Most weeks, we serve only in urban or industrial areas. But some weeks, like this week, we are in underdeveloped parts of Thailand. It is at these times that we really feel like missionaries, because we have to just make do with whatever circumstances we are in.
This week, we went to Hoknoi in the Northeast part of Thailand, where Almighty God UMC is located. A team of us went to do a 2 day English camp at the Nonsomboon school, teaching 5th graders to converse in English. The goal was to do acts of service for the community to gain the good favor of the community leaders. Even though Thailand is a democracy, in the rural areas, it is more of a feudal system with village chief who control what happens in their community. The village chief can make you or break you, so having the favor of the chief is very important.
The camp was a great success and God brought about a receptive attitude in the village elders and the chief. They see that we are here to serve the community and it is opening hearts.
The teaching team for the English camp was 7 people, so we had to borrow a van because our pickup was not big enough to carry the people and all of the equipment. The van has many problems. It overheats easily, leaks water, has suspension problems, and the air conditioner is unreliable. But we praise God for free transportation, and we set off on a 6 hour trip. But we had to pick up a new sound system for the church. I miscalculated the opening time of the store, and we had to wait an extra hour for the store to open. And then it took a long time to get things purchased and be on the road.
We had to travel slow because any large bump would cause the van to careen, so we had to be careful. About an hour into the trip, the air conditioner in the front stopped working. It was a 112 degree day, so Sherri and I were pretty toasty in the front, especially since we sit right over the engine and it is normally hot there, even with the air conditioning working.
Then we had to go through the mountain pass. While slowly crawling through the pass, we heard a whistling sound from the engine and saw that it was overheating. We couldn't stop immediately because it was too dangerous, we prayed hard and the van made it to a gas station with a restaurant. There we were able to let the engine cool down while we had dinner and reviewed plans with the team. We filled up the radiator with water and took off again.
Then we were pulled over by police. We did not notice, but the insurance sticker on the van was out of date, so we had to pay a fine. This delayed us some more and it was getting dark. We were hoping to arrive while there was still sunlight.
Fortunately, we arrived safely and were escorted to our cabin at a nearby national park. It had a fan but no air conditioning, but this is OK, we are missionaries, we adapt. We had 2 cabins, one for the men and one for the women. We had to first go through the cabin and kill a bunch of spiders. There were many big spiders, very large ones in fact. (OK, I know many people have told me NOT to kill spiders because they eat other insects, but honestly, I just don't want to be in the same room with a 3 inch long spider.
We went to bed and were soon having all sorts of ants, beetles, mosquitoes, pill bugs, cockroaches, and worm thingies crawling on us. We managed to get some sleep and then we went to do a first day of English camp. Sherri had some bad food that first day, and she was in rough shape, but kept working through it all.
After camp, we went back to the cabins to find that there was a storm and it knocked out the electricity, which happens very often here. And when the electricity is off, it is usually off for several days. We had no electricity for the fans and it was steaming hot, even at night. And we only had one flashlight, so we had to buy candles to have some light. But we are missionaries, we can adapt.
Then that night, one of our team members, Khru Jap, was stung by a scorpion. After contacting doctors, we were told that if she was not having trouble breathing, we should just observe her and make a poultice to bring down the swelling. We were told to look for a certain type of plant to make a poultice, so there Sherri and our translator Nittaya were, with a flashlight, looking for the plant to make a poultice. God answered our prayers and kept Khru Jap safe.
We went back and finished our camp. At this time, Sherri and the team are on their way home to Chonburi. I (Mike) am staying until Friday. We have a Grand Opening Service at Almighty God UMC and many churches are attending. We had the soft opening in November of last year. But now, the building has been finished, and we have a big celebration. Sherri cannot be here for the celebration because our boss, Rev. Jong Sung Kim, and his boss, Dr. Jorge Domingues, will be coming to Thailand on the same day and around the same time as the service. Dr. Domingues will be preaching at Pradumri UMC on Sunday.
Tonight and tomorrow, I will be sleeping in the sanctuary at Almight God UMC. In the meantime, I am praying for safe travels for Sherri and the Teaching team.
It is times like these that we feel like missionaries, because we have to adapt to circumstances and be victorious in them.
On Sunday, Sherri will be going to Vietnam for two days and Laos for one day, doing interviews of UM pastors for the Committee on Credentialing (our version of a Board of Ordained Ministry).
I will be staying at home, working on the Advance Course of Study classes I will be teaching this next month (United Methodist History and Polity).
When I get home, I will collect photos of both the English camp and the Grand Opening of Almighty God UMC and post them for you.
Thank you for keeping us in your prayers. We need divine protection and intervention.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
WOW! Today is Mike's birthday and we have received many e-mails and cards that have reminded us that people pray for us and the people of Thailand constantly. It would be difficult to overstate how much we appreciate your prayers, because it is only by God's Power that disciples are made and it is the hand of God that sustains us.
Thank you for your prayers and kindness which inspire us.
--Mike and Sherri
Thank you for your prayers and kindness which inspire us.
--Mike and Sherri
Monday, March 09, 2009
Last week, Pastor Jerron and 4 parishioners from Bowin UMC in Thailand, formed a VIM (Volunteer in Mission) Team to prepare Almighty God UMC in Hoknoi for the grand opening service next month (we had the soft opening back in November). There was a lot of work to do, carpentry, painting, electrical, glazing, and decorating. None of the volunteers on this team were professional carpenters, painters, electricians, glaziers, or interior decorators. But God used them in a mighty way to do a great job of getting the building ready, but also of showing the Thai Christians in Hoknoi that we love them and we are family together.
One team member said, "Before I came up here, I was a truck mechanic, but now I learned that God made me to be a carpenter too." Another team member chimed in, "Yes, and I never knew I was a painter!" God provided the team with all of the gifts they needed to serve and meet the need. Pastor Nampon of Almighty God UMC in Hoknoi said, "When I look upon the VIM team, I believing I am looking at God's angels." Pastor Nampon and her church members were blessed by the outpouring of love by the Bowin VIM team.
The team went back to their home church and told of how God blessed them tremendously as they sought to be a blessing to their fellow believers in Hoknoi. Now Bowin UMC members are excited about their next VIM trip to Hoknoi to help with the day of the Grand Opening Service.
This reminds us that God has given every church and every ministry all of the Spiritual gifts and abilities that are needed to meet the needs in your area. We just must be courageous in using the gifts God has given us, and He will make us to be a blessing to other and will bless us as well.
It is a blessing to see the Thai Christians serving each other so graciously. They have seen the loving example of VIM teams from the United States that have blessed them, and now they seek to be a blessing.
Friday, March 06, 2009
We have long preached that the most joyful people we know are those who seek to bless others the most. They focus their energy into being a blessing to others, rather than seeking to be blessed by others. The profound thing about this is that self-focused people are rarely happy, even though their own happiness is their primary concern. And those that bless others the most in turn receive much more from the Lord than they give to others.
Our prayer is that we can be a tremendous blessing to others, winning the Thai people to Jesus Christ, making disciples, training strong leaders, and building vibrant churches and ministries. God has blessed the Thailand Mission. There are now 5 churches and a ministry that serves 35 orphans and street children in Pattaya. There is a total of over 737 people who have professed their faith in the Lord Jesus and have become baptized members of the United Methodist Church. We are very blessed as we visit these churches and see the many people who have come to Jesus Christ and now their lives are changed.
Several weeks ago, we worshipped at the Thai service at Life Center UMC (the Chinese service is in the afternoon). Every week a member of the church gives their testimony. This week 2 women gave their testimonies of how they had come to Pattaya to earn money, one by being a food vendor on the street and the other was a sex worker. Both of them had hit bottom. The food vendor had many problems and was out of business and homeless. The other woman had lost all hope as troubles piled upon her. And then Thai Christians witnessed to them about Jesus Christ, and through the loving outreach of the church, they gave their lives to Jesus Christ. And now the Lord has changed their lives. They live victoriously in Jesus, who has turned their lives around. Everyone wept with joy as they gave praise to the Lord for all He has done for them.
We were very blessed by their testimonies and by the passionate worship at Life Center UMC and the biblical message that Pastor Banya gave. We were filled with joy knowing that lives are being changed and the church is growing in numbers and spiritual maturity. We are humbled, knowing that this is because of the faithful prayers and support of our brothers and sisters in the United States and the faithful service and effective leadership of the Thai Christians.
Thank you very much. You are a blessing to us and the Thai people.