my dear mother’s memorial service.

This past August 2nd Karen and I celebrated 30 years serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators and marvel at the goodness of God and the safety he has afforded over the hundreds of thousands of kilometers travelled over these past three decades. To celebrate, we thought we’d give you a little visual glimpse into what life looked like for us in Chiang Mai the week of that anniversary with “a week in the lives of Derryl and Karen” panorama. 

Indeed, these past five months back in Thailand have held some of our most joy-filled moments of this long journey as well as some of our most frustrating. Celebrate with us in this series of photo collages, the faithful goodness of God and his patient work in and through us over these past decades!  Admittedly, every week is not quite varied or crazy as a few weeks ago in Chiang Mai city but regardless, God constantly seems to keep us on our toes! We thank God for the over hundred people who have come in and out of our House of Shade ministry house over the past four months.

Thank you each and every one, for your part in this making this journey possible. Eternity will be different because of lives touched through your love and partnership.

Derryl and Karen


Exploring the trails behind our house.

Our Wycliffe 30th anniversary week kicks off with Shane D. coming from his Bible translation project in Northern Thailand to stay two weeks at our house while on business in Chiang Mai. We bust out the bikes on Saturday to explore the labyrinth of forest trails behind our house. “Look out for those thorns and random little 20-foot-deep holes in the ground!”



Answer to prayer!

Sunday morning is an amazing answer to prayer. After nearly five years of building relationship with Khun A, our “ice-cream noodle man friend” he comes to church for the first time ever! A member in local Thai church helps us reach out to him in a financial crisis and Khun A finds a new family in Christ!  


Neighborhood party at House of Shade

A random phone call a week earlier from a local Korean evangelist ends up with our house filled Sunday night with a Korean YWAM team of housewives and a neighborhood party! More than a dozen orphan teens living in a dorm house just behind us in our village show up. Amazing testimonies of God’s love and faithfulness fill the hearts of these Buddhist kids who have never experienced the love of a father.  


Bugs. BIG bugs!

Bugs, bugs, bugs! Since moving into House of Shade near the forest on the outskirts of Chiang Mai we have never seen such a plethora of giant insects and eight-legged arthropods!  General rules to follow; always use a flashlight at night and never forget to shake out your shoes if you leave them outside!  


Early morning CanIL ride.

Michael and Lauren, the last of six Canada Institute of Linguistics (CanIL) students coming to Thailand this summer arrive mid-week. This newly married couple comes to spend a couple weeks with us to explore long-term Bible translation opportunities in four Southeast Asia nations. They arrive the same week the CanIL “Heart Language Ride” is raising $200,000 for linguistics scholarships back in Canada. So the four of us jump on our bikes and do our own little early morning ride with our spiffy CanIL jerseys! (Michael was among the first ever students we met at CanIL back in 2013 when we first served as dorm hosts and Lauren in 2015.)


Home grown fruit.

“No matter how far you are, we walk under the same sun - Jaxon and Raya.” Under this heartwarming, hand-painted watercolor sent to us from two of our six little grandchildren far away in North America, a bountiful harvest of fruit is displayed. From our own yard we have the joy of eating fresh avocados, papaya, pineapple, limes and custard apples. Botanical growth and regeneration in the tropics is simply mind bending! Doing a morning of “trimming” in the yard results in a massive load of brush hauled away in the back of our truck!


Rice planting with our neighbors.

Coming home Thursday from picking up another Dutch colleague from the airport (also staying with us for the week), a neighbor lady calls out my Thai nickname name from a flooded rice field she is planting with friends. I cannot resist. I return to the field with my camera and end up shin-deep in water, mud oozing between my toes and learning how to plant this staple food of tens of millions of people in whose country we are guests.  


Payap linguistics training program.

Payap University is Thailand’s first Christian university and is one of our closest partners in the region. Over 80% of all students who have graduated from the Master of Linguistics program are currently serving in the Southeast Asia Bible translation movement in dozens of projects. Payap is a “must-go” for anyone considering a career in Bible translation in this region! Michael and Lauren are top candidates to address the needs of hundreds of remaining Bibleless people groups in the region, and so off to Payap we go! 


Mud stomping party!

Friday finds us, along with five CanIL graduates and a “World Race” short term mission team, joining Wycliffe Thai Foundation for an epic afternoon of mud-stomping and brick-making for their new Clay House Project.


Community development for minority people.

Not only is Wycliffe Thai Foundation concerned about Bible translation and literacy for millions of minority people groups all over Southeast Asia, they also want to address practical needs of shelter and development for the least, the lost and the littlest.  


Games night at House of Shade.

Friday night we invite our new orphan friends over to the CanIL reunion party planned at House of Shade. All of the kids  are so excited. They call us mom and dad. Friday nights become games nights at House of Shade with our new teenage “kids.” Why they love us so much, we may never know, but their infectious smiles, hugs and notes of affection capture our hearts. Parents without children nearby – children without parents. It feels like a match made in heaven.   


Our new Thai family.

Abandoned as babies and dropped off at the doorstep of a Buddhist temple, Billy and Alex were raised by monks. Each of the others has their own story of rejection and abandonment. Yet their hunger to learn and succeed is insatiable. The eat up every Bible story booklet we give them and participate in lively discussion about what they like or don’t like about the story, what they have learned about the nature of man and God, and how we should respond. Honestly, despite none of them fully professing faith in Jesus yet, it feel like the best church we’ve been to in a long time!  


Visiting our amazing new "kids" at the orphan dorm house next door.

Saturday morning we are invited to go over the “our kids” dorm house. They proudly show us their “farm” and the different musical instruments they are learning. We are taken aback when we hear Cat start plunking out the old hymn, Nothing but the Blood of Jesus, on the keyboard! We discover a young Baptist volunteer from Tennessee has been coming over Saturday mornings to teach these kids music. We get the feeling God may just have a plan for this Buddhist house full of orphans!


Ugh! We hate mold!

We praise God House of Shade has become such a beautiful refuge of shelter, rest and blessing for so many who enter and stay. But for us at times, it feels like a curse. Ever since the torrential monsoon rains have hit we battle every day with soggy dampness and a pervasive infestation of white mold in every corner of the house. Bleach, soda, vinegar, incessant cleaning . . . nothing seems to rid the house, furniture and even clothing of the mold. This week is so bad it forces us to finally toss one bed into the garbage dump and discard three other pieces of fairly new furniture. And then there is the constant burning of vegetation and the smoke that fills the air a few times every week. We wonder how long we can or should put up with the mess and the health risks. Moving house becomes a very real consideration . . . but then we think about the joy of our newfound family of orphans, our little guesthouse accommodating so many young missionaries and the big, open space upstairs where large groups gather for sharing, singing, prayer, testimonies and games. And . . . it is really close to the mountains for biking, hiking and visiting elephants if we want!


Well, those are the joys and challenges of just one week. What would God have for us in the months and years ahead if we choose to continue seeking solutions to the mold and smoke and choose to stay? Those are the questions we will need to consider when we return in two months.

But first, team meetings here in Canada, spending time with my dad and our grandchildren and a three-week recruitment to Latin America for Southeast Asia. (More on that to come!)           




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