Saturday, May 12th – our Thai language tutors, Peter and Nuc, took us for a tour areas that are an hour (or more) drive to the south of Chon Buri, where we live. The first city we visited was Sattahip, which is an hour and a half drive south of us. Pradumri UMC has an inactive cell group here. It was active at one time, but was too great of a distance to sustain. We saw no church there in this city which contains several large naval bases. Sailors in the Thai navy have no place to go to church here and the members of the inactive cell group have no where to go to church. Our hearts ached for the lost souls in this city that needs Jesus Christ.
Next, we participated in our church’s Cell group in Bangsaray. We enjoyed worshipping with these people who are very poor and yet are very generous with the little that they have. It is very humbling to sit in a house with no furniture,no walls, and no bathroom (you get the picture) and have them feed us a bowl of soup filled with meat. They sacrifice what little they have to lavish hospitality on us.
Bangsaray is located south of Pattaya and is a community that has been overwhelmed by AIDS, which was spread through the sex tourism of Pattaya. Here in Bangsaray we see the trail of devastation that AIDS has caused here. We witnessed the devastation after the cell group meeting. One of the families of the cell group is an orphan named Googeek, who lives with her 85 year old grandparents (are very common arrangement). Googeek could not register for school because she did not have money for school uniforms, books, supplies, and other fees. We took Googeek and her grandfather to the school so we could purchase these items. While there we met with school officials who asked for the help of the United Methodist Church. There are a little over 1000 students there and about 30% of them are orphans. 300 orphans in just one public school in this area! Of the other 70%, almost all live in terrible poverty. The school receives government funds to help the orphans, but it is such a small amount (about $120 U.S. Dollars per year) that they can only meet the needs of a portion. They pull funds from other sources, such as their funds to hire English teachers, so they can afford to feed the orphans and other poor children. All children receive free meals, regardless of their ability to pay.
The school officials did not ask for money. Instead they asked for a volunteer English teacher, because learning English helps to secure better paying jobs for these children who need hope. We are praying that the Lord raises up someone who has a steady source of income already, such as a pension, who would volunteer 3 months to a year in this ministry.
We are praying for a partnership with this school in which the church can use the facilities for worship and provide the assistance needed to help the families in crisis here. We will talk more about this in the future as plans unfold.
Next, we went to South Pattaya to the a cell group which meets in this large city (over 500,000 residents). This is a strong cell group of several young families who are passionate in their faith in Jesus. They expressed the great need for a church in their area and were encouraged by our commitment to form a new church there. We will seek to form 2 more cell groups and then have the cell groups unite to form a new church. We hope to form a new cell group in North Pattaya, where a member of Pradumri UMC lives. Unlike South and Central Pattaya, which has a very large foreign population, North Pattaya is primarily Thai and has no church in that area. This would be an ideal location for our next new church plant.
After partcipating in the South Pattaya cell group, we visited a school for blind children in Pattaya operated by the Catholic church (they are very faithful in helping those in need). It was encouraging to see the workers there who truly love the children there and nurture them. The children were very friendly and loved to interact with us.
After that, we returned home with a great burden on our hearts for the people of Pattaya, Bangsaray, and Sattahip. May the Lord raise up workers for the harvest!