Sunday, January 23, 2011

When in Rome...

Guess who wears the big shoes in the middle? I suppose you don't even have to guess.

This is what it looks like outside of every house in Thailand that has a number of people inside it at that particular moment.

It is part of the Thai cultural identity. There are many other things that are integral to the historical Thai culture. Thai dance (ramthay), muay thai (Thai boxing), extreme respect for elders (take note young people), and flamin' spicy food.

What brought me to write this short note was due to a song we sang at worship last week. Americans are rather abstract in their thinking but Thais, generally, are very concrete. The following illustration is a perfect example.

We were singing the hymn, 'Standing on the Promises' but I noticed in the Thai translation that the translator did not use the phrase as we sing it. Rather, he wrote, 'chuu thuu,' which means 'to hold or carry the belief.' Those phrases, I suppose, could be similar but the meanings seem to be a stretch.

Then, a friend reminded me of the cultural significance of the foot in Thai culture. It is considered very dirty and unclean. As a matter of fact, it is impolite for someone to even see the bottom of your foot. Thais, with their concrete thinking, would literally visualize someone standing on a Bible. That, also, is of cultural significance.

Thais would never set their Bible (or any other book, for that matter) on the ground. It is very rude and impolite. So, to put their Bible on the ground and then to take a stance on top of it, would be extremely insulting and something no Thai would ever, ever do.

Now, we know that 'standing on the promises' does not literally mean to stand on the Bible but, to the Thai mindset, that is exactly what is being said. This is just another reason that we must be sensitive to understanding the people and historical culture of where we are living.

I just wish eating hot, spicy food wasn't something that was culturally significant.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mission - Sharing the True Meaning of Christmas

Over the past ten days, we were blessed to have a team from Ferris Baptist Fellowship in Hat Yai to help us share the true meaning of Christmas with Thai students. Seven schools graciously opened their doors and allowed us to come in.

Students ranged in age from kindergarten through high school. Some of the schools were in a large city and some were in the countryside. Some schools were very large and others very small. However, in every single school, the team was accepted and the 'farangs' were a big hit with the students. Following every program, dozens and dozens of students literally rushed the team to seek pictures, autographs, phone numbers, and email addresses. They definitely made an impression on the students.

The program they shared consisted of games, story-telling, songs, and a play. Each was designed to help the students learn the story of Jesus' birth. The team divided up responsibilities and, during each program, shared leadership at different points of the program.

During one particular presentation at a school far away from the city in a very small village, the leader was teaching about the name of Jesus to a group of mid-high students. She simply asked, 'Does anyone know who Jesus is?' expecting several to shout out 'Phra Yeesuu', which the team had heard a number of times before. However, all 50 students sat there with a blank stare in their eyes. She repeated the question, 'Does anyone know who Jesus is? Has anyone ever heard of Him before?' Again, silence.

At that point, the team realized they were part of something really remarkable, something so very, very special. They were humbled with the realization that they were the first believers to ever have the awesome opportunity to tell these beautiful young people who Jesus share with them the truth of God's love.

It took a moment for this to sink in. But, following their initial bewilderment, they forged right ahead and shared the beauty of the Christmas story. It, undoubtedly, will be a moment the team will never forget.

We had the opportunity to share with at least 2800 students in seven different schools. Praise the Lord. This will be a Christmas this team from Ferris will, undoubtedly, never forget. They spent their time in Thailand as farmers, sowing the seeds of faith - day after day after day.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Movin' On

The past 6 weeks have been very busy and event-filled.

First off, Kay's father, J.B. Wingfield passed on to glory last month. He was 94 years old and, without a doubt, ready to enter into the promise given him so many years ago when he placed his faith in Jesus Christ. His memorial service was a fitting tribute to a man whose influence had touched so many throughout his life. Integrity...character...uncompromising. That pretty well sums him up. We will miss him but also look forward to being united with him again someday in heaven.

Our regional meeting was held in Chiang Mai last month. My faith and desire to 'get to work' was so buoyed by the words s
hared by so many of the M's of what they are experiencing in their personal work and ministry. It is evident the Holy Spirit is moving in the hearts and lives of many Thais. Once these people have discovered the joy to be found in the Lord, they are excited and boldly share that good news with their friends and family. Hardly a Sunday goes by that we don't see new believers attend our fellowship. That, truly, is the Good News!!!

FYI...we have been formally released from language school (I think they just got tired of us!) and are busy preparing our next 'snapshots' that assess our language acquisition level. Pray we will do well and meet the minimum requirements so we can move to our assignment in Hat Yai.

While Kay was home for J.B.'s memorial service, she had surgery to have the pin removed from her elbow. You might recall she fell and broke her elbow during our visit to the states last July. It has been an extremely difficult year - definitely one we want to put behind us, medically speaking.

We have had numerous opportunities to share our faith, especially with taxi drivers. When we are in their taxis, we, literally, have a captive audience. Every single one of them is courteous to hear what we have to share and we pray that the words we share and the tract we leave with them will be another step towards understanding true peace and happiness.

We had an opportunity to attend a concert with Don Moen this past week in Bangkok. There were over 4000 Thai believers (and a few Buddhists, I would bet) that came to the worship time. It was such a blessing to be in the middle of so many Thais hearing them sing 'Shout to the Lord' at the top of their voice. I think it might have sounded a little bit like what worship in heaven is going to be like.

Thanks once again for your words of prayer and encouragement. We are always anticipating the Lord to do something really miraculous in our lives and will rejoice to share with you what happens on a daily basis.


Monday, May 31, 2010

Post Red Shirts

It is truly going to take a very long for Thailand to 'come back to normal' after the red shirt demonstrations over the past couple of months. It has been a sobering experience to hear Thais voice their disbelief at what happened within their beloved country. I went by Central World earlier in the week and there were about 200 people just standing there, staring at the burned out buildings. Few were talking to each other...they just stood there if they were mentally unable to process the fact that this had happened in Thailand and in Bangkok, no less. The congressional representatives are now delving into the 'blame game' as to who is to blame for the whole fiasco. There is no trust whatsoever by either side for those on the 'other side of the aisle' and the vitriol coming from their mouths shows that the healing process that will be long, indeed.

As always, we are trusting that people, when they find themselves in a time of crisis, will be more prone to make value changes in their lives. That value change, we believe, is trusting Jesus and discovering the truth that He is the only way.

On a lighter note, we had a really wonderful time at the Thailand Baptist Convention in Pattaya last month. Even though it was exceptionally warm, we were so blessed by meeting a number of the believers throughout the country. The confidence of their faith was an encouragement for us all. The worship times were extremely blessed.

I knew Pattaya was a mecca for tourism but I never realized how much until I turned on the TV in our room. There was programming in the following languages: Ukranian, Hindi, Spanish, French, Russian, Italian, Chinese, Arabic, German, Japanese, Thai, and English (programming from America, Great Britain, and Australia; however, I'm not sure a lot of the Australians speak 'English'...I usually can't understand a word they say). It was a good reminder we are to be lights to the whole world.

Sad to say that Pattaya has earned its' reputation as a city where sex is bought and sold in any form or fashion. Anything goes. As Kay and I walked along the beach road, we literally encountered - and not to exaggerate - 250 prostitutes. They were all just sitting and waiting for the next guy to walk by. (That number doesn't include any of the ladyboys who are in another part of town.) A talented Christian artist named Chris Tomlin was sitting in one of the bar/restaurants along the beach in Pattaya and wrote the words to God of this City. It has become one of the favorite songs we sing in church. Here's a link to the recording on YouTube.

God of this City

You're the God of this City
You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation
You are

You're the Light in this darkness
You're the Hope to the hopeless
You're the Peace to the restless
You are

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City

That last line rings of truth...yes, greater things are still to be done in this city, especially after the past few months.

Robert and Kay

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Few Thoughts....

It has been a couple of months since the red shirts invaded town and finally, by all appearances, the demonstration looks to be over in a few days - one way or the other.

Our hearts were buoyed a few days ago when the prime minister offered a path to reconciliation and both sides immediately voiced their disapproval. That said to me that it was probably a good compromise that would allow neither side to lose face. However, those hopes were dashed by a general lack of trust in the opposition by both sides.

Much of the violence has happened in an area about a half-mile from our apartment. The past two nights, we have heard bomb explosions and sporadic gunfire all throughout the night. It seems to come and go in cycles.

I sat on our front porch this afternoon reading for a couple of hours and the distant gunfire was almost continuous. We can only imagine what the area looks like. The government has declared it a 'live-fire zone' and no one is allowed to enter. (However, red shirts are allowed to leave, if they wish. I think that would be a very, very good idea they should all pursue.) I can't fathom the idea that people are being targeted on the very same sidewalks in an area we used to frequent quite often ... and plan to again someday.

Kay had a revelation last night I'd like to share with you.

At one point late in the evening, there were 2-3 very loud explosions, not like any we had heard before. It was obvious these were from much larger weaponry, probably from tanks that have cordoned off the protest area. Then there was intense rifle fire for about 3-4 minutes. I could tell lots of ammunition clips were being completely emptied.

However, as we looked out towards the area where the violent confrontation was taking place and people were literally losing their lives, we looked down from our balcony and were amazed at the sights before us.

There was a swimming pool with a number of people frolicking in the water, laughing and playing as if nothing was going on around them.

Then we saw a couple of families heading down our soi (a small lane), dressed in their finest, heading out for a good dinner and night on the town.

Then a couple of vendors passed by, still trying to sell that last bit of fruit and ice cream that still remained in their carts.

We also saw a great number of people walking down the soi, talking and laughing - just having a grand, old time - obviously not paying any attention to the struggle going on just a short distance away.

And then it hit her - What an eye-opening illustration about spiritual warfare! Most of the time, we live our lives, doing all sorts of things in our daily routine, never giving an ounce of thought to the realization of the spiritual battle going on all around us. The forces of good and evil are in a battle to the death and we don't even acknowledge the fact that the battle that is raging. Trust me, the memory of this vivid truth will be engrained in my mind for a long time.

Please know we are completely safe in our little apartment. We stocked up enough food for 3-4 days and have pretty well 'hunkered down' for the duration. We have all confidence that nothing happening here is a surprise to the Lord and we have been praying that He would lead us to seek other accommodations should our situation become perilous. We're trusting Him for His protection, not only in our lives but the lives of all the M's in Bangkok.

Kay and I have always known the following to be true, 'When people find themselves in times of crisis, they are more prone to make value changes in their lives.' This truth has been used by the Lord in a number of situations throughout the years to bring about change in people's hearts and lives. Join with us that this tumultuous time in our country will somehow bring the Thai people that we have learned to love so much to the understanding that the Creator God is the one and only true God and His love through Jesus is for all who believe.

Robert and Kay