United Methodist Missionaries serving in Thailand

United Methodist Missionaries serving in Thailand

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We serve with the Thailand Methodist Mission

We serve with the Thailand Methodist Mission
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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Prayers from Thailand

During this Christmas Season, we celebrate Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary. We celebrate Jesus, our Savior, our Lord, Emmanuel. We celebrate together, across the world, in every nation, in every language. As Christians, we are one body united under one Lord. You, our sisters and brothers, are in our thoughts and prayers this Christmas Season.

Christmas in Thailand is an important time for evangelism. Each United Methodist Church has special outreach events, usually on several days in several locations. I (Mike) will be helping with the largest event which is the one on the 27th at Pradumri UMC in Chonburi. I will be an actor in the Christmas Event Drama and this is my first time memorizing lines in Thai for a play. The practice times have been very humorous because I still speak with a strong American accent and I make people chuckle as I attempt to do my lines.

One aspect of life in the United Methodist Church in Thailand is the sense of full connection between churches. Each church helps the others with these events. In this way, more can be accomplished than if one church did an event independent of the rest. This makes so much sense. If a group practices a special song, tradition Thai dance, or drama for performing at one event, it only makes sense to use this same presentation at the other churches as well. And God takes their faithfulness and makes their ministry bear fruit. We expect this year to be like the previous years, with many people becoming disciples of Christ because of these evangelistic events. The past few Sundays, we have praised God when we look around at the congregations and see people worshipping the Lord who came to Christ last year at one of the Christmas programs. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that God is blessing the ministries of the Thai United Methodists, changing lives and making an eternal difference.

One prayer request is for the Prime Minister Abhisit, the new PM of Thailand. As Missionaries, we do not ever get involved in politics, and we remain neutral. This is the law of Thailand and we respect it. But we do pray that the new Prime Minister receives wisdom from God to unite the Thai people, who are highly divided. We hear encouraging news of each side reaching out to the other side and we praise God for these incremental signs of hope.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chinese and Thai Congregations Unite in Pattaya

This past Sunday, December 14th was a special service in Pattaya.  Pattaya Chinese Church has joined together with Life Center UMC, a Thai congregation, to form one united congregation under the leadership of Pastor Banya of Life Center UMC.  Pastor Fuchan of the Chinese Church will serve as Associate Pastor of Chinese ministry at the newly united Life Center UMC.  The Thai service will be on Sunday mornings and the Chinese service will be on Sunday afternoons.  Uniting together helps to create a much stronger church together.

This week, the new Life Center UMC congregation will celebrate a Christmas program together and begin the New Year with a series of Leadership trainings which will focus on developing a united vision and working out all of the details needed to form one organization out of two.  Please pray that the Lord will give wisdom to all as we seek to do His Will.

Blessings from Belfast

It is always a joy to receive cards and letters from our friends and supporting churches in the States.  Especially at Christmastime, when we miss family life and church life during this special season.  We thank all of the many people who sent kind notes and cards to us.  You make our day.  We use a private post box service and whenever a letter comes in, they give us a call to come pick it up.  We have received calls almost every day and it is all good stuff (no envelopes with windows... they are always bills or business).

One day, we received a stack of cards from our sisters and brothers of Belfast UMC from the great state of Maine.  Each envelope contained a hand-made card and a bracelet made of colorful beads.  It was fun to open and enjoy each card and hand-crafted bracelet.  

In Thai culture, bracelets are a symbol used to bestow blessings upon those you love.  There are many occasions during the year, such as Mother's Day, when bracelets are placed upon someone's wrists to let them know they are loved and special.  It is very common to see young children wearing bracelets that parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and friends have placed on their wrists.  We will be using the bracelets from Belfast UMC to bless people in Thailand.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Some Good News, Some Bad News, Joy and Disappointment

Wow, we have been away from home for two weeks and so many things have happened that we do not know where to begin. We have much good news and some bad news, so we will just mix it up.

First, the good news is that our family is safe even though there are mass protests happening all across Bangkok province. We are located in Chonburi province which is about an hour drive away from it all. We thank all who contacted us out of concern.
However, the bad news is that Thai society is grossly polarized and there seems to be no good solution to the problem. Please pray for the unity of the Thai people, that this nation will not fall into civil war.
The second piece of good news is that a fifth UMC opened up in Thailand in Minburi, which is in Bangkok province. We had an opening service two weeks ago, and the building was packed. Pastor Sarah of the First UMC in Thailand (pictured with her daughter, Dr. Kate and Kate's fiance) preached at this historic event and consecrated Pastor Sila and his wife in this new church called Pradumri Bangkok UMC.

Now for some disappointing news. Jamie and Holle Wollin, who are Volunteer Missionaries at Phayao Bible College, will be heading back to the States and will come again next year after completing their seminary degrees. (Originally, the Wollins were going to complete their final coursework via internet from Thailand). The primary 'glitch' involved securing their visas. Because we do not yet have foundation status, we are dependent on the agency Phayao Bible College is affiliated with to obtain the visas. This did not happen within the time permitted. We then explored several other possibilities for keeping them in the country, one of which would work well. The good option was for them to serve with Muang Thai Foundation teaching English in their ministries in Northeast Thailand, but there were concerns as to whether there'd be adequate time and internet service available for them to complete their online studies with Asbury Theological Seminary. Other factors then arose. After much prayer and being guided by the Scriptures, the Wollins have determined it is best to return to Asbury at this time, complete their work, and then come back to serve at Phayao. This would solve many problems and give a fresh start. Please pray for the Wollins as they have many transitions. We will miss them greatly and can't wait for them to come back.

Some good news is that we met with Bishop Goodpaster and Rev. Jong Sung Kim to discuss the new General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) process for educating and credentialing pastors in Southeast Asia. We now have a set approved process and we will now be busy forming a Course of Study training center for Thai UM pastors and leaders.
We also spent several days at a United Methodist Asia Missionary Gathering in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
We had a wonderful time connecting with fellow missionaries. It was great fellowship but also a great source of knowledge, because we were able to find people who have done aspects of our ministries, and was able to give us wise advice and resources.

Today, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. There will be no turkey because we got back from Cambodia too late to defrost it. So we will have chicken instead. But we could eat bologne sandwiches for all we care, because we have all three sons, two daughter-in-laws, two grandchildren, and one young man (Allen Metcalf, who we consider to be our fourth son) is all with us to celebrate together. We know that we will have our family here for only a brief time, as they will all leave to go to college, graduate school, or seminary next year. God has blessed us with a wonderful family and we are soaking it all in while we can.
May the Lord bless you and remember to give God thanks for all He does.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Worship at Khok Noi....

This may seem like an odd aray of pictures. Let me explain. The location is Khok Noi - a city in Korat, the gateway to the northeast of Thailand. The purpose of the trip was to join Pastor Nampawn in the first worship service of the new congregation at Khok Noi. ("Mighty God Church" would be the best way of translating the church's name). Prior to the Sunday service, we did a full day of visiting churches in the extended regions, and visiting the government officials of Khok Noi. While there was no church in Khok Noi, cultural politeness requires Christian leaders to connect with churches in other towns or cities to say "We are here. We look forward to serving alongside of you. We want to have good relations with you." Meeting the government officials, particularly the "village chief" is vitally important as well. By this we show our respect, creating the foundation for good working relations in the future. It also brings a measure of protection to Christians in the community if there are misunderstandings as to why a church is forming.
The group photo was taken on Sunday, prior to worship. The child in the basket is the son of a Christian who lives in the community. Please pray for the child's family, as there is much tension over issues of faith. The photo of Sherri and two women includes pastor Nampawn and the woman who has opened her house-building for cell groups to meet in and for the beginning of worship services. She is 73 years old, and recently lost her husband. We were told that when pastor Nampawn officiated at the funeral it was the first Christian funeral in the community, and that folks from throughout the area came "to watch." The photo of a woman weaving slender grass stalks is to introduce you to a neighbor who lives across the street from where the church is meeting. Please remember her in prayer too, as her family thinks she is "crazy" for believing in Jesus. The young woman (Nawng) gave testimony to the many ways Jesus helps her in daily living. The weekend was filled with blessings. It was also filled with reminders of the cost of following Christ in areas where the gospel has not yet been received.

Friday, October 31, 2008

God is looking after us!

Every Friday, we make the trip to Bangkok for language school. We take the elevated tollway, because it is safer and faster than the pothole ridden lower street that is jammed with cars, trucks, and many motorcycles.
This last Friday Anthony, Sherri, and I went out to the car to go to Bangkok and Sherri stopped and told me to look at the rear passenger side tire. There was a bulge in the sidewall of the tire, and normally it would not be noticeable because it is well shaded under the carport. But that day, the way the car was parked, it was not all the way under the carport as usual. So the tire was in the sunlight and God also provided some extra help so we would spot this. Our bedroom airconditioner was dripping water, which flowed sideways down the roof (not the usual place), and it was dripping exactly on the bulge of the tire sidewall. Sherri said it was the dripping water which called her attention to it.
We praised God for showing this to us, because the tire would have probably blown out on us while we were driving at a fast pace on the tollway. The tollway is about 6 stories high, making tire blowouts even more dangerous than a regular expressway.
God is good and He protects us and looks after us. Praise be to Jesus Christ.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Experiencing Holy Moments with the UM Pastors and Interns

One of the privileges we enjoy is having training/prayer/fellowship meetings with the pastors, church staff, and interns of the United Methodist Churches in Thailand. The fellowship is truly sweet and much growth in Christ happens at these meetings. Growth in Christ sometimes takes the form of spiritual healing of old wounds, or receiving support for a current challenge, or learning new ministry skills, or praising God in unity together. We share joys and sorrows, triumphs and losses as a spiritual family. Even though we come to serve as missionaries, we find ourselves being blessed in greater measure than what we give to others. These meetings which we have twice per month are a time of refreshing for us and we praise God for being able to serve the Lord together with our Thai Christian family.

This past weekend, we took Kaek "Peter", one of three Thai United Methodist students at Phayao Bible College, back to school. He hauled his luggage plus a huge parcel of used clothes that the students will sell at market for scholarship money for students who are in need. Kaek is a leader among student and a great recruiter for United Methodists as well. Kaek and his wife Nuc, our very close friends as well. We rely on their help and mercy on a regular basis, and they are very patient with us and always kind and gentle.

At Phayao, we stayed with Jamie and Holle Wollin, who will be teaching at Phayao Bible College as missionary professors. They extended their warm hospitality to us and Anthony and to our granddaughter Madeline, who came with us to visit the Wollin's son, Thomas, who is the same age as her. They are good buddies and play wonderfully together. We wish they could live close together, but unfortunately, Phayao is about a 12-14 hour drive from us.

Today, Pastor Nampon went back to Sern Saeng in Northeast Thailand to plant a new United Methodist Church. She will be doing visitation and planting cell groups over the next several months. She will then combine several cell groups to form a church. I (Mike) will be going up to Sern Saeng to visit with Pastor Nampon in two weeks. We will meet with the community leaders to introduce ourselves and our intentions of ministering to the people of Sern Saeng. We must have good relations with the community leaders and this is the first step. We also must have good relations with the other churches in the region, so we will meet with the pastor and church leaders of the closest church to the area Pastor Nampon is serving. The closest church is 13 kilometers away, in a different sub-district. We hope to have a spirit of unity and cooperation with the believers at this church. Please pray for Pastor Nampon as she serves the Lord as a pioneer church planter. Pray that she will enjoy the good graces of the community, the community leaders, and other churches in the district.

Monday, October 06, 2008

God's Power was at work at the United Methodist Camp Meeting 2008

Pradumri UMC hosted the annual camp meeting this year, and all three United Methodist Congregations celebrated in unity together. It is a great blessing to see Christians worship and minister together in one accord. This was the first time that members of Life Center UMC of Pattaya participated in the annual camp meeting.

Members of Pradumri UMC stayed overnight in their own homes, but the members of Bowin and Life Center UM churches camped out overnight at Pradumri church on Friday and Saturday night.

Dr. Somsak was the featured speaker at camp and as always, he preached with great power. Also, the interns and Bible college students from UM churches led Bible Studies and worship times.

At camp meeting, there is a lot of fun activities and games for adults and children. Our granddaughter Madeline had the opportunity to play with the Thai children at the camp meeting, and she looked forward to going each day.
We have had the privilege of having Debbie Sullivan visit us (pictured below at Nong Nooch Garden sitting on an elephant). Debbie is the mother of our daughter-in-love Abby, who is truly a wonderful young woman (our son Jim is blessed and so are we!) It has been wonderful to get to know Debbie. She will be here for about a month, so she has had time to do many things, and she came to Pradumri UMC this past Sunday during church camp. Debbie, Abby, and our son Jim enjoyed worshipping together with the Thai Christians. Khun Nung of Pradumri UMC translated the sermon for them. We appreciated this tremendously, because it was an act of sacrifice for him. Khun Nung brought his younger sister to church, and he has been praying for many months for her to come to Christ. By being with us, he could not sit next to his sister during the service. We did not know this until after the sermon was finished.
As always, worship at Pradumri is passionate, with fervent singing, hands raised in praise, smiles beaming with joy, colorful flags celebrating our awesome Lord, and hearts lifting prayers to God Almighty. At this service, 10 people gave their lives to the Lord. One of those people was Khun Nung's sister! We praise the Lord for He works miracles here every week as people come to Christ and become disciples. After worship, everyone had lunch and then headed out to the reservoir for a Baptism service.
36 people were baptized this past Sunday. One of those Baptized was a man who we have been praying for over 2 years (even before we arrived as missionaries here). His name is Khun Aik and he is in the red shirt praying. Khun Aik is the husband of one of the leaders of Pradumri UMC called Pi Jeem. Pi Jeem is a dynamic hard-working leader who leads mission cell groups. She was one of the key leaders in planting the church at Bowin. Her husband, Khun Aik, received Christ 2 months ago, and the Lord is working in his life. Now the whole family believes in Christ, Praise the Lord! Pi Jeem was one of the 36 people baptized this past Sunday, and we praise God for answering our prayers.
As missionaries, we are blessed to witness the power of God at work with the Thai Christians. We see His hand at work and it strenghthens our faith and gives us joy. And we know that this happens because you are praying for us constantly. Your prayers make the difference. Thank you!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Meet your new United Methodist Missionaries to Thailand

Back in March of this year, Sherri went to the campuses of Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky and Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Illinois to recruit students to come serve as missionaries in Thailand. We had two pressing needs here for more missionaries. First there was a need for missionaries to be in charge of the mercy ministries of the Thailand United Methodist Foundation. The task of initiating effective orphan and street children ministries, economic development programs, elder care ministries, and programs to deal with the devastation of AIDS in here, is a full-time ministry in itself. We have a couple that will be coming to Thailand as missionaries in November, and we will introduce you to them in a future article.
The second need was for missionary professors at Phayao Bible College, where United Methodist Pastors from Thailand and Laos go for education. Phayao Bible College has more students than ever before but also does not have enough faculty. The present faculty are stretched for time and it is their dedication to the Lord and to the students that keeps the college going. A couple from Asbury Theological Seminary answered God's call to serve at Phayao Bible College. Meet Holle and Jamie Wollin and their son Thomas. They arrived last week and it has been an honor to get to know these servants of God. They spent the first 6 days getting aquainted with the United Methodist churches and ministries in Thailand, and then we brought them to Phayao, which is a 12 hour drive to the north of Chonburi. Little Thomas was thrilled to move into his new home. He has been living out of suitcases with his parents for about 6 weeks. Thomas will have many children to play with at Phayao.
Holle and Jamie will begin language studies there at the college. We don't know yet if they will do all of their language studies there or will go to the language school at Lopburi. Please keep this family in prayer as they make all of the adjustments to a new life in Thailand. The Wollins will fill a great need for training pastors and Christian leaders in Thailand.
The Wollins are Volunteers in Missions, which means they are not supported through apportionments as we are (We are standard support missionaries with GBGM). They receive housing from the college but no salary. They rely on the generosity of God's people for their support. They have commitments of support from several churches but still are in need of more financial support. If you are interested in supporting them, please give to Advance #00403A and send us an e-mail saying that this support is for the Wollins. We will send the funds to them when they are received.
The fields are "white unto harvest" and our Lord has sent workers into the field. We praise our Lord for answering our prayers and we thank the Wollins for courageously saying "YES" to God's call on their lives.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Praise God for Rainy Season

Rainy Season began a last month, but it has just begun to come into full force this month. We love rainy season because it means some moments of respite from the tropical heat. Amen! And it also means another year of sustenance for the farmers of Thailand, who depend upon the rain to make a living.

Many people here in Thailand have had questions about all the storms hitting the gulf coast of America and have been praying for all who have been affected by these storms. We are inspired by the faithfulness in prayer of Christians on both sides of the world. When we pray for each other, the hand of God does mighty deeds. We see the mighty deeds of God on a daily basis here because of your prayers. Every week we see people being saved, lives being changed, orphans and abandoned children being clothed, fed, sheltered and loved. Every week we see the fruits of your prayers.

We love to hear from you and so we and the Thai believers can pray for you. We want to be a part of your life in this way and the Thai believers do to. They are truly prayer warriors!

Rainy season can be fascinating in Thailand, especially in Bangkok. There are many sections of Bangkok that are below sea level or just a few feet above sea level. During rainy season, it is common for many parts of the city to be flooded during the rains, which means that travel comes to a halt in those sections of the city until the floods subside. I (Mike) was waiting in a coffee shop last week with about a whole crowd of people who were waiting for the flood waters to dissipate so they could go home. Fortunately, our road cleared up quickly, but others had to wait several hours.

But when a storm hits Bangkok, they have to check the level of the tide. If the storm comes at high tide, they know that whole sections of the city will be flooded for several hours. Everyone in those sections has to adjust their lives around the tides. They know they must do all of their work and chores during low tide, because they will be unable to travel at high tide.

We do not have major problems with floods where we live. We have a 2-5 inches of standing water in the streets near our home and we try to avoid downtown Chonburi during flood times. The only negative effect we have with rainy season is a very minor one. We don't have a clothes dryer (very, very few people do here). We hang out our clothes to dry under an awning in our back yard. But it is so damp during rainy season, that our clothes could be hanging for three days and still be damp. So we go out there, we feel the clothes, and if they are damp but not soaking wet, we fold them and put them away. We figure the clothes will have to dry the rest of the way in the closet or on our bodies. But this is a small thing.

One person's inconvenience with the flooding rains in Bangkok, is another person's irrigation water for their rice paddies in the rural areas. Rice farming requires large quantities of water, so the farmers rejoice when they receive rains whereas the Bangkok residents groan.

In the Bible, rain symbolizes the blessing of God who provides for our needs. During the rainy season, we often think of how much God has blessed us. One thing we miss from back in Kentucky are tin roofs. If you have ever been in a house with a tin roof when it is raining, you will know the sound of the rain hitting the roof is very loud. We always enjoyed hearing that sound, because it reminded us of how good our Lord is. The farmers in Kentucky relied on God to provide rain just as much as the farmers do in Thailand. This is why rain also symbolizes our dependence upon God. It reminds us of how much we need the Lord in all things.

Our prayers are with all of you in the States who have been affected by the storms. We know that too much of a good thing is harmful and many of you have had too much rain, too much wind, and too much turmoil. We want you to know that we and your Thai family in Christ love you and are praying for you.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Miracle at Bangsaray and Pattaya

The VIM team from Santa Clara Valley KUMC served faithfully here in Thailand for 5 days by giving free eyeglasses and free portraits.
And God took the faithfulness of this VIM team and combined it with the fervent faith of Thai Christians to be a part of a miracle here.
The miracle was God opening many doors.
The first two days, the team served at Life Center UMC in Pattaya, where we have a new building. This new building houses the church and also Blessing Home, the ministry for orphans and street children in Pattaya. Just before the team arrived, Blessing Home increased its capacity to 20 children. So this ministry is growing quickly, because the need is so great.
At Pattaya, over 160 people were served and we had about 40 people who received Jesus as Savior and Lord! Pastor Banya of Life Center UMC will be overseeing followup on these new believers.
Bangsaray was a place where God miraculously opened doors.
Khun Nuc of Pradumri UMC helped to connect us with Khun Songop, who is the community leader of Bangsaray. She is in the bottom picture in the green shirt sitting next to Sherri. Pastor Sarah of Pradumri UMC is in the back row to the far right. The rest are friends of Khun Songop who helped with registering people for the outreach event.

Khun Songop is a kind-hearted leader who takes care of her people and loves them. There were no buildings large enough to do the outreach other than the Buddhist temple, so she opened the door for us to do the outreach inside the Buddhist temple at Bangsaray. We were pleasantly surprised at this open door.

Over 350 people were served in the two days we were at Bangsaray! Most of them were seniors, and that is because there are relatively few adults aged 20-60 here. AIDS has killed off most of the middle generation leaving just children and older adults. We were glad the VIM team could provide help to these seniors. But here is the best part! 150 people received Jesus Christ as Savior! The response was overwhelming! Everyone that came received personal teaching about Jesus Christ and also received a Gideon Bible (thank you Gideons!) and Christian literature.

The abbot and monks of the temple also came. They received eyeglasses, portraits, and also were taught about Jesus Christ. Our God is God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth!

We are now going to have a meeting with the United Methodist Pastors to determine the best way to do followup on these 150 new believers. Bowin UMC has a cell group here, but we need to have someone serve here full time.

On the final day, the VIM team hosted 30 orphans and street children from Blessing Home Children's Ministry in Pattaya to go to the zoo and have lunch also. Most of these children have never been more than a mile or two away from the slums of Pattaya, so this was a trip they will remember for years to come. The children were very excited and had a lot of fun. We thank the VIM team for bringing joy into the lives of these children.

Our God opens doors. Our God opens hearts. Our God changes lives! Blessed be the name of our Lord!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A special young man in need of heart surgery

Did we say before we are all connected?

God created a special connection through Anthony. Almost a year ago, Anthony went to our friend Noyna's coffee shop for his violin lesson (the second floor is a music studio where Noyna teaches guitar, drums, keyboard, and violin.)

While at his lesson, Anthony met a young Christian man named Ta who was his age. They hit it off well, and Anthony really wanted to get to know Ta better.

Later we heard about Ta through our daughter in law Abby, who is a missionary teacher at Sammuk Christian Academy where Ta is a student and resident. Abby spoke very highly of Ta as a Christian leader among the students.

It was only a year later that we met Ta's mother, Lee Ann Sidebottom, who is a missionary for YWAM who holds Bible Clubs in the slums of Pattaya. We met her because Life Center UMC of Pattaya does similar ministry and we love to have cooperative ministries among Christian groups.

Well as it turns out, we found out Lee Ann was Ta's mother, and we also found out she is a United Methodist from First UMC in Lyons, Kansas.

We had heard that Ta was needing heart surgery in the US, and asked Lee Ann if it would help to post Ta's story on our blog, so she sent this letter to us.

Ta and Lee Ann our in our prayers and we know that God has wonderful plans for Ta's future.

Here is the letter:

Dear Friends,

As you may know, I have
a Thai foster son named Ta. I have cared for him for the past nine
years. I would like to tell you his story and also a need that we are
facing at this time. Ta was born to alcoholic parents in 1987, the 5th of
five sons. He was born with multiple heart defects. At the age of
two, he along with a brother were put in an orphanage. Before his 8th
birthday he had already had two heart surgeries in Thailand, but showed no signs
of improvement afterwards. By the age of 10, he was suffering from
congestive heart failure due to a defective valve and a large hole in his
heart. The orphanage cared for him the best they could, but didn’t expect
him to live for more than a year.
By the providence
of God, Ta’s brother (age 12), decided to leave the orphanage and would take Ta
with him. In June of 1998 they both ran away and went to their mother’s
village. Once there, Ta’s brother began working, but Ta was too weak to
work. He was sent to Bangkok, where he lived in a slum with
grandparents. They treated him more like a servant than a grandson.
It was there that I met him. He began calling me “mom.” The
grandparents felt burdened to care for him and asked if I could take him. Within
a few weeks Ta was living at a Youth With A Mission campus ministry house for
guys. He lived there for nine months, during which time he was in and out of the
hospital as his health deteriorated. Simply walking across a room would
tire him. Each time he was hospitalized, the doctor would say “this could
be the end,” holding out little hope for him. But during that time, others
began hearing about his story and hearts of compassion were
Through God’s providence once again, a lady
in California heard about Ta’s need for surgery and immediately got
involved. Her name was Donna McCornack. She sent Ta’s medical
records to over 20 doctors in the U.S. Most replied that the surgery was
too risky. However, in March of 1999, Dr. John Lamberti of Children’s
Hospital in San Diego called to say he would donate the surgery, but we still
had to raise 35,000 U.S. dollars to pay other hospital expenses such as ICU and
other after surgery care. With three weeks to raise the funds, Donna got
busy in California, contacting newspapers and TV stations and I did the same in
Thailand. It was a leap of faith for both of us, but God likes it when we
leap. By the time Ta was at Children’s hospital being prepped for surgery
in April, we had all the money on hand. Several hundred people had
responded to Ta’s need with generous donations and lots of prayer. The
surgery was a total success and life was given back to Ta. For the very
first time in his life he could run and play like a normal kid. I knew he
also needed to be part of a “family,” to get the love and nurture that he had
never had, so upon our return to Thailand I made him a part of “my
That was nine years ago and today Ta
is no longer a skinny 11 year old, but rather a towering 6’1” young man, who
loves to play soccer and aspires to be a teacher. However, in recent
months he has begun to tire more easily, making us suspect that the porcine
valve put in in 1999 is now too small and needs replacing. A check-up with
Dr. Lamberti this past April confirmed this. Ta needs a new valve.
His heart has begun to swell again because the valve is leaking. Surgery
is scheduled for this October, in San Diego at Children’s Hospital once
again. This time we must raise 50,000 U.S. dollars for hospital
expenses. We (Donna, Ta and I) saw the faithfulness of God through all the
ups and downs of the surgery nine years ago and believe that God will continue
to do immeasurably beyond all that we ask or think. (Eph. 3:20) God
does this through the generosity of many people. At this time (Aug. 20th)
we have raised a little over 15,000 U.S.. So, we have a ways to go yet and
October is coming up. Would you pray for us and consider giving a donation if
God leads you? The donor information is below. Thank you in advance for
standing with us in prayer and

In Him, Lee Ann Sidebottom Thailand

Electronic Transfers send to: Bank: Kasikornbank Branch: Pattaya Klang Acct. Name: Lee Ann Sidebottom Acct. Number:291-2-24831-8 SWIFT Address: KASITHBK

For tax-deductible donations: Send Checks in U.S. currency , made out to “Open Door Christian Church” with a note attached saying it is for Ta Tanlem’s Heart Surgery Fund. Mail to: Open Door Christian Church, P.O. Box 1552, Novato, CA. 94948 U.S.A.

Monday, August 25, 2008

God Opens The First Door in Northeast Thailand (Esarn)

We have talked before about everyone being connected and this is one of the doors God opened up through miraculous connections.

Pastor On of Bowin UMC grew up as an orphan in Northeast Thailand, raised by her paternal grandfather. She was told that her parents had both died, and this is very common in Thailand, where AIDS/HIV is epidemic.
Last year, Pastor On was contacted by a Thai woman who lives in Sweden. This woman was Pastor On's mother. Pastor On discovered that she had a younger brother and that her mother owned a house in Northeast Thailand (a region called "Esarn") that she would stay at whenever she came back to Thailand. Pastor On has developed a new relationship with her mother and they talk on the phone every day.

When Pastor On went to Esarn to visit her mother at her house, she met relatives she could not remember. It turns out she had lived with her aunt there for 3 years before going to live with her father's kin. Pastor On also discovered a group of Christians who met together for Bible Study every week. The leader of this group is Pastor Ahmpon (shown in this picture). Pastor Ahmpon is a Bible College graduate who has served in mercy ministries with the poor of Esarn. She and this core group of Christian leaders will be planting a new United Methodist Church in Esarn in October. God is good!

Pastor Ahmpon is in training with us for the next 2 months. We have training which we give to teach planting and multiplying cell groups, sermon and Christian education planning, and other practical topics. She will also be learning as an intern at Bowin UMC under the leadership of Pastors Jerron and On.

Please pray for Pastor Ahmpon and the Christian pioneering leaders in Esarn. They are one the front lines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. With prayer, all things are possible, because our Lord is faithful. Amen.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Meeting Missionary Candidates of the Korean Methodist Church

One of the pleasures of being missionaries is that we get to connect with many wonderful people from around the world. And one connection leads to another leads to another.

We have developed a bond of friendship with missionaries John and Sarah Kim, who serve as houseparents for international students attending prep schools in Bangkok. God has given them the huge task of starting a new Christian international school in Northeast Thailand. It is their vision that they will be able to reach the future leaders of Thailand for Jesus Christ through this ministry. This is a God-sized task and they are filled with faith. We pray for them constantly and know that God will do great things through them. We are blessed to have them and their two children as friends.

John Kim has helped to connect us with other Korean missionaries serving in Thailand as well as connecting us with this team of mission candidates from the Korean Methodist Church. These candidates came to see Pradumri UMC and to hear about what God is doing through the United Methodist Church in Thailand. We were inspired to see candidates of all ages, some right out of college and some retiring from a lifelong career. Many of the missionary candidates know where God is calling them to serve and others await God's direction with open and obedient hearts. It filled our hearts with joy to get acquainted with them and we know some of them will end up serving here in Thailand.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Spiders and babies do not mix

Once in a while, we have an experience that makes us chuckle because it reminds us we are not in Kentucky anymore. It also reminds us that we have another story typical of missionaries. Every missionary seems to have lots of spider stories, so here goes our latest one.

We have gigantic spiders here. The size of my (Mike) hand. And these spiders are not timid. Most spiders in the States will try to run away if you get near them. These will raise up onto its hind legs and is poised to leap. We have had spiders that looked like this, but recently we had one that was just as large but was also thick and furry.

Our son Michael was in his bedroom upstairs when he heard our granddaughter Madeline screaming with fear in the hallway on the second floor. When Michael opened the door and went into the hallway, he saw something large and black crawl under the door into our grandson Isaiah's bedroom. It moved so quickly that Michael could not tell what the creature was. Michael asked Madeline what she saw, and she said, "Spider! Daddy! Spider!"

Michael ran into Isaiah's bedroom and picked him up out of the crib. After taking the children to his room, he had to go back to Isaiah's room to find the spider. He had to tear the whole room apart before finding the spider and getting rid of it. I think Michael and Jude (our daughter in law) will start keeping Isaiah in their room again because of this incident. It really shook them up. They are not in Kentucky anymore.

We will be trying to spray for bugs, but it is difficult to do so with babies in the house. Isaiah is crawling around and into everything, so doing the usual thing, spraying every room edge, will not be wise. We will do what we can with the exterior and with places Isaiah and Madeline cannot reach.

Today we have a pastor from Northeast Thailand (Isaan) that is coming to Bowin to train under us and Pastors Jerron and On for two months. She will then go October to plant the first United Methodist Church in the Isaan region. We will introduce her to you in the next blog.

We pray for you constantly, just as you pray for us. If you have any prayer requests, please e-mail us at thailandumc@gmail.com so we can lift your requests before the Lord.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A housewarming that was really "heart-warming"

Last Sunday, we invited the members of Pradumri UMC to come for a housewarming party at our home. In the past, we have done many Leadership Training workshops and classes at our home. Usually, the leaders of Pradumri UMC would come and we would have about 25 people at our house for class and for potluck (yes, even Thai Christians love potluck). At our previous home, we would not have nearly enough room and the house was very hot because it had no trees around it.
So we expected the same 20-25 people that came to workshops in the past to come to visit our new home. Well, we were surprised when up pulled 5 vehicles, and then another, and then another..... and then more.
We had over 60 Pradumri friends at our house! The first group to arrive divided in two. One group sat on our front lawn and started a worship service there. We had many neighbors stop to listen and watch and we were happy for the opportunity to witness to them. The second group came into the house to help set up everything. This new house has a large kitchen and we were planning on leaving the food in there, buffet style, and everyone could grab a plate and help themselves. We then learned that in Thai culture that was not how it is done, so they helped to move everything out into the dining room and to set up places where people sit in small clusters to eat together. After the final group arrived, about an hour and a half later (everything happens in its own time here), we had dinner together. Then we had a brief worship time inside the house and they prayed for us and our family. We were very touched by the love of our Thai spiritual family. Our hearts were truly warmed.
Above are two pictures of worshipping outside on the front lawn.

Wish List - Updated August 1, 2008

Wish List - Updated August 1, 2008

Every member of a United Methodist Church has made a vow to support each other with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service. Usually we think of doing this at the local level, but we also do this at a global level.

1. Give your Prayers to the Thailand Mission Initiative

Be a Prayer Warrior, keeping the mission here in Thailand in your daily prayers. Check this blog regularly for updates on what is happening here so you can pray for the needs here and praise God for the fruit He is giving to the ministry here.

2. Give of your Presence to the Thailand Mission Initiative
We cannot be physically present at your church, but you can be a Herald for the Thailand Mission by getting the good news of what God is doing in Thailand out to your fellow church members. In doing this, help to complete the connection of Presence in your church that we cannot do on our own. Print out articles from our blog and put them on your church bulletin board. Put the URL (internet address) of our blog in your church worship bulletin and have us be a link on your church website. Highlight the Thailand Mission in your UMW meeting, Sunday School class, UMM meeting or any other group.

3. Give of your Gifts to the Thailand Mission Initiative.

Your gifts give hope to orphans, makes disciples for Christ in Thailand, provides education and training for Thai pastors and church leaders, establishes

How to Support the Thailand Mission Initiative

We live with a constant awareness that we are small links in a chain of a multitude of United Methodist believers who all work together to make the Thailand Mission Initiative possible. Your prayers open doors here in Thailand and your financial support helps make it possible to start new churches and mercy ministries in Thailand.

The vast majority of funds for church planting and mercy ministries comes through special giving to Advance #00403A. Your churches apportionments help to send us here and pay for administrative expenses and language school, but do not cover starting any new ministries or sustaining established ones. If a church planting pastor's salary is to be given, it will come from special giving to the Advance. If an orphan is to be given shelter, clothing, food, and education, it will be because you have given the funds to the Advance to make it possible. If a pastor is to be sent to Bible college or to Course of Study School, it is because your generosity made it possible.

Special giving to Advance #00403A (Thailand Mission Initiative) is our greatest need at this time. Please note that gifts to our Advance Personnel funds (the ones with our names on them), are placed in a pool used to support all missionaries and is NOT used for programming needs. If you wish to give towards the ministries in Thailand, please give to the Thailand Mission Initiative and not to the Advance numbers which have our names on them. We mention this because it can be a bit confusing.

There are four ways to give.
1. Online;
2. Through Your Local United Methodist Church;
3. By Phone, and
4. by Mail.

1. Online: Click on this link: www.givetomission.org to give online.  The project number is 00403A.

2. Your Local UMC: Give funds to your local United Methodist Church and designate it for Advance #00403A (write this in the memo section of your check). The church treasurer will then send these funds with the monthly apportionments.

3. Phone: Call (888) 252-6174 to give by credit card over the phone

4. Mail: Make your check payable to ADVANCE GCFA.
Write Thailand Mission Initiative #00403A on the check.
Send your check to:
Advance GCFA; P.O. Box 9068; GPO;
New York, NY 10087-9068

Every cent given through the Advance will come directly to the Thailand Mission Initiative. Nothing is kept by the Advance office for their administrative costs.

Thank you for your support

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Shining a light in the darkness

Everyday we are privileged to serve the Lord in Thailand, our Heavenly Father blesses us with the opportunity to be His ambassadors. Our prayer is that the Lord allow us to shine the light of His love where there is darkness, that the Thai people will hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
Twice each month, we meet with the Thai pastors, leaders, and interns to give leadership training. The past months Sherri has led workshops on the cell group ministry, giving out free resources that have been translated into Thai. One of the ministries we do is to contact authors and publishing houses of Christian education resources to receive permission to translate materials and books into the Thai language and then give them away for free. There are precious few Christian education resources available, and this is a ministry that blesses all Christians in Thailand, not just United Methodists. One of our goals in training is to always send the pastors, leaders, and interns back to their churches with resources they can use to make disciples. We have purchased a new website with 2 web addresses (Jesus.in.th & Methodist.in.th). These websites will be up and running next month and will be a source of free Christian Education electronic books for all Thai Christians. There are thousands of internet cafes across Thailand, so all people have internet access here and can use these resources. Also, each of our churches has a used computer that the pastors can download these free resources onto for use with their congregation.
The last few leadership workshops have had a group of Chinese Christians from Bangkok and from mainland China attend, so the trainings have been tri-lingual (Thai, English, and Chinese). Sherri has had to print documents in all three languages and the translation during the workshops can be rather complicated. But we have a great time. It is humbling to know that the resources we give will be used in China as well as Thailand. Praise the Lord!
On the top left is a picture of the new building that we have rented in Pattaya for the Life Center UMC and their orphan ministry called Blessing Home. In a few weeks, the church will begin to worship there. Right now, they are busting at the seams in their small old building, and they need to move to a larger space so they can grow. Once the church settles in the new building, Blessing Home will expand to give 24 hour care for orphans. Right now, daycare is given for 10 orphans, but more is needed. We are still praying for resources, because we only have enough for the next 2 months and we have opened this orphan ministry as a step of faith. We know God will provide.
This last weekend, we had the privilege of fellowshipping with Darunee and David Lawson and their two sons. The Lawsons are from Alcoa, TN. and are active in their United Methodist congregation which has a reputation in their community for showering the Love of Christ upon all people. Darunee is a Thai Christian, and she saw this website and decided to connect with us when she came to visit her parents in Thailand. She has a powerful testimony of how the Lord touched her in a mighty way through her battle with cancer. And she shared that testimony with the believers at Pradumri church this last Sunday, after Sherri preached. That worship service was the first worship service in the Thai language for Darunee to experience and it was a pleasure to see her soaking it all in. We are glad to have connected with the Lawson family and with their church family too.
One thing that Darunee inspired us about was her life of prayer. She lives a life of constant prayer and teaches this to her children. Her sons pray to the Lord with her throughout the day, and they are blessed to have parents that nurture their souls. We enjoyed fellowshipping with David, who is a fellow SBTS graduate, sharing some of the same experiences that we had. David spent 2 years as a missionary in Africa, and he found many similarities in his experience in Africa with ours in Asia.
Our translator, Nittaya, just found out she has been accepted to King's College in Tennessee, so we will soon be looking for a new translator. We are very, very happy for her... but part of us grieves because we will really miss her.
May the Lord Bless You and You Shine the Light of the Love of Jesus Christ where there is Darkness.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Everyone is moving!

2 weeks ago, we moved to a new home. Our previous home was in an area where we were not able to obtain consistent internet service. Our internet would be down more often than it was up and even when it was up, it was as slow as dial-up. This made posting blogs and using the internet for inexpensive overseas communication very difficult. We will soon be opening up a new website for Thai Christians where they can download free Christian education resources. We need a good consistent internet connection for this project. There are very, very few Christian education resources in the Thai language, and the few that are here are too expensive for most pastors and churches to afford. We want to create a free resource library that will be available to all Christians in Thailand of all denominations. Many generous and kind-hearted authors, publishers, and organizations have given permission to have their books translated into Thai and made available for free online distribution. We thank all who are making this project possible.

Another move is happening now too. The Life Center UMC of Pattaya and the United Methodist Children's Mercy Center in Pattaya are expanding into a new building. We are now moving to a new building that will make it possible to care for up to 30 orphans and street children at this Center. The building will also be used a church facility for Life Center UMC which has been busting out of their old building, which could not contain everyone who comes for worship on Sunday morning.

Right now, we are giving care to 10 children at the UM Children's Mercy Center. There are many, many more children on a waiting list. At the present time, these children, ages 2-10, do not go to school because they do not have a birth certificate, which is required to attend school. Many of these children have been abandoned, and have no family members to care for them. We would love to help more children, but we need funds to be given. Gifts can be given to Advance #00403A Thailand Mission Initiative. It is easy to give online at http://new.gbgm-umc.org/advance/

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Petrie Memorial UMC donated Bible in Felt Kits

Last Sunday (June 15, 2008), we had a Children's Christian Education Seminar which was attended by Christian education workers from Chonburi, Bangkok, Bowin, Pattaya, and Ban Buang. Over 28 workers attended the seminar.

These Christians who teach the children every Sunday do so without resources. There are precious few Christian Education resources available in the Thai language. Every teacher makes their own lesson with nothing but a Bible as their resource and they do a great job.
When we discussed this lack of resources with Mark Pafford of Petrie Memorial UMC in Kentucky, he asked if there was anything they could do to help. We talked about the possibility of them providing Bible in Felt kits, which could be used to teach all of the Bible stories from Genesis to Revelation. Mark and the members of Petrie Memorial UMC responded back that they would donate enough to buy and ship 6 large kits to the Thailand Mission.
It took awhile to get the kits out of customs here, and then it took awhile to get the resources translated into Thai, but now each of the churches is fully resourced to teach their children about Jesus!
Everyone was very excited, because no one has ever seen such great resources for teaching children the Bible. Because of the generosity of Petrie Memorial UMC, thousands of children will learn about Jesus and become disciples.
The most excitement came from children, who kept coming into the seminar room to thank us for the kits. But we told them that the kits were provided by Christians across the world in Kentucky who love them and want them to learn about the God.
God is good!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Life Center UMC of Pattaya reaches out to the poorest of the poor children

Last Saturday, Sherri and I went to Pattaya to go visit the families of children that the members of Life Center UMC minister to. Pattaya is a tourist city and has many beautiful resorts. But near the railroad tracks, there are many tin shack slums called "chungchon" where people live in desperate poverty with no water, no electricty, and no sanitation.

Very close to Life Center UMC are 5 slums with hundreds of poor children, many of them orphans who are now cared for by grandparents, or in many cases senior adults who are unrelated to the orphan but have chosen to be merciful. The senior woman in the top right picture (with her orphan "adopted" grandaughter and Mike) cares for an orphan who is not even related to her. This senior lady brings the girl with her every day to pick through garbage cans all day in the searing heat to find recyclables to sell. Neither the woman nor the girl drink or eat anything all day long. The girl cannot go to school because she does not have a birth certificate. She was abandoned at the hospital, and no certificate is given to abandoned children. With no hope of an education, they must sell tissue and other items on Walking Street which is the worst "red light district" in the city. When they are older, they cannot obtain a work permit because they do not have documents, so they can never be employed. Someday we need a legal ministry which helps to get documents such as birth certificates for children, so they can go to school and have a future with hope.

Pastor Banya and Teacher Prantip visit the children in these slums every week to have Bible Club meetings. Teacher Prantip brings a blanket and sets it out on the ground. The children learn Bible lessons, sing worship songs, and play games.

Some of the children are brought to the church each day for care and receive instruction in reading and writing as well as lunch and a snack. We would like to start a children's day care center to take care of these children but we need funds to do this. Gifts for this project can be given to you UMC church treasurer for Advance #00403A - Thailand Mission Initiative.

Most of the children in these slums receive little or no medical care. One girl named Benz (bottom picture, on the left with her "adopted grandmother" and sister Frame, is deaf and mute and has never been to a doctor. She is now 5 years old. We are making arrangements for her
to receive medical care and we are praying for a miracle. Benz and Frame were orphaned and now this kind woman cares for them. They live in a tin shack that has collapsed (second picture from the bottom)

The need is very great here and we are praying that God will provide the resources to meet the needs of these orphans.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Where's the flame?

Last year when Bishop Jung of Chicago came to preach at Pradumri UMC, the church had not yet put up their new sign with the UM cross and flame symbol. They did three red crosses on the front of the church. When Bishop Jung saw the red crosses, he asked, "Where's the flame?"
Well, a few months ago, Pradumri UMC put up a huge sign that you can see here. Now there is a two-story high cross and flame! Pradumri UMC is proud to the the first UMC in Thailand.
We had an historic meeting at Pradumri on Sunday aftennoon, June 1. The clergy and lay delegates from the three UM church in Thailand met together to vote on the new board members for the Thailand United Methodist Church Foundation. We are in the legal process of forming an NGO foundation which will be in charge of mercy ministries here and will own the land and buildings which the UMC churches will use (similar to the Board of Trustees of an Annual Conference). The group pictured above are the delegates of the Thailand District of the Southeast Asia Mission.
We have been teaching many training sessions with pastors, church leaders, and Bible college interns. We have been teaching about how to plan and prepare sermons and cell group lessons, how to lead and multiply cell groups, and spiritual formation.
We are also busy with the new house we are moving to. We are painting the rooms before we move in, and we are getting as much paint on ourselves as on the walls. The new house will give us more room and also air conditioned office space, which is greatly needed in this equatorial climate.
God is good!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pradumri Believers baptized at KruaTalay

It was a wonderful day at Pradumri UMC, this last Sunday (May 26, 2008). Mike preached in the morning and Sherri served communion using the new Thai language liturgy she developed based on the liturgy in the UMC hymnal. Sherri used Thai language during the whole communion service.

After service we had the afternoon meal and a teaching session with 17 new Christians who would be baptized that afternoon. Nung, a Thai man who speaks fluent English, was our translator for the teaching session. He and his wife were baptismal candidates, and we rejoiced having them there because we have seen their lives change and they have grown strong in Christ. Nung was saved about a year ago and his wife gave her life to Christ at the Christmas program last year.

We went to the Krua Talay restaurant which is by the ocean. The leaders at Pradumri made arrangements to do the baptisms there and had surveyed the place a few weeks ago. It was high tide when they went there to survey. However, when we showed up, it was low tide. The sea is so shallow there that we had to walk about 300 meters to get to the edge of the water. And then we walked about 200 meters into the water and was only ankle deep. Pradumri UMC usually baptizes using the immersion method, so the usual method was not possible because the water was too shallow. So we had a chance to teach the congregation about the three methods of baptism and give a brief biblical-historical lesson on baptism. So Mike found a seashell and told the congregation that the seashell was the ancient symbol for baptism because it was used in the early church for baptizing. Mike then proceeded to use the seashell to pour water on the 17 baptismal candidates' heads to baptize them. As always, the church members were singing worship songs all during the baptism and cheering for people as they were baptized. After each person was baptized they would go to shore and to through a corridor of cheering people singing "I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back."
The tide was coming in while we were doing the baptisms, so by the time we were half-way through the baptisms, the water was half-way up to our knees and the whole congregation was now in the water. One baptismal candidate was handicapped and could not walk into the water. We sang hymns with her and baptized her at the restaurant as patrons of the restaurant looked on and wondered what we were doing. Members of the church struck up conversations with the patrons and started to witness to them of Jesus Christ.
After the baptismal service, most of the members of Pradumri UMC went to Pastor Sarah's clinic to sing songs, pray with people, and evangelize in the area of the clinic, which is in downtown Chonburi. We were not able to go with them because we had a meeting to go to with the landlords of a house we will be moving into next month. In a future post, I will give our new address. This other house is older than the one we live in now, but is larger and has better internet service (which has been a serious problem at our present location, where service is down as much as it is up.)
It has been a day full of blessings. God is good!