Looking Back at 2020
Happy New Year! It is the time of the year where we reevaluate our previous year and plan for the future. Of course, 2020 was a year where we had to put many of our plans on hold because of the pandemic. As you may know, Stephen was supposed to go to America to speak at a camp and visit churches but that was cancelled. Stephen and Nick were supposed to go to Laos to teach and evangelize but that fell through. Furthermore, the family was supposed to go to John’s wedding, but sadly it was not possible. Even though many of our plans didn’t come to fruition, we tried to make the best out of the situation. We thank God that there are many positives even though the whole year was full of trials.
The start of 2020, Stephen was invited to teach New Testament survey at a seminary in Chiang Mai. Many of the students were leaders or evangelists in Southeast Asia. The class was a success and many of these students want to learn more from Stephen. In the meanwhile, Mary and Nick joined a Children’s Day event at Hua Fai Elementary school. This school is where the majority of Nick’s soccer players study or have studied. It was awesome to see some of them enjoy their first ever donut. During the earlier months, we were also able to send mosquito nets to Laos because many people in our mission field are facing problems with Dengue Fever. Soon after this, many countries were experiencing Covid 19 outbreaks and Thailand began to lock down the country to prevent further spread. Due to this pandemic, many people lost their jobs. In July, with the help from IDES, we were able to help several hundred families in Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. Through these many efforts, many people experienced the love of Christ and many people believed and were baptized.
Due to the lockdown and social distancing, Nick and Becky began to teach English online to students in Laos and Myanmar. We are so thankful for a church in Hawaii for partnering with us to teach to the students. Together, we are incorporating the Bible and using this as an avenue for evangelism. So, this is one way we can still do ministry even while in lockdown. Praise God for useful technology.
Thailand did a wonderful job dealing with Covid 19, because towards October 2020, local transmissions were brought down to zero. So, we were able to visit churches and do trips to the mountains. This was a relief because we got to see friends, family, and visit churches in the mountains. During this time, Stephen and Mary visited the sick, the widows, and several churches in the mountains. Nick took his Chinese student, who is interested in Christianity, to the mountains and worked on the coffee farm. The coffee farm is to be a project in order to study and develop sustainable agriculture so we can exchange information and help education farmers on the mission field. Nick also headed to a remote village with a Thai church to help evangelize to the ethnic Karen group for a week. At around this time, our friends in Yangon, Myanmar running an orphanage said that 18 of their 30 children are in the hospital with Covid 19. Immediately, we at AFC decided to help with the cost of the food while the kids were in the hospital. After several weeks, the kids all were discharged and are doing well. Praise God!
|Nick with the Thai church on the evangelistic trip|
to a remote area in Thailand
|Nick practicing a skit where he is the father|
in the story of the prodigal son
Towards the end of the year, we harvested our last rice crop. We will not be able to continue growing rice because the water canal has been closed by the neighbor down the road so we can no longer control the water levels in the rice patties. This is unfortunate but we know that God will continue to provide. After we harvested the rice, it was Thanksgiving time and so we headed up the Huay Ko Village where Stephen delivered a message for the people. After the Thanksgiving event in the mountains, we had our yearly Christmas party at our house for the students in the neighborhood. Several of Nick’s friends from the Thai church came and helped lead worship and games during the bonfire Christmas party. Stephen then ended the night with a word of encouragement. The soccer boys got their jerseys as a surprise Christmas gift. We all had a great time!
|The soccer boys receiving their jerseys|
|The Christmas party with the soccer boys (thanks to Nick's |
friends for helping out)
|Small gift exchange at the Christmas party|
|Stephen gives a short message at the Christmas party|
During New Years, our family went to village and spent time with Mary’s mom and dad, who have been through physical difficulties throughout the year due to their age. Mary’s dad specifically is ready to be with the Lord any day. We want to spend as much time as we can with them. Indeed, we had a great time at the village because they celebrated New Year with a communal worship service for welcoming the year of 2021. The villagers asked Stephen to give the message at this service (this is a very common occurrence wherever Stephen goes). This was his first message for the year of 2021. What a blessing!
|Isaac playing a game in the village|
During this visiting, our family treated some of the last evangelists who pioneered the way to bring Christianity to the Lisu in Thailand and some of the widows of the late evangelists among this group to a special meal to pay our gratitude for their sacrificial lives in order to expand His Kingdom. They were the ground breakers and the frontier workers for evangelism in Thailand. All of these pioneer evangelists came all the way from China, passing through Myanmar and have evangelized to almost every Lisu villages in Thailand for the past 60 years. Some of them (over 80 years of age) are still very active in the evangelistic works. They are our living model for our mission works in carrying out the Great Commission to the unknown people and places in Southeast Asia and China.
|Mary having BBQ with the ladies at Huay Ko Village|
|Eating with the first Lisu evangelists |
As 2021 began, Thailand now faces the second wave of Covid 19. We are now in a partial lockdown again. Please continue to pray for us as we try to get through the rising cases again.
Our plan for 2021 continues with many more English classes online. We are also working on more media content in order to release more videos of our ministries online so that you can enjoy what it's like here; we will also work on more video teachings so that the people in Southeast Asia and China can have more study tools and also be encouraged. Stephen continues to teach and preach online and working on his Lisu Bible commentary in order to be an asset for Biblical studies for the Lisu in Southeast Asia and China. He also has prepared several class notes for the coming years. For Stephen, studying the Word is a blessing in the midst of the pandemic. Recently, Nick was asked to be a youth minister at a small Thai church in Chiang Mai. Please pray for him as he takes on this voluntary role on top of helping AFC with its various ministries. The mission fields in Myanmar, China, and Laos are continuing to call us to revisit or to evangelize to nonbelievers, but all the plans for traveling is up in the air.
|Nick teaching English Class for |
the university students in Laos
|Becky with her students|
At the moment, Stephen and Nick have been invited to teach at the church leadership training program in Laos. This will be the first Christian leadership course and will start soon. The two-year-leadership training program is initiated by the local churches and leaders in Laos. One of the goals of this program is to help the Christian leaders have a solid foundation in the Word. Importantly, the Laotian government will certify those who finish this 2 year course by issuing Christian evangelist license (which has never been done before in the past). It means that they will be able to evangelize or to do any ministry legally in Laos. Thirty leaders from several different churches from Luang Prabang province in Laos have already registered on this training program. Throughout the 2 year period, each church will commit to support their leaders with personal needs, traveling expenses, accommodations, rice and etc. However, because of the poverty rate of Laos, there are some essential needs beyond their ability, for instance, books and class materials, vegetable and meat beside of rice. This training program needs $4000, each year (8000 for the full two year course). If you would like to be a part of this ministry in such a closed country, please designate your giving’s as LTPL (leadership training program in Laos!
|These are some of the people who will join the |
first class of this training program in Laos
(we want to protect the identity of these people
as their country slowly accepts Christianity)
Stephen and Nick are very eager to go into Laos to teach at this leadership training program in a week intensive course setting on the topics of leadership, Bible, how to run various ministries, and others. We would like to extend the invitation to church leaders, ministers and friends in America to this new mission field. If anyone feels this call, please come and join us in teaching at this training program. Without a doubt, we believe God has opened the door into Laos for us. We are so excited for this blessing from God because as you may know, Laos is the most Christian persecuting country in Southeast Asia. Praise the Lord!
We thank you for your continued support even during such a hectic year. May God bless you all abundantly. Let’s make 2021 another great year, full of fruit!
Here is a brief story of how Stephen, his father's family, one of the first group of Lisu in Thailand became Christian many decades ago. Feel free to watch.