Thailand

God on the move in SE Asia!

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God is on the move in SE Asia, and so were we in August and September. Your partnership has made it possible for usto serve alongside Christian sisters and brothers in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand in recent months. These ministries some times make our hearts ache, but they fill us with hope at the same time. This choir from a hill tribe in Vietnam saved for a whole year to attend the Baptist Assembly. Praise God for a new sense of freedom Vietnamese Baptists feel.

You may have wondered why it's been a while since you received a ministry update from us. One of our communication challenges right now (aside from time) is that we often serve in sensitive areas. As a result, we can’t be too timely or specific about where and what we’re doing. This is not only for our own security, but also for that of partners with whom we’re working.

Highlights for Praise and Prayer

  • Pastors who were part of an Integral Evangelism course we taught in Vietnam shared on the last day: “I thank God for attending this class. I had too small a vision for my church.” “I always assumed it should be the pastor who does all the visiting and outreach. You have shared a simple but deep idea: I should disciple my members to do ministry as well. Thank you!” While in Vietnam, we also participated in the Baptist Convention of Vietnam’s General Assembly. We were impressed to see how the Convention is growing and maturing, and to hear government officials in attendance encourage its churches and members to make a difference in Vietnamese society.

The forces of chaos and conflict meet harmony and reconciliation in a traditional dance at the Indonesian Baptists’ anniversary celebration. Which one represents the missionary?

  • The Union of Indonesian Baptist Churches, a new ministry partner of International Ministries, invited us to participate in its 45th anniversary in Surak arta – together with about 5,000+ others in attendance! The centerpiece of the grand evening was the history of the Baptist work in Indonesia recounted using traditional music, song, and dance - a remarkable example of contextualization.

  • In Thailand we attended a regional gathering of IM missionaries and had a chance to meet our new Executive Director, Sharon Koh. Bruce also did field research on two social enterprises for his doctoral program before returning home to New Zealand. In the meantime, Ann taught over 60 students in the 4th year Bachelor of Theology program at the Kawthoolei Karén (Kayin) Baptist Bible School at the Mae La refugee camp on the Thai-Myanmar border, and ministered in two remote villages. The stories of the suffering and loss experienced by these refugees from Myanmar were heart wrenching. As one young man declared, “I just want to go home…” Please join us in praying for wisdom and strength as we prepare for these upcoming projects (and others):

Ann and two of her students from Kawthoolei led worship in two different remote villages on a weekend outreach trip.

  • Accessible Theological Education - Ann is serving on a team with Baptist convention partners in Vietnam and Cambodia to develop accessible, affordable strategies to train pastors, most of whom live in rural areas.
  • Doctoral studies confirmation seminar - Bruce is scheduled to officially present his doctoral research proposal on faith-based social entrepreneurship in November. If his work is approved, he will be officially recognized as a doctoral candidate at Massey University.
  • Kayin refugee repatriation - we are working with Kayin Christian leaders in Thailand to develop programs that will help prepare refugees to return to their homeland in Myanmar through spiritual formation, livelihood skills training, and pastoral counseling. The US Dept. of State estimates that around 150,000 refugees from Myanmar live in the nine official camps on the Thai-Myanmar border, with more than 2 million undocumented refugees living in other areas of Thailand. A whole generation has now grown up inside the fences of the refugee camps, which were established over 25 years ago. A new government and greater stability in Myanmar are creating new hope for – and uncertainty about – repatriation. International Ministries is in a unique position to contribute to these efforts because of its long history and many partnerships in both countries, and we're honored to be part of the initiative.

Thanks for being on the journey with us!

Kita memuji Tuhan untuk anda (we praise God for you, in Bahasa Indonesia)

"God sent you to me today!"

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I usually keep a pretty low profile at the gym.  (Well, if the truth be told, the, er, "profile," is actually a bit different than I'd like.  There is nothing quite like joining the kings and queens of Spandex for a few minutes to make one aware of... um... "profile" issues.  But I digress.  And, you know what I meant:  though I'm a fairly extroverted person, when it comes to the gym, I usually try to slip in and out as inconspicuously as possible.)But today I varied a bit from the routine.  It was all because of my friend Mike.

Mike is a fellow missionary.  His official assignment is to help the American Baptist Churches of Michigan serve the mission of Jesus Christ as faithfully and effectively as they can.  But, like the other missionaries I know, his love for the Lord and for people continually finds expression in ways that go well beyond his official assignment.

Mike and I had a great conversation a little while ago, as part of International Ministries' Responding to the Call discernment process.  One of the things that have stayed with me from that inspiring conversation was when Mike said,

"The gym is my congregation!"

Mike has been working out a lot in recent years.  And, in the gym, Mike is just himself.  No  "Pastor Mike."  No "Rev," let alone, "Rev. Dr."  Just "Mike."  And people talk to him.  He listens.  They notice.  So, one day another guy figured it out, and asked Mike to pray for him.  In the whirlpool.  With a bunch of other guys.  So God has given Mike an unexpected "mission field":  the gym.

I loved Mike's stories about mission in the gym.  As I listened, I decided that I would basically continue to keep my "low profile" (see "Spandex, Kings & Queens of," above), but stay open to opportunities as God brought them my way.

Today, as I was slogging away on the elliptical trainer, one of the guys I often see in the locker room called out to another guy that he, "D," was going to take a trip to Vietnam and Thailand.  Whoa.  Time to move to the next level.

D is a runner, and looks it (see "Spandex, K...").  He is also a car salesman and a Deacon.  (Hey, it's not like I've been totally anti-social at the gym!)  So later, in the locker room I asked D, "You going to Vietnam for a race, for church or for a vacation?"

"You know Vietnam?"

"Yeah, a little.  Mostly Saigon."

"How?"

"Been there to work with pastors and leaders in some of the churches."

"Churches?  Oh man.  God sent you to me today!"

And we were off and running.  I don't yet know where this will lead.  So far, we have mostly talked about food, accommodations and such.  But "D" did begin to explore with me how the gospel gets shared in places like Vietnam and Thailand.  Lord willing, at the very least our conversations will help to connect D's faith--and that of his congregation--with what God is doing through brothers and sisters in Vietnam and Thailand.  I'm praying for more.  We'll see.

My conversation with D was far less dramatic than Mike's impromptu prayer meeting in the whirlpool.  But the point is the same:  mission is where you find it--or better... where it finds you!

I continue to be grateful for the way God nudged me through the experiences Mike shared in our conversation.  Maybe the Lord will do something similar for you today.  In any case, I pray that the Spirit of God will keep the eyes, ears and hearts of all of us open to the opportunities to serve those whom the Lord brings into our lives today... in unexpected places!  To whom is God sending you today?