Prayers are needed for Thailand! Please continually lift Thailand up in your prayers. In Thailand, various activities are banned, for instance, lifting up three fingers like in the movie “The Hunger Games,” reading a book or eating a sandwich in public, becoming signs of anti-coup. Several countries have begun to call off Thailand economically and politically. European Union foreign ministers condemned the coup, halted all official visits to Thailand, suspended the signing of a partnership and cooperation accord with Bangkok and demanded the coup to free all political detainees and respect human rights and freedom. The US has barred Thailand from participating in military naval exercises. With all of these, we still don’t know where and how this political turmoil will end.
Pray for Ministry
While living under such crisis, we are being blessed by turning the crisis into His Kingdom’s advantage through our equipping and empowering the AIS’ students with God’s Word. It was indeed a real blessing to have Dr. Derek Voorhees, a New Testament professor of Boise Bible College, teaching 2 Corinthians. He also serves as a forwarding agent of Asians For Christ. Underneath is his expression about his first-hand experience here at Asia International Seminary:
After spending two weeks with the Wongratanamajcha family, and a handful of students from Myanmar at Asia International Seminary (Chiang Mai), I've finally got a few moments to sit and reflect while awaiting my connecting flight in Seoul, Korea for home to the US.
What an amazing time with this wonderful Wong family! Their hospitality made me feel comfortable from the moment I arrived. I think I gained 10lbs from the delicious meals Mary cooked multiple times a day! Fresh Thai fruit daily, fresh vegetables, fresh meats, and Lisu spices made each meal time a delightful (even heavenly) experience for my tastebuds. Also, with the humid warm summer temperatures this time of year, the Wong family made sure I had one of their rooms with AC to sleep in at night...which indeed helped me rest well. Simply put, they truly went beyond measure to honor me as their guest. Additionally, being with this godly family was just a lot of fun and was an encouragement to my soul! We must have laughed almost every waking hour. So, I sit here at an airport with the rumble of departing international flights in the background as a full man...physically, emotionally, and spiritually full!! I am truly blessed and refreshed!
The primary goal for my coming to Chiang Mai was to teach 2 Corinthians at Asia International Seminary (AIS is located on the Wong's property). As an extension of Asians For Christ's goal of equipping leaders of the church, one of the goals I had been praying about prior to my arrival and teaching was this: that the students and myself would be formed more into the likeness of Christ as "new creation" people (2 Cor. 5:17), such that we would no longer be identified as a people living for ourselves but that we would live more honorable for a Him, who died and now lives within us!
AIS is a master's degree level institution. It requires students to learn in community using the English language, with special focus on submitting to the process of exegetical Scripture study. But the ultimate goal is to comprehend Christ's ministry so as to be conformed by Him to join Him in His ministry. For these students from Myanmar this meant studying and processing Scripture in English, which in and of itself was a challenge for them, but a rich experience for me to witness. We spent 7 days examining what the apostle Paul was inspired to write to the Corinthians in its historical and literary contexts...all with the goal of being equipped, edified, and empowered to absorb lessons so as to transfer those learned lessons to their ministry contexts in the Lisu villages of Myanmar. The Lord richly blessed our time with his presence and joy by the Holy Spirit. These impressive students were processing the depths of rich theology in order to be used in the most productive way upon their return later this summer. What they were processing was not simple, but in the complexity of it all they amazed me with a knowledge and heart to do ministry no matter the cost.
Practically speaking, we bonded together...mostly around meal time and soccer after class! We grappled with the ministry of restoring people to God and restoring people to people. Reconciliation is not just a vertical reality with God by his grace and honor of our faith in Jesus, reconciliation is also a horizontal reality with people, particularly those we may not agree with or get along with. As New Creation people, when we exhibit forgiveness rather than harbor in grudges, we display Christ alive in us! This lesson was particularly challenging for the young Burmese students who do not always sense respect from influencers in their churches who are older and supposedly wiser. However, for the call to obey Christ and uphold His new creation work, we committed ourselves to suffer for Him no matter the cost. That was touching to see the commitment in these students’ eyes!
Another relevant implication we drew out of Paul's letter to Corinth was that New Creation people partner together to meet physical needs of other believers so that can in turn help meet the needs of those who do not believe yet in Jesus. Whether across regions or continents, or whether a different language, when the church shares sacrificially like Christ did so liberally on the cross, needs on earth can be met as we await the Day when all creation will be renewed and no more tears or pain will exist. These Myanmar students are pastors who do not earn any money from their church; it is possible that they make some extra money from working in the field growing crops, but they are poor in the world’s evaluation. They arrived with hardly two pairs of clothes. Still, they were compelled through our study by Christ's love to give and share with others rather than receive, to sacrifice with a joyful heart believing The Lord will honor their selflessness and provide for their needs so they can in turn continue their industrious ministry of sharing to meet other's needs. Together we learned that this lifestyle serves as a model of generous living, a hallmark sign if being New Creation people living until the one all needs are forever met and completed according to God's design!
Teaching these delightful learners, with genuine hearts to obediently serve Christ and his Church, started at 9:00am each day with a break for lunch at 12:00, and then we studied from 2:00 to around 5:00 daily. These were full days, but they were up to learning. I so appreciate Stephen inviting such a small number of students who were each earnest in sacrifice time away from their wives and families to become more prepared. The Lord is working through AIS to strengthen the churches in Myanmar, Thailand, China, and beyond. Mary's partnership with Stephen to cook meals for these students, provide clothes to them, and be a mom away from home, is beautiful to watch. And, to witness Stephen and Mary's children play a part in the ministry, helping the students with their English, is special!
Overall, I will greatly miss being with the Wong family and these young energetic students. I am praying about a return trip within the year, or next summer, to continue to teach them. Your prayers on this matter would be greatly appreciated. It was so good to see first-hand how the Lord is working through the financial gifts from the AFC partners. This trip confirmed what we already know...that the Lord's stewards in the Wong family is wisely using our gifts to train young leaders so that the church can be equipped and encouraged to evangelize with the gospel of hope! Continue to encourage them and pray for them as they invest into the next generation of leaders. To the glory of God!
2 Corinthians class with Dr. Derek Voorhees
2 Corinthian class
Famil, AIS' students, Dr. Voorhees
wearing Boise Bible College shirts
New Testament Church with
Prof. Isaiah Yintum (Laoyeepa)
Pray for the Family
Every one of the family is actively participating in the ministry of AIS through teaching and church visiting in the village. Except Isaac, all our children are on summer break. Isaac’s school began since the middle of May which is very common in the schools of Thailand. This means that we are having more kids, particularly the displaced kids of Shan people coming for the English class. In fact, they have been notified by their school teachers to attend the English at our site. Beside of helping teaching English to both AIS’s students and Shan kids, Nick and John with the AIS’ students have drawn our neighboring kids into the sport ministry due to the world cup fever. Every evening, we have over 30 people around the soccer field for the event.
Stephen is taking Isaac to play soccer
with the Shan kids
Mary and Nick at village
Isaac at his school sport's day
John is picking up Isaac from school
One of the little cute Shan kids
Becky is teaching English to the Shan kids
Mary and the Shan kids
1. Thailand political crisis.
2. Family’s health and Children’s education.
3. AIS’ students and their ministries in their home and neighboring countries.
Your partnership and prayers mean a lot to us. We are always thankful for all your faithful partnership with us in equipping and empowering Christian leaders with the Word of God and in carrying out the Great Commission to the lost people in Southeast Asia and China. May our living God richly bless you all and may all your partnering gifts become an investment that reaps spiritual dividends in Jesus Christ!
In Christ’s Grace,
Stephen and Mary