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Imperishable Joy

What a trip it has been. It feels like only yesterday we got on a plane to head towards Thailand. But now as I open my eyes once again, I find myself on the familiar beaches of South Carolina. Every morning, I wake up, ready to do my daily routine but eventually realize that we are no longer in busy streets of Bangkok. Why is there this sudden pain in my heart, the pain of feeling home sick. A pain I didn’t even feel when I was in Thailand. I think it’s my heart telling me that it misses the moments spent with the students and how many miles apart we are.

What has the Lord done to me? Never would I have imagined myself in this situation. It only took the Lord one month, just one month, to open my heart and fill it with a joy for the nations. My heart cries out to experience this joy once more, while my tears know it’ll be awhile.

Time here in South Carolina has been nothing short of amazing. We’ve gotten the chance to be reunited with old friends and make new ones. I’ve been given lots of opportunities to share about my experience and what the Lord is doing in Thailand. By doing so it has also helped me understand and reflect on my trip. However, I struggle in conversing with others about the joy that I experienced. I feel as though I am incapable of finding the right words to describe how amazing and sweet the Lord was throughout the trip. It’s so hard to convey this joy when I don’t fully understand it myself. The thing I’ve come to understand is that the only one possible of changing my heart is God. I used to ask myself “Why should I go?” but by the end of the summer, I can gladly profess that it has changed to “Why should I stay?”. Before going, I thought about all the opportunities I would miss out on by going on this missions trip, like internships and times spent with friends and family. How silly I was because I have lost nothing, but came out so much better because I now have a new family and a new joy.  

At times, I feel as though what I have to share is meaningless to some; being obligated to listen. These are just doubts and lies that run through my head after sharing. But I remember what it was like being in their shoes last year when I was on the listening end. It’s hard to understand what the person went through when you haven't experienced it for yourself. 

At the end of the day, it isn’t my call to dwell on this but to be faithful in sharing the great work that God has done. I have to remember that I am not the one that's going to open their hearts to missions but that only God can change their hearts like he changed mine. God has indeed made our efforts fruitful. Many students have opened their hearts and minds towards missions. I pray that they would have the chance to experience the joy that I have experienced. A joy that only comes from sharing the good news with the people who need it the most.

- Eh Doh Drawny

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Bittersweet Lasts

Greetings one and all! One thing I can definitely say: this past week has been a week. So much happened that God has orchestrated, it’s hard to not burst into spontaneous song.

This past week was our last week teaching English classes at Santisuk. As such, it has left a bitter-sweet aftertaste in my soul. Bitter because we as a team, have invested parts of our hearts here and are now preparing to leave. There were a lot of “lasts” this week, and a lot of goodbyes. For my part, I also feel like I have finally gotten my feet under me in terms of teaching, building relationships, understanding how to get around Bangkok without a guide, and a host of other things. Particularly, I feel like I have just started to finally get comfortable around the students and to get to know them on a personal level. And just as that has happened (at least to some extent) we are leaving. So in that regard, it’s been a challenging week.

On the other hand, it was also an incredibly sweet week. The depth of grief experienced when leaving a person or place indicates their value to us and therefore the worth of the relationships built. Thus, in our preparation for leaving I feel like we are realizing just how much this time has meant to us. There were also a lot of really cool things that God did last week. I think Thursday night in particular was a highlight of just about everyone on the team. That evening, we had an end of session party. There were songs, a game, and a short testimony from Eh Doh. I think God really used him and his story to impact all the students, staff, and teachers there. 

Eh Doh told about the way Jesus saved him and brought him to life – an incredible story in itself. He went on, though, to tell about how he feels God is calling him to possibly come back to Thailand in the future. By the end, he was weeping, as was I and quite a number of others. As Ben put it, “I feel like often people get emotional when telling their testimonies because of all that God has brought them through – which is incredible. However, Eh Doh’s story was particularly striking because he was visibly gripped by his love for Jesus and what He is calling Eh Doh to in the future.” To see the way God worked in that alone was incredible. God went even further, though, to use Eh Doh’s story to really touch the students here. Joyce, one of the long-term teachers at Santisuk, said that often testimonies are told and students don’t really engage fully. Yet on Thursday, while talking with the students after the “official program,” it was clear they were moved too. Praise God! 

God has also been working in other ways in the lives of the students we’ve been getting to know. There are many stories I could tell, but I will limit myself for the sake of brevity. Art and Ploy are two students in particular who have really changed this month. Art has been willing to study the Bible with Mitch, and Ploy has really come out of her shell and engaged with the community at Santisuk in meaningful and significant ways. From what Joyce says of Ploy in particular, “God is working mighty miracles in Ploy’s life.” Praise Him for that great grace!

Another story is one from my own teaching this last week. Part of the curriculum at Santisuk is “Reading Comprehension” based on reading Bible stories. On Thursday, the “story” was John 3:16-17. In my morning class, we read the story and went over the comprehension questions. I then asked, “Any other questions?” Silence. And we moved on, no problem. In the evening, however, when I asked for further questions there was a moment of silence, but then the students started asking questions – and I mean questions, indicating that they were not just thinking about the English syntax, but about spiritual reality; Heaven and Hell and righteousness and wickedness. I even had the chance to share what sin is that it requires God to save us. Praise the Lord! What a grace, that he would work in their hearts in that way! I pray and trust that he will continue to work as he wills, to the praise of his glorious grace. 

There is so much more I could share, but I hope this gives you a snapshot into the work of the Lord this past week. Thank you all so much for your prayers and support – God is answering!

- Karl Geary

End of Session Party

End of Session Party

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The Harvest is Plentiful

This past weekend, part of our team had the opportunity to visit a village in Northern Thailand. The village, Fak Tha, is about 350 miles north of Bangkok in the providence of Uttaradit. Fak Tha is the hometown of our host in Bangkok, P’Noi (P is added before a name to show honor to those older or in a higher position than you), and his nephew, Book, one of the students at Santisuk this session. We were able to go with Book as he traveled home to prepare for university in Uttaradit beginning in July. It was a blessing to go up country as it allowed us to continue relationships with P’Noi’s family that have been formed by our Global Partners in Thailand and a team of short term missionaries from Bethlehem Baptist last year.

Ben, Mitch, Noah, and I traveled by train and bus with Karen, our Global Partner, and Book. Being the first train ride for the guys it was an exciting cultural experience to take a six hour ride through the Thai countryside. Staring out at countless rice paddies, fields of various crops, small villages, and mountains passed the time quickly. The following three hour bus ride to the village center made for a tiring day of travel.

We were met with generous hospitality by Book and P’Noi’s family when we arrived. We slept at the house P’Noi built for his parents and simply walked across the road to Book’s family’s house for delicious meals. Book’s family are farmers which meant all of our food was fresh and the majority of it was from their fields. We enjoyed trying new dishes specific to Uttaradit with the staple of sticky rice at every meal. Having family-style, home-cooked meals was a refreshing change compared to eating at street vendors or restaurants for almost every meal in Bangkok.

Our time was spent bonding with Book and his family, praying for them and their village, and exploring a bit of Fak Tha. We had the pleasure of driving mopeds around the quiet roads of the country to see the water reservoir, the family’s asparagus and rice fields, and schools in the area. We even traveled to a local “farmers” market with fresh meats, produce, and other goods for sale. We definitely stood out, but it was interesting to see how rural Thailand differs from the city.

The main purpose for us going on the trip was missions. Although P’Noi is a believer, the rest of his extended family, including Book, are not. We prayed for opportunities to share the gospel with Book’s family and people in the village. Although we did not have an opportunity to share the gospel explicitly though words, we were able to show aspects of Christianity through our actions and Karen had spiritual conversations with Book on the train. It was incredible to hear stories of how changes had happened in Book’s father’s life since the Bethlehem team was there are shared the gospel with him. We believe and are continuing to pray that the Holy Spirit would be at work in his life and all of Fak Tha. Being that we were surrounded by unbelievers and farming communities, Jesus’ words in Matthew 9 were a consistent thought and prayer for our team.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Matthew 9:36-38

A specific prayer for laborers came from meeting a believer who lives in a nearby village. We were able to speak and pray with him and his family at the market. He is eagerly praying for a church to be planted in Fak Tha that he and his family can attend so that he could grow in his faith and his children would come to have a personal relationship with Jesus. We have joined in the prayer that our Global Partners have been praying; that a long term missionary would be called to Fak Tha and help to establish a multi-ethnic church there. There are connections with P’Noi’s family to host the missionary(ies) and help them learn the language and culture.

On the ride back to Bangkok, our team was praying about being called to long-term overseas missions. This experience in Fak Tha showed us it is more feasible that we may have previously thought. Pray that God would continue to work in our hearts to show his glory to us and through us. Pray that we would be willing to go wherever we may be called for however long is necessary. Pray that a missionary would go and a church would be planted in Fak Tha, ask boldly that God would place one of our team members there.

- Harmon Squires, 2019 CCP Director

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Babel

It has been two weeks since our team landed in Bangkok, Thailand. Yes, Bangkok is hot, humid and has an endless flow of chaotic traffic. By God’s grace our team is learning the ropes of this foreign city, and our chances at survival are looking pretty good! We have conquered jet lag, learned to navigate our way back and forth from the English school, and even began to find some of our favorite street vendors. It is evident that the Lord is making our path level and protecting us at every dangerous street corner.

It’s still early into our trip, but already we have seen so many things to praise God. Specifically, the students and staff at Santisuk English School. Our mission here is primarily to plant seeds in the hearts of our students. We hope to achieve this by teaching them stories about Jesus in the English language during class and spending time with them outside of class time. While we were preparing for this trip we thought that most of our students would be university students, but we have quickly found that many of our students are working full-time and a few are even in high school. Despite this unforeseen twist, our whole team has been able to create great relationships with our students so far.

Together, our team is teaching a combined 49 students in seven different English classes. Within the classroom, our method of reaching students with the good news is one that requires patience and trust. Each level of English consists of 15 class periods over the span of four weeks. During most class periods, students will read a Bible story of Jesus performing a miracle or teaching and then they will answer questions about what they read. As a class we then discuss the questions which gives students an opportunity to organize their thoughts into English as they ponder the life and teachings of Jesus. During their fourth English course (Level Four), the students are required to have a one hour interview to test their English conversation skills. During the final part of the interview, one of the local believers who is fluent in Thai will share the gospel with them in Thai. By their Level Four class, most students have enough of an understanding to obtain a grasp of what the gospel means. If they have questions, they can always ask question in Thai for a better understanding. The ministry is well designed and it has been a privilege to teach English and engage with our students, but our team in learning about all the patience and trust that it takes to evangelize across a language barrier in a foreign nation.

What has been truly powerful to see is how people from different cultures with different languages can interact and bond on such a deep level. Our students have taken us out for meals and sightseeing on many occasions, and each experience has been a joy. It’s clear that God is working in our relationships with our students, the local believers, and in the hearts of this team.

Though the Lord has given us people of peace, willing to treat us like family without knowing us, the communication barrier has been a profound obstacle. It’s an obstacle that is rooted in our sin and a consequence that manifested soon after the creation of the world. The words of Genesis 11 give insight into why:

They they said, “Come let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the earth…Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.

Genesis 11:4, 7-8

The weight of our pride is a harsh reality. “But God, being rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4) interrupts and redeems the consequences of our pride through Jesus Christ. He uses this dispersion of people, this language barrier, not only to humble us but also to glorify Himself. This separation of people by language has given us the opportunity to come to Thailand to share Jesus. We can use our ability to speak English to share the gospel. What separated us in Genesis can be used to glorify His name and not ours. As Revelation 7:9 says:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.

Yes, God redeems our pride in Genesis 11 by using each culture and people and language to give himself Glory! And what a miracle it is to see two cultures speak in two different languages to worship the same God. Here in Thailand, we have experienced a small glimpse of what is to come.

Please pray more people of Thailand to join the celebration of Jesus. Pray for them to enter the Kingdom of God, so as a great multitude, we may enjoy him forever, together.

- Ben Hershey

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