|Vision leaving LAX||Students at a Nontaburi Buddhist School||Visiting a slum family|
|Dinner with Binding Hearts Church members||Women's Prison||Illustrating how God bridges the gap|
|Bangkok YWCA||Trad Church||Bangkok Christian College|
|Eating at a food court|
June 28, 2009 – In less than two days, we will leave for Thailand, a little after noon on Tuesday, landing in Korea before 5 PM Wednesday, and leaving at 7:30 PM local time for Bangkok and arriving at 11 PM, Bangkok time. Even though we have tickets, please pray that we will all get boarding passes, especially when we change planes in Inchon, Korea; because we still remember the time some of us almost didn't make it to Serbia two years ago; but just as the Lord brought us there together, we are sure He will lead us to Thailand together.
Some of the Vision members are fighting light colds, so pray all will be healthy when we get there and throughout the whole trip. We are a smaller team this year and illness will really hurt the efficiency of the team and our ability to sing, although God might send His angels to sing with us to make up whatever we lack.
Mostly, pray that we will be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, that He will prepare the hearts of the people we sing to as well as the Thai youths learning the music and singing with us. May we love one another so others will know that we are all Christ's followers.
June 30 – Here we are finally at the boarding area of LAX. There were over 20 family and friends to see us off. Pastor Tom prayed for us and we all got our boarding passes for not only the Inchon flight but also the Korea to Bangkok flight. Praise the Lord.
As has happened many times in the past, we had a slight problem at the airport. One of the tickets was purchased in the English (nickname) of one of the boys and his passport showed only his official Chinese name, so he could not get his boarding pass. Fortunately, Eugene Cheng, our travel agent was there to help, and by paying a $75 processing fee, we were able to get his ticket changed to the correct name, so after about an hour delay, we were all able to get checked in. During this time of anxiety, everyone was praying for wisdom how to resolve this problem and it turned out to be a simple solution. So now we are waiting to board.
July 1 – We all made it to Inchon and are waiting to board the flight to Bangkok. The plane to Korea was very crowded and we could not all sit together, but we are all OK after the 12 hour flight from LA. We also met a mission group from San Diego going to Chiang Mai by way of Bangkok. Later at the airport, some of us met 3 young people, two guys and a girl who were on their way to Mongolia. They were Mormons going there for 2 years. They were more dedicated than we were, since we are on a short term for a little over 2 weeks while they are committed for 2 years, but they are serving a false Gospel and are deceived and deceiving others. May God have mercy on them and show them the truth.
Well, here we are at the new Bangkok airport. Thank God, we all made it with every piece of our luggage. Even though it was midnight by the time we cleared immigration, we were met by one young man named Gop from the Binding Hearts church. He has just graduated from college in Engineering and will also be singing with us. When we arrived at the guesthouse, we found a flower waiting for us in our rooms with a full schedule printed out along with a welcome note from the church. It was heartwarming to receive first had their hospitality and consideration and love. Praise God!
July 2 – We were suppose to sleep in this morning, and some of us did, but some of us were so jet lagged we woke up before 6 AM after going to bed around 3 AM. (Sleeping on the plane on the flight from Korea to Thailand didn't help our sleep pattern but it was much needed for our survival.) Fortunately, we did not plan to do much today. We got some money from the ATM (thank God it worked this year unlike last year). At noon, we walked across the alley to the shopping mall and ate lunch at the food court there, spending less than 100 Baht each ($3) eating whatever we liked, soup noodles, won ton, etc. After changing some US dollars to Thai Baht so we had some personal spending money, we went back to the Bangkok Christian Guest House and spent almost two hours sharing our morning devotion and praying. We ate some amazingly sweet lichee and pineapples that we bought on the street and generally rested until 5 PM. We then met up with Dr. Apithan, who is a leader from the Binding Hearts (BH) Church and together with Sue Utadache, set up our schedule here in Bangkok and Yod Mahachavaroj, a former Vision member who invited us to dinner. Four more young people from the BC Church joined us at dinner. Dinner was a magnificent buffet at a nearby restaurant, but because of the traffic, took us more time to drive there than if we had walked there. The fruits were of course wonderful, pineapples, papaya, mangostein, lichee, rambutan, and others too many to mention. There was sashimi, sharks fin soup (lots and lots of fins), maybe 50 dishes total. After dinner, we returned to the Guest House at a few minutes after 7 to join up with a total of 16-17 leaders and youth from the BH Church. We worshiped together, then prayed for our mission together, finally retiring early to get ready for Friday's ministry and catch up on our sleep. Ben Poli and Nadia, who left LA about the same time on June 30, are in Indonesia, and will not be joining us until Friday afternoon, so pray for Marshall who will have to preach at the afternoon outreach to about 60 staff workers at the YWCA (this was a change in schedule, something we have come to expect during past missions trips).
July 3 – We started our first day of ministry with an early wake-up call since we have to leave at 7:30 for Nontaburi. Pastor Ohm who pastors a church in that suburb of Bangkok, has great relationship with a Buddhist school there because some of the students from the school attend his church and impressed the school with changes in their character after attending his church. What a great testimony for the life change Christ gives to young believers. Fighting traffic, we arrived there about 9:30 for a program to start at 10 AM. All the elementary children were there to hear us, about 300 in all. Josiah led the children in “Simon says” and red light-green light to warm up the children. It was strange to play “Simon says” when the commands have to be translated to Thai, but Sue soon picked up the game so she could lead it. Since we were going to sing in an open playground with no instruments, we quickly revived an old wordless Vision skit “I give you my heart”, a vignette between a young man who gives his heart to God and a girl who tries to steal his heart away, learned in a few minutes by Eric and Tiffany while Josiah and Sue were leading the games. Joseph led the meeting as he generally does when it is a children's program. We sang, Joni and Josiah gave their testimonies, and Joe and Sue did a wonderful job of providing continuity between the songs, skit and testimonies. At the conclusion, Sue asked how many children wanted to go to heaven and led about 200 children in praying for salvation. When we left on the vans, we prayed that their decisions were genuine and we ask you to pray that Pastor Ohm will be able to follow up these young hearts.
We then drove to the YWCA, located fairly close to our Guest House to have a good lunch provided by the hosts there. We got a chance to talk to several of their leaders, some of whom attend BH Church and found several believers who love the Lord. After lunch, we started our program at 2 PM attended by about 70 YWCA staff members and the leaders we meet at lunch. The YWCA gave a slide show of their work and ministries (education, to the poor, prisoners, etc.). Marshall picked up on this theme and gave a message from Matthew 25 commending the YWCA on their work, but asking the question who were the righteous, emphasizing that there is none righteous except for those who have placed their trust in Christ. Although no one from the crowd responded, we pray that God will use the seed we planted to bring some of these YWCA staff members to the Lord in the days to come. Fiona shared her testimony during the program about how she had to give her life to Jesus during her high school years. In all, it was a good program and time of mutual encouragement both before and after the program with the leaders of the YWCA.
We returned to our Guest House at about 4:30 PM and were greeted by Pastor Ben Poli and his daughter Nadia. We rested a bit and had dinner at 5:30 with four youths from BH Church and started our first rehearsal together at 6:30. Soon a total of 10 youths joined us, some who could not come earlier due to school and traffic. Since they have been practicing on their own with Dr. Vilavun, who directs their choir, we reviewed 6 of our songs together and also showed them how to act out the “Come to Jesus” skit. Several of us were quite tired so we finished practice at 9 PM and went to sleep.
July 4 – Happy independence day! May God have mercy on America and send a revival to our country. For us here in Bangkok, today was another eventful day. We got ready to leave at 7:30 AM, but there was confusion with the rental buses. They were told to get us to our destination by 9 AM and they heard they were to pick us up at 9 AM, but we used the time to share about our ministry experiences yesterday and by the time we were done, the buses were here and we ended up arriving at our destination only 15 minutes late, which by Thai time is “on time”. During this debriefing time, we learned that a the YWCA yesterday, a few of us were able to pray for specific needs of some of the staff workers during the fellowship time after our concert, so that was good.
Our destination today was Nontaburi again, but this time to Pastor Ohm's church. One of their ministry is taking care of children (usually about 130 kids but due to the long weekend holiday this weekend, there were only about 35 kids). We divided into 5 stations and taught English by playing games with these kids, memory games, word games, etc. This took us to lunch time, and we ate lunch that they cooked for the kids (Thai curry rice), but they generously cooked extra food for us, fried chicken and scrambled eggs. We then had a short program in which the kids performed for us and we sang and shared with them, teaching them the Orchestra Song and God Is So Good, along with our normal program. These kids, mostly 7 to 8 years old, sat quietly through the whole program. So far, we have delivered 6 large luggages full of toys to Pastor Ohm, which they gratefully accepted and inventoried to give away over the next few months and especially at Christmas time. We then went to the boat ferry port in Nontaburi to pass out tracts with Pastor Ohm and one of his deacons. We made quite a sight since there were 21 of us. Sometimes, we would sing but we did not attract much of a crowd. However, we did pass out quite a few tracts. Some rejected our tracts but we also saw divine appointments. One young man Meiring talked to and gave the Peace with God tract in Thai was very interested, but since Meiring could not speak Thai, she pointed to the prayer, but he had to leave. Later, she saw this man again and he said he prayed the prayer! Several of us were approached by people who asked for the tracts and then we saw them reading them as they left. We then returned to our Guest House to send some clothes to a laundromat that only charged 150 Baht (about $4.50) to wash, dry and fold 4 kg of clothes. Then we ate a quick dinner at the food court of the mall to meet with the BH youths for our second combined practice in the evening. The youths from BH really have nice voices and they add so much to our group sound. We spent a lot of time listening to them and learning for ourselves how to sing the Thai songs.
We have been here for over half a week. Everyone is very healthy and we are slowly getting over our jet lag. The Guest House we are staying in is Spartan but clean and comfortable with working A/C so we want to thank you for praying for us and to our Lord for hearing your prayers for us. Only Sue and Pastor Ben have single rooms, with both Joe and Fiona and Marshall and Meiring in a double, while the rest of us are either 2 or 3 in a room.
July 5 – This morning, we have the luxury of not leaving until 9:30 AM to go to church so while us old people woke up to eat breakfast at about 7, the Vision folks did not start coming until about 8 with the exception of Nadia and her dad, and Joe and Fiona who were there at about 7:30. We attended the Maitrichit Church service and sang Soli Deo Gloria and Heaven Came Down and sat through a 2 hour service conducted in Chinese (Toichu) and Thai with earphone translation into English for our sake, baptism and church membership of 3 young people, and communion. This is the church of former Vision members Vida and Yod Mahachavaroj and is celebrating their 172nd anniversary of existence. There were about 300 people there and we ate lunch at the church courtesy of Vida and Yod's sister Ping with about a dozen students who spoke English well. Our kids and these kids connected really well so that they we were all reluctant to leave when the time came. We then went to BH Church where we presented an hour and a half program, singing six of the songs with the BH team who have been practicing with us. Ben then preached a convicting message from I Peter 1:1-12 about our being aliens and strangers and expecting to live a persecuted life for Christ sake. After the service of over 2 hours, the church provided a snack for all the members (about 150 total) consisting almost of dinner, fried chicken, sticky rice, pickle salad, and lots of rambutan and mangostein and some kind of Thai dessert (like icy and jello). During the service, it rained heavily for the first time since we got here (it is suppose to be raining season) but after the service, it was barely drizzling. We then practiced for another hour, with a Thai singer from their church showing us how to sing the Water of Life Thai song correctly with its subtle grace notes and syncopation which cannot be accurately notated on the score but could be listened to and imitated. Then the church elders took us all to a restaurant for dinner and drove us back.
After returning, we spent a short time debriefing the last two days. We were privileged to see three churches in the last two days, one ministering to the poor, one wealthy established Chinese church, and the third made up of younger, highly successful Yuppies with very high achieving children (BH). All three churches are growing and in their own way reaching out to a different segment of society. It is a blessing to see what a marvelous God we serve who provides a witness for Himself no matter what station we might be in life. Hallelujah! Tomorrow will be a busy day (as you get this Sunday night in LA, we will be on our way) where we first will go to 2 children's wards in one hospital and present two half hour programs and give out toys, then to a cancer ward at a different hospital for an hour. It is here we plan to pray for the sick so remember us that God will heal some miraculously and start a new movement of His Spirit as you are reading this Sunday night. Then we go to a third hospital and will be served lunch and then sing for an hour to the hospital staff, most of whom are non-Christians so pray for this outreach and Ben's message. Lastly we then go to a fourth hospital which is kind of a government orphanage for children under 5 years of age. We will minister and play with the kids for an hour and also give them toys (stuffed animals here). Our next report will let you know what happens.
July 6 – One item from yesterday. Jaspher shared his testimony at the BH Church in which he talked about listening to God about joining Vision this year, which really supplemented Pastor Ben's message from I Peter about living the truth and not just knowing it in your head. It is wonderful to see how God orchestrates a meeting since neither had a priori knowledge of what the other was going to say. Some of you have asked for some pictures so those links has been posted which you can access.
A few of us met at 8 AM to pray over our activities for today and the group left a 8:30 accompanied by 3 BH leaders to take us on the sky train to our first destination. Since today is a holiday, the streets were relatively empty and the train not crowded, which was a good thing since we have to change trains to get to Victory Station and the first hospital. We got there with no problems and proceeded to the first ward, which contained the chronically ill children. It was a painful sight to see one baby with elephantiasis with a head twice as large as a normal baby. We sang and Melissa shared. Alice felt dizzy and sat down and sipped some water and soon felt better. Afterwards, we talked to some of the children and their mothers and at least two children and their mothers prayed to accept Christ. A boy of about 10 or so in Buddhist novice clothes also said he prayed to accept Christ. We passed out toys and then went one floor down to the ward that housed the post-surgical children. We again sang and Alice shared her testimony and we gave out toys again. Then we walked to an adjacent hospital to the cancer ward where we sang to about a dozen patients. Czrilla shared about her experience from two years ago when her mom was suspected of cancer and required some surgery, but how God protected her from the wrong surgeon and eventually it was found that she did not have cancer. Pastor Ben shared a short message about how his cancer as a baby resulted in his left arm being amputated. Most of the audience responded with a desire to be prayed for so we had a good ministry time. The Thai youths and other BH church members who were there jumped right in to pray with us. We then split into two groups to sing the Thai song and pray for the patients who couldn't come to the meeting room. We were now running about an hour late so we hurried to the Bangkok Christian Hospital where met in their chapel and sang to 60 -70 staff members. Joseph gave a powerful testimony about the seduction of work and how important it is to serve God first and Pastor Ben shared about Elijah being a majority of one. We then had lunch at the hospital and recovered some of our strength back and then proceeded to our fourth destination and fifth concert of the day, at the orphan/pediatric ward of the University Hospital. Because of the fear of influenza, only the older children met with us, about a dozen in all while the younger ones, almost two dozen stayed at their quarters. Joseph led this meeting and Sue Utadache concluded the meeting by asking who wanted to go to heaven and how to do it. Most of the children responded and she led them to pray for salvation. We then gave toys away, including toys for the younger children. During this performance, it really started to pour, but we had prayed that it would not rain when we were outside walking and God heard our prayers. When we were done and started to return home, it was only drizzling slightly and anyway, we were driven back in the BH members’ cars. We rested for about an hour and then debriefed. Most felt very drained both physically and emotionally but all felt it was worth it to pray for the sick and to see so many accept Christ. The BH folks who went with us also felt the same way, and they were quite instrumental in praying for the sick and leading several to Christ either by interpreting or directly sharing the Lord. After this, we went to dinner but Czrilla and Alice both stayed behind to get extra rest and Jaspher had some pain so he went with Dr. Vilavun to get some tests run. We then had a short practice with the BH youths, mostly for them to teach us a Thai children's song (about what an elephant is). We also prayed for those not feeling well, especially for Jaspher. The rehearsal was short since most of us were so tired we wanted to get to bed early. Jaspher soon returned and he just had some muscle inflammation, nothing serious so we thank God for answering our prayers. Czrilla has some stomach problems so remember her in prayer. Alice has a slight cold but seems to be getting better already just from the extra rest.
July 7 – Today, we found out that both Ben and Alice have headaches and sore throats, but nothing very bad, while Joe and Czrilla have stomach problems so remember them in prayer. Jaspher said he has a muscle strain but is being treated with both muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory drugs. Some of the team is dehydrated from all the walking in the hot sun and singing yesterday and we need to make sure everyone stays well hydrated. There is a sweet story connected with the orphans yesterday. Both Eugene and Jeremy had brought their favorite stuffed animals to Thailand with the intention of giving them away. Yesterday, Eugene gave his favorite stuffed duck to an orphan while Jeremy gave his teddy bear away. This was an emotionally difficult thing for both of them to do but they willingly did it to bless a child. Later, someone found Jeremy's bear in the rest room, discarded by the recipient, so he gave it away but it was given back to him. Isn't our God like that? We give our best to him, and often he gives it back to us. Meiring couldn't find her purse this morning while packing and thought she had left it at the food court last night. We prayed about it and she later found it in Czrilla's room, a quick answer to prayer.
Today is a light day for us, for we only sing at the elderly retirement home on our way to Trad. There were about 30 people there, successful and well educated career and military retirees. We sang, some of the songs with a few of the BH youth who had come, and Slim gave her testimony of how she found out God's love for her when she was in junior high. Pastor Ben gave a short message. After the program, we had lunch with the residents, and then proceeded to Ping's house, located about 15 minutes away. Ping (this is a different Ping from Yod's sister) is a member of BH church who owns a second home in this area that the BH church often uses as a retreat house for their young people. We are sleeping here one night as it is on the way to Trad and we will be ministering at the rehabilitation center tomorrow morning located close to Ping's house. After a couple of hours rest, everyone felt quite well and claimed themselves recovered, so most of us went to the nearby crocodile farm and to ride elephants. A few of us stayed at Ping's to relax. We had a wonderful home cooked dinner after the rest returned from the crocodile farm. We were joined by members of Ping's family and some of the BH youth. After dinner, we shared about the day with everyone joining and Sue translating. It was here that we found out that the BH church had passed out a survey among the audience. Even though we thought we sang poorly, the survey showed that 70% of the audience (or about 20 people) expressed interest and wanted to know more about Christianity and 4 people said they wanted to know how to become Christians. The BH church is already making plans to come here again at Christmas time and some of their church members plan to do follow up work here.
July 8 – Ping's house has no internet and we don't know when we can send out these reports. We had a marvelous home cooked breakfast and spent about an hour on our devotions. Everyone has basically recovered from their illness but Melissa woke up at 5 AM feeling sick. She has a headache, and is kind of sore but has no fever. After she vomited, she felt better. Dr. Vilavun did not think it is anything serious and gave her some electrolyte to keep her from dehydrating. At 9 AM, we got on a large two decker luxury bus which the BH church rented for us. Together with 13 adult and youth members (including Dr. Apithan and Vilavun), we are a large team of 32 going to Trad. Before heading for Trad, we stopped at a rehabilitation center where we sang to about 30 patients with various handicaps, a few blind, one boy with polio, several in wheelchair, etc. Nadia shared and her dad gave a powerful message about Jesus healing the man born blind recorded in the Gospel of John. We then ate lunch with the patients and had a chance to do ministry during lunch. Several of the joint team got to pray for some of the patients. One of the BH members, a lady named Wanni, is a gifted translator and has been translating for Ben's messages since Sunday afternoon at the BH church. She had a chance to lead one of the blind patients to Christ. This blind person said she will pray daily until Jesus heals her and restores her sight. Pray for a miracle!
We are now on the bus to Trad, located at the southeast corner of Thailand, close to the Cambodian border. Because of the speed limit restrictions on this bus, it will take over 5 hours to get to Trad instead of about 3-1/2 hours. We will be visiting the prisons and an HIV hospital, as well as visiting the church here for the next two days. Melissa is starting to look better already after sleeping for the last few hours. Here in Trad, we have internet access when we visit the medical clinic of the doctor who is hosting our group so I am sending this report when I have a chance to do so.
Wanni also came to Trad with us and will be translating all of Pastor Ben's messages. She is a very successful civil engineer who loves the Lord and took time off from work to do this ministry with us. Of course, Dr. Apithan and his wife, Dr. Vilavun as well as several other church leaders from BH also sacrificed their time and energy to join Vision. May God reward their sacrifice and bless them and BH Church. We ate a terrific dinner tonight courtesy of Dr. Glome, who runs a medical clinic with her husband here in Trad. She is a strong believer and so is her son but her husband still has not come to faith. The dinner was a 9 course seafood dinner including fried crab balls, fried shrimp, several different fish dishes, a hot pot seafood dish, fresh vegetables cooked just right, succulent and crunchy, the local specialty of soft shell crabs, and local fruits: dragon fruit, pineapples, rose apples, and local guava. We then drove to the Trad Resort, our home for the next three nights, located right next to the ocean where you can go to sleep hearing the lapping of the waves along the shore. The guys are in a barracks-type unit with 10 beds per room and shared bathroom stalls and the girls are in a similar unit. We adults are in very plush quarters, all courtesy of our hosts in Thailand. All the units have air conditioning so we are very comfortable, much above the standards we are used to on a missions trip. What a surprise and what generosity! May God richly bless them.
July 9 – Today we minister at the men's prison in Trad and after lunch at the women's prison. We had to leave our hotel at 6:30 in the morning to drive to Trad downtown and eat breakfast at Dr. Glome's clinic, a superb Chinese breakfast, then leave to get to the men's prison at 9 AM. Twenty five of us, some from BH and the rest from the church in Trad walked through double prison doors and then into their meeting room where we found about 40 men seated and waiting patiently for us. Some of the inmates shared how God had cured one of a cigarette addiction, others how they found Christ, we did the heart skit again (Joni has been performing it with Eric the last few times) and Ben with Wanni translating preached. 39 of the men raised their hands to pray the sinner's prayer, but most of them were already Christians, so we are not sure how many new decisions there were. What is amazing is that when the Trad church started ministry here and year and a half ago, there were only 4 believers, and now there are 39 today. Then men also sang for us and several more shared their testimony with us. We then left for lunch and then returned to the same prison at 1 PM but went to the women's wing. There, we found about 50 women waiting for us, and another 15 or so outside the room washing and ironing clothes, but nevertheless paying close attention. Dorcas shared her testimony of how God helped her overcome her fears, first of coming to Thailand with Vision, and earlier today of how she felt poorly, but after several prayed for her, how she felt better during the men's program. Eugene also shared his testimony of how God gave him hope while he was struggling with his school. Sue then talked about how Christ is the bridge, and felt so strongly that the Spirit was leading her to give an invitation, so she did and at least a dozen raised their hands to accept Christ. The Trad church has only been ministering at the women's side for 3 months, so this is a very encouraging step. Later, almost all the women, including those outside prayed with Sue the sinner's prayer, so we are not sure how many accepted the Lord, but we praise Him that so many did. We left there at 3 PM to return to Dr. Glome's clinic and cool off, so I am sending this email update now. More tomorrow.
July 9 (continued) – Everyone is reasonably healthy today. Melissa has made a complete recovery but Jaspher decided to take a day off from singing due to his muscle strain. He said when he sings, because it uses his back muscles, it gets painful, but Own, one of the Thai youths from BH is a good tenor and has been singing with us all day. Isn't it wonderful how God provides just the right singer when we need it?
After the women's prison and resting at the clinic for an hour or so, we left to go to an dinner at a restaurant located right on the water's edge in direct view of Elephant Island, the second largest island in Thailand (next in size to Phuket). We had another superb dinner, with three different kinds of crabs (one cooked in sweet curry sauce), a fried oyster dish quite similar to that cooked in Gulanyi Island in Amoy among other very fresh seafood dishes. We then returned to our hotel, tired since it has been a long day, but we paused to do a short group devotion and debrief the day's activities. We thanked the Lord since it was such a fruitful day of harvest and ministry, much beyond what we deserve. Our God is such a good God. It was during this debriefing time that Joseph shared about some of the events at the rehab center on Wednesday morning before we drove down to Trad. When we started singing, there was a table of people who continued to talk loudly through several of our songs, but half way through Nadia's testimony, they stopped talking and listened the rest of the program. During lunch, Joe and Fiona found out the old man at this table was telling fortunes, and so his loud talking we now perceive to be spiritual warfare, but something Nadia said probably blocked the fortune telling. Then several other people in Vision shared how much they felt oppressed and wearied as they sang at the rehab center. We then realized that the blind woman who Wanni led to Christ and wanted to pray until she received her sight could hold a key to a spiritual breakthrough in that place, so we closed our debriefing time by joining in praying for a miracle for the restoration of her sight. Please join us in praying for a breakthrough starting with this miracle which we believe God is waiting to perform. Since tomorrow also requires an early start and is a long day with ministry at the HIV hospital, a concert for the staff at that hospital (Buddhist run), followed by a revival meeting at the Trad church that night, we all retired to our quarters by 9 PM. Especially when we go to the Buddhist hospital, we need to be more prepared for spiritual warfare and not be caught unaware as when we went to the rehab center.
July 10 – After another fine breakfast at Dr. Glome's clinic, we arrived at the hospital for HIV positive patients and immediately took a prayer walk around the place we were going to sing. Alice sensed there was a spirit around the podium area because she said as she walked by there, she felt an obstruction blocking her path. So several of us went and prayed around the podium. Later, she said it had moved to the side of the podium. We prayed some more and then she said it was OK. The meeting was joint program with the BH youths leading a song icebreaker game time with the audience. We sang with Jeremy and Eugene giving their testimonies about trust and hope in God. Dr. Glome then gave her testimony including one time she contracted food poisoning while on a bus back to Trad. Unable to find a hospital on the road, she prayed and in 5 minutes, all the symptoms left her and she slept the rest of the way back to Trad, healthy. Ben with Wanni preached from Romans 12:1,2 challenging the audience to give their life to God. One lady patient and another man stood in response. We then ate lunch at the hospital. From man's eyes, we did not have a very successful meeting, but in the spiritual realm, who knows what seeds were planted; we leave it all to God.
July 10 (continued) – After lunch, we rested in the nice comfortable auditorium until the meeting with the hospital staff started at 1:30. The BH kids again started with some icebreakers and we proceeded with our program. Eric shared his testimony about his father undergoing surgery for cancer and how God healed his voice even when the Doctor thought it was likely he could not speak again, and Alice shared about how she gained compassion for the poor and disenfranchised because of what she saw on this trip. Dr. Apithan then shared his testimony, which was supposed to be 5 minutes (10 with translation) but ended up being 30 minutes long, so long Ben had no time to preach. Dr. Apithan shared how his Christian friend challenged him to believe in God and how God answered several of his prayers as a lad, including using buying dogs to reconcile him to his brother. God used his testimony so when the survey among the nurses was taken at the end of the meeting, 13 indicated they had prayed to accept the Lord and another 33 said they were interested to know more about Christ, out of an audience of about 100 or so. God works his wonders and in ways we did not expect, like yesterday at the women's prison when Sue gave the invitation and Ben did not preach again. We then returned to Dr. Glome's clinic ostensibly to rest, but in reality to surprise Joe with a birthday cake. Dr. Vilavun lured Joe and Fiona out to buy snacks for tomorrow morning for the group and in the meantime, someone sneaked in a birthday cake so when Joe and Fiona returned, there we all were to surprise him, quite successfully. Marshall prayed to thank God for Joe and bless him. We then went to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant owned by an elder of the Trad church. Again we had another fine meal with very interesting dishes, including a garlic scallop dish with scallop freshly caught today. Instead of losing weight on this tour, it appears we will all gain weight the way we are treated here in Trad and Bangkok. After dinner, we went to the Trad church for their 7 PM service. They meet in their own building with an upstairs sanctuary that seats about 100. The room was quite filled including all of us, but the room was not air conditioned, so it was warm. As hot as it was, the worship was even hotter. The worship leaders and the congregation sang with great passion and enthusiasm and we felt refreshed by the worship even as we were drained by the heat. We sang the best of all our concerts today at this hot church. Joni and Jaspher shared their testimony, and at last Pastor Ben got to preach his sermon (he did preach earlier in the morning to the HIV patients). Ben spoke powerfully on “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and blessed the congregation. We were each given a gift (actually, in the morning meeting, we were each given a T-shirt personally designed by the children at the hospital) from the Trad church, most of us getting a towel with the church name embroidered on it. We were also treated to some milk and yogurt, given by a young man we met “by chance” at the gates of the prison yesterday. He was selling milk products for his mother-in-law and just as we arrived there, apparently a non-Christian, but he was attracted enough to search us out and show up at the church tonight just to give us something. We think God is leading this young man and his new wife into the fellowship, through this “chance” meeting, but of course, there is no chance meeting where our sovereign God is concerned. During the meeting, we finally got a phone call (but couldn't talk) from Daya Pradhan, our FECAI director who came to Bangkok to minister to the Nepalis and because we will be going to join the Nepalis tomorrow night. The Nepalis are a socially oppressed group who come to Thailand on work visas, and then get their passports and visas stolen so they can't go back and forced to work for slave wages or be arrested. Sue said the same thing happens to Thai people who go to Israel to work, so this social injustice is something that happens world-wide and is another example of our sinful nature.
July 11 – Today is travel day back to Bangkok and visiting the Nepali church. We were going to get up early and swim at the beach in this beautiful resort, but God has a sense of humor. It started to pour from about 4 AM with thunder and lightning, making it dangerous to swim. We met to do devotion and debrief at 8:30 and loaded up to leave at 9, stopping to pick up the rest of the BH team, about 8 adults and 5 the 5 youths who sang with us, who stayed at Dr. Glome's clinic (her house is behind her clinic). Own who sings tenor has been staying with us the whole time we were in Trad including our devotion and debriefing time, and has really become part of Vision versus the other Thai youths who join us occasionally. Own is seeking for a deeper relationship with God so remember to pray for him. We made it back to the Bangkok Christian Guest House by 4 PM, barely in time to meet up with Daya at 4:30 since we had to check in, unpack, and sort out our laundry to get our clothes washed that we need on Sunday. We spent about half an hour with Daya as he shared about the FECAI ministry, and he left to visit some Nepali church members when we went to McDonald's for dinner. We got to the Nepali church before 7, but because most of the Nepali work as maids and other blue collar jobs, could not get there until later so the meeting started at 7:30. We sang for a half hour to a very appreciative audience. Most of the Nepali here come from Myanmar, so when Marshall talked about the songs, they had to be translated to both Nepali and Burmese. After we sang, the Bible students sang and danced for us. Today is a special meeting with three congregations joining at the Myanmar Christian Assembly, a very nice building with air conditioning. It was primarily a fellowship time together with fruits after the short service. One of the congregations actually meets on Monday nights at our Guest House and we met the pastor of this small group, a young man from Pakistan. During the fellowship time, we met Debbie, a young lady with a remarkable story. She met and married a man who died of HIV AIDS shortly after she was married so she contracted the disease also. A few months ago, when Daya came, she told Daya she didn't want to take the AIDS drugs anymore. Daya protested and told her to see the Doctor. Four months later, when Daya was back in Bangkok, Debbie came and told Daya that her Doctor said she no longer had AIDS, that she was completely cured! Another young man shared how he was suffering so badly from headaches he wanted to kill himself. A friend invited him to the church and he said during worship, he felt peace and his headache got better by 50%. The next Sunday, someone prayed for him and he was completely healed. This reminded us again to pray for the blind lady who accepted Christ at the rehab center.
July 11 (Continued) – We learned one other interesting information about this Myanmar church. For three months every year, they have an intensive Bible study training (probably going on now since we were told those who danced and sang were Bible students). During these 3 months, these young people wake up at 4 AM daily and pray until 7, eat and have a session from 8 until lunch time. After a lunch break, they go for another 3-4 hours or so and have a dinner break and then have their evening session and go to sleep at 10 PM. They didn't say but they probably do ministry on Friday nights and weekends. Such dedication and discipline among our Asian brethren is probably the reason God is working so powerfully in the Far East and not in America and the western world. We have much to learn from them. However, Daya also told me (Marshall) that there is a lot of internal problems in the Myanmar churches, problems which sound familiar to the Chinese church. The leaders do not want to relinquish control and that causes rifts and splinters in the body. May God have mercy on them and on us. Finally, a touching incident I would like to share. After the service, as we were shaking hands and greeting our Nepali and Myanmar sisters and brothers, a lady shook my hand and shoved an envelope in my hand. The envelope contained a hundred Baht bill. Later, I found she also gave Joni a similar envelope. For us, a hundred Baht, worth about $3.34, is not much, but I am reminded of the incident recorded in Luke 21:1-4. We give out of our abundance, but she gave out of her poverty. We think we should frame these two hundred Baht bills to remind us this is how we should give.
July 12 – Our last Sunday in Thailand! This morning we went to Muong Tong Church to join in their 12th anniversary celebration. They are also celebrating the dedication of their new sanctuary building. We arrived there about 9:30 and spent a few minutes doing our group devotion since we could not understand their Sunday School class in Thai. Dr. Apithan was the guest preacher this morning, and he used pictures of our ministry time to illustrate Jesus' command to the seventy in Luke 10. We then ate lunch at the church, which actually had many members who spoke Mandarin. After lunch, we were driven to Bangkok Christian College where the BH church meets. We rested until start of the service at 2:30. They had invited a guest speaker who told a lot of Thai jokes and used Chinese characters to talk about redeeming the time. We sat in small groups huddled around several translators who told us in real time what the speaker was saying. After and hour and a half, 2 hours after the service started, we finally got to sing, but we shortened our program to 15 minutes, singing only 3 songs, with Tiffany giving her testimony of what she learned on this trip, especially visiting the sick children at the hospital. Dr. Apithan then showed a great short video highlighting our tour put together by his 12 year old daughter, Alice last night. The service finally ended in about 3 hours, so we should never complain about how long services are at FEC anymore. After a quick snack, we broke into 2 groups, youth and adult to share. The youth played a quick game and asked us what we learned, etc. Joseph started the adult sharing talking about Vision and empowering the youth. Marshall followed with the challenges of convincing parents that they need to allow their kids to serve God as a higher priority. Ben then shared about how parents need to be more transparent and vulnerable to their children, and gave a moving testimony about eating a banana that fell on the floor and how that enabled him to really connect with his 3 year old son. We then ate a catered dinner in the breezeway below where the church meets and finally returned to our guest house at 8:30, a long day for us oldies.
One aspect of our Trad visit is worth noting. There were 8 adult members of the BH church that went to Trad with us. Of course, Dr. Apithan and his wife and Wanni were directly involved in our ministry. But these other ladies went because Dr. Apithan brought his parents with him and hired a van just to take them. His father is a non-believer although his mother has come to faith. He refuses to come to church, so these members from the BH church went to bring the church to the father. Dr. Glome's husband is also a non-believer, but all these BH members stayed at their home and brought the church into their home for 3 days of living there and serving. Dr. Glome's husband, Dr. Somponge, is also an Ob-gyn like Dr. Apithan and he serves at the Trad Hospital where we sang. He was the person introducing us at the meetings. Ben told us that he did listen intently to all the messages and songs, and we think he is very close to the kingdom. So continue to pray for these two, Dr. Apithan's father who seems very resistant and is quite old, and Dr. Somponge, who seems quite open. How many in our church would take 3 days off to bring the church to a non-believer in order to win them for Christ?
July 13 – Thank God everyone except Eugene (mild stomach problems) is healthy once again, but Dorcas and Jeremy both sprained their ankles playing basketball last night after dinner with the youth from the BH church. They can both walk OK, but just a little slowly. We were supposed to spend most of the next two days ministering to the poor in the slum area at Nontaburi and evangelizing the older students at the Buddhist school where we went the second day we got here, but all the school activities were canceled because there is influenza outbreak in that area of Bangkok. We are still planning to visit some of the slum families there this evening. So instead, after group devotion at 8:30, so started our tour debriefing and went to the mall to grab an early lunch. Tour debriefing (contrasted to daily debriefing) is a very important part of our tour when each person reflects on what God has taught them and they decide what to bring back to LA. The group then encourages them and prays over them. We debriefed 4 members of our team before lunch. Pastor Ohm met us at noon in front of our Guest House to take us to visit the Thai Cultural Center. But God had other plans, the bus we rented broke down and the replacement bus was caught in traffic and could not come for two more hours, so we knew God had other plans for us. Pastor Ohm suggested we go to his alma mater located near his church in Nontaburi and we felt this is what the Lord wanted for us to do. We left Jeremy, Dorcas, and Eugene behind with some sandwiches and took 5 cabs to his church. It cost us less than 1/5 of the bus charter cost (and even though we have to pay a similar amount to return), we still netted a savings of over 2000 Baht by taking taxis. We went to the church to stamp the church name and address on our bi-lingual “Peace with God” tracts, and then proceeded to the University. We looked for people who could and wanted to speak English but also used Own (who had joined us at lunch time), Pastor Ohm, and Sue to speak in Thai. We sang as a whole group and as smaller groups to whoever would listen to us and then shared the Gospel. When we debrief this part of the trip tomorrow, we will find out more details of what happened, but at a minimum, Melissa and Meiring prayed with a girl to receive the Lord, and her friend indicated she wanted to know more and would come to Pastor Ohm's church. Joe and Fiona shared and one person accepted Christ. When we sang and shared, at least one person would pay rapt attention while some seemed bored, but it is clear the Lord set up some wonderful divine appointments for us. We left a little after about 2 hours to return to the church It was at this time we found out that Pastor Ohm did not sleep last night because he has seen a doctor and is suffering from shingles. We prayed for him and were amazed he did all he did today in pain and without sleep. Remember him in prayer. We then broke into 4 groups, led by a staff member from the church and a translator and each team visited 4 families who lived in the slums. For each family, Pastor Ohm's church bought a 5 kg sack of rice, some milk products, that Vision paid for, so we brought those things and a stuffed animal for each child in the family. The sight is very much like Welfareville in Manila, poorly built shacks that house up to 20 people, but fortunately most of them had clean water and electricity. Some even had TV's and satellite dishes, but many did not have mother or the father was off in a different city to work so the grandma took care of the children. We also saw families who had become believers and had weekly Bible studies at their little homes, so it was a hard scene, but also hopeful. All were so grateful for the little food we brought. Again, when we debrief as a group tomorrow, I will have more details.
We took a love offering from our team members, a total of over 9000 Baht to give to their ministry. We then invited Pastor Ohm and his wife and staff to dinner, which we all enjoyed. For 24 people, we spent 5500 Baht including tip, which works out to less than $6.75 per person for shabu-shabu, Thai style. Sue then treated us to Dairy Queen soft ice cream. We took taxis back and returned a little after 9:30 PM, a tiring day, but deeply satisfying in terms of ministry. God's plans are so much better than anything we can figure out.
July 14 – We started our group devotion at 9 this morning and then talked about yesterday's visit to the University and slum families. Auntie Sue said she saw many people interested in Christ at the University, but she also witnessed much opposition from many Buddhist people. Several people commented that there was much spiritual darkness at the University, yet God still worked through us. Auntie Sue and Joe both said that people accepted Christ when they shared with them, while Tiffany and Own also saw several groups of people interested in Christ. Auntie Mei and Melissa said that after sharing with a group of girls, one girl accepted Christ into her heart as well. Nadia, Melissa, Eric, and Josiah said they formed a quartet at the University and sang to people after sharing with them. They said that they met a girl and talked to her about Jesus, and after witnessing and singing to her she said she would call the church number and pray to accept Christ into her heart. The quartet said they met many people and sang throughout the food court area, passing out tracts all the way to the bus stop. Melissa commented that while most of the people in the group are usually shy, they felt God using them and helping them to sing and talk to people about Christ throughout the day. Joni commented about how she saw many different kinds of ministry. She said that she saw some people pray, others sing, and others talk, and Tiff also commented on how God used all of us in different ways. Czrilla said that it was hard sometimes to reach into the peoples' hearts because many of them were Buddhist and often laughed at us. Yet encouragement still abounded in the people who did accept Christ. Uncle Marsh said he sat with some engineering students and shared a tract with them, but they were distracted by other friends. Visiting the University was a challenge, and yet God worked through us to bring many to Christ in ways we never expected.
Visiting the slum homes was a very eye opening experience. Uncle Marsh said his group visited three houses, and the third one had twenty people living in one small house. Joni commented that at the slum area it was hard to breath and odd because in the middle of the slum area there was a huge Buddhist temple with gold facing and marble columns. Yet there was light in the darkness among the small Bible studies that took place in some of the houses. Czrilla said that her group visited three families, and it really opened her eyes and hurt her how so many people lived in poverty. She was also touched by Pastor Ohm's ministry. Uncle Marsh said he has seen how the church really comes to the people – incarnational, like how Jesus brought God to us. Own said that at one of the houses his group went to, the father of the house was blind. When we sang the Lord Bless You and Keep You, he cried. Own felt that it was not just us singing that brought this, but that God was working through us. After that Josiah prayed for the blind man. Josiah's group also visited a house with many children. Nadia commented on how the houses were all built together and were built on stilts on top of trash and water, and yet the man at the house still offered us bottled water to drink. This really showed us how willing and generous they were – they gave what they had even though it wasn't much. Tiff said that after visiting a house she was filled with a compassion at the way the people lived. Alice said that at one house a boy had a sty in his eye, but the parents gave him glasses not knowing what to do, so she shared with them how to treat it. Then Alice prayed for the boy. Own closed our debriefing with prayer. Yesterday turned out to be a wonderful day of ministry; praise God for bringing us to the University and for having a greater plan for us than we had for ourselves. We then continued with our tour debriefing for the rest of the day, breaking for lunch and dinner. After dinner, BH church has a small group meeting with us and Joe is sharing.
Tomorrow is our last ministry day here. We will be going to Bangkok Christian College to sing once to the fifth grade class and once to the sixth grade class. There are about 500 students per class. The past two times we have sung here, several hundred students responded to accept Christ. Pray for us and Pastor Ben as he brings the good news to these students, that God will speak through us to bring many hundreds of students to Christ at these two chapel services.
July 15 – Forgot to mention some details. When we went to Nontaburi on Monday, we brought the last 5 suitcases of toys to Pastor Ohm's church for which they were so grateful. These toys collected in the FEC churches has and will really bless many children here in the hospitals and in the slum area. Yesterday, Eugene was well, Jeremy and Dorcas were able to walk well enough to go the food courts to eat, but Marshall and Czrilla had some stomach problems. Today, Marshall is fine and Czrilla is better but Meiring has some stomach problems. We think it is due to something we ate and are OK after it is all eliminated.
We met at 9 to leave on the bus provided by Bangkok Christian College and got ready to sing at the chapel service for fifth graders. Among others, we were met by Ohm's mother, P. Jin, who is the chaplain at the school. There were about 500 students there and we were told only about 10% of the students are believers. Since we only have 55 minutes for the entire program, we shorted our singing and just did the Give Your Heart to Jesus skit that Eric and Joni do so well. Own, who we now feel fully part of Vision, shared in Thai (to also save the time to do translation). We are not sure all that he said but part of it was to explain the heart skit and challenge the kids that it might not be a girl, but video games or studies could steal their heart from God. Pastor Ben then gave a compelling message about the pure in heart seeing God and telling the students how to get their hearts pure. About 30-40 students stood to indicate their desire to accept Christ. Then the translator mistakenly asked all the students to stand so we are not sure how many more wanted to stand, but most of the students followed Ben in the sinner's prayer. The principle then gave us a monetary gift and a fruit basket while we gave them several Vision CD's. We then went to eat a delicious lunch provided by the school and met some more of the teachers, including their choir director, who it turns out is also the conductor at the Chinese church we visited the first Sunday (Yod and Vida's parents' church). After lunch, we had to hurry to sing an identical program for the chapel service for sixth graders that started at 12 noon. This time, when Ben gave the invitation, a few stood quickly but soon, more stood up to receive Christ so eventually it seemed 80% of the students (maybe 400+) stood to receive the Lord. There were only a handful who did not stand so we praise God for the wonderful response of these students and pray that the good work God began, he will complete. We were then shown a short video of the history of the school, how it was started by Presbyterian missionaries over 150 years ago and how they emphasize morality and integrity for the students. Tiff met a young teacher named Emily who came from Colorado to come teach here for two years and amazed Tiff with her passion for children after she heard God's calling at the age of 12. We then took cabs back to the Guest House to rest for a while. Nine of us met at 3 PM, mostly the younger members in the group, and were led by Own and Gop to evangelize at a Catholic school near the guest house. They returned at 4:00 rejoicing that they were able to sing at the mall instead of the school since they were told we cannot stand in front of the school and block traffic. Many of the students passed in front of the mall after school and we passed out all the tracts we had. Even though we sang in front of a shrine next to the mall, we did not even know it was there after a while. Gop said as we walked and sang, it reminded him of the Israelites walking around the wall of Jericho to break strongholds. Alice said it was good we were informal and non-intimidating in passing out the tracts and we should do more in LA. It was good that our group went without any of the older leaders. Eugene said when we passed out the tracts, some of the people read them and seemed genuinely interested. We then had our group devotion and continued with tour debriefing. We also collected an offering for the Myanmar church. Tonight is our last night here and we are inviting the BH church leaders to dinner. Tomorrow we will check out of the Guest House and is planned to be a shopping day. After shopping, we will eat dinner at the mall and bus to the airport to catch our midnight plane to Korea and then back to LA. This will probably be our last report from Thailand so we will report on the dinner, shopping, and flight back after we return. Just remember our Home Concert is Saturday, Aug. 15, at 7:30 at FEC Glendale. Hope a lot of you will be there to rejoice with us.
July 16 – Last night at dinner with 5 BH church leaders and 9 (or was it 10?) youths was a blessed time to praise God for the great things he has done. We had dinner in a restaurant very close to the guest house, actually the same place we were invited to 3 years ago by the BH church. After dinner, Marshall had a chance to share with them a little of FEC's history and the similarity between our churches. Namely, when FEC started, it was a family church (BH is primarily two large families), its emphasis on student and youth work, its emphasis on missions, and the strong lay leadership. But in order to grow, FEC had to become more inclusive and share leadership with people outside the family, give up control, and actually put into our by-laws a forced sabbatical for both pastors and lay leaders. The BH leaders expressed privately their appreciation for this insight into their church structure and their desire to change their governing structure and become more aware of how God is calling them to change. Dr. Apithan on behalf of the BH church thanked Vision for giving them new direction into ministries they can do and told us how much they appreciated going with us on ministry, while Marshall told them that their incarnational thrust of bringing church to the unchurched was so Biblical. The kids couldn't bear to part but it was late and they have school in the morning but several of them promised to meet us at the shopping mall in the afternoon. Gifts were exchanged and hundreds of photos were taken. We sang “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” in the Guest House parking lot and finally parted ways at about 10 PM.
In a couple of hours, we will be checking out of the Bangkok Christian Guest House, so this is definitely our last report from Thailand. Our plan today is to have the minibus that we rented take us for a short tour around Bangkok, then drive us to a mall Sue calls cheap and good for lunch. We will then spend a few hours where everyone can “shop till they drop”, join up with some of the BH youths, eat dinner, and then board our minibus to the airport, getting there around 9 PM to check in for our 12:30 AM flight for Inchon, where we will transfer to the plane for LA. Fiona will be leaving us mid-afternoon to catch her plane to Hong Kong where she plans to spend a few days. Ben and Nadia are staying overnight at a hotel near the airport to catch an early flight tomorrow morning for Indonesia where he will be joined by his wife from LA and son that he left there. Sue is staying another week here. It has been a wonderful 2 weeks here in Bangkok and we thank God. Soli Deo Gloria!
July 18 – Our trip back was quite smooth and we all (at least those of us who planned to come back) arrived safely, landing at LAX on Friday morning at 8:40, about 20 minutes early. All the kids had fun shopping at a six story shopping mall and the ride to the airport took less than an hour so we arrived at the airport about 4 hours before the plane departed. Ohm, Gop, and Apai went with us to the mall and saw us off at the airport, along with Jin and Ping who met us at the airport (Ohm and Apai's mothers respectively - Jin is the chaplain at Bangkok Christian College and we stayed at Ping's house one night on the way to Trad). Ping brought us some fruit which unfortunately we could not finish eating and had to confiscate them at customs in LAX.
Melissa felt compassion for a little girl who got sick on the plane and prayed for her. The little girl was better by the time we landed. The only exciting thing that happened on the flight back was Eugene losing his boarding pass for the Seoul to LA flight, but it was no problem for him to get a second boarding pass in Seoul.
Thank you for praying for us. It was invaluable. Hope you can join us at Home Concert in Glendale on Saturday night, August 15.