Sunday, August 12, 2012

Happy Birthday Payap Christian Zone!!

We have been enjoying these past few days in Chiang Mai, Thailand at the Payap Christian Zone where they minister to college students that attend Payap Univeristy. Yesterday we were able to go on a mini trip with the college students of the church here to a house boat on a beautiful lake in Sri Lanna National Park. None of us knew what to picture when we were told we were going to a house boat, but when we arrived to this house boat it was an incredible string of houses floating in the middle of the lake.  We as a team enjoyed this adventure so much not because we had never been on a house boat or that the scenery was beautiful, but the 7 Thai college students that we were fortunate to go on this adventure with were so much fun, and opened our eyes to how college students live as Christians in Thailand. After a day of swimming, games, singing, devotional, and an incredible dinner we came back to the Payap Christian Zone to get some rest for church the next day.  We have been to Sunday worship many times on this journey, but this Sunday worship with the church in Payap was such a blessing because the church was celebrating 8 years since the church began.  We were able to join in their celebration by being able to watch a video showing all of the people’s lives that have been touched by this church from 2004 until 2012, and while watching this video we all were able to see familiar faces on the screen of people we love that have gone before us, and put so much love in this ministry in Payap as interns and apprentices. For me watching this video was so touching to see all of the lives that have been changed through this incredible ministry in Payap, and how God has richly blessed this ministry with the people he has placed here.  Even though we have only been in Payap for such a short time I have really enjoyed my time here from the house boat to just riding in the truck singing at the top of our lungs to play that funky music white boy, and even though we leave tomorrow I am leaving with tons of laughs and memories. I will always remember the church in Payap that is so similar to A&M Church of Christ by showing incredible love to college students, and through this love God’s glory shines mightily changing so many lives over these past 8 years and I pray for 8 more years of changed lives, and new brothers and sisters in Christ.

Signing off from Chiang Mai,

Lindsey Hawkins 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Howdy! This is Morrell Munyon with the AFC Thailand team. This blog entry is exceedingly late with respect to the topic material, but it was an amazing day that I wanted to share with our readers.
I wanted to share the story of what happened at the playground opening in Kranuan, Thailand, which actually took place exactly 2-weeks ago. I just checked the other blog posts, and this is ridiculously long in comparison, but it comes from the meditation of my heart, so I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it and yield some encouragement from it.

It took us 3 weeks to build the playground, which you’ve no doubt seen pictures of by now. We were set to have a “playground opening” on our last Sunday in Kranuan, complete with drinks, snacks, games, and fellowship. We were hoping to make an announcement at the school we had been working at, but our goodbye party was delayed until the Monday after the opening, so we were only able to communicate the event to a few of the classes on our last Friday teaching, which was disappointing since we had hoped for a large turnout. Regardless, Sunday comes, the day of the official playground opening, and Ben and myself had been asked to help with the morning’s church service. Ben was scheduled to give a welcoming if any new people showed up for church, which would be apparent due to the small membership (maybe 20 – 30 members). However, Khun Prakong, the church leader, wasn’t sure if anyone new would show up, so if no one did, then we would simply skip Ben’s welcoming to avoid sounding awkward to the members who showed up week-after-week. Minutes later, we discovered we’d had nothing to worry about.

I was scheduled to lead singing, the bane of my existence, and as I was feverously practicing my selected songs in Thai, the church seats began to fill rapidly. Where there had previously been empty seats, there now sat many of the kids from our English classes. It was exciting to see, but my nerves began to quickly grow. Ben welcomed the new arrivals with our Christian love, and it was my turn to attempt song leading. But right before I began the first song, around twenty more students from the school showed up for service. We now had about 50 students from the school with us in church, who had all showed up 3 hours early for the scheduled 12:00pm playground opening, arriving at 9ish, so that they could attend service. It was an amazing blessing to be nervously sweating in front of the entire congregation, watching as they had to lay out mats for the new arrivals to sit on. My song leading was a solid “meh”, which is at least better than “disastrous”.

Ben and I led the prayers for communion, and passed the bread and wine trays around. We were greeted by uncomfortable looks from the kids, who weren’t sure if they were supposed to take the trays or not. I had to skip five or six rows before finding some church members who finally took the trays. It was a bit awkward at first, but when we began to pass around the pouches for the offering, the students picked up on what was going on, and began to reach deep into their pockets for whatever change they had and donating it. It was amazing to see their willingness, but later, during Khun Prakong’s lesson, many grew restless and actually left during the lesson. This discouraged me at first, but it wouldn’t be until after service that the real treasure was to be had.

TLDR: THIS IS THE GOOD PART. Immediately following services, we announced the many parts of the playground, and started passing snacks out. I began walking around to see what all was going on, and I happened upon our translator, Tdon, who had somehow commanded the attention of a dozen or so students, and was reading the Bible to them. I don’t know how he did it, as we’d only been passing snacks out for about 10 minutes, but there he was, conducting his own “sermon under the hut”, if you will. I immediately plopped down next to them to enjoy the experience. Tdon whispered to me that he had already told his story (Tdon has only been a Christian for 1 year) and was in the process of reading the story of God’s creation. Eventually, only 7 students remained. A few others had come and gone, but these 7 had remained, even refusing their friends who tried to come coax them to leave. I memorized the scene: what they wore and where they sat, for fear I might forget this amazing moment. After the genesis story, I had Tdon translate my story, essentially about coming back to Christ after a long break (I’ll spare details). Finally, one of the leaders in the church, Pi Don, realized what was going on and came to finish the time out with his story about his conversion from a devout Buddhist to Christianity. He was speaking too quickly for Tdon to translate for me, but I considered this a blessing because I had to use other clues to absorb what was being said. Pi Don spoke with such intense conviction in his eyes his smile, that I could see that it was extremely important to him that these kids heard his story. He spoke so elegantly, making the children laugh with a quick joke, and then bringing the moment right back down with a solemn afterthought. The entire “sermon” from Tdon, myself, and Pi Don took about an hour, when the rest of the church and kids were eating lunch. Some members even tried to quietly ask if we wanted to take a break for food, but I could tell that none of us who were there needed physical food at that moment, that what we all needed was the water of life. We longed to be heard, and the kids yearned to hear.

In closing, this was one of the most, if not THE most amazing day of my life. I thought of the parable of the sower, where some of the children may have been seed on the path, some seed in the rocky soil, and some seed in the fertile ground. But only God knows which were which. In retrospect, so many God things happened to make that day as fruitful as it was. Tdon, our translator, wasn’t even supposed to exist, but the 8th member of our group, Mitt from Malaysia, had a family emergency and couldn’t come on the trip, to our dismay. So Tdon got to come to Kranuan, but was only supposed to be there for the first week. However, he was so impressed by our hard work and willingness to serve that he stayed for the rest of the time, and it was his fervor that attracted the 7 kids under the hut. I just feel so blessed that we had the chance to see our work on the playground yield some fruit immediately. I’d thought we’d build the playground and leave, thinly hoping that maybe their kids’ program would develop somehow, but not really knowing what would come of it. But God had other things in mind, and so many seeds were sewn that day, that could grow into anything. Truly, any work you do for the Lord will not be in vain, and I saw it on that Sunday, firsthand. To God be the glory.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Hi from Krabi, Thailand!

So, today is Jamie’s 21st birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!! We are finally here in Krabi, Thailand, which it’s own Province (kind of like a state in the U.S.) and we are loving it! We are staying in 3 different houses from people at the church. They have been so good to us and are serving us any way they can. We came to serve in all of the places we have gone to so far and we are surprised in every place in the way they serve us! It is a very humbling experience to say the least. Jamie and I are staying in a house with two little boys, 12 and 8 years old, and can’t seem to get enough of them! We both have always wanted little brothers and no we have them!!! The two boys go to a bilingual school where they learn math, science, and health in English. The 12 year old, Ohm, is completely fluent in English and Thai when his younger brother, Oak, still in the process of learning English. He’s not as far along, but he’ll learn. Today, Saturday, August 4th,  we are cleaning the church all day. Tomorrow, we have church, and Monday and Tuesday we will be conducting an English camp on the beach! There will be about 90-100 kids total! From there, we will get to have a few days of our own before we leave for Chang Mai! God has been so good and faithful to us. We are so blessed and even though some of the trip has been tough with being home sick some days and missing people, I wouldn’t change anything. I know that going through experiences like this builds character, not just for me, but for everyone on the team. Thank you all for your prayers and your words of encouragement. I hope and pray many blessings of peace and joy on all of you!