United Methodists are connected around the world. This has been very evident this past month when Julie Broderson, Missions director at Centenary UMC in Lexington, KY (she is also the chairperson of the Annual Conference committee on Mission Personnel) contacted us about a seminar sponsored by ILI, the International Leadership Institute. Some of our pastors and church leaders had attanded a basic leadership seminar last year with ILI in Chonburi province, but we were not fully acquainted with the mission and goals of ILI, but were impressed with their curriculum.
This week, 11 United Methodist pastors, interns, and leaders attended the full version of ILI's leadership seminar. ILI has a strategy of resourcing leaders to train other native leaders. All that come to the seminar are trained in teaching the ILI curriculum and are given full use of the resources. Now we have trained leaders who can use this curriculum to train others. You can check out ILI's website at www.iliteam.org
We had the pleasure of meeting many of the leaders and trainers of ILI, many of whom were from Singapore. We were especially glad to meet Dr. Al Vom Steeg who is the Senior International Director of ILI. Dr. Al Vom Steeg preached the morning service at Pradumri UMC and Lanny, one of the trainers, also worshipped with us this past Sunday.
In the top picture, from left to right: Pastor Sarah of Pradumri UMC, Dr. Al Vom Steeg of ILI, Sherri, and Mike holding Madeline, our grandaughter who fell asleep at the end of the service when everyone closed their eyes for the altar call. Madeline enjoys coming to church with us and our Thai sisters and brother dote on her. I fear she will get a big head here in Thailand because everyone treats her like a princess. Our Thai Christian family is very kind and loving.
In the second picture, Lanny speaks before the congregation of Pradumri UMC with Dr. Al Vom Steeg.
This past Sunday was Chinese New Year Day. It is a very big celebration here in Chonburi province because at least 70% of the population has Chinese ancestry. The markets are flooded with Chinese deserts and treats, gifts, and decorations. Everyone is lighting long strings of firecrackers which makes this a very LOUD day.
We are always delighted to see the love of Thai Christians and their devotion to each other. This is evident at Pradumri UMC. One of the church leaders at Pradumri is Pi Nao. Pi Nao and his wife own a bakery business (they make bread and treats at their home and sell them at the open market). Their business is very seasonal. Although they sell bread and pastries every week, most of their profit comes from the boom in business during the holidays. One of the biggest holidays in their business is Chinese New Year. People give gifts of Chinese pastries and cakes during this time and so the volume of sales greatly exceeds their capacity to produce with just two sets of hands. However, if they do not produce enough goods to sell, they will lose out on the profit and their business will fail, because the normal weeks have low sales (most Thai people cannot afford baked goods on a regular basis.)
The Christians of Pradumri UMC help Pi Nao out during the holidays, and this one was no exception. They stayed up all night on Saturday night to produce the Chinese pastries and cakes. They did not sleep at all. And they did this on a volunteer basis to help out. And after they were finished, they all came to Pradumri church for worship at 9:30 a.m. and did not get out until 1:30 p.m. or later. It was inspiring to see all of these brothers and sisters in Christ sacrificing to help another family in the church.
It truly is a great blessing to work side-by-side with Thai Christians, seeking to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to every person in this nation.