Thailand is in mourning. The leader of their country, King Bhumibol, passed away on October 13th. He was loved and respected very much because he truly looked out for the well being of the people of Thailand. They had a strict 30-day mourning period, where the people dressed only in black and white. However, as a whole it will last for a full 12 months. The atmosphere was very somber and most events were cancelled. So prayers for Thailand would be very appreciated.
The Good News Team held many Christmas Outreaches in November and December. They recorded a new script for the Christmas story and one member of the Good News Team, Noinon, worked with the Entrance studio team to edit it. Noinon and two other team members, Nut and Pao, painted new background pictures for the Christmas story puppet show and they looked great!
Right now the Good News Team has around 6,000 active students enrolled in their program. For many of these students, the Good News Team members are the only Christians who will interact with and pray for them. You can read some of their letters below.
Kongphob (boy, 14): Once my friends started asking me why I was such a bad student. This made me feel sad. But with God I became more resilient and started becoming better at school. Now my friends ask me to help with their homework!
What must I do to get to be in Heaven with the Lord? Please tell me. I’ve got another question: what if someone who already believes in God turns back to their old ways? Does God still love them?
Chantisaa (girl, 11): Thank you for sending me the Bible! I’m proud that I can study the Good News Bible lessons.
Waleewan (girl, 11): Thank you for teaching me to know God more and be closer to Him. I feel worried because my mum and dad don’t believe in God yet.
Warunee (girl, 13): How can God be so good to us? I know I’m not such a good person, I lie easily and I’m not nice towards my friends. I feel very bad about my behaviour. Please pray that I could become stronger in the Lord.
Suwanan (girl, 11): Please pray for my mum who is ill that she would get better.
Waraphon (girl, 15): It feels great to know that I’m important to God and that He can help me in everything.
Khang (boy, 11): I’m so happy to be child of God. Please pray for my mum, she is not well.
The Good News Team is praying for God to provide another girl to work on their team, as it is very male dominated. From Bright Hope World's website: "Especially it would be good to have more girl power on the outreaches to schools!" They are also asking for prayer for their weekly team meetings on Saturdays and for all the kids they're serving, that God would work in their life. Please join us in praying for our wonderful partners, the Good News Team, as they continue to reach the youth of Thailand!
Jon and Nok Pramuan
We are so pleased and thankful that East Park Church is now partnering with a fifth ministry. Jon and Nok along with their daughter are church planters in Bangkok, Thailand. However, you cannot just simply describe them as church planters, there is so much more to their ministry. Caring for the disadvantaged, refugee care, radio programing, leadership training and overseeing several home churches are just some of the ways their ministry is thriving! Please take a moment to check them out here:
It is safe to say our entire team was captivated by the work Jon and Nok are doing. Their passion and vision are contagious. They truly have experience, and enthusiasm for their ministry that is invaluable. It is our privilege and honor to be partnering with such amazing people.
Thanks for joining with us in prayer. Please continue to pray for each of our partners weekly!
This is a week of fasting for East Park Church. Many of us from East Park have committed to omitting something from our daily routine to be intentional about listening to God: listening to what God has for us personally as well as collectively as a body of believers.
I have to admit, fasting has never been easy for me. I tend to avoid it altogether. "What should I fast from?" "Do I communicate with God differently while I fast?" "It can't be too easy, but it also can't be TOO HARD!" "Am I doing this right!?"
I decided to participate this week in fasting along with many other members from East Park Church. I truly feel God will honor my heart and my effort to connect with Him more deeply. I stand in that confidence through a very long (and ongoing) road of discovering who I have been created to be, and embracing the gifts and talents God has given specifically to ME. God knows me and my innermost being better than I know myself. He will speak to me in a way that will allow me to hear Him. Why pass up a chance to join my community in hearing from our Creator together?
I am ignoring the questions above and trusting that God, the God that knows me intimately and personally (the good along with the bad) will know how to guide and direct me to Him. When I am with HIM I will be utilized in the most effective way possible. THAT is what I desire. And because I am part of a community of believers at East Park Church, I desire that for our community as well.
I feel honored and privileged to be in the leadership role of our International Missions Ministry at East Park. It is something that I will always care about because God has given me that passion. I care where this ministry goes. I care who we God leads us to partner with. I care about our current partners. So because of this, I have also used the time of fasting this week to seek if God would have us take on another partner in addition the three partners we currently have. If God does in fact want us to take on another partnership, the question then becomes, who will it be?
Our short-term missions team of 5 (Kathi, Katie, Jordan, Tom and Myself) felt God spoke to us about 3 partnerships specifically. I will leave a little more information below. All the partnerships we visited and learned about are so deserving and amazing in their own ways, but our team connected specifically with these three.
John and Nok are church planters in Bangkok, Thailand.
ITDP- Integrated Tribal Development Program; Northern Thailand
ITDP works with the Hill Tribe people in Northern Thailand, close to the Burmese border. There are three different ways to partner with them.
1. Support of key personnel-Teacher salary
2. Support of Micro Loans
3. Fund a village water project
Manara International; Amman, Jordan
Manara International was founded by Isam Ghattas (pictured above left) more than 40 years ago. This ministry helps in three ways: distributing the word of God, refugee relief, and development of Christian youth through camp ministry.
We hope you will join in praying with us as we seek God's guidance in these partnerships!
How to even begin to wrap up an adventure like this? Just over 48 hours after landing at PDX and finally returning to our homes and families, the only definitive thing I can say is this: using mere words to describe our adventure is wholly inadequate, even impossible. We set out on this journey two weeks ago having almost no idea what to expect, which for some was immensely exciting, and for others, almost debilitating. We were a team of five individuals who could not be more different from each other. And through the fires of adversity, we became one.
Our reasons for joining the team were as varied as we were as people, but we all had one important commonality: we each believed God was leading us to go, and each of us responded to that calling. We were tested, pushed to (and beyond) our limits, challenged, and encouraged in ways we could never have imagined. Each of us found strength and endurance in our Father that we didn't know existed. Each of us felt pain, fear, uncertainty, doubt, heaviness of heart, confusion, disappointment. But we also felt hope, encouragement, joy, excitement, love, elation, and the indescribable sensation of a community of believers on a common journey. (And sweat: a LOT of sweat.)
Some of us realized we are much more fierce than we ever believed ourselves to be. We are capable of enduring intense heat and humidity, going without food or water for a time, sleeping in miserable conditions, going without showers, eating things beyond our comfort level, connecting with people across cultural boundaries, pushing through exhaustion and lack of sleep.
Through it all we did not forget our aim of visiting our partners and meeting some of Bright Hope World's partners who are yet to be funded. We were humbled and our faith was challenged as we saw people giving so much of themselves to their communities for no other reason than to love others with the love God freely gives each of us.
The world is a big place, and traveling through it gives one a perspective that cannot be replicated any other way. We merely had a taste of each of the cultures we visited, but what was immensely clear was that God is working through His servants in Thailand and India, and to observe the Spirit's moving in both countries was foundational to each of us.
After almost 50 hours spent in airplanes over 10 different flights in less than two weeks, we all arrived home, haggard, exhausted and relieved to be back with our families and loved ones. And yet, now that the sustained adrenaline rush is over and the dust is settling, we each realize that we've been through some trauma physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Adjusting back to our timezone, to our communities, and our families is actually very difficult. It occurs to me that we went on an adventure, NOT a vacation, and adventures are oftentimes painful and exhausting.
I told someone today that our trip was sort of like skydiving: because the risk was so great, the reward is that much greater. But we each have to give ourselves permission to process, and processing a trip like this can feel downright horrible. The adrenaline wears off, and what you are left with is a jumbled car-wreck of emotion, some good but some that feels very bad. There is no substitute for time, and that is exactly what each of us needs right now.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to everyone who took the time to pray for us, read our blog, and invest in our journey with us. It's something we will carry with us for the rest of our lives, and we are eternally grateful to everyone involved. And to leave you with one last thing we all learned, Jordan makes the same face in pretty much every picture we take of him...
With love, Tom, Angela, Jordan, Katie and Kathi
We walked this morning to meet T Raja at Home of Hope. It was an eye-opening experience to see the incredible work he and his team are doing for the abandoned, neglected, disabled and severely injured; those who have been cast out of their families and those who are literally dying on the streets of Bangalore. We were able to see the facilities, listen to T Raja explain the challenges and needs of the ministry, interact with some of the people living there, and pray for T Raja, his family and his staff.
Jordan with one of the boys living at the Home of Hope and T Raja
T Raja in front of the entrance to the women's facility. They are constructing a beautiful new facade and gate.
After visiting Home of Hope, we had a meeting with Fraser and the New Zealand guys to process everything we've seen and done, especially as it pertains to Bright Hope World and the partners we've visited. We then went back to Sandra Ricketts school to spend time with Vidya while Ruth accompanied the girls to receive their saris and have the final alterations made. We were then treated to an amazing Indian dinner with Vidya and Ruth, a very special experience on our last night in India.
We said our final goodbyes to Fraser, his son Dylan, and Justin and were dropped off at the airport for the grueling trip home. We flew to Bangkok, then on to Seoul, South Korea. We had a 24-hour layover in Seoul and had the opportunity to take showers and sleep in very comfortable beds for the first time in what seemed like forever! After a team meeting in the boys' room, and then a good night's sleep (much needed), it was back to the airport for the final leg home.
Real beds, real bedding, and complimentary slippers (Jordan was a fan!)
By Tom and Angela
The next day consisted of travel from Chang Mai to Bangalore, India. It was an excruciatingly long day that consisted of airports, airplane food, sitting, sweating and arriving in India at 11;30pm.
Arriving in India was somewhat stressful as they have really tightened security in the airport and each of us got a verbal grilling on why we were visiting India and if we were doing any business or humanitarian work. It was tense at best. However, we made it to SAIACS, and wearily dropped into bed around 2:30 am.
The following day we woke to meet up with Jesudoss and Paulrani from the DEAR team. We sat and talked and listened about their current work with the LGBT community and different ways we can continue to pray for them. We had the privilege of going with them to their shelter and hearing from one of the young men they were working with. Fraser informed us that that experience was completely unique; he's never had a team that was allowed to do that, and it was amazing to see firsthand how their ministry operates. We also were able to purchase bags they are selling to help sustain their ministry. We were unable to take pictures but did get a group photo with Jesudoss before we said goodbye. We look forward to sharing more with you about our visit with them.
We then headed over to meet with Vidya Sagar and his wife Ruth, a long-standing partnership that Bright Hope World has had. They run a school for grades K-10 called Sandra Rickets Public School and Vidya Sagar has developed a balm he gives to church planters to sell that will in turn fund their ministries. This was a good example of a partnership that has become self-sufficient and is thriving. It was wonderful to sit and talk wit them, eat a delicious Indian meal made by Ruth, play with the school kids, and see God at work in this couple and their passions. They were amazing hosts, and even called in one of their teachers to do some traditional Indian henna for us. It was a much-needed time of community and rest for the team.
Hanging out with the kids after school let out
Great hospitality, including food, tea and henna!
After a full day of activity, food and sweat, we decided against the dinner that was planned for us at SAIACS, opting instead for a team meeting in one of our dorm rooms. We had stopped at a mini-mart and purchased some simple sweets (chocolate, etc.), which we shared over a Thoughts and Feelings meeting, which is how we've ended almost every night. It was so great to process everything we're experiencing together, because it's overwhelming emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. Having our community of 5 has been a blessing that cannot be put into words. God knew exactly what He was doing when He put this team together.
By Tom and Angela
We started out the day by eating a nice rice breakfast, then some of us headed down the road to get coffee...
After our wonderful breakfast, we hopped in the trucks and headed up to the villages. The roads were the muddiest, bumpiest, steepest roads ever. But it had the best views and the experience was totally worth it.
After three and a half hours we reached the village where we were staying, Ma Oh Jo. We looked around for a bit and hopped back in the truck for forty five minutes to get to Kree Maw Kee to see a school for kids ages 4-12. During this drive, however, the rain started pouring, beginning to fill up the bed of the truck!
Because of the time and the state of the roads we decided to go back to Ma Oh Jo. On the way our truck got stuck in the mud and we passed an elephant!
When we got back we ate dinner and sat around the circle talking until well after dark.
We slept in the villagers' houses on the wooden floors, without a pillow, under a mosquito net.
The next morning we went to Ma Oh Jo school and were able to see what ITDP (Inter Tribal Development Programme) is doing there. We listened to the kids' worship and it gave everyone goosebumps. Then we got up and sang "Everlasting God" which definitely wasn't as good as the kids. Later we toured the facilities, including greenhouses, multiple school buildings, a medical clinic, and a hostel.
This was our new friend we made, his name was WonJohn
Then we piled into the two trucks again. Ang, Jordan, Tom and Katie were crammed into the back of a truck with three seats for the seven hour drive back to Chiang Mai along the bumpy, muddy, steep roads. It was a challenging and at times uncomfortable experience, but definitely challenging and inspiring. It was incredible to see God at work in the northern hills of Thailand.
By Katie and Jordan
We ended up getting to have a day exploring Bangkok! Fraser organized an Amazing Race for us to do, which allowed us to have some friendly, fun competition while taking in the sights.
We rode the tram, a Tuk Tuk and a river boat to get to all the places we needed to go.
Some of the many attractions we went to see were Baiyoke Sky Tower (the 2nd tallest building in Thailand), Wat Arun Garden and Chatuchak Market.
After the "Amazing Race: Bangkok Rumble, Winner Takes All" (and one team showing up 30 minutes later than they were supposed to) we all headed back to the boats to go on a River boat ride. These boats take you down the Chao Praya, the main river that traverses Bangkok, and then down a few side canals. It was a unique experience that gave us a completely different view of the city than what we saw from street level.
Angela, Jordan, Justin and Dylan ended up winning after a long argument session and got these nifty hats, which they rubbed in our faces for the rest of the night...
We ended our day of adventure by visiting the night market in the red light district to see and experience the dark environment that Rahab is working in. It was a heartbreaking, foundational experience for every member of our team, and though difficult to see, we are all thankful for that experience.
The next morning we got up and went to the airport to fly out to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. Upon arriving, Mike Mann (the director of ITDP) picked us up at the airport with two trucks. The girls and Fraser sat inside while four of the guys chose to ride in the back, putting our luggage in the other truck.
Four and a half hours later we arrived at our accommodations for the night, the Omkoi Resort, complete with a swing bridge that sounded like the wood was cracking beneath our feet.
Tomorrow we spend 4 more hours in the back of trucks on a bumpy road, heading up further into the hills of Thailand to visit the hill tribes, where we will also be spending the night. We're apprehensive but excited to be able to see something very few people ever get to see. We will have an opportunity to see firsthand the work God is doing in such a secluded place through some amazing servants. Please pray for us, that God keeps us safe and that we gain a deeper understanding of what God is trying to teach us through this incredible experience.
By: Tom and Kate
Today started out with a bang, quite literally! After having a team meeting at a coffee shop, where both Kathi and Katie were forcefully coerced into consuming their first cups of the delicious nectar of the gods known as coffee (that Katie carried around with her the rest of the day because she couldn't bring herself to finish hers)...
...one of the tires on our van blew while we drove down the freeway! We sat in our van while our driver took tools out, strategically laid them out on the barrier, and subsequently did nothing with them (because he did not have a spare)! But that van was eventually replaced by what could only be called a "Thai party bus...
Today we had the pleasure of visiting Praesert’s ministry, Home of Hope, and learned about the amazing things they are doing working with children in their communities. We also met Chuenjit and were given a run-down on her work with Thai youth in the juvenile detention system. We were treated to a snack of mangosteen, a plumb-type fruit, which Jordan devoured hungrily, and lychee, a small fruit similar to a kiwi, before another wonderful lunch of Thai food.
We then traveled to visit with Jon and Nok and their daughter Nana, and were blown away by the work God is doing through them. Nok detailed their approach to witnessing to a Thai people deeply entrenched in Buddhist thought, culture, and social systems. Their approach has its foundation firmly in building relationships with people, and once those relationships are established, they are able to begin the process of sharing the love of Jesus in a way that is understandable to this particular people group.
By: Tom and Katie
After a full 24 hours of no sleep, airplane food, multiple games of competitive solitaire, and a short burst of "Pilates with Tom" in Seoul...
We made it to Bangkok at midnight local time, exhausted and ready to crash! Fraser (of Bright Hope World) met us at the airport and guided us to our accommodations for the next few nights, Bangkok Christian Guest House. We arrived with enough time for a few hours of sleep before meeting the next morning for a team meeting with Fraser’s crew from New Zealand. We ate breakfast and then traveled to Rahab Ministries, where we got to see what they have been up to. This ministry is situated in the red light district and enables women to leave prostitution by providing them with sustainable jobs. It was encouraging to see a fully-funded partnership flourishing. We had an opportunity to buy handmade products in their store, and they treated us to a lunch of many authentic Thai dishes of varying spice!
Above are crocheted animals made by the women of the Rahab ministry. This is one of their business ventures that helps the women make a living and sustain the ministry. Here is their website and online store: www.rahabministriesthailand.com.
Yummy Thai lunch we had with the ladies of Rahab ministries.
After lunch we took a van to meet with the Good News Team. They own a small building where they create all of their pamphlets and magazines, respond to children that have replied to the correspondence course, and are beginning to establish their initial online presence. The team is led by Noinon and Jean, who are married. There are five others on the Good News Team, which goes into schools in seven provinces in Thailand to share Jesus with the kids through puppet shows and music. From there the children are able to begin their mail correspondence with the team. Through this relationship the Good News Team is able to help children accept Christ and connect them with local churches to further develop their faith. The team sang us one of their songs from their shows and we joined in, creating what could only be described as a joyful noise! It was great to meet the team and catch up on their work in the last year. The meeting solidified our commitment to them and the work they're doing.
Tomorrow we'll be meeting with Chuenjit and two potential future partners; we are excited to see how it unfolds!
By: Tom, Katie and Jordan