Posts tagged Thailand
The State Department’s 2011 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report came out last week. It’s an annual report that assesses and grades countries based not so much on the quantity of trafficking cases, but rather whether the country is meeting the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act. The rankings go Tier 1 (trying at least), Tier 2 (starting to try), Tier 2 Watch List (kind of trying, but let’s keep an eye on them) and Tier 3 (horrible, awful). As could be expected, Thailand is a Tier 2 Watch List. Last year, the US ranked itself for the first time and both this year and last gave itself a Tier 1. Hillary Rodham Clinton oversees the report and made the following comment in her introduction:
The report itself is a tool, and what we’re most interested in is working with countries around the world and working across our own government to get results. The decade of delivery is upon us.
I hope this is true. I hope more governments, more civil societies and more individuals will take responsibility for trafficked individuals in their home countries. The report is good and some countries are improving, but the number of victims identified and traffickers prosecuted is woefully short of the estimated number of slaves in existence today. In Thailand alone, a mere 381 people were classified as victims of trafficking in 2010. I could point out that many on any given night in Nana. The report includes a highlight of heroes in the last year and survivor stories, so there is work being done. But there’s lots more to do.
Insurance companies make easy targets for human frustration, generally with good reason. In his book, What Would Google Do, Jeff Jarvis observes that the insurance industry is “built on getting us to take a sucker bet—a bet even we want to lose.”
Nobody wants a reason to collect collision, fire, flood, health, or certainly life insurance. Worse than Vegas, we know that insurance companies stack the deck against us; that is the foundation of their business. If we don’t collect, we are losers (we’ve lost our money). If we do collect, we’re still losers (something bad happened)…We can’t win. The industry has to suspect that we are liars, making us prove our misfortune and reluctantly giving us back the money we put in the pool. They make the economics overcomplicated so we don’t know just what suckers we are and so we keep making safe bets—safe for the insurance company. Our relationship with insurance is, therefore, necessarily adversarial and built on mutual mistrust.
If you’ve been following the adventures of Michael & Heather Colletto in Thailand, you’ll know that Heather blew the living daylights out of her L5-S1 disc at the end of September and, after two weeks of total immobility, pain meds, and waiting for the insurance company to “pre-certify” the necessary care while the risk of permanent spine and nerve damage increased, we finally said “forget you,” took our doctors’ advice, and rode an overnight ambulance to Bangkok for emergency spine surgery. You’ll also know that our global insurance company, International Medical Group (IMG), has been everything but helpful (don’t get me started), and that we had to pay for everything with our credit card. Thankfully, we had a credit card with an obscenely high limit, and thankfully top-notch medical care in Thailand is shockingly cheap by American standards; however, as full-time volunteer NGO workers living on support, the bill was more than our combined annual salary. Plus 18.24% interest. Gulp.
Needless to say, we’re broke as a joke. Which, in a way, is puzzling to me. I’ve always been responsible. I’ve had a savings account since I was 10, I took a personal finance course in college, never carried a credit card balance a day in my life. Financially, I’ve made nothing but smart choices. (Well, except for that time I quite my job at QVC to move to the mission field in Eastern Europe…and then a year later when we sold nearly all our stuff and moved to Thailand. But, those crazy moves where God’s idea, not mine. Who am I to question His judgement?)
In light of recent events, something I read earlier this year came back to me with new potency: “In the West you have so much,” observes Chinese pastor Brother Yun in his book, The Heavenly Man. “You have insurance for everything. In a way, you don’t need God.”
Heather and I continue to adjust to a strange new normal back in the States: living as guests in our niece’s pink bedroom; our stuff and our cat stranded indefinitely several States away; Heather working part-time for SOLD while looking for additional paying work with health benefits. At times we think to ourselves that, surely—surely—by this point we’ve learned that God has a plan that’s better than ours, that we have and are nothing without Him, that we’re completely dependent and that we can and should fully trust Him with our present and future. And then in that same moment we realize how desperately hard we’re trying to regain control of our lives.
We have no insurance. Sure, we have a little plastic card with IMG’s logo on it and we dutifully pay them their premiums every month, but they’re not going to help us; they’ve proven their uselessness. We have no financial cushion. We have no assets to sell. And all of that is scary. Because we have to trust God. Without insurance—with the walls of our proverbial city all crumbled around us—we absolutely need God. There’s no denying it.
Over and over again the Bible says it is better to trust in God than in “mere humans,” even if those humans are mighty warriors or powerful politicians. It goes as far as to say that those who put their trust in other people—even friends and family—are cursed because their hearts have turned from the Lord. Proverbs says that those who trust in their riches will fall, and that he who trusts in himself is a fool. Trust in the Lord, and the Lord only, the Bible says again and again. ”Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding…” I know this stuff. My head even believes it’s all true. But my wicked, proud little heart just won’t let go. And I need to. Apparently, that’s harder to do than it sounds.
God is my insurance. And, really, I should trust no other. God won’t necessarily keep us from harm or fill our bank account with money in the event of disaster—He’s not that kind of insurance, and that should be obvious by now. But He’s good. His glory matters more than my physical or financial wellbeing. And at the end of the day—and the end of my life—my hope rests in Him alone.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. —Romans 15:13
The road behind me
Stretches out before me.
A rust-red moon rises
Into a dark sea of stars,
Orion the hunter takes aim at the Earth,
And my fickle heart
What unseen thing lies ahead
And how it will look
When it, too, has passed.
Sometimes life gets crazy
I sat in the shade-darkened hospital room listening to the quiet hum and slow ticking of the IV pump as it fed the vein in my wife’s wrist. In less than two hours, she’d be in surgery. But now, for the first time in weeks, we’re resting.
Our friend, Lynette, sleeps curled at the other end of the couch where I sit, exhausted from the 12-hour ambulance ride from Chiang Rai to Bangkok. Impossibly, I managed to sleep straight through 11 of those hours, the margins of my dreams only loosely tugged by the quiet chatter of the Thai nurses, the rhythm of the rain, and the motion of the van. Relief. I think I was just relieved to have Heather on the way to quality care after eight days battling the language barrier, battling the insurance company, battling boredom and stir-craziness and the helpless feeling a husband gets when watching his wife in pain. Besides, I realized as I drifted off to sleep, it was the first time I’d sat in an actual cushioned seat in over a week. Yes, I was sitting upright, my head unsupported, covered by one of the large white towels Overbook Hospital insists on calling blankets, but we were on our way, Heather was going to be OK, and my heart was at peace. So I slept.
The last two weeks have been crazy. When Heather and I were preparing to move to Thailand, we often joked with our parents and other concerned friends about the availability of quality health care in Thailand should one of us need medical attention, never actually expecting one of us would end up needing spine surgery here. (Although recently, Heather admitted she secretly thought I’d be hospitalized in a motorbike accident. Thanks, honey.) We chose a more expensive health insurance plan with a $5,000 deductible per person instead of $10,000, never actually believing we’d need to file a claim that even remotely approached that figure. We chose an international insurance company, never imagining everyone on their staff would be sleeping in the Central time zone while we tried to navigate an emergency on the other side of the world, or that they’d effectively delay treatment for days before deciding not to help us after all.
But through it all, our friends and family have been an incredible source of support, even though most of them are oceans away. And our God has been faithful to provide what we’ve needed. Our friend and neighbor, Lynette, is an American RN who’s fluent in Thai. Heather was able to transfer to world-renowned Bumrungrad International Hospital to receive surgery from one of SE Asia’s best Orthopedic spine surgeons. And, compared to America, top-notch medical care in Thailand is relatively affordable, so even with insurance playing dirty, we’re on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars—not hundreds of thousands—like we would be at home. Plus, we work for an organization and live in an environment that provides ample room for Heather to recover at her own pace. We really can’t complain.
As I write, Heather is in surgery, and I’m left with nothing to do but wait and pray for the one I love. Right now “rest” eludes me, but I’m confident she’s in good hands. Soon, she’ll be free from pain and she, too, can rest…recover…and return to life. I can’t wait to have her back.
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