Every now and again, i do get a bit of time to reflect on life over here, how things are going, what i'm learning and being challenged by, what am i thinking about doing for the future etc etc etc. So i thought i'd share a couple of my thoughts as they stand for now. Of course, i know that God may have alternate plans for me, but we'll just have to wait and see what the future holds.
It's no secret that i am loving it over here. I'm loving spending time with my friends, making new ones, getting to know Thai's better, i'm loving the food, the weather (i'm surprised that i really haven't been too bothered with the heat at all), learning the language, getting a better understanding of the Thai culture, really thinking through issues of what is biblical vs cultural, being able to do what i want to do, when i want to and not having to work a 9-5 job. If only i knew that overseas mission was this enjoyable 5 years ago.... :) hehe But in amongst all that, it really is challenging thinking about the future and what that might hold. Everywhere i turn here, there are new opportunities that could be used to build relationships and spread the gospel. But realistically, how should i best be using my time here? Teaching english, trying to spend 1-1 time with people, helping the orphanage kids, discipling christians, doing graphic & multimedia stuff for businesses and people we're reaching out to, or even for various christian organisations over here who don't have the funds or the skills to be able to do it themselves? All of these things are 'good' things, some of which suit my current level of language better then others. But should God plan for me to stay over here long term, what should i do? Cos doing everything that i'm doing now isn't really all that strategic for the long term.
Right now, it's easy to say 'i'm a student learning thai' and have that as my 'main' objective for being here when people ask me what i'm doing. But the reality is that i'm checking out possible opportunities to be 'working' here long term as well, and all that i'm learning about language, culture and the 'state' of the church etc over here is also shaping my thinking on how i think i should best be using my time over here. One of the things that i am becoming more and more convinced of is the importance of ultimately seeing Thai's being trained up to a maturity as Christians where they can be reaching their fellow country men and women. The more i learn the language and culture, the more i realise that no matter how long i live here, i'll never know everything or how to speak to Thai's in a way that speaks to their heart. Let's face it, there are so many customs and cultural things associated with Buddhism, with respect for the King, kids stories and 'nursery' rhymes, culture etc which i might learn one day, but it won't ever have the same 'meaning' to me as it does to them. This was kinda of reinforced the other day when i listened to a talk from Oz and there was a passing quote by the speaker "i'm the king of the castle and you're the dirty rascal" which brought the point he was making to life and hit the exact meaning he was getting at. It meant so much more to me cos i can remember saying it often as a kid, and it was something that could be either so liberating or hurtful (depending on whether it was me saying it or not). But as adults, we might learn the phrase, but it just doesn't have the same meaning as it does if you actually experienced that in your life. No matter how long i may live here, i'll never have had a childhood here, so i'll never really understand what fun it was to pick lum yai as kids, or to live in a house of 10 kids cos all my cousins, brothers and sisters etc lived together. In the same way, they won't understand the fun we had on slip and slides, racing home to watch skippy or heading down to the beach and eating fish and chips. At the end of the day, it's Thai's reaching Thai's in the long term that will be most effective for bringing the Gospel to Thailand. How cool would be to be able to equip that many Thai's to be reaching other Thai's with the gospel, then being able to see them train each other up to a maturity in Christ. It just excites me so much to think of the possibilities that REALLY equipped Thai's reaching Thai's could possibly have. One thing i've come to realise is that Thai christians are just so passionate for wanting to serve. They don't just get involved in one thing, they get involved with EVERYTHING! They do whatever they can with whatever they have to be serving God. It's such an encouragement to see!
What i also found weird to begin with here is how becoming a christian here isn't so much an individual decision, but a 'family' decision. You'll find if you're patient, rather then getting just 1 person become christian, you'll actually get a whole family become christian at the one time. Seems strange to us, but for a society that is really family oriented, it is actually really understandable. It's put a whole new 'spin' on the concepts of 'households' accepting christ and being baptised in the Bible. it's like those stories are just leaping off the page in real life over here, cos on many occasions, that's what happens. In addition to that, there are 'towns' of people who have grown up together for generations. They are close knit communities which, as foreigners, will find extremely difficult to penetrate. How cool would it be to have Thai Christians return to their own home towns to be 'missionaries' there, where there are no language or trust barriers that need to be broken. This is actually a true example of one of our friends here, Png, who comes from Payao (a couple hrs out of Chiang Mai). She became a Christian a few years back, and now through her witnessing to her own family, all in her immediate family except one brother in law have become christians and now an aunt and cousin have also become Christian. How cool is it to see God working through Thai Christians? Keep an eye out for future posts about Payao. There is a dying church in there, which is problematic as many of Png's family have just become christian, but with no really good church to follow them up or help them grow. We're currently planning to do a 3-4day 'mission' trip up to Payao with Png (she's our 'in'). We're not 100% sure what we'll be doing exactly there just yet - if an outreach thing, or just working with people in the church to get them enthused, or teaching some english as an excuse to also teach about God....not sure. But i'll keep you posted for sure.
anyway, these reflections have actually become a lot longer then i'd planned, and there's plenty more to say. So how bout i keep more reflections for a later time.
In summary tho, i think the whole idea of working closely with Thai Christians to grow to a maturity in the gospel and to help them create resources for Thai people is the likely plan for the future. As to what the means i'll be doing, not sure just yet but stay posted.
For those praying:
- please pray for wisdom as i think and pray about the future
- praise God for people like Png who are growing and spreading the gospel
- pray for Thai's to grow in maturity as Christians, and for more Thai's to become Christian