1 YEAR IN THAILAND!!!
Studying with Chai
In the last update, we showed you the students we are investing in one-on-one on a weekly basis. However, since then, I have also started meeting with Chai. Please pray for him as well. He is a nursing student at MFU and he recently got back from studying for an entire school year at Juniata College in Pennsylvania in the U.S. He is ethnically Hmong and speaks the language well. This next year will be his final year at university, so he will be praying and thinking about where to live and work after that.
We are overjoyed to announce that our friend Kwan has made the decision to follow Jesus!
We have known her for about 4 years now. We met in Jackson, TN, where she worked for 2 years as an Au Pair. Now she lives in Bangkok, where she works for a Thai airline company. Last time we were in the city on vacation, we were able to connect her with some friends we have that also live in Bangkok, the husband of which is Central Thai and works closely with a new church plant. Kwan visited church with us at Cornerstone Community Church in Jackson for about a year before she moved back to Thailand, so she has been exploring the faith for many years now. We praise God that she is truly a part of our family now, and that we don’t have to just call her friend, but we can now call her “พี่สาว (pii saow),” which means sister in Thai. Kwan is from Chonburi province. Please pray for her as she grows in her new faith and for the friend who will be her personal mentor as she grows in her understanding of Scripture.
English Corner & English Camp
One of our biggest modes of outreach here in Thailand is using English education as a bridge to connect with people (especially students) who are still developing their language skills. This month, we successfully re-booted a weekly activity we call “English Corner” where we simply go to the universities and play games and hang out with students so that they can practice their English skills in a non-intimidating environment. We have started this at Rajabhat University already, and we will be starting it at Mae Fah Luang University soon. So far, we have had a good turnout and have already been able to connect with several new students.
We also do a lot of “English Fun Days” throughout the year. However, we recently did something with the same idea, but a little different. We had an “English Camp” where we stayed with students at a local resort and stayed the night and had activities in the morning as well. I can honestly say it was the best experience of this kind we have had. By the end, we felt very connected to the students, and Jay Lee and I even had the chance to sit down and share the gospel with 4 or 5 of the university guys there at night after dinner.
We also gave away a free scholarship to several students (one of the three groups, which means it was about 10 students). Pray that they will come study English with us at GLS, and that this would be the first step on their salvation journey.
Some people have asked us in the last few months how our language study is going. I am happy to say that it is going well. As some of you may know, the Thai language is a very difficult one to learn, and even harder to master. Out of a 5 level scale for native English speakers, it is about a level 4.5. On average, it takes 2 years of diligent study to be at a 6th grade level. If that were not enough, the local Northern Thai people (also referred to as Muang or Lanna people) have their own local language that is related to, but distinct from, the central language. This language is not an “official” language, but it is still widely used and a good tool for quickly breaking down barriers in order to form connections with people. Speak Northern Thai as a foreigner, and you will see more spontaneous smiles than you’ve seen in your life, simply because it is so rare for a foreigner to do so.
Most of you know already, but Liz studied Central Thai in high school, so she has been building on that knowledge this year, but I have started from scratch. Both of us still have a ways to go, but our goal is to at least be at a 6th grade level in Central Thai (at that point we can take a test to get a language proficiency certification), and then to start studying the Northern Thai language formally (although we are starting to pick some of it up now). We are not sure how long that will take, but we think we will be able to pass the 6th grade equivalency test next summer.
Thank you for continuing to pray for us in this area. This is the “sharpening the axe” part of our life. It may seem like we can get by in Thailand just using English, but the more Thai we can use naturally and understand, the better we can serve and reach the people here. We have seen the evidences of God’s grace through the prayers of his people in this area profoundly this year. Please do not stop praying-- we still have a long way to go.
I mentioned in the last update that I will be teaching the Bible classes part-time at CRIS this next year. This is exciting, but I am also a little nervous, not only about teaching, but also about my schedule. We are currently trying to work on being healthier with the way we use our time. There are just so many good things that we can do that it is possible to be “on” non-stop and never take time to enjoy life and turn “off” for a little bit. The story of Mary and Martha comes to mind here. We are still learning how to be more like Mary when everything in us wants to become more like Martha.
In addition, Liz's brother, Caleb, left last week to move to America for the first time in his life in order to attend Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (He is currently planning to study Kinesiology.) Caleb was born a few months after the family moved to Thailand 18 years ago, so he has never lived in America. Please pray for him as he adjusts well to his new home in a country that is still relatively new to him, that he would find a church family in Grand Rapids, and that he would be an effective witness to the people in his sphere of influence in that city.
Finally, and unfortunately, we will not be able to visit the U.S. this year like we had originally thought. I cannot go into too many details, but we have made peace with the fact that the money that we thought would be there for that trip will not be. Nonetheless, we will most definitely, Lord-willing and barring any other unexpected circumstances, be able to come back to visit next summer (2018). There is nothing unusual about this. Most people in our circumstance don't get to come back once a year (Liz's family was here for 4 before they went back to visit the first time), so we are just grateful to get to come back every once in awhile. And, if anyone wants to come visit us here in S.E. Asia, we would be more than happy to host you!
Here is a sermon that I preached at Baan Athitaan Church this month from Psalm 40:
Something to think about:
Currently, there is a big partnership between several countries in our part of the world pushing much of the English education and international relations. We are excited about this for a few reasons. First, it is increasing the number of people in many of the countries here in Southeast Asia that can speak English. With increased access to English also comes increased access to the gospel because English-speaking Christians don’t have to learn new languages in order to reach people. This also brings with it the opportunity to read the Bible in English and other Christian resources, such as discipleship books, without them having to be translated. Second, it also increases access to countries that are hostile to the spread of the gospel. Some of the countries in this partnership are places where missionaries cannot freely go and openly share the gospel. Even if it only increases access for those within the agreement, it would make a significant difference for the expansion of the kingdom of God in this part of the earth. You can see more on the partnership here: http://asean.org/
Thank you for your partnership!