We hope you had a great time of rest and celebration during the holidays. I was thrilled to get to celebrate the incarnation of our Lord Jesus and generosity of God during this Christmas season while living in a new country. Here are some highlights from the past two months here in Northern Thailand.
With all the other holidays that have transpired since, it could be easy to forget about Thanksgiving this past holiday season. It was great to be able to celebrate with several members and friends of the church. The food was a funny arrangement of American and Thai (I bought pizza).
These past two months, we had two teams come to help us do English Fun Days in multiple villages around Chiang Rai province. The second team also helped us with some Christmas outreach events. The first came from Tuscaloosa, AL and the second from Gulf Port, MS. We were very grateful for the energy and excitement that they brought during the weeks they were here.
Christmas is always a fruitful time to get to share the message of Jesus with people here in Thailand. The holiday and spirit of Christmas is catching on here, so people are continually interested in why we celebrate this holiday (and, often times, how they can get on board). It would be difficult to count how many programs we had in different places, but there are two that I can remember because they are significantly noteworthy.
The first was the soccer outreach Christmas event. This was while the team from Gulfport, MS was here and they were able to help out with it. This ministry has been significant because it has been one of the best ways to reach out to a demographic that is sorely lacking in Baan Athitaan--men. Young men come from all over to play soccer, so this outreach has been engaging them in this area of recreation. And one night, not long after the Christmas event, one of those young guys came to the church asking if he could talk to someone about becoming a Christian. That night, he talked and prayed with Jay (who heads the soccer outreach) and the pastor from the Gulfport team, and surrendered his life to Christ!
The second significant outreach was our Baan Athitaan Church annual outreach. This outreach touches many people at our English school (all my students were there). I was so excited to see my students here a clear presentation of the gospel at this event, as well as to let them meet more Christians at the church.
I got really excited about this one! I had the privilege to begin discipling Sprite (a university student) in English back in September. Sprite became a believer about a year or so before that through the witnesses of friends at school, but he was hesitant to get involved in church for a long time. He tried out a few churches in our area, including a Korean church and even a Mormon fellowship (which he, by God's grace, felt in his gut was wrong and promptly cut ties with). He found a home at Baan Athitaan and asked if there was anyone who could study the Bible with him and work with him on his English (his first language is Thai but he is currently learning English and Chinese). Through that, I got connected with him and started having coffee, doing Bible lessons, and talking about life, once a week. Over time, I have seen him grow in his enthusiasm to read and understand the Bible, as well as grow in his spiritual disciplines. It has been exciting to read through Bible stories with someone so fresh to the Scriptures. I am honored to get to be his friend and teach him, and I am praying that God will grow him into a strong, Bible-loving, Christ-centered, compassionate, leader.
Plans for the Upcoming
Those have been some highlights over the past few months here in Chiang Rai. These past 6 months have been a time filled with much learning and trying to figure out where God can use us the most with the gifts, talents, personality, history, and experiences that we have. We have several plans for this next 6 months to a year about different places where we would like to get involved, or some areas where we might need to refocus our attention and energy. If you would like to pray for us, this would be an area where we greatly need the prayer.
This time around, we haven't always known, or practiced, best wisdom in every area of our lives while living here in Thailand. We are setting goals this year to be more proactive and intentional in many of these areas. For example, I haven't been the best at keeping a budget or intentionally seeking out marriage resources for us to grow in our marriage. In these, and a few other areas, I would ask that you would pray for our success as we work towards greater obedience and health in our lives and work. Thank you for your partnership and God bless!
Things to Consider:
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” [Psalm 46:10]
If you could pan the camera back and look at the big picture of the Bible--taking in all the major plot points-- you would see that one prominent thread that runs through it's entirety is that God wants to be the Lord, Savior, and Treasure of all people of all languages in all nations. Consider these few major plot points in the Bible:
God tells Adam and Eve to fill the earth, subdue it, and have dominion over it (Genesis 1:28).
God tells Noah and his sons to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1).
God tells Abraham that through him all families of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3), and that in his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 26:4).
One of the purposes of the Law in the Old Covenant (Old Testament) was that other peoples would look at the nation of Israel and see that their God was worthy to be worshiped (Deuteronomy 4:5-8).
The temple was meant to be a "house of prayer for all peoples [nations]" (Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17).
Jesus said one of the signs that the end is near is that the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations (Matthew 24:14).
Jesus's final command (during his earthly ministry) to his disciples was to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), and to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20).
In the letter of Revelation, John describes a prophetic vision in which he sees people from every nation, tribe, people, and language worshiping Jesus (Revelation 7:9).
Now consider these facts about the part of the world where we currently live:
The population of Asia is more than 4 billion people. That means that close to 2/3 of the population of the earth lives on our continent. (Sources)
Out of a recorded 6,909 languages in the world, 2,197 of them are Asian languages. (Source)
A majority (over 50%) of the unevangelized ethno-linguistic groups in the world live in Asia. (Source)
From Bangkok (the capital of Thailand), you can take one flight and be in Tokyo (Japan), Paris (France), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), London (U.K.), Los Angeles (U.S.), New York City (U.S.), Vancouver (Canada), Siem Reap (Cambodia), Denpasar (Indonesia), Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Singapore (Singapore), Kathmandu (Nepal), Yangon (Myanmar [Burma]), Manila (Philippines), Jakarta (Indonesia). (Source)
You can also drive for less than one day and be in Laos, Myanmar, or the Yunnan province of China. (Source)
Many of the students we disciple at the two major universities in Chiang Rai go on to work in other cities in Thailand, or other countries, and have intimate access to their home towns or villages. Many of them speak a language other than Thai at home, and some of them study a third language at university. ("uni" for my Australian friends). (Source)
Thank you for your partnership!