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.