February 17, 2018

Tonight I find myself in Thailand…

…on a non-touristy stretch of beach clamoring with village dogs, washed-up jellyfish, and the occasional topless European.

For ten years we’ve wrestled our way here, collapsing at a sacred retreat center, to thaw and breathe.

During Chinese New Year, droves of cross-cultural workers come down to Thailand for their annual organizational conferences.   This is due to the fact that nearly all of China takes 2-4 weeks off at this time of year.  All productivity sputters out as the Chinese press onto overloaded trains and make their way to their hometowns.  Some will ride 30+ hours on a train, without a seat, to reach their families. For most, even parents and their young children, they’ve been separated for 12 months.

Thailand is an inexpensive, tropical country that warmly welcomes the many conference attendees like us.  Street food of spicy curries, savory pad Thai noodles, and mango sticky rice can feed a family as large as ours for about $35 a meal. The Thai people are friendly and beautiful.  The beaches are unspoiled, and the morning and evening air is warm enough that sleeping in light pajamas feels like heaven.

Thailand is far more than a holiday destination for us; is a place of healing.

For our children, eight of whom are Chinese, our time here is the only respite from the daily barrage of questions and painful comments that they endure in China, “Where are your real parents?”, “I want to put my grandson in the boarding school with your private foreign-teachers!”, “Why did your parents get rid of you?”, and the unbelievable, “Is it because of your (insert visible special need here) that you’re with the foreigners?”

For Ezra, our eleventh child, his entire life in a wheelchair has been lived in China where the concept of wheelchair accessibility does not exist. His every desire is dependent on others.

Here our children can just be Hostetlers. No effort is needed to shade themselves from the burn of constant challenges to their identities.  Here Ezra can go outside, go inside, go outside again, enjoy the sunshine, stare at the grass, or go get an ice cream from the freezer…he has the freedom of self-determination…and it is like Miracle-Gro for his soul.  Here the oldest sisters, dad and I can relax our collective ninja-stance and be confident that no one is on the verge of wounding our tribe.

It takes a while to discharge that tension and dial down from fight or flight.

Oh, but when that golden time settles upon us, we SEE each other with clear eyes!  We HEAR each other’s hearts.  We FEEL the contentedness of being present, together. We begin to DREAM.  We RECEIVE what the Lord is speaking into our lives.  Our VISION and CALLING are shared and affirmed. We HEAL!

Next year we’ll be living in Seattle.

We’ll be in the land of wheelchair accessibility, politically correct conversations, and staggering volumes of choices daily that will strain the seams of our 24 hours.  Though the thought of such conveniences and comforts awakens my saliva glands, I likewise taste a worrisome foreboding.

Gonna have to keep my boots on.