In the Midst of It All

What a wild month it has been. Smog pollution is evident in our area; the mountains which were once visible and beautiful are but a hazy outline that you can barely see. Many farms in Southeast Asia are burned after the harvest season. This has been an issue because, on some days, the pollution in Thailand can spike to be the most polluted place in the world. Lung problems remain very prevalent for many here. On top of this, the Coronavirus has caused a huge impact. There are warnings to stay away from highly populated places or tourist zones. Many protective masks are sold out. Some schools are being cancelled. Many people are either sick, have allergies, or having respiratory problems. Please be praying for us as we are facing these issues in Chiang Mai. Please also be praying for the people affected with the virus because we know people that are struggling in China. We are wondering how long this will last! On top of this, there has been a couple mass shootings in Thailand which has never happened before until now. In the midst of all these distresses, his Kingdom work must continue!

Before the virus extended to so many countries, Stephen was asked to teach at one of the seminaries in Chiang Mai. For a week, Stephen taught the whole New Testament books to graduate students who are active church leaders and evangelists from various countries from Southeast Asia and different parts of Thailand. His class began from 8:30 in the morning and ended at 4:00 in the afternoon, from Monday to Friday. It was an intensive class packed with literary and historical including cultural, social and religious contexts. Though he was exhausted, he was glad that his students enjoyed the class and were encouraged by God’s Living Word. Some of them even requested for him to visit their churches, or countries to offer more classes. Due to the present epidemic, Stephen had to postpone all his mission trips; so, he has been using this time in his office studying, researching and exegeting the book of Romans--focusing on how Paul used the Old Testament in Romans. After this, he will compare his commentary with popular commentaries and then it will be finished!

Stephen teaching at a seminary in Chiang Mai

Nick continues to carry out a sport ministry in Thailand by coaching a soccer team of mostly refugee kids from Myanmar at Hua Fai Government School. They were supposed to have their first soccer match with students from a Korean school but due to the Coronavirus, the match was cancelled. Being without any privilege or legal right, these displaced kids are provided hope and a means of fun in a positive environment through this ministry. Here are some questions and answers to an interview Nick had with the kids:

Why did you guys come to Thailand?
“We came with our parents… there’s more opportunities here, more work, education… back in Myanmar, there’s always war and robbery”
What kind of work do you do?
“Help on the rice fields… construction... sewing clothes”
How did you guys get to Thailand?
“Some of us (our parents) came by bus with temporary passes and then got work permits once we arrived… others snuck in the country illegally… it’s always scary at check points because sometimes we are harassed by police, even if we are legal”
Do you face any challenges?
“We always fear being deported... we fear getting extorted, taking our money with bogus accusations… sometimes we are afraid we don’t get paid when we work…”
There are people that cheat and don’t pay you?
“Yeah… it doesn’t happen often but it does happen sometimes”
What do you do when that happens?
“Nothing… there’s nothing to do… we aren’t citizens”
Do you want to go onto higher education?
“Yeah but our parent need our help…so many of us will start working after 6th grade”

Soccer practice: most of the kids go barefoot
and have to wear their school uniform to play

Some families of these dislocated kid ran away from the battlefields, and some are just searching for any jobs they can get. They’ve got working permits, with restrictions, but often are harassed and mistreated. Their families just want a better life, and often are ridiculed and face many challenges along the way. These kids look forward to soccer practice 3 times a week. It’s been wonderful to help mold these kids’ character and to see their smiling faces. In the midst of all the hate, we hope to bring Christ love to our community!

This made us reminisce about our many great friends in America who helped us when we first moved to America. It was super tough to be in a country where we didn’t speak the language well, didn’t eat the same food, didn’t understand the culture, and didn’t know how to do anything. God blessed us greatly with great friends that showed us the love of Christ. Through the love we have received, we want to continue to share it with others. So, in our neighborhood one of our goals is – to shine a light leading to Christ and love on the community. Nick says the kids need some soccer equipment like shoes and some athletic clothes and if anyone wants to donate and be a part of this ministry, feel free to contact us. We believe we are changing the community around us when we are at our home base, and the kids’ actions definitely show it! Please continue to pray for these kids because some of them are interested in Jesus, but their parents and community are very Buddhist. Pray that God will work on their hearts!

Mary giving the donuts to the school

Not only have we provided English teachers to the school but once a month or on special occasions, our mission does provide a special meal or lunch for the whole school where these kids are studying. In fact, 100 out of the 120 student body at Hua Fai Government Elementary School are displaced kids. In January, Mary and Nick were able to join the School’s National Children’s Day event. We brought donuts for all the kids. For many of the kids, it was their first time eating a donut. It was a joyful event to see the kids happy and to share this memory with them. As the Lord Jesus said “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, NASB).

We continue to praise God the midst of all the chaos. The family is doing well. We hope you will be keeping our family and missions in your prayers! Please also pray for God to continue to use us even when travel is very limited at this moment.