"Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin..." (Zechariah 4:10a). I know for me, in these days, it's easy to think, "where is all this going?" It's easy to compare myself with other missionaries and think about how my language skills are still so lacking, my time here has been so short, my education is not up to par with some others, and Liz and I still don't have kids of our own yet. But this week, God reminded me through a sermon that I was listening to during my morning jog, that every big dream starts with small steps, and that I should not be sad if these days feel like "small beginnings." That's also one reason why we are so grateful for other people that believe in us. It's easy to only look at who we are today and what we are doing now, and to think it is insignificant. But God is able to take what we do now and multiply it. We have faith that he will continue to do that, and we believe that the best is still yet to come.
Here are some things that have been going on in our lives, the life of our church here, and with NTIM (in no specific order of importance):
We bought a motorcycle
If you've ever seen a movie based in many parts of Europe, South America, or Southeast Asia, you've seen the way tons of people travel by motorbike to cut down on costs (and frankly, because it's more fun). We were able to buy a motorcycle this past month (and finally got our license plate after driving without one for four weeks). It makes getting around much cheaper and easier, especially since our city is full of road construction right now.
Sprite in Shanghai
I shared with you in my last update about my brother, Sprite, who had been baptized a few weeks before. His major at university is Chinese Business, and he has left to study in Shanghai, China for about 4 months. I want to ask you to pray for him as he is studying and being a witness to his friends, peers, and professors there in China. To be honest, I am very ignorant as to the state of religious freedom in China, but it seems like he has been able to find a church to gather with while he is there. He continues to study the Bible with me every week over video call.
Investing one-on-one with 4 other people
I have been so glad to get to invest in Sprite's life since August of last year. These past few months, I have been given three other opportunities to invest in the lives of a few more guys here in Chiang Rai, and Liz has had the opportunity to start doing personal discipleship with one girl. Two of the guys are students here at Baan Athitaan, and they want to improve their English, so they are meeting with me now every week to study the Bible and talk about life. The girl is meeting with Liz primarily to study the Bible, and this is Liz's first time doing something like this completely in Thai!
However, the other guy is a little older, and as of this writing is not yet a Christian. He has just started studying English with us at Grace Language School, and I had the opportunity to do his entrance interview with him. After the interview, we talked for a bit and he expressed his interest in Christianity. After teaching class that night, Liz and I went and grabbed some food with him and shared with him about Jesus. I've given him a Bible in English and Thai and we are currently in the process of talking through some very important topics. If you take anything away from this update, I would ask that you pray for our friend, DJ. Pray that God will grant him the gift of faith soon, and that he will become a disciple of Jesus as I (and some other people in the office), continue to share with him.
Teaching at Wiung Chai School
This past month, Jay Lee and I have been going to volunteer at a local elementary school for their English classes. For them, it is a great advantage to have a native speaker come and teach for awhile, so they have been very grateful for our work. This has given us a good relationship with this school, and a chance to impact some of the kids there in a way that we may never see the full fruit from.
I also wanted to let you know that right now we have a friend who is currently raising money to join our team here at Grace Language School. Jeremiah has recently graduated from Union University in Jackson, TN and we have been friends since we started our freshman year together. He studied Spanish and Christian Studies in school, and he has been using those tools over the past year to build bridges to his coworkers and other Spanish-speaking members of his community, but now he is feeling a call from God to take the opportunity to work in an international context here in Northern Thailand. Once he gets fully accepted by the board, he will need to raise about $13,000 to work here with us for a 2 year term. Please pray for him as he raises support, and consider giving to his overall total. I believe it will be very helpful for us to have another native English speaker--especially one that is mature in his faith-- working here with us on a full-time basis. You can donate at his GoFundMe by clicking here. (The GoFundMe is only for the $4,000 he will need for preliminary expenses such as an airplane ticket and motorbike).
Progress on GLS's Building Project
For those of you who may not know, our school is currently in the process of building a permanent campus, which will also be used as a meeting place for Baan Athitaan Church on Sunday mornings. The money has already been raised for the first phase of the project, and we also already have many pledges from people to come and help with construction. There was a frustrating pause in the progress for about 6 months or so, but things are moving now, and we are excited about seeing construction start sometime in the next year on this fresh campus. Please pray for the continuance of this project, and if you have labor skills that you would like to donate for a week or so, you can contact Michael Johnson at email@example.com for details.
Another exciting update in our personal lives is that I am currently applying to pursue a Master's degree through Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary online starting this summer. If my calculations are correct, with only taking one class a semester, combining the credits I have already completed, I will be able to complete this program in just two years.
This may sound like a less-than-urgent request, but another thing I am asking for prayer about is the lack of Christian literature available in the Thai language. While discipling people, I have wanted to find books that I could give to them and have found through my research that there is not much Christian publishing (or even translating) that happens in the Thai language. Being a nerd and someone that has grown immensely because of good books, this saddens me, and I am praying that God will put it on the hearts of more Christians in positions of influence here in-country to start publishing more.
Finally, I was able to share a sermon at Baan Athitaan this last month on the subject of "Faithfulness" as part of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. I have also had more opportunities to share with the kids and teenagers at Liz's school during their chapel hour. I love teaching the Bible, so these have been exciting opportunities for me.
Bonus: As promised, click here to download a new Thai/English worship song, recorded by Liz.