Back in Bangkok!

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After being back in the states for 5 months traveling and reporting on the past 2 1/2 years of our life and ministry in Thailand we were way past ready to get back home and to finally be settled and to return to our somewhat “normal” Thai life again. When we arrived at the airport we were surprised to be greeted by several of the young adults from Somprasong 4 church! They made a cute “Sawadee” (Thai greeting) sign and all showed up with their sweet, smiling faces! Getting back to the “Land of Smiles” never felt so good! It was weird how it felt as if no time had passed. The same night that we arrived (2 hours before our flight landed) the Abilene Christian University (ACU) students arrived for their internship over the summer. So we really hit the ground running! Is there any other way?!

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Right after we landed, Gary was asked to speak for the Wednesday night bible class. So Gary put a lesson together and taught on our first full day back. He also preached Sunday morning and taught a combined bible class. It was nice to share with them what we’ve been doing the past few months and about what our future plans are in Thailand. It was awesome to see so many that we’ve missed. Our first Sunday back was a fun, warm and welcoming day of fellowship with our Thai family.

International House Hunters: Bangkok Edition

When we arrived back we stayed at the church building and moved between 2 different rooms. (We moved out of our old apartment before we left since we knew we’d be in the states for a while). We were grateful to have the room at the building but it was pretty cramped and we were exhausted and ready to start getting settled so that first week, we started apartment hunting knowing it could take a while to find a place.

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So thankful for these guys for helping us move in, even after working all weekend at English Camp!

Looking for apartments in Bangkok takes a lot of communication skills and persistence. We had to do a lot of research online of areas and companies to connect with to see places. Lots of sorting and looking through places that the agencies emailed us. Most of these places would turn out to be not what we were looking for at all. They would either be too small, not a style we like, too far from public transportation, too expensive, etc. So before we were able to go see a place physically we had a lot of work to do. Once we found something that we were interested in, we went to see it with an agent. We did this for nearly 2 weeks and hadn’t found anything like what we were hoping for. This time of year is hard to find a good place because a lot of people move in the summer so most of the good places were already taken. We were tired of looking and not feeling confident and satisfied about it but we knew we’d seen most of what was available and thought we might just have to settle. In our last attempts to find something, we decided to check out one last area. It was the day before we were leaving for English Camp and we went looking at one last building that people had told us about. We met with the agent and after seeing just one room in the building, we knew this was the place! We saw a few rooms there throughout the day and decided on one by that evening! We made a downpayment that night. Went off to English Camp the next morning for a long weekend, then the day after we returned from Camp we closed on the apartment and moved in! Just when we were about to give up and give in to one of the apartments that we only halfway liked, God opened our eyes to a great apartment that exceeded our expectations! And as always at just the right time! God is good and we are so thankful to have a beautiful place that we can finally settle down in and call home!

English Camp

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Just a week and a half after arriving we had English Camp with nursing students from Suan Dusit University. The days before camp we were busy trying to find our apartment so all of our preparation for camp were in the middle of apartment hunting craziness. Which included choosing a theme, writing lessons, preparing games, and designing and printing camp shirts and stickers. This year we had over 40 students attend, which is more than we’ve ever had.

We arrived to camp a day before it started on Thursday to clean the grounds and set up all of our equipment and tents. Most of the students that came this year were Freshmen so we didn’t really know this group yet. Glome and Nueng did a great job breaking the ice with some welcome games and activities and it wasn’t long before the students and staff were laughing and getting along like good friends.

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Our theme for Camp this year was Electric Summer and we truly had an electric time together at Cha Am!

Aside from a few of Somprasong’s church staff, young adults, us and the ACU interns, we had extra help from three of Somprasong’s Filipino members and one young American member, also a member from the church in Phuket, Thailand. It’s always an encouraging time getting extra time with our staff from church who volunteer to help, most of whom are sacrificing vacation time to be with us. I was especially proud of how well the staff showed love and kindness to all of the nursing students throughout our time at camp. 

Click here to see more pictures from English Camp.

Click here to see the video that we put together for the students from camp.

Time with the ACU Students

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The ACU girls with Bhee and Sam.

Since we knew that we would be really busy returning to Thailand just as the ACU team arrived, we decided that we wouldn’t be mentors for this year’s ACU team in Bangkok. So this year Bhee and Sam worked primarily with the team and we assisted as we could but mostly at the end of their time. While the girls were in Bangkok we showed them a few of areas that we’ve been involved with in the past. We love introducing the interns to all of the craziness that comes with living in Bangkok. It’s always fun to see the look on peoples faces the first time that they see the endless expanse of skyscrapers, never ending number of spirit houses and temples, see all the fancy and massive shopping malls, experience the humidity and heat, witness how crowded and busy the streets are.

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During our time together the girls learned about Thai Buddhism and animism, we also took them to visit the red light district to learn about the issue of Bangkok’s sex industry, to the slum community in our old neighborhood to show them the challenges and dangers of people living in extreme poverty face since they can be easily taken advantage of by the mob or others with no one to stand up for them.

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Even though our time with the ACU team was short this year, it was a joy to have them here. After their time in Bangkok they went up to Chiang Rai where they’ll be teaching English for three weeks at a Christian school. Please keep them in your prayers as they finish up their summer here in Thailand and return to the States soon.

 

 

Life on the Road

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We’ve been on the road since January and just this past week we finally finished reporting and visiting all of our supporting churches! We’ve traveled thousands of miles, slept in countless beds, and packed and unpacked a ridiculous amount of times but it was so neat to get to visit so many that we love and miss! We are so thankful for the opportunities we’ve had to share about our past and future work in Thailand. We feel blessed to have such encouraging and excited supporters that pray for us and our work often!7-MP19In Crossville, TN we visited with the Linary Church of Christ. Michelle’s family lived in Crossville and worked with the church there after they returned to the US from being missionaries in Russia. Michelle was just 16 at the time and spent time with the church there through her first years in college. It was great catching up with old church friends and being in the town where Michelle graduated high school.

From Crossville, we made our way to Murray and Paducah in Western Kentucky. We visited with the University church in Murray, KY on a Sunday morning and drove up to Paducah to be with the Lone Oak church that evening. It was a very long but especially encouraging day!2-Murray PaducahWhile living in Murray 8 years ago, we were involved with the church’s ministry to foreign exchange students who were mostly from China. We feel a special bond with University from our time working alongside them. It was a full Sunday morning together. Gary taught a combined Bible class, preached during worship and we got to speak with their missions committee and church leaders at a special luncheon. We loved our time with them and were very encouraged to share more about Thailand with them and see their excitement about how God has been at work in Asia.3-Murray Paducah1It would take too long to explain all of the crazy connections that we have with the Lone Oak church in Paducah. Lone Oak has been a long time supporter of the AIM program and has sent a number of their own young people to AIM over the years including one of Gary’s old Bangkok teammates.1-Terre HauteFrom Kentucky we headed up north to Terre Haute, Indiana to the Eastside Church of Christ. We got to know this church while we were in youth ministry doing summer camps and fall retreats together with them. It’s especially cool to see how some of their youth have grown a heart for missions and have gone on to do short-term missions themselves with AIM program and DiscipleTrips! 4-Mt Carmel [EDITED]For our last stop we headed to Mt. Carmel, IL where we worked for 5 years in youth ministry before moving to Thailand. It was surreal being back in Mt. Carmel after having been gone for so long. We spent a few days there catching up with friends and family but the time just wasn’t enough. There are so many people that we wish that could have seen while we were there but time just didn’t allow it.6-21-DSC05848One highlight from our time in Mt. Carmel was spending time with some who were first in our youth group. They’re all grown up now in college, with jobs, some of them married and with families. These people will certainly always hold a special place in our hearts.5-Mt Carmel [EDITED]1We’re especially thankful for the time that we got to spend with Michelle’s sister Melissa and her family. It was so fun to have time to spend with our niece and nephews and being be able to celebrate Easter with family.

This week we’ve returned to Memphis. We’re excited to spend some time with our sponsoring church! Although we’re technically “homeless” right now, while in Memphis we actually have our own place to stay since Bartlett Woods (our sponsoring church) owns a house across from their church building that we’re able to use during our time back. It’s so nice to have a space of our own where we can actually unpack our bags, cook our own food and live somewhat of a “normal” life. Tulsa Workshop

We’re busy getting ready for the Tulsa Workshop next week. Gary is excited to be teaching two classes at Workshop. He’ll be teaching Thursday and Friday at 3:00 pm both days. Click here to see the full schedule and find out more about the Tulsa Workshop. We will also have our Missions Bangkok booth and will be selling handmade items from Thailand, some coffee inspired t-shirts that we designed and some fresh roasted speciality coffee from two hill tribe villages in Thailand! So if you happen to go to Workshop be sure to stop by and see us!

 

Back in the USA… For a Visit

Right now we’re in the middle of our time back in the States for our stateside service. After spending time with our families for the holidays and starting off our time with our sponsoring church we set out on our big Oklahoma and Texas trip to visit with churches and individual supporters reporting on our past and future work in Bangkok while raising additional support.

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It was great spending the holidays with our families.

Since we’ve been in the US, we’ve already traveled over 6000+ miles across 11 states! We’ve been living out of our suitcase, packing up and unpacking every couple of days, staying with friends, mentors and family along the way. We’ve also been able to meet with organizations like Missions Resources Network, Oklahoma Christian University and Abilene Christian University. On our trip through OK and TX everyone that we’ve met has been such a great encouragement to us. We’ve been blown away by all the love that’s been shown to us and it’s been great reconnecting with so many!

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Our planned road trip from January to March.

One common misconception that people have about missionary “furloughs” is that it is a vacation or a break. When in reality it couldn’t be more far from the truth! It’s not been easy living out of our suitcases for months. Being on the road constantly, spending all day in meetings, constantly talking to people, speaking at churches and events, while also trying to work on our own things without much down time gets exhausting. Being back feels like a crazy whirlwind of events and emotions. We are tired, while at the same time, we feel super blessed from our time back so far. To know more about the experience missionaries go through when visiting the States check out this article from Missions Resource Network: Furlough or Home Assignment? Our Language Betrays Us by Dale Hawley

We wish that we had time to share more about our trip and the people that we got to visit with but we just don’t have time. So here’s a few highlights! 🙂

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Tulsa is a special place to us since it is where we officially met and started dating. In the summer of 2007 while Gary interned with the Memorial Drive Church of Christ, Michelle moved to Tulsa to be close to family and friends. Memorial has a lot of AIM connections and the church there has many awesome, genuine and active people that mean a lot to us and are always such an encouragement.

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We were excited to visit The Christian Chronicle and Oklahoma Christian University for the first time. While in Bangkok, we were honored to be visited by Erik of the Chronicle who wrote a beautiful piece about us and Somprasong working with refugees. It was neat catching up with Erik on our visit. We’re thankful for all he does sharing about how God is at work in this world. While on the OC campus we were able to attend the missions chapel where our friend from Japan, Joel was speaking that day. It was surprising and funny to run into him here in the states! Ran into these girls at OC! It was crazy to see them all grown up! They were all just little kids when Michelle lived in Okinawa, Japan.

Dallas

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Spent a couple days in the Dallas area. We got to enjoy a delicious Thai meal in Denton with several Thailand friends! We’ve been missing good Thai food since being back. It was especially cool seeing our friend and old co-worker P’Rung! In Dallas, we were also able to visit with some old friends of ours, Gary’s childhood best friend and Michelle’s AIM teammate. We haven’t seen them in several years and it was crazy to see them again and now as parents. One afternoon we spent an encouraging time with Missions Resource Network (MRN). It was great catching up with them and to share about what’s going on in Thailand and what our dreams are for Bangkok. They’re a really awesome group and we love what they’re doing to help churches and missionaries all around the world!

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11In Abilene we were so excited to catch up with several of our ACU interns from the past 2 years. It was awesome to see both of the teams together. Being back together with them was like being with family! We were also honored to stay with Larry and Pam Henderson (who were long time missionaries in Bangkok and worked with Somprasong 4 church of Christ several years ago). We loved hearing stories about their time in Thailand. The ACU campus has a lot of veteran Thai missionaries and missionary kids. It was neat running into several of them. While on campus, we set up our table of Thai handcrafted items to sell to help with some of our funding. It was a fun way to get people excited about Thailand and to share our passion for missions with the students.

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To see more pictures from our Texas & Oklahoma Trip click here.

Mission Bangkok

Preparing for Our Visit to the States

Preparing for the States

Our last few months in Thailand were especially crazy as we were preparing for our visit to the States. It wasn’t easy moving out of the apartment we’ve called home for the past two years. We were busy closing accounts, transitioning out of our ministries, handing over responsibilities, in meetings, sending e-mails galore, making video calls to the States, working on future plans, saying goodbyes, (for a little while) …oh yeah AND packing! All of this, in preparation for our Stateside service. 

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Our Last Weekend With Somprasong 4

During our last weekend with Somprasong before heading back to the States the youth threw us a big surprise farewell party. They decked out the room in our favorite colors and even made us SUPER special t-shirts and a sweet video for us! We can’t even begin to tell you how loved we felt!

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Then, on very little sleep, we had our last Sunday! Gary preached, and in his sermon, looked back on all that God has done over the past two years and how we need to continue to dream big for the Kingdom. Throughout the day many shared stories of our times together, their love and thanks. It made us realize that God has been at work in more ways than we ever even thought. With all that we’ve had going on, it was an encouraging and energizing boost in the middle of all of our craziness! We’ve loved working with Somprasong and we’ve missed our church family in Thailand a lot since we’ve been away!

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Two Years in Thailand

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We’ve been in Thailand for two years this week! It’s crazy to think about all that has happened in just these two years! The time has completely flown by. We’ve loved being a part of the ministry here and are thankful to have seen God at work in so many big ways during our time in Thailand. We are excited to share that, after a lot of thought and prayer, we’ve decided to return to Bangkok to do church planting in a different part of the city! Over these past two years we’ve seen many open doors and opportunities to expand the Kingdom in this city and we really believe that this is where God wants us. We’ll be returning to the States this December to spend the holidays with our families. And after that we will spend time visiting with supporters and churches and are hoping that we can return back to Thailand by the spring of 2016.

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We had another long and busy summer. This was our second year mentoring another Worldwide Witness team from ACU. They came to join us in our ministries here in Bangkok and to help with a medical mission in Loei, a small village in northeastern Thailand. The girls were a joy to work with and a great  blessing to our work, the church and especially to us! They did a great job pouring themselves out into the ministry here and we’re so proud of them and all that they’ve conquered through Christ during their time in Thailand! We have lots of pictures posted from the summer. Check out these albums to get a glimpse of what our summer was like together:

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This past Sunday we had two take on Christ in baptism! Both Anil and Kashif had been a part of Bible studies that we’ve had in the past but had not yet been convicted to be baptized themselves until recently. Anil had studied with one of our American members of the church named Mark. And Kashif studied with Bhee over the past couple of weeks. We’ve known both Kashif, Anil and their families for a long time now and are happy that they made the decision to be baptized!

Excited for Kashif!

Excited for Kashif!

During the summer we were asked to take a more active role again helping at the Citylight Coffee shop since they are currently understaffed. We’re excited to be helping with this ministry. We’ve really enjoyed the time that we’ve had to spend with the baristas there and look forward to getting to know them more. Those that know us know that we love coffee, and it’s awesome that we get to be a part of something that combines our passion of coffee and service to others into one! Please keep us and this ministry in your prayers.

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Let the Summer Begin!

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Bartlett Woods in Bangkok

It’s been a very busy kick off to summer! In mid May we were honored to have a Steve and Adam visit from our sponsoring church for a week. They came to be an encouragement to us and to see what our lives and work are like here in Bangkok. They had heard about Bangkok for a long time and have followed our updates, etc. So it was really neat for them to finally get to be here and see it firsthand! 

10-DSC03605During the week we were able to show them a glimpse into most of our ministries, Thai culture and city life. Check out the video we put together showing a few things we got to do together while they were here in Bangkok!

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This past month we’ve been busy teaching the Bible to several of the BUR from church. It’s been encouraging to have so many want to study more about discipleship and baptism and many of our already Christians want have more in depth Bible studies! The Sunday that Steve and Adam were here we had 3 members from one family take on Christ in baptism! It was an amazing Sunday! Gary had first began studying with this family while some of them were in prison back in March. In the midst of that terrible circumstance, they saw God’s love from our church family and have been coming to be with our church ever since! Even to the point that the 3 were baptised! They were so excited to finally have God’s salvation and Spirit! They are such a sweet family, full of life and excitement and are eager to share their new hope with the rest of their family and friends!

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Photo credit: Steve Burns

Mentoring ACU Interns

This week 4 nursing students from ACU’s WorldWide Witness joined us in our ministry and will be with us for the next 6 weeks. Last year we were able to mentor 4 students from the same program and it was such a blessing to us, the church here and to the girls! We’re hoping this summer is even more awesome!

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Showing the girls around the neighborhood.

While they are here, Gary will be leading us in discipleship studies through the summer. We’ll visit several cultural places while teaching them about Thai culture. The girls will be joining us in our regular ministries and helping with a couple of special programs this summer as well. 

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They’re official Bangkokians now! Getting their BTS (Skytrain) commuter cards!

Over their first week in Thailand the ACU girls have already seen a lot of the urban ministries that they’ll be part of this summer. These ministries are largely among the overlooked and marginalized people of the city and include outreach in one of the red light districts and serving the BUR community. A couple of mornings this week we passed out a small blessing of morning breakfast to the homeless at Lumpini Park. We’re proud of the ways that they’re so willing to boldly spread Christ’s love to others!

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Tomorrow we will start the Service Learning Project with Suan Dusit’s nursing school (the school where we have English Club). This year we’ll be heading to the Loei province in Northeastern, Thailand for 5 days to help with a medical mission in a small village. It will be a busy summer full of blessings all around! And we’re excited for what God has in store for our time together!

Light Up The Darkness

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Christian Chronicle Reports on Ministry to Urban Refugees 

The Christian Chronicle featured the church’s ministry to Bangkok’s urban refugees in April’s issue. We really enjoyed our time with Erik Tryggstad during his visit earlier this year. It was fun getting to spend time with Erik, showing him around Bangkok (it was his first time in the city) and showing him our different ministries. We were blown away by the beautifully written articles he put together. He did a great job depicting the many challenges that our the refugee families face living here in Bangkok. 

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You can find the online articles here: “Survivors of the Taliban find new life — and new fear” and ‘Here, we feel God’s words working in our life’

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Please continue to keep the refugee community in Bangkok in your prayers. We’ve been able to help relocate a few families to safer areas of town but are still needing to find new homes for several more families. Pray that we are able to do so quickly.

Hot, Hottest and Rainy

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This past month in Thailand has been a season of renewal and holidays! There have been several different holidays lately and many people have been enjoying the holidays with their friends and family, traveling and doing everything they can to stay cool. The holidays come at a good time, I think, being that it is the hottest, most miserable time of year! It’s a great time to make the most of the season and head to the beach and eat lots of mangos (It’s mango time too in Thailand and the mangos here are amazing)! We say in Thailand there are 3 seasons. Hot, hottest and rainy. At this time of year, we sweat instantly as we walk out the door. We just accept that when we’re out, we’re going to be drenched in sweat. It’s the same every year. The heat is one of the more challenging things to deal with, living here. But we survive. . . somehow! lol! This time of year makes you especially thankful to have air-con!  

-Michelle

Light Up the Darkness

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Bangkok truly is a dark and sin-filled city. One of things that is so frustrating to us about the immorality here in Bangkok is how much sex-tourism is actually promoted in Thailand! In 2014 Thailand was demoted from a tier 2 to a tier 3 level in the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report for the country’s failure to take action against human trafficking. We’re thankful for the groups that help to take a stand against these issues and help provide opportunities to liberate the women that have been bound for so long. We recently visited Nightlight Design, an initiative of NightLight International that gives women coming out of the sex industry new opportunities through employment, to see the first batch of printed t-shirts made with a design that Gary made and donated to the ministry. It was cool seeing how much the girls loved the shirts and how excited they were to wear them when doing ministry in a near by red light district. Pray that God continues to empower his people to light up the darkness in this city!

Visa Run to Malaysia

We had a successful visa run to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at the beginning of the month. It went much quicker and easier than expected. We weren’t able to get the one year visa we wanted, possibly because of a recent changes in Thai law over the past year, but we were able to get one that will works. While in Malaysia we stayed at the Petaling Jaya (PJ) Church of Christ again. It’s a blessing to be able to cut some expense while there and to visit with Chong Fatt (the minister there) which is always encouraging. 

Making coffee at the PJ with Chong Fatt and his sister and her kids.
We had fun sharing Thai coffee at the PJ with Chong Fatt, his sister and niece and nephew.

KL, Malaysia is about a 2 hour flight away from Bangkok and we’re familiar with getting around the city, so it makes doing a run there a lot easier. We’re so thankful for the help and hospitality of this congregation!

Upcoming things to keep in prayer

Prayers are important! We’ve been able to see God answer so many prayers in the past couple of months, especially with our refugee friends! We know that many of you have been keep the ministry here in your prayers and we can’t say enough of how thankful we are to have you as prayer warriors! Here are a few big things coming up to keep in prayer:

  • Next week two members from our sponsoring church will be visiting us here in Bangkok. Please keep Adam and Steve in your prayers as they make the 30 hour trip.
  • We’re excited to be hosting interns from ACU’s Worldwide Witness program again this summer! Their names are Abby, McKenzie, Evan, Dorothy. The interns will be a part of our urban ministries, a medical Service Learning trip to the region of Loei (north-eastern Thailand), our English Camp and more! Pray that God takes hold of our summer together.
  • Please continue to keep our on-going ministries in your prayers as well.

Graduation and Answered Prayers

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Suan Dusit English Club & Graduation  

Our time here in Thailand is really just flying by. Just last week we had our final English Club for their school year. When teaching at English Club one of our major goals is simply to help the students build confidence in speaking English. We’re really proud of the students that we’ve had this year and all of the progress that they’ve made and have loved getting to know them more. This summer we’ll host another English Camp and we hope that those who have been attending our English Club will be able to attend, so that we can have more time together.

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Our church’s foundation was formally invited to attend Suan Dusit’s nursing graduation ceremony that happened last week. Some of the graduating class attended the Service Learning Project we helped organize and lead, last summer, where they gained hands-on nursing experience in the hill tribe village. It was a neat attending the graduation knowing that we helped play a small part in their education. 

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Click here to see more pictures from the graduation ceremony at Suan Dusit.

One-on-One Studies 

We’re continually thankful for the friendships we’ve made here in Bangkok. Michelle’s student Bee is always such a joy to spend time with. This month, Bee completed the Let’s Start Talking Luke study (which is a conversational English study using excerpts from the book of Luke with new vocabulary and questions from the text for each lesson). It’s been awesome to share Jesus and to share our lives together. It’s not easy when we begin teaching our Buddhist friends about Jesus. We have to start from them having no knowledge at all about Christianity and Jesus. Many things that we talk about while reading through the scripture, for example things like Jesus’ miraculous birth, the Trinity or the blessings of sacrificial living are all big and complicated things for someone encountering them for the first time. Then on top of that we’re dealing with the language and cultural barriers. I’m an American Christian, talking about ancient Jewish things, to a Thai Buddhist! But God works through it all! It’s neat to see my student’s English improve but even all the more amazing to see them learn more about my Savior Jesus. 

Michelle and Bee.

Michelle and Bee.

Urban Refugees

This past month we’ve been overwhelmingly busy with our ministry among the urban refugees. We don’t say much about it online because of the sensitivity of their situation. But in short, a few weeks ago, several families that we’re close to were arrested, held in prison for two weeks and almost sent to Bangkok’s Immigration Detention Center (IDC). Thankfully all of the families that our church knows have now been released. We’re so encouraged by their great faith through it all and the example they were to many! The obstacles these families face on a daily basis are unfortunately not over. We’ve been busy trying to help relocate them to safer areas for them to live. Please continue to keep Bangkok’s urban refugees in your prayers. One thing we were able to see so clearly this month, was just how powerful prayer truly is!

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This weekend will be heading off to Cha Am, Thailand where our church hosts a nationwide Bible camp each year. Christians from all across Thailand, some even from surrounding nations, come to take part in the event. Please keep Camp Cha Am in your prayers, that it’s a great time of fellowship that will strengthen and encourage the church in Thailand.

The Holidays

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We’ve been running nonstop since the holidays! The holiday season in Thailand is a long one. Starting in early December with the King of Thailand’s birthday going off and on into mid February ending with Chinese New Year. Since we’ve been in Thailand for almost a year and a half now, being away from our families over Christmas and New Years was a bit harder this year. But it was a great time to connect with our friends and loved ones here. Our holiday season this year was an especially busy time for us as we took part in back to back ministry opportunities. 

B.U.R. Christmas

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This Christmas we wanted to do something special for the disadvantaged families here in Bangkok that we know. We were able to get special donations to help us purchase items to give out for Christmas to several families. We went shopping for everything, then on a Wednesday night after our devo, we put together gift bags to distribute to 16 families. We filled the bags with toys, Christmas treats and toiletry items. Then on Christmas week a group from our church went to their homes, caroled and passed out the bags to each of the families. In one building alone we know 10 families so while we visited them, we had a small devotional together and played a couple of games with the kids. Our visit was a big encouragement and surprise to them! So thankful to those who helped make this opportunity possible! 

Christmas at a Bangkok Elementary School 

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On Christmas day we met up with the rest of the church staff at 6:30 am to go visit a local elementary school to go take part in their Christmas program. We were pretty shocked that a Thai public school would make any plans for Christmas since so few Thais celebrate it. So you could imagine our surprise as we pulled into the school parking lot to see the entire school decked-out in red and white with each kid in the school yard looking like a little Santa. After Glome and Sam led the kids in a game, Gary told them the origin of Christmas and read the birth of Christ from the book of Matthew. It was a neat thing to be a part of! 

Somprasong New Year Party

1-Holidays Web Post PhotosClick here or on the image above to see more pictures from the New Year Party. 

In Thailand New Years is more widely celebrated than Christmas so each year the church throws a big New Years’ party. Michelle was in charge of decorating again this year. Bangkok is a such a huge place that you can normally count on it having anything you want, but whether or not you know where to find what you’re looking for is totally a different story. This is definitely the case when it comes to decorations and craft supplies. With there being no Thai equivalent to Hobby Lobby the best place to go shopping for crafts and holiday decor is Chinatown. The two of us and one of our good friends Lynne spent a a chunk of our day running around Chinatown looking for the items that we needed for the party. Just getting to and from Chinatown is a crazy ordeal especially during holiday time! To get there we walked a couple of blocks, took a canal boat, then a taxi. Since it was late in the afternoon by the time we were done shopping, the traffic in the area was too bad to take a taxi the whole way back so we walked to the riverside to catch a ferry boat, then took the sky train which stops a short walk away from the church building. Getting around is aways an adventure in itself in Bangkok! We always have to have a plan A, B and C for getting to and fro! The young adult group at church were a big help in getting things decorated and everything turned out great! That Sunday at the party we had a big turnout and everything was a lot of fun! It’s always a blast spending the day in fellowship with our church family here!

New Years in Maejantai

10885608_749656495108460_1956439102694823627_nClick here or on the image above to see more pictures from our time in the hill tribe. 

After Sunday’s party, early the next morning we hit the road to head up to the north of Thailand to celebrate the New Year. We were invited to join a group of coffee enthusiast led by the owners of Gallery Drip cafe in Bangkok to visit the Maejantai hill tribe in the Chiang Rai mountains. The Maejantai village is an Akha hill tribe community much like the Borseelium village that we did our Service Learning Project with last summer. Several years ago the people of Maejantai greatly improved the way they grow and process coffee with the help of Lee Ayu, the founder of Akha Ama Coffee, who grew up in Maejantai himself. Because of these improvements the Maejantai coffee is now considered a specialty grade coffee and is sold in specialty coffee shops across Thailand. Since the coffee is now sold direct trade (no middle man to take all of the profits) the village now receives a fair wage which helps improve the quality of life for the whole community.

Photo Credit to Kate Seehanate

Photo Credit to Kate Seehanate

We really enjoyed learning more about direct trade coffee here in Thailand and how it’s processed. It was awesome getting to spend more time with our coffee friends from Bangkok. It was a great way to ring in the New Year! To learn more about the Akha Ama Coffee check out their website at www.akhaama.com. 

Valentine’s Day and English Club

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With the holiday break being over, we started up English Club again. We did a Valentine’s Day and relationships themed class. We handed out Valentines’ cards to our students and in returned they covered us with little heart stickers which is a Thai tradition on Valentine’s Day. It was great to be back with our students again!

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Our church has been trying to be more intentional in our evangelism and outreach efforts. As a part of this, Gary made new business card sized gospel tracks for the members of our church to give out to those that they have a spiritual conversations with. With it being the season of love, the cards say, “What is Love?” and then explains how the Bible says that God Himself is the ultimate example of true love. And how He sent His Son to this world so we can come to know what true love really is. The cards also have a QR Code that, when scanned with a smart phone, links you to instal the YouVersion free Bible app. We hope that this tool is a helpful way to encourage others to boldly share Christ’s message with others in their lives.