February 2022 Update
One of the questions I have wrestled with often since coming to Thailand is, “what is a missionary?” Is a missionary any Christian who lives in a place other than where they were born? Is the element of crossing language barriers necessary to be considered a missionary? Does a missionary have to have an official leadership role or title in an organization? What is the difference between a missionary and any other Christian who is living “on mission?” None of these are easy questions to answer, and the complexity and interconnectedness of the world in our generation has made the issue even more entangled.
What I do know is that God has a specific calling for every Christian. For some, that calling is starting a business in their hometown and faithfully serving their church as a deacon or small group leader. For some, that calling includes preaching the gospel outside of abortion clinics and working to address one of the greatest injustices in the western world in the last century. And for some, it means moving to another country and learning a new language and culture, in order to be “salt and light” in that part of the world.
It’s easy to get caught up in titles, even though titles can never fully describe what someone does, and especially, who they are. What’s most important is that we have been joined to Christ and are citizens of the kingdom of God. Also important, is that we are faithful in whatever situation and season we find ourselves in, no matter how long or short it is. God will work out the details, the titles, and the levels of influence and responsibility, just like he did with Joseph in the book of Genesis.
I would have never expected God to send us back to Chiang Rai, but here we are. Then again, I would have never expected most of the things God has done in my life since leaving the safety of my hometown at 18 years old. Saying life is an adventure is an understatement. That being said, here are some things that are going on in our lives and ways you can be praying with us during this time:
The 14th was Valentine’s Day and the 16th was my birthday. For Valentine’s Day, Liz asked for me to take Mary Ella out on a “daddy-daughter date” since Liz and I normally go out together for my birthday. Below are some pictures and videos from Valentine’s Day and my birthday.
I want to ask you to pray for two friends of mine. Both of them are Thai, and both of them are struggling with their faith in God. Over the years, I have heard countless stories of Thai people who became Christians, and then apostatized after facing fierce criticism from their friends and loved ones. Many people receive the gospel with joy, begin walking as disciples, and then realize that others are not as happy about the news as they are. This puts out their fire very quickly, and rapidly separates “the wheat from the chaff.” Jesus’ words of, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mat. 10:34) come to mind. There are no easy answers or quick solutions here. The greatest thing we can do is pray boldly and pray regularly for the people of this great country. We work hard to be there for them when they are ready to open their hearts to us. But we cannot choose anyone’s path for them. All we can do is point them in the right direction and pray they keep walking, even when the sun starts to set and the noise around them gets louder.
Yesterday, I made a post on Facebook about why Christians do not have religious ceremonies similar to Buddhists, by comparing the differences of religious ceremonies to the eucharist, or Lord’s supper. The main point was that religious ceremonies, whether they be Old Testament temple practices, Buddhist, or Muslim, are primarily to accomplish something, whether that be atonement and expiation, good luck, or the easing of the mind. The eucharist, however, essentially accomplishes nothing (other than what it accomplishes in our hearts); it is instead a ceremony of remembrance for what Jesus has already done completely. I posted it on Makha Bucha day, which is one of the most important holidays for Theravada Buddhists in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. It was great for sparking conversation, especially since I am still trying to learn more about the specific doctrines and history behind Buddhism.
This led to me finding out about these two friends and how they were both struggling. One of them has completely turned away from Christianity, and the other feels lost because she doesn’t know how to be a Christian and still be a part of her family. I connected her with another female, Thai friend who could talk to her more from experience than I could. That evening, she messaged me again and told me she had decided to go back to studying the Bible, and would try to lead her boyfriend to Christ as well. She asked me to pray for him specifically, so I ask you to pray for both her and him. Pray that she will maintain healthy boundaries, and that God will give her the wisdom to know the right timing for all things. Pray that God will work in his heart sooner than later, so that the relationship can be salvaged and can thrive. And finally, pray for my other friend--that he would come to his senses and that whatever spirit has come over him would be gone.
We continue to teach at both Chiang Rai International School (CRIS) and Grace Language School (GLS). Both of these schools provide unique opportunities for us to invest in Thai students (and in the case of CRIS, Korean and Chinese as well). Liz teaches the elementary music classes at CRIS, and I was hired as an on-call substitute teacher this year. Recently, one of the teachers at the school left, so the Bible teacher took some of his classes, and I became responsible for the G6-8 Bible classes. Right now, we are going through Genesis, and looking at how God used a very less-than-perfect family to be the start of a nation that God would use to bless the world by bringing it the Messiah.
We also have our regular Tuesday & Thursday English classes at GLS. I have found myself really enjoying being an English teacher, especially when I am able to teach primarily Thai-speaking students. I like being able to show students the contrasts in languages, and help them transition from translating from Thai to English, to building an “English operating system” in their minds.
I have also been doing one on one tutoring with a guy named Ittipon for several weeks. He is getting ready to move to the city of Nakhon Pathom to start studying Christian Philosophy at a university there. He is from a Catholic background, and I have really enjoyed our conversations about theology, Buddhism, and philosophy. Pray for him as he continues to grow and that he will be an ever-increasing light to his community.
In May, I will graduate from the master’s program I am currently in, with an M.A. in Biblical Exposition. Since my semesters are divided into 2 sets of 8-week classes, I have 2 classes left to take (OT II and Hebrew) before finishing. As I am thinking and praying about this next school year, I am considering studying a second Master's degree through the University of the People. They offer tuition free degrees in business, IT, health, and education. I have thought about starting a distance PhD program in Theology or Biblical Studies, but I'm not sure if it is the right time for it yet. However, I will continue to think and pray and seek out advice before committing to anything.
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