December 17, 2008 Edition

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Richard and Connie Cummins along with Tip, Tim and Bethany will be returning to Thailand Dec. 30 but will leave Walnut Ridge Christmas Day to spend time with their parents who reside in West Memphis. Family members include (from left) Connie and Richard Cummins, Tip Cummins, Lance Cummins, Bethany Cummins and Tim Cummins. They also have a daughter, Megan, who works in West Memphis.
TD Photo ~ Frank M. Witowski Jr.

Cummins family to
return to Thailand

Frank Witowski Jr.
Staff Writer

Brr! It's especially cold for the Cummins family who are accustomed to a warmer climate in Thailand. The family, which has been on missionary furlough since July, will be returning to Thailand Dec. 30 and will be greatly missed by the citizens of the Walnut Ridge area.

Recently, the family who have resided in Williams Baptist College faculty housing, had to borrow winter clothing from friends and family as "we forgot how cold it gets here," Richard Cummins said.

During the winter season in Thailand, the average temperature during the day is 80 degrees and falls to the low 60's at night, Richard said. "It's been quite an adjustment," Connie said. "It feels extremely cold here."

Although daughter Bethany has thoroughly enjoyed participating in the high school marching band, the colder weather put a damper on her enjoyment. "I was excited (about band competitions) but dreading it because it was really cold," she said.

Tip, age eight, on the other hand, was excited about the cold weather and the prospect of snow, which she had never seen before. Tip said she wants to have a snowball fight.

Richard and Connie have been very active in the community since their arrival by speaking at several churches and community organizations. They were the guest speakers in a chapel service at WBC in November. Richard also taught a financial seminar on the college campus, and both have been guest speakers at the Walnut Ridge School.

Although they have kept fairly busy, the couple said it's been a break from the high demands on them in Thailand. These demands include running a special needs government orphanage and serving as missionaries.

The Cummins children have been active in school. Tim served as kicker for the WRHS Bobcat football team even though he had never played football before coming to the U.S. He and his sister, Bethany, participated in the school's band.

Special times in the U.S.

Tip enjoyed Halloween for the first time. "It was very fun," she said with a radiant smile. Tip dressed up as a cowgirl and participated in the Trunk or Treat event at First Baptist Church as well as the Williams Baptist College fall festival.

Tip has special memories of the family's trip to Disney World Nov. 20 -26. "I rode my first roller coaster, but it was scary," she said. "I got an autograph of Baloo (character from the Jungle Book). Bethany said she enjoyed the Tower of Terror at Disney World.

Connie's scariest experience was driving in the U.S. "I have driven on the wrong side of the road three times since we've been here," she admits. "I didn't realize it until the cars were coming head on."

Besides going to Disney World, the Cummins family exclaimed that they saw the Grizzleys win in an NBA basketball game in Memphis. They also attended an Arkansas State football game together.

On Dec. 6, Richard participated in the Memphis Marathon dressing in three layers of clothing to keep warm. He qualified for the Boston Marathon and said it was easier to train here because there was a lot less traffic, especially in the morning hours.

Richard and Connie said they are looking forward to spending the holidays with their parents who live in West Memphis. They have not had this opportunity since their short furlough in 2002.

The family said Christmas is much different in Thailand. They said Christmas is simply a commercial holiday in Thailand with no spiritual meaning. There are no gift exchanges on Christmas Day there, and it is a less popular holiday. People of Thailand have a gift exchange on New Year's Day, but Connie said there is only one gift that is exchanged.

The little things that many people take for granted have been special treats for the Cummins during their stay. Like most families in the U.S., the Cummins spent a lot of time shopping at Walmart. There is no Walmart in Thailand, but Connie said there is a store called Tesco Lotus that resembles Walmart in some aspects. The Cummins have enjoyed the variety of restaurants in the U.S.

"Although it was a good break, we still prefer Tai food," Richard said. Richard said he will miss the variety of cereals here as they have kept about a dozen boxes of cereal on top of their refrigerator. Connie will enjoy bartering for fresh fruits and vegetables at the open market when they return to Thailand.

Homesick for Thailand

Richard and Connie said they have enjoyed their time in the United States, but they are ready to go back. Working through the Thailand government, they take in sickly orphans and nurture them to health. The children are then adopted to good homes, usually before the child reaches school age.

At any given time, there are anywhere from five to 10 orphans staying with them. Volunteers have been taking care of the orphans for them while they have been in the U.S. Connie has kept in contact daily with the orphans and workers via online video chat.

Since they have been in the U.S., two of the orphans staying with them have been adopted, and there are two new orphans awaiting them when they return. "Talking about the orphanage at churches and organizations and women's groups have made us more homesick to get back," the compassionate couple said.

Tip, who the Cummins adopted as a toddler, was their inspiration. "I was going to the International School to volunteer in the government orphanage and got to bring Tip home," Connie said. They nurtured Tip, who was an infant, back to health, and the rest is history.

When they return to Thailand, the Cummins children will have four days to adjust to the 12-hour time difference before returning to Tai International School. Lance, who is a freshman at WBC, will not be returning with the family. He will miss the warmer climate and scenery in Thailand. "Whenever I was bored, I used to get on my motorcycle and go to the mountains and get lost in the woods." He should receive his Arkansas Driver's License Thursday.

WR resident to assist family

The most rewarding experience for Connie has been seeing individuals take an interest in helping in the orphanage. Walnut Ridge resident Rachel Shackleford will be leaving with the Cummins family to help in the orphanage, and two WBC students will be spending their summer as orphanage volunteers in Thailand.

The Cummins hope to return to the area in November of 2010 on a two-month furlough but plans are indefinite.

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