When we tell people we are moving to Thailand, most look at us with excitement, but others just look at us like we are crazy. What they all have in common, though, is that the first question they ask usually is “Why Thailand?” So for anyone who hasn’t heard our crazy long story of how we went about picking our new home, here goes!
Back in 2015 Aaron and I were serving in Patterson Bethel. When the announcement was made at morning worship that there would be many reassignments and changes coming up to help conserve donated funds, we knew right away our time had come. Sure enough, our letter came a few days later reassigning us as pioneers. We were sad, although excited, because it seemed to us that our goal of being need greaters might finally come true! Before leaving, we met with Brother Noumair and told him our plans to move to Africa in no more then 6 months. His reaction, although heart breaking, turned out to be the best advice anyone gave us. He told us Africa is simply not realistic for us because it is too expensive for Americans to make a success of long term. And he told us to wait until after Aaron was appointed as an elder to move abroad. Disappointed, we moved back home where the elder body knew Aaron well, and got to work!
A year later, we were struggling to maintain joy and patience. So in September we decided to send out letters to different branches about our interest to serve as need greaters. We prayed that we wanted to take a trip in March to visit the country being considered, and if Jehovah thought that was right timing we would hear back from the branches. But if Jehovah wanted us to stay put longer and be more patient, we prayed that he would remove the temptation and we wouldn’t get any letters back from the branches. So we wrote to 9 different branches. We sent our letter to Central America, Peru, Chile, Benin, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, South Africa (can you tell we hadn’t completely given up on the Africa idea yet?) and Thailand. We picked these because we had either been there before and liked it, or we had friends there. We prayed that if we heard back, we would pick the one who’s letter seemed the most welcoming. Within 6 weeks, we heard back from all the branches except one! Now we had a hard decision to make.
Funny enough, Thailand was the first branch to get crossed off our list! When we did more research about the language, we felt that we could never learn it. Learning to read a new alphabet just seemed like too much for us to handle. After reviewing all the letters, it seemed to us that the most welcoming branch was Kenya. This excited us because it worked along with our dream since we were dating of moving to Tanzania, where Aaron spent several months while he was single. We were so excited about this decision and continued on with plans. However, communication with the friends there was very difficult, the prices for things were much higher then we were expecting (Br Noumair knew what he was talking about!) and things just didn’t seem to be working. Even though it felt like our dream was coming true, I just wasn’t feeling excited about it anymore. I tried to go along with it all because I knew how excited Aaron was, but after looking for plane tickets together and still not feeling excited, I decided to tell Aaron how I felt. Turns out, he felt the SAME way! He was also just trying to go along with it for me!!!! So happy we were both on the same page, we decided to look over all our letters again to see if we missed something.
Now with fresh eyes, we re-read our letter from Thailand. Turns out, all the reasons we thought Kenya’s letter was so welcoming were exactly the same in Thailand’s letter! And on top of that, our good friend Charlie who lives in Thailand had not given up on us and constantly was texting us offering to help with anything we needed. Only then did we turn to the yearbook to compare all the stats from the countries we were considering. (we should have done this from the beginning) Where as Tanzania has a publisher ratio of 1 to 3,000, Thailand has a publisher ratio of 1 to 15,000!!! Thailand certainly has the most
need of anywhere we had written to. On a practical note, Thailand has a great reputation for healthcare, great internet, (a must since we plan to work online) plane tickets to and from home for half the price of Africa, and overall very cheap living expenses. It also has a great visa system that we can actually maintain long term, and a bonus of beautiful scuba diving and beaches only a few hours away! All of this is need greater paradise! All of a sudden it seemed that we were blind to the fact that Thailand was the answer to our prayers. But that language!!!! We still felt we could never do it! When we told this to Charlie, he set us up with a sister in his old hall who teaches Thai online and garuntees she could have us reading in 3 months.That seemed like the answer! We were also reminded by good friends that Jehovah can give us the ability to learn the language, so if thats the only thing holding us back, thats really nothing at all.
Now that we decided where to go, there was still one problem left. Aaron still wasn’t appointed as an elder yet. By this time it was around January and we had one last CO visit before we were planning on leaving in March. We knew that this decision had Jehovah’s backing since we had heard back from all the branches in such short amount of time, but it didn’t quite make sense to us yet. And remember, Brother Noumair told us not to go anywhere until Aaron was appointed. We learned our lesson by this point that it is clearly easier to just listen to him because he knows what he is talking about!! Well our CO visit rolls around, and guess who got appointed?!? The excitement was soon followed by stress as we realized that we shouldn’t just pick up and leave our small congregation so soon after, feeling like we were abandoning them after we got something we wanted. For days before he was announced we were worried that maybe we shouldn’t move so soon after all. But at his very first elder’s meeting, he learned that our tiny congregation was going to be dissolved. While everyone was getting new congregation assignments, we could happily say that we were planning on moving to Thailand, guilt free!
So there we have it! In march we left for Thailand for 3 months to visit the congregations that the branch recommended to us. More on that in the next post! Please leave us any comments below, we would love to hear from you!!!!!