Thailand Vision Trip with Wellington Elim (27 Dec 06 - 12 Jan 07)

Praise God! What better way to start than to give God the credit for all that went on during this trip. As you read about the things we got up to, and as we think back on the significance of what we were doing on the lives of the people we ministered with, we can only arrive at the conclusion that it had little to do with us. Heb 12:2 refers to Jesus - the author and finisher of our faith. He initiated the work, sustained it and will bring it to conclusion. It was our privilege, both those who went and those who supported in various ways, to be involved with God's mission to redeem a lost world to Himself. Khaolak We arrived in Phuket after:- 1 hr flight from Wellington to Auckland 4 ½ hr stopever in Auckland 9 hr flight to Singapore 4 hr stopover in Singapore 1 ½ hr flight to Bangkok 3 hr stopover in Bangkok 1 ½ hr flight to Phuket 1 hr drive to Khaolak At the Phuket airport, we met up with Ivy who would be our guide for the next few days and then drove north to our guesthouse in Khaolak. While in Khaolak, we spent our time visiting homes and families of Burmese workers. Often, it was only the mothers and children who were home because their husbands were away working. The fishermen working on Thai boats leave home for 3 months at a time to fish and spend very little time at home. In return, they have one of the better paid occupations open to Burmese people in Phuket, about NZ$120 per month. One of the days, we visited a hospital and spent the day listening to the stories of Burmese patients and praying for them. Unable to speak Thai, and not having any ID, even getting medical treatment is a mission! There was one man who had been stabbed mistakenly by another man, thinking he was someone else. Sadly, the poverty and desperation they face have led many into crime. We were able to sponsor his treatment at the hospital. One of the ministries we were able to plug into and bless was the Women's Development Centre in Ban Nam Khem, a village in Khaolak. There, women are taught to make artificial plastic flowers for sale and the proceeds returned to them to supplement their household income. Another was a church in the same village. Originally a Thai church, they saw the need of the Burmese people in the area and started an outreach service for them. Numbering about 50 people and pastored by a 28 year old James, Calvary Chapel is already sending 2 of their most experienced leaders out to plant new churches! We spent New Year's Eve with the workers and leaders of this church and blessed them with a BBQ on the beach. It was a night of fellowship, fun, stories, encouragement and friendships. Praise God! One of the evenings, we were asked to organise a Christmas Programme at a rubber plantation that housed over 400 Burmese workers. Here, we spent an awesome night of games, songs, skits and sharing the true meaning of Christmas. We presented a skit on the futility of trying to be good enough to reach God and instead, accepting God's gift of a relationship with us, followed by a testimony and sharing. We then finished off the evening with some Christmas songs and giving away presents that were prepared earlier. Another inspiring meeting we had was in an unexpected place... Dave and Wan own and run "Song's Bar", a breakfast favourite of ours. Along with the omelettes and pancakes, Dave told us about how he came from Holland before the Tsunami for an "OE", and ended up skipping his flight back home to stay when the Tsunami hit. Along with his Thai wife, he raised over 5 million baht (NZ$250,000) to help with rebuilding not just homes and boats, but lives as well. Dave doesn't run a church or "mission organization", but through the bar, meets with and ministers to people who would not be found in a church. Karen Refugee Camp In Maela, we spent much of the time split into 2 teams, one went out to visit hospitals, orphanages and schools while the other stayed in the bible school and did some sharing. The Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Bible School and College (KKBBSC) has over 300 students in a Karen programme and an English programme. The Karen programme goes for 3 years and finishes with a BTh, while the English programme has an additional year at the start for language studies. They graduate about 100 students every year who then go out as church planters, evangelists, teachers and ministers in the camps, other parts of Thailand and back in Burma. At the bible school, we shared on how God is calling the church to partner with Him in reaching a lost world, and ways we can respond and be involved. Part of the idea was for them to recognise themselves as equal partners in reaching the peoples around them, and not just recipients of mission activity from "the west". They can reach people who are close to them linguistically and culturally better than we can, and should play a significant, even primary role, with the "western" church's support. One of the regular bible school teachers interpreted for us and will be working the material into their regular curriculum. It is very exciting to see the potential for ongoing, strategic impact of our sessions there! While some were teaching, others in the team went to visit homes, orphanages, a hospital, a home for the handicapped, and some schools. Here, we had the opportunity to see how people actually lived and get a feel for the place. Everywhere we went, we could help but notice the feeling of peace and contentment even in stark and bare surroundings. People were happy not so much because of something, instead it seemed like they were happy despite everything! It's so clear that the Spirit of God is what brings true peace and joy! Each place we went, we sang songs, shared stories and testimonies, and they sang songs back, and prayed for each other. On the last morning, we split up and went to 2 different churches and shared with them songs and testimonies, and a message for the morning service before packing up to return to Bangkok. It certainly was a horizon-broadening 5 days here… Lao People's Democratic Republic Far from a "People's Democratic Republic", Laos has been under a communist government since 1975. The 3 churches that existed then have been allowed to continue, but no other churches have been allowed to be registered. In a country of 6.4 million and over 130,000 Christians, any overtly Christian activity, like bible studies, leadership training, evangelism, worship and others is outlawed outside the 3 official buildings. Also, there is a ban on the importation of all Lao literature without official government approval, leading to a dire shortage of bibles. In the rural areas, there are about 60 - 100 Christians for every available bible. For the last leg of our trip, we picked up bibles, tracts, gospels of John and warm clothing from Bangkok and took the train up north, to the Lao border. After handing the goods over to local believers, they took us to lunch where we had among other things, frogs' legs! The visit to Laos then ended with a visit to one of the largest and spiritually significant Buddhist monasteries in Indochina for a prayer walk. That evening, we crossed back into Bangkok and boarded the train bound for Bangkok, and the end of our trip. Specific Highlights - The support, in prayer and encouragement from people back home. I have never, in the umpteen trips I've done, felt as supported and prayed for. We received 4 or 5 text messages everyday from people saying that they were praying for us, with encouragement and scripture for us to read. It was such a buzz for the team to hear the messages and verses people were sending us over breakfast! - Unity and dynamics within the team. - Meeting up with Ivy again, renew fellowship and encourage her. - Sharing at the Karen Bible School - Being a part of a movement to forge unity in the body of Christ in Laos. - God always comes through. Arrangements for the Khaolak leg of the trip got a little interesting close to the date, but it all came together in the end. Also, the health and safety of the team was one of the best I've experienced! Praise God!