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.